update on tribe

i’m responding here to the multiple comments coming in from tribe members.

first, regarding who’s operating tribe. darren has submitted his resignation. it seems like lately it became a big job for one guy. AT and i are hoping to hire another great sys admin. the job pays $70-90k depending on the skillset. we think its a great job and hope great people apply.

regarding transparency on the business and economics. it has been thanks to the members who purchased subscriptions that tribe has managed to break even and continue. businesses dont normallly share this information but we are open to reconsidering that.

in general, we have kept tribe going because of YOU, the passionate community. it is NOT a great business, but that’s not the point. the vc investors are long gone. we are not operating it in the hopes that it will be a major hit like facebook or myspace. we are open to the idea of making it officially a non profit, however there is a lender that is still owed some money and they would have to agree.

there’s been a lot of talk about the fact that ‘i have moved on’. yes. that’s true. tribe stopped being a full time ceo gig for me about 3 or 4 years ago. i am passionately building zynga as a social gaming company that can offer (hopefully) innovative games across all social networks.

we remain committed to seeing tribe persist. we realize how much investment you the community have in this site, in your blogs and photos and tribes. we take this responsibility very seriously and consider it our duty to safely steward your web community.

i think we should organize a bar night and get everyone together to talk about it all. AT and i can try to answer questions and hear everyone’s ideas.

42 thoughts on “update on tribe

  1. “it seems like lately it became a big job for one guy. ”
    That sounds like an understatement. if I had the experience, I would submit my resume immediately. but I would think it will need a team of IT types, not just that One Guy, the Silver Bullet to fix everything.

  2. Well perhaps if you hadn’t cursed at him through email he’d still be working there. From what I have seen, the guy has been doing a great job with outdated software and hardware.

  3. Wow. DEFINITE understatement. I am currently running a group of large e-commerce site which are PROFITABLE and have dozens of hosting customers and it’s a full time and more job, BUT we’re in managed hosting, so we have help. I’ve been wondering about the cost maintenance/metrics on tribe.net operations – bandwidth, hosting/colo, etc. It seems like tribe is hanging on to the same old hardware when there are tons of new options out there like cloud/grid computing clusters, virtualization, and social network service providers (userplane, etc.) which might be able to reduce costs and support effort. I hope you find a superman, or preferably, a duo superman and superwoman to hold things down and plan and improve!

  4. Wow. DEFINITE understatement. I am currently running a group of large e-commerce site which are PROFITABLE and have dozens of hosting customers and it’s a full time and more job, BUT we’re in managed hosting, so we have help. I’ve been wondering about the cost maintenance/metrics on tribe.net operations – bandwidth, hosting/colo, etc. It seems like tribe is hanging on to the same old hardware when there are tons of new options out there like cloud/grid computing clusters, virtualization, and social network service providers (userplane, etc.) which might be able to reduce costs and support effort. I hope you find a superman, or preferably, a duo superman and superwoman to hold things down and plan and improve!

  5. I thank you very much for posting this. It is a profound relief to me (and I’m sure a great many others) to know that you take seriously your responsibilities as steward of tribe and the tribe community. I’m most grateful that this is your attitude, and that you have shared this with us. Many of us would be more than happy to work with you in any way we can in order to facilitate the continued existence and thriving of tribe. You need only tell us how we can help.
    Again, thank you.

  6. So, if you’re not running Tribe day to day – who is?
    And, there’s always two sides to every story, but it sounded like Darren was working overtime to deal within whatever limitations that he had. Why would a guy quit a $80K job that he obviously cared about if there was not some kind of conflict?
    There’s a story here, no doubt. Hopefully everyone learned their lessons here…
    Does Darren have a blog somewhere where he tells his side of the story (if he even cares to)? Was there an exit-payment gag order? I wonder.

