Archive for January, 2009

GeneaTwits — A Twitter app for genealogists

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Twitter logo

Randy Seaver posed the question yesterday on his blog:  Are any other genea-bloggers Twittering? One non-scientific indicator might be the number of new signups on the Twitter Family History Group, which has roughly doubled in size (from 20 to 40) since Randy’s post.  Or the number of tweets per day containing the word “genealogy”, which is about 28, according to Twitter Venn.  So it appears that the number of genealogists on Twitter is small but growing.

As Elizabeth O’Neal points out, that was true for Facebook as well “in the olden days” — i.e., early last year.  Could Twitter eventually grow to become a useful service for genealogists… the next trendy genealogy hangout spot on the web?  If so, then I have an idea to toss out to any similarly-inclined wannabe genealogy web entrepreneurs.

Suppose that all the genealogy enthusiasts out there in the Twitterverse — I’ll call them “genea-twits”, for lack of a better name — were to include the surnames they’re researching in their genealogy-related tweets, and use a special hashtag in front of them, say the ^ (caret) character.  For example, if I happened to make a noteworthy discovery on my Fillebrown line, I would put ^Fillebrown in my tweet celebrating that find.

Then, suppose someone were to build a web application which aggregated just the tweets in the Twitter-stream with those ^Surname hashtags.  The site could create a ranking of surnames and their popularity, offer a list of recommended genea-twits to follow, perhaps even allow for a simple form of social networking based around specific surnames, localities, or research techniques.  The result would be a site that aggregated real-time research efforts of genealogists across the globe, and connected them with all the immediacy and spontaneity of a 140-character Twitter post.

Imagine if you were at your nearby family history center cranking away on a microfilm reader, and you were struggling to parse a name on a microfilm image.  You could snap a picture using your iPhone and post a tweet with the image and the ^-tag for the related surname.  Fellow genea-twits could then look at your image and — in quasi-real-time — offer their insights and suggestions.

Or what if you were pounding away at census records on Ancestry at two in the morning, and had an idea about a connection you hadn’t considered before.  You could dash off a genea-tweet with your hypothesis, and let your “followers” who happened to also do genealogy at odd hours take a crack at it.

The model for this service would be, a site that aggregates stock-related tweets using the $-hashtag (e.g., $AAPL, $GOOG, etc.)

Here at Genlighten, we’re too busy getting our own website up and running to devote serious time to building  But if someone else would like to tackle it, I’d be happy to offer advice and encouragement.  Heck, I’ll even spring for the domain name!