Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Is Facebook the death of Genealogy Blogs?

I have been observing that some of the genealogy bloggers are moving their primary focus from publishing blogs to writing on Facebook. Two examples are Schelly Talalay Dardashti who has moved her blog, Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog, to Facebook. It appears that other bloggers are also converting to a primary use of Facebook and other media. Are these transitions an aberration or is this the start of a wholesale abandonment of the blog format for the immediacy of Facebook? Schelly has about 4,536 member on the Tracing the Tribe Facebook page. I would guess that this is far more coverage than she had for her blog, although I might be surprised.

I have extremely mixed feelings about Facebook. I only joined Facebook when my law firm all decided it was the next big thing and had us all open a page. I even started a law blog for a while in conjunction with Facebook. I also realized the potential for maintaining contact with my family and some friends. But I never did get into the mode of posting my activities or sharing personal experiences. I do post all my blog posts and photos on Facebook because I realize that it is the only regular online access some people have. I also began to realize the genealogy and family history potential of Facebook. As it continued to expand and expand, it became a common area for communicating with distant relatives and sharing genealogical experiences.

I do find the Facebook concept of "Friends" disconcerting and I particularly dislike the concept of "Unfriending" someone. I think that harks back to the grade school playground when a petty argument ended with the statement, "I'm not going to be your friend anymore." Very childish and immature. Today on my Facebook stream, out of the past 50 or so posts, I find the following categories:

  • Sharing genealogical finds 
  • Online gaming comments
  • Advertisements for products
  • Trivial observations about online chain letter type or virus photos or stories
  • Social awareness from either a very liberal or conservative standpoint. My friends' posts seem to trend more towards conspiracy and ultra-conservatism. Some defy categorization such as products made by prisoners.
  • Missing child advertisement
  • Random family photos
  • Calvin and Hobbes
  • A moose accident
  • Obituary and opportunity to share about someone I never heard of
  • A online viral video
  • Combat and Survival information
  • and on and on and on
OK, so there was one token genealogy related post. But look what I had to wade through to see that one post. I would have to say, I would not have posted any of the items I saw in this brief review except the genealogy and perhaps the photos. 

I realize that blogs have some of the same types of trivial content. But I can get a lot more focused with a blog. When I review my subscription list, which is about 250+ blogs right now, I do not get that kind of trivial stuff. 

Will Facebook replace blogs? Only if all the people in the world sudden forget how to read and write. That is my best guess. Will I switch over from a blog to Facebook. I can see why some people have done so, but I have no interest in getting involved any more than I am presently with Facebook. I think there is a place for genealogy on Facebook, but I can't see what I write being a primary draw on that venue. 


  1. James,

    Facebook is NOT an alternative to blogs. Blogs can provide a focused discussion about a topic of interest, whereas Facebook has a signal-to-noise-ratio which severely limits its usefulness. I do belong to several Facebook groups, but am gradually leaving groups as the chatter begins to outweigh the useful content. In its day, Usenet was also extremely valuable, but those days are long gone. Anyone with a computer and (barely) minimal literacy skills can post anything to Facebook, but let's keep some relevant content visible through blogs such as yours. I, for one, appreciate it.


    1. Of course, you can tell from my post, I agree with you.

  2. While it may appear to be a shift solely toward Facebook, I think it is more a case of continuing the conversation (or relationship) on multiple channels. In much the same way, I find that when I attend conferences, there is a meta-conversation being carried on, using Twitter during sessions through the designated hashtag for the event. People are still present at the conference, but "talking back" to the speaker--and to other attendees--using this other channel of communication. I expect more of the same will be seen on Facebook and other social media as they evolve.

    In many ways, I agree with your overall assessment of Facebook. It may seem to be flourishing with genealogy community participants right now, but for many of the reasons you brought up (plus their ever-changing terms of service), that may not always be the case. Perhaps DearMyrtle's model is more prescient of future developments in the realm of social media: don't confine yourself solely to one channel.

    On the other hand, while blogs originally found their cachet as a medium which stepped beyond "read only" to allow reader response, I think many people still find it intimidating to post a comment and "talk back"--at least for the first comment. The first commenter often opens the gate for others to follow suit--no first commenter may mean no comments at all.

    Facebook, on the other hand, has become so universally accepted as to gain the level of familiarity needed to cancel out that sense of intimidation. Once more people become comfortable with sticking their neck out and taking on the role of first commenter, that may shrink the need for using Facebook as social media crutch.

    Thank you for the last several posts you have written. I find them thought provoking.

    1. Thanks for your interesting comment on the first commentator. What usually happens if the comments are moderated on a blog is that I get several comments at the same time and have to read through them all before I post any of them. So, in effect, there is no first commentator. But I see your point.