  7. A lot of us are not in the area, which is part of the appeal of tribe – really connecting with people from all over the world – but it might be useful to have some kind of ‘bar night’ with people who are local and are willing to either apply for the job, or lend assistance. They could at least represent the rest of tribe users in trying to work things out. I also think it is a little unrealistic to think that one person alone can keep the site going – maybe on day to day operations, but as soon as there is any kind of large project, something would have to give. It also seems like maybe there would be room for a less technical person to respond to what I imagine must be a steady stream of user issues. And if that all is too expensive, someone mentioned things like ‘cloud computing’ options, but I am not convinced of the stability of that stuff yet. I realize this is probably not a money making site, and appreciate that you are willing to try to make a go of it for us anyway, but it is a little sobering to realize that in the end, that is what it all seems to come down to, and we – and all we pour into the site – are disposable. I know that about the other social sites I use, and don’t expect any better. I guess they feel more commercial, but I somehow had gotten the idea that tribe was different. Stupid magical thinking, I guess…

  8. A lot of us are not in the area, which is part of the appeal of tribe – really connecting with people from all over the world – but it might be useful to have some kind of ‘bar night’ with people who are local and are willing to either apply for the job, or lend assistance. They could at least represent the rest of tribe users in trying to work things out. I also think it is a little unrealistic to think that one person alone can keep the site going – maybe on day to day operations, but as soon as there is any kind of large project, something would have to give. It also seems like maybe there would be room for a less technical person to respond to what I imagine must be a steady stream of user issues. And if that all is too expensive, someone mentioned things like ‘cloud computing’ options, but I am not convinced of the stability of that stuff yet. I realize this is probably not a money making site, and appreciate that you are willing to try to make a go of it for us anyway, but it is a little sobering to realize that in the end, that is what it all seems to come down to, and we – and all we pour into the site – are disposable. I know that about the other social sites I use, and don’t expect any better. I guess they feel more commercial, but I somehow had gotten the idea that tribe was different. Stupid magical thinking, I guess…

  9. A lot of us are not in the area, which is part of the appeal of tribe – really connecting with people from all over the world – but it might be useful to have some kind of ‘bar night’ with people who are local and are willing to either apply for the job, or lend assistance. They could at least represent the rest of tribe users in trying to work things out. I also think it is a little unrealistic to think that one person alone can keep the site going – maybe on day to day operations, but as soon as there is any kind of large project, something would have to give. It also seems like maybe there would be room for a less technical person to respond to what I imagine must be a steady stream of user issues. And if that all is too expensive, someone mentioned things like ‘cloud computing’ options, but I am not convinced of the stability of that stuff yet. I realize this is probably not a money making site, and appreciate that you are willing to try to make a go of it for us anyway, but it is a little sobering to realize that in the end, that is what it all seems to come down to, and we – and all we pour into the site – are disposable. I know that about the other social sites I use, and don’t expect any better. I guess they feel more commercial, but I somehow had gotten the idea that tribe was different. Stupid magical thinking, I guess…

  10. A lot of us are not in the area, which is part of the appeal of tribe – really connecting with people from all over the world – but it might be useful to have some kind of ‘bar night’ with people who are local and are willing to either apply for the job, or lend assistance. They could at least represent the rest of tribe users in trying to work things out. I also think it is a little unrealistic to think that one person alone can keep the site going – maybe on day to day operations, but as soon as there is any kind of large project, something would have to give. It also seems like maybe there would be room for a less technical person to respond to what I imagine must be a steady stream of user issues. And if that all is too expensive, someone mentioned things like ‘cloud computing’ options, but I am not convinced of the stability of that stuff yet. I realize this is probably not a money making site, and appreciate that you are willing to try to make a go of it for us anyway, but it is a little sobering to realize that in the end, that is what it all seems to come down to, and we – and all we pour into the site – are disposable. I know that about the other social sites I use, and don’t expect any better. I guess they feel more commercial, but I somehow had gotten the idea that tribe was different. Stupid magical thinking, I guess…

  11. I have a hard time understanding how you can continue to take money from members under the ‘sales pitch” of new features and t-shirts, when none of the items outlined in the information posted about the premium memberships ever came to be (from December 2007)?
    I think the concept is great, but from where I sit the entire paid membership idea was based on lies and false promises.

  12. i’m really glad to hear this, mark. thanks for taking the time to share this information with us. my main concern is to keep the tribe community alive, and i could sorta care less about the personal dramas behind the scenes.
    i really feel that the ‘not knowing’ was what worried me the most. by breaking the silence, you have reaffirmed my faith in tribe’s future.
    i want you to know, i’ve made a lot of valuable friends on tribe over the years, and i’m so glad that we will all be able to continue to hang out there. thank you!

