Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 2 at the FGS Conference - Post 2

After lunch at the Hop Diner across from the Convention Center, I wandered around the Peabody Hotel trying to find the Chicot Room for the blogger briefing, scheduled for 1 p.m. I found Pat Richley looking also, and we finally found the right elevator but then the fire alarm went off and we were ushered outside to an area overlooking the river. The Ancestry people were there too, so we all watched a landscape guy fighting a high-pressure hose and almost getting everybody drenched. After about 15 minutes, they said the building was safe, and that there was no fire. Apparently, the firetrucks came up to the front entrance and firemen ran into the hotel to stop the false alarm.

We finally joined others in the room, and Mike Ward, Eric Shoup, Duff Wilson and Gary Gibb gave presentations about what has done recently (as opposed to what they will do, which they cannot talk about). Bloggers attending included Diane Haddad, Dick Eastman, Pat Richley, Drew Smith, George Morgan, Tami Glatz and myself.

There was too much information to really summarize here, although these were the highlights for me:

* The Ancestry search indexes are updated every three weeks.

* They have been experiencing over 110,000 edits to database information every week.

* The 1930 U.S. census index has been updated to include street address, dwelling and family number, and father and mother's birthplace.

* They will have one viewer eventually, with the index entries at the bottom of the screen, and the member connect and source entries in the right-hand panel.

* They want one search experience, but are not satisfied with the New Search screen yet, and will work with it some more. About 70% of searches are done in New Search now.

* They are working on the search form and user controls, and the specific collection search pages in order to make results relevant, quick and consistent.

* Some researchers are still using FTM 2006/Version 16 - many because of the Books feature in FTM 2006 that was not replicated in FTM 2008-2010. There are different book options in FTM 2008-2010, including the MyCanvas application.

* FTM 2010 files are downwardly compatible with FTM 2008 and 2009, but not with FTM 2006 and earlier versions. FTM 2010 can upload from any previous version, and has uploaded corrupted FTM 2006, and earlier, files.

* Synchronization of FTM 2010 with Member Trees was discussed in detail. The user can upload a tree from FTM 2010 to a new member Tree, and can download a tree, with attached images, to FTM 2010 (but not images attached directly from databases).

* They discussed the databases added so far in 2009, using the December 2008 "Coming Soon" page, and the August 2009 revised page, as a baseline. A CEO letter in early 2009 also listed planned additions. Based on the December 2008 page items and the CEO letter, they have completed 48 databases so far, 14 more are coming in 2009, and five more will be completed in 2010. 99% of the planned record content for 2009 has been released.

* has been upgrading images and indexes, but do not discard images and index entries that are not duplicated when the dataset is upgraded.

* They have added 681 million records, with 1.4 billion names, and 83 million images in 2009. They have also revised their name count, eliminating the estimates used for some pages.

* "Updated" major databases account for most of the added content. Users can go to the Card Catalog and filter by "most recent" or "record count" to determine how many records are in each database released.

This was an informative presentation, and was punctuated by another fire alarm and bright flashing lights for a minute or so. I appreciate's willingness to share their work with genealogy bloggers in these forums. We all know that they are trying to influence the bloggers and the blog readers, but that;s OK with me. I would rather have this regular interchange of information than have to rely on press releases and blog posts.

After that intense two hours, I wandered off to hear Paula Stuart-Warren talk about "City, County and State Archives: Not Created Equally" in the 3:30 p.m. session. Paula went through the "ideal archive" and the "reality archives," then highlighted some differences between different archives, and the reasons for the differences. She then showed some of her favorites, and that's when the day caught up with me - I'm afraid that I dozed a bit and left really tired.

I headed back to the hotel, took my nap, and we went to dinner down at Big Whiskeys. We were back by 8 p.m. and I worked on the CVGS newsletter for awhile. I was panicking until I remembered that I had emailed the 60% complete document to myself rather than put it on my flash drive! Whew! I am about 95% done and hope to send it by email on Friday night. Then I blogged, and tweeted, and Facebooked a bit. Talk to you tomorrow!

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