Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gena Ortega's "Social Networking and Genealogy" talk at CGSSD

Gena Philibert Ortega was the featured speaker at the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD) meeting on Saturday, 16 January on the UCSD campus in La Jolla. Gena's talk was "Social Networking and Genealogy" - the talk description and Gena's CV are here. There were about 70 persons in attendance.

Gena spent quite a bit of time describing working in Facebook, and some time discussing Twitter and GenealogyWise, and just a minute or two on Second Life. She started her talk by saying she was "dragged kicking and screaming to Facebook..." - that sounded familiar! For all of the sites, Gena tried to describe how using them can enhance your genealogy research.

After a brief history of genealogy social networking (letters, queries, message boards, mailing lists, email, websites), she noted that many genealogists today don't have the patience shown in earlier times - most of us want an answer right now and don't write letters or post queries.

After reviewing why a genealogist should use social networking sites (e.g., sharing with relatives, finding other researchers, chatting, joining groups, receiving updates), she discussed the privacy issues and how to protect your privacy when on social networking sites. Her handout had a whole page devoted to privacy, which was helpful, I think, to the attendees. Some time was spent showing the step-by-step process for the privacy settings on Facebook, and finding, and discerning who might be, Friends on Facebook - again with some guidelines. A show of hands indicated that perhaps 70% of the attendees had a Facebook account.

Very few of the attendees use Twitter. Gena demonstrated how to find people to Follow, the use of hashtags to facilitate searches, and how Twitter was used at genealogy conferences to follow presentations or events.

Several attendees had a GenealogyWise account, and Gena demonstrated more several features, including chat, groups, and surname searching. She said that there were 16,500 members and over 3,300 groups.

Only one attendee had used Second Life, and Gena showed screen shots of the site, noted that it was a virtual world where users have pseudonyms, and she thought that there was a high learning curve. The chats with PowerPoint presentations in the genealogy section can be helpful.

The audience had a lot of detail questions about Facebook, especially navigating between the different screens, uploading photos, and using the privacy settings. I thought Gena did a good job of working through the questions.

I think that this presentation was very useful to many CGSSD members - it clarified some issues for some of them and will, hopefully, provide enough guidance to steer new users to try and utilize the sites for genealogical purposes.

Gena's presentation style is very viewer-friendly - she speaks concisely and clearly, the slides are not cluttered and she has a neat sense of humor to go along with the intelligence and knowledge she brings to a presentation.

She and I had a little time before and after her talk to discuss several things. It's always great to see Gena!

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