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Welcome to the program together.


It's our show about ordinary people building extraordinary communities. I'm your host, Bailey Richardson. I'm a partner at People and Company and co-author of Get Together How to Build a Community With Your People. And I'm using podcast correspondence.


In each episode of this podcast, we interview everyday people who have built extraordinary communities about just how they did it. How did they get the first people to show up? How did they grow to hundreds more members, maybe even thousands in this case? Today, we're talking to Jonathan Carey. He's the associate places editor and I love the title Community Headmaster Obscura, editing the submissions for places that people send in and jumping into forums to encourage conversation. Atlas Obscura is, if you don't know it, one of the only community, Gerben, travel platforms.


All the discoveries on the site are sourced by their users, their community, their explorers, as they called them, have submitted over twenty thousand places and Khufu to try out on their database. We're talking about places like a church with Frederic Chopin's heart on display in Warsaw and a spot where you can go see an abandoned Eurostar train covered in graffiti in France. Or my personal favorite, the Ottoman bird palaces. Yes, ornate mansions for birds that are hiding in Istanbul.


Anyone, anywhere in the world can add to a site. Maggie, what's one thing you learned from our conversation with Jonathan? I learned so much, but I thought it was cool how? First of all, he kept calling the CEO and saying things like that. So so he had a really strong sense of what this community stands for and the type of people who really care about Alice. And it's cool because Atlas Obscura is designed around natural human instinct.


So people want to talk about their travels. They want to share their discoveries and experiences. But oftentimes friends and family might get tired of hearing about your travels. But on Atlas Obscura, your experiences are appreciated. People want to share in your discovery. And Jonathan also mentioned that the reason they're so successful as a community driven travel platform is because they treat their contributors really well. They treat them almost like staff members where they give them a lot of feedback, loop them in when they want to hear more about a place.


So they have people who might be experts in Estonia or in Azerbaijan, and they actually will ask their contributors to go out and look for more. And sometimes they even ask them to host events and actual trips. So there's all these different levels where you can get involved. And I especially like how Atlas Obscura is really respectful about each person's individual process. So they don't have a defined template about how you submit a place, but they do share guidelines about what they have found worked over the years in terms of a good piece, and they work with each individual writer to accommodate what's best for them.


So it's a really personalized process.


Those are so many good insights, Maggie. Yeah, I'm hearing you talk about how they tap into a natural instinct that people want to talk about their travels, but maybe don't want to do that to annoy the heck out of their family. It reminds me of an interview we did a while ago with Instant Pot founder Robert Whang, who talked about how one of the key insights he built his business on is that cooking is a social practice. And he felt like there might be a chance that there could be a community and this could grow organically because it was a social practice.


And you see people building small communities on instant pot around cooking beans or like Kitto instant cooking knives. But yeah, I love that way. He phrased it just like I had an insight that this business is going to be in a space that's social by nature. And I feel like Atlas Obscura did that with travel as well. Many people hadn't embarked on it before. All right.


Let's David do it. Jonathan, I'm so excited to talk with you today because I'm a huge fan of Atlas Obscura. So thank you so much for joining us. I've spent a year traveling this past year before covid-19 and Atlas Obscura was my go to resource for finding cool things, literally anything from a miniature book museum to mud volcanoes. And I feel like anybody I was with, they were always impressed by my discoveries, even though it was usually just from the website.


So give me a lot of good social good. Yeah, I just wanted to start out by asking what made you a fan of Atlas Obscura and what was your personal motivation to join the team and help build out the community?


Yeah, I think like that whole curiosity and wonder and finding cool things that really drew me to you. I actually started reading at least six or seven years ago. I was a big fan of history, unique places, and just kind of a curious, macabre world and the untold world McJob.


Yes, my brings Atlas Obscura to life for me is one of the actual main words we use, and this is just one of our catchwords.


So that was kind of weird curiosities. And Odie's just really drew me to Atlas and just the aspects of community and people really going to explore and express themselves. That's one of the things that initially drew me to journalism anyway, was those things of being able to tell people stories and people getting excited about telling stories. And that's pretty much the crux of what Atlas is, is just chronicling the hidden places in the world. We call it the definitive guide to the world's hidden wonders.


You can always go Atlas and find something new.


