Re-evaluating the Future of Genealogy Software - Wed, 12 Mar 2014
I have been busy the past couple of years. Busy trying to assemble my thoughts about the genealogy software of today and the software for tomorrow. I’ve had my eyes open and I’ve been listening intently. The winds are changing somewhat and course corrections for all developers are required if they want to satisfy genealogists’ future needs.
Since 2012, my ideas have been further advanced.
I listened intently to the goings on from RootsTech 2013, and then again went to Salt Lake City for RootsTech 2014 (giving a talk) which included a valuable day for developers coined the Innovator’s Summit. I gave seven talks on the 2013 Unlock The Past Cruise from Sydney Australia. I wrote an 8 page article comparing genealogy software for the October 2013 Family Tree Tracker magazine.
I helped form and helped grow the Genealogy and Family History question and answer site on StackExchange. I got significantly involved socially in genealogy through Twitter and Google Plus. I’ve kept in tune with all the new software that’s come out and how people feel about their software through my GenSoftReviews site. I experimented with smartphones and going paperless. And I’ve blogged.
I’ve talked or otherwise communicated directly with many notable people in the genealogy field one on one and shared ideas wit them, including technologists like: Tamura Jones, Tim Forsythe, Ryan Heaton, Dovy Paukstys, John Ralls, Tony Proctor and Bill Harten; with genealogy developers including Tom Wetmore (LifeLines), Richard Thomas (Clooz), Luc Comeau (GenViewer, Legacy), Darrin Lythgoe (The Next Generation) and Bob Velke (The Master Genealogist); and with notable bloggers including Dear Myrtle, Dick Eastman, Randy Seaver, James Tanner, Jill Ball and Alona Tester.
Over the past two years, I’ve taken my ideas about genealogy software to task. These are some of the new important conclusions I have come up about future genealogy software that few developers today are considering:
1. Genealogists want to keep their own data separate. Many online shared trees are trying to come up with one “conclusion”. That is okay as long as they allow everyone to keep their data separate and retrievable again. They do not want others destroying their years of work.
2. Genealogists want to share. They want to put their data online and they want to send their data to their relatives and allow their relatives to read it. But they don’t want others just taking their data blindly and adding it to other databases.
3. They want connectivity. They want to sync to their online database. They want to sync data between multiple programs. They want all synching to be fast and failsafe.
4. Data input must be simple. Input is the number one time taker. It’s got to be streamlined and fast. If it takes 5 minutes to set up a single source citation, do you think the average person will look forward to entering all their sources?
5. The program must know what is wanted. Few people want to set up their own options any more. They expect the program to give reasonable defaults that work without fiddling. They don’t want the program to ask them a half dozen questions whenever they open or save a file.
6. Portability. Is there a phone app for that?
7. Social, social, social. Tweet this. Like that.
8. No thinking required. When did you last see someone under 40 read the documentation, or use the help file? If three tries don’t do it, then it doesn’t work.
9. Useful. Nah. Forget it. Just make them spend thousands of hours entering all their genealogy data. Why bother trying to make it useful?
10. Fun. Give them a goal. Make the numbers go up. Make it a game.
Watch how the young people are using computers. They are the 99%. We old fogeys are the 1%.