Why Third Tribe is Shutting Down

image of april fool's day calendar page

Before I talk about our reasons for shutting down Inside the Third Tribe (our community of next-generation internet marketers), I want to stress that it had nothing to do with our members.

In fact, they’ve been amazing. More than 2,000 smart, motivated entrepreneurs, hungry for knowledge and passionately applying the education we provide.

And it’s not because I don’t believe in the community. In fact, I think it’s one of the most remarkable projects I’ve ever been involved with.

Unfortunately, we’ve had some issues with the team that I no longer believe we can reconcile.

There were hints all along, as there usually are. But at the recent South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, it became clear that we couldn’t continue as we had been.

We were somewhere at the edge of town when the drugs began to take hold.

Brian said something like, “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive . . .”

And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was heading for downtown Austin going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down.

And Brian’s baritone voice was bellowing: “Holy Jesus! What are these [expletive] animals?”

“Bats, Brian,” I said. “Austin is known for its bats.”

You have to understand, he’s been under a lot of stress

He’d seemed lucid enough back when we were planning out how we’d approach the conference. Lucid, but showing some signs of strain. We had launched too many projects back to back, and frankly, South by Southwest tends to bring out Brian’s . . . eccentric side.

His voice was fast on the phone when we were making plans, but he sounded reasonably in control of himself.

“You’re going to need plenty of legal advice before this thing is over.”

“Really? OK,” I said, grabbing a pad of paper to take notes.

“And my first advice is that you should rent a very fast car with no top. This blows my week, because naturally I’ll have to go with you. And we’ll have to arm ourselves.”

My voice faltered a little. “Sorry, did you say arm ourselves?”

But you know, I’ve followed Brian down a lot of strange rabbit holes, and so far we’ve always done all right.

So we got the convertible, and the guns, and the 55-gallon drum of creamed corn, and he pulled some kind of connection that let me secure a tank of medical-grade ether.

I try not to ask too many questions when he gets like this. Which makes it my fault too, I realize.

He couldn’t stop talking about retirement, about how much he wanted to walk away. “Social media is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.”

“Right, but there are good people too!” I kept saying. “You know there are.”

But he wasn’t in any kind of space to hear me. As I’ve come to realize, there is nothing more helpless and irresponsible than a man in the depths of an ether binge. He took another hit and sank into a dark silence while I circled the Austin airport.

We were there to pick up Chris Brogan

Brogan . . . now there’s a piece of work. I don’t mind the first-class airfare or the Rolls Royce or paying for all the booze. Whatever. The man’s got his issues. But picking up the tab for those identical twin Thai massage girls is just . . . I don’t know, it gives me the creeps. Plus it’s hell on our profit margins.

He was hysterical, as usual, as he careened out of baggage claim. His voice kept getting higher and higher, talking about not getting his due, not getting his respect, not feeling the love.

“Don’t you understand? Don’t you get it? I’m still huge!” he shrieked.

“Brogan,” Brian said, in the dangerous voice.

That’s the first moment when I started to get nervous. Brian’s dangerous voice is . . . well, dangerous.

“I’m everything I ever was!” Brogan screamed. “Who have we got now? Nobodies! Can’t you see it? I’m still big! It’s social media that got small.”

Brian pulled out something that looked like a gun, and I nearly passed out. I don’t know if you realize this, but since 9/11, pulling out a gun in a U.S. airport is like wearing a giant sign saying, “Dear TSA dudes, please blow our heads off. Thanks tons, love, Copyblogger.”

Brian squeezed off two tidy shots, but instead of a sound like gunfire, there was a sort of whuff.

Brogan hit the floor like a sack of irradiated meat.

“Damn it, Brian, what the hell was that?” I grabbed the gun and stashed it, then tried to lift Brogan’s head off the linoleum and check his vital signs. Actually, my words were a little stronger than that. You have to be firm when Brian gets this way.

“Elephant tranquilizer,” Brian said. “Brutal stuff. Very bad. He’ll be having hallucinations of having his intestines gnawed by naked mole rats for about . . . ” Brian checked his watch, “the next 12 to 16 hours.”

Don’t even ask me how we got him into the car. There wasn’t room in the back seat (thanks to the creamed corn) but somehow we managed to fold him into the trunk of the convertible and we headed for the hotel.

Brian got snippy with me for insisting we crack the trunk for air, but the last thing in the world I need is a social media darling dying of asphyxiation in the trunk of my rented car. I do have a few boundaries.

