Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Mailbox: Insider Unfair

Insider Unfair to Archives.com

Dear Insider,

The NARA census website is working well now (Tuesday night, Pacific time), and my Twitter and Facebook friends have been reporting greatly improved site response starting mid-day, so it seems like they got things under control.

They were hit with probably 4x their estimated traffic yesterday and then those massive numbers *increased* today, Tuesday. There's only so fast anyone can reasonably scale up with those kinds of numbers of visitors, and with such "heavy" (big high-res images) data.

So yeah, maybe you could cool it a bit with the "ZOMG EPIC FAIL!" stuff. We all know that Ancestry.com really wanted to win the 1940 Census contract over Archives.com, and yet they didn't, so you certainly wouldn't want your readers accusing you guys of "sour grapes" now, right?

Signed,
Asparagirl *

Dear Asparagirl,

I am not part of Ancestry.com nor do I represent them. My opinions are my own.

When you say that "we all know that Ancestry.com really wanted..." I must confess I did not know. I’m surprised to learn they had bid on the contract, so your information is news to me. Might I inquire what your source is for that news?

Signed,
--The Insider

Insider Unfair to Ancestry.com

Dear Insider,

Seems disingenuous for you to call Ancestry 3rd, when they have the highest quality images up, as well as have always been reachable, when Archives.com (the NARA site) wasn't even usable that first day, and barely improved the 2nd day. Personally, I would rather get something (even if they aren't all there) than sit waiting endlessly for empty images.

Additionally, you haven't mentioned that Ancestry has the only currently searchable indexes up (except the 500 or so records from somebody else)

Do you have an axe to grind from your time at Ancestry?

The least you could do for you readers is provide a balanced opinion. IMO the best experience over the whole 1940 excitement is and has been Ancestry.com

Signed,
The Rowdy *

Dear Rowdy,

NARA did the image scanning so Ancestry.com’s images can’t be better than everybody else’s.

Your point on usability is well made, but I assigned places based on the order in which the horses crossed the finish line, not for how pretty they looked when they did so.

Perhaps Archives.com should have been disqualified since they started at the finish line while everyone else started at the starting line. Hit head on by a water cannon, they stumbled backwards while the rest of the field closed down on them. That they fought their way back and crossed the finish line more than a day ahead of Ancestry.com earned them a second place finish, despite the deluge that continued unabated.

Don't give up on your favorite horse just yet. The race for indexes has just began and as you point out, Ancestry.com has established an early lead.

Signed,
--The Insider

Insider Unfair to FamilySearch

No one wrote in to say I was unfair to FamilySearch! Maybe I’m being too easy on my employer.

They remain a long way from the finish line. They are by far the slowest horse. The best they can do is take fourth. I’ve seen better looking horses in a glue factory. I’ve seen faster horses on a carousel.

How was that? Any takers?

13 comments:

  1. This isn't a sprint. Let's wait and see what the final products are, and how accurate the various indexes are rated to be. Marathons aren't won at the start line. Releasing an index for one county might be regarded as nothing more than a desire to say that "We were the first to release an index". In the end we all win when there is competition.

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  2. To the best of my knowledge, based on conversations with several friends who work at Ancestry, Ancestry never intended to bid on the NARA hosting contract for the 1940 census.

    Andy Hatchett
    www.fhiso.org

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  3. Family Search has been great! I found my first images there, but I was also looking in states they published first.

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  4. Contention is contention regardless of why it is generated; so why did you choose to generate contention?

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  5. Personally, I checked Ancestry Insider for updates before I even went to any of the 1940 census websites, so kudos to him for keeping the genealogy world abreast with his time-saving updates. I don't see anything wrong with tracking who was doing the best.

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  6. I have no personal idea how Ancestry can have infinitely better images than Archives but all you have to do is look. Starting with the same digitized image set Ancestry's images have better quality/ readability, load time, within page navigation and I could go on and on and on. And,,,, Ancestry didn't demonstrate publically to the world the meaning of global catastrophic crash.

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  7. LOL, I have both a My Heritage account and an Ancestry account. Between the two I prefer My Heritage. And by the way everyone, My Heritage was the first to get the 1940 Census up and working. Kudos to their staff.

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  8. How about slow and steady wins the race? FamilySearch will get there eventually :)

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  9. Although all parties have the same base image set, that does not preclude any of them from applying any image enhancement techniques they choose to apply to the images to improve quality, readability, contrast, etc... Post-release image enhancement techniques possibly applied by some of the organizations may be the source of the variant experiences of the readers here.

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  10. Come on people - get real. Does it really matter who finishes first? There are increasing choices out there for everyone. Use the source you prefer. Quite belly-aching!

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  11. I just tried the 1940 census on Ancestry for the first time. I found the family I was looking for (one of the few I have in Nevada). The index page doesn't include the basic location description the way it used to. I had to get the page number from the image. And then I tried to view the image. The image was OK. I would be much happier if I could go back to the old viewer. Getting the image large enough for my old eyes took a while, instead of a drop down menu where I could go directly to the size I needed. Next was navigating. No handy slide bar. It took forever to get to the top to see the page number (the number they give is an image number, not the page no.) And then to the bottom to see the family. And then all the way across the bottom to see the occupation and other items not indexed. And then I tried to copy the index information - it wouldn't work. I'm not happy.

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  12. Wow, I am surprised to learn that Ancestry.com didn't bid on the hosting contract for the 1940 Census -- and I apologize for assuming in my previous comment that they had done so. I had gotten that impression from this in-depth article about Archives.com/Inflection in Pando Daily that ran in February:

    *With Millions Of New Records, Inflection Delivers One-Two Punch To Ancestry.com*
    "...This is the second in a recent one-two punch at Ancestry.com. In addition to an limited-time exclusive on this data, the National Archives & Records Administration picked Inflection to develop the official US Government website displaying all the information from the 1940 census, scheduled to be released in April 2012. This is a very big deal in genealogical circles and will vaunt Archives.com in name recognition and credibility in the community. “We were sort of like, ‘We won? Really?’” says Monahan."

    (The full article, which is very interesting reading, is here http://pandodaily.com/2012/02/13/with-millions-of-new-records-inflection-delivers-one-two-punch-to-ancestry-com/ )

    So if even the CEO was, according to this, surprised to have beaten out other companies for the contract (and the only real "other company" mentioned in the entire article was Ancestry.com), the obvious conclusion one gets from the Pando article is that Ancestry was bidding on the contract. But...I guess that was a false assumption, and as the old saying goes, when you "assume" you make an...

    Anyway. Any insider info on why Ancestry chose not to bid this time? Did they just not want to deal with the tech headaches -- or the probably-massive-by-now bandwidth bill?

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  13. It seems more important to be correct than fast, whoever's doing it.

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