June's Web site of the Month, www.jldr.com, started as a way for John Loose, a manager for Sun Microsystems and a student working towards an MBA, to "practice his Web page designing skills." Back in the mid 1990s, when the Internet was still new, Loose designed Web sites for businesses for supplemental income. He used his grandmother's outhouse as the subject matter for the site, based upon his sister's recommendation. The reason his sister recommended using outhouses is explained on the site - it involves a raccoon and a guy with no pants.
Loose was having fun with this site and began to add to it by posting pictures of outhouses he had seen on his travels. The site began to grow and grow. People couldn't get enough. Both USA Today and Yahoo! magazine wrote about Loose's site. What is the fascination? This is the question that must be bouncing around inside people's heads as they spend upwards of an hour poking around this enormous site.
The online store section of the site features many outhouse-related arts and crafts made by Doreen Brannan, a single mom who sells them to help fund her 8-year-old son's battle with cancer. Since she needed to quit her job to help her son cope with intensive cancer treatment, all proceeds go directly to her, as Loose runs his outhouse site as a strictly not-for-profit enterprise. "I hate those banner ads," says Loose.
Another item featured in the online store is the book "Hidden Assets - Stories Behind the Throne" by Dori Hutson. The book is an irreverent examination at the history of the toilet.
The site also includes the Outhouses of America Tour, coverage of the Annual Outhouse Races in Trenary, Mich., Comments to the Curator and, of course, the story of Thomas Crapper.
The Outhouses of America tour has pictures of dozens of outhouses Loose and several people submitted to the site. Some of them are pretty funny, such as the Two-Story Outhouse (with a sign that says "management" on the upper level and "employees" on the bottom).
The Annual Outhouse Races in Trenary, Mich., take place every February and awards are given to the winners of several different events. About 3,500 people attend the event, which features outhouses mounted on skis sliding down the town's main street.
The Comments to the Curator section of the site is basically a message board that explores all things toilet-related. There are many interesting comments and funny stories. Again, people can't get enough outhouses - there are literally hundreds of posts in this section.
John Loose's site is a very entertaining one, but beyond that, it is always fun to find examples of resounding success coming from unexpected places. What began as a site "just for the fun of it" now is generating a lot of money for people in need.