Archive for January, 2011

ExpertConnect’s going away. Can Genlighten take its place?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

At Genlighten, we’ve tried to take the 37Signals approach towards our competitors:

People sometimes ask us how much we look at the competition. The answer: not much. We can’t control what they do. We can control what we do. So we focus on that.

Still, when I first heard about Ancestry’s plans to debut ExpertConnect just a few months before our beta launch in 2009, my stomach experienced one of those roller-coaster drops that tend to characterize startup life.

Now a year and a half later, ExpertConnect is shutting down. When I saw Ancestry’s e-mail in my inbox yesterday, I went through three reactions in rapid succession:

  • Cool, the 800-pound gorilla has left our market… we don’t have to compete with them anymore!
  • Uh-oh. If they can’t make this business work, how can we expect to?
  • Darn… I wish all our marvelous new features were ready to go right now!

Now that we’ve had a little time to process it, here’s our “official” response to Ancestry’s announcement:

To our current clients and providers:

  • Genlighten will continue to serve you in the months and years ahead. We’ve heard your feedback and we’re working hard to implement the improvements and new features you’ve asked for.
  • Our next release is currently targeted for the end of June. We’ll be inviting some of you to test the new version beginning in March or April. You’ll see an upgraded homepage, simplified navigation, a brand-new search capability, internal messaging, and an overall higher level of fit and finish.

To ExpertConnect users considering switching to Genlighten:

  • We’d love to tell you that we’re ready right now to step in and completely fill the void left by ExpertConnect’s departure. We’re not. But we expect to be there soon.
  • When we first launched, we focused Genlighten on offline record lookups rather than hourly research in order to differentiate ourselves somewhat from Ancestry. In response to client and provider requests, we are now revising our strategy. We plan to fully embrace high-end professional research offerings and online searches in addition to document retrieval and record lookups.
  • By joining us now, you’ll have the opportunity to exert a significant influence on the direction we take in response to ExpertConnect’s closure. We’d love to get your help in making Genlighten all you’d like it to be.

Our next release

When our new release is launched this summer, we plan to offer both new and existing users the baseline functionality ExpertConnect had, plus:

  • a flexible and customizable storefront interface optimized for client discovery and frictionless e-commerce.
  • no one-year “lock-in” of clients you acquire through Genlighten
  • active social media marketing of your profile and service listings
  • tools to let you promote your presence on Genlighten via your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Adwords and more
  • analytics to help you understand how to draw more traffic to your offerings.
  • search-optimized research tools for localities and repositories that will attract visitors to the site and spotlight our providers to prospective customers.

How we plan to succeed

Genlighten lacks Ancestry’s global reach, brand awareness, massive staff and financial backing. Still, size and strength apparently weren’t enough to make ExpertConnect “a winner“. [Note the first comment to that linked post on Dick Eastman's blog. It's a particular favorite of mine!]

We think there are some advantages to our small size that will keep us from getting “blown out of the water.” For one thing, we don’t need to make anywhere near as much money as Ancestry required to justify ExpertConnect’s existence. We’re completely bootstrapped, with no institutional investors, so we’re quite content to be a “lifestyle business.” At the same time, Genlighten is our core product, not an add-on to a much larger offering, so you can expect us to be focused on it for the long term. And there’s another upside to our small size: when you call us on the phone or e-mail us, you’re connecting directly with our founding team.

Thanks!

As you can imagine, this is an exciting time for our little startup. We hope you’ll share it with us! If this is your first time here, please explore the site and contact us with your questions and suggestions. If you’ve been with Genlighten for a while, please help us spread the word to your fellow genealogists. Either way, Thank you for your interest and support!

Downloading Multiple Images with a Few Clicks of a Mouse

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

DownThemAll!Let’s say that a provider has completed your lookup and uploaded the resulting images to Genlighten. How do you get them from there to your computer’s hard drive?

If it’s just a couple of images, click on the thumbnail to load the full-size image in your browser, then right-click and save it to your computer. From there you can print it, share it, or attach it to a record in your genealogy database.

But what if it’s a divorce file with eighty images? You could right-click and save eighty times but there’s an easier way to transfer the files to your computer if you use Firefox as your browser.

Go to https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/downthemall/ and download the Firefox add-on called “DownThemAll!” It’s a five-star program developed by Nils Maier, a graduate student at the Technische Universität Braunschweig in Germany.

When the program has finished downloading you’ll be prompted to close Firefox and open it again. After you’ve done that, you’ll find that DownThemAll! appears in the drop-down tools menu.

Once you’ve installed the add-on–it takes no time at all to do it–log into Genlighten and go to the lookup report page that has the images you’d like to download. Select DownThemAll! from the drop-down tools menu.

You’ll see a screen that looks like the image below. Notice that there are Genlighten files listed that you won’t want to download. Typing .jpg (or .tiff or .pdf — whatever file type the provider used) in the box that says “Fast Filtering” will select just the images you want to download.

DownThemAll! Download Manager

If you want to save the files to a particular place on your computer, click the folder icon next to the “Save Files In” drop-down and navigate to the correct folder.

Then click “Start!” If your experience is anything like mine, the images will download remarkably fast. I started counting “one-thousand one, one-thousand two … ” when I started a batch of 120 files and it was finished by the time I got to ” … one-thousand sixty.”

If you try this approach to downloading images, stop back by and let us know how it worked for you.