ProBoat PILOT was a great idea that was very likely ahead of its time. Professional BoatBuilder magazine publisher Carl Cramer wanted an online database where vendors and end-users could work together to in a supply-and-demand capacity to find any product or service needed for boat building, design, maintenance, or repair. My initial part of the project was to create the classification system that was the backbone of PILOT, which was an acronym I devised for Product & Infomation LOcator Tools. It had 10 divisions, then sub-divisions, then categories—resulting in 1500 topics before going into any additional refinement.
When we brought the system online, we included 10,000 marine industry vendors within the database and had the capability for them to upload product catalogs and company information.
None of this sounds very extraordinary today, but we were doing this in 1993, and we struggled to find the technology that would keep up with our ideas. We went through several systems, and finally were working well with JotSpot and an independent developer when Google bought out the company and essentially closed it down. By that time, the information we wanted to provide was fairly well accessible through other resources, so we did not pursue another online venue. The classification system is still being used by IBEX and several other marine-industry concerns as a valid way to organize information.