Feb. 23, 2023

3 Community-Based Products Doing It Right with April MacLean

3 Community-Based Products Doing It Right with April MacLean

Today Greg is joined by April MacLean, Late Checkout's community designer and fountain of wisdom on all things community. In this episode, Greg and April talk about 3 community-based products that have it figured out. 

►►Subscribe to Greg's weekly newsletter for insights on community,
creators and commerce.You'll also find out when new and exclusive
episodes come out from Where it Happens. And it's totally free.


Twitter: https://twitter.com/gregisenberg
Instagram: https://instagram.com/gregisenberg/
TikTok: https://tiktok.com/@gregisenberg

Production Team:
April MacLean:

0:00 - Intro
2:00 - Building a product community for nerds: Lomography
10:33 - Building a community-first product: View from My Window
13:14 - Facebook Groups. Yes or No?
31:10 - Community as the product: Common House
42:42 - Communities of practice


Greg: What's your name again?

April: Oh, I'm April MacLean. And you,

Greg: My name is Greg Eisenberg. Welcome to the show.

April: Thank you.

Greg: So this is a fun one because we work.

April: Yes.

Greg: you are the head of community at late checkout

and 70% of the time we agree upon community-based product stuff and 30% of the time we violently disagree

April: violently. Yes.

Greg: like in our nice way we violently.

April: Respectfully.

Greg: Yeah. I wanted to bring you on the show because. You're a fountain of knowledge when it comes to all things community and community based products. Give us a quick background on On who? Who. April.

April: I have been building community in some capacity for a couple of decades, although the language , formally wasn't there I think until recently. I was a community builder for, Sony Music. I've done work with Lulu Laman, of course. and most recently before joining the team at late checkout, I was running the community at Trends, which was a, um, newsletter, uh, started by the Hustle, which was a acquired by HubSpot,

Greg: Sam Par and the,


April: Par and the gang.

Yeah, exactly. Salmon

Co. Yeah.

Greg: the reason I wanted to bring you on was you're, you always got, your finger on the pulse when it comes to what's happening in the community-based products world, and I asked you, Hey, Bring five of the most interesting community-based products, uh, and let's just talk about it.

And if we find it interesting, probably some other people might. So that's, that's why you're here.

April: I brought five, but I ended up actually just kind of getting excited about three in particular because I felt like they hit a couple of subsets of what community could look like. So I'm excited to nerd out on them and disagree violently

Greg: All right, let's, let's start. What, what's your, what's your first.

April: so I got really into learning about this community. I'm gonna butcher this name and then people are gonna get so mad, but it's called lo. , L O M O, mammography and the So lamo, okay. You have to get into the history of mammography. First of all, it's a product community, but you would never know it when you first stumble in.

You would, you would, you wouldn't even understand that that's what you just fell into because it looks like this community of artisans very user generated, content based, but mammography. Really based on a specific type of, of photography where the camera, uh, dictates the quality versus the subject. And 1982, this is how it started.

There was this general, I'm gonna butcher his name, general Igor. Petz Corn Nitsky , uh, he was the right hand man to the U S s SR'S Minister of Defense, and he brought in this like little compact Japanese camera and handed it over, and they were very impressed by it and decided that they were gonna improve it and then move it into mass production.

So it started with just this, like one product that they thought was. and then a decade later, so 92, this entire society is built around it and it becomes a global society. So what's interesting about them today is that when you go to their website, it's pretty low-fi. It's not the fanciest thing you've ever seen, but if you go to slash slash photos, it's all user generated content.

So it's all of this like really rich artistic stuff to look at. They have events and exhibitions, and they have a merch. , but underneath it all, they're selling products. They're selling cameras and lenses and gear to this very specific niche subset community.

Greg: they also have some really interesting competitions, right?

April: Yeah, yeah, exactly. and it looks like most all of their outward facing marketing is just content generated from the people that are using this style of photography and product. So they have essentially kind of replaced this idea of a funnel with a community.

Greg: Yeah, and I think that's, you know, that's one of the benefits of building a community-based product. So we should probably define what that, what, what that means. So what we're talking about is. , either the community itself is the product or the community enhances the product. So here's a great example of like the community is enhancing the product.

April: I, it's interesting too because in some ways it felt to me initially like the community was the product because they did such a good job of highlighting the community as the first layer. I actually had to dig a little bit before I understood. How are they monetizing this? How is this even working before I got to the product?

But if you are someone who's into this style of photography, you don't have to dig that. Like you find that you have found your thing. It's like the, the juiciest kind of nerdiest subset of photography I've seen in a long time.

Greg: Yeah, and it's, it's not small, so I think, you know, I'm just looking on their website. They've got 16 million photos that have been uploaded.

