Offbeat Bride Tribe burndown: why we're tearing it down to make it better

November 24 2014 | arielmstallings

tribe burndown

Last week I mentioned that one of the many projects we're undertaking before the end of 2014 is what we're calling "The Offbeat Bride Tribe Burndown." It sounds scary, because it is a big deal — but it's actually not as bad as it sounds, I promise.

If you don't want to read this post, here's all you really need to know:

  • The Tribe will be completely offline from December 15-December 30
  • The main Offbeat Bride blog will remain online
  • During that time, my developer Kellbot will export ALL DATA (member info, journal posts, comments, forum posts, checklist data, etc etc), wipe the slate clean, build a complete fresh install of our tools, and then import all member data. Nothing should be lost.
  • When the Tribe comes back online, it'll have a new look, but all members posts should be right where they were before.

For those of you who want way more information, keep reading!

First some history

The Offbeat Bride Tribe was originally launched in 2007 on After four years of agony with Ning's tools, I decided that my resources were better spent building a custom hosted community, rather than trying to use a third-party tool.

In late 2011, the Offbeat Empire's founding developer jmdodd cobbled together a bunch of tools in an attempt to best recreate what our 21k members were used to on We used WordPress (content management foundation) + BuddyPress (community functions) + bbPress (forum) + S2Member (privacy) + a million other plugins and custom functions to try to create a community that our members used to would find familiar.

Wait, why are we doing this?

Three years and 100k+ posts after relaunch, the duct tape that holds all the custom functions together is starting to get dry and crack. Hacks that were written to make the Tribe act more like aren't needed any more. The tools that make up the foundation of the Tribe have evolved significantly, and while we upgrade all the systems regularly, all the cruft and detritus from three years of customizations and hacks are starting to make it harder and harder for us to keep the tools maintained. We need to clean up, so that we can make things more awesome.

Our goals with the fresh install are:

  • Making the Tribe easier to maintain and less quirky
  • Paving the way for future improvements & new features
  • Helping the site run faster, and feel smoother

What does this mean for Tribe members?

First, I want to clarify something that always comes up when we're doing Tribe maintenance: The Offbeat Bride Tribe and the main Offbeat Bride blog are completely separate sites. The Tribe is at — it's the the part of the site you have to log into. It's the part with journals, forums, and the checklist tool. The main Offbeat Bride blog lives at — it's the public part of the site, with public blog posts and comments.

The Offbeat Bride blog is NOT affected by the Offbeat Bride Tribe burndown. The blog will remain online, publishing three posts a day same as ever. Offbeat Bride's Facebook will be as hyperactive as ever. You can still comment on the blog. Yay!

But what about the Tribe?

  • The Offbeat Bride Tribe ( will be completely offline from Monday December 15 – Tuesday December 30, 2014.
  • Existing members will not be able to log in, and sign ups will be closed to new members.
  • When the site comes back up on December 30th, all existing data (profiles, journals, forums, everything) will be there. This is NOT like the migration in 2011 when we lost everything.
  • Core functions will NOT change, but they will be improved and might behave a little differently.
  • The site will relaunch with the new design that ALL the Offbeat Empire sites will be switching to for 2015.


The Tribe's traffic is a tiny fraction of the Offbeat Bride blog — this time of year (which is the quietest season), we're talking about 8k monthly Tribe users as compared to 800k monthly blog readers. That said, I understand that those 8k people are among the Offbeat Empire's most enthusiastic and devoted users. I know how much Tribe members love the community, so taking it offline for two weeks is an inconvenience I take pretty seriously.

Historically, November/December are the two quietest months on the Tribe, with the final two weeks of December being a virtual ghost town:

tribe traffic december

While I recognize that no time is a great time to take an online community offline for two weeks, it's pretty clear that if we're going to do it… late December is the least shitty time for members. (Arguably, it's the worst possible time for the Offbeat Empire — working through the holidays, anyone?)

Y'all who know me know that I'm obsessed with over-communicating community stuff like this. Rest assured that I'll keep everyone posted every step of the way via the emails sent to the Offbeat Bride Tribe newsletter list, and posts here on Offbeat Empire. We'll also have a "Tribesmaid Withdrawals Support Group" open thread on the Offbeat Bride blog so that you can keep in touch with your Tribespeeps.

UPDATE 12/15/2014

Here's the Tribesmaid Withdrawals Support Group thread!

  1. Wow, I hope that this holiday season will go better for me than I am envisioning so far… I'll miss the Tribe (yay for support group thread).
    But, you do what you have to do! That's a huge amount of work! And we all get a new design for next year?
    Excited and curious ๐Ÿ™‚
    And, of course, thanks for doing it. Thank you!

  2. This is super exciting! I haven't been in the tribe in FOREVER at this point, but any time y'all do improvements I've been impressed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. This will be happening right on top of my wedding! Oh well. I'm just wondering if I'll still be able to access the OBB checklist, or should I make sure I export my task list before it disappears on me?

  4. I just tried to export the checklist and it SO did not work. Anyone have tips for doing this if you use open office? Or am I going to have to copy the whole thing out by hand?

    • Yep.

      The easiest way to check if a particular Offbeat Bride function will be offline is to go to the page where the function appears, and then look up at the top of your browser to check the URL. If the URL includes, then that function will be down. If it's just, it won't.

  5. "Tribesmaid Withdrawals Support Group" – What a great idea! The whole time I was reading this all I could think was "Oh no! What if I need some tribesmaid advice while the site is down?!"

    Thank you for warning us and taking so much time and effort to update things!
    Happy holidays!

  6. I'm always down for a good clean slate overhaul! I do need to sell some old wedding stuff, so I presume that'll have to wait until the new year ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I was so confused when I logged in and the site wasn't down, I've been enjoying the extra 7 hours 35 minutes I got (it was an imaginary extra, kinda like finding a fiver in your pocket you misplaced a month ago) but I was sad it went down mid-comment. Can't wait to have you back. Happy coding

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