Note: This was originally posted on the FamilyTreeCircles blog over a year ago. As I'm pulling that content into the new FTC blog, I've been post-dating them. But this one I think is worth reading again, so I'm setting the dates to today.
Catching up on my blog-reading, I came across Randy Seaver's post about "cousin bait".
Here's his overview...
Greta Koehl used the term "Cousin Bait" last month in her post Online Trees about the purpose of posting online family tree data. At least, that was the first use of the term I've seen published - an excellent term! Her point was that putting a family tree online in a database or on a web page may help induce distant cousins, who share your ancestry, into contacting you and perhaps provide more information about the common ancestral families.
While I've also never thought of it as "cousin bait", this is exactly what I had in mind when I created FamilyTreeCircles.com.
I've always described the concept as "casting a net" for other family tree researchers to find your posts, and then connect via FamilyTreeCircles.com.
And it's true that you can set some very effective bait with some simple posts on FamilyTreeCircles.com.
I wish Randy's example produced a FamilyTreeCircles.com result, but alas. Let's take a look at some recent posts and how they rank on Google.
Starting with the most recent FamilyTreeCircles.com journal, William SPINLEY + Emily WILHAM - Auckland 1800s, posted about an hour prior to writing this blog post.
A Google search for [William Spinley] produces a number one search result on Google just an hour after it was posted...
Here's another example of a more popular search result, [white family dna], 17MM results.
The author of this entry about a White family DNA project posted it here on FamilyTreeCircles as well as on Genforum at about the same time.
Her FamilyTreeCircles post is #3 on Google.com. The Genforum post is at #6. While not all posts make it to the first page of Google's results, both are a very effective way of getting some search engine exposure of your genealogy work.
If you're not doing so already, you should consider adding FamilyTreeCircles.com to your toolbox for getting your "cousin bait" out there on the search engine result pages.
When I built FamilyTreeCircles so many years ago, I had no idea how popular the private messages feature would be.
As of today, there have been over 18,000 messages sent through the private message system. I never would have guessed.
One of the most requested features that I get is for people to be able to see the messages that they have sent to others. Did I contact so-and-so about such-and-such? What did I say? Did she open it?
I'm happy to announce that I have added a new feature allowing you to view your outbox. In it, you can see all the messages you've ever sent.
Where is it? You'll see conspicuous links to your "Inbox" and "Outbox" in your private message area.
Here are a few notes about the new feature:
- You can view them, but you cannot delete them. (They don't belong to you any more!)
- You can see if the recipient has opened them
- You can still see them if the recipient has deleted them.
- I haven't structured the messages in any sort of "conversational" view.
Like me, you'll probably be a bit surprised at the number of messages that have gone un-opened. Honestly, I was quite disappointed at some of them. But at least now I know, and maybe I'll follow up again with some of them.
Enjoy, and please let me know if you have any questions.
It's like a Monty Python skit around here!
I know that there has been a lot of spam here lately, and I thank the moderators who have been playing whack-a-mole trying to keep them at bay.
I've made a few small changes that I hope will thwart the majority of it.
If you see that something you post gets caught in a spam trap, please don't take it personally and know that I'll be keeping an eye on it. I apologize in advance for any false-positives that may happen.
Hello. Your great feedback on some of the new stuff that I've been adding has inspired me to add more.
I've just added a "Favorites" feature.
Here's how it works...
You can add any post (journal, article, question) to your list of favorites by clicking the "Favorite" link. This link appears at the top of every journal. (give it a try, click the star at the top of this post):
and also in the journals lists (see callouts #2 and #3 in the image below)
You can view all your favorites under the "Journals" page. Look for the link on that page called "Favorites" (see callout #1 in the image below). You have to be logged in to use this feature.
Here's a direct link: Favorites
This is something that I've been wanting to add for a long time, to help keep track of journals that I want to get back to, or reference later, or just to mark as a "good one".
I hope you find it useful.
If you were here in the past half-hour, you know that FamilyTreeCircles was in maintenance mode for about a half hour.
I moved FamilyTreeCircles from one server to another so I could decommission a very old and very expensive server.
Things should be just fine (famous last words), but if you notice any strangeness at all please do let me know either by commenting here, or via email to scott at familytreecircles.com.
Thank you and sorry for the inconvenience.