April: I dropped their URL into a trust and they have, they have about 200,000 organic visitors a month, which is not like the biggest thing in the world, but it's, it's very much enough to make a very good business off of this community and, and host of product.

Greg: I'm guessing they haven't raised a lot of money. I'm, I'm looking right now. So they've actually raised a million dollars. so

it's one

April: is not a lot

Greg: it's not a lot. I mean, it's not a lot. I think what's also interesting here is like the big players are probably not gonna go into this.

April: That's exactly right. Yeah. This is definitely two niche of a subset, I think, for them to worry about that style of competition. Uh, I also feel in terms of their raise, it's such a legacy product at this point. I mean, I wish I could say that 1982 was fairly recent since I was born around that time. But it's actually , it's, it's quite, it's been quite a while since this has been going and it had such a stronghold in its origins were in Vienna.

and it just made its way globally to where I think they said they were in, I don't know, 42 countries right now. Their community,

Greg: Yep.

Yeah, I, it, it reminds me of, uh, a post I, I posted, uh, two days ago on Instagram about being a nerd. So I said, the way to financial freedom is being a nerd.

And I define nerd as a nerd is you can't talk about 99% of the things you care about with 99% of the population, the guide to nerd based companies.

Number one, be the biggest nerd you could be. Number two, attract other nerds like you. Number three, and this is what they're doing. Build products for nerds. And number four, have fun.

April: It's that first part like when I get together with my contemporary dancer friends, our conversation is so, Boring and repetitive and probably, um, nauseating to people outside of our world. But there's nothing better than to the talk shop with other nerds.

It's like where you feel you're at your best shiniest self.

Greg: I wrote a post also about sort of this fast fortification of everything and how products are all becoming the same and all look the same. And, and it's not even just products, it's cities and it's, you know, you walk into downtown Toronto and you might feel like you're in downtown Sydney.

and You know when I go to just this website, mammography, yes, it looks basic, but it's white and the photos like it's a white background and the photos are just like popping out. And I think it's just, it's about the photos and I think that really speaks to that audience and, what might look really ugly, quote unquote to us, let's say, might look beautiful.

April: I had this experience yesterday. I, I, I was meeting with this woman who, again to reference dance. I'm in the dance world, it's a big part of my life. She owns this kid's dance studio and I was thinking about her website as I was driving over there. I'm thinking in general about how, um, dance studio websites to me are really awful.

it's like clip art logos and a lot of pink and some sparkly gifts and, and I've always been a little bit judgey, I think on that front. But as I was talking to her and thinking through her clientele, there is this whole subset of people. Mothers who put their kids in dance mostly that that is the signal to them that they have found what they're looking for.

And it's, I think from a design perspective, it's easy to get caught up in like sleek and cool and what looks good and all of these things, but there's all of these signals that aren't created for you. So I, I've, I've noticed as I make my way, the world, looking at all of these design elements and feeling maybe like, oh, that one kind of missed the mark.

I always come back to this thing like, but for a specific kind of person, that's probably exactly the signal that they needed to know it was for them.

Greg: Yeah. And I think from a web design trend perspective, what you're gonna start seeing more in 2023 and 24 is custom fonts that, you know, that y that Y2K aesthetic of like really big eye popping design. Like less of that like clean cut, sterile mil, you know, millennial colors. Um, you're, you're, you're gonna see this trend. website design that feels very custom and, and feels very not afraid to use colors and stuff like that. And I think that's, the reason why that's happening is because of, web design for niche communities and creating experiences that, uh, really, really connect with them.

April: I agree, and I also think Apple kind of gave way to this. , this cookie cutter approach to like, you know, the clean sand syrups and the really minimalist, um, and we were so hungry for it. And you always see the pendulum swing when it comes to design, but it just kinda leeched everything of personality over time.

And I've been excited to see I'm back to late checkout. Reta was one of the first things I fell in love with. I'm like, oh God, it's such a breath of fresh air. Yeah.

Greg: Okay, so that's number one. what's number?

April: okay, so number two I think is, is we can, we'll probably spend the least time on this because I just feel like it's a very, it's a microversion of what these things can look like. If you think about mammography, mammography, it, uh, there was a product first and then they built a community around their product.

And usually when you have communities around a product, they're serving one For specific purposes, so therefore, acquisition, your community exists to bring you more customers. , internally at least, um, they're for retention. Your community exists because you're trying to hold on to maybe a subscriber base longer.

Um, the third is they're for success or support. So they're helping each other use the product better, which also is retention, but also reduces like support calls. And then the last is they give you user generated content that you're using to do something. So you have all. Sort of north stars of these various communities.

