About a year ago, Gary Cochran had an idea.
Cochran's 97-year-old grandmother had just passed away and his children, ages 2 and 4 at the time, didn’t really know their great-grandmother or really who she was from looking at old photos.
“It became pretty obvious to me from looking at other people’s scrapbooks that they were meaningful to them but if I didn’t know the individual or who was in the pictures it didn't really have any meaning to me,” said Gary, a 1986 Glenwood Community High School graduate. “And then I started to realize that's what my kids are going to see: they didn't know who she was and all they will see is some pictures they may or may not have been in.”
Thus, Cochran, and wife Korie’s answer to the scrapbook was born. Legacy Sharing launched last fall (www.legacysharing.com). The site allows members to create their own “virtual scrapbook” with uploaded photos,
videos, audio and journals that can be shared with friends and families.
“What I wanted to do was try and tell the story behind the pictures and fill in the gaps the pictures can't do on their own,” said Gary. “We decided in today's multimedia world, if we were going to try and do something like that, we would include audio and video clips and allow people to tell their stories with text and combine it all together into a virtual book.”
No easy task for a self-described Internet-novice. Gary, a pharmacist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Korie, a physical therapist, have no background in web multimedia or computer programming.
“All we had was an idea of coming up with a good way to tell lifestories and preserve them online,” said Korie.
So the husband and wife hired a web consultant and a programmer to handle the technological side and with assistance from the University of Nebraska Business Development Center, the site launched last November.
“We've come across some really good people to help us put this together,” Korie said.
The site has about 100 members right now. Most services are free. Users can create as many books as they want, share them with as many people as they want and invite anyone into view the books. Invited guests can then add their own media to the books and create their own stories. Site visitors have made books for birthdays, weddings, graduations and living histories.
“We've really thought of this as more of a journal. Our premise was somebody is telling a story as opposed to a scrapbook where there's just pictures. We wanted something story-based,” Gary said. “A lot of people when they hear about it they think scrapbook but we really wanted to create story books.”
The pages of the virtual books literally flip by grabbing the corner of the page with your mouse.
The site's premium services include a one-time fee for books exceeding one gigabyte of memory and if a user wants to download the book to their own computer or a CD. The user is then only charged when the virtual book is downloaded to their own computer. Most virtual books run $5 to $10.
Plans are already in the works to allow streaming on PDA's, phones and Facebook and MySpace pages and digital downloads directly to DVDs.
When the site was originally launched, a membership fee was required to join. The Cochran's have since re-structured the site to its current per download charges. The change to their original business model was a result of two responses from users, said Gary: the time constraints required of making a scrapbook and uncertainly if users wanted to pay for something they weren't sure they would use continually.
“Now they create an account, use it whenever they want and there's no charge,” said Korie.
Gary and Korie aren't sure what the future of their site is. They spend between 40 and 50 hours a week, mostly weekends and evenings, working on the site in addition to juggling work and family time. But that isn't stopping Gary from planning for the future.
“We have additional upgrades we'd like to make to continue to make it more user friendly but it really depends on the user where we go or if it takes off,” said Gary. “From the response we've had so far, we think it may grow fairly rapidly. I really don't have any long term aspirations. We're just taking it one day at a time and see where it goes.”