Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ancestry.com Member Connect Service

http://www.ancestry.com/ has posted several mockup pages here for their previously announced Member Connect service. Diane Haddad has posted pictures of some of the pages on The Genealogy Insider here.

The newly posted mockup page says:

"Connecting you to others researching your ancestors

"Millions of people are discovering their family stories on Ancestry.com. Coming soon Member Connect will help you stay in touch with other members who also happen to be researching your ancestors. You’ll be able to contact them, share research and be notified when they add new content about your ancestors to their family trees."

and from the different tabs:

"We'll scan public member trees on Ancestry.com to find members researching the people in your tree. You'll be able to decide if you want to connect to matching ancestors in other trees to build a network for each ancestor in your tree. "

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"Once you connect a matching ancestor from another member’s tree to one of your ancestors, we’ll let you know when that member adds new life events, source records, photos or stories featuring your ancestor. "

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"You’ll be able to easily save new content you discover from other members to your tree. And you’ll be able to choose exactly what new life events, source records, photos and stories to add."

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"Connect through historical records

"Member Connect will not only show you the member activity on the ancestors in your family tree, it will also show you who has saved or commented on records featuring your ancestors. See an example"

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"Stay up to date from your home page

"A new box on your home page will show you all of the Member Connect activity surrounding your ancestors. This includes activity around records you’ve saved or commented on and members you’ve connected to through your family tree. See an example"

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You can go to the mockup page and click on the tabs and links to see the Member Connect features. I didn't post the images here because you can do it yourself, and diane has showed some of them.

This Member Connect service appears to be an attempt to "socially network" Ancestry.com subscribers and registrants. It appears to be a significant improvement over the current Collaborate > Member Connections feature. But will it be really useful?

I think that these changes may be beneficial to many Ancestry.com subscribers if they will use them. It can easily connect me to other researchers with the same families in their databases. One user will be able to "see" what another user with the same person has added. It seems a bit voyeuristic to me... but that's OK I guess. Currently, I can easily find the other researchers, and their content, through the current Hints system.

There are some bigger issues (and perhaps I'm ignorant of some of the details, but I will bravely forge on):

1) If I have uploaded a family photograph to my tree, then others interested in my photograph could capture it. If I don't want that to happen, then I won't upload the photograph and nobody else will benefit from the knowledge in the photograph. I should have some control over downloading of my content.

2) It will be much easier to capture information from another Member Tree into my Tree. That may be real exciting for some people (more ancestors!), but many researchers have posted real junk on their trees. It will be easy to add information but it will be one Fact or Event at a time. Events can be easily removed from a tree, but it has to be done one event at a time.

3) It appears from all of the words above that the "seeker" (e.g., you) will have the ability to add anything they want to their tree with the "provider" (e.g., me) of the information having no control whatsoever. After all, it is a "Public Member Tree."

4) From what I have observed so far, the Ancestry Member Trees are not going to be wiki-type pages where anyone interested in the person could add content, including photographs, record images, stories, notes, etc. There will still be one page for each person in my database, and in your database, and everybody's database. There will be hundreds of Person Pages for some individuals like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Mayflower passengers, royalty, etc. posted by many descendants who have Member Trees. While a wiki-type of Person Page would be ideal, it is probably too big a job for http://www.ancestry.com/ to tackle and the discussions/arguments over which data is correct is not something most people would want to tackle.

I have some other thoughts about the Member Trees and the changes to the record image pages which I'll post in future weeks.

3 comments:

TamuraJones said...

Randy,

I've been wondering for some time whether Ancestry.com was ever going to respond to the growing popularity of social genealogy sites. Now it seems clear they want to do so by adding features to their existing system.

If that system was not originally designed with something like this in mind, the addition might well strain the capabilities of the system. So, perhaps one reason they took so long is because they were rewriting it?

- Tamura

David Graham said...

Hi Randy,

If it’s alright I just wanted to quickly add my perspective on some of the items you raised in this post.

In regards to others copying your photograph or other information, if you want to prevent that our main option currently is to make your tree private rather than public. At this point we don’t have the option to manage rights separately for individual items in the tree. (Though we do make sure to always hide individuals in your tree that we believe are living.)

As far as saving information from another public member tree into your own, we will support this. In the process, though, we are trying to encourage everyone to carefully evaluate anything they add to their tree. We are trying to do a better job of clearly showing sources associated with the information. We also have a number of different save flows to make sure that you can save it how you want to. For example, you can choose whether you want to add something as a primary or an alternate fact.

You are correct that we are setting it up to save one fact or event at a time. This makes for much less complex flows, but it also hopefully encourages everyone to look closely at each piece of information before adding it to their tree.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on all of this!

- David Graham
Ancestry.com Product Management

Geolover said...

Randy,

You say:

"2) It will be much easier to capture information from another Member Tree into my Tree. That may be real exciting for some people (more ancestors!), but many researchers have posted real junk on their trees. It will be easy to add information but it will be one rooFact or Event at a time. Events can be easily removed from a tree, but it has to be done one event at a time."

You can already add the purported events by adding other people's Tree persons' via the "hints".

You can add dozens of duplicate or partially duplicated ancestries, children born after mother died, Census enumerations for a head of household dead for decades, and many fathers married to their children.

The important thing is not to look at the tree items you are taking before snatching them. Before you know it, you can add 100,000 more individuals to your tree for Ancestry.com to claim as "names" in its databases in ads.

Ain't it wonderful?

Seriously, the only (partial) equivalent "wiki" element in the trees is the "Comments", where co-researchers can see each others' comments and responding comments. These in the present (soon to disappear) Tree view are viewable on the main individual page. The present view allows seeing the events, parents, siblings, spouses and children of the person on the same page as the Comments, as well as the user-entered summary of a "story" and photo thumbnails. Ancestry plans to hide the "Comments" behind a tab, and once you click on the tab you cannot see the other family members who may be involved in the comment, or the event, gravestone photo thumbnail or "story" item that may be the subject of the comment.

This is another way in which ancestry.com is making it difficult for the Member Trees to be a focus for actual research.

They allege that the reason for hiding stuff that presently is readily viewable is to quicken load-time. The ancestry blog on the subject of the New View (which as of today will not allow user comments) does not have any happy user responses saying that the New View loads any more quickly, and it does not do so for me.

So there must be another purpose, such as shortening server-activity-time.