A Glimpse at BillionGraves.com

Today I learned of a new iPhone app and service called BillionGraves.com.  I don’t have an iPhone, but I am excited by the potential.  My first reaction was “oh no – we already have Find-A-Grave. Why would they compete with them?”  But, in looking at the BillionGraves site, the function is quite different and is really meant to cater to smartphone users – something that Find-A-Grave has not yet aggressively done.

Almost a year ago I blogged a wishlist for what I wanted in a potential Find-A-Grave smartphone app. And, there is already an independently developed app to access Find-A-Grave data.  From the looks of it, BillionGraves is meant to make it easy to take a picture when in a cemetery and upload it.  Find-A-Grave does not support this and the app is okay, but doesn’t quite meet my interests.

What I like about BillionGraves:

  • even w/o the app, I can go online and transcribe photos that others have uploaded. can you say crowdsourcing?  the transcription process is very easy
  • each tombstone picture can be edited by anyone. i like this though I can also see potential problems.
  • automatic GPS integration from phone coordinates.  my problem is my Samsung Fascinate phone is notorious for incorrect GPS.
  • the interface is simple – easy to click around

What could be better:

  • looks like you have to physically be in a cemetery to upload pics; can’t upload pics you already have or someone else may send you for posting
  • because the images can be edited by anyone a revision history and the ability to see who worked on a record would be nice
  • a dashboard is offered for you when you login, but no one else can see your dashboard
  • info is JUST the picture. can’t add supplemental info like you can at Find-A-Grave or link family relationships
  • search options should be enhanced to provide more refined combinations (like person + location)
  • city names are provided for cemetery info, but not the counties – major omission if you ask me. In a Search you can specify county, but if you end up on the cemetery page in another way you won’t immediately know the county
  • it’s not clear to me how they will avoid duplicate entries. this will be important to do.
  • the company does not have a social media presence? they do have a blog, but it’s not linked to the BillionGraves site — both of these issues need to be remedied soon
  • they could take a few more suggestions from my blog post aforementioned about features in incorporate :-)

This endeavor is of course new so I do expect they will continue to develop it.   However, even as is, it will be a useful complement to Find-A-Grave and I can see myself using both on a regular basis.   Very cool.

A.C. Ivory posted on his blog about it and mentioned he would post more for his Mobile Monday posts. I hope he shares his experience actually using the app in the field!

 

19 thoughts on “A Glimpse at BillionGraves.com

  1. Thanks for the comments and blog post! You have some really great insights and suggestions for the app and website! I hope to see those improvements as well!

  2. thanks A.C.! it definitely looks like an interesting app and one I would use. i hope others start to use it too.. and thanks for the twitter post too.

  3. Taneya – Like you, I don’t have an iPhone, but do have hopes that they add an App for the Droid. Also, like you, I signed up, and did some transcriptions.

    I really liked that transcription feature, the way it is, because you enter the data directly from the stone photo. That feature is not quite that easy with Find-A-Grave.

    The Find-A-Grave APP (beta) hasn’t been updated for over a year. Very disappointing.

    I plan on doing more transcriptions in hope that the Driod APP comes soon.

    If there is a disappointment, is that we can’t upload an image that we already have on our PC. If GeoTagging is required, which would be a good thing, a GeoTagged image, from a PC, would be a nice new feature.

    Thank you,

    Russ

  4. I have a brand new iPhone and so I have downloaded the app. I registered but have not received the confirming email as yet. The “location” of your iPhone needs to be enabled.

    I hope to take some example photos this weekend. I have looked over the options in the phone and adjusted them to be saved to my camera “photo” area and not deleted.

    Thanks for the posts both of you. They really helped.

    Midge Frazel

  5. Midge, I too did not receive an email for a couple of hours after I registered. I know it is annoying, but check back in a few hours and I’m sure it will be there!

    Well, I am heading out to the cemetery right now to test it out!!

  6. I signed up yesterday and still no email so I have sent them an email. I checked my SPAM too. I took photos and can’t upload them until they send me that confirming email. The photos look great too.

  7. ooh, i hate when “confirmation” emails don’t come right away. it just irks me. :-) I hope they get it to you soon – I’m eager to see how your pictures turn out.

  8. Hi Russ, they do say they are working on the Adroid app and I agree that it makes it easy to get photos posted quickly.

  9. Taneya – I’ve been doing some transcribing for Billion Graves and overall I have been impressed with the ease of use.

    In addition to your suggestions what do you think about these additions?

    Maybe a zoom button on the transcribing page for those far away tombstones and it wouldn’t have to zoom way in. For us with old eyes! ;)

    Their instructions for transcribing may want to go into a little more depth. Specifically about the last name field. It needs to be very clear how they want and where they want, what you think is the woman’s maiden name, to go. I did this with my first couple ones but quickly caught myself and went by to fix them all….I hope.

    Lastly a button below the pictures so that you can flag the picture as blurry and needs to be retaken.

    As always, keep up the great postings.

  10. Hi Deborah,

    Yes, I like your suggestions! I do hope that the people behind the site are paying attention to some of this feedback. A zoom button would indeed be nice. Also, I didn’t see any instructions on transcribing – I just jumped in. I’ll have to look for that. And yes, if there is a problem with a picture that would be nice for the original submitter to know if there were a way to re-take it. An alert could be sent to them through the app. I have some more thoughts on the site too that I’ll probably blog about later this week.

  11. Looks like we’re on the same page, so to speak ;-) I’m most surprised by the lack of location as a search option. Without that, the site will become unusable rather quickly.

  12. To Taneya and everyone who’s commented:

    I work at BillionGraves, and I wanted to let you all know that we’re very grateful for your interest, and especially grateful for your feedback. We want BillionGraves to be a tool that fits your needs, so it’s always good to hear what your needs and concerns are. We’re paying close attention and responding to the feedback as quickly as we can.

  13. Duplicated photos are a problem. I was transcribing this morning and was presented with a picture that I was sure that I had already transcribed. I completed the transcription and then searched for the individual (Gordon Jamieson). I found where the headstone has now been transcribed three times!

  14. Hi Dan,

    Understandably, with any system based so heavily on user contributions (even Find-A-Grave), there will be duplication of effort. From my experience even taking pictures, there were a couple I accidentally took twice, so if I’d not deleted the duplicates right away, there would have been two on the billiongraves.com site. Good thing I did! However, it seems someone in your experience did not. If you do find duplicates, just report the image and I’m sure the billiongraves.com team will resolve it. Thanks for leaving a comment!

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