Webmaster comes out of Hibernation

Home Sunrise

Return­ing from Hibernation

If you skip a para­graph or three, you’ll move straight to my thoughts on how we can be of greater ser­vice to our new online-connected generations.

The 21st Century

Three years ago I vol­un­teered as Interim Web­mas­ter. That part was easy, thanks to the gra­cious help of our pre­vi­ous web­mas­ter! For the record, I donate to SFAA the cost of domain reg­is­tra­tions, and the cost of commercial-grade server space and band­width. To me it’s all part of the package.

Upon being named per­ma­nent Web­mas­ter, I quickly con­sol­i­dated my empire, declar­ing myself to be the Grand High Hered­i­tary Web­mas­ter of the Strong Fam­ily Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. It’s a legit­i­mate title, since most of my best “web­mas­ter­ing” ideas come from our son Jakob Barnard.

Jakob Barnard, Webmaster Heir Apparent

Jakob Barnard, Web­mas­ter Heir Apparent

At the same time I was con­firmed Grand High Hered­i­tary Web­mas­ter, I became the Keeper of the His­to­rian Archives. We have 20–30 shelf feet of paper records, count­less pages of man­u­scripts in progress, and no dis­as­ter recov­ery plan.

I took on the task of bring­ing our 20th-Century body of knowl­edge into the 21st Cen­tury. We now have mul­ti­ple copies (of any­thing that has been dig­i­tized so far), out-of-state back­ups and hourly per­sonal back­ups. I can share the His­to­rian Archives with any­one run­ning Win­dows 7 (or a Mac).

We are set up to begin col­lect­ing new/updated/additional genealog­i­cal infor­ma­tion from our mem­ber­ship and/or the pub­lic at large. We are con­vert­ing our books and man­u­scripts to a Fam­ily Tree Maker data­base, allow­ing us to far more eas­ily dis­sem­i­nate, update, and pub­lish our his­tory over the next hun­dred years.

We have begun pub­lish­ing our books on CD. We will never again be pub­lish­ing for-real nicely-bound paper vol­umes. There is no need! How we pub­lish will evolve over the com­ing decades. But we will be able to pub­lish in dig­i­tal for­mat, pro­duc­ing the lat­est infor­ma­tion as it becomes incorporated.

We actu­ally have man­u­scripts avail­able which have been con­tin­u­ously updated for twenty years! What kept us from pub­lish­ing them? The cost of print­ing a book. Now, in the 21st Cen­tury, we don’t need to by stopped by a pro­hib­i­tive print­ing cost. I click my mouse, drag a file to a dif­fer­ent folder, and Bob Cihla burns the Book on CD on our Amaz­ing CD Dupli­ca­tor. We are ready to roll!

Of Greater Service

Meta Data

Meta Data (a web­mas­ter joke)

From my stand­point, The Strong Fam­ily Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica has two pri­mary purposes:

  • Social
  • Knowl­edge

Our 20th-Century “busi­ness model” con­tin­ues to work very well. We get together at our annual or other Reunions. Here in the Mid­west, we get together rather more often as the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Work­ing Group. We have reg­u­lar newslet­ter mail­ings, cor­re­spon­dence, a mem­ber direc­tory, and so on.

This model works well for our cur­rent mem­ber­ship. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” Let’s not change a thing!

What about the Inter­net? Sure, we have an online pres­ence — but our con­tent is stale. Until last week, we have not updated much of any­thing. I have a huge back­log of email cor­re­spon­dence and research inquiries. I have lit­er­ally been in hiber­na­tion, try­ing to bring our tremen­dous body of knowl­edge into the light of day. Like any­one else, I can only do so much!

Online is now where it’s at. More and more infor­ma­tion is becom­ing avail­able online. I love the TV series “Who Do You Think You Are?” but it amounts to hour-long “infomer­cials” for ancestry.com. These trends all set an expec­ta­tion of online avail­abil­ity. Most impor­tantly of all, our younger gen­er­a­tions have grown up with the Inter­net, and expect to con­nect elec­tron­i­cally as a mat­ter of course.

