Why Tribesmaids forget about the Offbeat Bride blog (and how it hurts the site)

blog-forumSix months ago, I promised Offbeat Home & Life readers a forum, and a few readers have been asking what's going on with that. So, here's what up.

The biggest logistical blocker is that I don't have the resources to pay our developer to do the heavy lifting required to launch it right now. I only have so much money to invest in development, and when it comes down to "fix stuff that's broken" vs. "build stuff that might be fun," I always have to priotize fixing the broken stuff. Lame, but true.

But there's a larger issue at play here, which is that I have some significant community management strategy questions I haven't been able to brain through. Most notably, I have concerns that launching a forum is going to kill community activity on the blog — meaning post submissions from readers, as well as comments on those posts.

I've watched this happen with Offbeat Bride vs. Offbeat Bride Tribe for years…

How the Offbeat Bride Tribe damages the Offbeat Bride blog

Here's a typical user flow for an Offbeat Bride visitor's experience with the community:

  1. Visitor finds the blog via a search engine or social media
  2. Visitor likes the blog and becomes a regular reader
  3. Reader discovers the forum
  4. Reader becomes a member
  5. Member loves the forum and reads the blog less
  6. Member stops commenting on the blog, opting to interact with other members on the forum instead

Ok, so what's the problem with that? Visitors become readers become members. That's awesome, right?

Well, yes… except for that potential advertisers often look at blog comments as a measure of the site's popularity. With 600,000 readers a month (update March 2014: this is now 1 million), Offbeat Bride is the highest trafficked non-traditional wedding blog in the world — but many of our blog posts get less than 10 comments. This in part because our most engaged and involved community members default to interacting with the Tribe, and the Tribe is private.

This means that when the advertisers who keep Offbeat Bride online come looking to get a feel for our community… they're seeing a relative ghost town. All the interactivity is happening over on the Tribe, behind a login. Tribesmaids get engaged and involved over there and tell me over and over again that they basically forget about the main blog — despite the fact that it was the main blog that introduced them to the community. Clearly, I'm doing something wrong with integrating the blog and the forum.

There are layers of technical challenges here — yes, it'd be nice if Tribesmaids could comment on the main blog using their Offbeat Bride Tribe account, but the two platforms are very separate due to security concerns — but ultimately this boils down to a community management/content management failure on my behalf. When blog readers become forum members, what happens to their engagement with the blog's community? How can the Offbeat Bride Tribe community stay active with the blog? How can the blog and the Tribe play better together? How can we make sure that advertisers understand all the excitement and activity that's happening behind closed doors on the Tribe? I don't have answers.

In some ways, the Tribe has bitten the hand that feeds it — advertising from the Offbeat Bride blog is what keeps the Tribe online, but since I haven't found effective ways to keep the Tribe community engaged with the blog's content, potential sponsors get a warped impression of the blog as less active… and sometimes choose not to advertise.

Ok, so what does this mean for Offbeat Home & Life

Offbeat Home & Life's traffic 2013 vs 2012
Offbeat Home & Life's traffic 2013 vs 2012

Over the past six months, Offbeat Home & Life has become a vibrant site. Our shift to include more lifestyle content has been a raging success, and traffic is up over 100% from last year. Submissions aren't as huge as Offbeat Bride's, but there's a steady trickle of insightful and heart-felt posts submitted by Offbeat Home & Life readers. Comments are active and thoughtful. It's been pretty amazing to see the community grow and get really engaged this year!

If we add a forum, what's going to happen to submissions? (Why would anyone submit a post when they can just start a forum thread?) What's going to happen to the comments on Offbeat Home & Life's blog when everyone's busy chatting in the forum?

Granted, an Offbeat Home & Life forum would be a slightly different beast than the Tribe — most notably, because it would be public. Potential advertisers could easily see activity, and we wouldn't have to deal with that sense of "Uh, if this place is so popular, why can't I see people talking?" But that public nature creates challenges of its own — with the Offbeat Bride Tribe, we'll often bubble some of the hottest posts up from behind the privacy wall onto the main blog, where they be read by everyone. It doesn't fly to bubble up content that's already public.

So the summary here? There are community management problems with the Tribe that I haven't solved… and the last thing I want to do is duplicate those same challenges on Offbeat Home & Life. I do not want to kill the community activity that's emerged on the blog.

So how can a blog and a forum play nice together?

Remember that one of my biggest community management theories is that if you have to educate a community member on how to use your community "correctly," you've already failed. If my community members say things like "I always forget to read the blog…" or "I never think to comment…" my answer is never ever, "You should change what you're doing because it helps me."

Participating in a community the "correct" way should never be something that members have to try to do. The only correct way to use a community is in the way that feels natural and effortless for members… so this isn't as easy as saying "HEY TRIBESMAIDS: READ THE BLOG!" or "HEY HOMIES: WE'LL LAUNCH A FORUM IF YOU PROMISE TO KEEP SUBMITTING BLOG POSTS." It just doesn't work that way. Online communities are about members enjoying what they're doing, and getting a real value out of it.

My job as a publisher and community manager is just figuring out a way to make my online community sustainable — ie, the ways that members like engaging need to match the ways that our advertisers like sponsoring. The question becomes: "how can a blog and a community play nicely together, so that advertisers will keep supporting the business so that the whole community can stay online?"

Here are a few of the ideas I'm toying with:

  • Link blog posts from the Tribe (maybe blog posts are actually syndicated as Tribe journal posts?)
  • Keep researching a way to have blog comments ping the forum server, so that forum avatars can automatically show with blog comments (we use Gravatar now, which is easy but not automatic)
  • Monetize forums more, by allowing advertisers to join or participate in ways that feel good for all involved

I'm totally open to suggestions on this one! Granted, my resources are limited for technical solutions (see "biggest logistical blocker" way at the beginning of this post), but perhaps there's some easy solution that simply hasn't occurred to me.

The sad news here is that given what I've learned with the Offbeat Bride Tribe, I've chosen not to launch an Offbeat Home & Life forum.

  1. As a tribesmaid, I definitely think #2 would help. Half the reason the sense of community in the tribe is so baller is because I get to know people by their avatars – having those show up on the main blog would mean some of that sense of community would cross over.

    But I'll be honest, I'm rarely jazzed to participate in public forums for things like weddings. There's so much judging and policing and rubbernecking that it's a relief to find a place like the tribe, where bullshit is at an utter minimum, and just hang out there.

    17 agree
    • Comment support for avatars is actually already there — assuming folks use Gravatar, which of course plenty of people don't.

      We've tried to get the word out about this but of course unless it's automatic/easy, it doesn't matter if it works… because people don't know to use it.

      So yeah, this is definitely a spot that we can try to make a no-brainer… you shouldn't have to sign up with both Tribe AND Gravatar.

      3 agree
    • I'll second the avatar/name thing. I'm not always very consistent either. When I comment on Bride or on Home & Life, I sometimes use my Tribe name (but not the avatar), but I also sometimes use my actual name.

      3 agree
  2. Well that kinda makes me feel better about commenting then! Sometimes I feel like "er, is posting a picture of something related to my now year and a half ago wedding actually contributing to the blog or is it just self-serving reliving the glory day of my wedding even if it IS on-topic?" But you needs the comments! That makes me feel useful 🙂

    15 agree
    • Oh, I we ADORE our Offbeat Wives who stick around! Y'all are the ones who have the best advice to share in the comments!

      8 agree
      • Oooh see. This is what I didn't know. The tribe was AMAZING (dare I say, instrumental) when planning my wedding. I still read the blog a lot, but I (for no reason other than my brain) felt like the forum rules (Be a bride actually planning a real wedding with a real date) sort of crossed over to the public blog. I know that's not true, but I was never sure if I was going to be committing some unknown faux pas by reading/commenting on Offbeat Bride as an Offbeat Wife.

        14 agree
  3. I like the idea of syndicating blog posts on the forum (when/if you can afford it, of course!).

    I also didn't realize commenting was good for advertisers. I'm typically a silent reader who hangs out in the background. If all I have to say is "that's nice/how cute" I usually don't say anything. I know you said you're not supposed to teach us how to be a community here, but I'll try to comment more often!

    27 agree
    • Yeah, syndicating might be a relatively easy solution… my developer and I are looking into it this weekend!

      7 agree
    • Yeah, I never would ever log in to simply post "cute!" on a public blog forum – it just doesn't seem worth it, and i don't really have the desire to give that kind of feedback to someone I don't know. However, if a post is interactive (advice, listing awesome classic books that are easy reads….) then I'm excited to comment. I feel like a lot of Offbeat Bride posts are more of the "look at the shiney' posts that don't invite a lot of discussion, whereas the other two blogs have more discussion posts, so I wonder if that will make a difference for commenting?

      31 agree
      • I feel like a lot of Offbeat Bride posts are more of the "look at the shiney' posts that don't invite a lot of discussion, whereas the other two blogs have more discussion posts, so I wonder if that will make a difference for commenting?

        Super interesting food for thought here.

        So first: the reason why there are more of advice/discussion posts on Families and Home is to compensate for those sites not having a forum. Basically, we're like "There's no forum where you can ask each other these questions, but we can post them for you here!" So basically, what you're saying supports my theory: when advice moves into a forum format, it kills a certain kind of very interactive blog post. From a business perspective, in some ways the best thing I could do for the Offbeat Bride blog is kill off the Offbeat Bride Tribe. (Obviously, from a community management perspective, this would be a difficult decision — but in terms of diverting traffic and conversation back to the blog that is the core of the business, it makes sense.)

        Second: We generally have a meaty post every day or two on the main blog, and what's super fascinating to me is how Tribesmaids will respond to these posts… on the Tribe! This happened just Monday with the blog's Momthulhu post, with a Tribesmaid then posting a very thoughtful response in a journal post on the Tribe. It happens all the time. The moral being, even when we do thoughtful posts that Tribesmaids actually read, those Tribesmaids would rather not respond on the blog. It's remarkable!

        Again, I don't want to paint it like anyone's doing anything "wrong." Community members are using the tools in the ways that feel right! I just want to find ways to keep the conversation sustainable, from a business perspective.

        4 agree
        • Funny, I was just about to post a long journal entry about the recent wedding budget post that ran on the main blog on the Tribe! I guess I figured that if what I had to say was long, it was better to create a journal post than leave a large comment.

          7 agree
        • Oh man! I'm far away from being engaged, so I won't be joining the tribe any time soon. But I love reading those heavier philosophical posts on OBB, and the comments! Sounds like I'm missing some good stuff on the Tribe.

          26 agree
          • This is my issue here. I'm not engaged yet, so I can't read anything important on the tribe discussions. So….faithful follower on the blogs here.