I've just posted some updates to Family Tree Circles, that I hope will start us on the road to making this a better place for everybody. Here's what I've done...
The Family Tree Circles points system has been removed. I believe it has been broken for a long time, but in any case, the feedback that I've been getting is that it is encouraging a quantity over quality approach for some. I originally put that in place to recognize the top contributors, and I think it did serve a purpose for many years. It seems it is time to move on from that model. Instead, I do plan on doing some sort of user scoring/reputation system going forward. More on that in a bit.
Block/Unblock Users: A a sort of pressure relief valve, I've implemented a "block user" feature. This will hide journals for any blocked user in the places where journals are listed. You can still view individual journals or the profile of a blocked user. And you can always unblock a user from your own profile.
To block a user, click the "block this user" link in the bio section of a journal or that user's profile.
To unblock a user, you can click that link again (it'll change to "unblock"). Or you can view all the blocked users in your profile and unblock them from there:
Yes, you can block yourself. :-)
I don't love having to add this last feature, but it'll be interesting to see if it gets used.
I know that neither of these solutions solve the difficult problem of someone flooding the active journal page with many posts, or lots of comments on their own posts. You can clean up the view for yourself with blocking, but most people won't do that and the flooding can continue. This is a difficult one to solve because some people who post great stuff may also post a several journals in a row. So, simply putting basic flood control in (ilke to limit posts to a certain number per hour) would hurt users who don't deserve it.
As I indicated above, I plan to implement an algorithmic scoring/reputation system that will take peer feedback into consideration when deciding which journals will be displayed in the journals lists.
Many of you have surely noticed back in the spring that I introduced "Thank" and "flag" links on journals. To those of you who have been using those, thanks. I'll be using that information in a future update.
In the meantime, I hope these two short-term changes help some.
If you’ve been reading the FamilyTreeCircles newsletter, you know that I’ve been working on some new features on FamilyTreeCircles.
If you don’t currently subscribe to the newsletter, you can sign up here.
I’m happy to say that a number of them have gone live today.
Here’s an overview of what’s new.
New Journal and Comment Views
You’ll notice a new menu item called “Journals”. That brings you to a new series of pages that give different views of journals and comments:
- Newest: All of the new journals
- Unanswered: Any journal that does not have a comment
- Last Activity: All journals sorted by last activity (either a new journal or a comment added)
- QuickSearch: search in all journals, more on that below
- Latest Comments: View just the latest comments, not journals
This functionality replaces the old tried and true “Active Posts” page, which remains available if that is what you’re comfortable with.
Take a look through these menu items and see if these offer you any improvement in how to view the journals on Family Tree Circles
While you can use the search box in the upper right, the new Quick Search gives you a fast way to quickly sift through journals in the system to find keywords that you’re looking for. Looking for a surname? just start typing it in to the quick search box and you’ll immediately see any journals matching your search term.
Note: You can also search in just your own journals by accessing the quick search link from your own Journals page from your profile.
Journal “Thanks” and “Flag”
In order to reward people who are writing great journals, I’ve added a “Thank” button to the bottom of all journals.
If you like what someone wrote, just quickly click “Thank”. I’m quietly keeping track of these for now, but soon I’ll be exposing these numbers in the form of “popular journals” or people who get the most thanks. For now, just feel free to use it!
If you have any questions about these features, please drop a comment.
As communities grow there will be people who disagree, and people who upset the community with their behavior, whether it is intended or not. It is inevitable.
It seems we have ourselves in this situation. I won't name names, but you probably know what I'm talking about. I had hoped this situation would have resolved itself, but it came to a bit of a head over the past several days.
While quietly addressing the situation yesterday, I disabled this member's ability to post comments. I didn't feel it was necessary to publicize that action, but maybe it would have prevented some more misunderstandings.
I learned that later last night this particular member was subsequently deactivated by one of our admins. This is a decision that I understand and respect, but the technical ramifications of that were such that I decided to reverse that -- especially since I had already prevented him from posting comments and been in discussions with him to resolve the problems. More on that in a bit.
Apparently some people noticed both the deactivation and the reversal and are troubled by the apparent lack of action, or worse, the appearance that I'm sticking up for this member.
I want to explain that.
