Modern Software Experience


vendor control

network effect

The Social Genealogy Metrics article closed with the observation that social genealogy sites are subject to the network effect, but that vendors can do a lot to affect their own metrics positively.

 Vendors are not passive subjects of the network effect, they are active players in an expanding market and do have a measure of control over their own destiny. Here are some of the things vendor can do to improve their metrics, to have more or less success.


press releases

Both new and existing vendors try to generate buzz to help the network effect along. Sending out press releases to create some buzz can be a good thing, but should be used wisely, to provide news worth writing about; savvy users do notice it when copy & paste bloggers post the blurb but original content bloggers do not bother to write about it, and are likely to regard such a company as spammy.

get close

Vendor can attract more users by getting close to where these users hang out. They can address more groups by being present on more platforms; for example by offering both a web application and a FaceBook app. Being compatible with mobile web browsers, or offering an separate application for mobile phones is increasingly important.
Vendors can also get closer to their audience by offering their site in local languages and on local social networks.

connect with users

Vendors can improve brand visibility and connect with users by blogging and tweeting. Vendors can encourage a sense of community by providing a discussion forum, but do need to keep in mind that no amount of mere connecting is going to do them much good if they do not listen to their users, but reduce functionality or break promises instead.

better application

Vendors can increase user retention and their P/U ratio by making their site or application more enjoyable and easier to use. Users will fill out more profiles when it is easy to do so. Supporting local languages does not just help to attract users, applications in native languages are easier to use too.
And oh, application performance has a large effects on usability; if the application is not speedy, the site is losing users.


The How Geni beats We’re Related article showed that providing GEDCOM import apparently increases the P/U ratio of a social genealogy application by about a factor 3.
Import of databases and the subsequent merges also decreases the number of fragments, and thus increases the P/F ratio. Any vendor serious about competing in the social genealogy market needs to provide GEDCOM support.


Vendors can increase their U/F ratio by making it easy to invite family members, but should be careful to do so with regard for security and without being too pushy, as security foul-ups (such as asking for email passwords) and pushiness are practically sure-fire ways to provoke negative commentary.


Vendors can increase both the U/F ratio and user retention with a reward system for invitations and return visits, but that is a bit gimmicky and adds a feature that is non-functional but will still provoke complaints when it does not work perfectly. It is better to provide features that make the site worth visiting.

For example, the ability to share photos can make a site more engaging, and sending personalised alerts about new users with the same surname or changes in a shared tree can keep users coming back.


Better ratios will lead to better numbers, a better experience for the users, and increases the rate of spontaneous word-of-mouth recommendations and real-life success stories.


2009-06-09 FamilyLink internationalisation

Paul Allen just tweeted that FamilyLink is now looking for an internationalisation expert. The job description states that FamilyLink wants to globalise its products by creating localised versions in dozens of languages.

2011-04-22 internationalisation

The internationalisation job description is no longer on the FamilyLink site.