May 252017
 

A blog or Facebook? Which is better for sharing family history? It’s a question that been going around the genealogy community for the last month or so.Blog or Facebook

Having one foot in the writers’ community and one foot in the family history crowd, the question surprised me. I don’t think it would have come up in an authors’ group. Writers look at it as both, not either or. Probably because “platform building” has become a necessity as authors’ are increasingly forced into functioning as entrepreneurs. They wield whatever tools they can put their hands on and use effectively. Blogging and Facebook come immediately to mind.

Community Response to the Question

In an excellent article, Facebook vs. Blogging: The Pros and Cons, Alona Tester gives a great overview of the pros and cons of each, as the title implies. She also points that all Facebook accounts are not the same. The algorithms vary depending on whether you have a page, group, or a personal profile. A Facebook group, for example, can be quite efficient in sharing information with a known group of followers.

Amy Johnson Crow’s post Is Genealogy Blogging Dead? responds to the Blog or Facebook question with a resounding “Both.” She writes that we should see social media as a complement to blogging, not a competition. She states, “There are 1.9 billion users on Facebook. Bloggers can and should harness some of that!”

In addition to the pros and cons of blogging versus Facebook, her post also goes into the history of family history blogging and the need for continued promotion. As with everything Amy posts, it’s worth a read.

Rather than summarizing their work, I’ll focus on the algorithms of the two industry giants of Google and Facebook and how they affect our ability to promote content.

Google Algorithms versus Facebook Algorithms

The complex and changing algorithms these two industry giants have a significant impact on how many people will read our content. Both (as well as other search engines) set their algorithms up with specific goals in mind.

Google’s Metrics

Google’s algorithms work in favor of well written and well researched posts. Google aspires to provide users with organic results, content that is relevant and valuable to them. As Insiteful Solutions, a website design firm in Toronto, states in Learn About Google’s Recent Algorithm Updates, “Google has been very clear in the philosophy behind their updates; Google wants high-quality content to appear on their search results page. Each of the updates they make to their algorithm is meant to increase exposure to good content.”

Sure, reasonable Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics can help increase traffic, but for niche topics, blog content can achieve a first page Google ranking on its own merits.

Facebook’s Metrics

Facebook’s algorithmic goals are quite different, and for many bloggers, are more difficult to master. In addition, we’ve witnessed some U-turns in Facebook’s page algorithms in recent years, forcing us to develop new strategies. (Or a budget. For business pages, Facebook offers highly targeted advertising.)

No matter how well written, it takes some know-how and commitment to get your posts any prominence in your followers’ feeds. Posts need likes, comments, and shares to live long and prosper.

That’s because Facebook’s priorities are to provide entertainment and strengthen relationships. According to “Building a Better News Feed for You” by Facebook’s VP of News Feed Product Management Adam Mosseri, Facebook designs its algorithms to ensure a longevity of usership.

In addition to giving priority to posts that entertain and inform, Mosseri states that “friends and family come first.” He explains, “Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook.” That’s why you’re more likely to see photos from your siblings (especially if you normally like, comment, and share them) than your ex-brother-in-law’s cousin’s political rants.

Back to the Question: Is a Blog or Facebook Better?

Rather than decide whether a blog or Facebook (or both, as I believe) is the best option, we can reframe the question and look at which outlet warrants your energy on a post-by-post basis.

Facebook might be best for a post, if

  • You have a large number of followers who comment and repost. Facebook algorithms assume that your posts are either highly informative, entertaining, or valued by friends and family when they’re share.
  • Your post is short. Google downgrades posts under 300 words and Facebook readers are unlikely to read something longer.
  • The topic is time-limited. For instance, if you’re promoting tomorrow’s conference, it doesn’t matter if your post falls to the bottom of followers’ feeds by next week.
  • A majority of your target audience is on Facebook. This is changing, but older Americans tend not to “be on Facebook” or if they are, they don’t check in daily.
  • Many of your target audience are “friends.” This feeds the oh-so-valuable commenting and re-posting.

A blog might be the best option for a post, if your

  • Blog has a large following and/or subscribers
  • Site is optimized for search engines
  • Blog is integrated with social media (and not only Facebook)
  • Social media following includes other outlets and followers that retweet, repin, etc., your posts.
  • Topic is evergreen, likely to interest someone in two years as it is today.
  • Topic lends itself to Google searches. (Such as how-to articles)
  • Site metrics (and yes, you should be checking them) reveal that most of your referrals come from search engines or other social media outlets. For instance, my top two referrals are Google and Pinterest.

Your Turn:

What’s your answer to the Blog of Facebook question?

