Genealogy today is more than ancestral charts and family group sheets – much more. Today’s researcher needs to know how to craft the perfect search query, develop naming conventions for digital files and import a GEDCOM. And that’s just the beginning.
The online age has allowed us to connect with researchers in every corner of the world. Publishing is easy and affordable. Our computers can do much of the organizational grunt work for us. We just need to learn how all these things work.
That’s where special interest groups come in. They aren’t new, but taking them virtual is. Why bother? Because they are a whole lot less bother than trying to organize and manage a physical group. That’s one reason. Another is that distant members can participate in virtual groups just as easily as local members. There are no rooms to reserve or travel time. In fact, virtual special interest groups can operate 24/7!
Tumblr is a free blog platform that’s also quite easy to use. It has been designed to make it easy for bloggers to share content they find from all over the web. By combining Tumblr with the Disqus commenting system, you have an almost instant social network. The beauty of it is that it’s always open and people can participate when they want, from wherever they are. Here’s how it works.
This is a screen shot of the Genealogy 101 Tumblr that supports my local study group. You are looking at one of the static pages on this site – the tag cloud. It serves as an index to the articles posted on this site. Each article has a number of keywords – called tags – attached to it to describe the topics discussed. The tag cloud collects all those keywords and presents them here in alphabetical order. The larger the tag is in this list, the more articles there are associated with this topic. To view all the articles associated with a tag, all you have to do is click on it.
Here you see a Tumblr post and the conversation getting started based on the topic of this post. The Disqus commenting platform operates across a number of blog sites and platforms. This means readers only need one Disqus account to comment at a growing number of sites. And, their Disqus profile page keeps track of all their conversations in one place, making it easy to keep up and respond.
Group participants should be encouraged to subscribe to the group site via their newsreader so new postings will be delivered to their desktop. If you aren’t familiar with newsreaders and their use in genealogy research, stop by the Genealogy Toolbox Tumblr to learn more. When a topic appears that interests them, they can easily follow it back to the original site and add their own comments and experiences using Disqus. And, if your society develops more than one virtual SIG, Disqus makes it easy to keep up with all those conversations.
To get started, you first need to get comfortable with Tumblr. It’s free to use and you can have a blog up and running in a matter of minutes. Blog Platforms – Tumblr offers a quick video overview and links to a very useful (and short) guide to using Tumblr.
You are also welcome to take advantage of several existing special interest groups. They are open to all.
- Genealogy 10 introduces beginning researchers to techniques and resources
- Genealogy Toolbox discusses the digital tools needed for online research
- Personal Publishing looks at digital storytelling with ideas, apps and platforms to help tell your family’s story
- The Personal Archivist offers tips, resources and ideas for organizing, managing and digitizing family treasures
Take a look, try some experiments on your own and see if Tumblr and Disqus work for you. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.