HOSTSEARCH: Mr. Meaney - thanks for meeting us like this.
MICK MEANEY: You're most welcome. HostSearch provides such an increasingly valuable service as multi-corps continue to dominate the Internet, so it's a pleasure to speak with you.
HOSTSEARCH: So, why don't we start with you introducing yourself and your role in RINF.com.
MICK MEANEY: Sure. I've been a web developer in the UK since 1999 and am the founder of the RINF alternative news web site. Working nine to five for a less-than-ethical company eventually took its toll on me and I decided to focus on highlighting issues that are important to me, in the hope it might educate and inspire others to make small changes within their own lives that could benefit those in poverty and suffering around the world. I'm still very much involved with various aspects of web development - it's a passion.
HOSTSEARCH: I may have missed it on your website - what does "RINF" stand for?
MICK MEANEY: I once read somewhere that a 'rinf' was a mathematical term sometimes used to connect two equations, acting as a bridge between them. I think this fits the site perfectly as it reports information that slips through the mainstream media, often overlooked as the news is dominated by 'major' headlines leaving very little room for a detailed explanation of exactly how these stories tie together and the background which lead to these major events.
Although more recently when I'm asked that question I provide a shorter answer, "Resistance Is Not Futile", which I eventually decided on a couple of years ago. But ask me again in a year and it might mean something else entirely.
HOSTSEARCH: Tell us what RINF.com is all about. How long has it been operating?
MICK MEANEY: I started the site in 2004 and it mainly focuses on the issues of the day but aims to provide a side to each story that the mainstream media has ignored. Obviously there is only so much information newspapers and TV broadcasts can squeeze in, RINF scoops up the news they are unable or unwilling to share.
We do have a slant towards certain issues such as civil liberties and human rights; crimes against humanity; war crimes and we actively promote and organize peaceful direct action against some the heinous atrocities being allowed to happen by world leaders.
A lot of the work we've done is never seen on the Internet, it's done in the local community. We've traveled the country to meet with radicals, make documentaries, produce pod casts and organize peaceful action.
At the moment we are taking time out from traveling because it is extremely tiring. I hope we will soon be back out there organizing free film showings and inviting prominent public figures to share their views.
There are two rules we follow when it comes to public events; they must always be free and they must always provide people with practical real world solutions. There is no point in telling people the wrongs of our political leaders if there's nothing they can do it about. Empowerment is just as important as the message.
HOSTSEARCH: So what was the inspiration behind the site - what was the problem that RINF.com was created to solve?
MICK MEANEY: The Afghanistan and Iraq wars were a huge inspiration for the site. Being a massive fan of Noam Chomsky and the late Bill Hicks also made sure the site was hard hitting and thought provoking. It has evolved a lot since the early days and still continues to evolve. We have a master plan for the site, which we are slowly making a reality.
I'm under no illusions that RINF can solve any of the worlds problems such as slavery, poverty, fascism, global warming etc but if it can make just a few people more aware and more conscious of their own actions and the impact they have on others... people they have never met on the other side of the planet, and how they can absolutely make a difference if they choose to, then RINF is serving a worthwhile purpose.
HOSTSEARCH: I have to say that the site is a great read, and there's plenty on it you can be proud of. Where do you get your stories from? Do you have a team of journalists, or are the stories volunteered?
MICK MEANEY: Thank you very much indeed. There's no official reporting staff besides myself but there are a few people who help out. My fiancée is very important to the team, her organizational skills are essential when it comes to public events and promotion.
We have a good team of forum moderators whose research skills are nothing short of amazing.
A lot of budding authors contribute their work to the site. This will sometimes lead them to greater things such as landing a book deal and becoming a radio show host.
Most of the information is found and researched by myself to check validity of the claims made. I spend several hours each day double checking and verifying reports before they can be published on the site.
Another important aspect is reader feedback, my inbox is constantly brimming with news tips and I often receive reports from people living in heavily censored regimes or living in conflicted areas.
And now we of course have support staff for the web hosting.
HOSTSEARCH: Have you ever had any issues with the law?
MICK MEANEY: Only once, it was a cease and desist order to remove copyrighted material. The site was 'open publishing' up until that point, but when it was shut down for almost a week I decided it was too much of a risk.
HOSTSEARCH: And you have started a web hosting service; tell us about what's on offer?
