November 09, 2008

Web 2.0 and the 21st Century Gypsies

By Mona Nomura of Pixel Bits (FriendFeed/Twitter)

I contemplated sharing this, since 1) it's quite embarrassing and 2) I'm a private person, but the past few days have been so bizarre, I just had to share.

Short version: I'm a hobo. Long version: I was moving out of my old place, and into a long term sublet November 6th, while I took time to search for "the perfect apartment". The subletee backed out last minute, my old place found a new roommate, a friend of mine agreed to let me crash last minute, but his new girlfriend decides to fly in to surprise him, so I had to leave, STAT. To top it off, my credit cards are in transit, so hotels were out of the question, which led to well... Hobo status.

Enter Web 2.0.

When my friend told me I needed to find another place to crash STAT, my first instinct was Craigslist. He saw me browsing and said: "Are you insane? Craigslist is full of freaks. Go to" and couldn't believe what I saw. From their site:
What is the CouchSurfing mission?
When we incorporated CouchSurfing International, Inc. as a non-profit, we filed our official mission statement as:: "CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding."
-- via's FAQ
Basically, is a network of 21st Century Gypsies.
It's a site filled with travelers and people who host - world wide. It's not about finding a place to crash, but connecting people and not as dangerous as it sounds. Participants:
  1. Create extensive, detailed profiles.
  2. Engaging in local activities, discussion groups, chats, are the norm.
There are several precautionary measures to ensure a person is not a crazy.

Call me insane, but desperate times calls for desperate measures, and I sent out a 911 message and found someone willing to put me up for a night, while I exhausted options, looking for a new sublet. The experience? Interesting to say the least. I met a nice young gentleman from Spain, new to San Francisco, and very very single. Don't get me wrong, he was far from creepy, educated, and well mannered. I chose to take this gentleman's offer, since my request was extremely short notice and I jumped on the first person that responded.

It's been a few days since signing up and posting the 911 message, but the community is still getting back to me. Couples, singles, females, males, groups... I'm really amazed at people's hospitality. Granted, this site is not for everyone, but a great networking tool for students, avid backpackers, and budget travelers.

If it weren't for this predicament, I would've never found this site, got to see a different element of Social Networking, and thought it would be neat to share.

Now please excuse me, I'm going to try and sign these folks up to Twitter and FriendFeed.

Read more by Mona Nomura at Pixel Bits