Wow. this whole post meandered a bit from technology, to costs, to community moderation. Please leave comments and questions. The biggest thing is for the site processes to be completely open and transparent. This is a community of people, not some esoteric technology platform.
As some of you may or may not know, I am a database and website programmer by trade. I however, could in no way have built this site with all of its features by myself and got it launched without a framework. That framework is called "Ning". You see the logo in the upper left hand corner and other places on the site.
A lot of people complain about this, that and the other about Ning, but I believe they provide an exceptional platform and product, that without it, we wouldn't have this site and this great community of people.
That being said, Ning is changing some of their policies and pricing structures over the summer, namely, getting rid of "free" Ning sites. I have been staying on top of the changes, and will be adjusting accordingly, hopefully with no interruption to our community.
MohawksRock.com Website Costs
Fortunately, I have already been paying Ning for features on this site since its launch in 2007, so we are not in danger of being wiped away like the free sites. We do have some ads and the store on here which helps a little but doesn't really cover the costs of paying for the site. This is ok though as the most important thing to me is the community, sharing and ideas here. Maybe one day the ads will be profitable, but even if they aren't in my head I just consider the site fees as part of my entertainment and personal/professional development costs.
Using MohawksRock.com domain to protect our community
One feature I do pay for is that we use our own domain name "mohawksrock.com" instead of [x].ning.com. This decision was made so that if anything did happen with Ning or something drastically changed, that we could still resurrect the community again or easily change platforms since all of our links and search engine results would not be tied to a domain we did not control. Granted if this ever happened we'd have a rough patch and probably lose a lot of our 3500+ members, but hopefully we'd retain the core (those of you that are probably still reading this boring techie / financial post :) )
Changes that might effect MohawksRock.com - music uploading
One of the major changes Ning is making is having an increased cost to host media files, this will include music. Any music currently on the site will remain on the site, however we may not have the option to upload new songs unless we pay the higher media fees. If we did pay these fees we would gain video sharing as well. I have not previously opted to enable video sharing 1) because of the increased costs and 2) the general population here is pretty smart and knows how to easily use YouTube and other services with embed codes to achieve the same effect. It seems like many people are already using 3rd party widgets for music as well.
In the long run this may be the better solution anyhow since other sites are optimized for this type of sharing and really I always wonder about copyright lawsuits on the music on here already. I don't have a team of or even one lawyer on retainer for this kind of stuff, but have been lucky in 2.5 years so far to have avoided any kind of lawsuit yet on the site at all. Let's keep crossing our fingers on that one.
Moderation / Avoiding lawsuits
Speaking of avoiding lawsuits the question does get posed from time to time asking about the moderators of the site. I am obviously the main and only vocal moderator that takes the heat on any "moderation" issues. We do have other silent mods that usually run things by me unless they notice something completely outside of lines (which fortunately are pretty loose - no nudity, violent/threatening behavior).
Our biggest asset is the community as a whole. I appreciate every member's email/note etc. that lets me know about behavior on the site that they feel is outside of the community goals and mission. Typically this is spammers. I hate spammers, and so do most of you!
The nudity thing is again just a taste thing since we do have kids on here and many different cultures and countries, that see these things very differently. I certainly wouldn't want a warrant out for the arrest of GMM in some country I barely know because one of 25,000+ pics on here shows a female nip.
Violent / Threatening / Defaming behavior toward individual members
The rules against violent/threatening behavior are very hard to define and up for the most interpretation, and the one I get the most "heat" about, usually daily. The basic principle of this site and community evolved with the members that have joined and have become active. We need to keep an open mind about all cultures and be able to engage in meaningful, thoughtful discussion without directly attacking and threatening individuals for their beliefs.
Positive Growing, Learning, Debating Culture
We are all learning, we are all growing and positive discussion even on (especially upon) touchy subjects is encouraged if approached with an open and positive mindset. I know I have had my mindset changed on quite a few issues through positive discourse with many of you, that had I immediately closed my mind and attacked a lifestyle / belief / thought process I wouldn't have had the opportunity to grow and learn.
Squatting is a good example off the top of my head that at first I thought was ridiculous, until I opened up, learned more and understood where they were coming from. I still know I would be a horrible squatter, but I get the mindset and its opened my eyes to all sorts of other things in life. Additionally I met some squatters in Barcelona last spring and it was so nice to be able to understand the plight and culture and be able to explain to my friends I was traveling with who thought it was stupid, but then got it.
Future Ads / Revenue Sources to keep site running.
I have recently looked into partnering with an affiliate to bring better (not more) ads to the site so maybe that would be a win-win for mohawks rock if people found more items of what they wanted in our ads and the site made a little bit more in revenue to support the extra media features.
If anyone has other ideas, sponsors of such feel free to bring them to my attention.
The main goal is freedom and openess
The main goal, as long as I can support it, is that Mohawks Rock will always be here, it will always be free, and we will try to continue expanding the features that help build a positive and growing community.
This community is not necessarily about a hairstyle but a lifestyle. Not a punk lifestyle, not an emo lifestyle, not a ska or rapper lifestyle, but a lifestyle of standing out, being heard and being different.
We come together in our differences and our desire to make people look beyond the exterior and into the interior. The biggest challenge and what makes this place interesting is that that vein of thinking occurs in many different subsets of different cultures and that is why we get so many clashing opinions and vibrant discourse.
So lets ensure to respect each other, feel free to discuss your point of view, maybe you'll change somone's viewpoint, but stay classy and trashy and true to yourself.