Tuesday, November 03, 2015

2015: The true future of blogging



DearREADERS,
Perhaps Melissa Barker said it best: "I wonder how things like this post effect people who are thinking about blogging or just started blogging, I don't want anyone to be discouraged." She is referring to "What is the future of genealogical blogs?" posted today in James Tanner's Genealogy's Star blog.

As a relative new-comer in the genealogical vertical, Tanner has a somewhat skewed view of blogging in the broader context of emerging information distribution and social networking technologies. Yet, in his professional career as an attorney, I'm sure he will recall his staff bridged the technology gap - effectively transitioning from electric typewriters to word processors, and finally computers with word processing software. 

A portion of  The Smoke Signal by Frederic Remington,
Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, 1905 oil on canvas (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frederic_Remington_smoke_signal.jpg : viewed 3 Nov 2015.)


AN ABBREVIATED TIMELINE OF GENEALOGY INFORMATION DISTRIBUTION


Modern genealogists and family historians marched boldly through the following technology advances:
  • Family Bible notations (Though most have not survived, these may provide the only extant record for many early families. My late friend Elsie Naylor had one with a publication date in the early 1600s.)
  • Original record sets (Found in courthouses, church archives, historical societies, etc. in textural format. It is said the earliest English parish registers date from the first decade of the 16th century. Surviving Scotland wills and testaments date from 1513.)  
  • Print media (Circa 1700s - Newspapers in US Colonies, distributed by horseback to neighboring communities. Circa 1847 - genealogical publications, expensive and slow, snail mail service for family newsletters and select society journals and quarterlies. NEHGS' Register and the later published NGS Quarterly come immediately to mind here, though there were others. In the 20th century, Everton's Genealogical Helper played significantly, as did the queries section of the Atlantic Monthly. Heritage Quest briefly joined the ranks. Other groups like the then-named Silicon Valley PAF Users Group, and proactive local Family History Societies (England) printed small, short run how-to guides. ) 
  • Typed Family Group Sheets (These are prone to error like any compiled genealogy, including the more recent phenomenon of online family trees.)
  • Micoforms (Microfilm and microfiche copies of original courthouse and church records. A primary preservation activity of the Genealogical Society of Utah, renamed FamilySearch in recent decades.)
  • FIDO-net and BBS (Bulletin Board Services) where one directed his computer to literally dial in to a remote computer, like the National Genealogical Society's computer to download a text file about a specific research process. Long distance telephone access fees applied.)
  • Online services (Circa 1985: Dick Eastman on CompuServe, Myra Vanderpool Gormley on Prodigy, Rhonda McClure on Genie, and many of us on Q-Link > AppleLink/PCLink> AOL's Genealogy Forum. Principally chats and message boards.)
  • Websites (Circa 1995, steep HTML coding learning curve. There was no WYSIWYG. How Cyndi Ingle did it then, I'll never know.)
  • RootsWeb Mailing Lists & Message Boards (Thanks to Karen and Brian Leverich. John Fuller published the authoritative list of mailing lists.)
  • WebLogs (Circa 1999, the name became popularized as blogs, employing RSS - Really Simple Syndication. For bloggers from this time period, it was about sharing the story of an ancestor, preserving history, perhaps advertising a local genealogy society meeting or online typed chat.)
  • Podcasts and Live Internet Radio Streaming (Circa 1999. I believe Ol' Myrt was the first, but The Genealogy Guys is the longest, continually running podcast in our vertical.) 
During the 20th century commercial genealogy entities were largely confined to these outlets:
  • Book publishing (Think Handybook for Genealogists here, then The Source: A Guidebook for American Genealogy, among other standard titles. You simply didn't find these titles on the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble in the early days. You had to attend a genealogy conference to even see these titles and realize their importance.)
  • Mailers (Distributed through the US and international mail services.
  • Press releases (Distributed was through traditional news outlets, largely ignored by publishers. Also via  direct-mail flyers and distribution with genealogy software and books.)
  • Annual regional and national conferences (Frequently the only place attendees hear about a record collection in film or textural format, and the only place to find genealogy books and software was at NGS or FGS conferences here in the US. My US-centric myopia is evident here.)
THE TECHNOLOGY BANDWAGON
With the explosive growth of the Internet (the information super-highway) it's only only natural that forward-thinking commercial genealogy entities and genealogy writers embrace technology during the late 20th and early 21st century. I see no problem with company reps distributing their press releases using blog (RSS) syndication technology. That's smart use of technology. Yet Tanner states "With the rise of commercial blogging, the social networking side of blogging has been preempted by other social networking entities."  Ol' Myrt here is only left to wonder:
Why does Mr. Tanner see commercial entities embracing technology as threatening to genealogy bloggers?
From where I sit, both genealogy bloggers and commercial entities are wisely employing available social media outlets to "get the word out."
On what basis does Mr. Tanner make the following observation? "One marked effect of this shift is an additional de-emphasis on personal, non-commercial blogging." He apparently isn't reading the blogs Ol' Myrt here follow.

