Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To Group or Not To Group, That is the Question...

What does it mean to be a genea-blogger?

At it's simplest, it means having an interest in genealogy and a using a blogging platform to write about it.

To be a genea-blogger you don't need to be approved, join a group, or be on FaceBook, Twitter, or GenealogyWise. There are no dues to pay, no standards to be met, no code of ethics to adhere to. You don't have to have any experience in genealogy research or even be a good writer for that matter. You don't need to post a badge on your blog claiming you are one or participate in blog carnivals on the topic of genealogy. There are no publications to subscribe to, no conferences to attend, nor any awards given out for years of dedicated service. You don't have to link to any others who blog on the topic of genealogy or achieve a certain level of readership. In other words, there are no rules. Being a genea-blogger doesn't mean you stand for anything or belong to anything, it's just a label for something you do.

I have to remind myself of these things from time to time because sometimes I get caught up into thinking it means something more. There have been times when I felt like I belonged to a group with others who also write blog posts about genealogy related topics. But with no formal organization there is no actual group, it's just the idea of a group that exists in my mind. Facebook and Twitter have groups. They even have genealogy groups. But those groups have no standards or ethics either. There's an implied cohesion but no real meaning behind belonging. It's sort of like saying I'm a resident of Michigan. It identifies something about me but it doesn't make me a member of anything.

So where am I going with all this? Every once in a while I wonder if it's time to form a formal organization for genea-bloggers. A real group that means something and has standards.

And then I wonder, if there was such a group would I join it? Part of the beauty of blogging is the freedom from having to conform to any standards. If I want to write a post about photography on my genealogy blog, I can. Would I be willing to give that up in order to belong to a formal group with standards and likely limitations?

I don't know.

What are your thoughts?


  1. I became a genebloger in January. First you have to be smart enough to set it up.
    What I like is the informality, We can write what we think. There are no set rules.

    I like to read others take some of their ideas and try to glean information of what has helped them in finding their ancestors.

    D we need a formal group? I do not know, but I think if so, it needs to be casual.

  2. I'm a proud member of the community of genea-bloggers that has grown exponentially over the last couple of years. I get a lot of inspiration and support from this community even though I don't have the time or inclination to participate in all the groups/platforms/activities that have begun developing. I see that as normal in that not all of us have the same research and networking interests.

    I don't think it's necessary - or healthy for that matter - for everyone to participate in every group or event. I am dealing with a bit of overload and stepping back from some of the social stuff to focus more on my research and writing. It's all a matter of priority and where to focus what time I do have.

  3. I love posts like this which are thought provoking (not to say I don't like the usual genealogy blog posts that everyone has) and elicit a response.

    I like the freedom of not having a formal organization with rules, dos and don'ts, are you certified or not?, blah, blah, blah.

    There are lots of choices in the genealogy blogging world as you pointed out. Just because many of us jump on a new social media platform or participate in a genealogy carnival doesn't mean that all genealogy bloggers must do so. I love the freedom of choice.

    I've found that if you delineate borders too much (by setting rules, dues, tasks) then it becomes a game of who is within the margins and who is not. Many of us deal with this at work, at our houses of worship or in many other ways we interact with others. For me genealogy is fun and blogging is fun and I want to keep it that way.

    Thomas MacEntee

  4. I don't think a "formal" group is needed. I think each person brings something unique to the geneablogger world. And I'm like you - if I want to write about a person in my family one week or some photos the next - I shouldn't have to worry if that was part of the rules. Great post, Jasia!

  5. Jasia, Genea-bloggers is (are?) an informal group (community) and I like it just the way it is. No rules. No formality. No one telling me what I should or shouldn't post or when I should or shouldn't post it. I don't really think a formal group is needed... and I'm not sure I'd join if one was created.