Then there’s Darren Rowse

Darren, Mr. “Nice Guy” of the interwebs, was supposed to meet us in the hotel bar. We couldn’t manage to get Brogan out of the trunk, so we left him there, the trunk propped open by his elbow, twitching and sweating and muttering something about a close-up.

I don’t know if you know Darren. He’s . . . well . . . he’s something of a character.

He was slumped, as he usually is, giggling on the red plastic bar stool. He turned his manic grin to us and patted the machete that he always carries. “You call that a knife?” he said. He held up the machete proudly. “Now that’s a knife.”

“Yeah, right, hi Darren,” I said. I was starting to get tired. One of them at a time I can usually take, but between Brian in an ether funk and Chris hallucinating on elephant tranquilizer, the last thing I needed was Darren’s incessant self comparisons to Crocodile Dundee. “That’s awesome, honey. Put it away before you make the bartender nervous, ok?”

“Of course it took me a week to crawl this far,” he muttered, giggling. “I thought I was a goner. I said to meself, Darren old son, find yourself a nice comfortable spot and lay down and die.”

“Rowse,” Brian nodded in greeting, his teeth clenched.

Darren stroked the machete thoughtfully. “Up North in the Never-Never, where the land is harsh and bare, lives a mighty hunter named Darren Dundee.”

Brian began to growl.

“What the [expletive] is he [expletive] on about?” Darren snarled, the giggle dissolving. “Is he taking the [expletive] out of me? Because if he wants a fight, I’ll give him a [expletive] [expletive] [expletive] fight.”

“Both of you, play nice, please,” I begged. “Just ten minutes of peace and then you can start in on each other.” I was desperate for a drink. But one of us had to keep a clear head, and as usual, it looked like it was me.

“He’s [expletive] high again.” Darren’s eyes narrowed.

“I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me,” Brian said, with a majestic dignity that almost made me love him again.

From there it just went downhill

Anyway, I guess you remember the rest of it from the news accounts. They didn’t get it exactly right, but it was close enough.

Brogan is doing better in rehab than any of us could have hoped, so I’m crossing my fingers. We don’t think the U.S. will try to extradite Darren for what happened to that biker, and let’s face it, the guy did pull a knife on us. Poor bastard.

Brian’s wife won’t give me any details, and when I drove out to their place to try and figure it out, he took a shot at me. You know, it’s Brian. He’ll be ok. He always is.

If I were going to write the truth about everything I know, about 600 people — including me — would be rotting in prison cells. So I’m going to have to leave it there.

All I know is I can’t do this any more. I’m walking away while I still can. I booked a massage for later this morning, I’m going to go cash my settlement check, and then I’m going to take a walk on this beautiful first day of April and try and figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Until then, you all take care, ok?

P.S. This post is 100% Brian’s fault.

P.P.S. Thanks, Hunter.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is currently the only one working at Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication. She also co-founded Inside the Third Tribe before it collapsed into a vortex of drugs, ego, and identical twin Thai massage girls sometime just prior to April Fool’s Day, 2010.

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Reader Comments (152)

  1. says

    My disappointment at this news was alleviated by the brilliant homage paid to the God of Gonzo, may he rest in peace.

  2. says

    “The Third Tribe ad banner is still there on the page, so it must be really bad if they even hadn’t the time to deal with that” , were my first thoughts when reading the “news”. LOL. Well done, copy-pros.

  3. says

    Brian just tweeted about Fear & Loathing yesterday I believe. Funny write, Sonia. Loved it.

    ps. There are 25 misspelled words in this post.

  4. Sonia Simone says

    Stacey, that would have been a good addition!

    Andrew, glad to have soothed your disappointment.

  5. Sonia Simone says

    @Mistina, you’re very kind. I stole all the best lines from Hunter Thompson, I must admit.

  6. Sonia Simone says

    @Raymond, so you found all the stuff about Brian, Darren & Chris perfectly plausible? I can see that.

  7. says

    Wow, Sonia! That reads like a Quentin Tarantino adventure for copywriters. I hope Brian’s okay by now too. Happy AFD, me hearties!

  8. says

    Since it’s afternoon in the UK and the April foolery has to stop at noon I was almost taken in. My daughter’s still keeping on with the gags too since she tells me she’s on Malibu time.

  9. says


    Will Chris be out of rehab in time for SOBCon? I was looking forward to meeting him… Brian too – without the guns and tranquilizers or anything… :)


  10. says

    “I’m going to take a walk on this beautiful first day of April.”

