Posts Tagged ‘Social Networking’

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy Challenge #5: Trying Out Worldcat.org

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

logo_wcmasthead_enThis week Amy Coffin‘s 52WtBG challenge directed us to explore the online library catalog aggregator Worldcat.org. Here’s how Worldcat defines itself:

WorldCat.org lets you search the collections of libraries in your community and thousands more around the world. WorldCat grows every day thanks to the efforts of librarians and other information professionals.

I wasn’t sure what to expect here… would I find lots of historical records about my distant ancestors, or would most of the results returned in searches be modern ones?

Initial Success

After creating an account and a profile (you don’t need to but I was interested in the social features a personal account offered) I started out by typing ancestors’ names into the search box. My first try was Benjamin Trafford, my great-great grandfather who eventually rose to the rank of Colonel in the Civil War. I had heard he’d authored a book on military tactics, but no luck there. Instead, the following entry was second in the results list:

worldcat_benjamin_trafford_results1

It’s hard to read at this resolution, but the catalog entry was quite a find: military orders issued by Benjamin Trafford to the 71st Regiment, N.G.S.N.Y., New York, February 6th 1865.

Can I View It Online?

Naturally I was hoping Worldcat actually had digitized the “book” so I could view it and download it. But alas, no. Instead, I was shown a list of repositories from which I could theoretically inter-library loan the record (or retrieve it in person if I lived near any of them.) Turns out the New York Historical Society has it.

Sounds Like a Job for Genlighten

Since Genlighten has several lookup providers who live in the New York City area, I could go create a custom lookup request and ask for a provider to retrieve this document, scan it and upload the resulting image to my account. Or, since our daughter works reasonably close to the New York Historical Society, I could ask her to make the trip. Either way, it sounds like it’d be worth it. I would have had no idea this record existed if WorldCat hadn’t found it for me.

What Else Can I Do on WorldCat?

The site offers all the Web 2.0 features you’d want in a modern online catalog. Using nearby links, I can:

  • Add the record to a list of my favorite finds (I can even customize different lists with different titles)
  • Tag the entry to help future searchers
  • Write a review or rate the document from zero to five stars
  • Share a link to the entry via email, on the usual social networks like Facebook or Twitter, or via social bookmarking sites like Digg or Delicious
  • Find similar items in the WorldCat catalog (in this case, a great collection of books about the 71st Regiment, NY State National Guard.)

I promptly created a personal User List (one of the benefits of actually registering and creating an account) and added the Benjamin Trafford entry to it.

Wouldn’t it be Cool…

As I tried each of these social features out, I couldn’t help but wish that WorldCat had the Family History Library Catalog entries available with all of this functionality. But of course, that’s where Genseek is supposed to come in, right?

“Click Here to Order Digital Images of this Item”

Missing of course, was the feature we at Genlighten are particularly eager to see: the “Click Here to Order Digital Images of this Item from Genlighten.com” button. Not to worry, we’re working on that.

Eternos: Preserving your Tweets, Facebook Photos, Gmail and RSS for Future Generations

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Well, that didn’t take long.

A few weeks back, I posted about Bud Caddell’s idea for a Social Media Time Machine that would “Preserve and Curate My Social Media for Future Generations.” This weekend, I was followed on Twitter by a startup that looks like they’re trying to build exactly that. It’s called Eternos.

What Does Eternos Do?

From what I can tell right now, Eternos lets you backup your Tweets, your Facebook status updates and photos, your Gmail account and an RSS feed of your blog. You can browse through your  “artifacts” using a timeline format. If you’re not into social media, Eternos lets you upload and store standard content such as photos and videos. I’ve let it connect to my Twitter account, and that seems to work fine. It’s cool to be able to access the older tweets that Twitter.com typically won’t let you see. No luck syncing with Facebook yet though.

eternos_tweet_timelineHow Much?

