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.


"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.


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…


One of my scariest work projects evar: migrating 21,000 members from Ning to BuddyPress

I've written before about how in early 2010, I started investigating how I could move the Tribe off of Ning.com, the platform that we've struggled with for 4 years. I invested thousands of dollars into researching servers and alternate platforms and migration tools, and ultimately realized that there was no viable alternative that would work as a replacement. So we stayed on Ning for another year.

Then this fall, I took another peek at BuddyPress, the WordPress-based open source community platform. Last year, the platform just wasn't mature enough to handle a community of the Tribe's size and activity. But clearly the developers working on BuddyPress have been busy, and the current release does what I need it to.

And so I decided to make the leap. We're from Ning to a natively-hosted BuddyPress install next month. And it's FUCKING TERRIFYING.


Ning, Glam, and the future of the Offbeat Bride Tribe

In fall of 2007, I read an article about a service called Ning, an out-of-the-box social media platform. I thought "Huh, that sounds interesting. Offbeat Bride readers have been asking for a forum. Maybe I'll fiddle with Ning for a bit."

That curiosity has lead to four years, 20,000+ members, and a LOT of frustration. The concept behind Ning has always been interesting — a hosted social network that anyone can set up. It's got blogs, forums, events, groups, member networking, yadda yadda. It all sounds quite good. Unfortunately, however, the execution of Ning's feature set has always left a lot to be desired. Also unfortunately, once I set up the Offbeat Bride community, my readers (now members) made it immediately clear that they LOVED IT, and would kill me in my sleep if I ever took it away. Ha ha ha? Actually, I'm not kidding. I've heard again and again that the Offbeat Bride blog is fine, but what people REALLY love is the Offbeat Bride Tribe. Which is stuck on Ning.

…which has now been bought.