  13. i’m really glad to hear this, mark. thanks for taking the time to share this information with us. my main concern is to keep the tribe community alive, and i could sorta care less about the personal dramas behind the scenes.
    i really feel that the ‘not knowing’ was what worried me the most. by breaking the silence, you have reaffirmed my faith in tribe’s future.
    i want you to know, i’ve made a lot of valuable friends on tribe over the years, and i’m so glad that we will all be able to continue to hang out there. thank you!

  14. Hi Mark,
    I appreciate that you’re still feeling invested enough to take the time to look at this. And it’s encouraging that you’re actively looking for someone to take Darren’s place. I think that was the biggest worry for most of us.
    I’ve certainly got the credentials to do it — years running .com infrastructures way bigger than this one, making the NASA Mars Rover photo sites handle a serious hammering from slashdot without a hitch, running a hosting company for almost a decade now, and yes — hosting a number of large sites using cloud computing (yes, it is stable enough. No, it doesn’t really cost less — it just scales more smoothly and instantly which is a boon for a growing company).
    But in the end, someone like me isn’t going to be interested in working for someone else. And it strikes me that while you’re willing to live up to your obligation, that’s all it is to you now and you’re not that interested in actually running it… not a very attractive working environment for a skilled tech person.
    I’d like to give you an out. If you’d like to get out from under it, and if the numbers come out right, I’ve already got the rack space, the bandwidth, the skills and the staff to run this type of thing. And I feel like Tribe can be turned into something that’s moving forward rather than just hanging on. If you feel like moving on, drop me a line and lets see if the numbers come out right for you to hand it off.
    If you feel like continuing, let’s hope you can find the right people to keep it moving forward… because Tribe really is a great creation, and it deserves that.

  15. I’m not exactly sure that making Tribe.net a non-profit is even possible, or what such a move might accomplish as non-profits have their own problems (creating a board of directors, etc) and at the end of the day, they still have to take in more money than they spend.
    The real issue for users, especially those paying for the premium membership in real $ is that apparently Tribe.net does NOT consider itself a business. For that reason it’s difficult to take any of this seriously.

  16. I’d say consider people like Jim King to take it over, if you cannot give it your full time and attention pass it on. We know it’s not a big moneymaker as it stands and a revamp or move to ruby isn’t cheap….thank you for being honest about Zynga and where your attention lies. There are definitely enough board members amongst the tribe to step in and run it as a nonprofit and I can help THAT GROUP set that up if you choose to go that route. Right now I would hope that you will appoint a group of advisors that are ready to step in and create bylaws, a board and a normal operating system for this Tribe. Pass on the responsibility to the community you have helped create. We do not need bar nights….we’ve talked about it. We need you to create tribe/facebook apps and similar bridging tools to make this platform useful in the months and years to come, instead of some faraway sinking iceberg to cling to. Help us out by focusing this process so that we can treat you with the public respect of an outgoing CEO.

  17. Can you post more Position Specifics. Whereto do People email you their resume… You could maybe create 2 positions…
    Also, please do announce when I can pay for my membership and Yes… I’ll give up them Latte’s and Adopt an Orphan.
    Whatever You need, I know this community can provide.

  18. I’ve been thinking about the whole tribe issue for a while now. It seems like there are a few possibilities, but ultimately, there needs to be a lot more work into how to finance the operation and keep it viable. Only the folks at tribe have access to the numbers to be able to actually do that kind of analysis, though clearly many members of the tribe community consider themselves (ourselves?) to be stakeholders in the decision.
    I think that Darren was well-intentioned, but frankly in way over his head. One sys admin cannot possibly keep that site running AND somehow develop new features. Someone needs to look at the technical side and figure out what needs to be done to 1) keep the site running, handle a decent amount of traffic, AND avoid data corruption as the site grows. I’m not talking about new features — I’m talking about maintenance. Is that really doable by one person? Maybe, but I suspect it would probably need to be a developer, rather than your typical sysadmin, since tribe is hardly an off-the-shelf piece of software. Darren’s problem was that he was trying to create new features, and ones that seemed to me misguided. Let’s get it stable first, then worry about new features.
    What has Cisco done with the code since buying it? Is it possible to license it back and have tribe.net be a test site for Cisco?
    I may as well publicly suggest what I thought was the right way to get tribe out of its situation. Tribe.net needs to get to a point where it is self-sustaining financially. I personally believe that the best way to do this is for it to become a nonprofit co-op, but some serious work needs to be done to figure out if that’s feasible. Members of the co-op would help pay for the running of the site, and be informed of the real issues (bills, trade-offs, etc) involved with running the site.