    2. This is a really interesting take on the social conversations we're all having. The idea of multiple channels of conversations is true, and confusing. :) It's likely that over time the conversations will migrate to a couple leading places.

  3. Hi, James. Thank you for mentioning Tracing the Tribe - Jewish Genealogy on Facebook. With 4,500+ members, I run a tight ship of necessity to keep things moving smoothly. We have zero tolerance for infractions (e.g. politics, commercial sales) and the poster and the post are deleted immediately. The guidelines for TTT are rather clear and almost everyone sticks to them. Our members are talented in research, translation, assisting with brick walls, and also respond to general questions such as how to handle family issues. It is a really good group of people - a great community of people from around the world. I don't think you will find many negative items (in your list above) coming from Tracing the Tribe.

    1. I am aware of your restrictions and understand them completely. I do have suspected Jewish ancestors, beginning with the DeFriez family in England, but I have yet to establish the Jewish connection, but the names of the ancestors are a strong indication.

  4. I believe blogs will always be around but it is also a case of different audiences, the immediacy of responses, the reach of your posts and the fact that people are more interactive on Facebook than on most blogs. I blog, Facebook, use Twitter and less so G+ because of the different audiences.

    1. I agree. I think they serve different audiences and different purposes.

  5. I don't really see blogs moving entirely to Facebook, though it's a good place to promote blogs, however, many of the genealogy lists are now being usurped by genealogy facebook groups. The immediacy of responses can be a great help, and people seem to be more willing to help each other. It's also great to have responses and photos from 'locals'.

    1. Each of the different types of social media are aimed at a different audience. Facebook is not a good place to try and preserve either complex discussions or extended family histories.

  6. Not sure where you got your stats, or the impression that Ol'Myrt left blogging for Facebook. As a matter of fact Facebook isn't my focus. Perhaps you missed my post last month:

    I'd appreciate an adjustment of some sort based on this new information

    1. Don't worry, I removed all reference to you and your blog. I won't make that mistake again. By the way I don't think the link works.

    2. Analysis of information is a component of the Genealogical Proof Standard.

      Peer review gives our research the opportunity to overcome opinions and prejudices of which we are unaware.

      Your reaction to suggestions for corrections is odd. When Tony Proctor or I (or anyone for that matter) provide viable alternatives it isn't criticism to be taken emotionally.

      Believe me, Ol' Myrt here has made her fair share of mistakes, misinterpretation if you will. I once thought NGS certified genealogists. You can imagine my chagrin with the Board for Certification explained my error.

      Did that cause me to discontinue writing about either organization? Certainly not.

      It was merely a matter of the learning process.

    3. This is the link that should work. Sorry you had trouble finding the post earlier.

    4. I had obviously drawn an incorrect conclusion from what I saw online. To correct the error, I removed the reference. Is there something else I can do for you? Sorry again.

  7. I have watched the change of Schelly's Tracing the Tribe (TTT) from Blog to FaceBook with some interest. I can certainly see how one individual might have trouble managing both spheres and choose to concentrate on one or the other. Up-to-date news postings are perhaps a good use of FB. But I don't think FB postings, short as they are, are replacements for other uses of blogs.

    What I do find interesting is that for some people (especially on FB's TTT) FaceBook postings are replacing electronic mailing lists or bulletin boards. For those of us who receive daily digests of messages to the JewishGen Discussion Group for example, answers to questions and requests for translations may be provided in minutes rather than in days. This is a good thing. [point of information: am a moderator for the JewshGen Discussion Group and I have a blog]

    Where FB posts fail is that they are not searchable over the long term and cannot be easily found years later by new researchers. Ancestry boards and the JewishGen Discussion Group archive, for example may be searched in perpetuity for answers and contacts.

    Bottom line? Each medium has its place. There is overlap and there is room at the inn for all (just wish there were more hours in the day to digest all of it!

  8. This is a really interesting take on the social conversations we're all having. The idea of multiple channels of conversations is true, and confusing. :) It's likely that over time the conversations will migrate to a couple leading places.facebook

  9. The first several months of my site there were no comments; just give it time; now they come in like crazy every day! Thanks.
    Buy Facebook Likes

  10. I, too, prefer the conventional blogging platform over facebook. I only launched my genealogy blog last month. And using facebook as a platform never entered my mind. I have set up a facebook page as a companion to my blog, however.

    The facebook audience is broader and not as engaged as that of genealogy bloggers. Genealogy requires organization which is virtually impossible on facebook posts. In addition, graphic displays, while functional, seem to fall flat.

    For many of the same reasons you've stated, I would not consider facebook a suitable blogging platform.

  11. Hi, James. Just wanted to let you know that less than a year after your original post above (July 2014), Tracing the Tribe now has more than 7,500 global members, and we increase by about 100+ a week. Our members delete in solving mysteries, and providing translations, often in minutes, and much more.