            2 agree
        • This is really interesting to me. I don't participate in either the blog or tribe anymore, but I do feel like I'm more willing to post thoughtful long-form responses in a forum than as a comment. Part of it is just formatting options… The comment box is small, so if I post something bigger than it I have to scroll all around to edit myself. No bold/italic/whatever options. Etc. And responses to a comment tend to be smaller for the same reasons, so there's less of a feeling of conversation. Part of it is a feeling of safety… I know comment threads on the Offbeat Empire are very well moderated, but there's still much more of a feeling of putting myself out there. If someone disagrees with me, that's likely to be the only interaction I have with them, ever. There's much less context and mitigation. I think on a blog there's also a feeling that you're responding directly to the post author, rather than just putting your own thoughts out there, so you don't want them to feel jumped on.

          I wish I had some solutions. I do think possibly an easier one would be changing the comment format. A small comment box seems to encourage smaller comments, and if a goal is to get a conversation going it might be worth trying to put more editing options in the comments.

          9 agree
        • This is my perspective as a reader of all the OBE blogs and not a Tribe member. I have been reading Offbeat Bride since 2008 when my roommate and I found it looking for a post on how to make felt flowers for her wedding. It was the first wedding blog I had ever visited and until recently the only wedding blog I read.

          I just got engaged two weeks ago but I am not reading OBB all that much any more because I am burnt out on the real wedding posts (probably my fault for reading a wedding blog for 5 years before I was even engaged). I stop by the blog every few days and read those heavier posts but usually OBH is my first stop now.

          At this point I am more interested in reading OBH or even families, despite not having kids, because there are more posts under the "Philoshophizing" tag that are meatier and more interesting to read. I was interested in the Momthulu post but it didn't get a ton of activity. I read and posted a comment but stopped checking the comment section when it seemed there was not much discussion there.

          I used to be excited to join the Tribe if I ever got engaged but I haven't done it yet because I keep forgetting since I don't go to OBB first anymore. I do appreciate when you have posted topics that have come up in the forum over on the main blog but maybe by that point it is too late since good discussion has already taken place?

          5 agree
        • I remember reading that and wondering why it was on the Tribe…

          2 agree
    • Me too! I quite often think that I would like to agree/add some minor point to someone else's comment on a post but don't because I figure it would just be wasting space and everyone's time. Now that I know that commenting actually helps the sites I love then I will try to put in a few of the comments that pop into my head!

      3 agree
  4. Not sure but it'd be interesting to think through if something structured like Reddit could work for the forums. There is some advertising there, but mostly there's great value to companies mentioned and praised there. AMAs are a great idea, maybe find a different question behind it.

    5 agree
    • Do you mean doing sponsored AMAs on the Tribe, like:
      "I'm a vegan caterer — Ask Me Anything"?

      Innnnnnteresting.

      31 agree
      • That wasn't exactly what I was thinking, but something like that could work nicely. Brides would then have an idea if they wanted to hire that person too.

        What I was thinking of is just in making the forums for home and life a reddit style forum. Or building further off that, if there was a way to structure the blog content and the forum content (user generated postings) so that they all show up on the same site together, in the same roll. How would that work. Posts for the day at the top, the ability to sort based on just blog posts, but then user posts bubbling up and down in level of importance, activity. Upvotes, downvotes or in your case This! and Hell No! or maybe more, This! but no downvoting to keep any trolling at bay. You would have certain users, those who show greater activity be support moderators. And since you likely couldn't pay for that, find a way to reward them somehow… Badges? not exactly sure on that.

        5 agree
          • totally get that. Not sure if reddit might have any other types of ideas can port over now in the meantime but it's worth looking at. And I'm not sure about other sites for inspiration, but I'll try to keep my eye out for neat ideas.

            2 agree
      • ooh that's a really interesting idea! There could also be non-vendor AMAs from offbeat wives (first-hand experience advice), or people with loads of knowledge about specific weddingy topics.

        12 agree
        • I really like the idea of asking questions to vendors. It engages the advertisers but doesn't feel threatening to the tribesmaids.

          17 agree
          • As a vendor, I would so do that. As a Offbeat Spouse/Mama who hangs out on pretty much the entire empire, I think non-vendor AMAs would also be cool — maybe for some stickier topics in a kind of "team" format? Like 3 people who do poly in different ways answering at once.

            9 agree
        • I love this! I would have loved an
          "I have a member of an large and multi-blended family that does not always act nicely to each other" AMA
          I like the vendor AMA and the wife AMA ideas. It's another good way to keep the married folk interested/active with Offbeat Bride.

          5 agree
      • I am SOOO into this! It is mutually beneficial and I have the option of opting out by simply not clicking on the post. The mods are really good at keeping ick off the tribe in general, so I trust them to screen vendors and make sure the conversation stays on topic and healthy.

        6 agree
      • I love the AMAs idea! Like regularly scheduled, so you knew when to "tune in?"

        IAMA:
        – city dweller with a commute
        – dad who cans veggies and jam
        – multiple pet owner
        – home organizer
        etc

        11 agree
  5. This is really interesting. You've mentioned that Tribesmaids forget about the blog after they join the Tribe, and that has always surprised me because, well, that's not what happened with me. I read, but didn't comment on, the blog before I ever joined the Tribe. (Okay, I may have left one comment somewhere along the line.) I still read but don't comment for two reasons, I think. First, I generally don't comment on most blogs that require a name entry/sign-in for each comment. Second, I do read the blog for the blog rather than the comments unless I'm actively looking for more information. (For example, if a person doesn't include a vendor in a wedding post, I'll read the comments to see if the vendor's been mentioned.) This is something I like about Offbeat Bride, but I can see how that wouldn't necessarily help you.

    9 agree
    • I generally don't comment on most blogs that require a name entry/sign-in for each comment.

      Great feedback, and to clarify: on Offbeat Empire blogs, commenters only enter their name one time — it's saved, and then is used each time they comment. Is entering your name even that one time too much? Related question: does a commenting system like Disqus increase or decrease your likelihood to comment?

      3 agree
      • Hmm – I type my name and e-mail each time! One time would be fine. I've wondered how other people have a consistent name/avatar/ID but – like you said – I just had no idea how to do it.

        I have a Disqus profile and I am more likely to comment if a site uses Disqus specifically.

        12 agree
        • (For the first time, I noticed that editing was available on my comment when I replied to your reply. I clicked "reply to this comment," and my information was already filled-in on the third post. But it didn't seem to be for my second post.) Edited for clarification.

          4 agree
      • Personally I am not a fan of Disqus. I use it with some professional/academic blogs I read but I find it kinda irritating to do, and that also means extra loading to sign in and out, etc. More work and time.

        13 agree
        • On my viewing of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Disqus frequently spazzes out and won't let me see any comments, claiming an error. Annoying! It does make me *less* likely to comment if I have to enter my information again, but I feel that gives me a chance to think over my comment and whether it's really important.

          9 agree
          • I do not like Diqus. I find it to be wonky and my comments disappear. Maybe it's just me…but it would 100% make me less likely to comment or read comments.

            11 agree
      • I also have to enter it (almost) every time. Sometimes it pops up, sometimes not. No idea what disqus is.

        I read bride simply because I like it, even though I'm not engaged or married. I therefore am not in the tribe, but the reason I don't comment is that while home and families have participation posts- advice, questions, what-do-you-thing type things- bride mostly has pretty things. And I love seeing the pretty things. But I have nothing to say, really.

        Holy long comment. Anyways, I see you mentioned people not submitting after they join the tribe. I think I'd be more likely to submit- both now and after joining the forum, if there were a way to quickly ask "Hey, are you guys interested in possibly using an article about XYZ?" instead of having to write it just to get a no. Not that you'd be stuck running it if it didn't fit, but… at least to get an idea of if you're interested in certain subjects.

        10 agree
        • I think I'd be more likely to submit- both now and after joining the forum, if there were a way to quickly ask "Hey, are you guys interested in possibly using an article about XYZ?"

          You can totally do that! People do that all the time. 🙂

          4 agree
          • Sweet! The other thing I find, is that it feels a little…weird to comment sometimes. The tribesmaids seem very close-knit, which is a good thing. But I've been here for oh, around 2 years or so now. I think. I still feel kind of like the new kid at school. The community is incredibly welcoming, but there's not much integration going on, I feel.

            13 agree
          • The community is incredibly welcoming, but there's not much integration going on, I feel.

            Interesting! First question: which community are you talking about? Home or Bride?

            Second question: What would "integration" look like to you?

            2 agree
          • I love OBB but I'm not engaged yet so can't actually join the Tribe and read the blog all of the time. If people post cool stuff on the forums, like DIY stuff or their thoughts on XYZ aspect of weddings could it be linked to the blog?

            The comments and responses of the Tribe posters would obviously be hidden but the OP could give permission for journal posts to appear on the blog?

            3 agree
      • I am more likely to comment if I don't have to set up an account with another system. Just last night I was on a random blog, and was going to comment, but it would have required I set up an account with Disqus. I almost gave up, but then I noticed the Google symbol – which I already have an acccount for, so I did comment.
        I think having more log-in options will make more people more likely to comment.

        Also, if people are commenting from shared computers, like at the library, they probably have to enter their information each time they comment.

        9 agree
        • Just to share the flip side, I like not having to use other accounts like Google/FB due to privacy. When I talk about my family (especially blended family issues) or my relationship, I don't really want that connected to me in a public/searchable way.

          25 agree
          • Yeah, I agree with this. I blog anonymously not connected to my FB account and have been published here. I like that I get to choose who I share my information with, but don't want a huge online footprint all connected through facebook 🙂

            13 agree
          • Yes! Totally agree. I like that I can choose to use my gravatar email to get my image up there, or I can comment more anonymously for extra-sensitive things by using a different email address.

            5 agree
      • Doesn't Disqus have downvotes? If there's a way to disable those for these sites, I think that would make it a much better fit. Otherwise…boo downvotes, up with the THIS! button.

        5 agree
      • Even though I don't delete cookies and have the scripts the site requires* allowed it seems that I need to reenter my username and e-mail address frequently on the various sites. Sometimes it will be every couple of months, sometimes weeks, sometimes it seems that every comment I post requires me to reenter. It doesn't usually stop me from commenting, but if I was on the fence about a comment it will cause me to lean towards not commenting, particularly if I am busy at the time.

        Disqus is no better, it is not clear if I'm logged in or not when I go to a site until I try to comment and often even though I should be logged in it tells me I am not and there is not a clear button to press to get to a login page. In fact, Disqus is worse! I much prefer the system the Offbeat Empire is using, even though it doesn't work perfectly for me.

        *That list seems to change constantly, meaning I have to keep adjusting my NoScript settings. I try to allow all of them to make sure I am not messing with your ad revenue.