Account deactivation is something that is for the purpose of quickly removing a spammer from FamilyTreeCircles. This action removes all posts and all comments for a particular user. Deactivating a member like this who has posted a large number of posts and comments makes a big mess and fills the site with thousands of "account deactivated" messages. Worse, it potentially took away good information from the comments in some members' journals. I feel that we can address this in other ways. It is also a last resort that I hope to avoid.
I do recognize that there is an issue to be dealt with and I'm committed to getting it resolved.
Here's what I am doing:
I've indefinitely disabled this member's access to make comments, as it seems this is the primary source of the behavior that is offending others. The only way I will reinstate that access is if I'm convinced that the member will participate in a way that does not offend other members.
I have not disabled his access to posting journals. I don't see the harm in him doing that unless he uses that as a vehicle to address others or this issue, in which case I'll take further action. I don't anticipate that will be necessary.
I have been in communication with this member to start a conversation about what has happened and what changes we can make if he wants to continue to participate in this community.
I will be investigating ways to improve FamilyTreeCircles to allow the community to better self-manage and deal with these issues better before they get out of hand. For example, voting on comments up or down, so that offending comments can be flagged and hidden. This is something that I'll work on in the coming weeks so the next time this happens, well, hopefully we'll prevent it. (I've already done this on journals with "Thank" and "flag". More on that in another post.)
I care deeply about FamilyTreeCircles. It is something that I've been working on as a passion project for several years and it is distressing to me when there are issues. I hope that I can have your support in getting through this bump in the road.
Pulling your posts and going away is your prerogative, but I hope you will not do that. Instead, if you ever have any comments or feedback about this or anything else, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com. Heck, call me: +1 617-910-0055. That's how much I care about this.
Thanks for your help, support, and understanding.
We're on a roll on FamilyTreeCircles, adding new features. We're really trying to round out the types of information that are available on FTC and I'm happy to say that there are now three types of postings available for everyone from new family researchers to experienced genealogists.
Look on the homepage and you'll see the following explanation of the options.
The last thing I want to do is introduce any confusion or uncertainty with more options and I've tried to make it as simple as possible. All three types of entries end up in the same places in the list on the homepage and in the active posts page, color coded so you can tell the difference at a glance.
There is still the same, old, tried and true Journal entries. Nothing has changed there. Use a journal entry for posting all your great family research. As a general rule, anything family or surname related should go in a journal. For the time being, only journals can be associated specifically with surnames and therefore show up on the surname page for any given surname.
If you've got a question about any genealogy topic, this is the place to ask. Maybe you're wondering about what sort of resources are available in Cork County Ireland. Or maybe you're stuck with a problem in Personal Ancestral File software. Ask about any genealogy topic, technique, method, or technology. Keep an eye on the open questions to see if you can answer a question for someone else. You can read more about this on our announcement of Answers from a few days ago.
Everybody is an expert about something. Maybe your experience has made you an expert on genealogy research in the state of Vermont, or researching slave ancestry in Virginia. Maybe you're an expert user of certain software or websites. Write an article and you'll not only provide the community with some great information, but you can establish yourself as an expert and direct people to your own blog for more information.
I've got some exciting ideas of where the Articles feature can go...more on that soon.
So there you have it. Something for everyone. It'll take some time for people to get used to the new features on FamilyTreeCircles. If you're one of our more experienced users, please give them a try and show folks how it's done!
Here's a quick update on some changes I've made to Family Tree Circles recently...
User Search - I've added a user search section to the search results page. So if you're looking for a user whose username you can't quite remember, put a partial name in the search box. Like this search for "ally" turns up our favorite FTC editor Allycat, and 74 others.
Email Address protection. We can warn and warn and warn, and people still put their email addresses in journals. This is a bad idea in general because spammers scan the web for email addresses to send horrible email to. I've coded things up so that if you're not logged into FTC, you won't see the email address. Just some indication that there's an email address there and that you must log in to read it. It is too much trouble for spammers to create an account just to get a few email addresses, so it should be effective.
Disappearing Newsletter Signup Box. You've probably noticed me experimenting with lots of different newsletter signup form designs in the right margin of the site in the past month. I've now set it up so if you have ever subscribed to the newsletter (and even subsequently unsubscribed), the form no longer shows on every page of FamilyTreeCircles (except on the blog).
If you have signed up for the newsletter, thanks! If not, and you'd like to, there's a signup box right over there to the right. And you won't have to look at that form any more on FamilyTreeCircles. :)