The site began when I started trying to find parts and attachments for my own tractor, an AC B-210, only to find that there was not much information available on the WWW. So, I placed a message on several forums to survey the interest among Simplicity and AC owners for a member-supported site dedicated to these old garden tractors. The response was so overwhelming, and the people so warmly supportive, that the rest, as they say, is "history." You can track our growth by reviewing What's New.
The site began with an evaluation of FrontPage 2000 (beta), plus Word 2000 (beta), and operated on a free space provider (Tripod). These tools were chosen simply as a balance of power and ease of use. Further, I could then rationalize my time spent building it as an in-depth evaluation of the Office 2000 suite of tools. I've since purchased FrontPage 2000, upgraded it to FrontPage 2002, and am overall quite pleased -- there's simply no way that the site could have grown as fast as it has, given my level of skill, using any other tool.
The club functions originally began on a free Yahoo forum, but frustration with its bugs and reliability led me to soon start looking for alternatives. I began evaluating alternative forums and settled on one. This, in addition to quickly outgrowing the available space, required that we move off the free Tripod service. I then registered the domain name of Simple trACtors, combining the terms the terms of Simplicity, AC (short for Allis-Chalmers), and tractors.
Not too long after I had registered the domain name, and signed a lease for server space, I came to realize that I was doing a couple of things that made me very uneasy:
I was unilaterally making decisions that impacted the entire club or that obligated the club to pay for things, like committing to a long term rental agreement for server space, buying software, etc. I felt that I was clearly overstepping my authority.
I also came to realize that all my efforts could "go down the drain" should there be a major disagreement among club members and I "lost control" of the whole site -- and it was my name on the leases, and my money spent . . .
What really started this train of thought was when trying to register the domain as a ".org" I was asked if this club was a "registered non-profit organization" or if it had a "charter." Since it was unofficial in all respects, and I had no official authority to do anything, I ended up registering it as a ".com" and plopped down my own money. But, all this did set me thinking -- so, I started looking around for alternative concepts of operation. I wanted to make the information available freely, allowing people to openly share, yet I still needed to cover expenses and I had nothing to sell to pay for the ongoing costs. So, I constructed the site so that I could sell ad space, at the same time that I began discussion with a few club members about abdicating my club leadership role. In March 1999, I stepped down as leader of the club, and the club nominated its first officers. I retained "ownership" of the Simple trACtors site, its content, its bills and its obligations, with the understanding that I would continue to serve as Webmaster, be an advisor to the club, and host the clubhouse functions. The boundaries and distinctions are really pretty simple (no pun intended):
The clubhouse, all the software in the clubhouse, and the database of information it contains, all belong to the club. In fact, the clubhouse is so self-contained that it could even have it's own unique "www" domain name, if that's what the club wants -- or they could even move it to a totally different server somewhere else, and combine it with another site....
Simple trACtors remains my property and my total responsibility. Using Simple trACtors, we provide the space to "park" the clubhouse, at no cost to the club, and as "honorary custodian," I try to keep the floors swept, the trash emptied, etc.
This is a mutually beneficial arrangement -- club members buy things from the advertisers on my Simple trACtors site, which pays the ongoing expenses for both the site and the clubhouse. Simple trACtors hosts the clubhouse, and I continue to serve as its custodian, all at no cost to the club or its members.