Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

We've received dozens of inquiries today about the recent announcement from Ning that they are cutting their free service, and if this means the end of TechHui. It does not. TechHui is a premium network paid for by the generous sponsors you see on the right of the page. Premium networks are unaffected by the changes at Ning.

Ning has been paying for the infrastructure to host literally millions of free networks for years despite the fact they only generate 1/4 of the company's ad revenue. Clearly the math just didn't work so they had to make a hard decision. It is unfortunate for the members of free communities, and we feel for those who have spent their valuable time building those communities. Luckily, TechHui benefits from sponsorship and will be unaffected.

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Comment by Rob Bertholf on May 11, 2010 at 12:14pm
Thanks for the invite to speak on the SEO/Web Marketing panel at this years TechHui conference! Will be marketing it on behalf of Social Media Club of Hawaii! With Aloha, Rob
Comment by Daniel Leuck on May 4, 2010 at 7:05am
Hi Brian - Anti-lemur extremists would certainly test my commitment to freedom of expression on TechHui :-)

Ning announced the details of their new plans today. The cheapest plan is only $2.95/month, so even nonprofits and clubs will be able to keep their networks for the cost of a soda at McDonald's. They are also adding some nice features including Facebook and Twitter sign-in.

Note: Leena Rao's TechCrunch blog post linked to above has several factual errors. Ning did not "end its free service a few weeks ago" (it will phase them out in July), and it has always had the option of a "completely ad-free experience." The comments on the post are predictably sophomoric.
Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 19, 2010 at 11:25pm
Brian Russo: If I had been Ning I would have announced 'shutting down free in 6 months, heres some paths to migrate off.. or pay if you want to stay'.
That is exactly what they should have done, and they should have had the pricing sorted prior to the announcement.
Comment by Kevin Folan on April 18, 2010 at 10:26pm
Paul, Tetsuzan: even with a price of 'Free' one should do basic due diligence. And if a company is not yet profitable - keep a couple local backups! It was 10 years ago that the whole dotcom house of cards came tumbling down - an announcement like this from Ning would have been one of many. Though, of course, it is ironic that a company based on creating community would have such a PR fail.
Comment by Paul Graydon on April 18, 2010 at 9:37pm
Tetsuzan: I'm an optimistic type of person, but with it very cynical too. I wouldn't anticipate any service closing down, but at the same time wouldn't expect free (as in beer) to always remain so, and I would generally consider it foolish not to anticipate such a change either. Take advantage of the service all the while its free, but if it's important or critical to you, always have a backup plan :)
Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 18, 2010 at 10:30am
Mahalo John. I really appreciate your comments.
Comment by John on April 18, 2010 at 10:26am
Dan, I don't think anyone who regularly reads the site would believe that you have ever exerted editorial control to benefit a sponsor. Also, since the site is more of a forum than a newspaper/magazine, you don't put yourself in a position where you are recommending or endorsing a specific entity (such as a sponsor).

I do think as the site grows (and if it expands in functionality, coverage, etc.) that this may need to be re-evaluated. In any event, not an important practical concern today. Great job in building this.
Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 18, 2010 at 10:13am
Aloha Kostya. A donate button is a good idea, but TechHui is not an "enclosed benefactor model." No sponsor has ever been allowed to exert editorial control over the content on the site, and they never will. That is my personal promise to the community. The Editor, Alex Salkever, is an unpaid volunteer who is not employed by any sponsor. For the first year of its life I personally funded the network and dedicated huge amounts of my time to grow it. Never once have I deleted content because I disagreed with an idea or censored anyone out of personal interest, even when I strongly disagreed with them.
Comment by Konstantin A Lukin on April 18, 2010 at 8:53am
Hi All. TechHui has been a great community effort, and I am very thankful to its sponsors and contributors. However, even though it is being generously paid for, I would still like to see a 'Donate' button to give people an opportunity, such as myself, to make a monetary contribution. I think it would liberate this network from limited influence, making it more of a community sponsored effort. I believe one should have an opportunity to provide a monetary contribution in order to freely express one's opinions, otherwise it becomes an enclosed benefactor model. I would personally feel much more comfortable with expressing myself on this forum if part of it was paid with my money. Thank you.
Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 18, 2010 at 8:08am
Westley - You draw a faulty ethical and legal analogy. In your example Ning would be in violation of commonly accepted business ethics, and have both civil liability to the companies and criminal liability to the government (it is a felony to gain unauthorized access to, for example, classified information on a government network.) A legal agreement, such as a TOS, cannot supersede the law, but ending a free service in accordance with their terms of service has neither civil nor criminal implications.

Ken - I agree they botched the PR aspect of this move. I imagine Mr. Rosenthal will be having some uncomfortable discussions with Ning's board. That being said, its premature to panic about the general health of the company and the future of its paid services. Their E round brought them to $119m in funding, so they are very well capitalized, and their recent workforce reduction means they have a relatively low burn rate. Ning has a long runway.


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