I’ll be on FGS Radio to Discuss WordPress for Genealogy

Today I am appearing on an episode of FGS Radio to discuss how WordPress can be used for your genealogical society website (or, historical society, family society, USGenWeb site, etc.).  I am delighted to have this opportunity to share with anyone whose interested, my love of WordPress! The show starts at 2pm Eastern Time, and afterwards will be available for listening at your leisure.

I have used WordPress extensively for both genealogy and non-genealogy sites and I continue to be amazed at how much can be accomplished with it.  To date, I either run, help run, or offer support for about 70 WordPress sites; I gladly look forward to working with more.  WordPress offers many advantages and can truly help making your website maintenance a no-brainer while at the same time facilitating high engagement with your user base.

You can listen to the episode by clicking on the image below:

I hope you find it of use! In the future, I hope to offer more information on how to maximize its potential.

For now, here are some additional resources that may come in handy:

  • WordPress.org – access themes, plugins, documentation, and the WordPress forums
  • WordCamp – meetings that occur around the country by groups of people interested in WordPress
  • Lorelle on WordPress – she blogs and writes all about the software

Additionally, here are a few examples of genealogy websites that use the WordPress platform:

I welcome communication from anyone interested in using WordPress for their genealogy site.  Just send me an email to taneya@gmail.com.

You can also request access to the Facebook Group for Genealogical Society Webmasters where we share tips, suggestions, etc. – not only on WordPress, but much more.

My New (Old) Microfilm Reader

Can you say ecstatic! That is the feeling I am having this weekend after my geneabuddy Billie gave me a microfilm reader. She got it from a library that was closing several years ago. Finding herself not using it any longer, during a recent conversation we had about microfilm, she said she’d be willing to give it to me.

And I love it! Nevermind the fact that it is sitting on my nighstand in our bedroom :-). Until I get a “real” office space set up this is where it is going to remain. It is a Dukane model and I have no idea how old it is, but I know that it works. Yeah!

Thank you Billie!

Site Engagement or Big Brother-ish Stalking?

Today I learned of a website analytics software package called Woopra that is a very interesting application for sure!  The premise of it is that you install a tracking script on your site, and you are then able to view your site visitors “in real time” as they navigate around.   As a test, I set it up on the NCGenWeb site since Weepro rocks and offers a WordPress plugin.  If I were not using WordPress, like Google Analytics code, it would need to be placed on each page I wanted to track.

Upon installation, I can then log into the Dashboard where I see the number of current visitors; the number of visitors over the past several hours; find out if those visitors are just reading or potentially writing, or are idle; what pages are currently being viewed, recent search queries that landed them on the site, which sites they just left to come to NCGenWeb, and what countries they are from.  I sent out a test call to my G+ & Twitter community and had a terrific response!

Dashboard of site visitors.

There is a nifty World Map that plots visitors on the map

site visitors plotted on a map

I can see repeat activity too. Here is Visitor #47 who at the time I captured this screen shot, had visited the site 4 times within an hour.  Visitor 47 is from the Knoxville area and is a Comcast customer who uses Firefox as their web browser.

repeat visitor info

In the ultimate of coolness, I can also prompt a chat session with any specific visitor(s).  I sent out several chat requests during the test and had some fun exchanges.  This is what the chat request looks like

my initiation of a chat to a site visitor

And this is an example chat I did with Fran

chat from the user's perspective

Thanks to Fran’s retweet, I also had a brief chat with Mary who even complimented the NCGenWeb site – aww.. thanks Mary!

Mary's kind comment re NCGenWeb

Is all this cool or what?  Now, how might I use this for genealogical advantage?

Well, within the first 10 minutes of my use, I saw that one visitor was receiving a 404 message for a site they tried to access twice, so I set up a redirect from it to the new location of that page – it was one I’d missed the last time I moved things around so I was able to see that and fix it. Also, for the TNGenWeb project we are about to do a site redesign, so it may be interesting to use this as a way to survey site visitors.

There’s a lot of potential here. It is one thing to see your stats in various software packages, but completely another to see it LIVE!

Is that the ultimate in site engagement? Or is it big-brotherish?? 

Microfilm Scanners at Tennessee State Library

I heart the Tennessee State Library & Archives :-)

This week they announced on their blog the new availability of two microfilm scanners attached to computers to allow for digital capture.  I was quite happy to hear the news because I have been wanting this for years now.   The Nashville Public Library has two stations that I use from time to time, but I go to TSLA more than NPL for genealogy research.  Besides, the TSLA has so many microfilm holdings just waiting to be explored and printouts cost .25cents/page.  I’ve tried to capture images using my digital camera and my wand scanner, but neither has given me the kind of results I ideally desired.