So with Li biography, they have a product. They built a community around it. With this other one, they started with a community. And the woman who was running the community, I don't think ever had any intention of building an audience, but I think she, she applied this kind of classic. Community based product framework that we like to talk about.

Um, and it happened during the pandemic. So in 2020, when the world shut down March 16th, I think it was, this woman, Barbara, and she w not an entrepreneur in the lease, started this Facebook group called View From My Window. And the idea was she was looking out her window one day and realized, this is gonna be it for me for a while. Like what I'm seeing outside my window right now is what I'm gonna see for the foreseeable future because we're on lockdown and how many other people are having this same feeling, and what would it be like if I could see the view from their window as well.

So at least we had a little bit of reprieve from staring at the same four walls. So she started this Facebook group, she called it, view from my Window. When I tell you that it went viral or caught on, like I can't even overemphasize the popularity and how hungry people were to see other things at that time.

I joined the community really quickly. I submitted my photo. This was in March, 2020. My photo did not get approved and posted until November of 2020 because that's what her backlog looked like. It's like people couldn't get their pictures in there fast enough.

Greg: so I'm just going through the, the, the group. There's three, there's almost 3.6 million members, and it's still. It grew, it grew 6,000 members just this week alone.

it's huge. Um, what do you think about Facebook groups as

April: That's great. ,

Greg: I, I, I know the answer to this, but I'm curious. What do you think about, you know, trends, for example, is a community that lives on Facebook. Um, this is a, a thriving community that lives on Facebook. The narrative is really that, like Facebook is, , you know, is there room to build your community on Facebook?

April: Yeah. I think that's a very dangerous narrative. Facebook is nowhere near. , but it is dead for a specific demographic of people. So much like anything else, the first question is who are you building for? And whenever I'm thinking about community platforms, you and I have had this discussion so many times about like, where is the community platform?

Greg: We've had it like three times today.

April: that's exactly right. Um, one, there's never been a de facto, but two, I wonder if there ever will be, because the thing is you and I like to be in different places than my 20 year old daughter, than my, you know, 70 something year old. My mother's not 70 something.

But for a certain subset of people who are still on Facebook, it works. The question is always what's more important in the long run user experience or traction. And I think for a lot of people, traction is more important. So they would rather s. , like Facebook has a lot of drawbacks to, its, its groups a lot.

and they would rather sacrifice those features if they can get quick traction than try to get people to build a whole new habit. compelling people to return to a platform every day that they don't already have baked into their daily lifestyle is like, that's the stuff of separating the wheat from the chaff for.

Greg: full disclosure, like we launched a a Community on Mighty,

which is a great community platform, and we launched it for. uh, you probably need a robot, which is an AI community, a free community, anyone can join. and we realized it wasn't the right platform for that community and we realized that, hey, we have to consider potentially moving off because, you know, maybe if we.

Bots to exist. we need to go to some place like Discord or Slack that, that you already have these AI bots like, you know, mid journey bots that, you know, people could see these images and it just flows right in there. So, and also like we took a poll on our private Twitter and people were just like, we want Discord or Slack.

April: Mm.

Greg: So it just goes to show you that. , there's room for all sorts of cuisines. You know, you might, you might like Italian, but I might like Japanese

But I think, I think you're right. I think with, when it comes to community platforms, there's, there's room for our food court.

and it's really more like a food court than just like a single restaurant. Um, and Facebook does play a really, really important role in that food court.

April: I agree. There's also just tons of people who wouldn't consider themselves community designers by any means, who have launched really successful Facebook groups and just kinda learned through trial by fire. And I don't think they would be able to learn those lessons if they had launched anywhere else.

Greg: What. don't you like about Facebook?

April: I think the first, the first difficulties that you don't own the data. So when people join your Facebook group, you don't get to own their email address. It's just a very, it's very rented attention. And while there's workarounds, they're very manual or they could probably disappear in the blink of an eye if Facebook just flips one little switch.

There's no native way to own your, list. . The second part of it is the data that they give you, the metrics are really poor quality and they're not a helpful look at really how well your community is doing. Whether it's thriving, there's no way to organize topic channels. I, I think those are the three things that I find the most bothersome, and there's no good solid onboarding feature.

I mean, the way that you bring people into the fold is so indicative of the experience that you're likely to have in that community, and Facebook doesn't really give you a way to thoughtfully do that.

Greg: I remember talking to you about data and, and community platforms and why it's so important. And one of the reasons why data is so important when, when it comes to building community is you want the ability to bring people back. And if you don't have a single source of data, like you can't say like, oh hey.

uh, these, you know, 2000 people, uh, haven't made a post in 30 days or 60 days. What can we do to bring them back? You just can't do that on Facebook.

