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Less Wrong Couchsurfing Network

46 Post author: loxfordian 31 October 2011 02:46AM

One of my favorite aspects of Less Wrong is that every time I go to a new city (Oxford, Boston, Philadelphia and New York soon!), I know there’s a group of people who will be happy to discuss rationality and welcome me into their community.

It would be really cool if more Less Wrongers could have these experiences by traveling cheaply from city to city, meeting up with other smart, interesting people to have fantastic conversations, go to meetups/conferences/summits in new cities, and make friends in real life!

Unfortunately, while traveling to different meetups (and conferences/summits) is intellectually and emotionally rewarding, hotels can be prohibitively expensive. In order to make traveling more affordable, the Less Wrong community could implement a system where community members can stay at each others houses (in guest rooms, on sofas, or on floors) for free/extremely affordable rates.

Benefits of this system:
1) The traveler gets a free/affordable place to stay.
2) The host gets guaranteed company and (hopefully) some great conversation.
3) Less Wrong community bonds will be strengthened through real life interactions between members.
4) The value of meetups, which largely derives from the chance to meet other LWers, will increase as the pool of people attending grows.
5) People can be friends in real life!
6) Implementing this system is super easy. We just add a google maps page to Less Wrong.

Logistics:
1) LW could create a google map where people interested in hosting put down a place marker in their general location (no need to list their actual address) and tag it with their username.
2) In their LW profiles, hosts could write a short description of what kind of accommodations they'll be providing (room/sofa/floor), what kind of guest they want to host (eg., male vs. female, people who are willing to talk a lot, etc.), how they want to be compensated by their traveler (e.g., conversation, a meal, a chore, a small monetary gift, etc.) and usernames of at least two other Less Wrong members who would be willing to serve as "references" to the host's non-creepiness.
3) Likewise, travelers should have a section in their LW profile that list at least two other Less Wrong members who are willing to serve as references as well as how they're willing to compensate their hosts.
4) A potential traveler would look at the map, find a suitable location, and then send a potential host a message asking if they can come over.
5) The host could then look at the traveler's posts to see how long they've been a member and read their posts (a fantastic measure of how interesting or obnoxious the potential traveler may be).

How to encourage people to host:
While the benefits are obvious for the travelers, benefits for hosts are slightly less tangible. Here are some ways to incentivize hosting.
1) Traveling etiquette states that the traveler offers their host a gift. (E.g., buys or cooks the host a meal, does a house chore, goes to a museum with their host, etc.).
2) Much like how LW keeps track of number of posts, up votes and down votes, there will also be a scoreboard for how many travelers people have hosted. Hopefully, this will make being a popular host a badge of pride.

Comments (25)

Comment author: roland 31 October 2011 05:03:35PM 19 points [-]

Why not become a member of couchsurfing.org and create a LW subgroup for all to join? Alternatively put "LW" after your name so that people can search for it(I guess this is possible).

Comment author: listic 04 November 2011 09:07:24PM *  1 point [-]

If this hasn't already been done, I volunteer to create the group and become its moderator. I'm not especially fond of moderating, but I think a moderator is required, and I have couchsurfing experience and I am interested in using couchsurfing.org in the future.

I think we should nail down the following group settings before group creation: (for brevity, I put in brackets my proposed settings)

  1. Who may see this group? anyone or invite only (anyone)
  2. Who may see group messages? (anyone)
  3. Who may join this group? (anyone)
  4. What should be the name of the group? (less wrong) In my opinion, LessWrong is more appropriate for URL or identifier and Less Wrong sounds too pretentious, so I propose to name it in lowercase: less wrong. However, maybe that's because my native language is Russian (in Russian you capitalize only the first letter of the title) and I just didn't get used to it.
  5. Under which category do we create the group? (Ideas) "Atheism" group is under "Ideas". Strangely more popular (sic) "Anarchy And Atheism" and "Atheists & Agnostics" are under "Politics/Government", but I don't think it's right. Options are the following: Places, People, Ideas, Activities and Sports, Adventures and Travelogues, Budget and Shoestring, Organizations, Student, Politics/Government, Party Train, Music and Art, Other, The CouchSurfing Project, CS Volunteering, CS Organization.
  6. What group description should we put in? I suggest the introductory description from the site Less Wrong, together with working links:

    Thinking and deciding are central to our daily lives. The Less Wrong community aims to gain expertise in how human brains think and decide, so that we can do so more successfully. We use the latest insights from cognitive science, social psychology, probability theory, and decision theory to improve our understanding of how the world works and what we can do to achieve our goals.

    Want to know if your doctor's diagnosis is correct? It helps to understand Bayes' Theorem. Want to make a plan for achieving your goals? It helps to know the ways in which we don't know our own desires. Want to make the world a better place? It helps to know about the cognitive bias called 'scope insensitivity', and that some charities are more efficient than others.

    We discuss and practice these skills on the main blog, in the discussion area, and in regular meetups around the world.

    New to Less Wrong? Start here.

P.S. I propose to put up a suggestion that those who join "less wrong" group on couchsurfing.org would put their LessWrong username in the field "Reason to join" for the group. This way, it would be easy to identify you if you want to.

Comment author: lukeprog 03 March 2012 09:46:33PM 1 point [-]

Did this get created yet?

Comment author: listic 04 March 2012 04:44:31PM *  1 point [-]

Just did it: LessWrong (CouchSurfing group)

I think I will announce it with separate post in the Discussion.

Comment author: roland 04 November 2011 10:00:50PM 0 points [-]

1-3 agree

What should be the name of the group? (less wrong) In my opinion, LessWrong is more appropriate for URL or

I would go for lesswrong.com so the mapping to the website is immediately obvious. Although this might infringe on the CS rules, not sure about that.

