Topic 43 of 52: tribe
Thu, Nov 25, 2004 (09:39) |
Paul Terry Walhus (terry)
Tribe Networks, Inc.
Summary: Tribe is an online community offering a hybrid of social and business networking. Tribe's most distinguishing feature is its focus on trusted, person-to-person classified ads: members can place free classified ads within the context of the various interest groups, or "tribes", as they are known on Tribe. Classifieds are also displayed to other users based on geography. It will soon start charging for certain ads and enhanced features.
Membership: Over 111,000 members as of February 2004
Approximately 20% of the members are from the San Francisco Bay Area, and another 10% from the greater Los Angeles area. The vast majority of the membership is US-based.
Tribe is predominantly male: Of those specifying gender, 59% are male, 41% female.
Tribe attracts a younger crowd. 17% are unspecified. Of the rest, 10% are under 20, 50% 21-30, 28% 31-40, 8% 41-50, and 5% over 50.
As one might expect with a membership consisting heavily of young California males, there is heavy usage by the Silicon Valley technology crowd, including many senior people. There are over 100 founders and CEOs listed in the Bay Area.
As one might also expect, the personal interests of the membership are definitely "eclectic". Tribe has become very popular among attendees of the Burning Man festival, with over 2,200 members in the Burning Man tribe (the most popular on the site). Other popular tribes include "Max OS X" (Macintosh computers), "**Kissing!**", "Social software intellectuals", "Polyamory" (look it up), "Recipe Exchange", two tribes for San Francisco, "tattheadz" (tattoo interest), and "Bloggers".
Launched: July 2003
Founders: Mark Pincus, CEO (bio)
Paul Martino, CTO
Valerie Syme, EVP of Business Development and Marketing
Pincus is Co-Founder and former CEO of SupportSoft, a publicly-traded company providing software for automated remote diagnosis of PC problems to a large number of Global 2000 clients. Pincus' background includes two other startups and experience in venture capital.
Martino is also the President and CEO of Ahpah Software, creators of SourceAgain, a Java development utility. Syme previously worked at Microsoft, NewsEdge, and Reuters.
Corporate Overview: Tribe is based in San Francisco and currently employs a staff of about 25, including noted social software researcher and blogger danah boyd.
In addition to founder capital, in November 2003, Tribe received $6.3 million in funding from venture firm Mayfield, with participation from newspaper and media giants Knight Ridder and The Washington Post Company.
The newspaper companies see this as a natural progression of their existing business. Hilary Schneider, CEO of Knight Ridder Digital, had this to say:
"We have years of real-world experience on the front lines of the classifieds business. By combining Tribe's social networking tools and listings with our strong, branded local market presence, it's a win for both of us."
Pincus sees socially-based trust as the key element previously missing from classified advertising, and sees their model as a major innovation in the space, which he nicknames "Classifieds 2.0".
Fees: Tribe membership and classified advertising are both free while it is in beta. Tribe plans to keep membership free, and to start charging for certain types of classifieds, such as job listings (a model proven viable by Craigslist), and listing enhancements, such as persistent listings and better placement.
Description: Tribe offers the same basic core features as other major social networking sites, with a particular emphasis on classifeds, or "listings", as they are called on Tribe.
Profiles — Profiles are divided into three sections:
Basic includes your reason for being on Tribe, age, location, interests, hometown, schools, and the tribes you are a member of.
Personal digs deeper into questions such as your dating interests; favorite books, music, and movies; clubs & organizations you belong to; places you've traveled to; and languages you speak.
Professional covers your current occupation, title, company, and industry, as well as providing room for skills, specialties, past positions and companies, and an overview.
One elegant feature of Tribe's profiles is that any fields that are not filled in on the profile are simply not shown, rather than shown as an empty field. For example, selecting "Not interested" in the Dating section excludes you from dating-related searches and prevents any relationship status information from being shown in your profile.
Messages — Members can send private messages to one another. The messaging system is fairly robust, with email-like message management capabilities. Members can block messages from either specific individuals or based on degrees of separation.
People Search — You can browse through your network, and through your friends' networks, including thumbnail photos. You can also search by name, gender, age, location, or interests.
One minor point of confusion is that the "Interests" field in the search actually searches all basic, personal and professional profile fields, not just the Interests field in the Basic profile section. This makes for a simpler interface, but may be confusing, since there is a specific field by the same name. It also makes it difficult to do even moderately complex searches, such as for a particular position at a particular company (a search on "microsoft ceo", for example, turns up 4 matches, and includes neither Bill Gates nor Steve Ballmer).