The systems in place are the ScanPro2000 machines.  They offer many features and the best way to get acquainted is to watch their YouTube video. Ultimately, you just need to know that this machine rocks! I kept telling the staff how pleased I was with it and how grateful I was to TSLA for having purchased them.

Here is my picture of the setup at TSLA

Microfilm scanning machine at the Tennessee State Library & Archives

In the few hours I used it, I captured around 250 digital images of old newspaper issues.  I was in heaven.

Since the installation is new, there are some features that are not enabled and I wonder if there are plans to?  For example, I noticed that this machine allows remote microfilm viewing.  With this feature, someone at TSLA could load microfilm and I could look at it and navigate it from home.  I would pass out if they implemented this  –give me access to a roll of microfilm that has a couple of hundred newspapers issues on it? Wow.  Maybe they will get to that?

Better yet – maybe the North Carolina State Library should get one, enable remote viewing, and then I could get to all those newspapers I’ve been longing to get my hands on!  Dick Eastman blogged about the machine last summer and by reading the comments I learned of several other libraries (including FHL in Salt Lake City) that have them, and even one that allows remote viewing overnight while their facility is closed.

I am still overjoyed.  Thank you so much TSLA.  You will definitely see me using these on a regular basis.

 

 

 

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!

 

I Created an iPhone App!

I just can’t do anything with it.

Inspired by RootsTech I finally decided to further investigate something I’ve been curious about – how to go about creating apps for Android & iPhone.   I am so not a programmer/developer but I’ve heard of programs that allow non-developers to create apps and tried a few of them.   What type of app was I going for? An app to consolidate the feeds I have listed for the NCGenWeb Project on blogs/twitter/facebook accounts relative to North Carolina genealogy – the NCGenealogy 2.0 page.

Round 1:  Android App Inventor

As much as I love Android/Google, even their App Inventor program built for non-developers is not the easiest thing to get going with.   After spending an hour trying to get set-up, I still couldn’t use it – seems I am getting an error code for something going wrong with my computer.  I may try again later.

Round 2: iSites

After reviewing a list of potential sites for app development, I created an account with iSites.  For their most basic account they offer a 30 day free trial. I had to give my credit card info for the trial.  The process to create the app is done via a nice web interface and it was easy to add to it.  It turns out though that with the basic plan, only one RSS feed can be pulled into the app.  I’m aiming for multiple feeds.  Also, despite the site saying I could preview the Android version of the app, I could not figure it out. Also, iSites apps don’t work on the iPad and since I don’t have an iPhone, I couldn’t try it in real life.

Here are some screenshots of the app I made with iSites.  It shows only the feeds from the NCGenWeb Blog.

Front page of the NCGenWeb Blog feed

one blog entry from the NCGenWeb blog

ability to post to social network

Overall, I like this, but I really needed to be able to integrate multiple feeds and I was not willing to pay the $100 or so just for playing around.  I will be canceling my iSites trial tomorrow.

Round 3: appMakr

AppMakr looked promising b/c the market their app development as free.  This is good since many other companies charge anywhere from $100-$1000 and possibly monthly hosting fees.  Their website was also easy to use – they offered many more customization options than iSites.  Also, their app for the iOS operating system also works on iPads (just have to use the 2x magnification setting).

To my joy I could also integrate multiple RSS feeds! I could also create an app icon, a welcome splash screen, a custom header, and navigation icons across the bottom of the app.  I was impressed by all the options.  At the end of the app development process, AppMakr also rates the quality of your app and tells you how likely it is to be (or not to be) accepted by the Apple Store.  All this with no charges by AppMakr.  Here are screenshots from the app I created with them:

app icon

splash screen i created

feeds from county site category. i was able to create 5 different categories.

a specific blog post. notice the topic!

sharing options

I was very pleased with this and was now ready to figure out how to test it out.  Well, turns out the part that is not free in all this is the registration with Apple in order to develop apps; $99 fee.  This is not a requirement of AppMakr, but a requirement by Apple.  Again, I was not willing to pay this just to play around.  I did like the process though — and AppMakr provides some ability to test the app interactively online – you can do so at http://appma.kr/f6Plz0.

If I were developing an app for real, I would probably go with AppMakr.  Despite the fact that I can’t offer it for *real,* I am excited by the possibilities.  $100 and any organization/website/etc. could have an iOS app.  I do hope to further explore the Android development later on.  This is clearly a case where I could have benefited from a RootsTech class; perhaps Rob Fotheringham’s class on mobile development (TC 068)?

Any takers on creating apps like this??  As I worked through this example, a perfect example came to mind of an app I’d love to see — one for Geneabloggers.  Wouldn’t that be cool?

Educause Conference 2011

Yesterday I posted details on how to follow along to the Tools of Change in Publishing conference hosted by O’Reilly Media.  Books + technology is their focus.

