Article in Startup, Social Media, Social Networking categories.

Tribalfish: A Social Forum, This Time With Meaning

A Global Social Forum

Pegged as a global social forum, Tribalfish launched public open beta yesterday, setting out to revamp the way we have meaningful discussions.  While social networks enable customers to connect through live interactions, they often fail to create a deep user engagement.  And although blogs, forums, and websites deliver quality content, they lack an environment that promotes real-time discussions.  Tribalfish hopes to merge the best aspects of e-mail, social networks, websites and forums to create an integrated web experience that users will finally feel is complete.

The Perfect Catch For Bloggers

With an interface that mimics traditional e-mail platforms, Tribalfish prompts users to explore what interests them, or hang out in The Reef, where new and trending topics are featured.  User interests are logged on the network and used to generate a live, customized stream of new topics from other users as well as popular RSS feeds.  Like Facebook, users can join groups, and like Twitter, users can follow others.  Users can publish their own topics, currently mostly blogs, and respond to others.  Like Google+, or traditional e-mail, users also have the option of sharing content only with select groups or individual users.  Tribalfish is also currently testing a feature which would allow users to link their external blog to their Tribalfish account and automatically publish any new posts to Tribalfish every 30 minutes.  Once this feature is added, Tribalfish could become the most convenient way to discover blogs.

No Bottom-Feeders

In a post on the site’s blog, Tribalfish founder Chris Crabtree acknowledges that the site does not currently have a ranking system for users or topics, but intends to incorporate gamification at a future date, after observing how the site is used.  He writes, “Facebook for example, gamifies simply through the number of likes and reponses a given user's post receives. Twitter, via the number of followers and re-tweets. FourSquare, how often you frequent a location earns you a better reputation and so forth.”  A successful gamification strategy ensures user retention by engaging them with features such as a personalized identity, incentives like virtual goods, badges, and trophies, and most importantly, recognition.  Designers need to be able to predict a user’s expectations and alter their experience accordingly, depending on whether it’s their second visit, or their thousandth.


While Twitter has trained us to whittle our streams of consciousness down to 140 characters, and Facebook has made us more apt to jump on the impulse to “like” things before taking the time to reflect on exactly why we like them, Tribalfish has differentiated itself by placing the emphasis back on meaning.  However, meaning, which is by definition symbolic, is subjective.  It will be interesting to observe how Tribalfish gamifies its site to equate what is meaningful with what is popular, and in turn keep users coming back for more.  How will they create a ranking system for ideas?

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