Family Tree DNA rolled the new MyGroups format yesterday. Project administrators have the option of converting now or waiting until April 16th when all projects will automatically be converted. Family Tree DNA is trying to sweeten the pie by offering coupons that the admin needs to sign in daily to the project to post to the group.
The purpose of the new format is to engage project members, facilitate discussion and sharing, which is, after all, what genealogy is all about. Think of MyGroups as a new skin on the old projects we all know and love. All of the old features of the projects are still there – and they function just like they always have.
Because it’s new and unknown, there has been a lot of anxiety this past 24 hours or so about converting and how the new features will work.
I was part of the beta with one of my projects with over 800 members. I did not sign in daily to check on things. People did discuss genealogy and share information, including pictures. No, I did not create photo albums.
People have been enjoying the new format – so it has been working. And the really good news is that other people within the project have been answering questions for others, so it has provided additional resources for the project. I think this will be a great way to engage people and hopefully keep them engaged.
I will tell you straight out that there are a couple of drawbacks that I hope will be resolved in upcoming versions.
- There is no search capability – so if I remember a discussion about XYZ I can’t search for it. This is unfortunately much more like Facebook than the rootsweb system which has active and useful archives.
- There is no e-mail notification for either admins or participants. Yesterday someone asked me a question about yesterday’s coupon, but I didn’t see it until today. Most administrators do NOT sign on to their projects daily, nor do they want to. Participants either, but if you want to be a part of the project discussion, today, that’s the only way to keep current.
Like with all new products, there are also some bugs but those are being worked out.
Let’s step through the conversion process so admins know what to expect. It’s actually VERY easy and there is really only one thing you need to know that isn’t obvious.
When you sign on as a project administrator, this is what you’ll see.
By clicking on the little blue box at right, “convert” you’ll see the following prompt.
Click OK. You will then see this page.
First, you’ll want to click on the “project profile” in the green lock box.
This takes you to your regular project profile page, which looks like this.
There are two new things.
The one VERY IMPORTANT thing you’ll need to do is to make your feed private. The default is public – meaning that the news feed, messages and photos are viewable to everyone.
In my projects, I want the discussions to be viewable by project members only, so you WILL NEED TO check the box by the first arrow, below, that says “Only members can view posts…” The default value is unchecked – meaning viewable to the public.
The second thing you can do is to change your project banner. Family Tree DNA has provided some nice standard options, or you can roll your own.
At the bottom of the list of stock photos is an option to upload a custom banner for your project.
Be sure to Save Profile at the bottom of the page, or it won’t.
That’s really all you need to do in terms of setup, because as best I can tell, that’s really all that has changed from an administrative setup perspective, but lets take a look at the rest.
In the green lock box, if you click on the project website link, you will be taken to your, public project setup site. Nothing has changed and you should already be familiar with this, as an admin.
In the first box, click on “click here to go to activity feed.” you will see this.
This takes you to your new default public project page. This new look is probably the biggest change and will take a minute to get used to.
The first thing you’ll see on your main project message page is a prompt to post the daily coupon. This is posted as a message to the group.
I posted the coupon to the group, in case anyone wants to use it. This is what postings look like.
As you can see, the regular project items, like DNA results are shown to the left, along with the “about” page. These links take you to the pages we’re all familiar with.
All the features and functions that have always been in projects are still there, plus new social media functions designed to engage people.
Family Tree DNA provides MyGroups basics instructions in the Learning Center as well.