  6. I also love being a member of the genea-blogging community. Although it is an informal association and there are no formal standards or ethics, I think in many ways it is very tight-knit - there is already a set of common "in-jokes" and traditions and history. And it was amazing to read in so many blogs about how the group gelled at the California Jamboree (wish I could have been there). I think the natural attraction of common interests will provide the necessary cohesion. Getting all the strong and vibrant personalities in this community to go in the same direction might be a little bit like herding cats....

  7. Jasia,

    What a wonderful and thought provoking post.

    I tend to not be a joiner. Oh, I did become a member of Facebook, Twitter, and Genealogy Wise, but I don't really participate in any of them. Formal groups are really not for me. I prefer the freedom to post whatever I want, and while I like the thought of people reading my "stuff," it doesn't bother me at all there are those that don't.

    Formal groups with "standards" create divisions between people. When I first started blogging almost 3 years ago there was a debate raging about who and what was a "professional genealogist." I thought it was a silly argument that needlessly created bad blood in the blogosphere.

    If there were a formal organization for genea-bloggers I probably wouldn't join. After 25 years of being associated with the Army (20 in uniform and 5 as a civilian), I've been exposed to enough rules and standards to last a lifetime...I prefer the freedom of being a lone wolf rather than a part of a big pack...if that makes any sense.

  8. Good discussion!

    I kinda like 'Genea-Bloggers' the way it is - informal (like the Graveyard Rabbits too) - but if there was a 'formal' group someday, yes, I'm sure I'd join. I do rely on the Facebook page (and Thomas!) to keep up to date on all the Carnivals, etc. Then I decide what I want to/can participate in.

    Right now though, if anyone wants something more formal, they (we?) could form a chapter in one of the already established groups, like the Association of Professional Genealogists or the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors. Why reinvent the wheel, after all.

    And I do think that professional/not professional discussion comes up a bit too often, but as far as I am concerned, 'a professional is as she does'. I do believe it's important to have ethics standards, for example, that's one reason I am an APG memeber. As an editor/writer (paper & on-line), I am often looking for practical info/tips, that's one reason I'm a ISFHWE member. But, both formal and informal groups can be useful and still fun!

  9. My head is spinning. There are so many places to find me now I feel as if I'm suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. Blogs, Facebook, GenWise, Twitter, Squidoo, Footnote, LinkedIn (I'm sure there are more I can't remember). Far too many for the limited amount of time I have to devote in a day.

    I resist being organized. TELL me to do something and you will get nothing or my take on what you want and probably not what you were expecting.

    I personally don't think we need an online Homeowners Association for geneabloggers with all the rules and power struggles.

    I am dialing it back. I sat in my office for a week staring at the walls contemplating the frenzy.

    There are things I do that I truly enjoy. I want to continue doing them and doing a better job of them. I don't want to be sucked into the frenzy and frenzies tend to do that.

    The beating of the drums has become deafening. I'm shutting off my speakers. I'm going home. Home to my comfortable blogs. Where I write on my own schedule and love it.

    I am a geneablogger by happenstance not by design. We evolved. I love us just the way we are - an informal group of people with similar interests. The "organization" of the Graveyard Rabbits was almost the death of it. I hope we've learned from our missteps.


  10. I don't know if we need very formal structures. But I know that we need a information network.

    Blogging on your own is quite ok, but getting inspired by others is even better.

    A forum for sharing and informing about what is "on" would benefit many bloggers. Having Twitter as a possibility to "follow" has given me lots of inspiration and important input.

    I don't think we should become mere copycats, but through linking and developing ideas I belive we could improve genea-blogging

  11. I believe the "Genea-Bloggers" group as it now exists is all we need.It's informal but also informative, and Thomas does a fine job with it.

    One of the things I've noticed in some comments on GW is the old
    "genealogists" vs treeclimbers" view being put out by some. I noted that this is NOT a view from the geneabloggers. We tend, I think, to be more accepting and to try to lead by example in helping others learn the best way to research, present, and preserve their genealogy.