  19. Gee Mark… It’s interesting that different people here happened to post the exact message word for word. 😉

  20. Is there a situation where you could see selling it? How about getting in a new staff? I’d be first on the list to sign up. I’m a producer and biz dev guy, but I’d be willing to take on the challenge.

  21. Thanks for this, although it still seems odd that we’re discussing Tribe somewhere other than Tribe. You do have a blog there, or at the very least there’s a company blog that Darren used to use that shows up on home pages – it would create a lot of relief to see this there (I doubt a lot of Tribers know about this blog – I didn’t until the other day).
    As to bar night or whatever, I’ll put in what time I can. I’m not an IT guy, but I also don’t want to be a sideline critic, so I’m up for doing what I can in the conversation to keep things going. If there’s a specific time or place that a conversation can happen (even in, say, a new Tribe dedicated to this), I’m up for participating.

  22. Believe it or not, one person can actually take care of Tribes network. From what I have seen of the picture Darren had in his blog of the servers in the cage, it really should not be a problem. When I work with systems like that, I have me and my network of people work with me remotely.
    Once everything is set up right it should not be a problem.
    New problems are what you want to look for.
    Things like Ajax, and Ruby and the such. New technologies always have something until one figures what works out best for whatever project they are working on.
    If one knows what they are doing it should not be a problem.
    Period!

  23. Good luck. It’s a really tough position to hire for, because it requires very specific technical skills (MySQL administration and performance tuning, system administration, java knowledge, and people skills.)
    It might be easier to find that person if you pay market rate.

  24. Have you considered hiring two people instead of one? I think accountability might be a bit of an issue, and that way things can be split between the computer guru end and human communications end.

  25. FWIW, as you, we all probably more or less know, tribe.net is the best thing out there! And thank you for it!
    Remember back a few years, some folks were complaining about changes to tribe, and talked of moving elsewhere? Pretty much everyone has come back, along with thousands and thousands more new members.
    I’m for tribe.net doing pretty much whatever it needs to do to remain at a minimum, afloat and relatively stable. To do anything otherwise would be tragic beyond unthinkable. Expanding upon this minimum also makes some sense, and you pretty much can count on many of us wanting to both have some input and help out as we may.
    I / we very much look forward to you continuing to do all that you can to ensure tribe.net’s endurance into the future.
    Best,
    Nathan

  26. Hey Mark, do you think that you could post this on the actual tribe site? Perhaps under the “tribe company blog?” A lot of people are missing out. Like I said before, I don’t know how many people actually read that but at least it will be onsite.

  27. It is a deep concern to me that per the last comment, that this discussion is taking place on TypePad on not on Tribe. I think it’s pretty significant and it leaves me with a sense of hopelessness about the future of Tribe.
    I hope you’re not surprised by the people who’ve taken the time to comment here, Mark. This is social media after all. And you launched one of the best, IMHO, so people really care about it.
    I apologize for losing my temper when Tribe went down yet again. I want you to know I’ve really enjoyed it and supported it all these years and I was frustrated and disappointed when I pm’d you.
    It’s totally understandable that you — a smart and creative guy — would move on to other creative endeavors such as Zynga. All projects eventually (or hopefully) do. I’m thinking of Michangelo, Van Gogh, et.al. Hell, even the Apollo missions eventually ended and we’ve moved on to explore other parts of solar system. Maybe it’s kinda lofty to put Tribe up there with artistic masterpieces and great scientific achievements. But what I’m trying to say it seems natural that you’re on to other things.
    I wish you the best of luck with your future projects. But I also hope that you will figure out a way to make Tribe work. It really is so much better than the other dozen networks I’m on. If you decide to let it go, it would really help to put some closure on it. Even though such closure would be a total bummer, it would be better than to have it limp along like it has been.
    In closing, I want to thank you very much for launching Tribe and for making it a portal in which I’ve met and connected some of the most amazing people including yourself. This is completely true. Tribe really changed my life in so many positive ways and in the years I’ve been on it, I’ve evolved in ways I would have never imagined. It truly is because of the people. Thanks again.