MICK MEANEY: I'm trying to provide people with what I consider to be the fairest possible service in terms of price and quality. I don't believe there should be restrictions on the amount of bandwidth someone is allowed to use, likewise with the amount of web space they use. I'm seeing hosting companies charging a ridiculous amount of money for minimum service, in my opinion it's just not fair on individuals and small business, especially when some bloggers are not receiving the service they deserve and are being censored purely for their political leanings.
HOSTSEARCH: Now, I am great supporter of freedom of speech, but I actually believe people should have something to say. When pornographers and the like condemn their sites being closed down because it challenges their "freedom of speech" it totally annoys me. Likewise when extremist groups advocate the alienation or annihilation of some group or another, and claim it's their right, I am totally frustrated. Where does RINF stand on this?
MICK MEANEY: I absolutely agree. Pornography is simply not acceptable on our servers; this is not a moral issue alone but one that will also have a detrimental effect on other sites which share the same IP.
Hate sites, racism or any other form of extremism that encourages harm towards people, animals or the environment will be removed immediately. It would also be highly hypocritical of me to allow such content which I personally detest.
HOSTSEARCH: In a recent circular you suggested, "As dissident websites and blogs are increasingly being censored and in some cases shut down for their political views, our new service aims to protect free speech and help keep the multi-corporates from controlling what can be said and done on the Internet." But one man's dissident is another man's extremist. How are you going to draw the line between, say, a hate site and a dissident site on your servers? Isn't this just a matter of interpretation, and isn't it going to require at least a modicum of censorship on your behalf?
MICK MEANEY: That's a very good point and something I've given a lot of thought to in reaching a fair balance between censorship and free speech. The decision ultimately comes down to how I perceive the material but as a rough guideline I follow these two rules;
Does it attempt to lay guilt or blame on one group, race or religion?
Does it encourage the destruction or harm of people, animals or property?
If I answer yes to either of these questions, the site is pulled. Of course time will tell if I need to increase these rules but so far everything has run smoothly.
HOSTSEARCH: And, from the same circular, it seems you are going to be offering your hosting services to businesses. What's the uptake so far?
MICK MEANEY: I would have to say it's very reasonable. I think most recognize a good deal when they see one and want to take advantage. Obviously the service is aimed at smaller businesses which allow us to provide a fantastic level of customer support. We know our clients, they know us. If there's a problem or they aren't particularly technically minded, we are able to spend time with them to make sure they get the most from their hosting. We don't enforce a nine to five policy on support, so if I'm checking my mail at 10pm and I see a support request I will deal with it there and then.
For example, last Sunday I spent half the morning teaching a client how to build and upload a basic web site in Frontpage. OK, it's not the greatest of design packages but for their needs it did the job without costing her even more money on a pro package like Dreamweaver or having to employ a designer. I actually enjoy the support side of things, web development has always been a passion of mine.
We also carry pagers for emergencies, incase the event of a server crash. That hasn't happened but everything has been considered. We've spent a long time planning this and I'm confident that our hosting is extremely reliable, I'm very proud of what we have achieved.
HOSTSEARCH: I don't really know how you finance your operations, but I do know that web hosting is a time intensive activity and it's often difficult to make it pay. Isn't there a risk that as your hosting service grows on a commercial basis that bottom line issues are going to creep in? How are you going to ensure that commercial aspects don't sully your philosophical intentions?
MICK MEANEY: Right now we are covering costs, if at anytime we fail to I would rather cease hosting than see the service become something it wasn't intended to be.
In fact I have left high salary positions because the companies began operating in ways which I considered unethical. We all need money but I know it can be earned in ways that do not feel soul crushing. You can't take it with you in the end, as they say.
HOSTSEARCH: OK - this is hardly clocking in and clocking out stuff. Right now what you are doing is extremely pertinent and it's important there is an alternative voice available if people choose to listen to it. You must enjoy what you do.
MICK MEANEY: Thank you. I enjoy helping people to get their voice heard on the RINF web site immensely but sometimes it is extremely depressing, especially around Christmas and New Year. It all boils down to doing something which I feel is morally and emotionally worthwhile, I do believe the site is worth the effort.
It's a constant battle, albeit one I thoroughly enjoy, between where the site is now and where I want it to be in a year or two. Since the site began we've done so much both online and offline yet hardly half of our long term plans have been achieved because we invest so much time into each stage in order to make sure we do it right and I think this is reflected in our hosting service, which has been in the pipeline for years.