You may be able to guess what goose I am talking about. The one that laid golden eggs. Here in this genealogy blog the analogy should be transparent. The genealogical resources such as the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki, the Community Trees and the Historical Record Collections are the goose. The real goose that lays golden eggs however are all the genealogists who have spent their lives doing the research to accumulate this vast resource collection.
FamilySearch seems to believe that adding more and younger users are the golden eggs. So therefore, if you kill the goose, you will get a whole lot of golden eggs at once instead of waiting for the old goose to produce more. You attract these young people (the golden eggs as they believe) by feeding them stories and photos. But do those stories and photos just magically appear? Where do they come from? Guess what they are the real golden eggs of the genealogy goose, not the new users of the website. So not only are they confused about where the golden eggs come from, but they are also confused about the value of eggs. So they kill the goose. No more eggs. No more stories or photos. Simple.
Now a change in analogies.
Genealogists are not the cause of the disinterest in family history. But they are being looked at as an unnecessary market in a re-branding effort to attract a new market. FamilySearch has evidently decided that their future market is composed of a lot of younger people rather than a few older people. So, like all marketers in today's economy, you dump the old image and the old market and focus on the new one.
The problem here isn't just a redesign of a website. The fact is that FamilySearch.org has considered the meat and potatoes part of genealogy to be a marketing liability for some time. In an effort to attract more people, the emphasis on "family history" as opposed to the unmarketable term "genealogy" has been going on for some time i.e. Family History Library and FamilySearch. The real question is whether or not the two are really in conflict? Do you have to kill off genealogy to have family history prosper?
The reality is that the research that produces family history in whatever form you want to cast it, is not fundamentally a very easy or desirable product to sell. It is mostly dull, hard work. It is interesting, engaging, stimulating, inspiring, spiritual, but it is still hard work. The main idea here should be that you are not selling anything. I learned very early in life that you can't sugar coat hard work. Hard work does not become easier just because someone tells you it will be fun. If you tell people that they are going to have "fun" doing something and then it turns out to be hard work, they will be angry and disappointed, just like many of our patrons at the Mesa FamilySearch Library.
Part of the problem is that the people who are trying to sell family history have never participated in the process of creating the family history resources in the first place. Let's take the FamilySearch Research Wiki as an example. Here we have what is easily the most valuable family history tool ever fashioned by man or technology. So what do you do with it? Consider it to be too technical for beginners? Not attractive enough to sell to consumers? To difficult to understand? So you bury it away and hope that it will not drive your new market away?
Why not look at those segments of the genealogical community that are growing and thriving? Why are the huge commercial genealogy companies growing and making money? Who are they selling their products to? How do they attract new customers? Are their websites aimed at young, new users? Do they hide their resources so they won't drive away customers? Or do they put all of their valuable resources right up front where the people who want to buy their products can see them and use them? Think about it. Do the large commercial genealogy companies listen to the market? Do they listen to the bloggers? Do they listen to the genealogists? Do they hire genealogists to help them with their marketing?
As usual, why do I care? This is easy. I have thousands of hours invested in the FamilySearch Research Wiki and I have good cause to fear that the whole project will be dumped to further the aim of attracting younger and more users to the website. I see a small light at the end of a huge tunnel in the availability of online digitized microfilm records that may be de-emphasized in an effort to water down genealogy to attract new adherents. I see other potential resources such as Community Trees being sidelined and perhaps discontinued due to budgetary issues, while more and more resources pour into attracting new users. Yes, you can sell to new markets by abandoning the old, but what if the old market is the one producing the product you want to sell?