Are You A Collaborator?

Are you taking advantage of the collaboration features offered by a growing number of online archives? Connecting with research cousins is a great way to share the “personal” resources that are seldom available from a genealogy archive. Instead of moaning when Ancestry’s shaky leaf leads you to another user’s family tree, take a look at that tree to see if that user is researching the same family you are and then check to see if that tree’s owner is a serious researcher or just someone collecting names. If a serious researcher, tap/click the person’s username and Ancestry will take you to a screen giving you basic information about that person. You’ll also see a Send Message icon that opens an in-house message panel so you can contact that user.

It’s surprising how much help a research cousin can be. Some time back, a shaky leaf led me to a portrait of my third great grandmother, Frances. I followed that source to the researcher to ask if I could save a copy of the portrait. We chatted for a while to determine how we were related. I descend from Frances’ youngest child, William, while she descends from Frances’ only daughter, Georgiana. Then the bomb dropped. Georgiana kept a diary most of her adult life. My newly-found cousin not only had the diary, but she had transcribed it and published it as a Kindle book on Amazon. Within minutes I had purchased a copy of the transcribed dirary. It was a goldmine of information about our shared family and explained several things that would never be found in an archive.

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Discussion screen at FamilySearch

Ancestry isn’t the only service offering collaboration features. FamilySearch is collaborative by design. Your tree is not your own and you will quickly find other researchers posting information on your ancestors. There is an internal messaging system to connect and collaborate with them.

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Sample match in MyHeritage

When reviewing matches in MyHeritage, you will find other users sharing your ancestors. As you see in the image above, there is a contact button with each confirmed match allowing you to connect with that user. MyHeritage has also just announced a new Inbox feature on their mobile apps which works like an in-house email service making it even easier to communicate with other members.

Connecting with research cousins doesn’t just help your research effort. It gives you access to others who are just as passionate about their family research as you are. Yes, there will be sloppy researchers hoping you will do the work for them, but there are also researchers who will be delighted to find research cousins who want to learn more about their ancestors and share what they know.

You will soon find that collaboration can be a wonderful thing.

Google+ Shutting Down

Google has announced it is shutting down Google+ personal accounts on April 2nd. At that time, Google will be deleting customer accounts and their pages. You can download and save your content – including photos – as long as you do it before April 2nd.

Where do you go from there? Check out MeWe.com. This is a social network with soul. It supports timelines, pages, groups and chats (text, voice & video) – all the things you want in a social network – and does it without tracking your every move. MeWe takes privacy very seriously. There are no bots tracking you and your content isn’t being sold to who knows who.StorytellersGroup.png

Here’s an example of a MeWe group as viewed in a web browser. The layout isn’t cluttered with advertisements so there’s room for other useful features. MeWe puts hashtags to good use. All I do is include a hash mark (#) in front of a keyword – see #scanning and #apps in the post shown above – and MeWe will add it to the #Tags panel in the right sidebar. Click any tag in the panel and MeWe will display every post in this group assigned that tag. This way, members have easy access to all content posted within the group even as your timeline grows.

While you have a Chats panel in your timeline that makes it easy to contact friends for a one-on-one chat, the Group Chat panel in a MeWe group operates more like a discussion than a chat. This could be very useful to families as well as genealogical societies. With a bit of experimenting, MeWe groups could be a great way for societies to offer virtual special interest groups.

Each user gets 8GB of storage for files, photos and videos. You can add 50GB of additional storage for $4.99/month. I doubt that many personal accounts would need added storage, but a society probably would – especially if they want to offer multiple SIGs. Even so, $4.99/month is quite reasonable.

MeWe offers three group types – Open, Selective and Private. An open group is a group that anyone can join unless they have been blocked by the group owner. In a selective group, you are first asked to answer a question or two and the group admin decides whether to include you. A private group does not show up in MeWe’s group directory and membership is by invitation only. This is a good option for societies – especially with SIGs.

With the Google+ announcement, a number of businesses are moving to MeWe including WordPress, Dropbox, Amazon and Amazon Prime. I hope we will be seeing a number of genealogical societies, archives and services on MeWe soon.

Want to see a MeWe group in action? Stop by my Storytellers Studio group and say hello.

Famicity – A Beautiful Family Network

Famicity is many things. It’s part scrapbook, part photo album, part social network and all about family. Famicity gives you a private network to keep in touch with your family wherever they are. Once you create your Famicity account, you can invite family members – near and far – to share news, stories, photos and even videos.

The network owner controls who will have access to the site and can set permissions on an item by item basis. For example, there may be photos or stories not appropriate for younger members. Those items would be assigned to a group just for older members.

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Tell stories, share special events, post news and build photo albums in Famicity.

As you can see in this example, the “news feed” will support any number of purposes. Notice the Tag item included on each story. This makes it possible to build an index of the items posted to your Famicity network. There’s room to “like” and comment on each item too.

One of the many things I love about this network is how beautifully layed out the site is. Everything in the timeline is displayed showing who sent the post and when along with titles, tags and captions. Yes, you can include videos in your timeline. If you have videos on YouTube, Vimeo or Dailymotion, all you need is to copy the link to the video and paste it into your story. Once the story is published, the video will be available on your timeline. You can add as many videos as you like using these three platforms.

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You can do very well with the free Famicity option. If you want to post your own high-def (HD) videos and photos, you can take advantage of the Famicity Premium subscription. It costs $4.99/month and gives you 50GB of storage to share those photos and videos along with access to Famicity’s dedicated technical support.

Put your creative juices to work to include a bit of family history here and there. Share artifacts like the portrait you see here. When your family research discovers an interesting story about an ancestor, share it along with a photo. You’ll be surprised how much your family will enjoy them.

In addition to access via web browser, Famicity also offers free mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices. To get started, visit https://www.famicity.com to learn more and create your account.

Why are you still on Facebook?

I moved to MeWe earlier this year and have found it delightful. It has all the whistles and bells you could possibly want but one thing you won’t find is advertising. I found the chat feature quite impressive supporting text, voice and video chats.

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MeWe supports pages and groups too. Not only can you post content, you can also add #tags to your posts and MeWe will build a “tag index” so visitors can find the topics they want quickly and easily. There are tools for managing members, organizing events and even hosting group chats. MeWe’s group features give small genealogical societies an affordable option to create virtual special interest groups for their members.

While most of MeWe’s features are free, there are some features that will cost you. You’ll find the link to the MeWe Store at the top of the screen. There you can purchase a number of emoji sets for a whopping 99¢ each. If you want to build a page to promote your business, society or blog, that will also cost you. Each user gets 8GB of file storage. If you need more, you can get it at a very reasonable cost.

Take a look for yourself. I think you will find MeWe a delightful and safe place to hang out with friends and family. Get started at https://mewe.com/.

Goodbye Facebook

It’s time to say goodbye to Facebook. Here are a few reasons why:

Fortunately there is an impressive alternative to Facebook . . . a social network that respects your privacy while giving you a broad range of useful features. At https://mewe.com you will find all the whistles and bells that make it easy to connect and collaborate with family, friends and a growing number of organizations.

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MeWe user home screen

Here you see my home screen. In addition to my timeline of posts you can see my photostream on the right. These aren’t all my photos. They include photos from the people who have posted to my timeline. On the left, the Chats box lists people I have connected with so I can easily start a conversation with them. In addition to adding comments to a post, MeWe supports text, voice and even video chatting. When viewing MeWe in a web browser on your desktop computer, you may not have the tools (webcam, speakers and mic) to take advantage of these features. No problem! MeWe also has free apps for iOS and Android devices (phones and tablets) so you can chat any which way you want.

When I first created my MeWe account, I was wandering around the site when all the sudden I heard my cousin’s voice talking to me. Whoa! Next thing I knew she had turned on her camera and we were enjoying a video conversation. If you think Facetime is easy, you haven’t seen MeWe at work.

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Sample MeWe group screen

MeWe supports groups, pages and even events. Groups are quite impressive. A group can be open – anyone can join, selective – must be approved by the owner or administrator, or private – by invitation only. Group settings include things like group description, membership permissions, notifications, preferences and group chats.

MeWe supports hashtags for organizing content. You can see the tag list in the right column of the group screen above. Use the hash mark (#) before a word in the content of a post and MeWe will add that hashtag to your #Tags box in the sidebar. Group members just tap a hashtag in the #Tags box and all posts with that tag will be displayed in their timeline. Each group offers features for saving photos, videos and files within the group. It also supports online events. These features are a dream-come-true for genealogical societies and other associations wanting to provide online activities. Using the group chat feature, societies can provide one-on-one support or take advantage of these features for online-only special interest groups.

By now I’m sure you are wondering how MeWe can afford to make all this available to us at no cost. Well, it’s not totally free. In the top right corner of the screen above you will find the MeWe Store. Here you can purchase emoji packages for a whopping $.99 per package. There’s also a Secret Chat feature available for mobile devices providing secure, encrypted chats with other MeWe users. Every member gets 8GB of file storage for free. If you need more space, it can be purchased through the MeWe Store. If you want to create a page to promote your business, society or whatever, it will cost you $2.99/month.

It may have a funny name, but it won’t take long before you realize what an amazing service MeWe.com offers its users. Once you create your account, stop by and say hi at https://mewe.com/p/moultriecreekgazette.  See you soon!

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The Moultrie Creek Gazette page at MeWe.com