Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oh Yeah, I Went There: A Case for Genealogy 2.0

During a lull at the Texas Library Association annual conference today, I browsed around on the Internet and read an amusing blog post on the unreliability of genealogy blogs. Don't you see? It was a blog post on why blogs are bad sources for information. Hello pot? Kettle calling. Do you know where I was when I read it? At a library presentation put on by professional researchers titled, "Genealogy and Web 2.0." I can't make this stuff up, folks.

Web 2.0 tools, including blogs and wikis, are designed for collaboration which is a welcome gift to the genealogy world. Without jumbled technical code and computer languages, non-techy people can now put out their information and reach audiences world wide. This is a great time to be a genealogist.

True, a small fraction of information may be inaccurate, and all information needs to be verified, but why dismiss these tools outright? Junk comes through the mail. Does that mean we throw out everything in the box without a glance? No. We sort the junk from the valid correspondence and take what we need. The same actions happen with thorough researchers who utilize the tools provided in blogs and wikis to further their pursuits. Ignoring the information put forth by these tools is akin to sticking your head in the library door and saying, "nothing here for me" without walking the stacks and checking the catalogs.

Blogs, wikis and other fancy networking options are new to the genealogy world. They are not new to the broader research and academic worlds. Way back in the ancient Internet time of 2001, I spent two years and several thousand dollars attaining a graduate degree in which I honed online research skills and studied the latest methods of information organization and preservation. The discussion on the validity of these tools was brief as students and professors alike saw the value in their use then. Why dismiss their use now unless the reason is that you don't know how to properly use them?

To say blogs are bad for genealogy is uninformed and irresponsible. You are either looking in the wrong place or not looking at all. If Web 2.0 tools are not valid for research and collaboration, then you need to inform Case Western Reserve University, Washington State University, UConn, and Johns Hopkins University that their wikis are not qualified venues for sharing information. You also need to tell the head of the largest library school in the United States, this well-respected digitization expert and Dear Myrtle herself that Second Life is not an appropriate learning environment. While you're at it, tell President Obama to stop his Twittering, as it is clearly an ineffective way to communicate.

I realize I am probably preaching to the choir, but I do not want to see the genealogy discipline left behind because of a refusal to test and and embrace the latest tools to organize and share information.

Arguing about the invalidity of Web 2.0 tools is like arguing about the need for one of those newfangled telephone lines. The debate was over long ago and now you just sound silly. If you really want to look like you're hip with the times, argue over Web 3.0 technologies and get back to me never. I'll be here doing my part to move the genealogy field forward.


  1. You're preaching to the choir, but thanks for doing it.

  2. Preach on sistah! Preach on! Thanks for this post - I think the ensuing discussion about citing sources is beneficial and that most followers of genealogy blogs took exception with the blanket statements made in the original post.

  3. Thanks for the feedback, Thomas. I've been away for most of the week and haven't been able to gauge the pulse of the geneablogosphere. It's just that I've been traveling to or attending research and library conferences for the good part of eight days. The information I'm bringing back will help my professional career and the genealogy field in general. All these 16-hour days, the last thing I want to read is a "omg blogs r bad!" post that sets back all the hard work I'm trying to do. Meh. Don't mess with the cranky, conference weary library types.

  4. You said it better then I ever could. Thank you for "keeping it real"!

  5. You go girl! Thanks for speaking out. We need to be reminded occasionally that even though we are "the choir" clarifying our thoughts makes us better able to respond to the public. As a Louisiana librarian, I am asked many questions about the use of these tools and their validity. It's good to have support from my former home state of Texas. Cassie

  6. Cat food giver person, "he who shall not be named" was in need of a little litter.

    Thank you!


  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.