Modern Software Experience

2010-06-02

MyHeritage

MyHeritage badges 2010

MyHeritage awards

MyHeritage and awards, it is such a fertile topic that the jokes practically write themselves - and that is not just because they received the GeneAward for Worst Genealogy Organisation of 2009, or because they seem determined to prolong that unaccomplishment in the face of some stiff competition.

It is still less than a year ago that MyHeritage wins Awards? exposed how MyHeritage, within days of releasing Family Tree Builder 3, decided to review their own software on some download site, awarding themselves a five-star rating, and later presented the badge for the resulting five star average as some third-party award -  even tried to pass of their own promotional blurb as the third-party motivation for that ostensible award.

MyHeritage 100

Recently, there has been much ado about what MyHeritage initially called the MyHeritage Web Awards, and later the MyHeritage Top 100 Genealogy Sites 2010. Others have referred to it as simply the MyHeritage Awards, or the MyHeritage Top 100. I will refer to their award as simply the MyHeritage 100 (hashtag #My100).
That really refers to their English list. They also made a French Top 50, a Spanish Top 50, a Dutch Top 25, a German Top 100, a Portuguese Top 50 and a Polish Top 50. That's 425 awards in total.

On 2010 April 14, the MyHeritage blog pre-announced the MyHeritage Web Awards. MyHeritage claimed to have an expert judging panel that would scour online genealogy communities across the world to recognize the best websites and blogs with this award. They made it sound real good and already showed off the badge that winners would receive.

The real blunder was presenting the chosen ones with a top 100 badge in the same blog post that informs the entire world that it actually isn’t a top 100 list at all.

MyHundred

The list that MyHeritage posted was surprising in more ways than one.

One surprise was that is was just a list of links. MyHeritage’s experts had spent a month reading hundreds of blogs, yet not a single blog on that list featured some motivation for the award bestowed upon them.
None of the blogs on the list featured a description either. If you visit the list now, each blog has a subscription. If you followed all the blog posts and comments about the MyHeritage 100, you know that MyHeritage mailed the blogs on their list with a request to provide that description themselves.

MyHeritage had promised a list of the best genealogy sites, and many would not be surprised if had actually been a list of the best-known sites. MyHeritage admitted that their list is neither.
MyHeritage stated that they had put some emphasis on finding hidden gems in the community, and bringing sites to attention which currently have relatively small audiences. That emphasis does not explain why there are a number of lesser-known sites included, and a few more prominent sites unmentioned, it is merely states the same fact in another way.

The nature of MyHeritage’s list had changed, but the award badge had not. It still said TOP 100 Genealogy Site 2010, awarded by MyHeritage. That the badge and the nature of the award do not match is odd.
After all, just how hard is it to adapt the award to the nature of the selections? If it is a list of hidden genealogy gems, what could be more natural than calling it Hundred Hidden Genealogy Gems (HHGG) and using one or more gems as the basis for an award design.

The real blunder was presenting the chosen ones with a top 100 badge in the same blog post that informs the entire world that it actually isn’t a top 100 list at all. Asking winners to please display their top 100 badge, while at the same telling everyone else that the list deliberately omits the truly top sites! That absurd action is somewhere between dumb inconsistence and deliberate insult.

MyDemocracy

Several comments made on the MyHeritage 100 list itself remark upon that incongruence or mention some sites that should have been included in a real top 100. The comments on the list are polite and uncontroversial, yet soon after the publication of the list the proverbial excrement came into contact with the just-as proverbial rotor blades.

There is little doubt that the number of private conversations about the MyHeritage 100 increased dramatically upon the publication of Is Award always an Award? by Linda McCauley. Her Documenting the Details blog is listed in the MyHeritage 100. She flatly states that her genealogy blog is not top 100 at all, and finds it surprising that many of the most well known and respected genealogy blogs aren’t on MyHeritage’s list. She goes on to quote MyHeritage’s explanation, but the last paragraph is the explosive one; she details how MyHeritage had not just asked her to do a blog post about their site, but had also offered to write that blog post for her.

