11 July 2013

Reader Comments: FamilySearch Groups (my thoughts)

In response to my post, FamilySearch Groups, child of FamilySearch Forums, I received the following feedback. The author was concerned about whether FamilySearch Groups could replace forums, and what the real practicalities are. She also mentioned a previous attempt at Groups on another platform that FamilySearch chose to discontinue.


There was a 'Groups' site put up for a while on a sort of simplified MySpace platform with irrelevancies such as popularity votes (do not belong on a genealogical-information or technical-information discussion board), photo albums (ditto), options to 'join' groups on a narrow range of topics. The 'group' *owners* could edit or delete others' posts. There was no geographic-location (such as country/state/county) or topical hierarchy and no way to do a subject search. Separate registration was required, but there was no statement on the pages as to site ownership, privacy policies, etc. It is long gone. ... the 'Groups' site I described was very short-lived, an experiment for feedback, announced to Forums viewers. It was not designed in such a way as to be able to fulfill the functions of the Forums.

A 'social network' would not be a replacement for the Forums (or what they could have been if given a chance, publicized and un-buried). There is also the FS Facebook site, which can not fulfill the Forums' function. Perhaps you or someone could share what the purpose/organization is of the Yammer-hosted site -- actually in practice, not dreamed-of goals. Then someone reading it might be inclined to ask for an invitation.

My response follows:

Okay..., your request is a fair point. I did not explain the realities of this new FamilySearch Groups yammer site. I was simply making an announcement so that people who wanted to check it out could do so. I agree that it is better if we can understand what it is actually for. :)

When I say it is like a replacement for Forums, I am not making an official statement. I am simply expressing the thoughts of some of the FamilySearch staff, that they are trying to see if this can help fill that void in some ways. I agree that it is significantly different than forums, and for some people will not fill the same need.

I personally find the groups are best so far for insider interaction. In fact, that is what yammer has tried to provide, a social network designed for use internally by companies. Each company can have their own social network and they are not connected to any other yammer network. Partially, it depends on what the user wants and what they like. I find it is a decent place to have open conversations with other Family History Consultants and get success stories and advice about how to run a local family history program well, and what has worked for them. It seems great for this so far.

Some of the FamilySearch staff and volunteers over yammer think it will expand to more than this, but only time will tell I guess.

Caleb Love is the new Community Development Manager and is one of the people behind FamilySearch existing on yammer. He posted slides that explain yammer and what it can do, but you can't see them unless you get into Yammer. https://www.yammer.com/familysearchgr...

I think if they [FamilySearch] want more involvement they should make a blog post or something, but [in my perception] they are not all on the same page and are not sure if they are ready to recruit people. It is just another optional place to talk, and like I said I think it is best for internal-like questions about how to run a successful effort to serve patrons and stuff like that.

Feedback author's response

Michael, thank you for the explanation.

What you describe was indeed one of the seldom-utilized functions of the well-hidden and now-defunct Forums message-boards formerly hosted on FamilySearch.org.

Some more thoughts from me

Do I really have to log into yet another website to keep up with things?
When I first joined the group, it was not clear to me what the purpose was or how it would work. One of my first worries was whether I had to spend time logging into yet another social site to keep up with things. It turns out that there are several options so that you do not have to log in. Personally, I use the Yammer app on my smart phone to get instant notifications when anyone says something in a conversation I am in. You can also choose what kinds of e-mail notifications you get (and even reply via e-mail to post back to the thread). So that concern turned out to be no problem at all.

What is the void? What was the void?
I have some doubts about how well this site will catch on with the overall genealogical or FamilySearch community. I also have some doubts about the ability to use it to replace forums. Then again, I never thought forums had really established itself as anything worth replacing. In having the Forums beta, I think we were climbing a mountain towards a goal that I don't think we ever reached. I'm not sure that the need was clearly defined, well enough. When I think of forums, the first thing I think of is posting a question that could sit out there for years (about one of your ancestors) until a distant cousin stumbles on it and responds. I have had significant levels of success over long periods of time in reading and posting to such forums on sites like Genealogy.com, Ancestry.com and other more specialized sites (like sites for Scottish or German forums). The forums on FamilySearch never had enough exposure to feel relevant to me--even though I used them--, and I don't miss them. I don't remember ever doing a Google search for an ancestor and seeing a result in a FamilySearch forum. This has happened several times for me in respect to other forums such as the ones I have mentioned (Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com etc.). There are a lot of places online for genealogists to talk to each other, so it seems to me like an internal place (Yammer) fills the only major void we had. It is a great place to encourage each other among volunteers, missionaries, and consultants, to build moral, and share success stories. It also feels like a good place to be heard by more FamilySearch employees about issues related to your volunteer assignment. Because it is more closed, it is good for conversations that might discuss ward family history programs and other more church-specific efforts. The other voids are filled by existing external websites (outside FamilySearch control). Unless I am missing the vision? I would love to have a response from FamilySearch, and hear all of your thoughts too. What are the voids, as far as online communications are concerned? What should FamilySearch seek to provide?

Features I like:
When you view your own profile page, you see all the conversations that you have been involved in. This way it is easier to find things. You also can look back at your unread messages screen, notifications screen, and e-mails in your external inbox (if you have those turned on). It is much better than Facebook in the sense that you can search the site to find posts. Facebook does not allow searching for text inside groups. You can also tag posts to make them easier to find, but I have not been using that. Once you are in, you can invite any friends whose e-mail addresses you know (so that not everyone has to fill out the form to join).

Regardless of my questions/concerns (which I hope will be addressed), I'm excited and pleased to be part of FamilySearch Groups.

To request to join, fill out the official form: https://lds.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_a60ZNWgw39q5nrn

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Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments.