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The Power of Community and the Web 2.0: Tools to Foster Collaboration and Community
Jim Greene, Product Manager
Community, Wiki, Forums, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Crowd-sourcing, social networks. All are popular buzzwords in business today. What do they mean? Are there ways to apply these new tools and ideas to genealogy? This presentation will show how these new tools can make large projects, which were once impossible, possible. While technology is providing equal online access to vital data, new community tools allow us to use all of this data in an organized way. When you leave this presentation you should have a resolve to be a part of the online genealogical community, and take with you at least two or three new tools and techniques to try out to help you accomplish your genealogical goals.
COMMUNITY AND GENEALOGY
Accomplishing the Impossible
There have always been projects that were just too big to ever accomplish them, that is, until new tools and techniques were invented. Consider the engineering marvels that have come into being by perfecting manufacturing techniques and tools: the automobile, the airplane, the personal computer. Now consider the genealogical tasks that for centuries have been considered impossible, and think about the advances that can come simply by having equal and immediate access to all of the records ever kept. Obviously, this record utopia does not now exist, and in order to make it exist it will take countless hours of work. But that is precisely what a community is good at. The Egyptians discovered that a community of slaves could build pyramids of mind-boggling magnitude. We are now discovering that computerized tools can take the slavery out of modern monumental tasks and allow our current community to accomplish projects that dwarf the pyramids, all from the comfort of our own homes. The combining of powerful computers, new easy-to-use software tools, and hundreds of thousands of willing volunteers has made us realize that the once impossible is now very possible. This marriage of tools and humans is called the genealogical community, or for our purposes “The Community.” Here is what the power of the community can do:
• Index millions of rolls of microfilm with billions of pieces of information for easy, instantaneous retrieval, in just a few years.
• Allow new records to immediately be digitized and indexed for instantaneous search and retrieval.
• Connect descendents to pictures of ancestors’ tombstones within hours without having to leave the house.
• Build a family tree with billions of names that have been searched and connected from a vast database and verified with DNA as well as documented evidences.
• Eliminate duplication and kill myths by exposing them to the bright light of original sources. After all, who will make an uneducated guess when concrete evidence is readily and easily seen?
• Have specific research questions become visible to millions of people instantaneously, ensuring that those with specific knowledge and resources can provide the best answers without waiting months or years.
• Have the combined knowledge and experience of all of our brains able to be tapped easily and quickly.
NEW TOOLS FOR GENEALOGY
Understanding What the Tools Are
In order to use new tools, we must first understand what they are. The following tools will be examined in depth because of their suitability for performing large genealogical works:
• Wiki–The main tool behind the world’s largest encyclopedia of accumulated knowledge, Wikipedia.
• Forum–A next generation bulletin board.
• Blog–A way to specialize and socialize.
• Social Networking–Specifically Facebook and Twitter.
• Community Portals–A new evolving tool that is really more like a toolbox for a trade.
Understanding what the tools are, and how to begin to use them, will allow you to gain practice, experience, and confidence.
How and When to Use the Tools
The following matrix will explain briefly who should use each tool for what purposes. The matrix will be amplified with examples and recommendations during the class lecture:
REASONS TO BE AN ACTIVE COMMUNITY MEMBER
Up to this point, we have discussed some of the wonderful monumental genealogical tasks that can be accomplished with focused, driving communities. You will know more about and understand the most common and useful community tools. You will have examples of others who are using these tools. The only thing that is left is to give you some reasons why you would want to consider becoming a member of the modern genealogical community and a reason to begin to use these tools. Here is why:
1. To give back. You have been the beneficiary of help from others throughout the years. Even the most expert genealogist did not get there immediately or without learning from others. This is how you can contribute in a very meaningful way to the growth and experience of others who are following the path behind you.
2. Pay it forward. This in-vogue term simply means to help others without them asking and hope that they will do the same.
3. Leave your legacy. This is the best way to make sure that when you are gone, your lifetime of learning and effort is preserved electronically for countless others who will appreciate it for all time, and not left in an attic or a land-fill by those who do not understand the treasure.
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