        2 agree
      • Maybe it's because I'm on mobile, but I think even on my laptop I always have to enter the name & email everytime I come back to a blog. Now, since this is my second comment on this one, it kept my name and email.

        1 agrees
        • In mobile I have to type it every time which usually keeps me from commenting. On my computer I only have to type it every time if I havent whitelisted a particular page in my cookie blocker. Which means I usually retype but my form fillers help.

          1 agrees
  6. I might be in the minority, but I was first excited about the idea of the Offbeat Home/Life forum…and then I wasn't. The way I consume the internet is a tricky balance for me, where I don't want to miss anything (must read ALL THE THINGS and use RSS) but I also don't want to be overwhelmed by an endless tide of information that starts to give me diminishing returns for time spent.

    I realized after writing a couple Offbeat Home submissions and waiting a little bit for them to show up, that the instant gratification of a forum post could funnel a lot of posts from the main blog to the forum. The sheer size a forum can reach, and all those comments, means I'll likely miss lots of articles that I would otherwise have found really interesting, though I may not have clicked on that topic otherwise. Except that it appeared as one of the 3 posts for the day. Fewer posts means I can dive into something much more deeply and really start to understand it.

    Plus, I don't know exactly what the forum will look like, but I prefer the UI and aesthetics of blogs to forums. So I'd hope the blog doesn't become a ghost town after everyone spends all their time on the forum.

    14 agree
    • So I'd hope the blog doesn't become a ghost town after everyone spends all their time on the forum.

      Exactly this, which is why I'm opting not to launch the forum. I'm really liking how the blog is doing these days, and I don't want to mess with it!

      12 agree
  7. I'm one of those Tribesmaids who stopped reading the main blog once I was into the Tribe. Part of that was a planning-phase thing for me — I wasn't looking so much for inspiration as for support in actual planning by the time I joined the Tribe; part of it was having this wonderful, active community to engage in, and not needing to get my OBB fix from the blog. I'm not entirely sure how to solve that problem for the OBH&L forum.

    I wonder if the OBH&L forum doesn't need the "journal entry" option, instead encouraging Homies to submit their longer posts to the blog… On the Tribe, I think that feature is really important, since that's a private place for people to write about potentially stressful stuff, or just details of their wedding that the whole world really doesn't care to read about. Of course, the nice thing about having a journal feature on the Homie forum (which seriously needs a catchy name like the Tribe…) is that we could post less polished pieces, or updates on projects we've been working on…

    I wouldn't be averse to allowing advertising (in some way, shape, or form) on the OBH&L forum. Since the OBH&L forum will be public, and since everyday life isn't anywhere near as stressful as planning a wedding (erm, most of the time…), I don't see the purpose being so much as a safe-haven, but rather as a way for homies to get into more in-depth conversations, and to start a conversation more easily.

    I like the idea of syndicating the OBH&L blog posts (& comments?) into the forum somehow — if I can check both on the same page, it's more likely to happen, rather than being busy one day (or week, or month…) and deciding I only have time to check the forum.

    One thing I've been wondering about with the OBH&L forum is what the rules will be around mention of businesses we own/work for. I'm guessing self-promotional whoring should be entirely restricted to paid ads ('cause otherwise, that's basically letting us advertise for free… which would be awesome from my perspective, until you couldn't pay the bills anymore, and then I'd be sad that there wasn't a forum anymore…), but I've really appreciated the discussions we've had on the main blog about the ins and outs of running a small business. On the Tribe, so much as mentioning one's work is strictly verboten, which I think makes sense (safe haven & all that), but since this forum will deal with our homes & lives, and since running a business is a pretty huge part of some of our lives, I'd be sad not to be able to talk about that with other Homies on the forum — not in a "hey, y'all, buy my stuff" way, but in a "here's how running my business affects my life" sort of way. I guess I'd like to see pretty clear rules about what's in/out written into the code of conduct, too, so that I don't need to worry needlessly about which side of that line what I'm posting falls.

    As far as integrating the forum with the blog a little more, I see no problem with occasionally bubbling particularly good bits of the forum up to the main blog, in the same way that you sometimes link posts from one site to another (e.g. reposting on OBH&L a post from OBB or OBF), or from another site. Yes, it's publicly accessible content, but so are the other places you reblog from. Don't do it every week, necessarily, but not everyone who reads the blog is likely to take the time to read everything on the forum.

    Anyway, that's my 5¢ (we don't have pennies here in Canada anymore, so I can't put in my 2¢), for what it's worth.

    7 agree
    • Oh man, in this post I didn't even want to get into my significant moderation concerns about an Offbeat Home & Life forum.

      Because the Empire prides itself on providing a safe, supportive space, there are times when the weight of seriously dark, heavy emotional needs can overwhelm my ability to deal with it. Safe, non-snarky communities are hard to find, and I worry about the tone of the forum descending into wall-to-wall darkness, commiseration, crushing emotions, and insecurity — peppered with self-promotional business spam.

      Honesty time: I'm simply not emotionally equipped to host a community like that. Not saying that's a good thing, but it's a reality for me as a business owner.

      So yeah: separate from the concerns in this post about how an Offbeat Home & Life forum would impact the site's existing blog, I have MASSIVE unresolved concerns about the code of conduct we'd need to keep things functioning smoothly there. It would be a massive moderation challenge.

      8 agree
  8. I have been really hoping there would be an Offbeat H&L forum . . . for some reason, I find it hard to convince myself that posting and reading blog comments is, in fact, a form of community. (I'm the reader who recently wrote to you asking where the Offbeat Empire was on tumblr. I'm happy to see you there now!)

    I think one difference between blog and forum comments is that an initial blog post inevitably has more "weight" than the first post in a forum thread. Ongoing conversations are typically more limited because almost all comments make some reference to the first post (maybe some people think that's how forum threads should be, but I am not one of those people). And perhaps more importantly, comments on older blog posts are less likely to be seen, whereas in a forum, any thread with a new comment gets bumped to the top.

    I think it would be interesting to see if there were ways to further encourage forum-like posting in the structure of the H&L blog and its comments, not by saying "hey, post in the comments like you would in a forum," but by considering what makes a forum work the way it does. Forums have welcome threads, as well indications whenever a new post/comment is made. In addition to an avatar, forums have taglines or other info to accompany a member's avatar and name (post count, day the person joined, etc), which can also help readers identify their fellow readers better. I don't think a forum itself is necessary, but maybe there are ways to more organically generate forum-like posting within the blog? I would like that because I would love to be more involved in the Offbeat H&L community.

    And as for your question, I think that Disqus would make me less likely to comment.

    EDIT: I do see there is a "recent comments" part of the page, but that's still not the same as seeing all the posts with new comments, the way you do on a forum.

    8 agree
    • Great thoughts! Lots to think about. In regards to this:

      In addition to an avatar, a tagline or other info that sometimes appears alongside an avatar and name…

      Again, this is actually something that Gravatar already does for us if folks use them — try hovering over my avatar with this comment!

      6 agree
      • I just realized this after I posted and was looking around a bit more. I was entirely unfamiliar with Gravatar before this blog post. Thanks.

        3 agree
      • When I was active on the Tribe I had a photo of myself for the avatar, and posted some information about who I am in the profile. I felt safe revealing my true identity because it was on a private forum. I don't engage to that level of honesty in Home and Life because I don't want to be searchable. When I post comments about my relationship with my husband, masturbating and my family dynamics on H&L I don't want to be "discovered" by someone like my work collegue or my cousin who is also reading the blog!

        9 agree
        • I totally understand and share your concerns. To clarify my original post, I would not be looking for a community in the H&L blog posts full of highly personal or identifying information (which I would not share in a blog or forum setting – after being "found" by a family member on a forum I used to frequent!), only a group of people who share similar interests and recognize each other via those shared interests.

          2 agree
          • I would not be looking for a community in the H&L blog posts full of highly personal or identifying information

            This is interesting to hear, because my experience with managing communities is that if you give folks a box to type into, they WILL over-share. Our blog comments are very public, and you would not BELIEVE some of the stuff that people share with their real names: http://offbeatempire.com/2012/01/oversharing

            3 agree
  9. Interesting… One thing that stops me from submitting more posts to Offbeat Home is the lack of context inherent in the blog/community site format. A lot of home/life content needs a little more context about my life/house/etc., and that's not really appropriate for a one-off article. I'd love to be able to share some of that stuff, like the process of fixing up my house, in an offbeat foo context, but there's no place for it now. At the moment the only people who anyone in this community has context for are Ariel, Stephanie and Megan, which might explain why the personal stuff is as popular as it is. The forum/tribe would potentially provide somewhere to put that stuff, and there's potential to do roundups of interesting forum posts on the blog. So in that sense a forum might make me more engaged, not less.

    As a reader, I like finding out more about people than you can really fit in 2000 words. It's great when the authors of articles have blogs they link back to so I can go stalk them and their adorable puppy/baby/hardwood flooring, but there are tons and tons of interesting people who aren't going to do that, but who will comment in a forum. I feel like a forum would help introduce more "characters" into the offbeat universe, which would be awesome!

    10 agree
  10. Ariel, I'm really liking the OBH&L that's happening right now. The shift away from the perceived house focus has been awesome. One thing that I've noticed is that there isn't as much history with OBH, and there's not as much to search. I'm trying to spray-paint an IKEA coffee table and then splatter-paint it, and I couldn't find much on the site. (I'm gonna use Cat Rocketship's old post about spray-painting and go from there.)

    I guess I think a forum would be a good way to ask those questions. I don't want to ask super-specific questions like that in an official way. I wouldn't want to submit a house tour because my apartment isn't offbeat at all. Like, it's nice and it's mine, but it's not necessarily particularly interesting for everyone to read about.

    I guess that's kind of my point: I don't feel offbeat or crafty enough to submit posts or questions, and I don't know how well my questions apply to everyone else.

    13 agree
    • It is interesting that you talk about you not feeling your space is "offbeat enough" when there seems to be a lot of discussion on the offbeat spectrum on OBB. I used to feel similarly but since I have been reading through some of the posts that Ariel and other staff have posted about it I have lost some of my fears about not being "offbeat enough". I may consider posting a tour of my fairly vanilla/can't change much because we're renting apartment while it is still clean after our guests leave next weekend. I also want to say that the change in the blog activity level has been another beg factor in calming my fears about submitting and posting comments. Seeing how the growth has not diminished the sense of support and acceptance, if anything it has grown stronger makes me more confident, and in fact I have even notice a change in my everyday life. Seeing the Homies encourage love and support has gotten me to really think about why I love being me.
      So I guess to wrap up this long rambling post, I would love to see your offbeat lite apartment and your explorations with crafting. And I am sure there are plenty of other Homies who would too.