The comment by MyHeritage employee Sebastien Hue about the award campaign that Any situation can be manipulated to see a corporate guise, but an overarching goal of MyHeritage is democratize genealogy. provoked another blog post: MyHeritage Goal to "Democratize Genealogy". Huh?. Linda writes Does anyone even know what that means? I thought the blogosphere was already open to anyone with a computer and an opinion.. She posts the email she sent Sebastien and ends with the remark that MyHeritage would have looked better if they had just admitted they messed up with this award because the more they try to explain it, the deeper the hole gets..

The most remarkable comment on that blog post is from Donna Pointkouski: MyHeritage sent me a "badge" with the so-called honor...one small problem - my blog isn’t on their list!. Just why MyHeritage seemed willing to expand their top 100 to 101 blogs is discussed further on.

MyDiversity

Luckie Daniels of Our Georgia Roots was not happy with the MyHeritage 100 either. Her blog post Madness Monday: Open Letter To My Heritage ~ Luckie Questions “Top 100 Sites” Lack Of Diversity states that the MyHeritage 100 is not diverse enough, specifically that African-American blogs are underrepresented. She publishes two letters she sent to MyHeritage, and the next blog post, The Dialogue Continues ~ My Heritage Asks To Be Heard!, posts some replies from MyHeritage.

In those replies, MyHeritage claims that they did not neglect African-American blogs, yet they do offer to make up by doing a blog post about African-American genealogy. Lucky explains that separate treatment is exactly what she does not want, that some of the great blogs she mentioned should have been included in the award list itself.

MyCriteria

The criteria may have changed between the pre-announcement and the announcement from top 100 to hidden gem, but both blog posts contain a near-identical list of three base requirements for inclusion in the MyHeritage 100:

  1. high quality content
  2. original/innovative topic and/or design
  3. frequently updated content

Both blog posts are crystal clear that all three requirements must be met. The first two requirements are somewhat subjective, but the third one considerably less so. You can debate how frequent is frequent enough, but it is an annual award, so it should certainly be a few times per year, let’s say once per quarter as the bare minimum for inclusion. Yet Becky Wiseman of the kinnexxions blog posted Not sure why.. .but Thank You! on her own blog and left comments on other blog posts that she received the award while she had not posted about genealogy in half a year.
That single fact is enough to make you wonder whether the stated selection criteria are actual selection criteria, and several bloggers had something to say about that.

MyConditions

Gijs Hesselink of the Dutch blog GIJSgeneaLOG was the first to post about the letters that MyHeritage sent to blogs during their selection process. In MyHeritage Award, he relates that MyHeritage’s email told him that he would get a badge to place on his site if he accepted the award. Upon receiving this email, Gijs had a look at the Terms & Conditions of the MyHeritage site itself, and promptly decided to reject the award.

In Is the Way to a Geneablogger’s Heart through their Vanity?, footnoteMaven published the mail she received during the selection process in its entirety. She highlighted the phrases that make it crystal clear that you are only sure of receiving the award if you respond and agree to post their badge on your site.
She did not respond yet still made the list. However, Donna Pointkouski of What’s Past is Prologue did not respond, and when she did not respond, did not make the list. When Donna, who had been away, responded to the email after the publication of the list, MyHeritage sent her a badge with a request to write something about MyHeritage adding her blog to the list. She did not write such a blog post, and  her blog remains absent from the list.

The mere existence of the letter does not just raise doubt about MyHeritage’s actual selection criteria, but also about the number of blogs that received that letter.
Surely MyHeritage understood that not all bloggers would respond to their letter, and that some bloggers would respond with a resounding no, yet they wanted to have a list of 100 blogs regardless. How did they solve that issue? Did they deliberately overbook as airlines do and send out more than hundred You can be in our top 100 emails, or did they merely keep a list of replacement winners to take the place of rejections?