Under which category do we create the group?

Ideas, People or Organizations sounds best for me.

What group description should we put in? I suggest the introductory description from the site Less Wrong, together with working links:

Agree.

Comment author: Larks 31 October 2011 02:55:59AM 6 points [-]

In the past year I haven't commented on LW very much. However, I have had the chance to go to several LW meetups, and to meet up individually with people when they visit Oxford. I think the latter has been very valuable - the chance to interact with interesting people on a more intense basis than meetups, and with better feedback than online. And at the moment, if I wanted to visit another city I'd do it by getting in touch with people I knew there. But people I knew from LW would satisfy this perfectly well, for a much wider range of locations.

So it seems it'd make sense for me to do something to subsidise people visiting for conferences or whatever - there are gains to trade to be had here, if we can but lower transaction costs sufficiently.

Comment author: Raemon 31 October 2011 04:46:54AM 5 points [-]

I have only a (large) comfy chair for people to sleep on, but I'm willing to host. I enjoy meeting people and conversations. (Paying for dinner would be a nice plus). I applaud this idea.

Comment author: loxfordian 31 October 2011 06:51:27PM 4 points [-]

Roland, piggybacking on couchsurfing.org's preexisting infrastructure could be very easy. However, I can think of a couple of reasons why it would not be as effective as adding a google map to LW.

1) There is a big cognitive cost to making a new user on couchsurfing.org and checking it for messages every so often. I'm assuming people in the LW community have a LW username and periodically check their private messages. It would be psychologically easier for people to not have to sign into multiple sites and manage multiple inboxes.

2) For the whole "look at the traveler's (or host's) posts to see how long they've been a member and read their posts (a fantastic measure of how interesting or obnoxious the potential traveler may be)", people would have to make couchsurfing profiles that have their LW username, references, how they want to be compensated/how they're willing to compensate. Then, whoever was reading their profile would have to go back to LW to look up references/the users' posts. This seems pretty annoying. It would be much easier to just have everything on one site.

3) Not very important, but I'm not sure how many people want to put personal details on couchsurfing.org. I'm also not sure about how couchsurfing.org works, but I would prefer for only people in the LW community to be able to contact me re: staying over.

Comment author: roland 31 October 2011 07:55:16PM 4 points [-]

) Not very important, but I'm not sure how many people want to put personal details on couchsurfing.org. I'm also not sure about how couchsurfing.org works, but I would prefer for only people in the LW community to be able to contact me re: staying over.

You can create a minimalist profile on CS, no personal data, no pictures. You can say in your profile that you only want people from LW to contact you, it's as simple as that and there is nothing in CS forbidding it, people have arbitrary rules in their profiles. Add a requirement that they have to be members of LW for at least a few months if you want to be on the safe side.

Comment author: Nornagest 01 November 2011 05:41:01AM *  2 points [-]

look at the traveler's (or host's) posts to see how long they've been a member and read their posts (a fantastic measure of how interesting or obnoxious the potential traveler may be)

It's a good measure of "interesting" but a poor measure of "obnoxious". I've ended up meeting a lot of people that I first knew online: while you can get a good measure of someone's intelligence, verbal cleverness, and interests from text, a face-to-face meeting has much higher bandwidth when it comes to mannerisms and social skills, and the change in register can often mean a significant change in the tenor of your interactions. That can easily lead to finding new and interesting ways for your friends to be annoying, much as you can be friendly with someone for years but conceive a passionate antipathy within weeks if you decide to become roommates.

Comment author: listic 02 November 2011 10:18:47PM *  1 point [-]

1) You don't have to check your Inbox on couchsurfing.org. Instead, you select how often you receive email notifications for new messages. It can be set to Instant, Daily digest, Weekly digest or No communication.

2) I think compensation is against the rules of couchsurfing.org and against the spirit of couchsurfing in general, isn't it?

I got familiar with the idea of couchsurfing via couchsurfing.org. Some people there (not many, actually) either don't fill in their real names at all, or mention them in the middle of the profile (to filter out the unscrupulous freeloaders?) My profile is not very filled, maybe that's why I hardly get any couchsurfing requests at all, but all the people that I surfed with were really nice. Anyway, you can set your status as "Couch not available" and not receive any requests at all.

Comment author: Alex_Altair 31 October 2011 10:30:23PM 2 points [-]

I would like to express my enthusiasm for this idea more emphatically than with a simple upvote!

Comment author: Rubix 31 October 2011 09:02:09PM 1 point [-]

Thank you, Xachariah. I didn't know that the gender disparity was so vast! My response would have varied somewhat, otherwise.

Back to the actual topic of couch surfing. Does anyone have a strong feeling that a couchsurfing.org subgroup would be better than a Google map? It's really easy to make a map; one can do it here.

Is the goal to get a map widget on the front page similar to the Meetup one, or to get a link to the map on the front page?

Comment author: atucker 31 October 2011 04:25:25PM *  1 point [-]

Is anyone volunteering to write this feature? If not, then I doubt that these features will be added any time soon.

Maybe there's a lighter weight solution?

Unless adding a google map is easier than I think it is, in which case disregard this comment.

Comment author: JoshuaFox 26 April 2014 07:14:55PM *  0 points [-]

Has anyone found some good couchsurfing connections through LW?

I ask because I have become interested in helping people make business connections through LW, and I'd like to know how similar connection opportunities have succeeded.

(When I came for Singularity Summit 2012, I got several generous offers to couchsurf, and ended up staying at Michael Vassar's, having a blast meeting the cool people who hung out there.)