Thursday, May 7, 2009

Social Networking

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

One of my genealogy colleagues, Roy Ogus, just brought to my attention a book review to be found in the very helpful Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. The book review covers Drew Smith’s “Social Networking for Genealogists” which is a comprehensive discussion of the whole new generation of Internet-based tools which have sprung up in the last few years.  These now are becoming known for accommodating the needs of an internationally-based on-line world of roots researchers.

The book appealed to me as I had recently mentioned the use of such social networking tools in one of my postings to the JewishGen Blog.  My feeling was that these tools would become the wave of the future for genealogical research.  Indeed, the topic had come up again when Roy and I had our recent conversation about his use of NEXO to create an interactive site for the Ukmerge Uyezd (District), Lithuania group.

NEXO was first utilized on the Litvak SIG by Deena Berton who perfected its use for developing web sites for the Litvak SIG District groups.  Now, sites for Kaunas, Siauliai and Telsiai as well as Roy Ogus’s Ukmerge District site, have been set up and further customized by their District Coordinators.  In the future, the remaining District Coordinators will be trained to utilize this technology.

The NEXO site allows materials to be published on it such as all of the existing Lithuanian records for the District and has a number of other sections relating to members and inquiries and postings about families.  However, only members are allowed access to the site.

This year, the NEXO company, http://www.nexo.com, was purchased by Shutterfly, http://www.shutterfly.com.  It is expected, in the months ahead, as NEXO is transitioned to Shutterfly, that this will provide the users with further enhancements to the existing platform.

Another example of the use of such a tool is Roni Seibel Liebowitz’s “Jewish Roots in Paterson, NJ” which is on Facebook.  This group has enabled both genealogists and non-genealogists alike, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, to interact about their roots in the town.  Photos, history and reminiscences abound in this lively group.  It blurs the boundaries of what is genealogy and what is just plain good old-fashioned networking.

As far as Drew Smith’s book is concerned, it mentions a number of the tools that I have begun to use regularly including Facebook, YouTube, LibraryThing, Geni, and others.  In fact, Geni was first brought to my attention last year by my cousin Deborah Josephson Diamant.  She and her husband created a family tree in preparation for the bar mitzvah of their son.  This resulted in the reaching out to family members to participate in this activity and adding items and photos from all branches of the family.  The follow up was the ability to be notified for family events such as birthdays and anniversaries as well as the addition of new members to the family which has broadened our family’s ability to interact with each other.

Another trend I am seeing is that the Jewish Genealogical Societies are now posting on Facebook which enhances their ability to communicate about their resources and programs.  This is especially true for JGSs which have no local-based newspapers to publish notices about their activities such as the JGS, Inc. (New York).  It would also be true for JGSs in Florida such as the one in Greater Miami and also the one in Palm Beach County which would appeal to “snow birds” from up north who might be visiting.  It allows them to plan and include this type of activity in their itinerary.  In addition, the JGSs are now posting on the JewishGen Blog which is another means of enhancing their presence on the Internet.  Lately, even JewishGen is now part of the Facebook generation as they have a group established there.

The creativity on the Internet is astounding and I look forward to many more interesting tools to be developed in the near future.  Hopefully, this creativity will not result in what someone on one blog termed “Multiple Social Networking Disorder”, the inability to communicate in more than 140 characters.


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