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2008 | January | ThinkGenealogy
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Thanks Myrtle

Monday, 28 Jan 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Thank you Myrtle for your kind words in a recent post where you said:

“I think this fellow Mark is a thinking man’s genealogist. Ol’ Myrt here wants to spend time talking with him personally about innovation and communication in the world of genealogy. Get him together in a room with Paul Allen, Dick Eastman, Beau Sharbrough; then throw in a few CGs & AGs and – wow! What we could dream up!”

I would really enjoy talking with you as well.  I love your meeting idea and would be honored by such an invitation.

Mark

Sketching Quickly Communicates Ideas

Monday, 21 Jan 2008 | by Mark Tucker

When I think of “sketching” (or the process of communicating design ideas), I think of Leonardo da Vinci and his invention drawings. Although not the first known examples, they might be the most well know.

 Leonardo da Vinci sketch

The British Library contains a digital representation of a Leonardo notebook in its online gallery called Turning the Pages. An interesting note is that the only major scientific work of Leonardo’s in private hands, the Codex Leicester, is owned by Bill Gates.

In Bill Buxton’s book “Sketching User Experiences: getting the design right and the right design,” he defines the following attributes of sketches (pages 111-112):

  • Quick – A sketch is quick to make, or at least gives that impression.
  • Timely – A sketch can be provided when needed.
  • Inexpensive – A sketch is cheap. Cost must not inhibit the ability to explore a concept, especially early in the design process.
  • Disposable – If you can’t afford to throw it away when done, it is probably not a sketch. The investment with a sketch is in the concept, not the execution. By the way, this doesn’t mean that they have no value, or that you always dispose of them. Rather, their value largely depends on their disposability.
  • Plentiful – Sketches tend not to exist in isolation. Their meaning or relevance is generally in the context of a collection or series, not as an isolated rendering.
  • Clear vocabulary – The style in which a sketch is rendered follows certain conventions that distinguish it from other types of renderings. The style, or form, signals that it is a sketch. The way that lines extend through endpoints is an example of such a convention or, or style.
  • Distinct gesture – There is fluidity to sketches that gives them a sense of openness and freedom. They are not tight and precise, in the sense that an engineering drawing would be, for example.
  • Minimal detail – Include only what is required to render the intended purpose or concept. Superfluous detail is almost always distracting, at best, no matter how attractive or well rendered. Going beyond “good enough” is a negative, not a positive.
  • Appropriate degree of refinement – By its resolution or style, a sketch should not suggest a level of refinement beyond that of the project being depicted.
  • Suggest and explore rather than confirm – Sketches don’t “tell,” they “suggest.” Their value lies not in the artifact of the sketch itself, but in its ability to provide a catalyst to the desired and appropriate behaviors, conversations, and interactions.
  • Ambiguity – Sketches are intentionally ambiguous, and much of their value derives from their being able to be interpreted in different ways, and new relationships seen within them, even by the person who drew them.

To summarize, a sketch is a quick way to generate and share many ideas in such a way that the ideas can generate more ideas. Often a sketch is in the form of a drawing, but the purpose more than the medium determines if it is a sketch.

The Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) group at Stanford University tackled the issue of speeding automobiles with a project that shows sketching to communicate ideas as well computer prototypes to show design.

In another post, we will apply the technique of sketching to a specific genealogy problem.

If You Could Hold a C-level Position, What Would it Be?

Wednesday, 16 Jan 2008 | by Mark Tucker

This reminds me of the question, “If you were a cookie, what kind would you be?” but a little more serious.  There are many common C-level positions that are familiar to us:

  • CEO – Chief Executive Officer
  • CFO – Chief Financial Officer
  • COO – Chief Operating Officer
  • CIO – Chief Information Officer
  • CTO – Chief Technology Officer

These corporate titles, among other things, show a company’s commitment to those areas.  If an area is important to a company, then there should be visibility all the way to the top. 

Bill Buxton in his book “Sketching User Experiences: getting the design right and the right design” on page 17 proposes that if design leadership is important to a company, then there should be a Chief Design Officer (CDO).

I found it interesting that in January 2007, Ancestry named Megan Smolenyak as Chief Family Historian (CFH)

So, if I were to choose I would either be a CDO for a genealogy software company or a CFH.

What about you?  What would you be?

What other genealogy related, C-level titles can you think of?

What Do You Wish Genealogy Software Did?

Tuesday, 8 Jan 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Software can be a great help to genealogists, but at times we wish that it did more. Think of the desktop software and tools you use, online databases, and the newer social networking sites. As genealogists we want more of our genealogy software.

Are there features you would like added to the software that you use? What if a brand new genealogy application were designed from scratch, what would you want it to do? What is on your wish list for genealogy software?

Here is a chance to share your ideas.

By way of a challenge, I would like to see at least 50 responses. The more ideas, the better. So don’t be shy. Add your wish list item.

Top 10 Genealogy Blogs and Podcasts of 2007

Friday, 4 Jan 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Some of the best resources for learning about genealogy are blogs and podcasts.  Here are my picks for the Top 10 Genealogy Blogs and Podcasts of 2007:

  1. Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter – Dick Eastman
  2. The Genealogy Guys Podcast – George G. Morgan & Drew Smith
  3. Genealogy Gems Podcast – Lisa Louise Cooke
  4. DearMYRTLE’s Family History Hour – Pat Richley 
  5. Family Roots Radio Genealogy Hour – Kory L. Meyerink
  6. The Genealogue – Chris Dunham
  7. Genealogy Blog – Joe Edmon, Leland Meitzler, et. al.
  8. Along Those Lines - George G. Morgan
  9. Genea-Musings – Randy Seaver
  10.  The Genealogy Tech Podcast – Bill Puller

 There are so many blogs that I am sure I don’t even know all the great ones.  There are probably also some podcasts that I don’t know about as well.  It has been difficult to pick just 10.  My picks tend to have more than a sprinkling of technology along with the genealogy.

Please add a comment with any blog or podcast that I might have missed.  Maybe it will become one of my favorites for 2008.

Top 10 Genealogy and Technology Most Published Authors of 2007

Tuesday, 1 Jan 2008 | by Mark Tucker

This has been a great year with many experts sharing their knowledge with us about genealogy and technology.  Let’s take a minute to honor those who spent many hours preparing and publishing articles and reviews in 2007.

The two main publications that discuss genealogy and technology are Digital Genealogist and Internet Genealogy which are each published six times per year.  To make this list, I totaled the number of feature articles, columns, and reviews from each author.
Listed below first in order of how many published items and then alphabetically by last name, are the Top 10 Most Published Authors of 2007:

  1. Diane L Richard – Internet Genealogy (13)
  2. Lisa A. Alzo – Internet Genealogy (6)
  3. Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, CG, CGL – Digital Genealogist (6)
  4. David A. Norris – Internet Genealogy (6)
  5. Laura Prescott – Digital Genealogist (6)
  6. Drew Smith, MLS – Digital Genealogist (6)
  7. D. Joshua Taylor – Digital Genealogist (6)
  8. Leslie Albrecht Huber – Internet Genealogy (4)
  9. Janice Nickerson – Internet Genealogy (4)
  10. Gary M. & Diana Crisman Smith – Digital Genealogist (4)

The topics they discussed this year include:

  • Online Databases & Research
  • Online Maps & Downloadable Land Patents
  • Search Engines
  • Social Networking Sites
  • Case Studies
  • Software Reviews – Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • FamilySearch Projects
  • Military Sites
  • Essential Technology
  • Hardware  & Gadgets

I am looking forward to 2008 and all that we can learn from these authors and others.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!

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