Thursday, April 2, 2009

We're Related - what value is it?

The FamilyLink.com organization is congratulating itself for "fool"ing millions of We're Related users on Facebook with the "you're a fourth cousin of Barack Obama" email foolishness. Some of us weren't "fool"ed of course - see my post Related to Barack Obama?

This would all be good fun if the We're Related application actually worked for genealogists.

Like many Facebook users, I signed up last year for We're Related and input my own name and my parents' names, and birth and death information, into the application. But I knew that adding people one at a time wasn't time efficient for me (with over 2,000 known ancestors), so I decided to use the GEDCOM upload. It failed. In spite of numerous promises, there is still no useful GEDCOM upload capability. GRR.

Recently, at the invitation of We're Related, I added one set of grandparents, and when I tried to input the other set of grandparents, they failed to load into the application. Naturally, I tried again, and wasted another 15 minutes of frustration. Can I get reimbursed for my lost time? GRRRR.

I would love it if We're Related on Facebook worked really well for me and other researchers. A great application would draw more users, and those enthusiastic users would invite their extended family members to view the family information and add more information. That's the way its supposed to work.

FamilyLink.com crows about an "audience" of over 34 million and almost 200 million family relationships input to We're Related. Do the math - that's an average of less than six persons per user. My "tree" has only five persons, mainly because there is no GEDCOM capability and the system doesn't always "take" what I input by hand.

Genealogists want programs and applications that work well, don't cause frustration, upload GEDCOM files, and enable us to share our work with our extended family.

If it won't work well, what good is it? First impressions linger. Any company that provides a seemingly defective product will engender harsh feelings from the users of the product. Or be ignored. Or bashed.

FamilyLink.com had a great opportunity to demonstrate the usefulness and versatility of the We're Related application - but it failed, IMHO. They should have "fixed it" before they showed it off.

3 comments:

theKiwi said...

I don't see We're Related as a serious genealogy application at all, and so don't use it in that manner.

I have no intention of uploading any GEDCOM file to them.

I see it as a way to express the relationships I have to various relatives who are on facebook, so I can tag them with We're Related, and just simply say they're my cousin, or my niece or my 1st cousin-iin-law, or my 1st cousin-in-law-in-law, without needing all the other people there to provide that link like you'd have in your genealogy software - so I'm "we're related" to my cousins who are on without having to show my parents who definitely aren't on facebook, or my grandparents who are deceased etc.

Roger

Paul Allen said...

Randy, I hope you know that we pay careful attention to your blog. You always make great points and your reviews and analysis are very insightful. I share your concerns, and I wish we had everything working already for genealogists and non-genealogists alike.

We would have loved to postpone April Fools Day so we could finish our gedcom fixes and enhance our tree functionality before doing the Obama cousin prank, but there is no way to stop the clock from moving, so we went ahead with it. It made a big splash nationally.

The improvements are coming. We have hired several incredible developers recently, including 2 with serious family tree development experience. I promise we'll get it right soon. Meanwhile, I know genealogists who want to share their GEDCOM with their family will continue to be frustrated, and I'm very sorry for that.

We are developing and improving our applications far faster than ever before. We get great feedback from thousands of customers are wererelated.uservoice.com and via email, and we are prioritizing the development based on customer input.

So while we are currently fixing things that 85% of our users want, we'll soon get to the things that the minority of our users (genealogists) want. But please be patient. We will get there! No fooling!

Paul Allen
CEO, FamilyLink.com

Valorie Zimmerman said...

There are few things on Earth as frustrating as that application. Every time I try to use it I end up sputtering and feeling like smashing my computer. Now I'm normally a peaceful person, and am tantalized over and over as other people seem to have it work for them. But can I view their trees? No. Can they view mine? No. In fact, the tree I spent hours inputting seems to be gone to the hereafter somewhere -- except on my profile, where it shows up! ARGHHHHHH!!!!!