  28. Grammar and capitalization isn’t your thing, is it? It’s *really* hard to take anything you say seriously, when the blog post looks like it was typed by a 4th grader.

  29. Hi Mark,
    It is hard to know what is going on exactly and easy to bitch about everything.
    However, the fact is that tribe is an outstanding community and you are the founder. This is really a major accomplishement. Many of us would like to keep tribe rolling the not too bumpy road.
    I am terribly strapped for cash now. I live in Canada and have been renovating. We need all these extra layers of insulation against the winter, you see. I had twelve feet of snow in my entranceway last winter.
    To make a Canadian tale shorter, though I do not have the money right now, I would like to contribute in some way.
    I am a French-English English-French translator that can be had very cheap or I could teach you to answer all these tribe enquiries in impeccable French, being a French FSL teacher too.
    Well, you get my gist.I could do other things too.
    Diane

  30. Hi Mark,
    It is hard to know what is going on exactly and easy to bitch about everything.
    However, the fact is that tribe is an outstanding community and you are the founder. This is really a major accomplishement. Many of us would like to keep tribe rolling the not too bumpy road.
    I am terribly strapped for cash now. I live in Canada and have been renovating. We need all these extra layers of insulation against the winter, you see. I had twelve feet of snow in my entranceway last winter.
    To make a Canadian tale shorter, though I do not have the money right now, I would like to contribute in some way.
    I am a French-English English-French translator that can be had very cheap or I could teach you to answer all these tribe enquiries in impeccable French, being a French FSL teacher too.
    Well, you get my gist.I could do other things too.
    Diane

  31. WOW, Mark and Tribe, you are totally cool. “Tribe” is more than one person. You guys obviously need more dedicated IT people. I wonder if MONEY is just as important as LOVE? My guess is YES. Maybe I should chip in $5 a month for a paid membership. I can’t believe somebody was rude enough to verbally abuse you guys for not doing enough. You guys are busting your asses. Gratitude comes in financial form. Yeah, maybe we’re all broke, at least sometimes, but Give And Ye Shall Receive still applies here! You Reap What You Sow, Dude. I should seriously consider sowing more money your war. How to do that sans credit card? Do you take cash? (serious question)

  32. WOW, Mark and Tribe, you are totally cool. “Tribe” is more than one person. You guys obviously need more dedicated IT people. I wonder if MONEY is just as important as LOVE? My guess is YES. Maybe I should chip in $5 a month for a paid membership. I can’t believe somebody was rude enough to verbally abuse you guys for not doing enough. You guys are busting your asses. Gratitude comes in financial form. Yeah, maybe we’re all broke, at least sometimes, but Give And Ye Shall Receive still applies here! You Reap What You Sow, Dude. I should seriously consider sowing more money your war. How to do that sans credit card? Do you take cash? (serious question)

  33. Tribe continues to be and has been an essential link in this broadening community of people working from the ground up to transform our culture. Facebook and myspace are cute but don’t cut it. I think if you have the integrity you allude to you ought to make tribe a for profit space – charge people a membership. I paid my $5/month. If people can’t afford $5/month I think they ought to be focused on other things rather than tribing. Sell the business to someone who knows hot to run successful businesses. Preferably someone in the community. Don’t let it tank or pretend to look for someone to hire when you don’t even trust the site enough to post there.
    Something will emerge to fill the gap but why should we have to wait? Why not use tribe which is tried and trusted?
    I KNOW there is a way to make it work. I’m sure there are multiple other stories. Tribe is an incredible vehicle for community. Please keep it working!

