Thursday, 9 February 2017

Social media for family history

For work I am preparing a presentation introducing social media to seniors. Although the presentation will deal with social media in general, social media can be a useful aid for family history research. This blog post therefore provides a brief introduction to social media for family history research but the principles apply for using social media for any topic.

What is social media?
Social media can be defined as 'websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking [Oxford dictionaries]. Social media is about sharing and communicating. This includes communicating with friends, family, peers, or just people with the same interests with you. Social media is particularly useful for the sharing of information within an interest group.
 Examples of social media sites include Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest, blogs, podcasts and communication sites such as Skype.

Social media for connecting with people and organisations.

Facebook is the largest and possibly best known social media site. It can be used to keep track of friends and family. It allows family and friends to keep up to date with activities and it allows communication between people of similar interests.

In August last year I gave a presentation on using Facebook for Family History Research. This link will take you to a brief summary of that talk plus a selected list of Facebook pages that may be helpful when researching family history.

Twitter is an online news and social networking service where users post and read short messages of not more than 140 characters. Twitter is a blend of instant messaging, blogging and texting but with brief content and a very broad audience. Many organisations, including libraries and archives, have Twitter accounts where they promote or comment on events, resources or news items. Twitter also allows users to follow people of interest using Twitter to communicate their views.

Twitter is also often used by participants and speakers at conferences to promote and comment on papers and events. Twitter users the # symbol (hashtag) at such events so that tweets concerning the conference or activity can be grouped and easily accessed. An example is the Roots Tech 2017 conference where  #rootstech is the official hashtag though #rootstech2017 is also used. @rootstechconf is the user name sign for the conference.

Sharing media

YouTube is a free video sharing website that makes it easy to view and upload videos online. You will find a wide range of vidoes on almost any topic on YouTube.

Anyone can search for topics on YouTube. For example searching for terms such as 'genealogy' or genealogy and family history research' produces a list of 'how to' videos that may be useful, particularly for those starting out in their search for their family history. Of course you can also search for specific subjects such as 'First Fleet Australia' or 'Convicts Australia' or names of people and places. Have fun and investigate.

Flickr is a photo sharing resource where you can view and share images. If you want to upload photos to Flickr you must open an account. Uploaded photos can be shared with the world or just to a selected group

If you upload an image additional information and comments can be added to the image.Selected images can be added to albums created by the owner of the images. Links to an album or an individual image can be sent in an email to those who may be interested.

Group boards can be set up on Flickr relating to a theme. You can search for and locate images on almost any topic on Flickr.

Pinterest describes itself as 'the world's catalogue of ideas'. Users of Pinterest create a 'board' and then 'pin' relevant items to the board. The boards on Pinterest are classified into broad subjects which can be a starting point for searching Pinterest. You can also search for specific subjects such as 'Trove Tuesday' or a place such as 'Bath Somerset' or a building 'Westminster Abbey London'.

PC Magazine article 'How to use Pinterest for beginners'

The word blog is a truncation of web log. A blog consists of a series of articles called posts.In some cases it may act as a person's journal or diary. It can be used to express a person's thoughts or passiona in general or may be confined to one topic. Blogs are often used for publishing information about your family history. The use of labels is a useful way for connecting posts on a simialr theme.

Blogs are regularly updated and posts are arranged with the most recent post first. A person who writes a blog is called a blogger. Blogs can be set up so that more than one person can add posts to a blog. Blog posts can be made anywhere provided that there is an Internet connection. People can comment on blog posts and if there is a contact box they can contact the blogger directly.

The two main blogging sites are Blogger and Word Press.

There are many blogs useful for researching genealogy and family history and a list of selected sites is provided elsewhere in this blog. Typing a name in inverted commas followed by the word, blog, in a Google search can help locate information about people and places in blogs.

A podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device. Typically podcasts are available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. Podcasts can often be downloaded via a subscription service such as itunes. In some cases they can be downloaded directly from a website. Podcasts are normally free. Search Google for free podcasts on any topic. A search for 'genealogy podcasts free' provided this list on Google.

Social Media for Communicating
Communicating with other people is an important feature of the Internet.
Email is now accepted as the accepted method of communication.
Text or Instant Messaging is another communication method used by a growing number of people.
The Internet also allows people to use Voice Chat and Video Chat to communicate with family, friends and for business. Voice Chat and Video Chat are sometimes used for providing information to a group, perhaps a lecture on a genealogy topic.

There are a number of ways voice chat and video chat sessions can be conducted via the Internet. Skype (owned by Microsoft) and Face Time (Apple) are two programs used by individuals to contact people from home.

To use instant messaging, voice and video chat you will need an Internet connection and a broadband account with an Internet Service Provider. To use Skype you will also need to download Skype from the Skype website and set up an account with Skype. People you wish to communicate with also need to set up Skype accounts. If the computer does not have an inbuilt  microphone or webcam these will be needed for voice and video chats.

The Help feature on the Skype website provides information for using Skype on different devices. When you search Help it automatically knows the type of device you are using.

It is important to remember that while Skype to Skype calls are free, there are charges if a call is made to normal phone.

For family history research, Skype and similar programs can be useful if you want to interview a family member or discuss a project with family members.

Another program for voice and video chats and instant messaging is Google Hangouts.No additional computer software is required to use Google Hangouts.

Other Social Media Sites that are often mentioned

Instagram is an online mobile photo sharing site allowing users to share pictures and videos on the app as well as via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. 
Link to a useful article on How to Use Instagram.

Google+ is a social networking site similar to Facebook. However it allows you to set up Circles of friends rather than one large group. It also has a section for Collections.

LinkedIn is a social networking tool specifically for the business community. LinkedIn aims to help people build a professional identity online as well as discover professional opportunities.

Tumblr is a microblogging tool enabling you to publish short posts containing images, text, audio and video. Tumblr posts are much shorter than traditional blog posts.

Tech Savvy Seniors provides useful information on social media and how to use social networking tools.

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