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Testing new mobile-friendly template

I'm working with our new contract dev (hi, Kellbot!) today to test our new mobile-friendly template here on the offbeatempire.com, so if you're browsing via mobile, you might notice some big changes (and significant bugs). We're working through some fixes on the web and mobile templates over the next couple days, so give us a while for the dust to settle. Once we've got things cleaned up, I'll be taking bug reports… and once things look solid on offbeatempire.com, we'll be rolling the new templates out across the Empire.

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Our mission-critical WordPress plugins

It's no secret that I bet the farm when I built the Offbeat Empire on WordPress. My developer, Jennifer M. Dodd, suggested way back in 2006 that we tap into WordPress's open source platform and a big part of that was the active plugin development community around WordPress.

In the years since, we've tested out hundreds of plugins. Some of them have become mission critical — to the point where I literally couldn't do business without them. Others of them, unfortunately, have been so poorly coded that Jennifer has scolded me for installing them on our server. (ACK! That's the risk with open source code…)

In the interest of spreading the awesomeness around, here are the plugins that the Empire literally could not function without:

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Bootstrapping, Tribesmaids, and earning back a $10,000 investment

For those who aren't familiar with internet start-up talk, "bootstrapping" refers to a business that doesn't take on any investment capital. As Wikipedia explains, "Such startups fund the development of their company through internal cash flow and are cautious with their expenses."

The Offbeat Empire is a bootstrapped company. I started it with money out of my own pocket, and have never taken on any investment dollars or venture capital. This means that by necessity, the Empire always has to function in the black — simply put, the company has to be profitable, because there is no other money other than the money coming in.

For the most part, I love bootstrapping…but sometimes it's hard, and the Offbeat Bride Tribe's migration earlier this year was one of those times.

7

"What's a URL?" and other surprising things we learned about Tribe members

Migrating the Tribe from Ning to Tribe 2.0 has been one heck of a learning process. Ariel mentioned this before, but I cannot stress how much work has happened on the back end of things while we figure out what we're doing.

A big part of this has been learning from our members. We mods and Empire staff are pretty technologically inclined and at least some of us are old enough (and techy enough) to have experienced the early internet. So we remember how things used to be (anyone else remember frames? or building a website straight from code? or the internet before Google and Facebook?). Also, because we all work with websites, we have a particular set of knowledge relating to the webz.

Many of our members, however, are primarily in their early 20s (so sayeth the reader survey!) and while they may use the internet frequently, a lot of aspects of the interwebz seem to be misunderstood or just off their radar.

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Migration currently underway: lessons being learned

Remember that hugely scary project I mentioned? Well, it's happening RIGHT NOW. With the help of the Offbeat Bride Tribe's moderators, I'm currently in the process of helping thousands members migrate from our old janky community to our new fancy one. We're up to only about 450 members on the new community so far, but there are a couple hundred existing members signing up each day.

Here's what I'm learning…