April: No, you can't. There's, there's very limited way to reach out to those people at all. Another thing to understand about Facebook is that your group showing up in other people's. Feed. So when I log in and I'm scrolling, which I don't do, I, I, I will say, look, here's a free tip to all of our friends out there.

You can install a Chrome plugin called Facebook Newsfeed Eradicate, and you'll never have to see anything again. I haven't seen a Facebook feed in years, but, um, for those who do scroll their feed and you see things come up from groups that you're in, that's wholly dependent on Facebook's algorithm. and there's nothing that you can really do to affect that to any great degree and baked into your metrics is included.

So when they say like active users, they're also talking about people who scrolled past your group as they were scrolling on your feed. That's not an active user, that's not someone who actively came to your group and participated. So there's so many, um, false data points baked into their metric system, View from my window though, back to Barbara and her story. Like I said, it took off like hot cakes. and, what's extraordinary about it is that as you're scrolling, you see someone's like gorgeous view from Paris. They're on a Parisian balcony, and then a minute later it's like some Appalachian.

View, and then you're in, it's just an alley, just a concrete alley and a puddle and some sewer. And you really are getting the sense that you're seeing the world through the lens of it's, it's a total ex saunder like experience. so as this thing got more popular, she did the classic like listening to what people say to consider how you might be able to productized off of this.

Ended up creating this coffee table book that lived forever by the same name of you, from my window. It featured all of her favorite photos from the group, and she was careful not to select just the highest end photos, but like a real trip through humanity. And people were so honored to be included in the book, but she also, there was a backlash to it.

I think there's a kind of an important lesson there that. Talk about for a second. This poor woman got a whole lot of flack for creating this product because people were in the community saying like, oh, is this what this is for? Or, you didn't tell us you were gonna be using our photos. Or, Hey, if you're profiting off of this, shouldn't we all get a piece of the pie?

Granted, it was probably the minority, but the minority are always the loudest. Um, but there is a, a little lesson in there around how you manage expectations inside of a community. , once you break trust with the community or members start to feel bamboozled, it's very difficult to ever dial that back. And that's probably maybe the one differentiator between somebody who has like a real community experience behind them and someone who's just kinda winging as they go along is understanding how to manage the expectations of your members.

Greg: So if you were running that community, what would you have done differently?

April: I wasn't. active enough to know how she led into the idea. From what I can see, she posted one. . Hey, we're gonna turn this into a book. Here's my, and never expected the backlash, just thought it was gonna be this really well received, um, announcement. And I think what I would've done is long ago started seeding conversations about like, what are the ways that we can, um, memorialize what we've produced here?

What are the ways that we can, because what happens is community members start coming up with the ideas themselves and when they think it's their idea or when they contributed that, that. , there's much more like kind of ownership and grace in terms of they're so excited to see that you're creating this thing that they had an idea over.

So I think if I was gonna do something like that, I probably would've started many conversations along the way, like leading down that path first. Also being open to maybe a book will won't be the thing. Maybe as the community speaks to me, there will be other things that emerge that I can respond to. So it's not really about manipulating them towards your answer, but that's how I would've looked at it.

Like deep transparency.

Greg: And, why do you think view for My Window works or worked?

You know, like, let's break that down because I. it's gonna be helpful for a lot of people listening who are trying to create their own version of this in whatever space they're in. Ak, how do you create a viral sensation?

April: Okay, Greg. Well, if one of us is a viral expert, it's certainly not me.

So , that's, that seems like a setup, but, a while back I heard Seth Goden talk about this restaurant, this Thai restaurant. Um, I think it's in Queens. I'm not positive, but this, it's like this tiny, tiny little hole in the wall place and this restaurant.

not in any Michelin guide. It wasn't popular by any means, but there was a small niche community called Chow Hounds that caught wind of this Thai restaurant. And something happens when Chow Hounds start talking about a restaurant, which is usually. , you know, if it's a, it's a popular restaurant, I go there and we don't go to hole in the walls, but all of a sudden, if it's being mentioned, we're gonna go there.

Um, it got mentioned in, uh, my gosh, some very common publication. I wish I remembered what, and the place went gangbusters. So this Thai food restaurant has done. , an incredible amount of revenue. It's extremely profitable. it's very hard to get a seat inside of it. It just, it took off because it somehow appealed to this niche set of people.

And somebody once asked Seth, like, do you think that the owner knew? what she was doing because the way that she conducted the, her business really kind of played into the desires and wants of this subset of people. Like she didn't explain things, certain things on the menu. They don't offer any pad tie, which is like every American's tie go to, and Seth used this term that I would use now.