Want to know more about Blogging for Family History? Check out Blogging for Family History: How to Launch a Site and Make It Successful

 

 

May 102017
 

In the hyper-awareness that comes with loss, quite a few bittersweet moments have embossed themselves on my heart and memory. Snapshots of love, grief, and faith, gathered over the last two weeks.

Sacred Bittersweet Moments

Our minds record touching, bittersweet moments more vividly than a camera could.

I thought the dearly departed would have enjoyed some of them, were he watching. Perhaps he was. My insights aren’t unique, I’m sure. Such bittersweet moments happen in families all the time. But I found comfort in writing them down. Considering them together, I realize that they tell a story that is as much about the departed as those he left behind.

I hope that by my sharing them, you’ll record a few of your own.

Sacred sounds

A pastor’s voice cracking, tears streaming down her face, as she pronounced, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Uttering the words, “His blood, shed for you,” siblings assume their father’s stewardship of the tiny church, assisting the pastor.

A granddaughter’s solo, poignant yet familiar, fills the space.

Throughout the tables crowded with people, white bread sandwiches and mayonnaise-based salads, laughter rings out in the midst of tears.

Intimate, Bittersweet Moments

The widow greets her recently widowed brother-in-law by her husband’s casket. Supported by cane and walker, their heads bend, foreheads resting against one another, tears flowing in shared loss. Others, turn tactfully away, granting them privacy in a crowd.

Ninety-two-year-old sister-in-law dips the bread in the chalice, intinction-style, then selects a communion cup of wine from the tray, taking it with her to her seat. Silent laughter through prayers and tears.

Grandchildren

Cousins hug. Standard distance that accompanies re-acquaintance dissolved in shared shock. Resolute. Wet-eyed. Comforting each other, laughing together, through the tears.

Six young adult grandchildren spread the funeral pall—symbol of the resurrection—over the casket together, with help from the six-year old great grandchild. Somber under their mantle as earthly evidence of his legacy of love and family.

Then, with the two youngest in the lead, the grandchildren move the casket to the chancel, ushering their beloved grandfather to the gates of heaven.

After the service, grandchildren slip flowers out of their gardner-grandfather’s funeral blanket, transferring them to their great-grandparents’ stone, giving homage to ancestors whose memories have faded, yet still transcend.

Great-grand child selecting yet another stone to grace with a flower, because it might make someone happy. Hugs, smiles and laughter through the tears.

Roles shifting

Widow, now matriarch, offers to pay for dinner. Grandchildren confer, then cough up tens and twenties. Provider becomes the protected.

Grandsons and their uncles, awkwardly making their way through the grass and grave markers, struggling with the weight of their burden. Carrying the load. Together.

Grandson occupies the driver’s seat, ready to chauffeur his grandmother to the grave-side service, accidentally pops the hood. Laughter, through our tears.

Afterwards

Café tables pulled together and food and beverages shared, loved ones sit, heads together in small groups, telling stories they’ve all told and heard before. Laughter through the tears.

Helpful offspring, stripping beds, not realizing their siblings had already done the same. Laughter, despite the heaviness of heart.

A solitary face in the window, waving goodbye.

His gifts of faith, family, storytelling, and laughter keep giving.

Your Turn:

Can you tell a story through the description of a few poignant or bittersweet moments? I’d love to see what you come up with.

Apr 252017
 

Romance stories aren’t only for the young. We’ve always known that. But still, it’s the stories of youthful innocence and falling in love that make the best seller lists. The stories of couples entering their seventh decade of marriage make the back pages.romance stories one for the ages

But those long relationships started somewhere, a lot of times with young love. And these stories get better with age.

Last week I sat in a hospital room with two people I dearly love, both in their mid-eighties. A palliative care professional was trying to get the man, recovering from a stroke, to think about “outcomes” and “interventions.” She asked, “How would you feel about it, if you couldn’t go home? If you had to go to a nursing facility?”

First, he hemmed and hawed and said he had every intention of getting well. When she pressed him, he said (and speech was a little bit of a struggle in the aftermath of his stroke), “You see that lady over there? She’s basically my world… If I still have my wits and I have her, I can adjust to anything.”

“How long have you been married?” asked the nurse, visibly moved.

“Sixty-five years,” they answered. In unison.

Then the man started telling the nurse a story, one that happened some 67 years ago, but still his favorite.  About how he had a blind date one night. And how, as he drove home from the date, he knew he’d just met the lady he was going to marry. But, then the man let the nurse in on a secret—one I’d never heard.

He was scared. “I was still a student at Michigan State. I had no idea how I’d support a wife. Much less an idea of how I’d raise a family.” He laughed a belly laugh. “But I did it. We did it. Three grown kids…  Can you believe that?” He shook his head and grinned at his wife.

