Innovation: Annotations and Member Contributed Content
Innovation Type: Transformational
Online genealogy databases have been around for a long time. Various providers allow searching an index and accessing a digitized copy of the source document. Our next winner of the Innovator Award does something more.
Footnote provides a first-rate, Flash-based rich Internet application (RIA) viewer for its documents that includes the ability to annotate these documents. What that means is that you can highlight a part of the document and type in your own text. Each annotation can be up to 512 characters long.
Different types of annotations available are name, date, place, and text.
Your annotations are immediately viewable on the site which includes more than 218,000 member-contributed annotations as of March 3, 2009.
But the innovation does not end there. Approximately two days later, your annotations become searchable. You have just contributed searchable content to Footnote available from the main search box or the advanced search:
If too many documents are returned, the facets on the left help narrow your search by surfacing actual document content listed in order of number of occurrences:
The “Title or Collection” facet can be used to select member-contributed images:
You can annotate the same document many times and multiple Footnote members can add their own annotations.
This hints of social networking where connections can be made between subscribers based on interest in the same document, same person, or same place.
Annotations and social networking are available for Footnoted-provided content. Possibly the best part of the innovation is that members can upload their own documents, annotate them, and connect with others. Annotations on these uploaded documents are also searchable.
Annotating or uploading requires a free membership. Viewing member-contributed content can be done without registering:
Footnote does not just provide a database of its own content but allows members to add content in the form of annotations and documents. Footnote has in essence provided a framework for sharing sources and information.
In 1992, Robert Redford appeared in the film, Sneakers. At one point his old friend (turned nemesis) states:
“It’s about who controls the information … it’s all about the information!”
It truly is all about the information. And with Footnote, we all can be contributors.
I consider these features as innovative and transformational. I expect to see other genealogy content providers follow Footnote’s lead.