To to talk about Barbara, the woman who started you from my window, which is that she had naive wisdom. I think part of the reason that this worked wasn't anything that was highly strategic or well thought out, but I think she had the naive wisdom to understand that this pandemic just hit. Everybody is feeling a sense of isolation, that they could not have conjured up in their wildest dreams, their wildest, terrible dreams.

I. . Um, and she gave people the opportunity to feel like they were united at a time where they couldn't have been more isolated from each other. So one, I just think she got kind of lucky and she knew to capitalize on this, flexion point, I guess in, in society. And then two, what if we think of what, what's community?

It's this many to many relationships. when people would post pictures, she would encourage you to say hello from wherever in the world you are. So here's my view out my window in Austin, Texas. And then people are like, I'm sending love from, you know, wherever it was, Tuscany, um, hello from what their picture of Minnesota.

And it was so bizarre to just feel like you had all of this connection to people and places that you would never think of. Um, I think that that is so addict. and I think human loneliness is, uh, a its own kind of epidemic and pandemic as it were. Um, and she just happened to blend those two things really, really well.

Greg: the slogan from View from My Window. Summarizes everything perfectly. the slogan is it's just someone's little corner of Our world.

and Our world.

is the key phrase. The big thing that she hit upon was during a time when everyone felt siloed in their own rooms, couldn't go and hang out with loved ones, couldn't go to their places of work. she created a space for people to experience what it means to be a human being, which is a very social experience, and that's why it took off and, and that's why it took off during Covid, but it actually has a lot of legs today, uh, still because I think, to your point, like people still suffer from loneliness.

and there's an incredible. Set of products to be built on top of, her platform that can bring people together,

April: that's exactly right. One of the things that I feel so fortunate about is that I am a C in community, um, and that I'm working with a team like us, like our team that really does look at life through a community first lens.

And the reason that feels so lucky to me is we happen to find something that is good for humanity, that reduces human loneliness, and that happens to. a brilliant business strategy and there's not many things I think that blend those two things so well. So the fact that like community can mean just incredible ideas and profitability, but that community is also always means human good.

Um, is a really fortunate little coincidence there. And. . I believe that they were inspired by view for my window, cause I actually think this came later. But there's this other website called Window swap. Window swap.com. It's actually my favorite website in the world. Um, and in window swap, you tune in to these, I'm using air quotes here to these live feeds outside of people's windows.

And you can linger there as long as you'd like, and it'll tell you in the corner where in the world you are. So it'll tell you you're in Germany, or you're in Manila, or you're in Jakarta, wherever you. , and it's all of these volunteers globally who agreed to set a little camera looking out their window so that you can like drop into their home at any time of day.

And sometimes if you watch long enough, you'll catch glimpses of their life. Like I'll see in the reflection of the window that they're cooking. Behind and I'll, and I'll hear the pan and the sizzle, and there's something so emotional about that, that you're in space with someone who's alone in there and you what you wish you can say.

Like, you're not alone. I'm hanging out with you. Like I, I love this view of yours. You can't, but there's something just so powerful about connecting people that way.

Greg: It also brings us back to what really got me excited about the internet in the mid nineties when I grew up on it, which is, it was weird. It was a weird place

and it was a weird public place. There were places that you can go to that were public, that you can have some sort of shared communal experience.

What's really cool about both of those products, window swap and and view from my window is that, , uh, it does feel like a part of the fabric of the internet. It's a public space that you can go to, that you could experience something, what it means to be human, what it means to, nerd out and just experience something versus, you know, the, the traditional feed-based, uh, experience that, a lot of. you know, experience for 99% of our internet. You know, 99% of people's internet experience today is consumed VF feeds. So I think what's really cool about window swap is they created like a custom app custom experience Um, it's unique. It's got a good name.

April: Greg in his name,

Greg: I mean it's got a good name.

It's got a good name cuz. both, both actually have one wonderful names.

Um, you know, because both of them really tell the story of, of what exactly it does, you know, a view for my window. And I think going back to what you were saying around, you know, community-based businesses and, why they often outperform, I guess is the word of mouth on these community-based businesses are just so high.

April: Mm-hmm.

Greg: Meaning like, I just heard about these two products and I just want to tell everyone about these products now. Um, and the sa same thing is true with the Thai restaurant that you mentioned, which by the way was outside Queens. I think the story is, it was outside Queens. Um, and the fact that they don't have a pad Thai is such a core feature of the experience because. everyone expects the number one thing to be on the menu, to be a pad tie and a great community experience. A great community-based experience speaks to the the minority, not the majority.

April: That's exactly right. It's just the right signal. And to drive this point home even more, the window swap site, I feel like I'm doing somebody a favor when I share that site with them. Like I'm gifting them, I'm gonna give you this gift of this site that's just gonna like, Develop more empathy and love and, how often do we feel that way when talking about products?

