Profiles are so fundamental that they are usually taken for granted and their purpose forgotten. At Voyagers World, the profile has one primary function: to create rapport.
If you trust a person then you will host, visit, or hang out with them. If you can't trust the person, it is a no go.
Ultimately it is still your decision, but at least a good profile can give you something useful, instead of just a "verification" that anyone can buy with a credit card. This means nothing. But someone showing links to their profiles allows you to dig in, ask questions, compare information and make a better, informed decision.
"Verification” as applied at couchsurfing.com is a gimmick — a way of aggressively hitting you up for a "voluntary" donation when you join by arbitrarily attaching it to this “trust” marker whereby they send you a postcard to verify that you have a mailing address, and then you get a little check mark icon on your profile. If this process actually does have a material impact on member safety and trust, shouldn’t it be mandatory? Isn’t that the last thing you’d want to charge for if you have any regard for your members’ safety?
When looking at a profile, trying to decide if this is a person you want to let into your house, you don't need to know what the latest books are that they read, their favorite movies, or long personal descriptions. You want statistics; basic info, something that you can measure and compare with your experiences. Something to measure against the people you know.
We let users connect their profile to other profiles they have. Links to the volunteer work, professional profiles, accreditation, and public/government listings. The combination of all these external sources, plus the reviews accumulated, here and elsewhere, as well as statistics about it all, can be a useful tool in making your decision about a potential new friend or guest.
We are also allowing connections to photo albums on Facebook, Instagram, and other well known sites. All of that can be useful in helping you in your decision to meet, host, or visit someone that still doesn't have many reviews, or any reviews at all. We believe they can provide consistent, abundant, and useful information.
Privacy settings will allow you to keep most of your information private, until you request a couch or want to meet with someone. At that time, you will allow that person to see your full profile.
All social networks and membership web sites of all kinds have to deal with the same problems and do it with varying degrees of success. In a few cases marketing people even create fake profiles to inflate membership numbers in key locations.
Couch surfers are often seasonal in nature. A user not logging in, or not taking any action for months, doesn't mean that user is no longer interested or committed. But it may mean they are not responsive at the moment.
We will present on the user profiles statistical indicators that show how active that user is currently. Not just a message like "Logged in 3 days ago" but something much more useful: A small chart, that in an intuitive way, shows how often that user has been logging in, how often they hosted or visited, and how often they attended or hosted an event.
We firmly believe in the use of smart statistics to help select profiles, prioritize couch requests, and not waste time with users that are currently on "sabbatical", or annoy with requests and messages, people that are not active at the moment.