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Eran's blog

Where Could Tribe Go?

So now that we know for sure that Mark Pincus is getting the old band back together again it’s time to start the wild speculation. What could Mark & co. do to make tribe an active and lively site and even more important, can they make it a profitable venture?

One of the old issues that tribe is still facing is the mature content and public decency quagmire. Tribe’s recent handling of that alienated many of their existing user base and inspired the creation of competing sites and several mass exits. Is it possible to allow all users the online freedom they desire while still maintaining the veneer of a serious web site and not hurting the sensibilities of the rest of the users? I’ve seen a few attempts at that and some very good ideas, from using multiple personalities federated under one account to creating tribe rings where whole rings could possibly be private or invisible to non-members.

In my experience tribe’s strongest when it’s concentrated and local. Of course, living in San Francisco I got to see more of that than most people. Tribe was one of the first to have parties or socials for its members. Lately we’ve seen meetups, parties and proms from various web 2.0 sites, some organized by members and others more “official.â€? Bringing back the local feeling to tribe would be great but can tribe do that outside of the Bay Area as well?

I’ve seen some tribe-connected communities in other cities (Portland, OR and Seattle, WA come to mind) and I’ve seen similarly connected communities using different services (Livejournal seems to still be very strong in Austin, TX). What could tribe do to make its presence felt in more locations? How could tribe overcome the paradox of becoming more local while being more global? I’ve no doubt that this would require more than technology, is it pure chance that here in tribe’s home city, tribe is at its strongest? Unlikely. The local presence and the connections between tribe’s founders and employees to the local community had a lot to do with that. Maybe tribe should start franchising? A local tribe franchise would be in charge of keeping in touch with the local community, of creating real-life events and helping to modify the online experience to better match its own community. The franchise would share in the revenue brought in from the local community, hopefuly, making this a positive venture for all.

From a technology stand point, I’ve suggested long ago that tribe become more of a platform. An outsourced community tool including a community. While more and more web sites now come with their own community tools built in (see flickr, vox, etc.) there is also more demand for this kind of functionality in other sites. Tribe did make a small attempt at that when they announced the sponsored (or branded) tribes feature (see the scion tribe). It seems though, that this was too little and too late. AFAIK no other sponsored tribes were ever announced and the scion tribe itself was never all the successful.

Of course, we’d all love to see tribe go on moving in the open direction. More feeds, more standards, Microformats, export features and APIs are all becoming standard in today’s web apps and tribe is lagging behind. Tribe’s modular user profiles would be ever more useful if they included an feed that mashes up all the various content sources included in a profile. Tribe’s events would be great if they included an option to synchronize with Google calendar or Outlook 2007. I’d be much more likely to post my event on Tribe (instead of upcoming, for example) if I knew that it is easier for my friends to use it and (as a promoter) if I knew that said event would get syndicated on other sites as well (say, evdb and related sites). If tribe would come clean on content ownership and let users control and export their content, they would gain much good will from a community of people they recently alienated. They would also become more attractive to people who value their content (as should we all) and want to have more control over it than offered in most sites. With open platforms there’s no limit to the cool ideas people might come up with.

I could go on forever but I guess this should be enough for now. The next few weeks should be very exciting to everyone involved, let’s just hope that the revolution of the ants is successful and that tribe becomes fun once more.

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