A nice feature of the geographical search is that it searches on proximity to a specific ZIP code, rather than just city names. This makes it easier to find people living in independent towns in a major metropolitan area.
Tribes — Members can create "tribes", or groups, in one of over 20 categories. The categorization of the tribes makes it easier to browse through the several thousand available. You can also search for tribes by keyword to located ones that match your interests.
The tribes are centered around a threaded discussion forum, but the tribe's main page also displays recent Listings created within the tribe, a link to the moderator of the tribe, photos of randomly selected members, a tribe photo album, and tribe-specific events. Tribe members can also see a list of all other members of the tribe.
Another important feature of the tribes is that the creator can set them as public (anyone may join), moderated (joining requires approval by moderator), or private (only visible to members, and membership is invitation-only). This is an important feature for existing real-world clubs and groups that may want to use Tribe as an online expansion of their in-person activities.
Listings — Members can create classified listings in any of over 50 at-large topics, or just within the context of an individual tribe. Topics include personals, housing, events & announcements, job listings, and items for sale. Recent listings from people in your geographical area are displayed on the Tribe home page.
Notes: A lot of thought has obviously gone into both Tribe's architecture and user interface design. While there is a lot going on here, much like Ecademy, Tribe has used color and other graphical elements extremely effectively to make the interface very readable and functional. A massive number of seemingly minor features demonstrate this attention to detail, such as the "breadcrumbs" (a navigational device that gives quick links to the other pages you navigated through to arrive at your current page). This site doesn't feel like a beta, but very professional and complete.
Another encouraging sign from Tribe is their early adoption of FOAF (Friend Of A Friend) technology, an open standard which enables interoperability between social networks by making your profile and a map of your relationships available in a standardized format. This technology promises users the ability to keep their profiles and relationships synchronized across multiple sites, rather than having to enter and maintain them separately on each site. Other early adopters of FOAF include Ecademy and LiveJournal.
Tribe has also done an excellent job of targeting existing local groups, a key part of their strategy that has not been fully realized yet. With the discussion boards, classifieds, and event listings; excellent e-mail integration; and the privacy and moderation controls on tribes, Tribe competes directly with Yahoo Groups, especially for existing clubs and other organizations. Tribe does not currently offer file-sharing, a customizable database, or polling, but does include a photo album and member profiles. If those other features are not absolute requirements for your group, Tribe represents an attractive alternative to advertising-heavy Yahoo Groups.
While Tribe has not yet started charging for its services, the viability of an online community funded solely by classifieds revenue has been demonstrated successfully by Craigslist, which currently runs profitably entirely from job posting revenue, but plans to start charging for certain other listings. The classified-based model is compelling—people really do prefer to buy and sell things with people they know and trust as opposed to complete strangers. However, that won't last as a differentiator—Ryze and Ecademy are both already offering classifieds (for a fee), as well.
Tribe's biggest challenge is in creating effective and appropriate boundaries for business networking. On the one hand, they obviously want to encourage and support business networking, as demonstrated by the substantial professional profile section.
On the other hand, while it is possible to designate profiles and tribes as mature content, many that probably should be designated as such are not. Profanity and sexuality are not at all uncommon, even in seemingly unlikely places, and "trolling" (posting deliberately irrelevant and/or inflammatory message) is far more common here than on other business-oriented networks. One member, in response to a serious business question on the Bloggers tribe, responded to the poster with, "You, sir, resemble a cream puff."
This may be a non-issue for the predominantly young male tech-savvy Californians, but "it won't play in Poughkeepsie," as the saying goes. Hopefully their researcher, danah boyd, who has some very strong feelings about personal and professional boundaries, will give them some direction in that regard.
Tribe's best feature? Walter. It's not just Walter, it's what he stands for in terms of Tribe's commitment to the user experience. Walter Thompson is in charge of Content & Member Services, and fills the role of host on Tribe, welcoming new members, highlighting new or interesting tribes on the home page, and moderates the Tribe Newbies tribe, where he answers new members' questions and helps them get oriented to Tribe. The devotion of a full-time person to this task is a clear sign of Tribe's commitment to an excellent user experience.
Recommendation: Tribe has put together an outstanding platform—by far one of the most usable in the space, and we recommend it highly for general social networking. It also represents an excellent alternative to Yahoo Groups for existing social clubs and other organizations.
For business networking, it's very well-suited for the people who want a richer interface than Craigslist and more business interaction than Friendster. We expect Tribe to improve their search functionality soon.
Tribe's fuzziness between personal and professional boundaries appears to be part of their business model. If that lack of boundaries doesn't bother you, and you want a little business networking along with your social interaction, rather than the other way around, it's an excellent choice.
compliments of Scott Allen