Has it been a year already?

Twelve months ago, Latvians Online made its debut on the Web. After several months of deadline-pressure work, five people in two hemispheres launched a mostly English-language Web site that we all thought had potential to accomplish something interesting in the world of Latvian media. If nothing else, it would be fun.

Granted, Latvians Online in one sense was not new or different. It was a merger between LatBits, a Web site run by Arnis and Daina Gross in Melbourne, Australia, and SVEIKS.com, run by Todd Rossman and myself. LatBits, established in 1997, began as an e-mail newsletter covering the Latvian presence on the Internet. It eventually became a Web site, too. SVEIKS.com, a news and features service, appeared on the Web in January 1999 and represented a merger of two independent Web sites run by Rossman and me.

But in other ways, Latvians Online was new. It combined elements of the "three C’s" that some Web experts point to as necessary for the success of an Internet business: content, community and commerce. It relied—and continues to increasingly do so—on what some would call a distributed workforce. We have people in Melbourne, Australia; suburban St. Paul, Minn., and Stockholm, Sweden. We have regular reviewers and writers in Wisconsin, London, New York and Rīga. (In fact, I have to admit to having met only some of the folks I work with.) Certainly in the Latvian diaspora, we were doing something not yet seen on the Web.

And Latvians Online also was new because, I believe, we have all gone into this with a certain sense of love and adventure.

Latvians Online, in both philosophical and economic ways, is a labor of love. We haven’t planned to get rich doing this, and so far we are on target. Like many ethnic businesses, our purpose goes deeper than merely trying to generate income. We all care deeply about the Latvian community.

Latvians Online also is an adventure. While all of us have years of experience and skills in various aspects of online media or Latvian community work, we have had to learn much along the way: digital video editing, server side includes, marketing techniques and the gentle art of persuasion are among the technical and social skills we’ve added to our toolkits. We’ve been reminded time and again that Latvians Online is very much part of a worldwide community. We learn quickly when we’ve done a good job, or when we’ve made a mistake. We’ve had people yell at us, we’ve had people laud us. And even among ourselves, relationships have at times been strained.

So much has happened in the past year, both within our little Latvians Online world and outside it, that our first anniversary seems almost a footnote. But I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far and look forward to the years ahead to see where we end up.

But for now, I should close. Daina Gross, our managing editor, is probably sitting by her computer in Melbourne, drumming her anxious fingers on the keyboard and wondering if I’ll ever meet a deadline. Not this time, Daina. But once we put this latest update "to bed" (to use an old print journalism expression), I’ll be sure to toast her, Arnis, Gita and Todd for the commitment they have offered during our first year.

Liels, liels paldies!

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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