  12. I like being a part of the geneabloggers community. Just like the town where I live there are folks I love and others I'm neutral on and certainly visa-versa. I can do my thing, they can do theirs and we can "get together" when and where we wish. (FB, Carnivals, Jamborees, etc.) I held out on FB for a very long time and sometimes I did feel like I was being left out, but that was my choice. (And I still don't really "get it.")

    I'm glad fM mentioned the Graveyard Rabbits as that was one of my first thoughts as I read this. They have rules that are not followed and not enforced so what was the point of having them?

    I'm curious as to what your thoughts were when you wrote, "A real group that means something and has standards."? I'm a member of CNYGS but that membership only means that I get to pay dues and attend meetings. What I have gained by being a member of this community is much more meaningful. As for standards there may always be a few that fall short and others that want to set the bar too high but we are free to gravitate toward those with similar opinions.

  13. Apple, When I wrote, "A real group that means something and has standards." what I was thinking was that to the non-blogging genealogy world we haven't got much credibility as a group. I was wondering if perhaps it was time to formally band together and come up with standards so that when we referred to ourselves as Genea-Bloggers it meant something more than genea-bloggers. If we had standards it might validate our research and writing skills and perhaps make it easier for members who so desire to get paid speaking engagements, get a book published, get articles accepted in national magazines, etc.

    I'm not a member of the Graveyard Rabbits so I wasn't aware there were any problems related to organizing such a group. To be honest, I don't even remember what sorts of rules or standards were required to join the group. fM's comment was the first I'd heard of there being problems within the group.

    I guess I'm more out of the loop than you ;-)

  14. I would never have thought of it from that point of view! Perhaps a smaller group of like minded folks could start a specific group.

    Diane's thought that someone so inclined could join an already established group would be more practical. Their blog could become a part of their larger portfolio.

  15. Jasia, I wouldn't worry about others taking us seriously. I think 600+ members of Genea-Bloggers says it all. My guess is GenealogyWise is trying to replicate Thomas' success - without much understanding of the workings of a social network.

    I think we are pioneers in online community-building and showing others how to do it right. We're not better or worse, just different. And, successfully so.

  16. Jasia,
    I think the beauty and the attraction of the geneablogger community is that there are no rules. The lack of a formality makes us feel more like a family to me. When we meet, there are no handshakes, but instead, hugs. Most of us talk as if we have known each other for years. I would never want to risk losing that by creating something formal.

    Besides, I want the freedom to write about whatever I want, when I want, how I want, etc. I love viewing the way others write, getting inspired by their words, and writing my own take on the issue. Our diversity is what makes us who we are.

  17. Hi, Jasia,

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    I started reading a few genealogy blogs several years ago, at a time when I was posting information on my genealogy and genealogical research on my website, in HTML, XHTML and you know what all else.

    After several months of reading, I wondered why I wasn't using a content management system (CMS) to post my information on the internet; after all, it all seemed so simple.

    I started my personal blog (warrenweb.info/grannypam) during that time. When I found more people were blogging about genealogy, I just jumped, moving my genealogy posts to a new blog (warrenweb.info/genealogy)and joining right in. Along the way, I have enjoyed Facebook and especially Thomas's huge initiative, genea-bloggers on Facebook.

    I view genea-blogging as an easy, quick way to share information about genealogical topics, research or the results of research, or whatever.

    In my (I admit, limited view) a formal association with standards or rules defeats my purpose.

    I intend to share my (to me) earth-shattering research results and connect with other researchers of the same families and/or places.

    I don't need it any more complicated than that, I have limited time for posting items on the internet. That is why a CMS works so well for me-- just type and publish.

    While I certainly enjoy the community aspect of genea-bloggers, and believe it has enhanced my experience, research skills and thinking; I don't want to attempt to meet any standard except mine.

    To put it simply: meeting some standard will not help me fullfill my goal of sharing information about my research.