Yeah, that's awesome. And I love what you're saying about the focus on people, because Atlas Obscura is one of the only community driven travel platforms. It really feels very collaborative because all the discoveries are sourced by your users, by your community. And I think I saw your explorers have submitted over twenty thousand places and cool foods to try out on the database. So why do you think this model has worked so well over the past decade?


Well, it's always about the first thing I did community and like you talked about just a few minutes ago, like you just want to tell people about it. So you take a trip and you're like, oh, my God, I don't want to go with the solution. I got to ride horse for the first time. I just want to tell everybody about it. And it's that whole aspect of, like, wanting to share your experiences with people in that outlet.


And I think that's what kind of helps drive our community being able to be around like minded people. We have so many people like me that are experts in certain things or very focused on certain areas. You may really be into single object museums. You may be into museums or vacuum cleaners or microwaves or toaster. You have been able to share that kind of world with other people and provides an avenue for you to share those things, and that's how we want to see it.


It is like an evolving thing. It's a tool is a completely different project, but it's also a living thing that evolved over time and changes in the more people to it, the more we build those aspect is what makes it great. It makes us special. So I think that's something that always taught us that ability to be able to share and find likeminded individuals that actually share similar experiences and share similar interests. I know that you studied journalism in college and then you wrote after graduating before finding your way to House Obscura.


What is the difference between traditional journalistic approach to travel writing and what happens on Atlas Obscura? Like so many people have that traditional approach of one journalist being tasked with finding all the good places and like a 30 day trip somewhere. Why have other people not inverted this model? And why has Atlas Obscura been successful in it?


One of the things about Elissa's, that is we always try to strive for those journalistic principles. So with our police entries, we still cling to those principles and we really look for like good writing and interesting places. One of our focal points is to make sure that we uphold those standards as well as publishing free work. One of the things that constantly makes this model so with this old works is that I think also our ability that we engage the community.


There's a lot of travel to those writers tasked with going on to find these places. It's kind of like a free flowing thing, so you don't have to feel beholden to submit. Sometimes we have community members that come back from years that have been active in Atlas and they just went on the trip for the first time in a couple of years. And they upload all the pictures and they get to writing and they share the experiences and then dive into it.


They're like right back in the fold again. I think that that aspect of it being something is there and that you can participate in. But when you do participate, you see feedback, you see your work published. We try to work kind of quickly to get turnarounds up so people can see their work and see things published and share their experiences. That's one of the ways to kind of make Atlas work while we do stick to those journalistic principles and make sure we are upholding the standards of a media company.


We also want to make sure that we are engaging with our audience as much as possible, that we're allowing them to be as open as possible. So not all of the writing is the same. Not all places are structured the same kind of try to stick to a template. We have like certain parameters we like to meet. But it could be that one place that you share that nobody knew about or they may have been close to being forgotten about the time.


It's a historical nature that is now saved or that now is remoted as they reintroduce to the world just because of one person's curiosity.


One of the things we like to say is that the difference about what you need to do when you build a community from traditional businesses or maybe traditional journalism in this case, is you build a community with people. Not exactly. And you guys are saying, hey, world, tell us what you think is interesting and then we'll give you some structure and support to package it up instead of just tell you what's interesting ourselves.


I love that one of the most important things is that we try to be open to like if it's a plaque that's on the side of a church that's in the mountains of the Caucasus Mountains, somewhere that nobody's ever seen before. We want that place. We want you to talk about that place. We're not going to say, oh, that's not popular enough. That's not know that the more obscure, the better. The more hidden, the better. The more wonder is, the better.


And I think it's that aspect that hunt for the next thing. It's almost like you have a treasure map and you want to find like these little locations and get to disappointed people that hunt for things like this, just like that. It's like, OK, well, wonder what's the next place, like a fun place, a great Pandora's box to open up learning about things that you didn't know existed in the world and being able to, like, bring them back and talk about it.


And I building with people like you told us was important in this world. You tell us what's special. You tell us what's unique and what's different, and we'll work with you to make sure that there's something that's able to be shared with everybody else in the world. You have a sweet job, I bet you're learning about stuff all the time, so, yes, one of the best things about being one of us that we have, like one of the things I learned today and we just constantly post things in there, we have like a great community and a very, very smart family that is constantly like helping us learn.


We're constantly getting notes whether it's in informs, which is the places or it's it's notes here or email here. Hey, did you guys know X, Y, Z about this place? I think that's what makes working at a loose end like makes working on the community side of things so rewarding is that I learned so much from my community and then I kind of like help put those things flourishing in like share the things that I learned from my community with everybody else.