      8 agree
      • And that's the thing–with OBB, I'm like 100% on board with offbeat lite. Totally get it, totally with it, would be offbeat lite. I guess with the home tour, I'm just an offbeat person showing off a rather normal apartment. I guess I just have a dew hangups about it.

        After I paint the coffee table, then I will consider submitting. I just bought the spraypaint this weekend!

        2 agree
  11. Hm, I wonder if something along the lines closer to social networking rather than a forum would work. Since the goal here is community, and I saw comments about how they felt like they could get to know people on the Tribe, maybe just an area where people can get to know each other without having to take away from the blog. Then if they wanted to, they can ask each other questions or show each other updates on their current projects, since they became friends due to common interest (having an offbeat home/life), and heck, people can reply saying "I don't know, you should submit that!" or "hey, that project is awesome! You should submit that!"

    5 agree
    • Hm, I wonder if something along the lines closer to social networking rather than a forum would work.

      That's very much what the Tribe is, and the overwhelming feedback I get from new members (and even old members!) is that there are too many places to post, and that it's totally confusing and overwhelming. The idea of doing just a forum for Offbeat Home & Life was to streamline some of that confusion.

      3 agree
      • Now that I'm on the Tribe, I agree. I don't see how the forum is used at all. I had to re-read the thing about forum vs journal entries five times and I still don't get it. Since you have to put a date of your wedding just to sign up, I'm three months and halfway into planning and just starting to even be able to use the tribe. The to-do list assumed a 12 month engagement even tho I was 6 months away from my wedding before I could nail down a date to put in and you can't change it after you import the list which means having a venue for starters, and then 1/3 of the to do list is telling me I should have done things 2-6 months ago. I'm kicking myself for ever feeling like I was missing out on that community. When I needed it I couldn't get access. Now that I have access to it, the decisions it could have helped with are having to be done before I can spend any time figuring out how the "forum" that isn't used like a forum even works.

        It's nice having a journal space to talk about my wedding with people who I know don't mind hearing about wedding stuff, and behind a password wall so it isn't going to be stumbled on by my family or future employers. But that's about it. And it isn't useful as a resource to see how other people handle things unless they're posting about them right now, so I don't see how the profile bit about "how can you contribute to the community" even applies. Lots of bitter disillusionment here.

        1 agrees
        • Brigitte, thanks so much for taking the time to share this feedback. I'm sorry that the Tribe isn't being what you were hoping it would be. It sounds like you've had a pretty disappointing experience, and I'd love to hear your suggestions about specific improvements we could make… will you please email me? http://offbeatempire.com/contact Thanks!

          2 agree
  12. Merging what Alice and Kirstin said, it might be cool to have an optional "member profile." Someone could have a blurb about themselves, their interests, an avatar, links to a blog, and links to articles they wrote for parts of the Empire. It might involve some heavy lifting to graft that onto the existing framework, but seems comparable to a forum with its own log-in accounts and such. I think it would be a nice way to get a peek into more context from someone's life if they choose to share it, be they commenter or author. And it would be an interesting way to see how people flow between the different sites.

    6 agree
  13. Re: it doesn't fly to bubble up content that's already public

    I disagree! I totally am into the main blog bringing me the freshest and most interesting content from the plebes forums. Gawker Media is doing something similar with Kinja. I see user-generated posts bubble up on Kotaku all the time. I'm not sure how it all works from a UX perspective (much less back-end) but it might be worth snooping around for ideas.

    10 agree
    • I was about to suggest taking a look at Kinja. The Gawkerverse is somewhere I spend quite a lot of online time, and it's definitely jumped since the latest Kinja upgrade. Kinja allows something like subforums (that are public for seeing, but not necessarily authoring… so that's interesting) that can be published onto the main Gawker sites.

      Example: if you go to Jez, and click the little down arrow next to their logo, you'll see Groupthink and The Powder Room. These are reader forum-ish areas, where an approved group can chat and author posts. These reader authored posts are sometimes pulled to the main pages. I'm not sure how the backend works, but that's crazy-interesting functionality.

      2 agree
      • This is pretty intriguing to me.

        I write occasionally for Offbeat Home, but I (poorly) maintain a blog of my own. Some of my posts are home/work/lifestyle-related, but don't feel quite right to me for submission or are inspired by a post, but sort of tangental and wouldn't really make sense as a comment. I feel like I'm not alone in that!

        Of course, if it doesn't fit the submission guidelines, maybe it has no place here. I'm guessing that Kinja posts aren't passed through a copyeditor. There is potential for abuse/inappropriate discussion/hurtful content, though if writers are hand-selected, maybe that's a little less likely. Do they approve the posts after a quick read-through, then treat posts that go on the main site more carefully?

        I just think this concept is a pretty interesting medium between "site-only" and "everybody's on the forum now".

        2 agree
        • I'm *not* an official Anything Important in the Gawkerverse in general, but I am part of the approved pool of authors on a subforum and an approved reply-er in a different subforum (increased level of complexity = approved reply-ers). I have some insight, but it's pretty limited.

          My understanding of Kinja is that what it essentially does is provide its users (all commenters) with a "blog" of sorts — basically an aggregate of all their comments. This blog can also be added to in the form of more traditional posts as well. These posts can be put different places based on where the author has been given authorship privileges. Authorship privileges are granted by moderators. Once a person has authorship privileges, there's no additional moderation where those privileges exist. Eg: I have authorship privileges on Forum A, so things I post to Forum A appear immediately.

          Where it gets interesting is that when I post to Forum A, a moderator of the site — with many more authorship privileges than me — might see the post, and share it to the main page. There, it will appear the same as a typical post to the main page, and in its original forum at the same time. It's the exact same post, just linked direct to the main page. Same pool of comments too.

          So to answer your question, posts that go to the main page do have to be approved. The system requires a couple levels of varying degrees of approved authorship to work. It's a focus on approving people, rather than individual comments.**

          **Anyone can comment, by the way. Just those without any privileges whatsoever show up in a light grey color and need to be "starred" (mini approved) by a mysterious number of people with authorship privileges.

          Sorry for the length!

          2 agree
    • Re: it doesn't fly to bubble up content that's already public

      I disagree!

      I'd be inclined to hear this feedback more if there weren't all the comments on this thread from Tribesmaids saying "I see posts from the Tribe on the main blog and I just skip them — because I already saw them on the blog." I hear that a lot… so I can't ignore it, regardless of Kinja.

      2 agree
      • But it would give me (who isn't involved in the Tribe because I'm not engaged) a chance to see what other people are discussing behind the closed doors and engage with that – if there was a way to connect the blog post with the forum post.

        I had to type in my email again for this comment, and I'm not gonna lie, it is pretty annoying and keeps me from commenting sometimes. If I could have a user profile, that would help a lot, but then again, that's dolla dolla billz. I know it's a money issue, but having a profile would just be absolutely perfect.

        I don't read the forum. I might not read another forum. But I do read the blog.

        3 agree
  14. Totally get the logistic concerns but just wanted to give a shout out for other possible path (or rather, mine): finds forum, loves forum, starts reading blog, actually buys the book (mostly cause of the forum), and even submits DIY post to the blog after being asked about sharing how I made item in question. Post info pulled/modified from forum post. Post wedding, moves from blog/forum to home and family after hits wedding saturation limit. Rarely (if ever as in can count on 1 hand) comments on blogs (this one, bride, or others in general) so I'm not sure if I'm part of the dialogue problem or not because I'm not prone to commenting on blogs as a rule even though I read a ton of them.

    3 agree
  15. I love me my tribe, but I am still checking the blog twenty times a day until the three daily posts are up! It's seriously a problem…I know there's a time difference, but if I woke up on Monday morning and the montage was already posted, I wouldn't even need coffee!
    That being said, I don't often comment on either the tribe or the blog- I read everything though! I'll be sure to post more comments on OBB, now that I know it's helpful to do so.

    4 agree
  16. I don't think this has been said yet, but I didn't read all the comments…which leads me to my point…

    Here iss why I do not usually comment on Blog posts- when its something I want to comment on with more than "pretty/cool/awesome" I find there are already 100 comments and then I get lost reading everyone else's comments, and then what I wanted to say has either already been covered or I forgot and get lost in the comment threads.

    I do the same thing in the forum though… if there are less than 10 comments and I have something to say, I do… if there are plenty already I stop reading them and move on.

    Otherwise I could get wrapped up all day in reading ONE thread

    That still doesn't help I am sure, but it is my reasoning 🙂

    14 agree
    • I have that too! I also think that, if there are loads of comments already, mine probably won't get read by a lot of people either, so why bother?

      11 agree
    • if there are less than 10 comments and I have something to say, I do… if there are plenty already I stop reading them and move on.

      I totally understand this (and feel the same way), but then I see other wedding blogs like APW that has 100+ comments on many of their blog posts and am like… ok, I guess that's what happens when folks don't have a forum to chat on. They do it all in blog comments!

      3 agree
      • I also think there is a sense of community on APW (mind you, I don't necessarily like it) that is missing on the offbeat empire. People get to know eachother, love to talk to eachother and are avid about the editors' opinions. Lots of them want to know more about Meg and the comment section is the place to engage her about any topic. What MEg says is often more important the blog posts, as proven by the endless debate over every small thing she says on other platforms, like Gomi forums and the huge amount of hate reading.The same goes for the other people working on the site: everybody wants to hear what they have to say, you also get to know them, while I have no idea about the empire editors. I don't see the same phenomenon going on with you and your staff, mostly because I see very seldom comments from you guys, and they are all moderating ones.

        I personally stopped reading anything other than the occasional Offbeat Families post and Offbeat Empire, because I find your writing compelling and your posts on the empire much more interesting that pretty things compilations/wedding profiles/fix the house stuff.

        Of course this is just my opinion, but the problem to me is too much container and little personality. So there may be a lot of nice articles, but no really drive towards the building of a community, I am not interested in reading lots of comments saying I agree/very pretty, while I like to read Open thread on APW. Does this make any sense?

        4 agree
        • So there may be a lot of nice articles, but no really drive towards the building of a community…

          Right, because much of that community building is focused in the Tribe. Fascinating comment, and tons of food for thought. Thanks!

          3 agree
        • I disagree. I feel like through editorial style, and reading a bunch of archive and philosophy posts, I've gotten to know the main editors pretty well, and I really like the amount of themselves they put into the sites. It's not too much that other people can't submit and get lots of love on their comments or posts, but it's enough that each site has a different flavor and feel.

