Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ancestry Labs - Your chance to make a difference

I've followed with interest Ancestry.com's plan to launch a "Ancestry Labs" area so super-achiever members can test drive proposed new features of the site. This forward-thinking effort is to be applauded, and is another indication of Ancestry's revised marketing plan to involve member feedback in the development of the site. BRAVO!

The newest option featured today at Ancestry.com's lab  is "Person View". (Unfortunately as I write this blog, the video demonstrating the new option isn't working, but I'm sure they'll fix the link soon!) From Ancestry Labs' blog we read:
Ancestry.com's new Person View.

Person View is a search experience that explores two new ideas:
  • Person consolidation: A completely new way of searching our collections. We’d love to hear if it works for your ancestors. Click here for a quick video demo.
  • Web records: More and more records are now going online on sites all over the web, many of them are free to access. Person View helps you find links to sites that contain records matching your search.
Include or exclude record groups with the check mark.
 Ol' Myrt here heartily supports the new thinking at Ancestry.com regarding the links to Web Records defined as links to tens of millions of new records from hundreds of websites deliver a one-stop search experience.

When I suggested this to an Ancestry.com official in a telephone conference after the FGS 2010 Conference in Knoxville, he immediately shied away, recalling the problems with caching content from other websites sites in Ancestry's now defunct Internet Biographical Collection. This new Web Records option lists a link, that one must click to go to another website for the content.

The new Web Records option effectively removes the problem where Ancestry was keeping all the traffic, robbing the other website of click-throughs. Giving credit where credit is due is sometimes challenging with emerging technology. I think Ancestry.com's got it right this time.

Web content providers can opt out of  Ancestry.com's Web Record feature, but I think they'd be nuts to do so. Why close any door that can drive visitors to your family history site? The potential for sharing your message with other genealogists is greatly enhanced when a bigger genealogy website like Ancestry.com can guide them to your site. After all, Ancestry.com sponsored Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC here in the US, not us smaller genealogy website owners.

Here's how you can tell the difference between an Ancestry.com hit, an Ancestry Family Tree hit (member provided)  and a Web Record hit. In the example below, there are 3 Ancestry.com content hits, 6 member tree hits and 1 web record hit.

What does the new "Person View" mean for the average researcher?
  • Ancestry.com summarizes its own hit list of possibly related records and database entries in what their programmers consider a better interface.
  • Ancestry.com suggests member family trees for possible collaboration.
  • Ancestry.com points to other websites that may be useful in our research.
  • If Ancestry.com's search engine works well, you may not need to go to Google and a gazillion other websites searching for content that matches your ancestor's name or locality.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.