    Well done, Sonia. Lordy, I hope you an my wife don’t get together. She is an April Fools Day maniac.

  11. says

    The funny part about this is, that I live about 75 miles from Austin and could see this happening at SXSW!

    Great story, I even loved the part about the bats.

  12. says

    Dude…. That is such terrible marketing :) Well done, bravo, thumbs up. How I loathe april fool’s day. Determined not to be gotten this year, so: kudos

  13. RicNunez says

    This is hilarious, I almost spit my coffee all over the screen. This is not the kinda of things that we are expecting to show up in Google reader, although today I was expecting it.

  14. Sonia Simone says

    @Martin, my karma for today is toast. :) I fall for stuff too, every damned year.

  15. says

    Five. F I V E whole paragraphs before your mention of drugs reminded me of the date. How I came to be such a sucker is beyond me. Tho we’re supposed to believe our Third Tribe Founders, right? (What with your interest in marketing, and all.) Sweet…

  16. says


    Best. Post. Evah.

    And I’ve said it before: as far as I’m concerned, you ARE the only one working at Copyblogger. Every time I click over here, it’s a post of yours that I see.


  17. says

    Excellent, I give you a sense of joy to you Sonia. I totally agree with yours, third tribe is sometimes not always to our benefit. Even worse, the devastation continues!

  18. Sonia Simone says

    @Melody, I shouldn’t even open my laptop on 4/1. I believe everything. Hope it made you smile, anyway. :)

  19. says

    The VERY reason why even God can screw up now and then when he said, “and the meek shall inherit the Earth”…

    He forgot man’s invention of techy blogger nerds run a-muck! (tee hee)

  20. Sonia Simone says

    @Mark, little did we know that when he came over to your place for a visit and sprayed you in the face with the fire extinguisher, it was just the beginning.

  21. says

    Hee hee! I’m reading the first few paragraphs thinking to myself, “This doesn’t sound like Brian…and they have all commented on 3T in the last few days…huh?”

    At the mention of the Rolls Royce I caught on…I’m slow on the pick up! thanks for the laugh :-).

  22. Sonia Simone says

    @Brian, I’ve had at least 5 people say the same. I think you should just embrace it.

  23. says

    Ok ok ok… you absolutely fooled me, Sonia!!!
    This latina -that totally loves you all, guys- should get the fool’s trophy -if you thought about one for your readers. 😉

    Great job!!

  24. says

    Oh hell, this is an April Fools post. I got out of Third Tribe because it isn’t my tribe. :-)

    Actually, Chris B. tweeting from the Martha’s Vineyard ferry asking people “Which brands do you love?” did it for me, no lie! Anyone in a situation like that who isn’t watching the water, clouds, and seagulls needs to throw the iPhone overboard. Seriously. That kind of disconnect from one’s surroundings is exactly what’s wrong with us, “productivity” be damned.

    Just not where I’m at. And this is not an April Fool’s comment. :-)

  25. says

    Ha! That was a great story. Probably the best April Fools joke I’ve seen yet. Gotta admit, was a bit nervous when I saw the title in all the tweets!

  26. says

    All of you Conspiracy Theory wackos trying to blame this story on April Fool’s Day…Of course it’s true! It’s about Clark, Brogan and Rowse…

  27. Sonia Simone says

    @Neil, indeed, all of the really good lines in this were stolen from Hunter. :) My absolute favorite being “Social media is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.” Which I think was originally about the music business, but may have been television, I saw sources for both.

  28. Troy says

    “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

    This post wins you a free drink at the Woody Creek Taven. Just tell them to put it on Hunter’s Tab.

  29. says

    Crocodile Dundee’s actual quote was “That’s not a knife… that’s a knife.”

    Sonia, you are lame but cool for shaking up my morning. Third Tribe rules!

  30. Sonia Simone says

    @Gretchen, I would have loved to find something I could use wholesale, but nope, I had to stitch it together from multiple bits. Chris Brogan is mostly Norma Desmond. And Darren’s dialogue is, in fact, courtesy of Crocodile Dundee.

    You realize the two of them will never forgive me for this one.

  31. says

    @Darren. Alas, I cannot claim responsibility for it, it’s just cribbed from the film. I have been seized by this sudden strange desire to watch Fear & Loathing again and I just don’t know why…

  32. says

    @Brian Well, the idea *emerged* that it wasn’t true, but y’know, Sonia is such a great writer and I’m not too bright. But Chris in a Rolls….that just seemed over the top :-).

