I'm a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.


Kiruba Shankar

My Home Opens up for Couchsurfers Again!

After almost a full year’s hiatus, I’m back to active couchsurfing. Today, I signed into Couchsurfing.org and changed my couch availability from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’.

There were two reasons why I took a break. The first was burnout. I was so active that at one time, I was hosting people almost back to back. My Mom and Wife are awesome hosts and they really go out of their way to make them feel comfortable. But too many guests can be very hard on them.

Second was the lack of space. With my parents and grandmom with me, we don’t have an extra room to spare. Hence, couchsurfers would literally crash on my couch in the hall. At times, mostly in the mornings when its rush hour at home trying to get the kids to school in time, it can seem very overwhelming for the guests.

Luckily, our next door neighbour moved out to his newly constructed house in the suburbs and we quickly rented out the place. This doubles up the living space and we spent spent a few months renovating our home. Now that we have a guest room to spare, its a good time to once again welcome the couchsurfers.

Don’t Blame the Medium : The AirBnB Episode

A recent news episode caught my attention. More so because of the new book project that I’m working on.

A lady rented out her apartment to another person using the site AirBnB, a site that helps home owners rent out an extra room or the entire house to a guest who is willing to pay. So, look at this as a commercial version of Couchsurfing.com.

Problem erupted when the house owner returned to find her house completely ransacked. She blogged about it and this started an avalanche of bad press for AirBnB, a company that has raised $120 million in funding at over a billion dollar valuation.

A quick look at the news about the news reveals that almost every news item points its accusing finger at AirBnB.

Here’s my take on this. AirBnB is a platform that connects hosts with guests. Its as much a responsibility of the host to do background check on the guest before letting out her home.

I feel that AirBnB is getting a raw deal here because they are a funded company. And there is money involved in the entire process. I know a few incidents that have happened at CouchSurfing.com and The Hospitality Network. I don’t see such a huge outcry against these sites because these sites are free and they work on trust. Hence, people have much lower expectations.But when you pay money to stay at somebody’s house like in AirBnB, you go in with certain expectations and anything that falls below will tick off people.

I mean, if a marriage happens via Shaadi.com or BharathMatrimony.com and the marriage sours up, would you blame the site? If you bought an item after watching a TV commercial and you are unhappy with the product, would you blame the TV channel? These are just mediums. You need to do your round of research, ask for recommendations, do background checks before you take the decision. Blaming the platform is stupid. You know whats even more stupider? Its creating a huge mountain from a molehill of a story.

Videos that Explain Couchsurfing

I have been hunting for good videos that explains what Couchsurfing is all about. I feel good documentaries do a better job that me trying to explain it. So I spent time on YouTube and fished out four good videos that I found interesting. Here they are.

Here’s a short but nice TV documentary on Couchsurfing. Molly’s special report “Couch Surfing” won her 1st place for Feature News in 2008 for the Society of Professional Journalists’ Pacific Northwest Excellence in Journalism competition.

A nice 10 minute documentary on Couchsurfing.

A bunch of couchsurfers tell what the concept means to them.

Casey Fenton, the founder of CouchSurfing.com, talks about the incident that motivated him to start this website.