          I wouldn't want there to be hate-readers swarming or lots of bashing on GOMI (I just stay away because it makes me depressed), and wouldn't want the editors to burn out because of backlash to them personally or whatever. On the flip side, I wouldn't want other people to stop commenting because everyone just pays attention to a few special people's comments, or the power-user phenomenon that happens on forums where people start getting ranked based on how much they post and therefore their comments seem to carry more weight.

          Plus, I think there are tags you can use if you want to read at least posts by a particular editor.

          10 agree
      • I never read past the first five comments on APW, there's just too many to get through!

        I do, however, always read the comments on Offbeat. I think the clearer formating with the large text and comment boxes, and not too many "reply to reply" layers makes it easier to read than APW.

        10 agree
      • So this might sound strange, but here's why I post WAY more to APW than to any of the offbeat empire posts: their email notification system for comments. At APW, if I hit the button to email me replies, I only get replies to my comment. It's not perfect, but it allows me to continue a conversation without flooding my inbox. I always check that box on APW because it means only a small number of relevant emails. I almost never check the box on offbeat empire posts because I will get every comment someone posts to the thread, and sometimes even if they do respond to me, I don't know it. I would LOVE two buttons: subscribe to all comments on this post and subscribe to replies. As it is, most comments by me on offbeat are one-off not a conversation, but if I could get email notification when someone replied to me, I would post more and have conversations. It's such a big deal to me that I rarely bother commenting. I can't have a real conversation so why bother just dropping a comment off in cyberspace and abandoning it?

        4 agree
        • I do want to clarify that all Offbeat Empire blogs do have a "Follow comments" option. It's not "Follow replies to only my one comment," but we do have Follow comments on every post.

          2 agree
          • It might be nice to also have an option to follow comments on a post without commenting, in case (a) you don't have anything in particular to contribute, but are interested in the topic (e.g. on an advice post where you're in much the same position as the person asking the question), or (b) you've already commented once, but forgot to check the "Notify me…" box / decided after commenting and seeing some of the responses that you'd like to follow the comments, but don't have anything further to say.

            2 agree
      • APW also uses the blog to draw people into conversation. Just like the call to action comment below from Littlemskiss, by calling a post an 'open thread' you direct people to know they should respond not just with 'wow amazing story' but 'hey yeah, something like that happened to me, here's how I worked it out'. If a blog post is about pretty shoes, that's beautiful but I'm not going to comment. If it asks for suggestions for the next theme, then I might comment if I have an idea. If the post is about how to pick a photographer, it depends on how it is written. If it just lists some questions to ask then it's a bit like a tutorial – I don't need to comment except maybe to say it's useful or thanks. If it finishes with 'what are your tips for finding a photographer' or 'what do you wish you did differently' then I might comment with a more in depth story, and that comment then starts a new thread of conversation – this is what APW does very well. I read all the way through comments if each one is basically a new post, but if it's just agreeing with what was already said then I'll stop after the first couple.

        2 agree
        • Thanks for this! We've been doing a ton more question posts on Offbeat Bride in the months since this post was published — have you noticed? Have you felt more inclined to comment?

          3 agree
          • I sure have. It takes a lot for me to comment, and this helps for sure.

            1 agrees
      • SINCE you mentioned APW… they are purposely not using or even considering (boo) adding a discussion forum because of the very conundrum you're discussing here. They just posted about it yesterday, forums are too hard to monetize.

        So my thanks to you, in the form of 765% more comments on your blogs than I used to leave.

        2 agree
        • Yeah, when Meg was first getting APW up 'n' running, she asked me about forums and I was like, "Of all my projects, the Offbeat Bride Tribe is the MOST WORK, and the LEAST PAY." I think Meg took the advice to heart, and as a result, APW's community conversations all happen in public, where advertisers can see them, instead of hidden in a private forum that eats a huge amount of resources and makes very little money.

          3 agree
  17. Weird idea, but could you do a forum event membership. If you become a member you are fore-warned of forums events online where a particular topic will be discussed, maybe with one of the awesome experts (from an advertising company if you wish) to give advice on a particular issue.
    So one week you have rental decoration and everyone comes together over 24 hours to discuss and share ideas.
    The next week you have how pets can fit into a busy homelife, etc etc.
    After the 24hours are up it might even inspire a new submission post and because so many people have contributed they all have a feeling of community collaboration?
    It allows for the forum, but makes it so the blog is still the focus. In fact it means that if anyone missed the event, they could still catch up on the gossip without reading through pages of forum chat, by coming right back to the blog 🙂

    I am not a developer and have no idea how technically this would work.. but it came to me.. so I thought I'd suggest it…

    3 agree
  18. I'm a current Tribesmaid who follows the user flow from #1-4. I read both the Bride and Home blogs (not so much Empire…although I do click through it occasionally when things are slow at work and I've already have read through everything on the Bride/Home blogs). I also never comment on the blog sites. So then – why am I commenting and it being on an Empire post? I saw the journal title on the forum, read the entry – and since couldn't comment on the forum…I clicked through and did it on here.

    Reasons I don't comment:
    (1) Laziness
    (2) It's a guestpost from a tribesmaid that I already commented on while reading it on the forum, so why do it again?
    (3) When looking at real wedding posts…I'm just looking for ideas. I'm not looking for intellectual conversation.
    (4) [This may be kinda picky but…] Some posts don't' have a clear call to action – which would make me think "HEY – I should give some input!" For example, "Add a beer cap to your boutonniere" http://offbeatbride.com/2013/06/beer-cap-boutonniere is set up more like an information post (Hey – here's an idea, and here's clicky-links to more ideas). Don't get me wrong – that's awesome and all- but it doesn't make me think about commenting on how at one point I was considering putting hops in my bridesmaid bouquets or whatnot.

    Getting back to the "me commenting now when I haven't commented before" thing…what if you or the mods did more journal entries in the tribe section like this? It says "Hey look – the blog has this post. This is something not featured in anyone's journals. We don't want you to miss it and would love your input!" Obviously it wouldn't make sense to do it on Guestposts from tribesmaids (…but maybe more so on posts like the one on photographers shooting same sex weddings?).

    Another thought – I never think to look at the comments on the blog. Maybe it's just a visual thing? When I finish reading the post I do read about the author…but then I see the big visual of related posts…then the list of "Elsewhere on the web". The point I'm trying to make: there's a lot of stuff to scroll through to see that there are comments. Maybe people aren't seeing the comment section right away which is why they don't think to input?

    7 agree
    • "2) It's a guestpost from a tribesmaid that I already commented on while reading it on the forum, so why do it again?"

      This was a big reason why I didn't comment much on the Bride blog, because I did often recognise the post from a tribesmaid and had often already read it.

      2 agree
      • I don't even bother to read those posts. My time online is limited, why would I want to read something I've basically already read? This includes how-tos on obb, and also submitted weddings where I've already seen their pics and read a bit about it in the forum, even though the format is different.

        2 agree
        • It's interesting, because just up-thread, I got the opposite feedback: I totally am into the main blog bringing me the freshest and most interesting content from the forums.

          Not saying either one is wrong, just interesting to see all the different perspectives! 🙂

          2 agree
    • (4) [This may be kinda picky but…] Some posts don't' have a clear call to action – which would make me think "HEY – I should give some input!"

      THIS is a really interesting point. There's something a bit formulaic about it, but ending posts with a throw to the gallery in a question usually encourages people to answer the question. It's not a perfect science, but even at the end of thoughtful philosophizing posts, the idea of "Readers, what do you think?" invites the participatory context than engenders commenting like whoa.

      "How will you use {the advice/ideas/inspiration} found here?" reframes the context from "HERE ARE ALL THE PRETTIES! BEHOLD!" to "PRETTIES! ARE YOU NOT INSPIRED! HOW?!" which, I think, would help?

      4 agree
  19. I'm somebody who started out as just a reader for offbeat bride blog, joined that forum, and then switched back to just reading the blog. In the past month I've gotten pretty attached to the Home&Life blog and would hate to see it slacken off in any way, shape, or form. While I don't even really glance at the tribe anymore , I would definitely be more apt to look at a home&life forum more than I am the bridal one–I think there a ton of homey-tips, advice, and such to be had from experience home owners/renters etc that myself and my husband may need in the coming months and years. I would like to see the integration of blog and forum, like if a tribe member had the option to have their comment private so only tribes people could read it, or leaving it public? Not so sure how great an idea that is haha but I just thought I would chime in that if you could make a home and life forum work, I'd totally check it out.

    3 agree
  20. I feel like a blog post is a professor standing at the front of the class giving a lecture. Students/readers are welcome to raise their hands and chime in, but they may feel like they have a lot less authority compared to the main poster, or be self-conscious in front of a wide audience, or believe what they have to say is off-topic and better reserved. The Tribe forum is more like small group discussion – you feel like you're on equal footing with the posters, sometimes even more informed about something, and you can contribute feeling like they do value your response and the stakes are relatively low for personal exposure. And journal posts – are like not even a classroom, but like group therapy, where you can reveal your thoughts no matter how bad you think they make you look or how trivial they are, and people give you support. I loved that SO MUCH about the Bride Tribe and will miss it a lot now that I'm all married up and my problems are not about the wedding but will be about other things (like how do I pick gifts for his family when he can't come up with anything and he knows them better than I do).

    I knew on Tribe that if I posted a journal or forum post or added to an existing forum post, it would come up on recent stuff, so people would see it. On blogs… I feel like since the tone is more authoritative and less advice-seeking, problem-solving, there is very little need for me to respond and very little chance that whatever is up on the blog today is actually what I'm concerned about today. And I think Home & Life is so broad it is even less likely that an individual blog post will actually relate to me – even if I am interested in, say, the ins and outs of home ownership, I'm not in a position to even ask an intelligent question on that topic at this point. I'm REALLY interested in being involved in the other OffBeat communities since I found so much of value with OBB, but I feel like it's less laid out for how to personally participate in a valuable manner.

    10 agree
    • I'm REALLY interested in being involved in the other OffBeat communities since I found so much of value with OBB, but I feel like it's less laid out for how to personally participate in a valuable manner.

      Have you checked out the JOIN pages linked from the top of each of the blogs? That gives a nice quick at-a-glance overview of how to get involved with each site… if you have any ideas for things that could/should go there to make you feel more welcomed and encouraged to participate, lemme know!

      2 agree
  21. A lot of my thoughts on this have already been covered, but I'll add this in: the way the site is set up, I'm ultra aware of how to submit my wedding (once it happens) in terms of what you're looking for in terms of content, formatting, etc. I'm far less aware of how to submit guest posts and what kind of content you'd like to be submitted. While this could definitely be my own absentmindedness and lack of research, but I always assumed that except for weddings, you guys didn't take open submissions for articles (and that guest posts were done by request.) If there was a little more promotion done (on and off the Tribe) letting people know article submissions are encouraged and what kind of articles you'd like, maybe it would add to the number of more discussion oriented articles on OBB?

