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Warmshowers Development Priorities Explanation

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WS Member wsadmin's picture
Warmshowers Development Priorities Explanation

This is a working list of key features and tasks - currently not prioritized either in importance or order. Right now I'm just trying to get it so that the community can understand these and we can ask for everybody's initial impressions.

  • Responsiveness: We need to be able to use responsiveness to prod members, disable their hosting status, or remove accounts. See Move responsiveness into user object, views, tokens (Estimate: 16 hours)
  • Visual redesign of site, mobile-friendly: Website design preferences and standards change over time, and ours is already getting dated. Probably the most important reason for a redesign is to make it mobile-friendly, so it's easily viewed on a smaller device. (Estimate: 120 hours)
  • Drupal 7 Upgrade Survey and Estimate: To know where we are with a Drupal upgrade and what it may cost, we'll need to prepare a number of user stories to determine what the features are, then review our custom code to see what is going to be required. (Estimate: 80 hours).
  • Add info like wifi, birth year, and facebook page to user profile. Our user profile data hasn't been updated in a few years, and several additions have been repeatedly requested. See [misc other items to user profile] (Estimate: 25 hours)(https://github.com/warmshowers/Warmshowers.org/issues/206)
  • Add filtering to map and text search: When searching for a host, many guests want to be able to limit what they see in map or text search based on responsiveness, last login, max number of guests possible, etc. (Estimate: 60 hours)
  • Traveler profile improvements: Our current profile is based on the original spreadsheet download from before 2005! Most of the items on the profile tell about a host, but provide little prompting about what a host might want to know about a guest. A host probably wants to know about the guest's current trip, perhaps previous trips, style of travel, etc. See Traveler profile with formalized hosting request (Estimate: 40 hours)
  • Simplified hosting request: Currently hosting requests are just a free-form private message, and there are lots of problems with them (ambiguity, inadequate information, etc.). If we made a specific "hosting request" then 1) guests could standardize some of their repetitive information, 2) the date would be explicit, 3) hosts could explicitly offer, 4) guests could explicitly accept the offer. (Note that a personal message component would always be required, and only one host could be contacted at a time, as at present). This would open the door to lots of important followups, including tracking how many hosting "events" happen, prompting both parties for feedback, preventing collisions on hosting dates, and showing both guests and hosts what they have arranged. (Estimate: 80 hours)
  • Traveler Location tracking: Many hosts want to know where their guests are right now, and many travelers want to be able to find and contact other travelers going their way or who are nearby. This option would require a new map page, improvements to the profile page, HTML5 geolocation options (so that the location could easily be updated using the site) and updates to the mobile apps to let them report traveler location. (All features would be opt-in only, of course). (Estimate: 80 hours)
  • Scale back the auto-available feature: A couple of years ago we implemented a feature that required people to say when they'd be back when setting themselves "not available". And... it automatically makes them available again on that date now. This seems to have the unintended consequence of quite a number of members marked "available" who actually aren't. A simple approach to improve this is to remove the automatic changing to "available", but leave the email in place. See issue (Estimate: 10 hours; also requires translation)
  • Add message access in-app for apps: Add message access to at least the Android app and possibly the IOS app. (Android estimate: 120 hours)
  • Android app visual redesign: The Android app has a dated visual appearance and a bit of an odd UI. See issue with mockups. (Estimate: 120 hours)
  • Text Search Improvements: Currently one text box lets you search for fullname, username, email, town/city, but it's a bit of a mess and can be much improved. 1) Separate boxes for user and location name search, 2) Best-effort matching when people provide a state/province/country (which currently just fails).
  • Double-blind feedback: We have a system problem where negative or neutral feedback sometimes provokes retaliatory feedback, leading to conflict and problems. It's critical for all members to feel "safe" leaving feedback, so this is an important problem. In double-blind feedback, new feedback is not actually published visibly until the other party has given feedback or a particular time period has passed. Both are notified when the other leaves feedback, but they don't see it right away. This encourages reasonable, non-retaliatory feedback. This feature will require significant community education. (Estimate: 30 hours)
  • Required-by-2016 Site Security Upgrade: The version of Drupal on which Warmshowers.org is built will cease to be maintained from a security perspective in early 2016. It also depends on an obsolete version of the PHP language (PHP 5.3) which is hardly supported now and will be completely abandoned in 2017. To resolve this we have to upgrade the site to Drupal 7. Unfortunately, the Drupal project chooses to break APIs freely when doing major releases, so this is a major job, and has not yet been fully estimated. It will almost certainly require a minimum of 400 hours of work. Warmshowers.org is currently running a secure version of Drupal on a server maintained properly with security patches. We just want to make sure we can still say that next year. See issue.
WS Member WS Member's picture
Ray, Let me say thanks for

Ray,

Let me say thanks for all you have done for WarmShowers. You asked for some initial impressions. Here are mine for what they are worth.

Responsiveness. I always respond to the email but it may not always be through the website, i.e. they leave their cell phone so I just call directly, so thus I have a false response rate. I would greatly prefer a different way to rate responsiveness as the current method is definitely not accurate. Perhaps make that a required part of the feedback???

