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Superstar soaringeagle

Q&A 

If you've ever come across a tip on the Creators Network by soaringeagle, you know his writing voice is as unmistakable as his super-long dreadlocks. He must type about 7,000 words per minute. He has submitted a ton of tips! He seems to follow some of the Rastafari-style patois that you'd expect from someone who's been growing dreadlocks for 22 years. (22 years!!!)

It's clear that soaringeagle has his own unique style, and he's been sharing it on the Creators Network for two years now. In that time, he's built up a successful network to teach newbies how to grow their own dreadlocks, and he's even started a network for his native Philly locale. He knows a surprising amount about SEO, and he's always generous about sharing his tips and tricks with other NCs. He also has a great way of considering all the pros and cons of a new Ning feature that gives Ning employees excellent feedback about what we're building. We crowned him a Ning Superstar and asked him a few questions….



How many Ning Networks do you run? What are they about?


Two that I created, one more I'm an admin on (even though I haven't had much time to help out on it). I created dreadlockssite.com which is all about a free and healthy alternative to extremely expensive and damaged salon dreadlocks or dreads made with harmful products. I recently started phillyhangout.com as well, which is a local arts, music, and culture site. I had also started a green technology site in the past but closed it. And, I'm an admin on rainbowgatherings.org, which is a community for the Rainbow Family and information about rainbow gatherings.

How did you find out about Ning?

I used to be on a site called hipforums.com which was huge (but sucked at the same time). While there, I heard about a new site — I think it was called hippiegatherings.ning.com. I also found rainbowgatherings.org. I was getting tired of the drama and sarcasm on hipforums, so I went looking for a new site. I found dreadlocksforums.com but they had no admin since the day it was created and only one out of 10 that tried to join was able to. We tried contacting the missing admin to fix it, but no luck. So the handful of members and I decided to mutiny and create a better site using the same Ning platform that i was used to using on rainbowgatherings.org. It was a great decision.

You seem to know a lot about SEO. How did you learn all of that?

The same way I learned HTML and CSS — everything totally self-taught. I started off running a Philly-based Rainbow Gathering site. I started off using SEO software and learning through using that, and with just some basic SEO my site accidently was doing better then the main national and worldwide sites. Since that time, I've learned a lot more. I had also worked as an Americorp Vista (sort of like a paid volunteer) for libertynet.org while they were still nonprofit (not sure if they still exist now). I managed over 200 volunteer web designers, so I was somewhat involved with the design of most of the websites for most of the nonprofit organizations in my region.

Where does most of your traffic come from? What content seems to work best?

Most is USA-based traffic, but I have a lot of international traffic, too. My splash page and Main Page and photos get a lot of traffic, but so do the dozens of guides (pages) and forum discussions. One thing that is appreciated about our forums is we don't mind answering the same question over and over. Other sites tend to just tell you to read the stickies or featured discussions and don't bother with personalized answers. By answering the same questions over and over, you get hundreds of answers to the same question worded differently, each one increasing the chances of coming up number one in searches. It also makes the asker feel more welcome and comfortable.

What's at the top of your Ning wish list? What should we be building?

Better sitemaps. Either a server-side crawler that auto-updates on a schedule or root access through Webdav or FTP that would allow direct uploading of sitemaps. An auto-linker that will turn terms found throughout your site into links to specific pages. The ability to add executable code to splash pages (for RSS feeds that need PHP or include code to "run" and that can be made visible to search bots. And, if possible, more control over Javascript that loads with the page.

What does soaringeagle do in his free time?

Well, my favorite thing is attending rainbow gatherings or drumming in the woods around a fire, but my site keeps me pretty busy so I have redefined what free time means, ha ha. I'm also interested in travel off the grid and green construction and helping people. I've been part of a group that has turned one of the worse crack hoods in Philly into one of the safest, most serene, and beautiful spaces. For eight whole years it's been one of the most peaceful spots in town. People have came from all over the country to camp out in a vacant lot that's now a garden in the old crack hood. I love helping people build community and stuff like that.

Just how long are those dreadlocks of yours?

Bout a foot past my toes I guess.