Saturday, May 8, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy - Challenge 18

This week's challenge is to "Dip your toe in the social networking pool" and blog about how the various sites are useful to our genealogical research.

No dipping was done here, I dove in head first! I knew about social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I had read a few blogs and subscribed to news feeds, but my participation was one-sided as a receiver and very limited. I spent time searching for interesting and valuable genealogy news though Google, going site by site by site. I enjoyed the information and the stories but getting to them was tedious and I figured I was missing a lot.

In July of 2009 curiosity prompted me to check out Twitter. I set up my account and immediately put genealogy in the search box and was AMAZED at the number of Tweeters that said genealogy was a hobby for them. Once I started following a few people, the social networking pool went from being a backyard swimming pool to the ocean. I follow and regularly tweet with others across the United States as well as in England, and Australia.

Twitter was the medium that allowed me to broaden my level of friends on Facebook and increase the number of blogs I was reading. Each time a tweet came across with notification of a new blog post I clicked and followed. The same happened with Facebook, I would see the join me on Facebook tweets and I would join. The exposure to new and not so new technologies through Twitter has been impressive. I had no idea what a blog reader was, I was getting blogs through RSS feeds to my email. I didn't know about Tweetdeck or Hootsuite until I saw mentions of others using those applications also.

The beneficial part of these social network sites is the networking opportunities. There are comments floating out there (from the Snooty-Patooties) that Twitter and Facebook are silly and have no benefit to genealogy research. Wrong! The information posted from commercial sites is very valuable. I now know who has a conference coming up in my area, who is publishing or making available new research material immediately. And the information comes to ME, I don't have to go searching for it. How can receiving information in a timely manner be silly?  On Facebook my friends post comments and photos about research trips as well as family photos.  How can getting to know others that share your passion be silly?

There is NO END to the amount of information that can be gleaned through all of my "social" contacts now.  If I have a research problem, question or road block all it takes is a 140 character tweet and the offers for help come rolling in.  I see nothing but value to social networking in genealogy.