My Foray into Geni.com

 

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?

 

 

 

Tombstone Tuesday: 1,000 Photos!

This weekend I reached a milestone on Find-A-Grave.  Since joining in 2007 I have added over 1,000 photos to the site!  I know there are contributors that do a lot more, but I was pleased to reach this milestone :-)  Let’s see how long it takes me to get to 2,000.

In addition to the photos I have also contributed 1200 memorials, yet only fulfilled 2 photo requests. Admittedly, I have a hard time with photo requests.  I’m much less inclined to seek out a specific headstone as opposed to taking random pictures of headstones – this is why I greatly appreciate those that do.  However, I am hopeful that someone stumbles across one of the photos I’ve added and it is meaningful to them.

As an active FindAGrave user, I love the site, but sure wish they would make some enhancements. Here’s to hoping.  Meanwhile, I continue to cemetery hop and take as many photos as I can.

 

It Starts Young

While at Walgreens the other night, my six-year old sees cameras and says

Mommy, can I get my own camera so I can use it when we go to the cemetery?

Well, she definitely gets engaged when we go to the cemetery,  often asking to be in at least one picture and demanding me to take pictures of any headstone with flowers because they are “pretty.”

Just last weekend we were at the Nashville National Cemetery and asked me to take a picture of her with a headstone.

Kaleya at the cemetery - she specifically asked to take a picture.

Love it! She is a budding genealogist!  Some of my other posts with the kids w/ me at the cemetery:

Tombstone Tuesday: Domenico Aita

On Saturday afternoon, the hubby kidnapped us and decided that we were going to drive around aimlessly for awhile before getting something to eat.  Our driving led us north of Nashville and in nearby Joelton.   Well,  guess what we saw along the way? A church cemetery!   Being the good genealogist that I am, I of course felt compelled to stop and take pictures.

The church is St. Lawrence Catholic Church and as I looked at the tombstones, I saw several with Italian names.  Many of the headstones were beautifully done and dated back to the early-mid 1800s. We were at the cemetery for about 20 minutes, during which time I took about 100 photos! I’m still in the process of transcribing them all to submit to the Davidson County, TNGenWeb site, as well as Find-A-Grave.

However, I wanted to post today about one tombstone in particular – that of Domenico Aita.  There were several Aita family tombstones in the cemetery and he looks to be the progenitor?  Further research will need to be done, but I liked his headstone for it had the name of the city in which he was born – Buja, Italy.  Buja is in the Udine Province region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Domenico Aita (1869-1921) of Buja, Italy

I wonder if his family descendants know where he is buried and/or are familiar with their homeland?  I wonder if he has remaining family over in Italy?

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?

Managing RootsTech Knowledge

For my professional work I am a knowledge management information specialist.  That means I help people manage and organize information.   It is clear to me that I was meant to do this for I LOVE to work with and organize information.  With the explosion that occurred this past weekend with RootsTech I saw an opportunity to get busy applying Knowledge Management.   The best way to do this? With FamilySearch’s very own Research Wiki.

The ResearchWiki is a site that anyone can contribute to and gives us all a platform for sharing what we know about genealogy.  Initially designed to describe FamilySearch information, it has a much greater potential.  I inquired via Twitter if the wiki was being used to collect course information from the conference and learned that it really had not.  I was *challenged* (in a good way) by the Wiki team to create a page if I wanted to see one on there.

So create one I did! It is at https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/RootsTech_2011.

RootsTech 2011 page on the FamilySearch Research Wiki

I was primarily interested in creating a page to help collate material related to all the conference courses.  Since I wasn’t there I can only hope that the presenters offer to share.  What a great resource it could be for archiving the experience.  So far, I’ve only seen one class that has a Wiki page for the class info – Tony Hansen’s of the Dallas Genealogy Society.

More information is needed for contribution when it comes to the classes. Did you present at RootsTech? Did you write a blog post about a specific class? If so, sign up and add to the page! If that’s too much for you, just send me an email and I’ll do it for you! :-)  Help me make this page the “go to” page for the history of what transpired.  Thanks to everyone for all the great information!

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!

RootsTech Talking

Here is a snapshot of all of our RootsTech Twitter activity the past 7 days.   Almost 3500 tweets from 334 contributors.  494 tweets/day.  That’s a lot of talking people!  The peak was on Saturday, the last day.

But think about it. There were 3000+ attendees and only 10% on Twitter.  Imagine what it would be like if more were on Twitter. Oh my!

For a tweet-by-tweet transcript from Feb. 10-Feb 13th, you can access it here.   Want to do a custom report? Go to wthashtag.org/rootstech and put in your dates of interest.

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?  :-)