It’s free during the beta period, and they’ll offer the usual “Freemium” pricing plan after that. That typically means that basic functionality will continue to be available for free, while a paid pro account will be needed to access the coolest features (including ones they’ll add over time.) Sounds reasonable to me.

Am I Excited?

I like what Eternos is doing… it seems like it’s got a lot of potential. Right now (as one would expect for a minimum viable product) it does the basic things it needs to do. They’ll iterate based on early customer feedback and add additional capabilities over time, I’m sure.

What I don’t see yet is the “Wow!” factor… the sense that they’re adding something uniquely valuable on top of the archiving function. In my post discussing this idea, I mentioned that I wanted to be able to look backwards in time and see relationships forming and evolving. Will Eternos tackle that? Are they developing some cool social media algorithms up there in Seattle? We’ll see!

Social Media Outposts — Personal vs. Corporate

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

As we get closer to letting a few potential early adopters preview Genlighten in private beta form, we’re taking a few tentative steps towards establishing some new social media outposts on the web in addition to this blog.

Up until now, I’ve shifted back and forth here between sharing personal anecdotes and talking about Genlighten milestones and strategy. I’ve done the same with my Twitter account, casually mixing the personal with the corporate. As we start to approach the point where Genlighten becomes an authentic business rather than merely an extremely expensive side-project, it feels like it’s time to give the corporate entity and the CEO their own respective social media channels.

Genlighten — the Corporate Web Presence

What’s that mean going forward? For one thing, Genlighten now has its own Twitter account: @genlighten. There aren’t many updates there yet, but eventually that’ll be the account for our users to follow if they want updates on new features, scheduled maintenance, unscheduled downtime, special events, etc..

The Genlighten blog will remain our formal corporate communication channel — the place to hear what we’re up to, how we view the genealogy marketplace, and what we think we can offer that’s unique. But in keeping with the typical guidelines for a corporate site, I’ll probably inject my personal life here a bit less than I’ve done in the past.

We also now have a Genlighten fan page on Facebook: try this link, or just type “genlighten.com” into Facebook’s search box.

A YouTube channel (for Genlighten how-to and help videos) and a Slideshare.net account (for presentations) are still in the planning phases.

Me as CEO and Co-Founder

Because I want to continue to communicate in an informal way with the Genlighten community as well as with friends, family and colleagues, I’m now maintaining a personal blog at nicelittleniche.com. Since Genlighten, family history research, and the entrepreneurial worldview are such a huge part of my life at the moment, you can expect my nicelittleniche posts to focus on those three areas. But you’ll also get the occasional update on my family or the fun things we have going on when we’re not Genlightening.

In case you’re wondering, the title for the personal blog was inspired by a visitor to our booth at a Genealogy Conference last year, who, when she heard what we were up to, said without the slightest hint of condescension: “Oh… that’s a nice little niche.” [grin]

I’ll continue to share 140-characters-or-less views of my day-to-day experiences via my personal Twitter account, @hikari17.

And if you just can’t get enough of us…

…You can also follow my account on FriendFeed here. That way you’ll get both the personal and the corporate perspective in one place.

Thanks!

“Facebook Connect” to link your activity on Geni to your Facebook Profile

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Geni logoFacebook logo

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, users of the family-tree-based social networking site Geni will soon be able to share their genealogy activities with their “friends” on Facebook.  The new initiative, dubbed Facebook Connect, will let Facebook members tie their online profiles and activity feeds with their accounts on Geni.  This would potentially lead to Facebook activity feed updates such as “Dean Richardson added new ancestor data to his tree on Geni”, for example.  Similarly, when logging into Geni, users might be able to access their Facebook friends’ family trees, depending on their friends’ privacy settings.

For Facebook, allowing its members to bring their friends with them to other popular web sites offers the promise of enhanced advertising revenue.  That might work in the following manner.  You visit a travel site such as TripAdvisor.com and login using your Facebook ID.  You view ads on those sites, click on the ads and spend money with the ads’ sponsors.  TripAdvisor receives ad revenue from your clicks, and a portion of that revenue is shared with Facebook.  Multiply that scenario by Facebook’s hundreds of millions of users, and you can see why the idea is an attractive one both to Facebook and its partners.