    Part of the problem has to do with the personal aspect of weddings as well. If I were to relate to a post about family issues (like the momzilla one) I might be more inclined to post on the Tribe about it than on the public article, because there's always a chance in public that a family member would find my comment about dealing with them, figure out who I am, and be hurt (however well intentioned my comment), while I'm preeeeeetty confident that none of my family members are on the Tribe.

    6 agree
    • the way the site is set up, I'm ultra aware of how to submit my wedding (once it happens) in terms of what you're looking for in terms of content, formatting, etc. I'm far less aware of how to submit guest posts and what kind of content you'd like to be submitted.

      It's all addressed on Offbeat Bride's submission page: http://offbeatbride.com/submissions 🙂

      2 agree
      • There's that link, there, but I definitely agree about the promotion aspect of posts…Because there isn't an active call / promotion / isn't obvious until you go find that link that you can submit.

        Also, I clicked on this link from the forum, so that method definitely works!

        4 agree
        • Just a note of clarification: all our reader round-ups do try to include information at the about how to submit. We'll see what we can do about making our submissions process more obvious!

          2 agree
        • Also, I feel like the format of the submission isn't clear. I had a post in my journal about joint finances which you suggested would be a great fit for obh&l, so I submitted it without a lot of changes. It got turned down, because I hadn't reformatted to fit what obh&l is looking for. I haven't had time to figure out how to take the personal and casual post and turn it into the type of submission you are looking for, because even having read the submissions guidelines, I'm not clear. I don't have time to try to figure it out myself when I'm not heavily invested in submitting. Maybe if you had clear here's the things you need to address in updating something from an informal forum or personal blogpost into a submission guide, basically if I knew what changed to make, I'd resubmit. I think not really knowing what style you are looking for is a big reason I don't submit.

          2 agree
          • Sorry, this was definitely a miscommunication. I was trying to say "this topic is something we talk about on Offbeat Home & Life," and not "this exact post is ready for publication on the site."

            In terms of Offbeat Home & Life submission formatting, the assumption is that most submissions come from folks who read the site who are familiar with the kinds of posts we run. In the case of your post, these posts are some great examples: http://offbeathome.com/filed/life/budget-career

            The general format? "Here's my experience, and here are a few lessons or tips that might apply to your life." It's basically first-person service writing… how-to from a very personal perspective. 🙂

            If you ever have questions about submissions, you can always email us directly!

            2 agree
          • Well, yes, I know the type of posts you run but no idea how to write them. Putting it that way "Here's my experience, and here are a few lessons or tips that might apply to your life." it makes sense but I couldn't put my finger on how to write the style of your posts.

            3 agree
  22. I haven't been on the tribe in awhile. When it transitioned, I just sort of let my membership go so I'm not familiar with the new tribe layout. One suggestion, would it be possible to pin the most recent stories to the top? Kind of like the banner on the top of Offbeat Bride where you rotate through related/relevant/looky here posts?

    I also like someone else's comment about having "ask a vendor" posts. I could see those being a big hit.

    3 agree
    • would it be possible to pin the most recent stories to the top?

      Can you clarify what you mean by this? Most recent stories from where? And to the top of what?

      If you're saying the most recent stories from the blog at the top of the Tribe's main page, I actually just added a module for exactly that, just yesterday.

      2 agree
      • That's what happens when you don't proofread. Yep, that's what I meant by that.

        Oh, just occurred to me (and might take development time) but could you use key-words/tags to show potential related posts on the Offbeat Bride main site on journal entries? I guess you can't guarantee any more comments on blog posts but more traffic might improve things.

        3 agree
        • could you use key-words/tags to show potential related posts on the Offbeat Bride main site on journal entries?

          Funny, I'm literally working on exactly that thing exactly right now! 🙂

          2 agree
          • I support both of these things! Links to the fresh blog content at the top of the Tribe + links from journal entries to the helpful posts on the main blog!

            4 agree
  23. I think it is sort of a double-edge sword. Unfortunately I don't have any suggestions, but some personal insight that might(?) be helpful.
    I have been a member of the Tribe since I first got engaged in 2009 (um, yeah… we'll get around to that marriage thing eventually…), but I noticed I stopped reading the blog for a while because most of what was on the blog was in the Tribe. People posted their pics and stories there first and, since we would chat back and forth and encourage one another, it felt more "intimate" to congratulate them there or keep a thread going on a great entry. BUT I always try to congratulate a Tribesmaid who has their wedding featured (because that is pretty badass, ya know?). Obviously you already covered this above, but I think there is also a lot of "seen it" mindset as well. I know that if I read an entry on the forum, I usually don't read it on the blog because I have already read it.
    On the other end, however, I noticed that may Tribesmaids were asked if their entries could be used for the blog, rather than them having to submit- creating more content for the blog. Let's face it, how many of us wonder if a submission is "good enough" or appropriate. Think about how many posts would have never appeared without someone saying, "This is awesome. It should be on the blog!"

    4 agree
    • Reading my comment through, I realize it is probably not very well articulated. I apologize. First trimester exhaustion is making communication impossible the past couple of weeks!

      3 agree
  24. I still read the main OBB blog every day, and OBH too. I comment more on OBH than I do on OBB just because, as other people have said, I love looking at the pretties on the main OBB blog but rarely do I have anything really compelling to say other than "ooh, awesome" and I feel kinda stupid doing that. I've been making an effort to do so anyway the past few days, both because I want the whole Offbeat blog empire to continue to be successful, and because I think it would suck a little bit to submit your gorgeous wedding and have people not comment on it.

    I admit that while I've had guest posts on both OBB and OBH (and thanks for that!) I tend to participate more in the Tribe because it is anonymous. And I'm funny about that, wanting things to be anonymous and keeping my internet life private. It gives me a sense of security that within the Tribe, nobody can google my business. I like how main Blog posts are now featured on the Tribe, that might give Tribesmaids who forget to visit the main blog a nudge in that direction. And I think it was a good idea to put the blog headers back up at the top of each page instead of the "Other offbeat sites" pull down menu.

    3 agree
  25. So, I was thinking again of sites I regularly visit that aren't forums but have that community feel.
    thehairpin.com is amazing. The "commentariat" is amazing and you can log in and have a picture and it's really easy and awesome.
    Also, they have a Friday open thread that is the best. It gives a place for all of those off topic conversations and does wonders for community bonding. They have a google group for "pin-ups" where people can meet other people from their city that are also readers.
    I think I got to the hairpin from here, but if you haven't read/poked around there in a while, you should. It's lovely.

    7 agree
  26. As a long time reader who recently got engaged (and therefore recently eligible for the Tribe), I'm still engaged in the main blog more than the forum.

    However, I have noticed that since I defined what I wanted for my wedding in terms of feel/vision, I don't gawk at the pretty wedding submission posts like I used to before I got engaged. Now, I am more interested in the philosophical stuff and ideas/help for doing things. Don't know if that is true for other people, but I definitely have experienced a shift in what I read.

    On that note, I am recently obsessed with wedding videos, something I never even looked at before I got engaged (I want to see that wonderful connection and how the day felt!)

    On the same topic, I also wanted to read about the process leading up to getting engaged really badly when I was in the serious boyfriend but not engaged stage — and it was really hard to find a community around that topic on the web.

    To me, a blog post is more about a conversation between the commenter and the reader, and less about a community converging to help people figure stuff out.

    Also, I commented yesterday on the tribe and earlier in the comments about the linking journals to main posts — that's how I came to this post and went back and read older posts the day before when a mod had placed relevant posts at the top of the journal entry (not as one of the comments!)

    Hope this feedback is useful! After reading for 2 years and finally getting engaged, I feel like I can actually contribute / have a useful perspective vs. being a non-engaged wedding stalker who used to hide posts from my (now) fiance until I got caught…

    P.S. I read through all the comments and posted throughout before adding my perspective to the end, so that's a sign of community-building on a blog post right there!

    4 agree
  27. Discourse? http://www.discourse.org/

    Also: I LOVE the AMA idea, but I'm not in love with the idea of a forum for OBH&L. Like others have said, I want to be able to keep up with the content and a forum is so… Overwhelming. A flood of posts, too any reposts, difficult to manage, etc…

    In my opinion, OBH&L needs a commenting makeover, not a forum. I loathe Disqus — please, not Disqus! But it would be really nice if each commenter had a 'profile page' of sorts, where their guest posts and commenting history would displayed, along with an avatar, short bio, and username.

    Also, a better interface for subscribing to comment threads and being notified of replies to your comments. Other blogs that I read have similar set-ups. It creates a sense of community and interaction without enabling the free-for-all that a forum can become.

    5 agree
    • I was thinking about this when I wrote my response. Maybe leave OBH&L commenting open to passing readers, but offer a beefed up commenting and profile system for subscribers?

    • I find that there isn't enough Offbeat Home & Life content for my liking and that I'd really like to see more. It isn't reasonable to expect more blog posts, but a forum would mean more content and would be updated on weekend when the main blogs usually don't update.

      2 agree
    • Agreed! I'm not a fan of forums, so the idea that a forum would take the discussion away from where I actually use the site isn't really something I look forward to. The set-up where every time I comment I have to log into my email to approve getting follow-up comments is completely ridiculous (but not exactly the only site that's doing it this way, I just hate it). I've timed it, it's 45 seconds of active process just to follow comments, and I still only get about a third of them sent to me. But the thing I hate about forums is all the wasted space, the bouncing smiley gifs, the customizable fonts for posting (which make accessibility very difficult to manage), the signatures, the….. ok pretty much everything that isn't directly related to content and managed by the editors who keep everything visually cohesive.

      I don't think a forum is necessary. Just a better commenting system. I do like the profiles idea, and maybe just a simple ring around the avatar for certain commenters (paid members, or people who comment a lot, or something like that).

      • What I think is interesting is that OBT has none of those things. There are customizeable fonts on the journals, but not really on the forums (or at least they aren't used.) There aren't signatures, and very minimal smilie faces. (I don't know that I've seen anything other than a static frown, static smile, and static big smile). The other the top smilies some sites are rife with aren't a thing on OBT. Just interesting, now that you mention it, since every other forum I've been on has been rife with that.

        • Ha! Well that's good to know. I'm not allowed onto the tribe yet because my engagement ring is still locked away in a firesafe box and I'm not supposed to know about it yet! But maybe I'll look into the tribe once I'm at that point, since it's less obnoxious then the usual forums.