  33. says

    Aww! I watched Crocodile Dundee recently, and the “You call that a knife?!” part was just classic!

    Thanks for writing this Sonia, it’s awesome. What a piece of work… 😉

  34. says

    I got the feeling reading this post that it must have been written pretty much as a “stream of conscientiousness” thing much the same way Hunter Thompson wrote. Great read. Great joke.

  35. John says

    Just where were John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in this story?? What a creative and wonderful way to let all of us see the “real people” behind all of this madness.

  36. says


    You gave me a heart attack, until I started picking up little hints of Gonzo Journalism. You didn’t do anything psychedelic to your brain when you were young and crazy, did you. (Tim Leary was a great influence on Hunter Thompson) Sometimes, it can lay there dormant for years…and then…POP.. off you go. Down the hole, chasing the white rabbit and singing off key Gracie Slick.

    Nice piece…even if the headline stopped my heart. Thank God for those at home de-fib machines.


  37. says

    Oh man, you had me going there for a while. Then I just settled back and had the best belly laugh I’ve had in ages. I really needed that. Your characters were so vivid, I wondered how they could seem so “normal” all these years!

  38. says

    Having just dosed up on my maintenance ether huff this morning, I had to go another round after reading this piece. I think your accelerator pedal got stuck on your Prius, but we’re all the better for it. Thank you.

  39. says

    OMG, Sonia!! You gotta tell us Gen Way-Prior-To-Y that Depends may be needed to read this post (wiping the tears from my eyes)!

  40. says

    In my sleep deprived stupor this morning, I clicked on Chris’ tweet, totally forgetting it was April Fools Day (even though my son ran around the house frantic this morning looking for fake spiders to put in his classmates pencil cases) horrified that Third Tribe was shutting down (and before I even got around to joining!!! I have been meanign to do that!!!)
    A few sentences in, I started squinting at the screen — have I lost my mind or did she just say… And then it hit me. HA – you got me! Well, at least for the first four paragraphs.
    Relief that it isn’t true — although I always suspected those guys were capable of evil.

  41. says

    Don’t care much for April Fool’s, never did, but this just made my day. Seriously. Haven’t had a laugh like this in days. I see an HBO series somewhere in there. A couple actually.

  42. says

    @Steve, glad we didn’t lose you!

    @Benjamin, I wonder that every day. :)

    @Janice, we’re definitely capable of evil, in a nice way of course!

    @Danica, I like that idea. Someone mentioned BBC as well. It could be our version of the British show Top Gear. “Top Blog.” I think it could be a hit.

  43. says

    All i can say is oh.. my … God

    Sonia: that was brilliant. I was just watching “Gonzo” two DAYS ago (hunter’s bio-pic, btw it’s streaming on netflix), and i lost it when you started on the swooping bats and lawyers bit, and Darren and Brogan: “I’m still big! It’s the media that got small.”

    This one should go down in the history books…

    “Social media is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.”

    – Thanks, you definitely made my day. 😀

  44. says

    PLEASE Brian, please tell me this is your idea of a sick April Fools Day joke! I love the Third Tribe so much! Please don’t shut Third Tribe down!! All I want is a chance to join it so bad!

  45. vangile says

    I was freaked out for a while until I read the comments and saw the April Fools references.

  46. says

    Wow that’s a great story Sonia! A video would be really, really awesome :-)

    I’m laughing my [expletive] [expletive] off! LOL

  47. says

    Too bad you couldn’t record how many people opened that e-mail the second the subject line hit their inbox. I bet it was a record. I know I hit it right away.

    Way to go! Good April Fool jokes are hard to come by.

  48. says

    I woke up late today and went to check my email. This was the first email title I saw and I’ll admit it took a whole nano-second before I remembered the date. But as one about to launch into and rock the blog world with the great help of my Third Tribe Marketing membership, a nano second was too long.
    Thanks for the fun, and thanks for reminding me that I need Third Tribe and would miss it terribly.

  49. says

    Brilliant! However, if you’re going to post about shutting down Third Tribe, it might be a better sell if you took the Third Tribe banner out of the sidebar…I suppose it probably got a lot of traffic from this though.

  50. says

    What. No lizards in the lounge? I think you also forgot about the part where Brian was pleading with you to throw the radio in the bathtub with him while it was playing White Rabbit at maximum volume.