The impact of the partnership for a site like Geni, which famously lacks a robust revenue model, is less clear.  Does Geni’s participation in Facebook Connect mean we’ll start to see banner advertising next to our family trees and profile pages?  Or will Geni instead monetize its users in a more indirect fashion, perhaps by sending them to pay-oriented sites via Facebook?  Perhaps Geni simply views its participation in Facebook Connect as a way to attract more users, leaving the monetization strategy still to be determined.

Whatever the business-oriented implications of this initiative, it’s exciting to see Geni executing successfully on its objectives of making it easy and fun for everyone — even the “Facebook Generation” — to learn about and preserve their family history.

[Hat tip:  itgeniaus (via twitter) and Social Media]

Genealogists Joining Social Networks — Is it a Trend Yet?

Monday, June 30th, 2008

One of my takeaways from the Blogger Summit at the SCGS Jamboree last week was Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak‘s revelation that all of a sudden, more and more genealogy enthusiasts are flocking to Facebook. I had already heard from DearMyrtle about the growth of a nascent genealogy community in Second Life. Two data points obviously don’t make a trend, but it would appear that family historians are approaching a tipping point with regard to online social networking — and are beginning to add it to their arsenal of research techniques. But are they really? And if so, in what kind of numbers?

Smart money is clearly being invested in genealogy-oriented online communities. Geni is perhaps the best-known current example (and my personal favorite), with its emphasis on building your family tree online by collaborating with your living relatives. Not long after it was launched, well-respected venture capital firm Charles River Ventures invested in Geni at a $100M valuation. Paul Allen at FamilyLink (nee World Vital Records) has long evangelized for genealogists to embrace the power of social networking and has seemingly built much of his company’s strategy accordingly. And no less an authority than Dick Eastman has backed up his belief that “social networking sites will be the ‘next big thing’ in online genealogy” by joining the advisory board of FamilyBuilder. But are these observations representative of mainstream genealogy enthusiasts’ behavior, or do they simply reflect the vision of early adopters?

In deciding on the feature set we wanted to incorporate in our upcoming beta release of Genlighten, we surveyed a group of 500 or so existing customers of ChicagoGenealogy.com, a genealogy lookup website focused on Cook County Illinois. Social networking was only mildly important to our 230 or so respondents:

our chigen customer survey results

Of course, this result might simply stem from a poorly-phrased survey question or the placement of social networking last in the list of possible responses.

Other more credible surveys mirror ours, however. In a December 2007 report entitled “Baby Boomers and Silver Surfers: Two Generations Online”, eMarketer found that only 18% of seniors age 50-60 were interested in online social networking. For those 60 and older, the number was even lower: 14%. Since these are the prime demographics for active involvement in genealogy, websites focusing on social networking for genealogists would appear to have an uphill climb to change existing behaviors and preferences. I believe that these companies will need patience, staying power, and a keen ear for customer insights if they are to ultimately be successful.

In the meantime, I have high hopes that sites like Geni, FamilyBuilder and their imitators can make headway introducing the Facebook generation to the joys of Family History. That in itself would be a tremendously praiseworthy accomplishment.

As for our strategy at Genlighten, we’re reluctant to jump on the social networking bandwagon just yet. If and when our customers indicate a strong desire for them, we may consider adding selected social networking features to the site. But for now, we’re focused on becoming a premier source for genealogical documents. If our users want to share the documents they get from us with others, we’ll try to make it easy for them, perhaps with something as simple as an “Export to Footnote” or “Add to your Geni tree” button.

Where do you stand with regard to Genealogy and Online Social Networks? Are you using Facebook, Second Life, Geni or FamilyBuilder in your research efforts? Have you managed to convince someone else to do so? Please leave a comment and let us know.