It happens and then use those things that I take from them and their interests and their desires to help build the community. Even better, if I can make it even smarter, how can you make things even more cool? Unique wonder is how can we showcase things better? So, I mean, it's like a constant learning process. And I think for anybody that's like, you know, history buff, like myself or you're a naturalist, you love nature and environment.


It's like it's all there for you to, like, cross the line and understand. So, yes, it's a wonderful place to work professionally here.


And I'm sure you must be the best travel partner.


So I try to be and I like what you said about.


Yeah, you want to keep things free flowing because the goal ultimately is to just get people to share. And you recognize that community members have a wide range of interests from plans to history. So you don't want to restrict them too much. But I'm wondering, what sort of guardrails do you put in place to help people submit, quote unquote, good entries? Like how do you make it easier for your editing team or the people reviewing the submissions to get it into a good story that can be shared?


Yeah, so we're very much open to any of these places around the world. We do have a submission guidelines as far as like how to submit to that list and what makes a really good place interesting and what makes it better, like a chance of it being submitted to the editors. So we look for a couple of key things, like photos, of course, is always important. Making sure that is someplace this wonder is curious. Hidden locations, I'm abandoned things that deal with nature outside of our cemeteries, the makeup, anything with hidden history collections, museums, curiosity shops is one of my favorite places in all of these shops around the world and ruins any of those things, make a great place.


And so while we may not necessarily take the Eiffel Tower, we may take a diorama of the Eiffel Tower and of Europe that's in a museum somewhere in the northeastern part of the United States. And we will love that place. So that helps. It makes it a little bit easier for our editors. And then we kind of look for those particular things to make sure that we kind of like detailing a little bit about that history and also providing information for our travelers.


What is it about this place that would make people want to know what is it they need to know about this place and how they get there to make sure that the coordinates are correct? And those type of aspects are like just the little layers of things that we kind of a little kind of buffer zones to make sure that we make things easier for our editors and to make sure that we're actually getting really good places in our community does like a really good job.


You can store the atlas and say, OK, I see these particular type of museums. I know that this and we always tell people before they submit to something that this just give it a look to make sure a certain place hasn't been submitted already and that also that you can kind of get a feel for things that you kind of get a feel for how the software is that we're looking for and then build from there. It's not a labor intensive process.


And even when we're sending feedback to people, we always try to tell them also in our feedback that, hey, we we like this place. But you may want to focus on this particular mural inside this Museum of Things instead of this particular chain of museum. Sometimes we get a lot of people submitting whole areas or regions, so we try to help whittle it down. OK, let's focus on this particular area in this particular region. So I think that aspect, too, also helps to kind of the process and also helps people constantly come back and they get feedback and understand, OK, this is the right I can take now.


And then they kind of come back with things. Hey, yo, hey, Kevin, when here the Get Together podcast is a project by people in company, that's a small strategy company that I started with, your main podcast host Bayly and our friend Kai.


Although communities feel magical, they don't come together by magic. Whether you want to connect superfans, breathe life into an online group, or bring a remote team closer together, figuring out how to structure any community building investment can be disorienting.


You know, where do we start?


What are the common pitfalls? How do we avoid going too far in the wrong direction at people in the company?


We've coached leagues like Nike, Porche Substract and the Surfrider Foundation on how to make smart bets to start and sustain communities. Bringing people closer together in this way isn't a short term strategy. It's a long term play that can transform a company across the board. If you lead an organization and have a hunch that there's a group of people you could be doing more with, building with, call us so we can help you get started.


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It's nice what you're saying about giving them feedback, because it feels like you're treating each community member like a staff writer, you're treating them with respect, leaving them. It's the process. And that's really special.


Yeah, I think that's a great way to put it, is that we try to treat them as StaffWriters. We we want the process to be as smooth as possible. And we also want it to be as involved as possible. Even though we're getting a lot of submissions a day, we try to be as courteous to our users and courteous to people as possible for their work and the time and effort of putting in. So we let them know that it may take a while or that we're work with things and trying to keep them in the loop and keep them updated on the company's work.