Visual Design. I am 50+ years old. One big gripe that a lot of us “older” people have is that software “engineers” feel they have to keep improving something when it already works fine. I could be wrong on this but I feel that once an older person finally gets the hang of some new technology, it is a royal pain if the layout/interface changes, especially just for looks or some feature we would never use. I would actually prefer a simple design (lists, buttons, etc.) that does not use drop down menus as on a phone they are a pain to use usually. Honestly, I sort of like the current look/interface as it is simple and does the job fine. Granted it could be “cooler” but I much prefer an easy to use interface over a good looking interface, especially one that provides much more info that I need and/or could use.

Birthdate. Due to privacy, I would not make this available. Plus it really shouldn’t matter what a person’s birthday is.

Filtering. Again, the responsiveness issue needs to be improved. Why should I get a lower response rate just because I do not want to log on to the website when I can call them back much quicker. I actually see filters such as % of positive feedback, laundry availability, tenting, max guests, etc. as much more important than responsiveness and last login.

Traveler Location. As long as the opt-in is as simple as the “wifi” button on the phone, that is fine. If permanent, I would think a lot of people may not want/will to use it due to battery management. There are lots of other tracking apps so perhaps just use those and save the programing $$$?

Text search. I actually prefer the current setup as it is simple and easy. Have separate boxes if needed but do not require each to be filled as it can be a pain to keep typing all the crap in on a little phone if a search fails or doesn’t return desired results. I would sort of like state/province to be added to the city search though.

Has a membership survey been done to see what is actually wanted in a search? If so, I missed it. For me, while looking for a host, the important things are, in order, who is out there to host (whether or not they are currently available as I may be checking months in advance due to special needs, i.e. group of 6 and we need to plan the route and the host may be available in the future but not now), their approximate mapped location (they can be in say “Denver” but be 15 miles across town off route so would not prefer them), the host’s feedback, and contact information. That is it. Anything else is gravy and may or may not be beneficial and may actually be detrimental if it clutters everything up and/or requires extra time to deal with.

These are just my impressions and again thanks for all that you do for WS. John

WS Member wsadmin's picture
Great comments

Thanks so much for the great comments, John.

On responsiveness, we will be able to do a bit better, but not a lot better, than we're doing now. The easy fix though, if response is done not using the site, is to follow up by answering the message in email in addition to by phone or whatever. The existing is working pretty well for most people. And you can fix yours easily just by replying to messages on the site or by email even when you reply other ways. (BTW: Your 86% responsiveness will tell anybody that you're GREAT. You need not be sensitive about 86%. Responsiveness calculation is really there to point out the 0% and 15% people.)

On visual design: We all wish things could stay the same, but unfortunately we get forced constantly by external forces. In this case, it's the migration of people to many different devices that is forcing us. Our current design is for web browsers on computers. But it is probably just a very few years before hardly anybody will be using a web browser on a computer. They're all moving to a million different devices, from phones to tablets to who knows what. So the response to that is called "responsive design", meaning doing a design that can hold up in many different display conditions.

Birth year (which is what it should have read): Lots of people believe the age of a guest or host shouldn't matter, but the truth is it does matter to lots of people. My wife Nancy always scans people's pictures to see if they're "mature" like us. So it matters to her. And so many people have requested that age be (optionally) presented.

Traveler tracking: This feature could be far more powerful than any other standard tracking technique, because it could let WS travelers find each other, and also let hosts track guests. It has enormous potential. Although travelers can use other techniques, that doesn't help others find them - only people who other know them can find them.

Text search: Yes, we definitely want to make "City, Province" work with the text search.

This is just the first step, and a membership survey is the next step. I've created a poll and will be publishing it in the next week or so. We definitely want to hear from the community.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses!

WS Member WS Member's picture
Age

Age is the least important statistic for me. The road forces most people to mature. I have hosted wonderful people at every age.

Age only seems important when offering a minor a beer. :) (Some of those youngsters DO seem mature!)

Unregistered anon_user's picture
Responsiveness

I've just returned from a tour. I needed a host in Washington DC willing to help me with end of trip logistics. I understand not all hosts would be willing to spend the extra time/ effort that I needed. Of the 5 hosts I contacted, only one responded. To send out a "bulk email" to all the hosts in the area seems to me to be rude, but not responding yes or no in a timely fashion leaves me waiting anxiously for a reply. I agree with John in all the other point he has made.
Denny

WS Member WS Member's picture
Responsiveness

I appreciate the '100% Reciprocal Hospitality' banner shown on the 'features' page.

To whatever degree one can purge the 'non-reciprocals' from the system, it would be helpful. If a cyclist sees a pin on the map and doesn't quickly pickup that the 'host' doesn't really host, it can confuse the user.

From the very beginning of being a Warmshowers member, I've understood that it was a 2-way street and have done a number of hostings, both of Warmshowers members as well as non-member tourers coming down the highway. But I have recently learned on the Google Bicycletouring group that many individual that use Warmshowers as guests, refuse to be a host because of the excuse of a 'reluctant spouse'. That's pretty sad.

Personally, I would want these 'users' purged. If they're not willing to hold up their end of the bargain, let them use motels or campgrounds. Otherwise, we are just training people to be 'users' in the worst sense of the word.

I think the "We are built on 100% Reciprocal Hospitality!" banner should be shown on the home page.

WS Member WS Member's picture
As a host I feel security

As a host I feel security should be the top priority. The only other "improvement" I would like to see is the ability to respond to feedback. If a cyclist leaves me positive feedback I would like the ability to respond directly to that feedback instead of having to leave it on the cyclist page.

We have really enjoyed all the cyclist that have come through our area and appreciate the wonderful job that your site is doing!