It’s not surprising to see a man in his eighties feeling thankful for life he’s led. For his degrees, career, children, and financial security.

But him thinking the best part of it all was a meeting the girl of his dreams? That she still is? That proves that romance stories are about a lot more than romance.

Apr 122017
 

Though poignant, stories of forgiveness can be difficult to write. Stories of Forgiveness graphicThey call for us to reveal the dark times of our relationships with our family, friends, or even faith. Telling heartfelt stories of forgiveness push us even further than the proverbial long honest look in the mirror. They require us to admit to the world what the reflection revealed.

Stories of Forgiveness

Perhaps because of forgiveness’ elusiveness or our own limited ability to harness its power, stories of forgiveness make for compelling reading.  If you doubt their popularity, just do a Google search.  Readers’ Digest, Real Simple, and The Huffington Post all offer compilations of stories of forgiveness, as does The Forgiveness Project. Continue reading »

Mar 102017
 

TapGenes, Tap Genes Logo an application that helps families compile their health information, won the 2016 RootsTech Innovator Summit. Last month, I caught up with CEO Heather Holmes to see what difference a year makes.

Our Interview


(In case you’re wondering, I am not affiliated with TapGenes. I just like the platform. Much of TapGenes is free to use.)

How TapGenes Helps Families Tell their Stories

TapGenes explains that they use “the idea of “crowdsourcing” to help “families create a more complete and accurate family medical history, together.” That little word “together” isn’t an after-thought. As families accumulate information, they have conversations about what they know.  Not only does this help inform all members of the family, it also fosters honest conversations, a key to preventing important health topics from getting swept under the rug. (See Why You Should Tell Health Stories)

Despite all the fanfare about genetic testing, the information already known to your family provides crucial information for doctors. Think about it, before you even see a doctor, you fill out forms about your own and family health history. Unfortunately, a lot of us can’t remember everything in that 10 minutes during which scribble on the forms as we wait to see the doctor. The website is HIPAA compliant so it’s a safe way to accumulate data

You can also fill out your own information, then opt to share it with family members. Perhaps knowing that you suffer from borderline-diabetes or anxiety and depression will make other family members more comfortable sharing their own or taking actions to treat those conditions.

Assessing your risk

In addition to assembling family health information, TapGenes wants to help “families connect the dots between their known risks and … discover where they can impact and influence better health. One way they do that is through questionnaires that assist with risk assessment. Throughout these Q&As, TapGenes weaves in advice regarding life-style choices, such as taking multi-vitamins, exercise, and alcohol consumption.

The ability to change the ending of your story

TapGenes Risk Assessment

Wow. Time for some better self-care and that check-up I’ve been putting off.

My colon cancer risk assessment surprised me.  It also forced me to be honest with myself.

I think of myself as active, but my exercise is on a weekly basis, not daily.  Clicking through the friendly interview, I had to admit the multi-vitamins are nearing their expiration date in the kitchen drawer and that the closest I come to taking a vitamin D supplement is using whole vitamin D enriched milk in my coffee. And it didn’t even ask me about that polyp they found at the last colonoscopy and how long it’s been since I had a follow-up.

By making me a little uncomfortable, TapGenes reminds me that I have an opportunity to influence how that story ends.

Upgraded Membership

All of the above is available under TapGenes free subscription. However, their upgraded membership includes unlimited documents and access to their genetic section and pharmacogenetics alerts.

If you’d like to join me in trying that out, Heather is offering TreasureChestofMemories.com readers a 50% discount on the upgraded membership (from $79 to $39 for a one year subscription).  After signing up for a free account, use the code (treasurechest50) to get the promotional discount for the premium account.

 

Mar 062017
 

When we’re writing our family’s history, we tend to skip over the family health stories.

EKG family health Stories

Have you written about your own or family health stories? Image adapted from “EKG Komplex” by Shizhao, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Germany

With the exceptions of gory accidents or war injuries, health—or lack of it—gets a subtle billing. It often only rates a simple note of what the attending physician scrawled on a death certificate.

I get it. War stories, including injuries, inspire the imagination. Plus, they possess a certain valor. We’re far removed from a society in which all able-bodied men were expected to serve. And, train-wreck stories rivet us. We’re wired that way. Maybe it’s so we have that “I’m so glad it didn’t happen to me” feeling. Continue reading »

Feb 172017
 

Research isn’t what genealogy is all about. It’s about understanding your roots. Knowing where you came from is part of your story. What makes you uniquely you.

Understanding your roots graphic

Understanding your roots, however you feel about your ancestors’ decisions, matters to understanding your own story.

