I love this site and the people that I've met on it. One of the things that I found difficult was finding an "active" and/or recommended host in some of the larger cities. For example, DC has about 120 hosts. Of those, I imagine about half are inactive, or have no recommendations. It'd be great to filter those out, or at least put them at the bottom of the search results, so that I don't waste my time with messages to people who aren't around.
I know that you can see this when you click on the host's profile, but it would save a lot of time if these were automatically filtered out. Couch Surfing has this feature on their search, if you want an example of what I mean. Also, it'd be great to include filters on for number of guests, nights, etc.
I'm happy to help make this happen if there's anything that you'd like me to do!
This has been discussed quite extensively:
-Searching for hosts by feedback | Warmshowers.org
-About trustworthy users | Warmshowers.org
-Popup Info Item | Warmshowers.org
-Lack of Responsiveness | Warmshowers.org
-unresponsive "hosts" | Warmshowers.org
There are a number of factors contributing to this problem:
1. New members are by default shown as available to host. This contributes enormous numbers of false positives in host searches. I'm not aware of another hospex site that does this.
2. List searches are ordered by distance from the 'city centre'. This just compounds the previous problem by pushing members who have not filled out their location (it becomes by default 0km from city centre) to the top of the search. I checked my own city only a few months after the last 'purge' of inactive members and already the list had filled up with many new members. It was clear from the profiles that the majority had little or no intention of hosting.
3. Lack of any filtering or ordering mechanisms as a remedy to 1 and 2.
We have somewhere in the region of 100 hosts in greater Buenos Aires and probably 12-15 who reply to most requests and have some interest in hosting. This is just asking too much of guests to click through what is essentially a random list of members (actually a randomised list would be more useful as it wouldn't push new members with no profiles to the top) trying to find active hosts. I have taken to asking guests how they found me (because with 6 years on WS, 20 positive references from guests and 100% feedback I appear about 50 places down because I live 6km from the city centre) and some have told me they don't even use the list search, they just randomly click on flags on the map as it is equally effective. Anyone 8,9,10 km from the city centre (which is certainly not distant suburbia here) would have almost zero chance of receiving a request.
The list search could actually be a useful complement to the map search with the top being reserved for a randomised list of members filtered by response rate and last login (say >50% and within the last month) before the remainder are listed. Unfortunately the response has been that the problem of finding hosts and guests in large cities is 'intractable'. If CS could do it during its boom years with 3-4 million members I don't see why it can't be resolved here, any contribution you could make would be more than welcome.
I have tried contacting several other hosts in my own city just to network, and have received a very poor response. I am thinking that several people do not link their email to their account, and thus do not receive messages. Helping to make linked email as more of a standard might increase local hosting options/accessibility
I´m a new user myself, and while I´ve had some success so far, I´ve also had plenty of time to experience the low-reply ratio, and perhaps what I would consider a more than questionable "friendliness" when I do get a reply (It´s obvious some people do reply just not to damage their "Reply ratio"... if they care at all). I´m travelling soon through a not-so-populated area, and the natural lack of hosts, lack of replies, and even smaller percentage of willing hosts, is making my trip quite challenging, TBH.
So to give you guys a little bit of feedback, I mostly see a couple of main problems when trying to find a (good) host, other than the aforementioned:
A) Reply ratio and willingness to host have very little to do with each other: a user may have a 100% reply ratio with a permanently "Available for hosting" status, just by replying every single time: "I´m sorry, I´m out of town/not available/having a baby those days!" If you want to give us reliable stats, we should have a number of times asked/times hosted ratio.
B) Feedback is not encouraged/well implemented: in the previous case, feedback does help to know if a certain user does offer some help from time to time, but even then, I´ve already found plenty of users with several years old profiles who have a ridiculously low number of comments, even when I know for a fact that´s something that doesn´t correlate with their real-life activity on the site. Guests and hosts "forget", or simply don´t even bother to leave feedback, way too often. This could be alleviated if it was actively encouraged by the system through reminders, and much more effectively, if the users were offered some kind "reward" ("points", "perks", whatever) after they leave some feedback, perhaps in exchange for useful features on the site ("Advanced filters" sounds great to me... ;)
C) I do not feel free enough to give neutral/negative feedback: since the community is so small, and the feedback ratio is even much smaller, I cannot "afford" to downvote a host/guest that I cannot recommend at all, if I don´t want to "hurt" my profile with his or her negative vote back. As such, perhaps some kind of "anonymous" voting from users with active, legitimate profiles should be implemented, which BTW, may be one of the reasons the voting ratio is not as high as it should be ("If I cannot vote what I truly want without hurting my profile, I rather not vote at all").
Other than that, a truly fantastic idea, and a place where I still feel much more at home than Face-Surfing... ;) Keep it going guys!
After some thoughts, I´d like to add a "D" point:
D) If we´re trying to increase transparency, we should not allow any member to read the Warmshower messages directly from their personal inbox, since as it is, it doesn´t leave any trace they actually read the message, which means they can always give the fake excuse "Sorry, I didn´t read your message on time!", which is something that we cannot tell for sure whether or not is true. If you force them to be able to login if they want to read their "surprise" email, though, at least we do have the confirmation that they most likely read it, and simply ignored us, so it helps us to better "filter" users.
I'm not sure how many cities there are that suffer from an excess of active members with high reply rates in need of further filtering. Another negative outcome of the problems I've listed above is that if an active member with a history of replying happens to appear near the top of the list in a city they attract a disproportionately high number of requests and can ultimately get burnt out.
WS has some quite unique challenges as a hospex network. There are numerous members in remote areas (particularly on US bike routes) who have limited access to internet and typically do not log into the site with much frequency but rather review requests through email software. Additionally many stays are negotiated entirely offsite by telephone.
As for feedback - I agree, this site has not had a culture of leaving feedback for much of its history but that has been slowly changing in recent years. Retaliatory negative feedback can be reviewed by WS admin, and with a relatively small number of members and a dedicated team working behind the scenes I'd be fairly confident that any problems would be taken seriously and dealt with as swiftly as possible.
[ https://www.warmshowers.org/faq#t26n3821 ]
You've been on the site for little more than two weeks, give it some time before rushing to conclusions. Perhaps you could review your profile or the content of your requests. Making multiple simultaneous requests is a good strategy in large cities, and always have a Plan B even when you get a positive reply.
I guess we could have a roaming WS investigations unit in each country that ascertains if a host really did come down with the flu or ensure that the 'my grandmother died' excuse isn't used more than twice but ultimately, as with any hospex network, each host is entirely within their rights to deny a request for any reason (as they are entirely within their rights to keep that reason to themselves). Expecting to get a positive reply in every destination or doubting the sincerity of your potential hosts doesn't seem to me to be the right way to go about it.