    I had no idea SXSW was so much like the Mint 500, but now that you mention it…

    Nice tribute, Simone – you have a real gift :-)

  51. says

    It would apply to you too as long as you use the same email address when you comment on your own posts here as your author profile – johnny at that site about the economy not happening. Want me to change that for you?

  52. says

    Yeah, that’d be awesome. Thanks.

    I thought of that, but then looked at comments left by other post authors. I know I looked at Monday’s post by Chris Birk and his comments didn’t have it either, so I figured it was just you and Sonia.

  53. says

    While I’m the last to comment…I’ll only be echoing what has already been said.

    Brilliant and Inspiring…I’m in awe and appreciative at the same time.

    @Sonia, I’ve learned a lot from this one…and a hell of a laugh.

  54. says

    Hilarious!! Sorry that you are leaving this site. You’re next career should be making a movie of that story you spun for our entertainment.

  55. says

    This is the funniest damn thing I’ve read in forever – I rolled in the aisle of the coffeehouse and that hottie I had my eye on stepped over me as he walked out the door – oopsey.

    Truly, I thought mine was good a few years ago when at age 50 & unattached I announced at a staff meeting that I was pregnant.

    You could have heard a pin drop. I could see the wheels spinning…which of her 20 or so lovers is the baby’s daddy? What color is it gonna be? I swear I saw them placing bets in the lounge later that day! 50 – f**k!

    After several frozen moments, though, the congrats started pouring in. I glowed. We pregnant ladies always do!

    Sonia you are BRILLIANT and IRREVERENT – there couldn’t be a better combo in my book! You made my day – after I recovered from the thought that Third Tribe might be gone!

  56. Murtaza says

    Sonia, This is the first time…when I started to read from your profile (usually I avoid) and I got the Boat of FULL OF FOOOOOLS!

    Good Going at least at First.

  57. says

    Once again, we must bow to the genius that is CopyBlogger. The first time I read this, it made no sense at all. Then while reading it through again, it dawned on me what day it was. Great job, keep up the great work.

  58. says

    after I stopped my sides from splitting with the laughter…..and read the rider in the footer…. guess what I did? Yep went and logged in at the Third Tribe.. BLOODY FUNNY thanks for the giggle.

  59. says

    TFF!!! Sonia, as much as we all appreciate, grow, learn, share and love your contributions, could you please spend more time on your other calling: creative writing. Your Homage to the great, late Gonzo shows his spirit lives on. Wonderful to share this passion with so many of my fellow Copyblogger readers. We are a lively, literate bunch. Pls keep writing like this. Humor is certainly needed in these interesting times. Namaste, all.

  60. says

    So this is April fools? I woke up today, and it’s April 2 in Sweden, and forgot all about April fools. This post really got me, I had to read it several times :)

  61. robyn says

    well it came to me on 2nd april in the am hours so i was stunned by the email heading and wasn’t sure what to think – i don’t know you all that well to know if this was real or not. didn’t click april fool’s in the usa still. oops. arghhhh!!!

  62. says

    Hunter would be proud! Your voice is perfect. As your lawyer, I advise you to write even more…especially fiction! :)

    As soon as the drugs started to kick in, I knew it was an April Fools’ gag, but what a great one. This made Google’s Topeka gag look pretty lame.

  63. Greg Doig says

    The half scots blood in me came to a boil when I read this, after seeing my most recent charge on the credit card for another month. Nice lady, real nice. :)

  64. says

    Too funny – thank you for a brilliant joke. Of course the problem with reading your blogs too late if you are on a business or somewhere is you forget it was April Fool’s and still manage to get…well…fooled. Bravo!

  65. says

    Okay, so I’m a little slow on the uptake. I just got to this post today (Saturday). I was halfway through the damn thing, before I realized when it was written. Very good. Very, very good.

  66. says

    Thanks for the hilarious story Sonia. Sorry it didn’t work out but it sounds like you’ve had quite a ride. Can it all be summed up as too many cooks…? Planning a redesign of my blog and switching to Thesis soon. Will keep you posted!

  67. says


    You are my hero. This was great! Glad I didn’t read this on April 1. Would have been taken in more easily. Even today, I did hesitate.

    Great read. The comments are almost as good. We are a gullible bunch!

  68. says

    Nicely done. I’ve always loved Hunter. Sad to see him go but we’ll meet eventually. Take care and thanks for reminding me about Vegas.

  69. says

    Oh man… this had me going for a while and then I saw the date!

    Excellent story telling – There’s definitely a lesson there and pretty much everything else on Copyblogger.. thanks for the laugh!


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