A discussion on TribeNet has started wondering where the Tribe magic went. My take is that I don't agree with either of the earlier posts who suggest Tribe got less exclusive or people got jobs / lives. I think Tribe (as with other YASNS) is a kind of "first day in the new school" phenomenon.
When you join, you don't know anybody. The first instinct is to hook up with some groups. So you run around trying to find other new kids who also don't seem to know anyone and seem a bit like you.
You make "friends". You hang in the same tribes. You talk about the things you have in common. And at this point it's intoxicating, because you really are meeting new, interesting people. For me Tribe was definitely the fastest way I ever had of making good online aquaintances.
But then, once you have your group, the pressure falls off. You know who your clique is on Tribe. You aren't so attentive to the new face with only one friend, who says something interesting in one of your tribes.
You start to have a history. Conversations with some people have spread over months and multiple tribes. Newbies and strangers are less interesting. The barrier to entry for new people in your social horizon is higher.
But beyond social networking, Tribe is just another discussion forum. Once you stop chasing around looking for new freinds, then the forums may or may not be particularly different or better than others. I read blogs from or have wiki discussions with some of my Tribe friends more than I interact with them on the service.
So Tribe's character changes as you change. And possibly it's value falls off as you "mature". Maybe that's a flaw with Tribe. Perhaps it needs to take it to the next level, offer more services for those who want to create deeper communities.
For example I admit I lost touch with Wendell's Matador P2P filesharing project. And I haven't seen much activity in it's Tribe. I guess this has moved to a web-site. But if Tribe offered more SourceForge type facilities like a CVS tree, would Matador have continued there?