We'll let you know what these were to it. We'll let them know with the feedback on it while we try to be as engaged as much as with our community. And I think that's what makes it even more rewarding. I would hope for community members that that is not just submitted and then it kind of just falls into a black hole somewhere and you're like, OK, it was a good enough or they're not going to know or is it going to when is it going to go up or have heard anything back?


I've emailed three times, like, no, email us. We're going to get back to you. We're going to figure out what's going on. We're going to try to work with you to the best of our abilities. And as much as we want to try to save every place it is, we're not going to be able to. But we really need all the way into more towards our community and what they want. And how can you make even entry better?


And just so they can feel that aspect of working with somebody and not working for somebody, that's awesome.


And you mentioned that some users actually will cover entire regions or have some sort of specialty. So how do you highlight or celebrate them? For example, do they get little badges or do they get special titles or. Yeah, how are they uplifted?


One of the main things that we like to do is like a lot of our users keep a monitor on or a certain community members that are like contribute a lot to the Atlas and really work hard on that list. And they're all very, very enthused by the ad. So we've done in the past, we've done Q&A with some of our community members about what they like, what they into, why they entered into this particular region or this particular aspect of history.


We've also done different things in the past as far as some of our community members actually and other subjects of stories associated with user stories becoming to be on working with the experienced team and not travanti to be guys or leading experiences or hosting events that he and his travel team puts on. We kind of follow those people that we keep an eye on and say, hey, we noticed that you submitted X, Y, Z amount of places in this amount of time.


We're super appreciative. We want to help you highlight D Even better, we would love some more places from this area if you're willing to. So we try to like involve them even more, trying to orchestrate different ways that you can better highlight our community members, whether that is showcasing more people that submit so many places and maybe giving more treatment to those to those particular people as far as like exposes more. Q and A's. We also have list on our site that we use a lot of what our place entries.


Can we gather this particular users, their amount of places that they've done and then highlight them in the list format and then share them with the world? You have a leaderboards at the moment, so those ladyboys constantly change. So when you submit so many to this amount of this region, then you move up the leaderboard. So it's a constant ranking system on the website. So you can always see that you're number one in, say, Northern Africa or you're number one in southern Italy or you're number one in places in Prague.


It kind of helps community members to monitor their process. They're from a love that we've had. We've had some serious some inquiries about what is the leader who is going to be up there. So, yes, we love it because it is people's enthusiasm. You should want us to update the leader boards immediately because you put in the work to update your interview, to add more. You should you should update it in. Exactly. So we want to make sure that the is like I said, it's a community project and without our community, it wouldn't exist and these cool places wouldn't be documented aacap of the world.


So even if we do keep close places in Atlas and we keep them in there for that particular purpose of preserving their history and preserving that person and that community members writing, we don't want to erase their their hard work off the site was closed and we delete it. No, it's still this place existed at one point in time in history. And this is are testament to the history and this is that person's own to that history. So we like to keep that on the site.


We're preserving history along the lines as we go along as well. So with the leaderboards, yes, the leaderboards can be a fun thing to watch change over time.


So giving people ultimate bragging rights at parties. Yes, it does. It does. It does elicit a lot of bragging rights. I will say so myself.


See, you mentioned earlier that some users who submit entries like you might reach out to them to host trips or experiences. You share a little bit more about that.


So we have an entire travel and experience team. They host different events, so they're always on the lookout for. People that are kind of talking about interesting things, interesting thoughts on certain places, certain topics, sometimes we do come across somebody in the forums as kind of talking about something or have a particular interest in. I'm like, you know, let's pass them off to the experienced team and maybe they can host an experience and maybe that's something they would be into or maybe they could interview them and kind of work them into the process.


So we still a process, but it's something that we've always been kind of that we've been even more cognizant of now, especially with much more online experience, is that in this time is that we, you know, we love to have so many different people can share different things and explore the different things. So we always want to look out for those people and for subjects of stories as well. They could be great host in the future is serendipitous, so to speak, that we kind of just spot somebody or we may just say, you know, hey, you know, I'm a paying one of our team members over next year and say, hey, you know, this person has been talking a lot about this and they might make a good host, would be a good experienced leader.


And so the process after that, but it gets them into the door to something. And it's a way for us to even push that aspect to community even further and take their knowledge and experience into the firm that it ends. Mm. Yeah. Like always looking for ways to wrap people up.


