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Net People

Plumbing in depth
on the World wide Web

By Ivan Weiss - May 1996
Seattle Times copy editor

Pipes leak? Toilet won't flush right? Even for you, there's help on the Internet's World Wide Web.

Hill Daughtry, known to his Vashon Island neighbors as Hill the Plumber, has one of the snazziest sites on the Web, ``theplumber.com,'' and one of the most informative.

It's not just for his plumbing business. Work on the island keeps him busy enough, and in a small community where everybody knows you, who needs a Web site?

If you're becoming a worldwide information broker for an entire industry, you need a Web site. If you're in Osaka, Japan, and you need a plumber, you can link to Takabon's home page from Hill's. If you want safety tips, or a list of how-to books, or a quick source of plumbing supplies, this is the place. Hill has links to septic system and bathroom-design information, a history of plumbing, and one of the most complete lists of Frequently Asked Questions - his own creation - on any subject on the Internet. And if that's still not enough, you can, of course, e-mail Hill directly.

The page is fun, too. Hill, who does all his own page design, has loaded it with all the animated GIF files and Java applets it will handle, right down to a flushing toilet and some notes on the legendary Thomas Crapper. But that's just a light touch for some serious business, right at the heart of online entrepreneurship. Hill wants plumbing-allied businesses to buy advertising space and links on his page, and he wants to design their Web sites. He wants to sell their information to his customers, and he wants to sell his information to theirs.

Time is on his side, he thinks, but for now it's slow going. When he reaches 1,000 hits a day on his home page, he thinks he will get page-design jobs and the advertising. ``The resistance is unbelievable,'' he says. ``What I'm really after is credibility.''

He may get it with a project under construction - a downloadable plumbing database, containing parts and specifications, that wholesalers, retailers and consumers would pay for.

Until then, the gateway to a lot of plumbing help is only a few keystrokes away - complete with the sound of the flushing toilet.

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