Product update: here’s the latest

Periodically we like to let the Couchsurfing community know what we’re working on and why. As you may know, we relaunched our entire platform last November with countless improvements from end-to-end. Since then, we have been working through a long list of features we’re looking forward to adding. A very long list.

We use a straightforward framework to make decisions about what to work on — we listen to feedback, we look for patterns in data, and we align tasks with the core goals of our business. We’re continually improving Couchsurfing for a hugely diverse global community — against the backdrop of building a thriving business.

Last December, shortly after launching the new system, we blogged about what we were planning to work on next.

Since then, we’ve made over 1,400 improvements over 160 days. Many of the changes we’ve made (and the things we work on each day) are invisible to our users. Here are the ones you’re likely to have seen or used:

    • New inbox: layout, filters, archiving, message templates
    • Events improvements: emails to members about upcoming events, the ability to add Couchsurfing friends to events, event promotion tools (Featuring, Traveler Invite), allowing mobile users to invite their phone contacts
    • Verification updates: allowing SMS verification, specifying verification types on member profiles
    • Host search refinements (these are ongoing)
    • A number of back-end safety, abuse prevention and management tools that are vitally important to the overall health of our system
    • Tweaks to improve user experiences for both advertising and recurring verification

We mentioned some other features in our December blog post that we haven’t yet released: Inbox Search and Saved Profiles.

Inbox:

Inbox Search: We determined that the cost:benefit of building search in conjunction with the other inbox revisions was too high relative to other priorities. It’s unlikely that we’ll be adding search to inbox this year, though we’ll keep it on our list of desired improvements for 2016.

Contacts:

Before November 2014, you could bookmark the profiles of other Couchsurfers for easy access. We mentioned in January that we’d be bringing this back soon, but we haven’t yet re-introduced this community feature. Instead, we have focused on improving the Couchsurfing hosting experience.

Hosting improvements (the good stuff):

We spend a great deal of time seeking out and listening to user feedback, but some of the most clear feedback we get comes directly from the data the Couchsurfing community generates on a daily basis. Among hundreds of data-oriented observations we were able to make about the system (and compare to the performance of the old one), we realized that

  • There was an increase in the overall number of Couchrequests being sent
  • Despite this increase in volume of requests, fewer number of hosts received any request at all
  • The Couchrequest response rate (the number being responded to, at all) was up

We needed to monitor the system a bit longer to see how these changes were impacting the overall trip success rate. We’ve identified several potentially beneficial changes that we’re going to begin testing in the host search algorithm.

Our generous hosts and the hospitality they offer to like-minded travelers are the linchpin of the Couchsurfing community.  We’re working directly with hosts to better meet their needs.

You may have received the host survey last month.  With this qualitative data, along with the quantitative data, we determine the roadmap of host features.  Host preference settings and calendar features ranked the highest.

In addition to scoping tools like a calendar, we are working to improve Host Search. Some of these changes (improvements to our search algorithms) won’t be noticeable to most Couchsurfers.

In the short term, we’re running some tests that you may notice. We know that many Couchsurfing hosts receive multiple Couchrequests for the same nights, even after they’ve accepted or confirmed guests on those nights. We’ll soon be asking travelers to provide us with the dates of their trips before they even begin writing Couchrequests. These dates will help us shift Host Search results to display hosts who aren’t already hosting Couchsurfers. We’ll be looking at the data from this test to help us prioritize what host/surf features to build next.

We love hearing from you. Please let us know if you have feedback.

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