MyDamage

MyHeritage’s letter hardly impacts their own already dubious reputation, but it does manage to damage the reputation of all the genealogy bloggers on their lists! Do not think every blogger accepted display of the badge as a condition for becoming a winner, but now that the we’ll scratch your back if you scratch ours tactic is public, every blogger that displays the badge finds themselves suspect anyway…

MyReflections

Even before footnoteMaven exposed the entire Agree to Badge to be Sure of Award email, the public criticism of the awards was already too much for MyHeritage to remain silent. They posted Reflections on our Genealogy Awards, in which they do not admit any particular action was wrong, but do state that they are sorry for what went wrong and the confusion it [they] created.

Remarkably, that blog post does not link to any of the critical posts that prompted them to write it. And although MyHeritage was quick to leave comments on Lucky’s and Linda’s blog posts, MyHeritage has still not commented on footnoteMaven’s blog post. They did not write another blog post about those letters either, and their blog seems to have stopped receiving comments about their awards.

MyHonesty

It is high time for some MyHonesty. Who are their experts judges? What are their motivations for the sites they selected? Why did they send that letter? How many blogs received that letter? Why did they decide to exclude the very best blogs? What are their real criteria for inclusion in the list? What made a top blog too good for their list?

Some of the aforementioned articles and various comments thereon have already suggested that the real reason for that letter is exactly what it seems to be; an attempt to find out whether a blogger is willing to promise to display the badge to ensure they become a winner. But if that is true, the real criterion for inclusion is different from the stated criteria.

When I first saw the list, my initial impression was that both the best and best-known blogs were not on it. That is in line with MyHeritage’s claims that they made a list of hidden gems, but some of the blogs on their list are not so hidden at all. The MyHeritage list includes several blogs that are on ProGenealogist’ most recent list of most visited genealogy blogs in the world. A top 25 most popular blog is hardly a hidden gem.

Like many others I wondered which top blogs were not on MyHeritage’s top 100 list. I wrote down about a dozen blog names in about five minutes, and when I looked over the list I had made that way, I noticed that many of these where either MyHeritage competitors or had posted less than glowing opinions about MyHeritage products, services and marketing tactics.
That apparent bias isn’t coincidence, but a completely natural result of MyHeritage’s selection criteria. After all, MyHeritage deliberately left the top blogs off the list, and top bloggers do not post glowing endorsements written by MyHeritage, but their own honest opinion.
Any speculation that it is the other way round - that MyHeritage started by leaving off competitors and critical blogs, and then came up with modified criteria that would explain the resulting list - is just that, speculation. Why they changed the criteria remains unknown.

MySecond

There are many questions that only MyHeritage can answer, and the vagueness of their Reflections post suggests that they are not eager to do so. Still, I believe there are two questions that I can answer.
I believe I know why this award is called the MyHeritage Top 100 Genealogy Sites 2010 and why the badge looks the way it does. The answer to those questions is that both the name and design were already decided upon, and that MyHeritage did not change either.

Now, if you still believe that the MyHeritage blog contain nothing but the unvarnished truth, that sounds impossible. They just did their first awards, so how could the award name and design already be decided upon? The simple answer is that this was not their first awards year, but their second awards year.

Four badges: Verwandt 2009 (German), DynasTree 2009 (English), MyHeritage German 2010, MyHeritage English 2010

MyContinuation

On 2010 May 12, the MyHeritage blog announced MyHeritage.com’s Top 100 Genealogy Sites.
The first sentence of that blog post links back to the earlier blog post of 2010 Apr 14, that pre-announced the awards. The first sentence of that post is The team at MyHeritage is now laying the groundwork for a fantastic new project: the First MyHeritage Web Awards. Later, their 2010 May 23 Reflections blog post tries to explain away some of their mistakes with the claim that This was a first-time effort.

