BJT140926-001SQ445DKFR01Howdy, I’m Barbara Tomlin, CEO of Westward Connections Inc. Since the ’80s I’ve been building online communities, most of which reach out to correlating communities offline. One of the most significant virtual community projects that turned into lifelong connections in the world offline, is the worldwide community of hot air and gas ballooning fans, pilots, and ballooning event officials.  Because the majority of the members of all my online communities have tended to refer to me as “Barb”, I’ve branded myself as Barb♥T♥USA online whenever and wherever possible.

In April 2011, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer.  Much to everyone’s surprise, not only did I survive, the cancer tumor was successfully removed, and it turned out that the cancerous growth was self-contained, leaving no further signs of cancer in my body. After a long recovery and multiple surgeries, three years later I began to feel like a normal person again, albeit I did not look the same physically or feel the same emotionally. Through my battle with cancer, I learned just how precious life is and how to honor my body and nurture my mind to live a healthier, more meaningful life.

To help myself get a sense of direction in moving forward, I enrolled in Marie Forleo’s 2014 B-School, turning my attention away from my company’s domain holdings and web publications. I decided to concentrate on learning the art of storytelling, writing a book on 21st-century financing alternatives for creative businesses, and continuing my education on business and technology topics of interest.

I created and published the first website for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in 1994. It was hosted by a local Internet services provider (ISP), Rt66.com, owned by John Mocho. The site was a sub-domain of Rt66.com, located at http://www.rt66.com/~kaibf. Both Mocho and I donated our services to Fiesta that year. Before the event had ended, I realized we needed a backup server and route to the Internet if we were going to reach the Internet traffic wanting to visit the site.  At that time in Internet history (pre-ICANN), there were seven top-level domain name extensions available:

  1. .COM
  2. .ORG
  3. .NET
  4. .EDU
  5. .INT
  6. .GOV
  7. .MIL

Eligibility to use those top-level domain extensions was regulated by the authoritative registry,  Verisign, Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSN).  A friend of mine at that time, worked for Verisign so I called him for guidance in advising AIBF on which extension to register for the organization.  Because the event was registered non-profit, it qualified for a “.ORG” extension, but we agreed that because “.COM” extensions were likely to become more memorable, the event should register the corresponding .COM. The annual registration fee back then was $200 per extension. My friend and I agreed that shorter domain names were the way to go as web users had to enter the entire domain name in their web browsers to get to the destination.  I suggested that acronyms and generic names were more memorable. We agreed that I should advise AIBF to consider registering aibf.org, aibf.com, balloonfiesta.com, and balloonfiesta.org.  Because of the expense, the organization decided to go with aibf.org at the time.  Before I finished my tenure, though, I did convince the board to register balloonfiesta.com and balloonfiestastuff.com.