Exactly. Exactly. Absolutely. That's the best way to put it. If we're finding out like OK, this person is so you know, so and we probably should like let the spirit team know that this may be we may have found this in here, that somebody could be a great host. I like that phrase. That's so a. Oh, yes. Are there any things you care about how how you pinpoint if someone is like, that's eho that you're willing to share?


I just for context, I used to run the suggested user list on Instagram. So like the people that got sick and we had to like come up with things that we were looking for, like they replied to their comments. They were friendly. They posted publicly, regularly. Is there any insights you can share about someone that's so like what? What do you look for somebody that. So if I get a chance to talk about Japan or Japanese houses.


Oh, the medieval times or fourteen, fifteen, sixteen century, I would just ramble on about it and just go on and go on and go on and just talk about how cool interesting is that. So because you like you find something that, that's like that's your thing. And it's so interesting you that you have that almost shouted out to tell people about it and it's like so cool to you. And it doesn't matter whether or not other people find it interesting or you're going to find somebody so willing to want to share that just oh my God, I found out this about this place and it's just so cool.


And it's like, just get that feeling that you get inside and you can kind of you spread those out even in the forums and even on some place entries. Sometimes we'll have issues that only, you know, maybe one or two paragraphs long and they will have some sense. You start off five paragraphs long, you spot. OK, guys. So that's that's exactly what that person is interested in, is you can tell by the way they're writing, you can tell by how deep they go, if you can tell by the research in a timely put in.


But this is really something to get interested in. So I think that that feeling you get when you're talking about something super into that maybe the whole world is into maybe that is not a large group of people that are really into it, but you're so into it. I think that like perfectly outlines that excitement you get from discovery, that excitement you get from learning something new, that excitement you get from telling somebody the things that you learned, that you almost can't contain yourself, that you're telling somebody something.


I remember I had a teacher in back in undergrad and we had an actual class on the history of piracy and like the golden age of piracy. And I like the way she would talk about the age of piracy was just like it always just stood out to me just like, wow. Like she's like, this is so exciting. This guy gets her juices going in order to, like, talk about this age of piracy and like the misnomers about it and the women pirates that nobody ever mentions and the Barbary Coast pirates ever talks about it, just that feeling of excitement.


That's just so as far as like I said, that's exactly what I think within bodies like somebody that they bitch to our site, that that adds to the evidence that read the stories, that engages with all of our content is that they really get that thrill about telling people what they learn is also the they get by learning and just learning new and cool things and learning about new aspects of the world that they didn't even know existed. And then going out and just like blurting out out to the masses on one issue.


And that's like quintessential radio is and with the elite of what our communities are and all of us, I don't know, pretty much all.


Just like said, I want to see that on a t shirt. That's so I'm going to have to tell somebody about it and now may have to like paying my founders, say, hey, I have a great idea.


And it is interesting because I, I keep thinking about how people like to say, like, nobody wants to hear your travel stories when you come back from a trip you're from. And family are always just so exhausted here and not like a cool museum where a cool curiosity shop you went to, but at least on a oh, you find people who actually just would love you to keep talking and keep elaborating. So it kind of solves that like loneliness in your immediate circles of not being able to share the things you're really excited about.


So, yeah, that's really cool.


I think it's like kind of is the epitome of it in a nutshell. Is that is that that aspect of when you return from a trip and you want to tell everybody about, you know, the cool thing that you saw, the cool thing that you did like it is the place to go that is chronicling their journeys is the things that they saw, although it may not be necessarily a first person account. It's it's their journals. They're images of their photos, their words.


So that's how I always looked at it, like a like a travel all the travel journal or travel diary for people to be able to come back from their wonderful experiences and these curious places in the world and scream from the mountain tops. Look how cool this place I found is and listen to what I have to tell about it without anybody saying, oh, be quiet like, no, we want you to talk about it here and you want to hear you.


So nice.


Nice. Yeah. And because you mentioned the site is like an archive, entries will never be deleted. So just always there. Always for them. Yeah, absolutely. Just from this conversation, it sounds like your community is very curious, adventurous, loves discovering things off the beaten path. I imagine that also means that people are pretty restless and probably out in the world constantly exploring. And so it's just interesting. Like at the same time, you probably want people to be offline exploring places, finding all the hidden treasures, but then they come back online afterward to sit and write about them.


So do you see some sort of, I guess, cyclical nature of your community?


Does it feel like even their most popular users are the most engaged, tend to go quiet for periods of time, and then they come back really engaged? Like what does that look like?


