Entrepreneur Creates Social Network for Dead

(Haaretz) — Looking for your loved one’s headstone? Shelly Furman Asa has created a Google Street View for cemeteries.

Ido Kenan: What are you looking for in cemeteries?

Shelly Furman Asa There are many things that have been done in connection with the commemoration of soldiers, Holocaust victims and so on. But we don’t have simple ways to commemorate – with high visibility – ordinary, everyday people who did not die in heroic circumstances.

Why not create a kind of phone book of the deceased, based on photographs of the headstones with the place and name of the grave, and, at the same time, a kind of Wikipedia to which everyone can add content?

It’s a kind of social network for the dead, or for their relatives. That’s what I was after on my website, www.neshama.info [also in English, though names of the deceased can only be searched in Hebrew]. We worked on it for a year, and it went online last month.

How did you collect such a wealth of information?

The project was very costly − hundreds of thousands of shekels. I got all my family’s friends involved. They contributed to the project and raised the funds together with me. We started to recruit people to take pictures; we created interfaces for the photographers and for people to type in information.

Do you have a business model?

In the first stage − the first year − all we want is for people to visit the site and fill it with content, to have movement. Possibly at the next stage we will ask for a token payment of NIS 3 a month to rent space on the site if you upload a lot of pictures, clips and presentations.

How many headstones are there?

There are more than 120,000 on the site. This month we will also upload Zichron Yaakov. We are continuing to photograph and upload cemeteries. Many people want to know when we will upload the cemeteries of their relatives. We haven’t yet advertised, but people are already submitting requests.

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Are there headstones around which a community, some sort of encounter, has developed?

There are headstones on which people have already written things, and others which have had additional photographs of them uploaded. There aren’t many of those, maybe a dozen at this stage. I think it takes time for people to absorb the idea, to collect material and then upload it.

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Entrepreneur Creates Social Network for Dead

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