  28. Haven't finished reading all the comments yet, but one thing that might be a good compromise between the blog and a forum is an indicator for new comments. It's gets a little tiring scrolling through the wall of texts trying to find a couple of new comments. I WANT to read what folks have to say, 'cause yay sharing! Yet I get discouraged when I have to hunt for them. Would it be possible for a comment to have an icon or different color for maybe 6-12 hours after it was posted? Or to sort comments by newest/oldest/highly recommended at least?

    edit: Finished reading all the comments and saw someone mentioned a "recent comments" thing. I scanned the page and couldn't find it. Maybe a change in the comments design if the mechanics are already there?

    3 agree
    • Yeah, it's interesting because you're basically suggesting a Disqus-like commenting tool… which several people in this thread have very vocally argued against! 🙂 Ah, the joys of contradictory requests. 🙂

      • Ah, I was under the impression people disliked Disqus the service, not necessarily the system of sorting comments. But that's my dirty lens because I do abhor Disqus (the NPR forum comes to mind) yet still like the ability to sort or identify new messages.

        • Well, of the services that offer these kinds of commenting functions, Disqus is the leader of the pack. I tried IntenseDebate years ago and it was AWFUL. If there are other commenting tools I don't know about, please oh please educate me!

      • My issue with disqus is that it keeps losing me (i.e. having no idea that when I type in my password, I want it to accept it one of the first 5 times, not wait until I've typed the same password 3-10 times to say "oh yeah, that IS your password!" It makes me feel like I'm hunting David Bowie). Then when it doesn't lose me, that's not the profile I wanted to comment from!

  29. I have two deeply conflicting opinions about the comments thing. On the one hand, I hate being forced to log in or create an account before I'm allowed to comment, and I second the "oh god please not Disqus" and add an additional "please not facebook logins either". 95% of the time, if I have to create an account for a blog before I can comment, I won't. And mostly, if I have to sign in with my wordpress, I won't.

    On the other hand, I think the good part of a forum is that it has a sense of community that you can't get without logins. If anyone can post under the name "Robyn", for example, how can I make friends with people? I *think* there are several regular posters on the OBHL and OBF blogs with the same name but it's hard to tell. You can't get to know people. I know you can use Gravatar to add a picture or something but it's not the same as having an account, a profile, a persona that's yours.

    So I suppose if there's no forum I would like to be able to make an account to comment on the blogs, but not *have* to. So people could still just put a name and email to comment, but regular commenters could choose to make a profile and so on.

    Yeah, confusing. I know. Sorry.

    1 agrees
    • I actually really like that. I think it solves a lot of the "I want a sense of community but also want to remain anonymous if I want to in case family happens upon this post" problems

    • I'm definitely with you on the "won't log in to comment on blogs" thing. In some ways, Gravatar is a nice compromise for this (it lets me just enter my name and email address, same as anyone else, but if I use the email I've set up with Gravatar, it has my profile picture & a brief profile I can fill out, so people can more easily recognize me as one person commenting throughout the OBE), although it's certainly not as comprehensive as a full profile. I'm not sure how thoroughly I'd fill out a publicly visible full profile, though. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with findability on the internet — on the one hand, I'd love for people who see my work in person to be able to find my work on the web, and for people who know me in person to be able to contact me if they need to, but I also want to maintain some degree of online privacy, so that my future boss, my mother-in-law, and my aunt don't all see every OBH&L comment I make if they look me up on the web. (I mean, I try to make sure that none of my comments would offend anyone too much, but not everyone I know knows everything about me, and I don't mind keeping it that way).

      • Yeha, me too. That's why I refuse to log into anything with facebook, ever.

        2 agree
  30. I had the opposite experience. I found Ofdbeat Bride when it was still in its snarky phase. After reading an article that caught my eye because of the pretty rhinestone tiara somethingorothers, only to realize the article was making fun of the pretry thing I liked, I pretty much decided I was done with the blog. But i started getting more and more involved with the tribe. And then people started referencing blog articles in forum conversations with a sort of implied assumption that everyone had read them (same with the book). In order to know what they were referencing I woukd head over and read the article (and bought the book). Eventually I realized that the tone of the blog had changed and it was easier to simply stay up to date then try to track down articles when they were mentioned. Eventually I became one of those people who would link a blog article into discussion posts!

    As for submissions, I spent a lot of time writing things on the forum and then sitting around hoping some mythical blog talent scout would notice and ask to post them on the blog. I think I got the impression that this was How It Is Done, because every now and then that is how it happens. I think it was almost a year after my wedding before I realized thst featured weddings were submitted, not invited.

    As for advice, I think I can come uo with some. Have a section (commentless, perhaps) that is just where to post things you want to be considered for the blog. That was, people who think forum first, blog second have an integrated way to be considered for the blog. And being told that you are foing to be featured is a surefire way to get someone to start chacking the blog hourly to see if it had posted (from experience).

    I also thinking linking to relevant blog articles in discussions on the forum is useful. A lot of that will be up to the community, but its something mods can be encouraged to do when they see the opportunity.

    And my third suggestion would be something that has already been discussed, but it would be integrating advertizing into the forum. Yeah, i dont want a full fledged forum member who is just a company there to comment about their website on every post they can. However, I often find the sponsored posts on the blog just as interesting as any other, and see no reason the forum would be different. If there were a sponsored section where businesses could talk about themselves and initiate discussions, that could work well. It also lets members link each other to those discussions when a particular sponsor really does seem like the right fit for a problem.

    • Ooh, while I do remember the early snarky days of 2007… I'm curious about what post you're talking about. I don't remember ever mocking specific wedding accessories! (Although wait, if the Tribe was around, then that must have been late 2007, early 2008… and most of the snark had already drained out at that point.)

      Anyway, I'm super curious now!

  31. I really was looking forward to the forum for Offbeat Home & Life, because there are some questions I'd like to ask that wouldn't make a good blog post. For example, I'd like to ask about looking for reasonably priced apartments to rent in a specific area. That kind of question would never make it onto the blog (unless it was turned into a general question about apartment hunting strategies, which would not get the responses I was looking for). I think a forum could be a really valuable thing for specific questions and regional questions that would never make it onto the blog.

    I wasn't aware that it was going to be a public forum; I had thought it was going to be like the Tribe.

    I'm surprised to hear that Tribe members aren't reading and commenting on the blog. I never stopped doing so when I was active on the Tribe. When I saw stuff that was from the Tribe show up on the blog ,I had usually already read it so I skimmed those posts, but other than that I kept reading as usual. However, I know everyone interacts with the internet differently.

    Please reconsider a community for Offbeat Home & Life. It was one of the things I was really looking forward to this summer and I've been figuring out how to set aside enough of my small budget to pay for the "Super-Plus Homie" membership level you mentioned in a past post.

    3 agree
  32. A lot of my reasons for not posting have been mentioned above, but a few haven't totally. When I got engaged, obb mostly became irrelevant to me, but the forum became great. When I was not quite yet engaged, looking at pictures from all sorts of weddings helped me figure out what kind of wedding I wanted, which I would then discuss with my fellow. Now that we are engaged and actively planning a wedding, the seeing pictures of people's weddings, especially those really different from my offbeat lite, interfaith Jewish at home foodie wedding aren't helpful and I feel like I don't have time to read just because it's interesting. The content that is relevant to me is the nitty gritty how tos, like my recent forum post which was basically: my parents and I are fighting over what rights we should have over our photographs and what the photographer retains. Who is being reasonable?
    Even when the posts are about offbeat lite weddings, I'm not interested in the pretty anymore, I want the nitty gritty and the emotions and the hard stuff and the challenges.

    As mentioned above, I really don't have anything to say about oh shiny posts. I'm not going to comment "hey, cute shoes" or "love the dress!!"

    3 agree
  33. Late to the party! I've been reading and following the comments, and monitoring my own activity (this week is atypical for me, though – as I got married just over a week ago!) Here are my thoughts:
    – Love the idea of syndicating Tribe blog posts to the main blog. It would be a big step towards making the two feel more integrated.
    – I'm not convinced that the experience of the Tribe will be parallel to the experience of the OBH&L forum. Obviously the public nature of the forum will make a huge difference, and presumably the forum comments could thus be more thoroughly integrated. Those widgets showing the latest comments on the Tribe? For an OBH&L forum, they could show up in widgets along the bottom on the main blog, thus making the blog MORE, rather than less, active.
    – A lot of people are trying to make various aspects of their wedding planning secret, so when they get further into the planning, it makes sense that they would be active on the Tribe only.
    -to get people commenting on the blog, it might make sense to have (even) more posts that are philosophical or practical. Pretty pictures and shopping posts are awesome and generate the money, but I at least rarely can think of anything to say on those kinds of posts… I comment much more on posts that say "how can I do this" or "how should we think about this philosophical aspect of life/relationships/weddings/marriage". SO: maybe ensure that every day includes a mix of posts that have 1) pretty pictures 2)shopping content and 3)content likely to generate lots of commenting

    • One more thing – maybe it would help to make the landing page for the blog and the tribe the SAME PAGE. There is SO much content on those two pages, I don't know if it is possible, but something to think about!

  34. Your concern about not wanting to tell users how to use the blogs and Tribe "correctly" are a part of the reason that the OB Empire is an amazing place. However, I remember reading a couple years ago an OBB post about making a call to action for folks to visit your wedding website. It really stuck with me, and has become a way I live my life (stop. think. have I made my call to action yet?). I think that the nature of forum posts is that they almost always have a call to action. Somebody poses a dilemma, asks an opinion, solicits advice. Asking people to comment is different than telling them to.

    • As a former marketing person, I'm ALL about call to actions, and in fact a ton of Offbeat Bride posts DO have what we call a "CTD" at the end (Call To Discussion). Here's one recent example: http://offbeatbride.com/2013/06/same-sex-wedding-photography

      That said, you're right that it's one thing to TELL people to talk… and another thing to post content that's clearly a question that invites conversation. W're going to start doing more open advice posts, based on the feedback from this post.

  35. I think something that'd make me more inclined to comment on the blog would be a "follow comments" option on blog posts, in the same way we can follow comments on journals and threads in the forum. I particularly want to know if anyone responds to MY comment, and if they do, I'm likely to go back and respond to them as well–but I tend to forget which articles I commented on, or go read something else and never check to see if there are responses.

    • I think something that'd make me more inclined to comment on the blog would be a "follow comments" option on blog posts, in the same way we can follow comments on journals and threads in the forum.

      All the Offbeat Empire blogs have this function already! 🙂

      • Welp, I was just about to say HOW??! when I saw that little box up there under where I put my name in. Go me. Thanks!

  36. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to share their feedback and questions. The consistent feedback I'm hearing from this thread is that Offbeat Bride is perceived as mostly about shiny pretty things… which just isn't how I think of our content at all. Two or three days each week, we totally feature meaty/nitty gritty posts like:
    * I don't know if someone got us a wedding gift… should I send a thank you card?
    * How to get bridesmaids to help (and not hate you afterwards)
    * How to use Flickr groups to collect wedding photos from your guests
    * Should photographers shoot same-sex weddings any differently?

