MyGroups is Here

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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By clicking on the little blue box at right, “convert” you’ll see the following prompt.

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Click OK.  You will then see this page.

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First, you’ll want to click on the “project profile” in the green lock box.

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This takes you to your regular project profile page, which looks like this.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In the first box, click on “click here to go to activity feed.” you will see this.

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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.

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I posted the coupon to the group, in case anyone wants to use it.  This is what postings look like.

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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.

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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.

Tenth Annual Family Tree DNA Conference Day 3

The internet in the hotel hasn’t gotten any faster, so I’ll just be providing highlights and today’s new announcements.  More info, plus pictures, when I get home.

Sunday always begins with the ISOGG meeting hosted by Director, Katherine Borges.

This year’s meeting was especially touching, because Max Blankfeld and Bennett Greenspan, founders of Family Tree DNA, received plaques for their 10 years of investment and dedication and as a thank you for hosting the conferences for administrators.

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Much of today’s agenda was focused on research, technical updates and new products and features.

This next year, Family Tree DNA’s focus is on three initiatives:

  1. Customer service and feedback
  2. Features – listen to citizen scientists and group administrators
  3. New products and features to make genetic genealogy better for genealogists

Family Tree DNA is actively soliciting your feedback and has set up a special address for suggestions.  This takes you to a google docs file where you enter your name, e-mail and 1000 characters maximum.

http://www.familytreedna.com/suggestions

Free Ancestry and 23andMe Uploads

In order to attract more uploads, which will, of course, give us more matches, Family Tree DNA is announcing free uploads from Ancestry and 23andMe, the v3 chip only, but with a string attached.  The transferee can do the actual transfer for free, but they will only see their top 20 matches, only an initial and a last name, and will not be able to communicate with them unless they decide to pay $39 to join, or perhaps stated more accurately, to active all of the features of a paid transfer.  However, in lieu of the $39 fee, you can also recruit 4 other people to upload their data, whether or not they actually pay the fee or not.

Search Feature

One of the reasons Family Tree DNA implemented the new trees was so that they could implement new search functionality.  Soon, one will be able to search all public trees.  I think this will benefit the community immensely, because it will allow people to see if people from their family lines are present in the data base, which will, hopefully, encourage testing.

Facilitating Communication

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A new social media function called myGroups is being implemented to facilitate contact within groups.  Today, projects and outside mailing lists and groups don’t fully overlap.

The example shown correlated to about 25% of a project group that was subscribed to an outside Yahoo group for discussion.  MyGroups is designed to facilitate discussions that include all project members.

Furthermore, Ancestry’s My Family product became obsolete on September 30th, leaving many people with no place to discuss family lines and groups and share pictures and documents.   The new myGroups is designed to replace some of that functionality within the context of a project.  A project could be defined as an ancestral couple, for example or a surname project, or a haplogroup project.  Of course, the discussions would be quite different for each type of myGroup.  They are ready to launch this in an alpha state and if someone is excited about this and wants to volunteer, and can deal with a few bugs…then please drop Family Tree DNA a note.

News in the Field

We had many wonderful presentations, but my personal favorite was by Michael Hammer.

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I can’t begin to do this topic justice without a real keyboard and a decent internet connection so I can upload lots of pictures.  We now have 18 fully genome sequenced ancient DNA samples, which is, admittedly, just a smattering.  However, if they are representative of the hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic) and early farmer (Neolithic) populations, then what we thought we knew about Y haplogroup R, J and others has just been turned upside down.  And then, there is the teaser, like what is haplogroup C doing in Spain???

Oh, and want to know how much of your European DNA is ancestrally neolithic, hunter-gatherer, ancient northern european or later from the metallic age?  That’s one of the features Family Tree DNA was asked about and I believe they said that was something they could probably do. I’m not positive if that means they will implement that feature, but I do know they’ll evaluate how difficult and accurate this would be to implement.

Join me in a few days, after I get home, when I promise, I’ll do Michael’s presentation justice.  I’m so excited about ancient DNA and the secrets it’s unlocking!!!

Fun times ahead!