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Two Steps Forward and No Steps Back

By Steve Paul Johnson
January 3, 2001

2000 was a good year.

In a way, the new millennium was a new start for Interment.net. We've been around since March of 1997, but in those days we were just a baby. It seems that 2000 marked a time when we got bigger, and people started to take notice. It's like we stepped out of the house and ventured outdoors.

2000 was a defining year for us. Defined our role in the community, defined how people perceive us, and defined our expectations.

Coming out of the starting blocks, we migrated the site to a dedicated server to give us more bandwidth, and that alone was quite a learning experience. In July of 2000, we upgraded to yet an even more powerful server.

Probably the most significant moment is bringing our editor, Maggie Rail, on board. Maggie's diligence and dedication has made this site grow faster than it has ever had, and she has also been a big advocate and spokesperson for us. At the beginning of 2000, she began helping me format raw transcriptions into a publishable form, and by the end of the year, she has taken on the day-to-day duties of publishing transcriptions.

The site has received quite a bit of publicity in 2000. Several of the articles I wrote for our journal have been republished in a variety of locations, including Ancestry.com, the Journal of the Ontario Genealogical Society, and a variety of smaller websites. We've received newspaper publicity in California, Texas, and Washington, and through the Associated Press. We've been reviewed in magazines including Smart Computing Magazine, Family Chronicle, and FamilyTreeMagazine.

In 2000 we established partnerships with other websites. The first one, with Software Wonders of NJ, the creators of CemeteryJunction.com, RecordsRoom.com, GenealogyToday.com, and others, was to create an alliance that would help us develop new features and cross promote each other. We also struck a similar deal with SavingGraves.com. And finally our partnership with DistantCousin.com has further solidified. These partnerships have helped us reach out to more people as well as refer new material to us.

In the past year we've helped people find the resting places of their friends and family. We've received lot's of e-mail from people expressing joy that they were able to find a long lost aunt, or great-grandfather, and even a brother separated at birth. I personally have received such an e-mail about once or twice a month, and Maggie just the same. For every such e-mail we receive there are probably several more people who found success but did not write to us. Even the people who have had their cemetery transcriptions published on our site, have told us that they had received similar e-mails. It's hard to put a number on it, but it'd be safe to say that we've helped resolve a few hundred mysteries out there.

Interment.net has also emerged useful as more than a genealogical reference. Members of the funeral industry have contacted us about "The Cemetery Column", our journal of Interment.net. The funeral industry have found us a worthwhile venue for reaching out to people regarding pre-planning needs. Interestingly, people who are searching for a missing person, or trying to track down an old high-school buddy, are also using our site to see if any familiar names "pop-up". I have also been contacted by a number of librarians around the country trying to find out specific information about a cemetery. Groups trying to protect cemeteries have found us to be a good venue for bringing attention to their causes. One such group in Portland, Maine published their cause in our journal, and received several letters of support which proved key towards banning dogs from a historic cemetery.

The amount of content on Interment.net has increased significantly. At the start of 2000, we had published transcriptions from about 1,000 cemeteries. At the end of 2000, we have over 3,400 cemeteries. At the start of 2000, we went from about 50,000 total records to over 1.9 million by the end. We also started some projects including our National Cemeteries, Woodmen of the World burials, and the California Mission cemeteries.

In 2000 we launched our Mobile Edition. This allows people to access some of our content on their handheld computers. While it mostly is a offline vehicle for reading the articles in our journal, it also provides some site news, and a list of the newest cemeteries that we add. We get about 20 to 30 syncs to the mobile edition each day. Considering the average handheld user syncs their device about once per week, that probably translates anywhere from 150 to 200 total subscribers.

So what do we have in store for 2001? Publishing more cemetery transcriptions is the first order of business. We want to establish ourselves as the most popular destination for cemetery transcriptions. If you have compiled a list of burials at a cemetery, we want you to think of us. Our mission is to publish it on our site and give it as much attention as we can give it. I'd like to set a 2001 goal of publishing a transcription, complete or partial, for 3,000 cemeteries, bringing our total up to 6,500.

Expect a significant development of our journal, "The Cemetery Column". I would like it to grow into a vehicle for everyone involved with cemeteries, be it recordists, preservationists, or funeral professionals. To do this, we'll be looking for columnists in various arenas: genealogy, cemetery preservation, funeral industry. We'll be inviting guest writers, asking people to do product reviews. We'll also be moving the old "Featured Photograph" to the journal and rechristening it as a photo gallery for the more interesting cemetery photographs. Also expect to see more involvement from the funeral industry. Genealogists should benefit by reading what the professionals in the cemetery and funeral business have to say about the practice of burials, record keeping, maintaining grave sites, et al.

I think the handheld computer, such as the Palm, the Visor, the iPaq, etc., are going to find their way into everyone's pocket. In the 3 short months since its inception, our mobile edition has attracted between 150 to 200 subscribers. Now that Santa has blessed many of you with these toys, I'm expecting a sharper increase in subscribers. Expect us to do more promotion of our mobile edition. I really have high hopes for handheld devices. I have one and love it. Oh, and it looks like we need a cute little name for our mobile edition. "Mobile Edition" seems too dry. I can never think up good names. Send me your ideas.

I also don't want to count out the eBook. Microsoft has been pushing its eBook technology heavily in an attempt to wrestle the electronic document industry away from Adobe. And I think they'll do it. Adobe's Acrobat standard has a strong presence in the business market, but almost no presence in the consumer end. Microsoft is focusing its eBook technology towards the consumer, and I think they will prevail. If it really takes off, I'd like get involved in it. Perhaps by the end of 2001 we may start publishing cemetery transcriptions in eBook format, allowing people to download them into their handheld devices and use them wherever they go.

I have a good feeling 2001 will be as productive as 2000. Key to this productivity is the fact that we are independent, and free to work without chains. We do not operate under the auspices of a larger bureacracy. We're not funded by investors or venture capitalists. We don't answer to an advisory board, nor do we elect officers.

We just publish content, and take pride in it. Yes we want to be successful, and yes we want to be recognized and appreciated, but who doesn't? We don't want to create a large bulky organization with coordinators at every level. We don't want to become babysitters. And we're not doing this to become rich or famous either. Publishing cemetery transcriptions doesn't make anybody rich or famous. You have to have fun doing this in order to do it.

Well, we hope we've created something useful and cool that everyone will appreciate. We hope you feel confident in recommending us to your friends. 2000 was a successful year, and we thank you for it. The future seems wide open right now, and we hope to have another fruitful year. We hope it will be just as fruitful for you too.

- Steve Paul Johnson

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