Thursday, September 3, 2009

FamilySearch Record Search Pilot 2.0 released

The FamilySearch Record Search Pilot has been updated. The “News and Updates” on the site reads

1 Sep 2009: Welcome to the updated Record Search 2.0. This release has a whole new look and feel to it with different colors, screen layouts and some new functionality. For a list of all the changes check out our blog at: http://labs.familysearch.org/blog/

Here are the new features of the update:

  • The web site has a whole new look. In my opinion, it looks more like the FamilySearch Alpha, also available on FamilySearch Labs.
  • Removed the “unsupported browser” message since the message itself was the only reason Record Search didn’t work on some browsers.
  • Moved the map off the main page. Click on “Browse our record collections” underneath the search form to go to the page with the map.
    Click on 'Browse our record collections' to select a single collection 
  • The Copy button puts the record on your clipboard.
    Above the record details are icons for Copy, Print, and Share
    The information on your clipboard is just plain text. It looks like this:

    Name: Horace Conrad Wiser
    Death date: 15 Jul 1908
    Death place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Gender: Male
    Race or color (on document): white
    Age at death: 4 months 3 days

    Collection: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915

  • The Print button prints the record. Unfortunately, my free PDF printer driver wasn’t completely satisfied with the result, leaving most of the page background black.
    print
    And unlike the Copy to clipboard function, the name of the collection was either left off or printed black on black.

  • A new Share button allows you to share a record on Facebook, an email, even a blog. Clicking the button gives the choice of sharing the record on Facebook, and provides a link, like this one to the above example. If I understand correctly, the links created may break during the Pilot testing. You may have to enable pop-ups to post the record to Facebook.
    A shared record from Record Search looks like this on Facebook
  • A new feature I think is pretty significant is the “About this Collection” link to the right of the Copy, Print, Share icons. The “About this Collection” information has been placed in the FamilySearch Wiki! This not only gives FamilySearch collection managers a more powerful environment in which to post information, it gives the general public a shot at enhancing the information as well. I can imagine the user community adding all sorts of useful information about using the collection and interpreting its records.

    I think it’s also possible that we’ll see the genealogical community use this tool in unexpected ways that the community views as having value. It remains to be seen if FamilySearch will allow unorthodox uses such as indexing corrections, lists of bad images, links to missing images, and so forth. I hope, I hope, I hope FamilySearch is wise and patient enough to let the genealogical community decide how to best utilize this new tool.

    I think this new feature has the power to engage the genealogical community more strongly than anything else they’ve released this year. If they don’t squelch it when it first starts snowballing beyond their control, they will find they have created one of the true, great innovations in online digital archives. Ancestry.com pioneered user contributions at the field level. Footnote.com pioneered user contributions at the record level. FamilySearch has now pioneered user contributions at the collection level.
  • Browsing the images of collections has changed. The screen now looks like this:
    Record Search Image Browser
    I’ve already heard people complain about the change in layout, but I like it. For census records, I would rather have the image viewing area be wide than tall. There is a Full Screen button to easily maximize the image view.

    The change was to allow easy selection of other places in the browse structure and I think it accomplishes that quite well. My only complaint is that the items I selected in the browse lists are covered up when the image viewer slides into place. The lists should be automatically scrolled to make my selections visible. Then you wouldn’t need to display them redundantly underneath the FamilySearch logo. That would recover some screen real estate.

    My other only complaint is with the final selection in the browse hierarchy. When I click the final item (such as Fond du Lac city, ward 6 in the screen image, above), instead of immediately sliding the image viewer into place, Record Search shows me how many images are in that group of images. Why make me click again? I’ve already selected the locality and the image viewer tells me again how many images are in the group. My vote is, drop this useless extra click.

Well, it’s late and I’m not going to get to the NFS update tonight. You’ll just have to check “Temple Districts Using New FamilySearch.” Also, come to the Ancestry Insider website and check out the lists I’ve added in the right-hand column to FamilySearch web sites and online manuals.

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