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Happy Anniversary Benefits Link

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Thank you very much Tom and Belgrath!

BenefitsLink has been successful only because talented professionals read it and use it. I think of this every time I see the subscriber stats to the newsletter or watch in happy amazement as sophisticated and important questions are posted to the message boards and then are answered by altruistic colleagues who contribute their time and talent towards helping out a peer. It is an awesome community, and I am just the geek who got the ball rolling back when the Interwebs were young.

My wife, Lois, is an employee benefits attorney who has supercharged the operation of the newsletter especially, having jumped in with both feet when our son left the nest (she had been homeschooling him full-time). This operating simply wouldn't be what it is, but for her contributions and her encouragement to me. We've been married for almost 25 years, and it is no coincidence that BenefitsLink started under her watch and has prospered during that time. I remember well toting along a PC when we took family vacations, and dad would need to spend the morning on some dial-up connection putting together the newsletter.

See http://benefitslink.com/newsletters for the archives, especially the ones from the mid-to-late 90s. Also fun is http://benefitslink.com/whatsnew/archive/ where you can find the web pages showing all of the new developments on the Internet -- one per month!

For example, the DOL's Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration gets its own web page in October 1995, as does the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans -- http://benefitslink.com/whatsnew/archive/whatsnew.10.95.html -- the PBGC web site came online in March of 1996 -- http://benefitslink.com/whatsnew/archive/whatsnew.03.96.html -- then in September of 1996 we had to update the What's New page every week! Whew, an avalanche. It's not clear when the IRS web site came online, but it appears to have been some time in early 1995 or before. It wasn't very useful to employee benefits practitioners until later. It wasn't until September of 1995, for example, that one could find the actual text of revenue rulings and revenue procedures online, in the form of the Internal Revenue Bulletins, although I had to report that the "Only problem is they're in Adobe '.PDF' format; you need the freebie Adobe Acrobat viewer software to read them." -- http://benefitslink.com/whatsnew/archive/960915.html

Unfortunately some of the links that were in the original What's New pages have been deleted -- at one time I was going through the pages and deleting any links that had gone bad. They would have been of interest looking back 20 years ago, but who knew they'd be looking back 20 years! I was only in my early 30's, and of course was immortal and would not be getting older older very soon.

The birthday of the message boards appears to be September 8, 1996, so they're almost 20! Maybe we should think about how to celebrate that, coming up in less than 6 months! -- http://benefitslink.com/whatsnew/archive/960908.html

Unfortunately the earliest message threads have been lost in the ether, probably due to changes that were made in the software over the years, when data migration was a much bigger deal. The first software came from a CGI/Perl book then available at many bookstores (though I didn't know it at the time); I remember shelling out $500 in 1996 dollars for a computer expert to install it for me and show how to use it! But I was so thrilled, and didn't think anything of it. Then I moved to vBulletin, then to the current IP Board by Invision Power Services. (BTW, IP Board has a new version available, which is much more user friendly and seems to have a good bit more in functionality -- I am playing with an installation on a beta server and will let you know when it's in a version that you could play with, to help determine whether it's worth the upgrade, not in monetary terms but in terms of needing to get used to some different interface. Or take a look now one of the vendor's message boards at https://invisionpower.com/forums/forum/481-product-feedback/ -- but I have recently found and am intrigued by a different vendor that provides a much simpler interface with searching features that may be as good or better -- it's called Discourse, and it's by the team that runs the very useful Stack Overflow board for software developers -- please take a look at http://try.discourse.org/

THANKS again for your notes, and THANKS so much for participating!

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