Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Invisible FamilySearch

There are two major challenges (maybe more) in doing genealogical research online; knowing where to look and knowing to look in the first place. You can't find what you don't know exits because you don't even know to ask the question. The FamilySearch Research Wiki is a hugely helpful resource. It answers both questions telling you why to look and where also. But the Research Wiki is mostly invisible and unknown. And guess what? A lot of the other FamilySearch resources are also in the same invisible condition.

What do I mean by "invisible?" I mean that the resources, although overwhelmingly valuable, are relatively unknown, relatively difficult to find on the Internet and relatively difficult to understand. So what can be done to solve this problem? I am aware that the staff and volunteers at FamilySearch have these issue as those of the highest priority. But there is still a long way to go. Here is a list of some examples of invisible websites, starting with the Research Wiki:

The FamilySearch Research Wiki
FamilySearch TechTips
FamilySearch Labs
Community Trees
FamilySearch Forums

Just for a start. By the way, FamilySearch Labs has a whole new look and a new addition, Ohio Research Assistance.

So what can be done about these invisible programs? Of course FamilySearch.org gets millions of visitors every day, year in and year out. According to Alexa.com, FamilySearch.org is ranked 5,077 in the world today out of all of the websites and 1,355 in the U.S. In places like Norway, FamilySearch.org is rank at 537. Clearly, the overall website has a huge audience. But what about the invisibles? Unfortunately, they are not all broken out by Alexa.com into different websites. trying to get the ranking for any one of the individual sites just gives you the overall statistics for the entire FamilySearch.org. So outsiders have no idea about the number of visitors to the individual sites. In addition, many of those within FamilySearch itself are not only not acquainted with the statistics, they are unaware of the existence of the websites at all. It is not at all infrequent in talking to employees or full-time volunteers for FamilySearch that they express ignorance at the existence of other segments of the FamilySearch.org that they are not specifically supporting. One person I talked to recently, worked for FamilySearch for over a year and half in the Family History Library helping patrons before he learned of the existence of the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

So where are the statistics for each of the invisibles? Over the years, I have seen and heard some statistics but not recently. FamilySearch.org keeps the individual rankings pretty much to itself.  One indication, checking today the Research Wiki had 297,021,810 accesses to its main startup page, dating back to its inception in 2008. What does that say? Not much. Since that could be one person or a million. But it is apparent that these sites are not invisible to everyone, but my perception is that they are far from well known in the greater genealogical community.

One thing that FamilySearch could do to raise the awareness of these sites is to feature them on the main FamilySearch.org home page. But if you look at the home page today, not one of these sites is so much as mentioned in a footnote or link of any kind. Why is this? Isn't this sort-of like putting your main products out in the storage room instead of on the sales floor where people can find them? Could it be that the people who are in charge of designing the Home page don't know about or use these other websites and therefore have no perspective about their value?

By the way, hidden down in the depths of FamilySearch.org there is another website called GetSatisfaction.com (the link may not work). You get to the this website by clicking on the obscure "Feedback" link at the bottom of the FamilySearch.org Home page. Then you click on Share Your Ideas. That link takes to the GetSatisfaction.com page. There has been a topic of discussion on that site about not hiding the Wiki now for almost two years! There has been no response from FamilySearch at all about the subject.

So, all we can expect in the near future is that the invisibles will remain invisible. Is there hope? Yes, I have seen demos of suggested Home pages for FamilySearch.org that give some, not all, of the invisibles some mention. I have no idea about the time table for such changes.



3 comments:

  1. Most of these sites are not hidden if FamilySearch Centers are using the recommended home page for Family History Centers/Library, etc. This would be http://fhc.familysearch.org/. From this home page the following are easily accessible. Premium Family History Websites (from FHC computers only), FamilySearch.org, FamilySearch Indexing, FamilySearch Microfilm Ordering, Online Research Classes, Tech Tips, FamilySearch Wiki, FamilySearch Forums & FamilySearch Help Center.

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  2. Good point, but most of us are using our own computers to access the sites and don't have the Family History Center Premium Website page.

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    1. All of the other links can be used from home, however, and it seems Tech Tips and Wiki are a great concern of yours. Perhaps we can teach people to bookmark fhc.familysearch.org instead of familysearch.org, or at least make them aware of it.

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