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User Experience Track at MIX08 Conference

Monday, 24 Mar 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Although not specific to genealogy, these video presentations on User Experience (UX) from the recent MIX08 conference should be of interest to the Genealogy Software Community:

 From the MIX site, here is a description of what the conference is all about:

On the frontiers of the Web, boundaries are blurring—developers and designers, advertisers and publishers, software and services, media and technology, TV and PCs, PCs and mobile devices, producers and consumers. The old order is getting a little MIXed up.

MIX is an ongoing conversation between web designers, developers, and business decision makers. We showcase topics and solutions that bridge Microsoft and non-Microsoft perspectives, and emphasize the inclusive and participatory nature of the next web.

The topic of User Experience needs to be better understood not only by those who create genealogy software (designers, developers, managers), but also by those who use the software (genealogists, family historians).  These two groups together form the Genealogy Software Community.  In an effort to raise awareness and encourage dialog, I will continue to post any UX-related content that I find.

FamilyLink.com Gives Employees 10% of Work Time to Do Their Family History

Friday, 21 Mar 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Today I came across a post by FamilyLink.com CEO, Paul Allen, that announced a new employee program where 10% of their work time (4 hours for a 40 hour work week) can be spent doing their own family history.  The idea was patterned from Google’s policy that allows employees to spend 20% of their time on personal projects.  This idea is very exciting to me and is one that I have been thinking about a lot over the last year specifically in the context of genealogy software.  Maybe I should have blogged about it sooner.

The Genealogy Software Community is in great need of innovation and it is great to see an innovative company like FamilyLink.com spend some time “in the trenches” doing family history.  Maybe they will come to understand and embrace the Genealogical Proof Standard and Source Citations and find ways to implement them in software in ways that won’t scare those who are starting out in family history.

Paul references a talk given by Marissa Mayer at Stanford a few years ago on the topic of Google’s culture of innovation.
She included the following 9 points:

  1. Ideas come from everywhere
  2. Share everything you can.
  3. You’re brilliant. We’re hiring.
  4. A license to pursue dreams.
  5. Innovation not instant perfection.
  6. Data is a-political.
  7. Creativity loves constraint.
  8. Users not money.
  9. Don’t kill projects.  Morph them.

I met Paul last week during the BYU Computerized Genealogy and Family History Conference and was impressed by his sincerity and desire to grow the family history economy.  This latest announcement is continued proof that he is out to make a positive change in the world of genealogy and family history.

Footnote Cares about User Experience

Tuesday, 18 Mar 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Footnote logoIn a continuing effort to have the best user experience possible, Footnote is making visits to a few homes in Arizona cities this week.  I heard about this back in early February from Dick Eastman’s newsletter and decided to volunteer.  Today I received a visit from Dick and members of the Footnote team.  The group had representatives from software development, design, management, business, and marketing.  The visit lasted a little over an hour and I enjoyed the chance to participate and provide my feedback.  Everyone was very nice and interested in my opinions.  I had only used the Footnote site a few times before the visit, but I was able to navigate around and uncover most of its features.  The group asked me questions and let me think out loud as I used the site.

One point that I brought up in today’s visit that is an issue with not just Footnote, but also FamilySearch, Ancestry, World Vital Records, and other online database/document sites is that there is a lack of consistency with source citations.  For example, the same census document could have different citations on different sites and none of the citations follow the format in either of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ works: Evidence! or Evidence Explained.  When I download an image from one of these sites, I should get automatic source citation in my desktop genealogy application as well as additional details such as source provenance.  It should be very easy.  To modify a phrase from an action movie: “With great source repositories, comes great responsibility.”

 It is very encouraging to see companies like Footnote take an interest in what its members and potential members care about.  I was impressed by the Footnote team and site and get the feeling that the innovation hasn’t stopped yet.

As an added bonus, I got to meet Dick Eastman.  Overall, what a great experience!

Article in March/April 2008 Digital Genealogist

Tuesday, 11 Mar 2008 | by Mark Tucker

In the past, I have written articles and had them published in programming journals, but this month marks the publication of my first genealogy article.  It appears in the March/April 2008 (Volume 2, Number 2) issue of Digital Genealogist on page 5 and is titled: “The Future of Genealogy Software is not Hard to See.”

The following are mentioned in the article:
(more…)

Speaking at BYU Family History Technology Workshop

Monday, 10 Mar 2008 | by Mark Tucker

This week I will be taking vacation days from work so that I can attend both the 2008 Family History Technology Workshop as well as the Computerized Family History and Genealogy Conference in Provo, Utah.  I will be speaking at the technology workshop and have 20 minutes to discuss my topic: 10 Things Genealogy Software Should Do. 

Here is the abstract from my paper:

Innovation in genealogy software starts with ideas that lead to better design. This paper discusses 10 things that genealogy software should do but currently doesn’t. It is a starting point for discussion among those in the genealogy community: family historians, software developers, and designers. It is a springboard for additional design ideas.

With only 20 minutes, it will be both fast and fun.  If you will be attending either the workshop or the conference, it would be great to meet you.

Check out the schedule for other topics that will be discussed.

Interview with DearMyrtle

Monday, 10 Mar 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Last week I had the honor of being interviewed by DearMyrtle for her 4 March 2008 podcast.  We discussed the Genealogy Research Process map in detail with specific examples at each step.  The interview lasted about 38 minutes and was fun to do.  I was a little nervous at first, but Ol’ Myrt put me at ease very quickly.  I very much enjoyed the time talking to her during the interview and afterwards.  Hopefully we will cross paths this week at the 2008 Computerized Family History & Genealogy Conference at BYU.

Note: Due to some technical difficulties, the podcast is temporarily available here.

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