Like that's when you know you've hit something magical when you feel like you're gifting somebody by being an ambassador. Not just like, you know, here's my Instagram post of this protein powder that someone's paying me to talk about. Totally different.

Greg: All right. What's your number three product?

April: Okay. Community based pro. We did product then community. Community, then product. This one is, um, more like community is the product, but it's phy, it's a physical space thing, not a virtual thing. So it, it is common house. I'm sure you're not surprised that I'm bringing that up because I've brought it up many times in the past.

But Greg, I'm so damn enamored with this. I, I don't even know what to do with myself. It's like seeing people build the world that I wanna live in, and I'm so desperate to know. how their business is doing. If anybody from Common House listens to this, can you just send me a message? I, I deeply need to know where you're at.

So, common House, uh, the first one that they built, they have like a flagship space. Um, I believe the first one was in Charlottesville. that was their downtown Charlottesville. As a couple of guys who were really interested in how old society used to knit community together. So if you think about bridge clubs and supper clubs and all of those things were People used to come together for purposes. pretty regularly. And they had all kind of started to dissolve. So these two guys decided to create physical spaces. they bought this huge, gorgeous historic building in Charlottesville. Um, and now they have one in both Chattanooga and Richmond. And they just turned it into like a common house.

It's a space that people come together. And these spaces, it's kind of like a hotel in that there's all these amenities. There's a co-working space, there's bars, there's, um, What are those drawing rooms? Is that what I used to call 'em drawing rooms or libraries? It's just this third space. Every one of 'em has cocktails and, every one of them is gorgeously designed.

So design was like a central element. and they're just trying to recreate this idea that there could be this space where you can belong. You have to pay a membership fee, and that you can form connections to all these people in a physical space again, and it's just, for me, it symbolizes all of, there's a lot of things about history that I would rather not bring back or see amplified again.

But there's a lot of things about history that I think were really, really beautiful or had beautiful bones, and this resurrects those bones. And I, I so wanna know that they're succeeding and doing really well, but I have no data.

Greg: I think they were called salons, right?

April: exactly.

Greg: Like during the Renaissance time,

I mean, neither you or I are history

Bs but


April: my thing. Yeah,

Greg: that the idea was I think it was after the Renaissance or during the Renaissance, uh, these essentially. Groups of people who would connect around in different coffee shops and areas, and they called them salons. And it was just, you know, writers and poets and artists. And, they would go together and discuss ideas for long periods of time.

April: Mm-hmm.

Greg: what you're kind of talking about, common House feels a lot like a modern day salon.

How does Common House not become so house?

so I live in Miami

and I was just at so house and it actually felt the opposite of community. Like people were kind of just in their own world. Um, They, it didn't feel, it didn't feel very cohesive in terms of the community that was there. And it felt like there was a particular type of person that they let in.

Uh, I'm not a Soho member, I was a guest of someone.

Um, how do you make it exclusive, not exclusion.

April: that is such a good question and actually one of the first things I thought about when I did come across Common House, especially cuz of the way it looks like it, it's just very beautiful.

and I think that kind of elevated, curated kind of gastropub vibe. Tends to appeal to certain subsets of people and not others. and I, I do love the question about how do we keep this from being a Soho House, because I think the absolute key to this is how relationships are being fostered inside of those spaces.

never been to a soho House, I've never been to Common House, but from a community design perspective, some of the things I think about, How often you're allowing members into the physical space to just do their own thing, to co-work, to eat, to drink, to whatever, and how often you're actually providing any sort of programming or direction or opportunity for them to be making connections with each other.

And I think there's this element of community builders not wanting to ask too much of their members. I've seen this a lot where people, like, they don't wanna program too heavy, they don't wanna be too, um, restrictive about things. But I think that we have a lot more freedom to create the world that we wanna see in our community than we think.

And we, we let a lot of that power go. So if, if I were putting myself in the shoes of the common House guys, There would be just specific requirements about how people participate in the programming in order to be a member. Uh, because if you want to go work and get out your laptop and bury your head, or if you wanna hang out with your best friend, go to Starbucks, go to the cocktail bar down the street.

If this is a social club, is uh, our responsibility to foster relationship before anything else. Otherwise, this probably isn't the space for you. And I think that's how I would approach.

Greg: did you notice what kind of hat I'm wearing?

April: It's a hotel, it's, it's yellow and very cheerful.

Greg: So I just got back from an incredible vacation.

April: yes.

Greg: Probably the best vacation I've I've ever gone on.

April: Is that right?

