Thursday, January 31, 2008

Where have all the Mailing Lists Gone?

Way back in the frontier days when we circled the wagons at the end of the day and hooked up our 300 baud modems, mailing lists were one of the first electronic tools we used for genealogy. As far as mailing lists are concerned, FamilySearch was late in and today they announced they would also be one of the first out.

Users of their mailing list system received notification today. "Effective 13 February 2008, the Collaboration E-mail List feature on the FamilySearch.org web site will be discontinued." Users who wished to remain in contact with one another were advised to exchange e-mail addresses.

RootsWeb Mailing Lists

It is only coincidence that today the Utah Valley PAF User Group (UVPAFUG) used RootsWeb's mailing list system for the last time. List members received a message that began, "A Final Message to All Participants in this Mailing List." UVPAFUG has used RootsWeb's system since July 2000 to announce their monthly meetings. UVPAFUG (no, I don't know how they pronounce that) is abandoning RootsWeb's system in favor of a blog and FeedBlitz subscriptions.

The Ancestry Insider has been hearing rumors of dissatisfaction from several groups with the RootsWeb mailing list system. Ignored for many years by RootsWeb owners—the Generations Network (TGN)—the Insider was told that TGN switched the software used for the mailing lists several months ago and list administrators are not happy with the loss of some key features.

HTML E-mail Formatting

While other solutions allow HTML formatting, or rich text as it is sometimes called, TGN has invested very little in upgrading RootsWeb-related e-mails. Mailing lists are still plain text. The RootsWeb Review became available in HTML just last week.

Message board notifications are another ugly step child. In yet another coincidence, at least some of today's notifications went out with bad links. Here's a representative message showing the ugly formatting as well as the link error.

My Notifications

Board : Boards > Surnames > Rencher
Subject : Nancy Rencher, daughter of John Nelson
Author : BMarshall0572
Date : 29 Jan 2008 4:24 AM GMT

http:///mbexec/msg/an/nEB.2ACE/86

Board : Boards > Surnames > Rencher
Subject : Re: Nancy Rencher, daughter of John
Author : brencher
Date : 29 Jan 2008 5:20 AM GMT

http:///mbexec/msg/an/nEB.2ACE/86.1

Board : Boards > Surnames > Rencher
Subject : Re: Nancy Rencher, daughter of John
Author : BMarshall0572
Date : 29 Jan 2008 5:31 AM GMT

http:///mbexec/msg/an/nEB.2ACE/86.1.1

The Message Board Administration Team

It may be that mailing lists powered by genealogy companies may one day soon disappear entirely.

1 comment:

  1. "It may be that mailing lists powered by genealogy companies may one day soon disappear entirely."

    Insider,

    Are you presaging a move by TGN to dump some components of Rootsweb like their mail lists?

    There are problems with many of the lists, and mostly that have to do with inactivity. The message boards through the common gateway of ancestry/rootsweb, have taken a lot away from the mail lists. But this only highlights the overall problem, which is that TGN, through its ownership and continued support of the mail lists, ancestry/rootsweb message boards, and the genforum boards, has diluted all of them so that no one form of communication has a critical mass of sustainability for many locality or surname topics.

    There are actually many mail lists that are vibrant and very active, and which mainly seem to be on specialized topics. The locality & surname mail lists however, are the ones that seem to be suffering.

    I think that if the genforums site was dumped and available in archive mode only, that such would increase the traffic of the ancestry/rootsweb boards. And as to the mail lists, often the only thing that gives an illusion of activity for many lists is the ability of the admins to gateway message board posts into their mail lists. If that ability were removed, meaning the lists had to sink or swim on their own, not only would needless redundancy of storage be eliminated, but users would have to face a choice of which venue to use, meaning that one was more likely to come out with decent traffic, and it would probably be the message board.

    Having said that, there is an awful lot of good material in the mail list archives, which I would hope would always be maintained as part of Rootsweb.

    Mike

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