Sometimes, though, we don’t like the facts we find. (See Facing Ancestors’ Pasts & Not Liking What We See) We’re tempted to ignore them, make light of them, or re-frame them.  The problem is, none of that breeds understanding.

I recently attended a lecture on telling ancestors’ stories. I found myself stopped short when I heard the speaker say, “We must be proud of our roots.” Although he was trying to make the point that ancestors’ stories can invoke family pride, he lost me. My brain was screaming, “Oh, no, we don’t.” If I limited my ancestors’ stories to those I could be proud of, I’d leave a bunch of folks out. Continue reading »

Feb 102017
 
Apps for family storytellers innovator summit

This year’s Innovator Summit featured several great apps for family storytellers

RootsTech is a great place to discover apps for family storytellers. In fact, Rootstech is to storytellers as Virginia is to lovers. A homeplace. A source of inspiration. A show case of innovation.

Innnovator Summit’s Apps for Storytellers

Although FamilySearch’s Steve Rockwood advised innovators to look beyond the storytelling, thankfully a couple of this year’s innovators didn’t get the memo.

Emberall helps you let loved ones tell their own stories in their own words via short video clips. Which, according to Embrell’s Karen Corbitt, is the preferred format for millennials.

When downloaded on an Android or iOS smart phone, the app guides users through creating an album and interview question prompts. Using the smart phone’s video, loved ones record their responses. Better yet, Emberall tags and categorizes the video clips, making them easy to find and share. You can also upload the videos to presentation quality DVDs.

Tony Knight of Qroma wins 2nd place

Qroma Tag and Tony Knight won the 2nd place price in the Innovator Showdown

QromaTag came from innovator Tony Knight’s desire to uncover the stories behind the photos his father left behind when he died. Tony asks, “How many times have you looked at a photo and wondered what was going on? If it was a print, you might be tempted to flip it over to see if anything was written on the back.” Sadly, those of us who’ve been obsessively scanning photos for years haven’t taken the time or had the expertise to add meta data to the photo file.  (Metadata is bits and bytes of information stored in photo files.)

Luckily, Tony knows more about things like EXIF, IPTC, Voice Recognition and standard outputs than the average bear. With QromaTag, you can record the exact GPS coordinates of the place your grandparents’ home used to stand. In addition, you can use—get this—voice recognition to tag photos with names, places, and even 2000 characters to attach “the most important parts of a story” to the photo.  This makes finding the photos to use in stories much easier. It’s currently available for iOS, but will be out soon for Android.

Qroma Tag won 2nd place in the RootsTech Innovator Showdown.

Previous Innovation Summit Winners

Twile.com (Last year’s Innovator Showdown People’s choice winner) “makes your family history more visual and engaging” with the creation of timelines and aesthetically pleasing info-graphics. Though Twile can pull family’s memories, photos and stories in the same place, it can also be used to enhance your stories. For family history buffs, their partnership with FamilySearch makes them even more attractive. “Twile” comes from “erstwhile” and is now completely free to use.

Storyworth.com (the 2015 Innovator Showdown winner) helps with the problem of getting stories from loved ones who probably would never get around to writing themselves.  A subscription service, loved ones (or you) will receive weekly story prompts. They can respond via email or phone and those stories are kept on an ad-free private server.

Other Apps for Family Storytellers

Storycorps’ app  remains at the top of my list.  Like many other apps, it offers prompts to facilitate interviews, but it offers the users a chance to upload their interview to the Library of Congress. In my experience, these interviews are stilted questions and answers, but rather include a lot of heart.

Rev.com transcription for voice recorders, intrigues Valerie Brown Eichler, a friend who blogs at familycherished.com. Imagine, recording your oral history interviews and having a service that automatically transcribes the interview.  Neither one of us have tried it out for accuracy, but it’s definitely one to watch.

Your Turn:

What are your favorite storytelling apps?  Let me know!

Feb 022017
 
Divided households picture of torn photo of house

Does your family story include issues which divided households?

Throughout time, people have disagreed with the people they love. Issues of childrearing, money, faith, culture, religious practices and politics have, on occasion, divided households and hardened hearts. You might immediately think of the present political environment, but this isn’t the first time in history that issues have created emotional schisms among family members and friends

Sometimes, if the animosity has been put to rest, it’s best to leave the story alone like the proverbial sleeping dog. There’s nothing to be gained from revisiting and possibly re-igniting tensions. Continue reading »

Jan 172017
 

Who do you think you are logo The popular TV show Who Do You Think You Are? provides some valuable storytelling insight that we can apply to the narratives of our ancestors.  Despite the professional genealogists, unlimited travel budget and celebrities, the show also has some practical storytelling wisdom for memory and family history writers. Continue reading »