Friday, August 31, 2007

Some Final (?) thoughts on the Ancestry Fiasco

The following message was posted at 5:25 p.m (Eastern Time) on 24/7 Family History Circle:
"Hi, my name is Kendall Hulet, and I’m a product manager at I’ve probably met a lot of you at FGS, NGS, and other conferences. If not, I look forward to meeting you in the future.

"I wanted to write you a note because I’m extremely concerned about the frustrations that the recently-removed Internet Biographical Collection has caused. We had hoped to provide a way for you to be able to search the entire web easily for genealogically-relevant pages and provide for preservation of sources for future generations. In looking back, we understand why members of the community are upset. We’ve heard you loud and clear, and we’ve removed this product with no intention of re-releasing it. Instead, it is my hope that someday we’ll be able to provide a free web search engine that links directly back to the live web pages, and can become a useful tool to the genealogical community. If we do move forward with this type of initiative, we will seek your input and talk more with community leaders to make sure we get it right."

He stops just short of an apology, expresses concern, and offers hope for the possibility of a better research tool in the future (with input from community leaders!). Hmm.

I took a bit of a break from the genea-blogosphere most of yesterday and today so I am catching up on things.

Yesterday Jasia asked us Do You Know Who Your Friends Are? If you haven't read it yet, you should. And the comments also. I too had been wondering why there was no response from the other major players in the genealogy industry or from many of those that call themselves professional genealogists. Ancestry has a "long arm" in this business and likely affects areas that we aren't fully aware of. I don't fault anyone for their silence on the matter. You do what you think is best at the time. There were some from the "commercial" and "professional" ranks who did step forward. Jasia acknowledges them and I applaud their courage to speak out.

I was amazed to see my experience with this issue quoted in - You're Not Going To Believe This on Legacy News (written by Geoff Rasmussen, I think ?) As he stated "Ancestry does provide a wonderful service. Although a bit pricey for many, I'm sure they put millions and millions of dollars into their efforts. We should not expect something for nothing. This week, however, Ancestry went too far." He went on to explain what had happened. Not only did he acknowledge that what Ancestry had done was wrong but he also listed many of the other genea-bloggers and linked to their posts on the subject. Thank you Legacy! In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a user of Legacy since version 3.0 and am looking forward to version 7.0 when it comes out in a few months. It's not likely that whomever wrote this post on Legacy News was aware that I use their software.

I thought the variety of comments on Dick Eastman's two posts on the subject was interesting. Opinions varied widely. I stopped by Dick's booth at the FGS Conference two weeks ago and thanked him for the service he provides all of us with his online newsletter. He seemed genuinely pleased that I had taken a few moments of my time to let him know that what he has done for the genealogy community is appreciated. I may not agree with some of the opinions he has expressed on this issue, or past issues for that matter, but that doesn't change the fact that he does provide us with a service in presenting the news and issues of this community. And I still appreciate what he does - he makes a very good devil's advocate, indeed. However, I'll admit that I was pleased to see him finally admit that Ancestry had blundered when they released this "collection" of websites (this was in response to Jasia's comments on 08/30), and I quote:
"I do think some of the things that did recently were good business practice while some other things were really stupid. We have a mixed bag here. Displaying other peoples' web pages in frames so as to hide the URL of the originating web page is probably one of the dumbest things I have ever seen. I totally agree with you there. I am amazed that such action got past the company's internal product reviews or the senior managers, most of whom I know personally. I usually respect their judgement and was surprised with that one "feature." It is not like them. Somebody was asleep!"


Janice said...


I fully expect you to have continue remarkable thoughts, but I know you join me, with great relief, that hopefully this particular topic can be put to bed (so to speak). Thank you for all of your wonderful posts, and for never compromising your feelings.


Jasia said...

Oh Becky, thanks for posting this. I didn't realize that Dick had responded to my comment (hadn't revisited his site). I did just take a look at his complete response and was surprised to see how seriously he addressed my issues.

I have to take his comments as sincere ones but I'm still having a bit of trouble reconciling his feelings, his behavior, and sound business practices.

My first thought after reading his response was, "no wonder you're not making enough to cover your expenses, you can't give it away to Ancestry and expect to make any money, duh". But then I thought about it and realized that he "had an agreement" with Ancestry back then so presumably he did make some money from those articles (or some type of compensation). If Ancestry were to pay me for putting my articles in their database I'd probably be sitting back thinking it's OK that they're on their site too.

I thought about responding to his comment but it seems like it's time to put this issue to bed. That would be dragging it on to no real purpose at this point.

Anyway, thanks again for bringing this up. Great article! You're a good friend!

Becky said...

Janice - not sure how remarkable my thoughts will be, but I certainly plan to continue speaking out when I feel it is warranted!

Jasia - I think Dick put a lot of thought into his response to your comments. I've met him and he seems like a nice guy ;-) perhaps a bit misguided to our way of thinking but nice nevertheless. Remember, Nice Matters?

Ah well, lets put the issue to bed and the cows out to pasture!