Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Rootsweb Message Boards are better - but not great

I posted about a month ago complaining, along with others, that the change to the Rootsweb/Ancestry message boards appearance and user-friendliness were a step backwards. I also opined that I was sure that they would fix all of the bugs and try to improve the mailing list functionality, but that it would take time.

I took a look at some of the message boards today, and noted that there have been many improvements, including:

1) The useful screen area has increased, and the posts are now along the left hand margin of the web page rather than centered. The post titles are fully displayed.

2) For each thread, you can select "Thread View" where you see the original post and links to the responses, or you can choose "Flat View" where you can see the post and all responses on a single page (max of 25). I like "Flat View."

3) You can now view all the posts of a given author. Of course, that assumes that the author's name has stayed the same through time - mine hasn't! It's still a good feature.

4) When you do a Search, you have to choose "All Boards" or a specific board. I usually search in a specific board. However, to search again in the same specific board, you have to return to the first Search box. This is frustrating - I'd like to search a specific board several times for certain strings, but I have to waste clicks and pageloads to do it.

5) The Search algorithms do not search for word strings, only the words themselves. If I want only posts with "Robert Seaver" in them I also get the ones with "James Seaver" and "Robert Smith." Is it that hard to do?

6) They still do not have web links active inside of messages. They were in the pre-change format. Perhaps they will in new posts, but not update older posts?

The Rootsweb Newsroom blog is at I check it out occasionally to see what has been done recently. Several posts in the last month explain how they responded to the user and admin uproar over the format change.

All in all, I think the Message Boards have improved somewhat over their capability right after the change, but they can still be improved significantly.

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