Yeah, we express it quite often, but not to two authors. So we do. We do. It is a very cyclical nature to the website and to the atlas, where we do have certain users that the community members that will venture out for a while and we'll hear from them. We're like, oh my God, it's gone dark. But we kind of know at this point now, like over time, you kind of you learn your community.


You're always going to know your community members. So you're going to know, OK, so so-and-so has it. We haven't they usually submit twice a week where that was happening, where they might be on the trip. And then usually we so we do see sometimes a particular community member will go dark for a little while and then they'll give us they'll come back maybe two or three weeks later and was like five inches from the like. OK, do you want to.


OK, so now we understand. So, yes, we do kind of see that one of the ways that we can handle it is that we try to make sure that our publishing cycle, we try to make sure that we kind of space things out so that so many things don't appear in one location at the same time. So we try to space them out. We try to also let community members know, like, hey, we're going to space some of these out a bit.


So we just don't have a cluster of places and they're always open over time. We learn from our community members like their habits and their ways and their methods of publishing and their methods of writing. Like you learn a lot about it. Just like we said before, about like having a group of staff writers and team of staff writers. You learn their voice, you learn how they work, how they write, so we can we learn how our community members submit what places they're going to submit with locations they are where they're at in the world at the time.


So and that's also pretty cool, too, because we kind of see like where they're going in the world and see what they're doing. And then we also have we also committee members that, you know, that don't travel as much but are just very curious explorers. And they dive into places on the Internet and they dive into different locations and they read a study and they read books and they and they educate themselves on these places and these locations around the world.


And they share them with us and we're taking it back. Then I'm like, oh, my God, we didn't know about this place. And then we kind of share them, too. So we see a lot of different habits from our community members. But over time we learn those habits and we learn how to work with them as well to help them because we don't like I said before, we we're we're more accepting that we want to be OK.


Well, we can't take it. No, we can't do this now. No, we you gave us a bunch of places at one time. We're just going to let you know it's going to take some time. But we really appreciate the work that you put in and we really appreciate that while you were on this vacation and that you were out exploring, could have been doing amazing the things you were actually thinking about and thinking about places you want to submit.


And we cherish that aspect of our travels and our community members that when they're out in the world that they're thinking about and you're thinking about improving their lives. And I think that's really special about this particular.


Do you have any favorite community stories? I remember when we were talking before we started recording the podcast, you mentioned one member. He submitted so many entries on Atlas Obscura that he ended up writing a book about obscure discoveries in Mexico. Do you have any favorite stories like that, or do you want to share more about that story? That was one of them and that was just kind of like we found serendipitous. He's one of, ah, like one of our main community members, like he's been around for a while, some a number of places.


And one of my former colleagues just like looked him up one day and said, oh my God, he has a book out. And I'm like, really? And then we kind of like, look at it was like, oh, my goodness. So this is kind of like what his journey is really that kind of chronicling these things. And similar to that as well, also chronicled in his book. And that's just like super cool. Yeah.


And then also, I think one of the cool things that happened recently, we just got an email, like a random email from a seventh grader who said, you know, hey, I love your site. I'm stuck at home. I like the drama illustrator. I would like to draw some more for your website. And we look at the pictures and they were incredible. She's the seventh grade she's drawing like, these are incredible. And it was like I wanted to something else to this.


And it just spawned a whole new kind of avenue for us that we did for a couple of months right around the time that the pandemic hit. And we're kind of trying to figure out what are some good ways that we can address a community that kind of stuck in a house that can't go out and explore as much as they want to. How can we create some fun? And we create this whole wonder from home kind of initiative that we were doing in.


One of our things that we did on our side was that we kind of started these writing prompts and these aren't props. So we would we would write a certain details of places in Atlas without showing any pictures of them and then just submit them out to the world and say, until you remember, can you draw this place and replicate it for us? And then we took the best ones and then we published one. We've done some writing prompts as well that actually got our community members involved.


So I think like that one email just kind of like spon. We used like her drawing. It's like the lead image for where we published that particular project of the. So it was really cool. But it's just like that aspect of like engaging with people and like taking somebody. Just send you an email to say, I wonder if there's more to this that we can do because this person took the time to do this. And I think we can explore what our community is really into.