Greg: I think so. It was at a hotel called Palm Heights in Grand Cayman, and I'm wearing a yellow hat right now. I haven't taken it off since I've been there because I'm just so, I had such a good time and so proud that I, like, I'm a part of their community. If you're, if you're watching this on YouTube, you can see here's a Palm Heights, uh, coaster.

April: He's all in

Greg: Here's our Palm Heights.

April: not the notepad.

Greg: I'm not gonna, I, you know, I've got more, but let's just stop there. And it, and it really does feel like a community-based experience. And I'll explain why. Actually, I texted David Spinx as soon as I got there, basically.

And I was like, you know, who's a community whiz? And I was like, you gotta go stay at this place.

So first of all, it's kind of like the white lot.

April: It's quite a wait, . Okay.

Greg: the scene picture, gra you know, Cayman Islands, white, Sandy Beach, you know, maybe like 50 rooms there, very small. everyone kind of knows everyone at the space, like all the hotel guests. Oh, this, there's someone new from Finland, who, who's staying with us?

You know, like everyone knows, everyone sat down for dinner. Waitress is. Hey, I was with my girlfriend, what do you, what do you, what are you guys doing, uh, after this? And we're like, I don't know. I'm gonna sleep. And she goes, oh, there's a secret bar just for hotel guests. And like, I checked Google Maps.

It's not on there. Never heard of it. Like not on their website. And walk in there, there's. it was like me and a few other people and there's like people doing interpretive dance and I was like, this is the weirdest kind of experience in my life. and then, and, and you know, that sort of programming and those sort of like, if, you know, you know, type experiences is what drives a lot of these community-based experiences.

And for me, I had never gotten that out of a hotel. You know, usually. when I go to a hotel, even if it's a nice hotel, if a five star hotel, it's just, You know, a five star hotel is luxury, but it's not a com you know, community based experience. I was meeting people every day. There's programming.

There's five or six or seven or eight things you can do, and I think more and more people are gonna want, are gonna seek experiences like this, and they're willing to pay extra.

April: I don't think that people have ever been as hungry for community as they are right now. , and I also don't think it's ever been easier to keep yourself out of community as it is right now. So it is a really interesting conundrum because what you're, what you're talking about is this idea, well, there's, there's a couple tendrils to pull on here.

You said if you know, you know, and so how do you get to, I'm sorry. I'm so delighted by the fact that you're wearing this hat now that I know this story, that you're just like, you're so proud and happy,

Greg: Oh yeah. I'm like proud dad moment vibes. You know, I have no. Like, they didn't pay me to go there. I didn't get a discount. Like I just had a really good experience and met some really interesting people and, and, and just felt, felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself.

April: Well, and think about what you texted SPX when you got there and you just told me about it and you are doing, you feel like you're sharing something good with us. You don't feel like you're evangelizing a brand, right? Like that's the power of a community-based experience is like people can't wait to tell other people.

And I think a lot of businesses. I, I'm sorry to use such harsh, harsh language, but I think a lot of businesses delude themselves into thinking that they're creating a business or experience that people are just can't wait to talk about. But very few are, at least not in this capacity. Um, I'm reminded of there's this book called You Are Invited, that I really enjoyed reading a while back, written by this, this gentleman named John Levy, and I think John lived in new. And he used to host these community dinners, and the way it works is he would personally invite a small subset of people, 10 to 15 maybe. And the rules were you weren't allowed to tell people your name and you weren't allowed to tell people your occupation. And that the group as a whole, Cooked the dinner together, prepped and cooked, ate the dinner, cleaned up the dinner together, and it wasn't until you sat down to eat your meal that you could finally talk about your name and what you did, and he would have like, Pulitzer Prize winners and just these incredible high caliber people.

But it was a level playing field while they were cooking that meal because no one could say use their, uh, work or career as an identity. So it was such a purely communal experience. It wasn't based on what people could get out of each other. and the fact that they had to clean together and prep together and do all this work, they would come.

it was, it was almost like taking what would six months to a year of forming a friendship drip by drip and just compressing it all into a three hour event. Um, and I think that kind of stuff can be so, so incredibly powerful, that communal based experience. People couldn't wait to invite more people. They always had more people they wanted to add to the list, and they had to keep restricting and keep restricting.

So there's something, this, this evangelism thing is the key, I think, to these experie.

Greg: Yeah, and I think, you know, you and I, April, because we spend so much time building digital products, it's easy for us to forget that, you know, we can draw a lot of inspiration in the physical world and bring those experiences and nuances to digital products.

April: Oh.

Greg: Okay, so those are your three community-based products on your mind. Are you not gonna give us one bonus? One.

April: Oh, I would say that I would give a shout out to, uh, nest Labs, which was gonna be on the list. Um, I. Been in that community. So it's, it's one that I was also a part of. Um, Steph Smith actually put me on to that one. And Nest Labs, is a community of people who, I don't know, it's like this, this like interesting and fun blend of, mindfulness and neuroscience and.