    The discrepancy between how *I* think about our content vs. how Offbeat Bride Tribe *members* perceive it is really interesting to me, and I'll be thinking about it for some time. Thanks again to everyone for chiming in!

    (And it goes without saying that we're ALWAYS open to feedback — so keep sharing your thoughts!)

    2 agree
  37. So I know this is a week or two old and after 133+ comments, this might have already been said.
    Would advertisers look at something akin to a "like" button? Those are present in the tribe and are great for those quick wedding porn posts where you want to say that it was seen (and is awesome) but don't have anything to contribute. I thought the blog had that too, but I wasn't seeing it in recent posts so I might be getting the tribe and the blog mixed up.

    1 agrees
    • The blogs use social media sharing counts at the top of each post as their LIKES (we had to create the heart on the Tribe because it's private). Advertisers absolutely look at how many times a post has been liked/shared on Facebook… but when it comes to an over-all sense of community vibrancy and engagement, comments are the biggest indicator.

      • The thing is, I never use that button because, well, my friends on facebook don't care. None are engaged, so OBB doesn't apply to them (and I try to refrain from talking about mine, because I get self-inviters). I don't read OBF because I don't really have a family, and the ones I do read are generally birthing stories, which doesn't interest anyone on my friends list. OBH&L has most potential to be shared, but I don't see much on the sites that would frankly interest my friends. Most are either before that stage in their lives, or past that stage in their lives.

        Anyway, long story short, it would be nice to have an "I like this" button without having to share it on facebook.

        5 agree
        • I'd definitely agree with this sentiment. I'd be much, much more likely to use a "THIS!" button on the posts than to share on social media, mainly because I get so tired of friends spamming social media with whatever app, or lots of posts from the same sites, etc. I also have a bunch of pretty conservative friends & relations over on Facebook, and while I could select privacy options to hide posts from people who might get offended by liberal-minded stuff, it's more effort than I generally want to go through. I very rarely post anything on social media, and I'm pretty selective about what I "share", but I'd love to have a way of saying "this post rocks!" without commenting if I don't have anything more to say.

          1 agrees
  38. Hi,
    There are a lot of comments here so I don't know if someone's already said this, but when I was a Tribesmaid, I forgot about the blog because I (being painfully computer-illiterate) couldn't figure out how to easily switch between the blog and the forum. I would forget about the blog for weeks, just because I couldn't easily click over and back.

    Also, when I was in full-on wedding planning mode, I was much more interested in conversations and answered questions than I was in "hey look at these awesome shiny shoes even though they aren't your style".

    And lastly, I let go of my subscription after I got married because the Tribe is for people who are about to get married, right? Now I mostly read Offbeat Families, trying to plan the best way to raise my little nugget. Offbeat weddings are still super cool and interesting, but not high on my priority list of things to read and comment.

    I hope this was helpful!

    • …when I was a Tribesmaid, I forgot about the blog because I (being painfully computer-illiterate) couldn't figure out how to easily switch between the blog and the forum. I would forget about the blog for weeks, just because I couldn't easily click over and back.

      Oh man, you just broke my heart a little:

      I expect the majority of our members to be un-tech-savvy, but it's still remarkable to hear that some folks don't know how to get to the blog.

      Silver lining: this supports my decision to add this to the Tribe's main page:

      2406068

      • I just erased "tribe" from the url…. I'm just now seeing the buttons to go to each part of the site. Are these new or was I just blind? lol

        1 agrees
      • To be honest, there are three big links to the blog right there on the front page of the Tribe. Not sure what else you could do.

        1 agrees
  39. This is an obstacle. I'm a newlywed Tribesmaid who joined while we were planning our wedding. Now I visit OBB and notice the "Join!" button amongst others at the top right of OBB. I don't know that it's new, but if definitely made me waste a few minutes making sure I'm logged on, even though there's no "Welcome melaneyp!" in the top right, where instead it still says "Join!"

    Seriously, that's confusing. When I'm logged on to a service with a specific log-on and handle, I expect to see that acknowledged on some small part of the page, no matter what part of the site I'm logged on to.

    I really liked the f/u email from OBB re: what to do next. It's been a little under a month since the wedding, and though I'm still checking OBB almost every day, I think it's a nice touch. I'm missing where that's connected on the website.

    • When I'm logged on to a service with a specific log-on and handle, I expect to see that acknowledged on some small part of the page, no matter what part of the site I'm logged on to.

      This is great feedback and yep, I totally get how this is confusing.

      Ultimately, for security and privacy reasons, Offbeat Bride and the Offbeat Bride Tribe are totally separate: separate WordPress installs, separate server databases, separate everything. That's intentional from a web development perspective (I can NOT have 8,000 members mucking around in the same database I use to process advertiser payments and do heavy editorial lifting), but I can totally see how from a member perspective it could be confusing.

      My developer and I have actually been talking about this issue non-stop for the past week, and are working on some ways to make it a little smoother, at least when it comes to commenting. The blog and the Tribe will always be separate entities for the security reasons I mention above, but we're definitely going to be seeing what we can do to keep them feeling a bit more intertwined.

      But a final question! I'm not totally clear on what you're saying here:

      I really liked the f/u email from OBB re: what to do next. It's been a little under a month since the wedding, and though I'm still checking OBB almost every day, I think it's a nice touch. I'm missing where that's connected on the website.

      You're missing where what's connected?

      Thanks again for this feedback!

  40. Thanks to all the talk about meetups over here, it reminds me of how Coursera does it.

    They just have a link in sidebar that links to here: http://www.meetup.com/Coursera/

    Now, I haven't felt the need to meet any of my fellow online classmates (yet), but I actually have 3 new real life friends thanks to the tribe! It would be low on the development scale, too 🙂

    • I've absolutely considered that (and in fact we have an Offbeat Empire meetup page), but I have community management and branding concerns that I haven't ever been able to resolve.

      Just as an example of my brand concerns, what if someone organized an Offbeat Empire meet-up, and when readers showed up, they felt the group was, say, transphobic? Then they'd be all "ARIEL WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS THING!?" And I'd be all, "Wait! I didn't organize that event! I just allowed a reader to organize it! I didn't know they were transphobic!"

      As a more extreme example, what if someone attended an Offbeat Empire event and was harassed, physically hurt, or even attacked? What if icky people targeted Offbeat Empire readers at meet-ups? More than just brand issue, at that point my business is financially and legally liable. Sad to say, I've learned to be really cautious about stuff like this. 🙁

      At this point, I'm putting all my event energy into our partnership with the Lovesick Expo!

      • Oh yeah, good point. It didn't occur to me that that might happen, but you're right!

  41. I'm a former Tribesmaid (married in October '09) and I don't even think I knew there was a blog until we started thinking about having a family, I googled around something like "off beat parenting website," found offbeat families, and then realized that it was all part of the Empire. Srsly. I now read both Home and Life and Families. (I lost all interest in weddings within about six months of my own.)

    I rarely follow both blogs and their forums. The only one I do is quakerquaker.org (really a syndication service, not a blog), because the blog-like syndication is so closely interwoven with the community content that it's almost seamless.

    What I REALLY want is an Offbeat Families forum, TBH. I don't love Mothering, though I'm on it (I'm offbeat in totally the wrong ways for it — it's like if you're not into attachment parenting and being anti-vaccine you don't belong — but hey, another example of on-the-forum-ignore-the-website), and I can't stand The Bump.

  42. Late to the party yet again. But I would like to say that for almost2 years I thought this was a very closed community & needed a load of sign-in info to join. So I never bothered to read the blog. Then last year when I was doing some research I read a blog which surprise surprise was OBB. This is just to point out that when someone stumbles on your forum, its not immediately clear to them that there's another public part that they can look through before actually getting onboard (if/when they want).

    Another thing, can't some of the forums be public? When I look for technical stuff on the net – i can look through a lot of forum but can't comment unlesss I do the icky sign in dance. Wouldn't you be able to do something like it?

    • But I would like to say that for almost2 years I thought this was a very closed community & needed a load of sign-in info to join. So I never bothered to read the blog.

      Interesting. How did you find the Offbeat Bride Tribe, if not through the blog?

      can't some of the forums be public?

      Offbeat Bride Tribe members have made it very clear that the privacy of the community is a top priority for them, so there are no plans to have it ever be public. More about this over here: http://offbeatbride.com/questions

  43. this probably won't help in any way, and i appear to be in the very small minority here, but i'm a tribesmaid and i hardly used the forum at all. i fell in love with the blog though and it was no small part of my wedding planning. it helped inspire me to be comfortable planning my dream wedding and defending my choices when they would be met with criticism (like it was anyone's business anyway). my wedding turned out beautiful and even the skeptics (read old people) had fun! it is also because of the blog that crafting has become one of my favorite hobbies, one that i never explored before, and i still check in often to see what new projects people are doing for their weddings that i can apply in other areas of my life (like my daughter's upcoming first birthday!) also, i've been far more likely to comment in a blog post (as i am now) because it is faster and the conversations in the comments seem to be more insightful yet spur-of-the-moment. i find that appealing.

    the forum felt like another clique of all the too-cool-to-be-cool people from high school and i felt i witnessed more judgment there than anywhere else.

    something that might be helpful in getting more reader submitted posts is solicitation! not the illegal back alley kind. but occasionally giving us (or requesting from us) a list of a few topics that might be interesting to your readers. i've been coming to the Offbeat Empire blogs for a couple of years now and have never submitted a post. why? because i don't know what i could possibly have to say that might be interesting or worthwhile. but that doesn't mean i have nothing to say, i just don't know what anyone else would like to hear about. but i might look at a list of topics and say, "oh hey! i know a lil' sumthin' sumthin' about that, hot diggity!" okay without the hot diggity… maybe.

    • the forum felt like another clique of all the too-cool-to-be-cool people from high school and i felt i witnessed more judgment there than anywhere else.

      I'm really sorry you experienced that, although certainly this highlights the fact that as a publisher, I have way more control over the tone of the blog. It's hard for me to hear that people feel this way about the Tribe, but I'm certainly not surprised, since despite the accusations of being heavy-handed with moderation, I actually don't have that much control over the community.

      • I didn't realize how late I was to this party, either, but I agree on some points of this comment. I dislike forums, and therefore only used the Tribe for its checklist (which was kickass). I felt like the community was already established, and I'm kinda shy – didn't feel like jumping in (not because of anything inherent to the Tribe, that's just my personality I think).

        Also, +1 on submission. I have considered writing one post for a long time, but haven't because I'm not confident enough that it is interesting. A list would help me too.

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