A week ago Friday night while participating in the GeneaBloggers Blog Talk Radio session I won a 3-month “Pro” subscription to Geni.com. I am quite excited! When I read the description of the session and learned that Noah Tutak, CEO of the company, would be interviewed, I knew I needed to listen. I have had a Geni.com account for a few years, but haven’t used it much. I love the potential of the shared family tree building approach so knew I needed to revisit the site. I strongly support collaborative/social genealogy efforts and feel Geni has great potential in this space.
After several days of really using the site, here’s my overall synopsis of what I like about Geni, what frustrates me, and how I think it compares to other platforms that also seek to promote online, collaborative, & social genealogy. I look forward to seeing how my impressions evolve as I use it further.
What I Like about Geni.com
- collaborative family tree building – multiple people can easily work together on the same tree
- easy to use interface — creating & editing profiles is easy with their point & click interface. Unlike WeRelate and other person wiki-based projects, no knowledge of wikitext is needed. This reduces barriers to use.
- Their goal of having one World Family Tree and trying to connect as many profiles together as possible. Quite laudable. Unlike Ancestry Member Trees with their multiplicity, redundancy can be minimized by merging profiles.
- Built-in calendar – dates entered into the profiles are turned into notifications to family members of events like birthdays and anniversaries. I’ve not seen this in other collaborative family tree programs.
- Daily Digests - sent via email to summarize activity for the day. a great way to stay informed on who’s doing what
- Good Search Engine Optimization — results from Geni appear in search engines. I don’t believe this to be the case with Ancestry Member Trees?
What Frustrates Me
- Editing Others’ Profiles – If I find a profile for which I can contribute information to, I have to request collaboration with the person who manages the tree before I can add to it. This is seriously hampering my like for when I want to make a substantial contribution, I’d like the flexibility to do it right away. I can add pieces to the profile, but not family members. I would prefer an even more open model for collaboration where more edits could be made right away. This feature is a standard in wiki-based collaboration projects and I would like to see it adopted here. I still haven’t heard back on both of the collaboration requests I made 7 days ago. :-(
- Relationship management — when adding a relationship, such as a marriage, to a person, the options on screen lead you through the process rather nicely. However, on the screen to manage a relationship you can only add one relationship and you’re not able to add more. To add more, you have to go to another part of the profile. My mother has been married three times — adding her relationships was cumbersome to say the least.
- Counties not used in Place Names– at least not by default. I would prefer not to have to enter county names - especially if I’m entering a city. That data element can be automatically defined. And some place names have zip codes in them that can’t be erased, while many don’t. That’s odd.
- Adding unconnected people — as is the case with Ancestry Member Trees, here you also can’t just add someone initially unless they are connected to an existing person on the tree. If you don’t wish this to be the case, you have to add them, then remove the relationship.
- Search Box – should have an option to search the entire site, or search just your tree. Current set up has you enter a name, then the resulting screen lets you specify options to look at just your tree or the entire site. Would like to see this moved to appear next to the search box itself in order to reduce a few clicks. This is a common feature with site searches that use Google Search.
- Path View – at the top of each profile in your tree is view that shows you how you’re related to the person you are looking at. This is represented linearly, but there should be an option to view it hierarchically. It can be hard to understand the steps up and down a tree unless you can represent hierarchy. My genealogy program, TNG: the Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, does this well. The Geni team could consider an option to do something similar.
- Descendancy view – does not include those not biologically related. I understand the desire to keep it adhered to bloodlines, but it would be nice to have an option to include step-relationships in the Tree View; even if they were color-coded differently.
With a longer list of what frustrates me vs. what I like, you may get the impression i’m dissatisfied - but rest assured that is not the case! I like Geni more than the other wiki and wiki-type user tree sites I’ve come across for the following reasons. I hope the Geni team considers these thoughts as they continue to make the site better.
How It Compares to other Social Genealogy Sites
- WeRelate — with no WYSIWYG editor, I find WeRelate too cumbersome to enter data into — even though I am quite adept at HTML and Wiki Markup Language — it just is a time issue for me; it’s faster to do WYSIWYG rather than markup language. Geni’s interface is point, click, enter – much easier to use.
- AncestryMemberTrees — Ancestry has a huge user base and is highly visible. The integration with records is undoubtedly an advantage. The number of multiple records and how bad information gets rapidly duplicated is a limitation. Geni is seeking to overcome this and for my purposes when I want to share information I like Geni’s approach better because I would only need to do it once — not to multiple people as is the case with Ancestry Member Trees.
- WikiTrees – editing a profile you find is also not instantaneous – requests have to be made to the person who manages the profile. I also do not like the layout and structure of WikiTree pages and the ads are obtrusively placed - often in the center of your screen. Geni’s profiles are well-structured and ads are placed at the bottom of the page.
- OneGreatFamily – primary goal is to create one large connected family tree. I haven’t used this site in several years, but it is a complete subscription based service. Nothing is visible without the subscription. Geni.com and Ancestry use a fremimum model, where some information is available for free with additional content/features only available by subscription. Freemium is better in my book.
- MyHeritage – the site have a focus on sharing genealogy with those you select. Thus, the openness of data is often restricted. I’m not as likely to use this one given its focus on restriction.
What do you think of Geni.com?