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The Definitive History of the Somali Cat

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Text-only and stuffed with family trees and weird names for registered cats, this page isn't exactly for casual browsers. Still, this ultra-serious site compiled by Walter and Karen Del Pellegrino illustrates the most effective use of mass communication: Telling the world about the stuff you know and love. And, boy, is there a lot to know about Somali cats. From a 1976 report, through newsletters and personal letters, up to a 1998 update, this is the detailed story of the origins of Somalis, including the battle for acceptance with the Cat Fanciers Association. The Pellegrino's offer a great explanation of how it's possible for two short-haired Abyssinians to have a long-haired offspring (and it isn't just teen rebellion). It's controversial (an almost-conspiracy is even suggested), it's mysterious -- it's about breeding cats, for Pete's (or pets) sake!

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I remember it was an evening in 1998 when we received the email from Lycos. Walter was surfing the Internet on our WebTV, a habit formed because that was our first ever Internet connection, and though we finally had a pc with a modem and ISP at that time, it was just more comfortable to surf and read email on the television. I'm embarrassed to say I was napping upstairs when Walter excitedly woke me to report that our cat website had won something.

Won an award? Impossible. Ridiculous, it had to be one of the gazillion faux webbie awards from someone who wanted to exchange links with us. I wasn't really interested but his animated expression was setting off bells and I had to see what the fuss was about. We read and reread the email over and over again and sure enough he was right! We checked it out and it was for real. Some anonymous reviewer had miraculously found our site and really liked it! We were thrilled and still are.

I was amazed because we created the site in 1997 at our dining table by typing every bit of text and code on the WebTV keyboard. We had to keep it simple with no bells and whistles to engage a wide audience. Mastering 'tables' was especially excruciating because of all the many pedigrees.

To check our work we had to drive to the nearest Internet cafe to surf our pages in other browsers and make handwritten notes of the necessary corrections to take back home. It was months of collaborative work, Walter dictating aloud and me typing on the keyboard. That's how I became a raw code advocate; to this day WYSIWYG editors trip me up. I'll use them but when a section simply won't format the way I desire, I have to look at that raw code for the answer.

In 1997 I was anxious to build a website, to be part of this Internet revolution but I didn't want to upload a page just for the sake of having one. I certainly didn't want one of the millions of 'this is my homepage' sites with pics and links. When I dragged out our old Somali memorabilia and asked Walter what he thought about turning it into a website we imagined it as a way to learn about the Internet and all the new technology involved. If a novice Somali owner or two stumbled across the site and found it interesting, great, we'd have accomplished our goal of creating a website, archiving a bit of the history we lived through and passing it on.

Being recognized by Carnegie Mellon's reviewers as one of the Lycos Top 5% websites is awesome.

If you have something to say, don't wait, jump in with both feet and create that website. You don't need marketing, publicity, jazzy scripts, fancy web elements or deep pockets; you just need to get your content out there. Trust me, your audience is out there, ours is; more than twenty five thousand hits on our main page. Your audience will find you.
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A Definitive History of the Somali Cat
Books by the Del Pellegrinos

© 1998 - 2016

on the world wide web since 1998
updated June 25, 2016
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