Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thoughts on Ancestry Conference call

DearREADERS,
Ancestry.com organized a conference call among genealogy bloggers to discuss today's announcement that Ancestry.com plans to acquire Archives.com. Ancestry.com's CEO Tim Sullivan and Archives.com Director of Product, Joe Godfrey made opening statements and fielded questions.

Genealogy bloggers on the call were Diane Haddad of Family Tree Magazine's Genealogy Insider blog, Ancestry Insider, Randy Seaver of GeneaMusings, Dick Eastman of Eastman's Online Genealogy News, Thomas MacEntee of High-Definition Genealogy and GeneaBloggers.com and Ol' Myrt here. You'll want to check those blogs for more comments.

These are Ol' Myrt's reactions to the meeting.

I was impressed by Tim and Joe's "reaching out" during this conference call. Does this signal a re-dedication to outward communication with end user genealogists thru bloggers, lost particularly after the departure of Andrew?
Tim stated at the start that Archives.com will be treated like Fold3.com, as a separate entity, etc. Yet in response to Dick Eastman's questions, Tim stated the employees at Archives.com would come into the Ancestry.com employment family.


Ancestry doesn't know when the acquisition will close, owing to federal anti-trust regulatory review.
In response to my comments that individual indexers are sending me private text messages concerned about the volunteer work they are doing part of the 1940 census consortium, Tim appeared somewhat perplexed.  (They express concerns that their volunteer efforts will end up behind Ancestry.com's paid membership wall.) Quickly rebounding, Tim stated "The University of Minnesota 1940 census index contract is distinctly different from the 1940 Census Indexing consortium." He applauded the consortium's massive indexing effort, mentioning that this sort of project wasn't in Ancestry.com's plans. He also commented that it's good for genealogists to have more than one 1940 census index, created and presented by various sites using a variety of user interface tools. (I agree.)
Diane asked about duplication of record groups across the Ancestry.com and Archives.gov websites. Tim felt the user experience is a decided difference, and did not see existing overlapping record groups as problematic to that user experience. (We didn't talk membership price points, but that certainly comes to mind here.) 

Toward the end, Tim opened up the floor for any questions, and Ancestry Insider inquired about Genealogy.com. Tim acknowledged that they haven't put any focus on Genealogy.com, being busy with so many other projects. He referred to the site as having "legacy" technology. (I think that is code for outdated technology.) Thomas suggested that it be used as the "education" portal for Ancestry properties. and mentioned difficulty in finding educational support on the Ancestry.com site. I stated it wasn't that Crista Cowan or Juliana Szucs Smith weren't doing a good job, its just that site navigation proves difficult for finding access to the live webcasts and the archives of their work. 
I see the Ancestry.com properties as a "house" and that "many doors" should provide access to content without compromising any one of the distinct entities. (Nothing says "genealogy" like a domain called "genealogy.com" and this is being ignored in favor of the Ancestry.com domain perhaps unnecessarily.) I think this opened Tim's eyes to some new possibilities as he mentioned discussing this in a future focus group.

We shall see...

I know Randy asked a few good questions, so be sure to check his blog for commentary.
Ol' Myrt here is on the road, and can't remember every point made during the call. We just passed the West Virginia - Kentucky border, and will drive another two hours before calling it a night. I am thankful Mr. Myrt is able to do so much of the driving.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
DearMYRTLE,
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