The conference last week has thrown me off my groove. There’ve been important updates at Ancestry.com that I need to tell you about in case you depend on me for your Ancestry.com news. As I’m behind, I’ll draw from the company’s press release. I particularly applaud Ancestry.com for their newly digitized content. It’s much more expensive than converting microfilm, but it’s a bigger value-add to the genealogical community.
Product Updates from Eric Shoup, VP Product
The major Product news this month is the launch of two major new features: Member Connect and the Enhanced Image Page.
We have been talking about this feature to our members and to you all for over a month now. It is now here and by the time you read this, I am sure there will be lots of feedback from our members about it. In case you missed it, you can read more about the feature here. There are some aspects of this feature that we have not talked about publicly. I wanted to give you the inside scoop on a few things.
What it took to build
This is probably one of the most complex projects that Ancestry.com has undertaken in the last few years. The idea of exposing activities to members that are taken by other members on the site in a timely and relevant manner sounds simple but turns out to be very complex to do at the scale at which we are doing it. Member Connect has taken over a year to go from concept to reality. We have involved a large cross-functional team of Ancestry.com employees to design and build this feature. We have also performed a number of usability tests with members (and even talked to some of you) to get feedback on the concept and its design.
Needless to say, we expect that we will get plenty of valid criticism of this feature once it launches. We will be listening closely and iterating on Member Connect to ensure it meets customer expectations. Let us know what you think by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is happening behind the scenes
We have been running Member Connect in an invisible mode on Ancestry.com for over a week now. To give you a sense for the scale at which this system is functioning, in the first 24 hours that we had the Member Connect feature turned on, we saw the following:
- We logged 4.7 million member-generated activities (such as a member saving a record to their tree or uploading a photo)
- 1.5 million of these activities were relevant to at least 1 other Ancestry.com member and would be “shareable” in their Member Connect Recent Activity list
- Since many of the activities logged were relevant to the research of multiple other members, these 1.5 million individual member activities spawned 18 million individual entries to be published in individual member’s Member Connect Recent Activity lists.
- As a result of this, nearly 70% of our members had 1 or more entries included in their Recent Activity list. About 30% had 10 or more entries and about 10% of our members had 100 or more entries.
All of this in the first 24 hours!
Expected member concerns
There are two concerns that I expect our members to raise initially as they are getting used to Member Connect:
- Overload: A small subset of our members may feel like they are being deluged with data. These members have a few options: 1) They can ignore the summarized homepage recent activity list and focus instead on the recent activity list for a specific ancestor in the tree by going to the ancestor profile page for this person, 2) members can filter their Member Connect activity items through filters we have provided and/or 3) they can turn-off major parts of Member Connect altogether.
- Privacy: Some of our members will be concerned that their actions on the site will be seen by others. The reality is that almost everything being exposed via Member Connect is already available on the site! We have just made it easier to find. Ultimately this means that we all can collaborate with each other more quickly and easily to build our families’ histories. All that said, those who feel uncomfortable with this new level of transparency can change their privacy settings here. It should be reiterated that we will still honor tree privacy settings and never share information about people we believe are living.
Enhanced Image Page & Improved Editing
We have talked about this feature in quite a bit of detail here. We initially rolled the Enhanced Image Page to just 12 of our smaller census collections. As we gauge member reaction, we will roll it out to our major census collections.
The inclusion of index pane, Member Connect info and source info right next to the historical image will be great. However, the part I am most excited about is our expanded editing capability. We have made the process of submitting an alternate much easier and we have expanded the number of fields you can edit. Since alternates get included in our search engine, member-submitted modifications make it easier for all of us to find the records we are looking for. Even without these capabilities, we get 30,000 alternates submitted by members to our indexes a week. Will these changes increase this rate by 50%? 100%? 200%? I’ll report back on this in a month or two when we have solid data on this.
Content Updates from Gary Gibb, VP U.S. Content
Here’s a some Collections new or coming soon to Ancestry.com:
Jewish Collection Update
Description: New collections from 2 new Jewish content partners (to be announced in August) and more great content from our current partners JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) and JewishGen.org.
Immigration Collection Update
Descriptions: Large additions to our U.S. Naturalization Originals and the Passenger and Immigration Lists
1830 U.S. Federal Censuses Improved
Est. Record Count: 1.8m
Est. Image Count: 142k
Description: New clearer, higher quality images.
New York Mortality Schedules, 1850-1880
Est. Name Count: 146k
Est. Image Count: 15k
Description: Records from the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 U.S. Census of people who died during the previous 12 months in the state of New York.
New York State Passenger and Crew List Update
Est. Name Count: 320k
Est. Image Count: 27k
Description: Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at Buffalo, Lackawanna, and North Tonawanda, New York, 1945-1974; Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at Rouses Point and Waddington, New York, 1954-1956.
Honolulu Passenger Lists, 1900-1953
Est. Name Count: 4m
Est. Image Count: 193k
Description: Scanned onsite at NARA.
Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1963-1974
Est. Name Count: 133k
Est. Image Count: 494k
Description: Records of U.S. Citizens who died in other countries (scanned onsite at NARA).
1880 DDD Special U.S. Census Schedules
Description: DDD special census records from selected states.