Think we actually still get an email. But it was so cool that that idea actually came from somebody in our community because it was something that wasn't on our radar at all. And we actually turn to like a really big initiative for us.


And it goes back to what you're saying about making people feel special, like that seventh grader must feel like such a star.


That was she was a star.


One of our big goals is always with our community that how can we possibly make them feel like they're part of the team? Normally, I just feel like this is a site that they just visit and explore and peruse when want make them feel like this is their thing. But this is my thing and that's why I submitted it to certain places. So if they see something wrong, there's some things that need me. If there is a grammatical error, because we want them to feel like this is their project, if they want to rewrite everything and change it around, we may have to look at it will reduce some things to it.


But it's all perfectly fine. It's all perfectly welcome because this is just as much as is our thing. It's everybody's thing. It's our community thing. The time that they put in it and they work on it is what we want to reflect back on our own as well. And we want to make sure that we all know, show them, give them the tools and abilities to know that, hey, this is yours as well. It's not just the arts, not just Atlas Obscura.


This thing is cool thing. This is your thing to this very cool thing. This is real cool place. I want you to make sure that everybody knows that the clubhouse is always open and we want you to be part of building the clubhouse, OK, because we're talking about feel good stories.


I just want to bring up another feel good story, have something. So I ride on the Atlas Obscura website. A really cool success story from the community is about the bridges. I read that they were natural bridges grown from tree roots, but people wanted to start replacing them with more modern built bridges because the Atlas Obscura community brought them into the spotlight. Now there's actually scientists caring for and studying the bridges. You tell me more about that story.


Yeah, that was I think that piece actually that actually was from a while ago. I want to say the early 2000s. I think when the story kind of took off, I believe I could be wrong. But I want to say probably around like two thousand nine thousand eight. It was a place that got highlighted and we kind of followed up a little more about it. And actually that the injury itself was very, very detailed injury. So we can include it like a lot of information about the bridge and just the history of it and just the naturalization of anything is literally a wonder.


And that kind of just got us exploring it more on the website. And I think we had a story. I think there's rain and sleet a while ago around that time that also dealt with it as well. And that kind of explain a little more about the science, the guy. We have a lot of those instances in where we have a particular place that is not necessarily always safe, but that is brought back to life or that is safe.


But we have also, like, I think, one of the greatest places that some of the places I love the most are the little body shops and obscure places because they don't receive as much attention in the world. And it just it just helps these little places, these little enclaves in society, in the world that may not be around for much longer, get some publicity and allow people to explore and bring some attention to these particular locations, especially those that involve the natural world.


It's super important because I think anything that involves the natural world that we put in, Alice has a great potential to continue to draw attention to itself, continue to get people to thinking about it. You never know when you have another body shop that's about the clothes.


Is those things like that that we try to like always keep in mind, we've talked about like the Atlas entries where people submit cool places and foods. We talked a bit about experiences that sometimes you ask your community to help host. And I want to talk about the forums, too. I know they're relatively new, right? Like 30 years ago. Yeah. Yeah. Sounds like forums is a very obvious evolution of bringing the community together. So how do you help encourage conversation on the forums?


What are your favorite topics? And I also wonder, do you also use some of the ideas in the community for articles too, because it's such a good crowdsourcing resource. Yeah.


So the forums are still relatively young compared to most places that have like a community forum in there, like a thousand threads. But one of the things that that we do to kind of like engage conversations is that police agencies are uploaded into the forums and are open for discussion. And then we also post stories as well into the forums where I kind of open common discussion page and kind of open discussion. We also would do because someone tells that was one of our biggest things that we added to the forums and one of our biggest kind of community drivers around the forums.


And basically Shillitoe was that we just kind of pick any kind of random Atleti topic and that we have kind of a robust amount of objects in the address or places in the atlas to kind of convey. So, for example, we did show us show us your most peculiar elevator shows, the world's most strange, the strangest elevators in the world. Show us the bathrooms that you have to pee in before you die.


I would love to read that. I'm so excited about that because it was actually like so great, like the ones that we did. So we have those show us the most incredible ruins and we just allow people to kind of just free flow and engage with a book club. Before that. We also use the forums as basically like I direct the direct source to us on the place of tea so that people can if you have an issue with the places or there's something that you don't quite understand is going on or you want feedback on something on a website that may not work.


