Though I’m unable to attend the FGS Annual Conference in nearby Knoxville, I plan to follow along as much as I can via blog posts, Twitter feeds & Facebook status updates. However, I started thinking about what I’d hoped to have gained from attending FGS and much of it centers on what I perceive as an overall need for genealogy societies to better leverage technology and increase their engagement in online media (e.g. social media & social networking). I have a lot of thoughts about this but in this post I’ll address the traditional publishing models I see in many genealogy societies and why some changes would be more likely to engage me as a member.
Many genealogy societies produce a journal and/or newsletter in print format. In order to be more accessible, some offer the journal/newsletter online as an electronic download, usually in the form of a PDF document. I’ve seen one society, the Durham-Orange Genealogical Society, who put their newsletter in an online HTML format and provide the quarterly publication via PDF online using Scribd. This is a great set-up and the members of the D-OGS have a great person in Ginger to figure out some of the technical underpinnings. However, I’d love to see the entire genealogical society network incorporate similar practices in a more systematic and robust manner and take this even further.
For example, in the medical academic publishing community most journals are published electronically. Journal websites frequently provide the following:
- RSS feeds for newly published articles
- the ability to “comment” at the article level
- ability to “share” via social networking sites
- free abstracts with full access restricted to subscribers
- HTML & PDF versions of articles
- free access to articles older than a specified time period (e.g. 12, 18, or 24 months)
- articles organized by subject categories with those specific categories available as RSS feeds for easy browsing and/or searching
Furthermore, individual journals are often part of a larger collaborative/network of journals (e.g. Highwire at Stanford University) and at the aggregate level users have the ability to search across journals, across subjects/disciplines and across article type. Membership/subscription management is facilitated at the level of the individual journal. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have an online publishing network for genealogy societies that provided similar functionality for their publications?
Below is a screenshot of PLOSGenetics – if you visit the site at www.plosgenetics.org to get a sense of the interactivity & dynamic presentation of their articles and other journals part of the PLOS network.
PLOS Genetics – visit their website to see their interactive and dynamic handling of journal articles.
Imagine being able to log onto one central site where I could access the full-text of the publications of the genealogy societies that I subscribe to, search for articles by state, county, subject categories (e.g. cemetery research, African-American research), browsing the articles of societies that I’m not a member of, but possibly pay for per-article basis, have access to older issues for free, and being able to comment upon and “tweet” about the articles with the online genealogy community. The integration of Facebook via their Open Graph protocol could help me learn what my friends and fellow geneabloggers are also finding of value. I could download PDF files of specific issues if I’m a subscribing member for local storage. To me, this seems a much more valuable membership perk than receiving a print version or static PDF file throughout the year. Electronic publishing is cheaper and funds could be directed to other projects in the society.The Federation of Genealogical Societies, an organization that aims to serve the needs of, provide services & products for, and marshal the resources of it’s gen society members would be an ideal organization to bring about such a portal. A partnership with ACPL Genealogy Center
may add more benefits given their work with the PERSI database
for indexing genealogy & local history literature. I believe that overall, genealogical literature can become more accessible, discoverable and shareable via this model.
Late last night, I went ahead and created a small prototype site at http://www.ncgenweb-data.com/genpress/
to flesh out my thoughts a little further using the latest issue of the journal of the North Carolina Genealogical Society. This prototype site is far from where I could see this going, but is at least a beginning. Had I been able to attend I’d loved to have discussed this with FGS Board members and gen society officers. There are so many interesting-looking presentations that I’d loved to have attended. Perhaps someone will be talking about this kind of potential? Any takers for making this happen?