Welcome to the final week of pre-launch activity for Campfire and I'd like to thank all those so far who have stepped up and agreed to be Flagbearers, being active daily on the site. We still need more so please say if you'd like to join the team!
Several of you have asked what is happening that will be different with the launch?
In essence, with everything now pretty much working on the site it's time to open our doors and tell people that we are here. Which means social sharing key pages, articles, splash pages and the general Campfire URL (we will additionally be moving onto the .com address) and identifying which of your friends may like the site. Our social shares are now working (many with Campfire watermark) so the teaser previews usually look good too if shared to other social media or in chat windows.
To cut to the chase, we're on a membership drive and hope to continue the inspirational momentum of the last week or two. I have never seen The Bugle so full of new, fresh ideas and it's actually taking a good chunk of my time now as acting editor (until we find the real one!) keeping the magazine part of the site flowing.
There will always be bugs, of that I have no doubt. With over a million lines of coding, Campfire is now a vast site in terms of what it can do and how you can make it work for you, whether it's a simple status update, a more considered post, setting up a Project to contain assorted works around a theme, or creating or contributing to a local Beacon. So please bear with us in terms of any bugs - we have two part-time developers only working on this. It's a DIY operation at this point. The more membership contributions we receive, the more time we can productively pay developers to sort out any issues that arise and to bring in tweaks which make the site work better for you.
It was at our Campfire Circle meeting last November that we voted to bring in membership rather than subscription. The logic behind this was an enthusiasm to support a new indepedendent community that crafted and promoted its own journalistic voice, discussed making the world a better place (and attempted to do something about it too!), brought together an interesting, diverse mix of thinking people and also staged its own events. We also asked the members who attended what they thought the membership charge should be and the majority came back suggesting around £100 per year. In time, we may put it to the wider vote to move to that level if it transpires that it is needed in order to sustain our costs and development. But for the time being, we still have to do some work sharing the argument that free social networking will inevitable mean advertising-based social networking that also mines your data and throws it back at you in various forms. My friend and Campfirer @Gregory Thompson described us as "algorithm-free social networking" last week, which neatly encapsulates one of our key values. We will also be resolutely sposnorship-free and largely partnership-free. Any people, people or product recommendations and endorsements will come from our members themselves, not from bought 'promoted' posts.
So Campfire launches on September 1st with a voluntary and flexible 'pay what you feel' membership option which means you are pledging to support us because you believe in what we are building and its potential. You will find this membership option in the pull-down menu under your avatar (top right). Currently you can join for as little as £1.66 a month, so that's roughly equivalent to a cup of tea in a café. I'm grateful to the existing Trailblazer members who have already elected to become members, and transfer from their free membership. Your gesture is appreciated.
For new sign-up members, they are now able to see sections of the site when in non-memership 'look around' mode - Bugle, Guilds, Projects and Beacons for example - but can't see member profiles or the forum, for example and cannot post, like or comment without membership status.
New member @Sally Hughes has posted a very interesting article this week about building sustainable enterprise in the sharing age and highlights Campfire in the context in her article. I have posted a reply in which I comment on her notion that "It seems simple really, have a tiered structure, so those who can pay do, and those who can’t don’t have to. Easy to say, hard to get it to work in practice."
It all comes down to sustainability, as she quite rightly point out. There has been a fundamental shift in thinking recently about what is really free and what social networking can offer in different hands. We did discuss this at our November meeting last year and there was a strong feeling that, in general, people tend to value things they pay for or contribute to more than stuff they get for free.
As our patron Brian Eno suggests, the end of 'free' is the only way to establish integrity. I have moved his renonant quote onto the front Campfire splash page :
"This is the start of something big. It will involve engagement: not just tweets and likes and swipes, but thoughtful and creative social and political action too. It will involve realising that some things we’ve taken for granted - some semblance of truth in reporting, for example - can no longer be expected for free. If we want good reporting and good analysis, we’ll have to pay for it. That means MONEY: direct financial support for the publications and websites struggling to tell the non-corporate, non-establishment side of the story.”
There is also a case, however (and one I'm proposing we adopt for Campfire) that if a potential member really wants to join Campfire but simply can't afford the £1.66 a month minimim on the 'pay what you feel' sliding scale, they can write in and ask for free 'Flagbearer' status in return for being active. How do our members feel about that?
On Tuesday we will be launching our first forum SOFA SESSION from 19:30 - come join us and chat about a few key weekly subjects online - you can input into what you'd like to talk about (There's a link to the forum thread for this in the Bugle article). We are also planning to invite a guest for a Q&A session most weeks - again, interested to hear your wish lists, whether exiting members or others you think are doing interesting work. I believe in the idea of the forum and its format of threaded conversations have the potential to create vibrant hub (I've seen and been members of many forums and whilst old-school in some respects, they still deliver when it comes to fast-moving conversations involving a community together) so we're keen to involve as many members as possible in these sessions.
Finally, for those who have a preference for the real-life meet-ups, we are about to confirm our autumn Convention / official launch party which looks set to be in north London all day Saturday November 4th.. watch this space.
Enjoy the weekend and hope to see you at the Campfire.