Right, or some tool, it's not accurate. I don't want your device. It's a direct line to us to get to us and to reach us. So it's also a great way to, like, let our community to be able to, like, address any grievances or customer service issues or anything of that nature. Nice, yeah, like giving people a direct line to each other, but also a direct line to your team to. And also want to add one of the cool things about the phones, especially with the system of those different places, which is that we have actually chronicled their journeys to these places in the form.


And we have one community member that has has been using it as like a travelogue and kind of like his chronicled in these different places. And you put and use it literally as a diary to put a date and time that he visited and then kind of describe the place and what he saw and is easily accessible and kind of like a little bit of information about it. It's a personal collection, but there's a public collection where people can read it as well.


You can literally follow his journeys probably from 2010 to those 18 to now. And it's really cool because he's you know, he's open to sharing and sharing his appearances with the world community, people with the overall theme of the atlas as a travel utility. And to travel to that, people can use the forms to come through to to receive answers to their questions, to, hey, how do you I made this particular desert that I saw on and that I miss this business or has anybody ever tried this.


So it's also a place for people to come in obscurities and people to share the vision of Eyl and love to come in and also ask questions and see if they can potentially come across. One of those experts is somebody that really knows something about this particular place or that may know about this particular ingredient or where to find this particular set of bones or how to navigate. You had different threads about traveling with children. One of the most popular threads was in the earlier days was tell us about the perfect stranger that you met while traveling.


And it actually kind of it went like really deeper than we thought it was a people sharing these wonderful stories of people they run into on travels or times they may have stranded in the travel situation or on a group travel. And they just want just one of the person and how they grew up on it. Just I think people being able to, like, tell their stories is still like an essence of human nature that will never go away. And that's like something that we try to keep fostering in the forms and on the more open environment is for them to share those stories.


And they feel comfortable the more you're going to get of those sharing those stories. We want these stories to be heard and we want to be out there in the world and the things that really interested them. Hmm.


I love that. I just want to wrap up by asking what's on your mind these days? The travel industry, it has changed you covid-19 so wondering, are there any challenges on your mind that our listeners can help with?


Yeah, one of our biggest challenges going forward is definitely how do we navigate the world of travel during these different times and what the world may look like after we get through these difficult times and also be responsible with our community as far as places that they're going and make sure they're being safe and making sure that we're conveying these messages of being safe and intelligent and being aware of your surroundings and aware of the times you've done so. And so's we did one where we were asking people to show us was outside your window.


So it's something that in your house that you've just discovered since you've been doing it for six years, object that you discovered in your house. And we also did we did a study guide for children that we're like at home. Right? When school was still going on, the schools got canceled. We were doing like a list of these wonderful places. We did like Ale's guide to the Golden Age of piracy. So those are some things that we're trying to do.


So just navigating these various aspects of travel exploration during the pandemic and how can we best serve our community and how can we continue these aspects of exploration even in different circumstances, in difficult times?


Yeah, love it. Giving people a sense of wonder going even as they're stuck at home.


Yeah. So this is it's a challenge, but we're doing unique things, different things that you can, I guess is I kind of open a door for us to look at our online platforms and look at different things, that we do it all on our community and in how can we use Zoom? How can we use different tools like this to better engage our community and do different things with the community? And it's actually made us more diligent and more aware of our community and being more thoughtful about community as well.


Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time. This is an awesome interview. Glad we got to kick out about travel and all the awesome things. I've always been doing so much good.


Thank you so much for having me. It's been awesome, guys. I loved it. Thank you, Jonathan.


If you want to learn more about Atlas Obscura, head to their website, Atlas Obscura dot com. You can check out their Atlas of Places and Foods to help you plan your travels or just get inspired. You can look at their forums where they have so many cool topics and questions about favorite books. You read most random street signs. You see the most beautiful roads you've driven on. So check it out. And there's so many ways to get involved with their community.


Yeah, or you can just be a lurker like me and use it every week to find out more about the work that Kevin, my business partners, and I do as people in company helping organizations get clear on who their most important community members are and how to build something meaningful with those people. Head on over to our website people and dot company. Also, if you want to start your own community or supercharge one you're already a part of, maybe you're part of or handbook is here for you.


Is it get together book dot com to grab a copy. It's full of stories and learnings from conversations with community leaders like this one with jaunting. And final thing, if you don't mind, click, subscribe or view us. It helps get stories like Jonathans out. More people. Awesome. Talk to you next time.