IN THE MEAN TIME
Genealogy bloggers, researchers, archivists (including The Archivist of the United States), commercial entities and such have embraced such technologies as:
  • Facebook (It's hard to ignore 1.49 billion monthly active users)
  • Twitter (Including the POTUS)
  • Webinars
  • Hangouts
  • Tweetchats
  • Google Docs, Sheets and Slides
  • Google+ 
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Vimeo
  • SlideShare
  • Second Life
  • LinkedIn 
Have genealogy companies and writers  broken out of stuffed-shirt mode?  Certainly. That's life.

I recall the Queen of England made a cameo appearance in a recent James Bond movie. Who else is up for hang gliding?
Let's enjoy life, Mr. Tanner, and realize there is more than enough room for everyone at the genea-table.

YOUTUBE RED
Tanner's comments about YouTube Red demonstrate a misunderstanding about the new end-user opt out option to pay a small fee each month to automatically skip past ad insertions. I equate this with my Dish Network offering to skip commercials on shows archived on my personal DVR. Tanner writes "The move by Google to monetized what has been a "free" service is similar to what has happened in the genealogical blogging community." Google offering YouTube Red to its end users and Ol' Myrt's genealogy blogging options are markedly dissimilar, and frankly one cannot compare apples and oranges, Mr. Tanner. Google has every right to collect income on this wildly popular YouTube service.

Personally, I'm thrilled by the availability of free behind-the-scenes production technology from Google so Cousin Russ and our panelists can "get the word out."

MYRT'S TAKE
Genealogy blogging is not dead, commercial or otherwise. It's simply the easiest way for a family historian to share his view of an ancestor, include a photo, and ensure the post will be every-word searchable by the Internet's principle search engines. 

I'm not in the least bit worried about commercial companies using blog technology. If I don't like the product or service, I am free to unsubscribe that entity from my news aggregating service, currently Feedly.com.

In the past month I've seen six new non-commercial genealogy blogs established, including one created by a county archivist specifically to describe ephemera preserved at the archive honoring the county's past residents and businesses. Others are foregoing blogs in order to Share a Memory using Google docs, sheets and slides. Who cares what platform they use?
Its a matter of choice. People in the free world choose the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, and what to have for dinner. No one dictates we must purchase a specific sofa and paint our walls a certain color.

Likewise, those who want to "get the word out" aren't restricted to a single information distribution method.

DearMYRTLE should not be considered pushed aside by big-time commercial genealogy entities, nor should I be called a failure as a blogger because I choose to do more video blogging.

I can adjust with the times, just like Mr. Tanner's law office staff.

Its all good.
 

IMAGE AT TOP:
Hieroglyphics on a funerary stela uploaded by Thursby16 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. ( https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Heiroglyphs.jpg : viewed 3 Nov 2015)

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
DearMYRTLE,
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