But the MyHeritage Web Awards are not new at all. This wasn’t the first time they did this, this was the second time they did this. The first time was in 2009, when the organisers still used the company names Verwandt.de and Dynastree. The Verwandt Top 50 Genealogie Seiten and DynasTree Top 50 Genealogy Sites were introduced in January of 2009.

The MyHeritage Top 100 Genealogy Sites is a continuation of the DynasTree Top 50 Genealogy Sites. It is MyHeritage instead of Verwandt now, and they did not just make two lists of 50 sites, but several lists of 100 sites and one of 25 sites as well, but it is otherwise the same award with the same name.
The aforementioned blog posts by MyHeritage employees do not acknowledge that origin, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

The illustration shows the original Verwandt badge from 2009, the Dynastree badge from 2009, MyHeritage’s German badge from 2010 and their English badge from 2010 for easy comparison. The German badges on the left side, the English badges on the right side, the 2009 badges along the top, the 2010 badges along the bottom.
The adaptation of Verwandt’s original award design remains so similar to the original, that if Verwandt were still a separate company, Verwandt would sue them.

Two badges: MyHeritage Award, Non-MyHeritage Award

MyTop

The exclusion of many of the very best blogs prompted footnoteMaven to make a subtle modification to MyHeritage’s award design and send the resulting badge to several top bloggers that are not on MyHeritage’s top 100 list. She included that hilarious award parody in her blog post. She did not post a list of recipients and I will not publish the list of missing top blogs I came up within five minutes either. Not only did I think of other blogs later, but any list that she, you or I can come up with is merely a (probably pretty good) approximation of a list only MyHeritage can publish: the list of top blogs so good, that MyHeritage does not want you to know about these blogs, and just had to cross them off.

I don’t think MyHeritage will publish that list, but I do think they should now that the issue of underrepresentation has been raised; only when we get to see the list of top blogs that MyHeritage deliberately excluded from their top 100, can we make an informed judgment of how MyHeritage treated African-American blogs.

MyOhMy

Those who are on MyHeritage’s list have every reason to feel insulted. MyHeritage has not been honest about anything.
They decided to continue the Verwandt awards, but lied to everyone that it was the first time they did these awards.
MyHeritage claimed to employ expert judges, but send out mails offering a place on their list in exchange for a promise to place their badge. Apparently their public opinion of your blog depends on your willingness to display their badge. That may be consistent with known MyHeritage PR tactics, but it destroys any value and meaning of the award could have had. What's worse, all recipients of the award now find themselves suspect of trading their way into the MyHeritage list merely for being on it and displaying the award.

MyHeritage promised a list of top blogs, but delivered something else and was too lazy to rename or redesign the already existing award. Speculation that they actually created a top list but then left off all competition and anyone who ever voiced criticism is just that, speculation. All you know for sure is that according to MyHeritage the blogs on their list are the ones that aren’t good enough to be left of.

MyHeritage claimed that they employed expert judges, yet the list of winners they posted lacked any motivation. It was just a list of links, and instead of adding the judges’ motivations later, MyHeritage asked bloggers to provide brief descriptions.

MyHeritage changed the selection criteria, yet their list still does not meet their own criteria. They publicly explain that they deliberately left out the truly top blogs, which is another way of saying that their Top 100 is actually the not-so top Mediocre 100. They cheerily offer the winners a top 100 badge in the same post that unambiguous states that they are not really the top 100… how insulting.

MyCondolences

To the 425 + 1 bloggers that MyHeritage insulted, my condolences. Who cares that MyHeritage says your blog isn’t really top? If your blog fulfils its purpose, it’s top. I have looked at some of the blogs on the various lists, and found each one to be considerably more worthwhile than the MyHeritage blog itself.

Don’t feel too bad about their insult, it is only MyHeritage, the Worst Genealogy Organisation of 2009 trying hard to ensure they’ll win the GeneAward for Worst Genealogy Organisation of 2010.

links

blog posts

related

DynasTree Awards 2009

MyHeritage Awards 2010