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Bob Spouts Off -- Rants, Raves, and Maybe a Little Clarification

May 14, 2001

This will be a sporadic column. 

In this, the first edition, I'll explain a little more about myself than the biography on the About the people and products page and give some notion of the background for this site.

One of the most vivid memories of my childhood was standing on the ramparts of  Fort Ticonderoga looking up Lake Champlain when I was five years old, a scene which was repeated almost 40 years later on honeymoon. It is quite possible my life-long interest in history stems from that summer vacation.

My family moved around Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania and there weren't many historic sites we missed on weekend excursions and family vacations.   My boy scout troop had a camp site not far from Fort Necessity. We lived for a while only a couple of miles from the Daniel Boone Homestead, and junior high school trips went to Hopewell Furnace and Gettysburg. In high school, I became a docent and  tour guide at Old Economy near Pittsburgh. When the time came for college, I loved Williamsburg so much I interviewed at William and Mary. In the end, I attended school in Lancaster, PA, the heart of the Amish tourist area, and in Minneapolis, MN, not far from Fort Snelling. Various coursework, internships with government agencies (working on a historic zoning ordinance, developing an inventory of an 18th century store for a reconstruction project) and volunteer work (several local historical societies and museums) fed these interests.

In the end, the federal government hired me and I learned real estate, finance, regulatory law and investigative practices and techniques.

In September, 1999,  the day after my 20th anniversary with the federal government, I quit to enter an  e-commerce certificate program at the Loyola University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.   Over the next 9 months I learned as much as I could and rediscovered some old skills and interests, as well as learning how web sites are supposed to work and developing  interests and working knowledge in new areas such as web site usability and various systems analysis techniques.

At the end of May, 2000, I finished the program and considered the future. My goal has never been to become the next Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, and with a working wife and small child at home, I wanted nothing to do with a 24/7,  travel-5-days-a-week corporate or dot com position.

With a supportive wife, the summer was spent working part time in an academic library near my daughter's day care and redecorating our living quarters while casting about for a way to make a living combining my various skills, talents, and interests. Much of the search involved extended web surfing to see what worked and didn't, during the time when the boom was rapidly being replaced by the bust.

In the end, the idea of a series of limited-scope sites which allow visitors to zoom in on the kind of places that interest them, get detailed information about them,  and then learn what is near those places seemed feasible. I've been calling  them reverse portals. Instead of trying to tell everything about City X or state Y, Step Into History will allow an easy search for living history museums, and then tell the visitor what  is near them and how to learn more about them.

Let me know if it works for you.

Bob Riley



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