Modern Software Experience

2009-08-11

Old and New GenSeek logo

FamilyLink

GenSeek

GenSeek is the Family History Catalogue for web 2.0.I published the first look at GenSeek back in February. GenSeek was supposed to be available several times already, and could be announced at any time now. Yet, for more than half a year after that publication, it is still the only article of GenSeek with screen shots. All that time there was little more to add to that article than status updates - until today. Today there is real news.

FaceBook

If you are on FaceBook, you must have noticed that FamilyLink has quite a few FaceBook applications. Facebook Genealogy, a quick overview of FaceBook genealogy apps lists quite a few FamilyLink apps already, and WorldHistory FaceBook Games lists yet a few more that are related to the WorldHistory site.

Most obviously absent from FamilyLink’s line-up of FaceBook apps was a GenSeek application. It is absent no more.

GenSeek for FaceBook

You install GenSeek for FaceBook just like you install any other FaceBook application. Once you have installed it, you get to see this welcome screen.

Welcome to GenSeek on FaceBook

GenSeek logo

This welcome screen is worth discussing a bit. First of all, notice the new GenSeek logo. I guess the issues I mentioned in MyFamily GenSeek Logo were serious enough to redo the logo. The new logo features the same stylised figure and rounded letters as other FamilyLink logos.

GenStream

There are two columns of text below the Welcome to GenSeek! header. The right column mentions GenStream. Paul Allen first mentioned this, without any explanation in his Apology to Terry Thornton blog post.

That right column explains GenStream thus: Facebook has a great social networking platform, and makes a snazzy news feed. GenSeekBETA has just such a newsfeed, and it doesn’t ever 'scroll off' like Facebook status messages do. It’s called the GenStream. It uses 'tags' to identify names, dates, and places, making it easier to search, or to 'follow' a surname, than a simple message board supports..

beta

Notice the Beta moniker. The GenSeek for FaceBook application is available now, but you should definitely not expect a perfectly polished finished application.

The left column describes GenSeek itself as the Source of the Sources and explains that the idea is that Once you identify a source of interest to you, you can research it later, or in some cases view a digital version online..

The text in the sidebar on the right seems to apply to the GenSeek for FaceBook app. It remarks that This is a beta version. We’ll be monitoring for problems, but we need your feedback. and that We will be making revisions regularly, and hope that you’ll find the sneak peek informative, interesting, and helpful..

Getting Started

Of course, once you arrive on the welcome screen, you are more likely to click the large Get Started button than to read any of the text. After clicking that button, you are greeted by this Find Resources screen.

GenSeek on FaceBook Find Resources

It provides a simple search interface to enter three pieces of information to search for; location, year(s) and name. Entering a name is optional.
I decided to search for Seaburne May in Amsterdam, between 1600 and 1900.

GenSeek On FaceBook results screen

As you can see, that resulted in quite a list of hits. A quick glance over the titles convinced few if any of these are really hits on the name, and when I decided to test that hunch by leaving out the name I got what seemed liked exactly the same list of results. So I guess that in this beta, the name field is not just optional, but simply not used yet.

Advanced Search

Oh well, there is more to explore. When I started the app, I was greeted by the basic search screen, but there is an advanced search screen as well. It allows you to search on more fields. The advanced search offers so many fields that these have been distributed over multiple tabs; a Titles tab, Subject tab, Authors tab, Last Names tab and Films tab.

GenSeek on FaceBook Advanced Search

You get to the advanced search by clicking the Advanced Search link on the Search screen or clicking the Use Advanced Search button above the search results.

Favourites

The main menu along the top lists five choices: Search, Favorites, GenStream, Following and My Profile. Sadly, the app uses Amglish instead of English.

The Favourites screen is where you can save both searches and GenStream items for later reference.

GenSeek on FaceBook Favourites

GenStream

The GenStream screen shows a twitter-like list of short messages from other users, and prompts to add your own. It is very much like twitter; you are supposed to use hashtags (#) to mark dates and places and at signs (@) to mark surnames you are interested in.

GenSeek On FaceBook GenStream

Following

The Following page is where you can define up to ten permanent searches using names, years or locations; any GenStream post by any user that includes what you search for will show up on as a matching result.

GenSeek on FaceBook Following Jones

Adding a search is easy. In the screenshot, you can see that I decided to follow mentions of the surname Jones, but that no results are showing up yet. With a name that common, that can only be because there are practically no users yet.

My Profile

The My Profile page shows my FaceBook avatar, and which of my friends are using the GenSeek app. The three users in the screenshot are all FamilyLink personnel.

GenSeek on FaceBook My Profile

It also shows how post I have made, how many comments I left and how many favourites I saved. Right now, all three numbers are zero, and GenSeek summarises my user level as New User.

A link near the bottom of the page invites me to view what my friends have posted to their GenStream. When you click that, you get to see a GenStream posts by Your Friends page; the same as the GenStream page page, but limited to tweets GenStream posts by your friends.

conclusion

That concludes the brief look at the new GenSeek for FaceBook application. FamilyLink seems to have spent some time on both the user experience and the visual design of this app; GenSeek for FaceBook easier to use, more responsive and looks better than We’re Related.

The inclusion of the FamilySearch logo in the lower left corner of every page is perhaps the biggest visual design mistake; there already is a GenSeek logo in the upper left corner, and the FamilySearch logo does not fit the overall design very well.

GenSeek for FaceBook provides both a simple and an advanced search interface to the GenSeek catalogue and combines that with a very twitter-like GenStream to provide a social aspect.

It is hard to judge how well that works until there are more users. There are few users right now, but I do expect this app to rapidly grow in popularity now that I revealed its existence.

You see, GenSeek for FaceBook is not just a search interface for GenSeek. Right now, it is the only search interface for GenSeek. The GenSeek web site is not public yet and requires a GenSeek account to use it. All that GenSeek for Facebook requires is that you are logged into FaceBook.

updates

2009-08-12 one day later

GenSeek on FaceBook MyProfile after a day

This webshot shows what my profile looks like one day after I revealed the existence of GenSeek for FaceBook. Instead of three friends using GenSeek, I know have nine friends using FaceBook. Seems GenSeek’s user base tripled within a day.

2011-04-23 broken links

The GenSeek site and the GenSeek on FaceBook app are defunct. The WorldHistory site is defunct. The broken links have been removed.

links