A Social Networking Neophyte Learns How to Start a Website

I felt comfortable that the results of my research indicated there was a niche to be filled by starting a Social Networking Website for Baby Boomers. So, how do I start a website? First, I got a mentor. We have a family friend whose son, Jack Moffitt, is a computer scientist and software developer. He is co-author of the GNU GPL licensed streaming media server Icecast. Then he went on to develop http://www.chesspark.com/ and most recently http://www.collecta.com/. Jack started his first company while he was a student at Southern Methodist University and I guessed that he only had a shoestring budget to begin with too.

I contacted Jack by phone and he was amazingly generous with his time and advice. I took copious notes and tried to implement all that he suggested. He said that first I needed a web designer. Jack recommended Marianne Guillen at http://www.array-design.com/. She agreed to help me with the concept and began working on the templates for the website. Communicating by emails and phone calls, we talked through the possibilities of how my concept should look. At first, I was unsure how you could work with someone without ever physically meeting them. But I got used to the “virtual” meetings fairly quickly. After a short time, Marianne had some ideas to show me. Not only does Marianne produce beautiful website designs, she is able to quickly grasp the ideas that the client is trying to communicate. Marianne understood I was a novice-both in starting a website and owning a company. She was a wonderful resource for connecting me with friends of hers to talk to about the joys and pitfalls of being a web startup.

Next on the to-do list: Find a computer programmer.

The Social Networking Site for Baby Boomers that I Envisioned

Since I wanted the website to cater exclusively to Baby Boomers, I started searching for a domain name to illustrate that idea. I found that other people must be interested in Baby Boomers because most of the domain names with either of those words were already taken.

I finally settled on an acronym- SNABBO-Social Network Allowing Baby Boomers Only.

Once I had purchased the domain name, I became consumed with figuring out what the website would look like and what features it would offer. I looked at as many other social networks I could find online, noting what I liked and didn’t like about each. Most of the ones that tried to appeal to the Baby Boomer demographic seemed to focus on topics that pertained to a middle aged person’s life. I thought that was useful for getting important information out to my age group. But, personally, I preferred to think of myself as younger and hipper, than someone who has embarrassing incontinence issues when they laugh too hard.

I felt that Snabbo should be a haven away from the realities of middle age problems. Aging parents, Viagra, and menopause need to be discussed, but not on my Home Page! I also began to notice something about my friends. Over leisurely dinners (since no one needed to rush back to let the babysitter go home) these friends were now more inclined to reminisce and tell stories from way back in high school and college. Turns out they really did miss their glory days.

Here is what I wanted the website to do for Baby Boomers:

  • Allow them to post a photograph from the past as their profile picture. A photo that would let people recognize their old friends even though they might not recognize them now.
  • Have a profile registration process that gleaned as much information as possible from the member. This would enable someone to search for another person and find them even if they only remembered the person’s first name and elementary school they attended. In other words, the information in the database would be fine-grained. The more information you added to site, the greater the search result yields. I also hoped that these kinds of detailed searches might allow scattered families to reunite, help genealogy enthusiasts’ flesh out their family trees, and aid any adoptee searching for their biological roots.
  • As the sixties rolled through the Boomer Generation, many people of my generation began to experience a desire to “repair the world”. A concept that ancient Hebrews referred to as Tikkun Olam. The ideology of the 60’s and 70’s had once sparked my peers to get cause-conscious. I wanted to embrace that idea again on Snabbo. I wanted members to use the website to make other members aware of any worthy causes, charities, or needy individuals. I wanted to have links to such great organizations as kiva.org, sixdegrees.org, and booksforafrica.org.I hoped that Snabbo might enable the strength of the Baby Boomer population (roughly 78 million in the U.S.) to be a force for good in the world.
  •  Join similar interest groups - I wanted Boomers to be able to explore interests and hobbies that they may have put on hold while they were too busy working, raising families, etcetera.
  • Lastly, I wanted Snabbo to be easy to use. Researching online use by Baby Boomers, I found that, although the figure was growing, only a small percentage of my peer group was internet savvy, much less a member of any social network website. There were all sorts of things to consider in this area. The font needed to be a bit larger, explanations of how to use the features had to be prominently displayed and no assumptions could be made that the user had ever been exposed to tools that are commonly incorporated in navigating a website.

A big list, I know, but I have big hopes …

Snabbo.com Launch Day Reflections


Today is the end of the first week after officially launching Snabbo, a Social Network Allowing Baby Boomers Only. Since I kept this idea pretty well under wraps for the entire 3 years of its development, it invariably came as a surprise to my friends when they received an invitation to test the site. Many expressed curiosity as to why I did this. I decided to take a stab at blogging about the experience. I hope to document this process from the genesis of the Snabbo idea, through the development phase and into the current marketing and promotion of the website.

I run for exercise about three times a week. When I run, I get ideas (I am sure I am not alone in having this experience). Over the years, I have also imagined at least 5 possible screenplays and who I would cast in lead roles. So, one day (sometime in November, 2006) after my oldest daughter, Evelyn and I set up a Facebook account for our dog Finnegan as a joke, I went for a run. I started thinking about how, obviously, as my generation has aged we don’t look the same. I don’t think many people who knew me in high school would recognize me now if we passed each other in the grocery store. Then I started thinking that if Baby Boomers had the internet when we were in high school and college, we would be posting photos of us THEN. Just like our kids are doing. Why can’t there be a social networking website that allows Boomers to do that? The side benefits would be that the concept is entertaining, photos posted could be preserved for our grandkids to observe how hip we were, and we wouldn’t be accused of stalking our own offspring on Facebook by being members.

By January of 2007, I decided to do some research.

I found that there were Baby Boomer social networking websites out there already. But no one had hit on my particular idea. These sites encouraged members to discuss aging parents, incontinence and all things pertaining to middle age. That’s ok and there is a need for those types of discussion, but my guess was that most Boomers would rather reminisce about their glory days than think about whether they should have that hip replacement.

I did more research. I like research. I got my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at University of North Texas with Dr. Bert Hayslip, who has studied retirement adjustment and other aging issues for more than 20 years. I wrote my Master’s Thesis on the fallacy of the empty-nest syndrome entitled, Psychological Hardiness and Adjustment to Life Events in Adulthood.

So I read some studies and brushed up on some psychological theories. Erik Erikson a famous developmental psychologist believed that, during middle age and beyond, adults tend to reflect back on their life. They revisit their past experiences, accomplishments and choices. Reflection can help them gain satisfaction with their life or come to terms with any regrets. In any case, my research only ignited my desire to create a website that might address the needs of my generation during this stage in life.