What can we do to be of ser­vice to the com­mu­nity at large, specif­i­cally the online com­mu­nity at large? We have the same two areas:

  • We can pro­vide reli­able information
  • We can pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties to connect

Online Infor­ma­tion

The first point is a dif­fi­cult one, because our younger com­mu­nity expects online infor­ma­tion to be free! I’ve thought about this, and may have a solution.

Our cur­rent busi­ness model works. We sup­port our oper­at­ing bud­get with annual mem­ber­ships, cer­tain dona­tions, and sales of books and mem­o­ra­bilia. From my per­spec­tive, we don’t need to change that!

There is a lot of infor­ma­tion we CAN put online, for free, with­out affect­ing our cur­rent book sales. It’s quite the oppo­site, in fact! As we share more infor­ma­tion, we are likely to get more infor­ma­tion sub­mit­ted to us for inclu­sion in future book publications.

We do need to keep our cred­i­bil­ity fac­tor high. Our infor­ma­tion does need to be well-presented and defin­i­tive. We should be the place to come, for all things Strong!

I’ve changed my think­ing. I now see one of my most impor­tant roles as shar­ing (hope­fully) inter­est­ing facts and pieces of infor­ma­tion online. More peo­ple are likely to find us, and thus we pro­vide the oppor­tu­nity to connect.

Oppor­tu­nity to Connect

The Annual Reunion is our most impor­tant oppor­tu­nity to con­nect. That doesn’t change!

Mean­while, we have tried var­i­ous elec­tronic forms. We’ve done forums, mail­ing lists, bul­letin boards, etc. Noth­ing has really worked. I’m not ter­ri­bly inter­ested in try­ing some­thing else which might work. I cer­tainly don’t need yet another “thing” to main­tain or administrate!

I am part of the Barnard and Dier­lam Geneal­ogy groups on Face­book. Face­book is here to stay; a lot of peo­ple expect to con­nect there. A Strong Fam­ily group on Face­book might be a good thing!

I don’t see this SFAA web site to be highly inter­ac­tive in the way Face­book is inter­ac­tive. We don’t try to make money from the web site; we don’t have any need to retain mem­bers on the site for as many min­utes as pos­si­ble. (Places like Face­book want “sticky” users because they are more profitable.)

Peo­ple can com­ment and share responses to our web site posts. Peo­ple can con­tact SFAA staff via “con­tact us.” I hope to get back into the mode of answer­ing research inquiries. I have a lot of catching-up to do! These are the more “old school” styles of online inter­ac­tion. I imag­ine that peo­ple who care to will cre­ate their own “new school” meth­ods of inter­ac­tion and social-networking.

Out of Hibernation

The books, archives, back­ups, dig­i­tiz­ing, etc., will take care of itself as time per­mits. I’ll have some inter­est­ing things to show at the 2012 Reunion in San­dusky Ohio! I have now moved back in to the “mode” of adding inter­est­ing things to the web site, and hope­fully begin­ning to dig in to my gar­gan­tuan email backlog.

See you here!

Posted in Webmaster's Corner and tagged , , .

3 Comments

  1. Moth­ers name was barnard from lem­ing­ton Canada I have seen her copy of fam­ily book but moms sis­ter in law took it back to the barnard side of family

  2. Dear Mr James Parks,

    I am try­ing very hard to find my fam­ily roots. I found your site while look­ing at other “hints” that came up in Ancestry.com and fol­lowed it out onto the web and then to this site. If I am not mis­taken I am related to Elder John Strong. It is very easy to get off a line or two in your lin­eage that goes back so far. Any help that I may get or give would be appre­ci­ated. Please let me know what I should do. I see Sarah, Experience…Strong in my line of Strongs.

    Sin­cerely,
    Dona Strong
    donastrong@yahoo.com
    863–393-6727

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