Big Things Have Small Beginnings: Community Update 1.24.13

Hello Couchsurfers! I’m delighted to be sharing our ongoing product development updates with you on the Couchsurfing blog. We’ve heard you ask to be more easily informed about upcoming features, site improvements, and bug fixes. Many improvements are a direct result of conversations in the Feedback Forums, Beta Group, Twitter, Facebook, and our monthly webcast.

The plan for 2013

We’re moving the entire Couchsurfing website to a new technology platform and will be rebuilding existing features like groups, couch requests, profiles and messages over the next year. By the time we’re done, everything should be faster and easier to use.

What we released this week

So let’s get down to it! This week we released a few changes to Places.

You can now type “people: username” or “people: firstname lastname” into the search box and be automatically redirected to that member’s profile. This is a very basic implementation of people search and is only meant as a band-aid until we’re further along in our platform changes.

Since the launch of Place Pages we’ve heard about the ways in which certain places didn’t work for the area. Thank you so much for contributing to these discussions, as it’s helped guide many updates that will make Place Pages better.

For example, we started out with a blanket approach to creating Places out of existing Place Groups, knowing that we’d need to make changes. I’ll write a more in-depth blog post in the coming months about our plans to adapt our approach so that you get the sensible result for such varied searches as “Greek Islands” “Yosemite” and “Basel”. It’s a complex problem that requires both automated and human fine-tuning.

We’ve also removed the “Includes” line for Places. Now if you search for a city that’s part of a Place you’ll see a subhead that says “You searched for Oakland” instead of “San Francisco Bay Area; Includes: Oakland”.

Upcoming changes

Places are continuously changing. This week we’re removing the Activities Map and replacing it with a list of upcoming Activities, along with the city and number of people who’ve joined.

We moved “Community Details” above the Conversation section so it’s more prominent, to help promote the use of Community Details.

We’re adding “home” and “surf” buttons to the site navigation to help you more easily find what you’re looking for.

We’ve introduced a lot of interface changes in the last six weeks and are still figuring out how best to guide new and old members through these changes. We have more plans for the site that will help guide you through new feature launches and site changes.

This week also marks the first time a handful of Beta Group members are able to test our new Events feature that will be launched in the coming months. We’ll be developing Events by closely collaborating with some of Couchsurfing’s most active event organizers.

We’ll have another update next week!

I’ll be updating this blog each week about our website development. We won’t always get everything done that we announce for a coming week, and some weeks we’ll get much more done than we planned. I’ll note whatever discrepancies occur and, when possible, give you a reason.

We’re happy to start 2013 with changes to made because of direct community feedback, and bring our community closer to the development process.

If you’d like to discuss this blog post, please join us in our Official Discussion thread on our Feedback Forum. Happy surfing and I’ll see you next week!

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