Some of you wondered if there were any beta testers. I helped some and here are my comments in 12/4/05.
Message Board Update Evaluation:
I have been beta testing the proposed new Ancestry Message Board system. I compared the new system to the old system and looked to see
1) old system proplems were solved,
2) old system capabilities were not lost,
3) new features were benefiticial for genealogists and
4) whether or not all features were working.
THE BIG PICTURE:
(for others who have not searched for it) MyFamily.Com, Inc.http://www.myfamilyinc.com
News Release - September 2005 - Ancestry.Com Dynamic Redesignhttp://myfamily.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=press_releases&...
News Release - Sept. 2005 - Family Tree Makerhttp://myfamily.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=press_releases&...
News Release - Sept. 2005 - Heritage Makershttp://myfamily.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=press_releases&...
Reasons to join MyFamily.Comhttp://www.myfamily.com/isapi.dll?c=Home&htx=top10
Ancestry Community CenterC FAQ - including many features not seen in our beta test - appears to be gearing up to compete with or be like SmartGroups.Com (currently free) http://mbsandbox.ancestry.com/help.jspa
Looking at the bigger picture now puts some perspective on why many of the new features have been added. *** Genealogy is only a subset of the bigger whole. *** ..
My Ideas on this:
1) Not all categories or communities with forums/boards have the same purposes or interests. Diferent purposes mean that people will want have different approaches and features associated with their boards. This needs to be taken into account. Genealogists are very interested in doing long lasting queries and wants to get responses or find ways to contact others to make responses. Tey do not want messages with plesantries without genelogical content. High school kids want to make short term conversation. Cookers and gardeners for example might want to trade recipies and stories about cooking techniques and yard care techniques but don't necessarily want to store this data for years. Some family groups don't want to work with b/m/d data on deceased people but do want to discuss stories about their living families. The types of features to enhance each groups experience will be different.
1) WERE OLD SYSTEM PROBLEMS FIXED?
..a) Adminstrator functions hard to use - not checked
..b) Search capablilities
....(1) no search string capability with quote marks - not fixed
....(2) no searching for email addresses - not added
..c) User fixing of old obsolete emails on messages - not fixed - VERY IMPORTANT. Need way to find all my old messages sorted by email address and showing email and a place to check off those that should be updated with new email address and which email address to use. Should have another field for current email as differnetiated from posted email. Methods available now do not work well. This is critical. I have not had enough time to add replys to all my old posts to give my new addresses.
2) THAT OLD SYSTEM INFO/CAPABILITIES WERE NOT LOST!
..a) Search data entry fields combined and this significantly reduces searching power. Also areas searched has been reduced. Subject entry field and Message Body entry field were combined into one field called Search Terms. Surnames entry field was dropped and this was good for allied family names or spelling variants. Search routine no longer looks in board path for Search Terms and this used to help with locality terms.
..b) Board Path is missing in Search Results
..c) Message Index sorting/filters have changed significantly and are a lot less useful. Used to have treaded and dated (now called flat) sorts which had compressed and expanded formats. The threading format has been lost. This is a significant loss. The threading has been changed from a from/to link concept to a common subject concept and I dislike this. We need subjects to editable for replys so the subject content is more descriptive. This is a research message board not just a gabbing board.
..d) Messagge index used to be filterable to message classification type but not any more. This would be very important for raw date enterers.
..e) "Find a Board" on message index page was very useful to quickly jump to another board and is now gone. This is a big loss.
..f) Links to useful RootsWeb data and search capabilities are no longer shown. Please put them back. Also add specific links to Ancestry specific data types but show them only if I am a subscriber. I don't like clicking on an Ancestry link and being told to log in.
..g) Classification Type. Need to default for messages in genealogy community to Query. Allow changing to data type. Need instruction:
"Pure data, primarily of a specific type, without questions, should be marked with the appropriate classification."
..h) When posting Replys we need to be able to change the Subject to be descriptive. Many, many messages all with the same subject are not useful. We need to be able to differentiate to know which ones to read. I see this as a major loss.
3) NEW FEATURES ARE BENEFICIAL FOR GENEALOGISTS
..a) "Show all messages in thread" is new for search results and is a good idea, but the counts of messages in the thread are wrong.
..b) "Relevance percentage" is new with search results and is good idea but is inconsitent and doesn't work well, and as-is is not reliable enough to be useful.
..c) Users Online. OK if can actually chat. I don't want to use it. I want option to opt out.
..d) Co-Administrators. I prefer to see it as Administrator and Assistant Administrator who is authorized by Administrator.
..e) Popular Threads. I'd prefer this not be shown for Genealogy boards. Encourages junk messagges.
..f) Rankings and Rewards. I'd prefer this not be shown for Genealogy boards. Encourages junk messagges.
..g) Active Users. I'd prefer this not be shown for Genealogy boards. Encourages junk messagges.
..h) Requirement to log in to post messages. I would rather that his be optional to be helpful for those who want to do it but not manditory. I don't want to discourage timid or cautious genealogists. It might be good for other communities where people may be more prone to inappropriate postings.
..i) Alerts (I like term Notifications better) expanded from 1) responses to my message to responses by 2) messages in the thread where I had a message, 3) messages in a board, 4) messages in a category, or 5) by specified users. This isn't working well but I hope it will get better.
..j) Opposite to alerts is a supperssion of messages caller Ignore User and I would use this very sparingly. If I did use it I would want it suppress (not display) those messages from the Index (list of messages) rather than list them and then not let me see them when I clicked on it in the list. Maybe this could be expanded to suppression of whole threads. This way we could opt out of even seeing excessive messages on an uniteresting thread.
..k) Emoticons. I'd prefer this not be shown for Genealogy boards. Encourages junk messagges.
..l) Spell Check. Good addition. Just need a way to escape in the middle. Don't like having to scroll up and down.
..m) Need new field for 'Attachment Title"
4) WHETHER OR NOT ALL FEATURES ARE WORKING
..a) Searching gets results where all the search criteria are not met.
..b) Many others as noted by many other beta testers. Very interesting reading.
..c) See my other earlier posts for more details.
James R. Davis