Saturday, July 09, 2011

Judging a blog: Part 1

Just how would YOU judge a genealogy blog? Per post, as a series in context? How is a blog post different from a newspaper or genealogy quarterly article? Although cash prizes are great, isn't peer recognition just as valuable? Experienced genealogy bloggers now frown on those "awards" of blogging merit that are merely cross-promotion tools.  There are great examples of excellent genealogy blogging out there, but just how SHOULD/COULD we honor excellence in genealogy blogging?

Ol' Myrt here has thought a lot about how to encourage quality genealogy blogging. I've given three webinars on the topic in the past nine months, and served as a judge on the panel for the Family Tree Magazine 2011 Top 40 Blogs award. See: Meet the Family Tree 40 Panel and the results 2011 Family Tree 40. As panelists, our genealogy blogs were removed from the competition. Some high-profile genealogy bloggers declined to participate due to time constraints. One declined so that guest author posts wouldn't be eliminated from consideration.

Me thinks that old-timey genealogy bloggers like Ol' Myrt here should do all we can to lead the industry and foster both society and individual use of blogs as a method for sharing family history, honoring ancestors, illustrating research processes, posting society newsletters, advertising genealogy conferences, evaluating software and websites and the like. Blogging is perhaps the easiest method of creating a web presence.

Gone are the days when a family association or society needs to publish a newsletter in paper format. Online versions provide for a broader audience of potential members, not to mention all the links are clickable, making it easier for readers to find out more.

A blog doesn't need to be updated daily to be useful to genealogists. After all, it only takes one post about a common ancestor to draw your attention from a Google search. However, active blogs seem to encourage the most interactive comments. Quality genealogy blogs may:
  • Add scanned images of docs and screen shots to illustrate a point.
  • Include hyperlinks to related websites.
  • Provide details about an ancestor with images of records searched, encouraging collaboration.
  • Become a professional's "portfolio".

To encourage better genealogy blogging, I recently joined the board of ISFHWE - The International Society of Family History Writers and Editors, accepting the assignment to chair the annual Excellence in Writing Contest.
From the website we see that "ISFHWE's primary goal is to encourage excellence in writing and editorial standards in genealogical publishing. This embraces all media, including newspapers, magazines, newsletters, professional journals, books (including compiled family histories), online columns, society and personal Web sites, Web logs (blogs), and broadcast journalism of all sorts."

More about this tomorrow.

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


  1. DearMYRTLE,

    Interesting topic. Looking forward to this series.

    I have maintained websites for a number of years. One thing that I learned a long time ago is that I have about 15 seconds to get someone's attention. If I don't make an impression, that is giving enough information in that 15 seconds to keep them there longer, or I lost them. What ever the viewer is looking for, it's got to be there in that 15 seconds.

    I think the same thing is true for Blogs.

    I like it when Thomas MacEntee puts out his weekly New Blog Post.

    I read that every week and I look at each new blog that is listed. (oh, there is a Donate Button to consider to help Thomas help us)

    Here is where the 15 seconds comes in, for me, the first time. I may or may not read everything that is on the page when I get there the first time. If there is a hint of interest to me, AND I and find a "Follow" or an RSS feed, I may sign up. So, I look for a snippet of content and an easy way to follow.

    I can then get a feed of the Blog posting as they are made. I can always Unfollow, or unsubscribe if I find the content of no interest.

    Once in my Blog Reader, I still use that 15 second "rule". Or should I say that in looking at the blog post, if I don't see anything of interest in that 15 seconds, I move to the next Blog.

    That is how I might "judge" a Blog.


  2. Great blog and topic. My friend Pam and I have three blogs and appreciate any feedback we get from readers.

    We try to provide useful genealogy tips combined with links and personal experience.

    I look forward to reading this series!


  3. I appreciate the information and guidance you give on your blog. It has helped me to work to have a higher standard in writing. In the two years of being a geneablogger my understanding of writing stories and writing about genealogy helps has greatly increased.
    Will be watching for Part 2
    Thank you,

  4. I wasn't aware that that organization existed. I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more about this.

  5. Dear Mryt,

    I started my blog back in April and quickly became guilt-ridden, and often sleepless, over my failure to post "faithfully and often." I never intended to write a 'diary', or a 'journal', though somehow I felt that's what I had categorized myself into - at least in my own mind.

    That's one reason I appreciate you're saying that a blog can be simple "Family History", since it appears that that is what mine has evolved into. I do want to get members of my family involved in learning about their ancestors - but for health reasons I just can't be tied to a schedule.

    So, out the window with my 'guilt'! And back to enjoying what I write. Let others judge - and yes, I want to produce an interesting and informative 'story', and I would consider "Peer Recognition" far more important than money (um, how much are we talking about?) - but I shall do it at my own pace!


  6. I am a member of ISFHWE and tell myself each year that I will enter an article in the contest. Maybe this will be the year.

    Great idea for a series and I look forward to reading more!

  7. @Kate -- guilt really is a pain, isn't it? I think guilt causes writer's block.

    So GLAD you are blogging and willing to share. Keep up the good work.

    Myrt :)