Many people with a strong interest in genealogy – professionals, semi-pros, and keen amateurs alike – have taken up blogging and social networking to further their genealogy research. I think most of us discovered early on what an effective strategy contacting other researchers can be, whether they are researching the same lines and we want to pool information, or they have expertise in particular areas and we would like to learn from them. Many of our genealogy happy dances are occasioned not only by finding information, but also by making contact with distant cousins. So, in an effort to “put our research out there” and make more useful (and enjoyable) genealogy contacts, we have used blogging and social networking platforms to pursue our research goals.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have bumped up against one of those hard facts of life: there are only 24 hours in a day, and I need to spend at least a few of those sleeping, not to mention interacting with my family and meeting my other non-genealogy-related obligations in life. This issue has been brought into even sharper focus recently by the addition of an alluring new social networking site created expressly for genealogists: GenealogyWise. Barely a week old, it has exploded in popularity, which has been reflected in the addition of hundreds of new members each day as well as quite a few blog articles on the subject. Most of these articles were positive and cited some new possibilities offered by “the new kid on the block,” although a considerable number of reviews also included some reservations about possible drawbacks. A few blog posts even set forth the authors’ reasons for not joining this new wave of social networking.
I held out for an entire day before I joined GenealogyWise. I though it wouldn’t hurt to sign up just to see what was there, and then if it didn’t seem to provide anything I couldn’t already do, I’d just let my participation languish.
It offered a lot. Many of the features I do have access to elsewhere – in a lot of different places. On GenealogyWise, they’re all packaged together: a place for blog posts as well as links to our “outside” blogs, pictures, notes, networking with others in various ways – through interest groups, posting on one another’s pages, an internal e-mail system, chat, and on and on. I was weak. I caved. I participated and had fun, especially when I found a number of friends from the genea-blogging community. I was even able to pass on a tip on a helpful researcher to another GenealogyWise user.
And yet… that “only so many hours in a day” problem will not go away. Last week I spent about the same amount of time I usually do reading and writing (e-mail, Facebook, blog posts), so which usual activity had to sacrifice the minutes and hours I spent on GenealogyWise?
It was my research. Actually, ever since I started blogging and Facebooking, my research time has been dwindling. At the very beginning, there may not have been a significant reduction, because I actually saved some time by posting pictures, notes, and research results on my Facebook page instead of writing individually to the relatives with whom I share research. But as my blog progressed and additional networking opportunities appeared on Facebook, that early momentum went into reverse. I still post some items to share on Facebook, but even that has suffered lately. And I miss the constant e-mailing back and forth I used to do with my cousins when I first started genealogy.
Different genealogy researchers have different amounts of time to devote to this passion, but I’m betting that I’m not alone in finding it extremely difficult to prioritize my genealogy-related activities so that I can pursue my research while enjoying the social aspect (which has always been high on my list of reasons for enjoying genealogy so much in the first place).
I have a full-time job (which I love and do not plan to retire from until I absolutely have to), a husband, a daughter in college, a daughter in high school, three cats, and some volunteer commitments. Yet I know I probably do not have the worst time crunch problems in the genealogy community; my daughters are still young enough that I can remember the time demands made by young children, and many retirees still have significant family and volunteer obligations. Moreover, professional genealogists and the passionate semi-pros and amateurs with a substantial web presence may love what they do, but they also have to meet their professional commitments to customers and the expectations of their Internet audiences in addition to pursuing their own research.
Until recently, part of my usual evening routine after getting home from work, in addition to chores and family time, looked like this:
1. Check and reply to e-mail.
2. Check Facebook and write replies, comments, and posts.
3. Read and comment on blogs.
4. Do research.
And now GenealogyWise has taken over spot #4, pushing research to the pathetic (and often omitted, at least during weekdays) #5 spot.
So what can I do to put my research back on track? I think it needs to be put back to a higher place on my list. After all, what will I have to share on my blog and on social networking sites if I don’t keep adding to my previous research? During weeks with heavier scheduling demands, blog reading and Facebook could be done on alternate nights.
And GenealogyWise? It’s still there, but I have to learn to use it efficiently. As long as it doesn’t get gunked up by Facebook-type applications and distractions, it should be a useful tool. Interest groups are numerous (and ever-increasing) but still small in terms of membership; participation should be selective, but it can definitely pay off down the line, just as posting on message boards does.
I may use GenealogyWise for a little bit of “mini-blogging” as well as posting links to my regular blog. By “mini-blogging” I mean short posts on current topics of interest to genealogy researchers as well as an occasional “names, place, and most wanted faces” posts to keep my brick walls and high-interest research questions out there; more in-depth posts will still be reserved for the regular blog. The other extreme is “micro-blogging” (aka Twitter), which I have so far avoided because I’m not any good at it.
I do not think I will ever be able to return to the good old days when I could average a good 10 hours or more of research a week, but I am learning to cut some of the clutter elsewhere.
But there are still times when I wish I could clone myself.