Why I kicked out 90% of my free members

You act differently depending on who’s watching (or who you think is watching). A smaller community makes honesty possible.

I run a closed community of startup founders called Indie Worldwide. It started out free, later became paid, and until recently we had over 4,000 members in our private Slack.

From 4,000+ members ➡️ down to less than 500.

Before taking this drastic (ambitious?) move, I spent months asking Indie Worldwide members what we could improve. What did they say?
"The group is too big. I'm not comfortable sharing."

We took action.

Anyone who Slack marked as inactive was removed. Slack puts the ability to deactivate accounts via API behind a very expensive paywall ($1,000+/mo) which means that the task of removing accounts was done completely manually (by a VA I hired for the job).
We gave advanced warning via the newsletter but not everyone opens emails so I'm still getting lots of "why was I removed emails". We re-added immediately anyone who's a paid subscriber and anyone who's asked to be re-added.
Also, many people didn't realize that just reading posts or only sending DM's wouldn't be sufficient for Slack to mark them as active. I didn't know exactly how Slack determined activity either.
Active seems to mean: posted in a public channel within the last two weeks.

Lurkers vs. Investors

The goal of removing 90% of the Slack membership was to remove lurkers and people who are not very invested in the community in order to make more space for people who are building, not to punish people or exclude anyone who wants to be an active member.
The downside of lurkers is that they make posters feel watched. Ironically it seems many "lurkers" only lurk because they are afraid of all the other lurkers!
The number of active users in Slack has actually gone up since this change, but it no longer feels like "anonymous eyes in the dark", because so many more people are posting.
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I was removed, let me back in!

If you were a member of the Indie Worldwide Slack who's been removed, you can message me on Twitter or send me an Email to be re-activated.
Anyone who already had an account and sends me a message this week will be re-activated with no questions or expectations of payments.
To stay active in the future make sure to post at least once every other week in a public channel.

People are sharing more often and more openly.

Now? There are 50% more posts this week vs a month ago. Fewer people, who care more.
A smaller community makes honesty possible.
Since then it's been really cool how quickly the conversation in the Indie Worldwide Slack has leveled up.
Posts that might not have gotten a response before are now getting half a dozen thoughtful responses.
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Rebuilding an active community.

Removing inactive members is not the only change we made recently.
We also renamed and reorganized the channels. Some removals, some new additions.
The goal is the same: improve the quality of conversations. More value for members. Less friction for posting.
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Especially loving the addition of wins and praise which have brought a lot of positivity into the daily atmosphere.
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What’s Next?

I’m working on Slack bots to improve the monitoring of inactivity and give people a heads-up ahead of time so that they can stay active.
It doesn’t feel fair to be removed without warning. It should be possible to monitor Slack using a bot, generate a list of accounts to deactivate once a month, and send that list to a virtual assistant to manage.

Small communities of smart people can change the world.

If you're a bootstrapped startup founder interested in joining the new, smaller, Indie Worldwide community in order to…
✅ Share openly with peers
✅ Collaborate with smart founders
✅ Share insider knowledge
✅ Push each other to grow
Then we’d love to have you as a member.
See you there 🌎🌍🌏

Thanks for reading 👋🏻
I’m also tweeting at @AnthonyCastrio and running a community for bootstrapped founders at Indie Worldwide where I make curated introductions between founders based on their revenue and goals.
See you there,
Anthony