Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What are Family Link's REAL Goals?

Since the launch of Genealogy Wise by Family Link, the genealogy blogosphere has been moving back and forth between it being the best thing ever for genealogy and the worst thing. What I haven't seen much of is whether Family Link is the best or worst thing for genealogy. Family Link is growing rapidly, but do they know what they are doing? They are trying to take over the genealogy social networking scene, but should they? Do they understand it? What is their real goal?

Genealogy Wise has some great potential. But it also has LOTS of problems. I won't go into great detail about these because others have done a better job of it already. But here is a quick list of what I would like to see improved:
  • No more contests about increasing the number of people or content on the site. If you want to do a contest, do a random drawing of members, group creators, or bloggers. Don't make it a numbers game.
  • The administrators need to be easily identifiable. Something on their pages needs to tell you that they work for Family Link.
  • Administrators need to stop sending out constant emails to their "friends" about adding more content, joining groups the admins created, etc. I removed an admin from my friends list because it was annoying to have someone pester me to do more on the site.
  • Blogs written by bloggers being paid by Family Link need to be identified. I want to see what content Family Link is paying for and what is community created. I think that it is great the genealogy bloggers are getting paid for their content, but I think Family Link should create a separate blog to post this content. I would probably read these blogs if I could read them in my Google Reader instead of having to check Genealogy Wise for new content that can quickly become hidden.
  • Genealogy Twitter feed should include who wrote the post. It looks like Family Link is just twittering everything in that feed without usernames attached to the posts. This is especially confusing to those who don't use Twitter already.
  • Organize the groups by type. Search groups by name, not by what has been written in them. If you want both, then add some advanced search features.
  • Too many emails by default. I've unfollowed many groups so as not to get all of their messages, but then I feel like I am missing out on their content. I don't want to stop all emails, because their is no alert on the site to tell me when a group has been updated. The only notifications available on the site are for when you need to add a friend, join a group or have a message from someone else.
  • Friends on the site are just there. There is not a lot of things you can do with your friends. Since the site is very open, everything everyone does you can see. So why have friends? On Facebook, I can see when my friends add a blog post or make a new discovery. I'd have to go to each friend's page to find this out on Genealogy Wise.
  • I got my first SPAM message from Genealogy Wise last night. Someone sent a message to one of the groups created by one of the admins at the beginning. This does not make me happy. I immediately removed myself from the group, that wasn't producing any worthwhile content anyway.
The thing that really is bothering me about Family Link is their use of Facebook. First they have an application (We're Related) that does little for genealogists. Randy Seaver wrote about these issues again yesterday. They have also made fan pages for Genealogy and Family History that are really fan pages for World Vital Records and Genseek. Family Link does not "own" genealogy. They have no claim to the hobby, so why do they "own" the fan pages. I love genealogy, but I'm not a fan of it on Facebook because I don't want to have to be a fan of a company to like genealogy. That doesn't make any sense. They also have a page for Genseek which makes sense as a fan page. If only they would get around to releasing it instead of just saying that it's coming "very soon." (Saying very soon since April makes me think it is never coming.)

Randy Seaver is correct in describing Family Link as a soap opera. Lisa Louise Cooke asked the perfect question in her lastest podcast: "What are they doing for genealogists?" Family Link seems to be doing a lot to grow their company, but what are they REALLY doing for genealogists? Do they want a community for genealogists to work together or are they just looking for numbers to say they are the best?

Family Link needs to focus on one thing and when they get it to work, then they can move to something different. Stretching themselves across so many different projects will only hurt the company overall and create lots of projects with great potential that was never realized. Let's start by adding some better content to World Vital Records, then fix the We're Related Facebook application, then work on taking over social networking for genealogists.

Genealogists will continue to look for something that meets their needs, not a company's. Leave me a comment with your thoughts or send me an email genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.

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