Well, I realized last night that there is another conference I wish to keep my eye on – Educause.  This group is about Education + technology.

EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology.

In my professional work I try to keep up with what is going on with Educause as I do have a strong education component to what I do.  However, if you are a genealogist with education responsibilities, you may be interested in this event also.

Keynote speakers look interesting.  There’s even a BYU person represented, and a Google exec.

How to follow along?

  • Twitter hash tag is #eli2011.  Add it to your Twitter saved searches
  • Educause Facebook page – “Like” them and it will show up in your news feed
  • Online Meeting – they offer a formal online package, but it is rather expensive.  Almost $800 if you’re not a member! It does not seem like you can follow along online otherwise.
  • Second Life — ultimate coolness here! You can listen to the speakers online in Second Life via the University of Wisconsin at Milwaulkee’s SL site.  Though I have to work, I will try to venture in during my lunch break and see what’s going on.

As an interesting aside, check out their 7 Thing series. Each of these publications are available in ePub formats so can be added to ebook devices such as the Nook & iPad (sorry — Kindle does not do ePub).

Do you see a trend here with me???  :-)  In any case, if you are a genealogy educator, you may wish to check it out!

Tools of Change in Publishing Conference

Over the weekend, many of us were busy online tweeting & blogging about (as well as following along) to all the events at RootsTech.  I personally spent hours reading about all the great things going on.

On Tuesday, another conference starts that some of my geneabuddies & library friends may be interested in – the Tools of Change for Publishing Conference.

Sponsored by O’Reilly, the conference explores the latest and greatest in publishing.  Topics will span books in print, ebooks, cloud computing, online services such as GoodReads  & LibraryThing and more.  Books + Technology is the name of this game.

This is the 5th annual conference and will be held February 14th-16th in New York.  How can you at home follow along?

  • Live streams of the keynotes – 13 presentations!! the speeches run from 8:45am-6pm. Best of all, all of them will be made available via YouTube or podcast subscription for later viewing.  Since I work full-time, I’ll be making use of the YouTube accessibility.  I am particularly interested in a talk on eReading Survey results and another on creating apps.  Video from the 2010 conference is also available online.
  • TOC Twitter account – the official Twitter feed for the conference
  • The Twitter hashtag — is #toccon.  Of course I’ve already added this to my list of saved searches. You should too.
  • TOC Facebook Page – “Like” it to get updates in your news feed
  • TOC Social Page – consolidates the social activity around the ‘net.

This is a conference from the publishing industry so there will be that “bent”, but overall it will still be fun & informational to follow along with this conference.   As I draw inferences for both my professional position as well as my genealogy hobby I’ll share as appropriate.  Who else is with me?  :-)

Flipboard for Genealogy

Do you have an iPad? Do you use Flipboard? If not, you are missing out!  Flipboard turns content from various resources from basic streams into a visual smorgasbord.

Today, I realized I should add a section on my Flipboard for showing my @taneya/genealogy list I have through Twitter.  How cool is this?

Browsing is as simple as turning the pages :-)   For more info on Flipboard, visit their site.

2011 Blog Design

Happy New Year everyone!  If you read this in a feed reader – click through – my blog has a new look.

For my 1st post of the 2011,  I am sharing my new blog design.  In January 2010 I also updated the look of my blog.  At the time, I was aiming for a more structured & clean-cut look along a 3-column template so I could share more on the sidelines of the blog.  At that time I chose to use the WordPress theme “Parchment Theme” by wpthemedesigner.com.   My genealogy blog used to look more or less like this:

screenshot of my genealogy blog in 2010

However, as the year went on, I realized that the middle column was a bit too narrow for my tastes — I tended to write longer blog posts and I felt as they went down the page forever.  Also, I like to change so a few days ago I looked around for a new theme and found my current one.  This time,  I’ve chosen OneRoom 1.0 by Jeremie Tisseau.

I particularly liked the colors in this theme and that I still have 3 columns but the middle column is a little wider.  Also, I feel like I didn’t really need as much info in the sidebars as I had so I reduced that as well.  Within 30 minutes of choosing the theme I had it up and running.  This is due to the flexibility of WordPress.  I couldn’t be happier.

I also updated a couple of aspects of the blog:

  • I expanded my ABOUT page — wanted it to look more *professional* and give a better picture of the scope of my genealogy activities.
  • Added a SURNAMES page – still need to add to it, but it should be helpful to anyone who visits
  • I kept my  ”Connect w/ Me” icons and my cartoon avatar. I love those so much.
  • I also kept the feed of my posts from all the other blogs I have – all so you can enjoy more of me

I still need to make a few tweaks here and there but overall, I hope you like the new look!  Now, if I could update my home as quickly as I can update the blog…..