- We added significant site features this year, including direct reply by email to messages on the site, SSL security for all web sessions, a (much) faster server, email tracking, responsiveness calculation, and login via facebook.
- The site is now in 12 languages; not all are of stellar quality, but great progress.
- We continue to have few significant member problems, but had one major episode this year (sexual assault).
- Our community problems group continues to handle significant member issues.
- Initiative and Sustainability are key issues to be addressed for us to be a long-term sustainable organization.
- Our US 501(c)(3) tax-exempt application is delayed in the bowels of the IRS's application process, which was damaged quite seriously this year by political scandal.
Challenges, Problems, Membership Management
We have made significant strides in our approach to membership problems by providing a written policy, focusing on the importance of member feedback for most minor issues, creating a formal (private) tracking system, and delegating a team to deal with these problems consistently.
As with any site of this type, with open membership, no real central control, and no staff, will have some member problems and some perception problems. In 2013 we had 10 problems that resulted in tracked issues in the WarmshowersGovernance issue queue. 5 of these were quite minor - complaints that a host was charging, host complaints about members not traveling by bike, etc. One was horrible, an attempted sexual assault, resulting in a (former) member going to jail. Another was a false/misleading accusation (apparently revenge). One was an accusation of theft of (loaned) property. One was about unwanted sexual suggestion.
We continue to try to refine our approach to these. Mark and Randy handle initial complaints, which are sometimes easily managed using the What if I have a problem with a member FAQ. Beyond that point, a ticket is created in our tracking WarmshowersGovernance issue queue, and Alex and Russell dog it to completion.
Sustainability Improvements and Issues
One of our long-term strategies, and one reason for creating the Leadership Council and Board of Directors, is to make sure that this organization is not dependent on one or two people. We've made great strides.
The greatest success in this area this year was with translation, where Cyril basically has taken the initiative on everything in the languages area. He makes the decisions, gives the direction, and provides the followup.
Just lately Drew Childers has also taken on the Treasurer role and is already handling all of the donation management and prepared the annual Treasurer's Report, which is fantastic. And Lou Melini has started handling publicity issues, which also offloads correspondence from Mark and Randy.
Finally, two new developers, Dan Murphy and Kosta Harlan, joined the development team and participated in a nontrivial code sprint. This was a fantastic leap forward as really very few volunteers in the history of the site have ever gotten to the point that they could participate in development, and these two contributed right away. Thanks to Kosta and Dan, and super kudos to Chris Russo, one of our key contributors, who reached out and got them on board.
However, Randy's perception remains that a major part of the initiative required to keep the site managed and improved rests on him. This may be OK, as if others are empowered and he were not able to participate, they would just step in and make things happen. However, he'd really like to see other people pushing their initiatives for the organization, both technical and organizational.
Site Feature and Technology Improvements
- Our Google Maps integration was rewritten to support the current v3 version of their API; this was forced by the discontinuation of the v2 API that we were using before.
- We purchased a wildcard SSL certificate for *.warmshowers.org and implemented secure SSL transport for all pages and subsites of Warmshowers.org.
- New, faster server: We found out about a great deal on an actual physical server (instead of the virtual server we've used for years) and moved the site to it. And it's cheaper.
- Outgoing mail is now handled by Mandrill, which allows us to track and debug mail problems. Since this is such a mail-intensive site this helps us enormously both with discovering mail delivery problems and solving member problems.
- Reply mail from private message notifications is now handled through the site, meaning that anybody can just reply to site contacts; people don't have to go to the site any more.
- Responsiveness is now calculated automatically on the site and displayed on the member profile.
- Facebook login was implemented, so members who are usually logged in with facebook can just click the facebook login and be authenticated by Facebook instead of by our server.
- Membership: After the annual deletion on January 7, we had 35,716 members this year, as compared to 24,486 after annual deletion in January 2013. That's a 45% year-over-year increase in membership, compared to 38% increase last year.
- Feedback: We had 20,977 positive feedback comments (99%), 97 negative (0.5%), and 89 neutral (0.5%). This is indicative of overall feedback, but some people with "nothing good to say say nothing" and a few problem people were erased or left on their own, erasing their feedback.
- 137,510 private message threads were started (hopefully most of them were hospitality requests).
- Responsiveness across the entire membership since August 15, 2013, when we first can count, is at about 69.5%, meaning that 69.5% of initial requests get a reply.
Finances and Contributions
Please see Drew's Treasurer's Report. The short version: We received $5000 in donations in 2013, ended the year with about $1844 in the bank account. Our January fundraising period has essentially funded our needs for this year; we have about $5800 in our accounts at this time.
We are committed to remaining noncommercial and staying a limited-annoyance organization, which means that we hope to always keep our expenses low and do effective fundraising when we do it.
Translations and translation management
Please see Cyril's Translation Report. The short version: Warmshowers.org is now available in 12 languages(!). A few of these are significantly incomplete, but in general these allow onramping of lots of users for whom Warmshowers would otherwise be inaccessible.
Sustainability of our organization continues to be one of the most important goals. We don't want the org to be dependent on the efforts and knowledge of one or two people, but rather to be robust and sustainable over time. This involves getting more people trained and proficient in development, administration, and problem-solving.
Sustainability and additional sources of initiative are a key area of discussion for the board.
Our development goals are modest this year:
- A mobile version of the site, which can be easily navigated using a phone or tablet (without requiring a mobile app)
- Solidify our developers and development tools.
- Make sure that all mobile apps have the ability to create feedback.
In the future we'll probably have to update to a newer version of Drupal, which will be a big deal. And we'll have to redesign. There are a number of really valid feature requests in our issue queue. Board input on these is highly prized.
- Development and Governance Issue Queue: We track all development issues and governance-type issues in an issue queue on Github.
- Private issue queue for disputes, conflict, accusations: We have a private issue queue for following up on sensitive member issues. Leadership council members who need to access this can easily be added.
- Leadership Council Forum on Warmshowers.org. It's beneficial for most of our conversations to take place in public, so we've tried to make sure conversations were posted in the forum. Replying and discussing there is generally preferred to private email.
Responding to this report
If you are able to come to the annual meeting, January 13, 2013 we invite you (it's on skype). However if you can't or don't want to, feel free to comment here with your reactions, concerns, criticisms, proposals, and initiatives.