It's really around like productivity. But I think the, the thing that is so beautiful about it is it's science and strategy based. It's not just like, We're gonna manifest our best lives and take bubble bass and think good thoughts. Um, but she's really done a beautiful job of unleashing that community because she gave kind of just the right parameters around what communities should look like.

and, and all of these best practices and set the tone and the community just ran with it. There's like, if you were to last time, I, I'm not in it anymore, but you would click the event calendar and there was just endless events on deck that people were self-organizing without any sort of additional resources or support because they were so interested in talking about these practices and being a true community of practice.

I think communities of practice have a really, really special place in my heart because there's something about, learning and practicing a skillset as a group versus just like, you know, feed and comment and chat and blah, blah, blah. But when we're actually putting these things to practice together.

That makes a community incredibly sticky. So, shameless plug. I get to do a shameless plug right now. Uh, we're about ready to launch, uh, late Checkout Land, which is our, our community that is really based around bringing, uh, Founders and leaders and creators and builders together who are really interested in this intersect of product and community and how these things can just create this highly kind of sticky space for people to hang out and learn things.

And one of the things I think about the most when I'm thinking about this community, is how do we turn this into a community of practice on a real ongoing basis, that it's not just, Hey, here's more things to consume and read, but it's like, here's how we're gonna get together and actually take steps towards mastering these skills and these frameworks and like building the version of the world we wanna see.

Um, last thing I'll say on this is Cody Sanchez had recently talked. Like, here's some questions that I like to ask myself. Every Sunday night. It was this list of questions and one of them was, what did I do this week to help build the world that I wanna see? Uh, and I think about that a lot. It's like, am I just doing busy work?

Or what are the ways that I'm actually creating the world that I see in my head as the ideal? And that's part of what I think about with late checkout land is like, You're gonna bring together really, really high caliber. , and that means that you can arm them and unleash them to make some incredible changes.

Like how do you do that in a way that's more powerful than just consuming content?

Greg: how much does it cost to join late checkout?

April: I'm so glad you asked that question because late checkout land is absolutely free. Yeah.

Greg: it's free. But if you're joining

and you're applying, we, we, we want you to take, we want you to be active and we want you to take it seriously. It's more fun. It's more fun for everyone. When you know people there are, you know, wanna collaborate on ideas, wanna share frameworks, wanna wanna be. a member and, and, and be active.

So, um, I think that's our only ask.

April: and it also is a really good community design principle in general is most communities need to have a. because if it community is just like a business and that if it's for everybody, it's just for absolutely nobody. Um, so I will say we're only letting in a hundred people to start and we're curating that list, like physically going through every single and, and just sort of choosing.

And part of that is because you just. Those first members really set the tone and the culture for the way that people treat each other and the way they show up and the way they engage. And so we're gonna be really picky about that, but it'll be a great place to hang out.

Greg: where do people go if they want to sign up?

April: They can go to late checkout.studio/community. That is our

community. Yes,

Go right now.

Greg: Just do it. If you're on a, you know, a website, do it. Plus you'll get to be, you'll be able to see our website, which is an example of, I think, a non sterile, interesting, website.

Yeah. There you go.

April: Yeah. Plus you get to hang out with Greg and I like Greg and I are actually gonna be active in that

Greg: that's true.


April: huge win.

Greg: Yeah. I think so.

Um, we think so. Okay, cool. Well, April, I can't believe I get to work with you on a daily basis and have these conversations. Um, it's cool that other people are gonna witness our convos cuz we would have this behind closed doors. So it's cool that, that we're having it, with everyone listening.

if people want more April. You're crazy if you don't want more. April, where do people go and follow you?

April: april mcclain.com. M A C L E A N, but I'm on most social platforms under Ms. McClean, M I C I I. I chose it years ago and it was like, oh, it's too late. I've been at it too long. So we're stuck here.

Greg: it's o yeah. It's, it's okay. It's kind of, it's kind of amazing.

April: have your Greg Eisenberg is your handle on everything like you won at that game.

Greg: I mean, Greg Eisenberg is kind of like the, uh, view from my window or, or window swap naming

for, for a per, it's just like, it's very, it is what it is. That's the best way to describe it. But Ms. McClain has way more character. I think. It's like you should, you should stick with that. more people should have Cool, interesting handle.

April: I appreciate that. I will stick with it and thank you. This was

Greg: And come, come back, uh, come back to the show when, when you wanna share more, uh, cool community-based products.

April: Heck yeah. All right, you're on. Thank you

Greg: All right. All right. Thanks April.