  34. Mr. Pinkus,
    Maybe Tribe’s most fundamental problem is this: when a problem arises, there is absolutely nobody we can report it to, who will take the time to respond. Let’s take a look at a screenshot of my profile as seen in Internet Explorer, today.

    Notice the way in which the ad bar drops down over the text of the blog? Clearly not a good thing? But it’s a thing that’s not going to get fixed, because nobody at your end will ever deign to listen to a mere user. Nor is this the first problem to have gone unrepaired because of disregarded reports; consider the fact that claiming a Tribe blog in Technorati is impossible. At least two of us have reported the problem to support, with Technorati Support itself vouching for the existence of the problem – dead silence. Not a word from your staff, even after months have passed.
    Change that attitude among your remaining employees, and your bottom line might just pick up.

  35. Mr. Pinkus,
    Maybe Tribe’s most fundamental problem is this: when a problem arises, there is absolutely nobody we can report it to, who will take the time to respond. Let’s take a look at a screenshot of my profile as seen in Internet Explorer, today.

    Notice the way in which the ad bar drops down over the text of the blog? Clearly not a good thing? But it’s a thing that’s not going to get fixed, because nobody at your end will ever deign to listen to a mere user. Nor is this the first problem to have gone unrepaired because of disregarded reports; consider the fact that claiming a Tribe blog in Technorati is impossible. At least two of us have reported the problem to support, with Technorati Support itself vouching for the existence of the problem – dead silence. Not a word from your staff, even after months have passed.
    Change that attitude among your remaining employees, and your bottom line might just pick up.

  36. Sorry about the double posting. It happened when I backspaced to recover a copy of the post for my records, reloaded thinking that I would get back to where the post was pending submission, and found that I had resubmitted. Oops.
    Quite unintended, and definitely not meant as a message.

  37. I remember years ago, back in Tribe’s early days, you held a little forum meeting in a downtown LA loft (Paynie’s loft) asking for ideas of how you could make Tribe profitable. Everyone suggested a donation button and you and the Tribe team really poo-pooed the idea as too small. But when the opportunity to donate came several months ago, I hopped on it, hoping for more stable servers and happy to help fund something that I’ve appreciated for years. Instead of getting what I had hoped we were paying for, service failed over and over.
    Tribe was a blossoming and blooming community in its early days. The navigation was great. The ideas were fantastic. The connection was so much better than either MySpace or Facebook (not sure about friendster, who Tribe took me from). But it came down to basic server failures and maintenance problems. It seemed like the site never worked properly after around December 2007.
    Thanks for your early vision. I think being sworn at in email is not that big of a deal. Good luck in your new endeavors.
    – Normal

  38. Dear GAWD. I don’t care what it takes. I love tribe. I absolutely blanch at using myspace or *cringes* facebook.
    Tribe IS my social networking site. Go gedderdone all you tech gurus!
    GO GO GO!

  39. Where did you post the job listing? I know a few people that might be interested but we’d like the details..

  40. thnx 4 update, but i am stuck in fuckstralia, toxisicalaide … even worse) rather than home in boston, and i cant sign out of my eurynome acct though she’s apparently been on for 2 weeks now … she’s very tired of this, and so am i.
    i have been madly trying to save all blogs and photos for since my hard drive drive crashed, i cannot get many of these memories of friends’ photos, blogs and their comments et.al bk … i subscribed as soon as the option came up and still no answers from wendy (im sorry but if she is here for the prestige .. off with her behomothsizedbighead and i’ll eat the cake!)
    i wish you well mark, in yr future and current endeavours, but i’m not computer savvy .. that’s why i’m a MAC grrrrl!
    and btw, am SOOOOO HAPPY darren has resigned (HUZZZZAH!)!!!!!
    truly though, can you help me sign out of eury’s acct? i miss her, and i am a luddite. i simply and honestly dont know how to get around such things as this … i feel so isolated from My Bostonians (yeah, i like HJames), and i miss my tribes … my support networks … my friends …
    i hope you can feel or hear the pain in this email, because i have been crying for days over this and trying to save as much as i can, along with a phd and a serious illness. i’m not asking for pity or sympathy … just help!
    i get by with a LOT of help from my friends …
    if you can answer, thank you.
    eurynome aka spacegrrl3

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