If a potential member really wants to join Campfire but simply can't afford the £1.66 a month minimum on the 'pay what you feel' sliding scale, they can write in and ask for free membership in return for engagement in the community...
Greetings from my office aka the motorhome, aka 'The Beast', aka the 'Magical Adventure House' parked up somewhere in rural Wiltshire...
Friday 1st September has been a landmark day in my calendar for a long time now - and there have been times when I've doubted whether we'll make it at all. But after two and half years preparing and building the Campfire Convention social network, I am very happy to say that it is launched and open for membership. That means telling folks out there that we've got something special going on here (imho, of course!)
For newcomers who may be landing here as a result of a recommendation from a friend, you've arrived at a new site that is aiming to shape and build a new kind of social networking experience, where you can explore, connect, create, organise, share ideas, inspirations and goals. And make things happen.
Welcome to the Campfire circle, come on in and you'll meet some great new friends. Together, we stand a good chance of shaping an ecosystem for people seeking new ways of developing ideas within an empowering community. No advertising, no big data gathering, no dodgy algorithms. A different social community with heart and soul, shaped by its members.
Here are the main constituent parts :
Campfire Events : Campfire is about real-life meet ups as well as online..
The Bugle : The Campfire Magazine; Informing the Campfire community daily..
Guilds : Join common interest groups based around key interests : Creative, Leisure, Tools For Life
Projects : Build your own storyboard, design or micro-community around an event, idea, hobby or retrospective. Collaborate and share.
Beacons : Organise and collaborate at local level
Library : Building useful information resources together using tags and filters
To see how all this inter-relates have a look at our site map and FAQs
The FAQs have links to some (hopefully!) helpful tutorials
I would like to thank the developers for application beyond the call of duty, all the beta testers for their diligence and feedback through Stage 1 and Stage 2 of our site building. You've been stars, all of you.
I'd also like to thank those who have supported me at times when I've temporarily lost sight of the light at the end of what seemed like a very long tunnel - you know who you are... It's taught me something I suspected all along - that building a social network doesn't happen quickly! Thanks for being so patient, for keeping the faith and for providing some amazing thoughts, insights, photos and comments.
The last couple of weeks has been especially inspirational for the pleasure of witnessing the diversity and quality of your contributions - you only have to cast your eye over our magazine, The Bugle to see a super-abundance of fresh, original writing. Subject matters ranging form reinventing politics to sautéed vegan delights, tantric sex via BDSM to arctic travel, co-working to crop circles, bio-leadership programmes to reviews of Edinburgh Festival, Blue Dot and A Love Supreme.
We're looking for Guild editors and writers - so step up and drop me a line if you fancy having a go. Campfire is about social change but that needn't all be self-help and politics - we're equally likely to write about cinema, books, gigs and festivals, travel, gardening, health, spirituality as about work/life balance, dreams and ambitions.
Several of you have asked what is happening that will be different with the launch?
In essence, everything has been in place for at least a couple of weeks but with all areas now open and working on the site it's time to open our doors and share the news with your friends that we are here. Social sharing key pages, articles, splash pages and the general Campfire URL would be greatly appreciated if you'd like to spread the word.
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.
There will always be bugs. With over a million lines of coding, Campfire is now a vast site in terms of its sections and what it can do, 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 snags - we have two part-time developers working on this and they are keeping a very close eye on the overall picture. There is an entire forum for reporting anything that doesn't work or look right technically or needs sorting.
I'd like to stress that Campfire is a very much grassroots operation at this formative period, which is why your support makes all the difference. 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 improvements which make the site work better for you. And Campfire is pretty much about volunteers and lots of things need to be sorted and put in place. Effectively what I've set up is a blueprint, a flame of hope that will hopefully inspire others to take onwards and upwards in ways they want to. Have a read about our Beacons, which are not only local groups in a particular area but can also be about how the decision making process can be devolved so we can become a truly democratic organisation as we grow.
It is also my wish to reward input via our Kudos scheme which will make sense once Campfire returns a surplus. Put simply, the more join up, the more we can increase our resources and start to put in place mechanisms that reward our members' engagement.
Those resources will be built by membership contributions. At our Campfire Circle meeting last November, we voted to bring in membership rather than subscription. The logic behind this was members' enthusiasm to support and belong to a new independent community that crafts and promotes its own journalistic voice, encourages dialogue and collaboration, discusses how we can put this mad world to rights, stages its own events (we've had many this year already - our Campfire Conversations which spanned as diverse a geographical spread as Asburton to Edinburgh) and in the process, brings together an interesting, diverse mix of thinking people who see the value in building community resources.
We also asked our members who attended what they thought the membership charge should be and the majority came back suggesting around £100 per year. We've actually under-cut this to make it possible for those who don't have spare cash to pay the first year minimum introductory membership of £1.66 per month. In order to be inclusive, it's also important to say here that if you can't afford that, you can write and request a free year's membership if you'd like to be active on the site. Tell us if you're struggling but want to support what we do and join the club.
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 sposorship-free and largely partnership-free.
So Campfire launches 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 the minimum membership is as little as £1.66 a month, so that's roughly the equivalent of a cuppa or half a pint of beer and considerably less than a copy of The Guardian.
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-membership '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.
As our patron Brian Eno suggests, the end of 'free' looks like the only way to establish integrity. I have moved his resonant 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.”
My antennae are detecting an appetite for a more considered, more in-depth approach to social media and news, less about the sound bytes and instant updates, more about building something more substantial and of worth in a community sense. If this can be done alongside a co-operative approach to benefit all, I do believe that there is room for something more niche (I must do otherwise I wouldn't have spent time developing the concept) And I do get a hunch that it can be done without investing £millions.
The mindset is less about 'what service do we get for our money', it's more about what we can build co-operatively and what that will costs us. And to be able to build not just a chat wall but somewhere where work and hobbies can be portfolio’d, where collaborations can be sparked, where good writing and interesting Projects can be showcased and recognised.
Our member @Caroline Halcrow responded to her first view of Campfire with these words:
"Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Soundcloud don't have appreciative articles and serious user-generated writing created in a community context. Web 2.0 was about community engagement; Web 3.0 is internetof things? I think you are helping to create web 4.0 - quality, deep, crafted engagement in community, that combines blogging, commenting and folk journalism."
We need our members to step up as Flagbearers and post as regularly as they are inspired to. I'd love to keep this momentum we've gathered and take it higher..
There's no shortage of activity around the fire :
On Tuesday we launched our first forum SOFA SESSION based around inviting a guest for a Q&A session at 20:00 and we hope to resume that either on Tuesday or the week after that. And we'd like it to be every Tuesday therafter and already have some great guests lined-up including three times Nobel Peace Prize nominée and celebrated Campfire keynote speaker Scilla Elworthy, Labour MP Chris Williamson and DJ and maverick blogger Greg Wilson. We'd be 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 a vibrant hub (I've seen and been a member of many forums and whilst old-school in some respects, they still deliver when it comes to fast-moving chat-room style conversations) 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 have just confirmed our autumn Convention / official launch party which looks set to be in north London all day Saturday November 4th at Union Chapel, the original iconic church of non-conformity. I hope to see many of you there..
Thanks for keeping the faith and supporting this venture...
So wonderful - so much hard work and it's finally here - well done to all of you. I can't wait to see this evolve. Xxx
Congratulations Pete! Open for business.....
Well done Pete, it's been a journey for you I'm sure xxx all great things involve challenges but I would just like to say, I'm proud and pleased for you. If you don't dream big nothing changes so well done you for persisting.
Well done mate - it has been epic building this beautiful monster with you. Now take a breath... x