Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - It's not Just Me Afterall

There has been a lot of controvery about's announcement on their Blog Pro Just Got a Whole Lot Better which says that from now on any Pro user will be able to make changes to MY tree without my permission and free account holders can no longer post profiles past your 3rd great grandfather. You can read Geneablogger’s Geni – Stuck on Stupid blog post, DearMYRTLE’s didn’t ask my opinion, Randy Seaver’s What about Geni Free? post and so on to hear some bloggers’ reactions. I’ve actually been complaining about for months now but I seemed to have been the only one who thought there was a problem.

I had been keeping my comments to myself thus far because I had not seen any effects of this other than the usual several requests a month from people wanting to merge my people with their people. However today I went into my (free) account and saw a "revisions" tab. When I clicked on it, I was surprised to see that 142 changes had been made to my tree, including ones in which someone had changed the parents of my ancestors. NOT OK.

First of all, I do not believe in the Universal Tree. I think this failed miserably with Ancestry's WorldOneTree which used algorithms to piece same names together. Secondly, I think this is an effort for a company (and I'm not necessarily saying is doing this) to try to own as much genealogy as possible.

With that said, I became a user early on when it was still in beta after weighing my options for several months. I even convinced my family members to join and they have been adding their family members to it as well. But I stopped using it as soon as I "accidentally" accepted to collaborate with someone and then everyone they collaborated with started making changes to MY tree. My family members started emailing me and asking me why people we didn’t know were making changes to our tree. I tried to talk to and I couldn’t get any straight answers. Had I known when I joined in August 2008 what their intentions would be, I would not have gone through all of the trouble to set my tree up on this site and to invite my family members to join.

I’m pretty disappointed and nagged by this because I feel like the free users are the ones who put most of the content into the database and now is selling this to the pro account users. I feel like this should have been disclosed 3 years ago when I joined. I understand that plans change and technology changes, but I feel like there should have been an opt out option. I was already hesitant about putting my tree online and the only reason I chose was because it WAS PRIVATE. Amy Coffin of the We Tree Blog mentioned her disappointment over the lack of privacy controls as well in her Where Keggers and Social Genealogy Intersect post. Now I have to try to explain to all my family members what these changes mean and let them know that they don’t have to upgrade to a Pro account if they do not want to. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

FGS 2011 – Social Media Policy

FGS recently posted their social media policy to their website. I was very happy to see that they are allowing attendees to engage in various forms of social media like Twitter, Facebook, and live blogging about the speakers and conference highlights. In fact it is encouraged. This is a nice change from the last conference I went to that did not allow any cell phone use at all.

They were also very clear about certain grey areas like photographs – they ask that you request the speaker’s permission before photographing them – and that you do not use flash photography; they also clarify that cell phones do not have to be turned OFF, but merely that the ringer should be turned off so as not to interrupt the presentation. Lastly, the social media policy clarified that although snippets and highlights are allowed to be broadcast, the speaker should be properly cited or credited, and presentation materials should not be reproduced “in full” during the conference.

Now will all of this even be possible? Paula recently posted a blog post to the FGS Conference Highlight blog about how a couple of co-chairs went around and tested these features in the conference center and the Starbucks across the street. It worked for them but you never know what happens when a couple thousand technology-savvy genealogists come along!

So make sure you get your Tweet on at FGS 2011!
You can follow my highlights on Twitter at Smitty327 or search for the hashtag #fgs2011. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Good Old Fashioned Prairie Social

Paula gave us a “heads up!” over at the FGS Conference Blog about what to expect if you plan to attend the Prairie Social on Wednesday night while attending the FGS Conference in Springfield, Illinois this coming September.

Do you think you can fit your Civil War uniform in your suitcase? 

Disclosure: As an Official Blogger for FGS 2011, I received a complimentary pass to the Prairie Social on Wednesday night. 

Photo of General Robert E. Lee from Wikipedia and is in the public domain.