Dear Diary: It Seems I’ve Been a Bad Official Blogger

Dear Diary I've Been a Bad Official Blogger

A recent post at The Genealogy Nitpicker entitled RootsTech 2013 – The Nitpicker’s Critique, Part 2 criticized the Official Blogger selection process for the recent RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City. Beyond being critical, it reviewed the activities of each and every Official Blogger.

We’ve Had This Discussion Before

Back in February 2012, I posed many of these same questions and issues in Does The Official Blogger Concept Need Updating? where I compared different product/service/event “social evangelism” efforts. The post reviewed the concepts of Official Blogger and Ambassador and solicited input from the genealogy bloggers to work towards a different concept that might better serve the genealogy industry and community.

Many readers know that I abhor elitism in genealogy (in most anything in fact) and have been fighting against it since I decided to become a genealogy professional almost five years ago. But over those five years I’ve evolved in my thinking and I can see the difference between a select group who perpetuate their continued role in that group (and its perceived benefits) merely through association with each other vs. a select group who work hard to achieve specific goals that not only bring them the rewards of success but also whose hard work helps to move a community and industry forward.

In a perfect world everyone would be an official blogger for an event or be selected as one of the best genealogy blogs by a national magazine. And everyone would get a trophy for just trying. Also in an equal world, canned cat food would be the same as pate de fois gras. On the last point, that kind of equality we don’t need or want. Trust me.

Official Blogger Programs: Requirements Should Be Outlined

I took some time to research how other industries are using the Official Blogger concept for events such as conferences. In a brief, a cursory review looking at some current conferences, I have found that many Official Blogger programs do set down parameters.  They let bloggers know where the bar is set in terms of what they must do in terms of placing an event graphic or logo on their blog, posting prior to and after the event, etc.  Some even go so far as to state specific social media analytic benchmarks a blogger must meet or surpass in order to be considered:

My thoughts: I think that any genealogy event that has a specific group of Official Bloggers (meaning that there is some selection process) should be transparent about the selection process and should make it clear to the bloggers and to the public if there are any requirements that come with accepting the title of Official Blogger.

In reviewing the email I received when selected as a RootsTech 2013 Official Blogger, I received several graphics that I could post on my site but I did not receive any directives as to number of posts or required duties during the actual event.

Scorecard: Thomas Where Were You?

What I didn’t appreciate from The Genealogy Nitpicker’s post, besides the overall negative tone, was the need to “track” the activities of each Official Blogger.  I felt almost like I was reading Mr. Blackwell’s annual posting “The 10 Worst Dressed List”:

Thomas MacEntee, head cat herder of the Geneabloggers, was naturally an official blogger. He only has two blog posts that mention RootsTech since the conference, and one is just mentioning a vendor. The other post mentions RootsTech but isn’t about the conference. I expected better from this one. Did I miss something?

As I said in my comment to the post, there was much more that I did “behind the scenes” as did my colleague DearMYRTLE and others. I worked to make sure that ALL bloggers attending (and there were over 80 members of GeneaBloggers) were able to enter the Exhibit Hall early and get a tour from conference organizers. Myrt spent quite a bit of time (and money) sponsoring beads for this years bloggers – all bloggers – to make sure others could recognize them.

I wish I had been contacted by the author prior to the post asking about all of the behind the scenes activities with which I was involved. I had a full dance card including presentations and doing what I do best: connecting people in the genealogy industry. It was not made clear to me that I needed to meet requirements laid down by RootsTech or by any other person attending the event.

Moving Forward

Here are some ideas I’d like to propose for genealogy events over the next few years:

  • Be Transparent. Indicate to prospective Official Bloggers and the public what requirements are involved to be selected.
  • Expectations and Obligations. Outline what is expected in terms of blog posts, logo or graphic placement, and activities during the event.
  • Differentiate between media and Official Bloggers.  As Cheri Daniels at Journeys Past pointed out in Pandora’s Box: Official Bloggers, some of us who blog do so not as a sole means of providing an income, but as a channel in our overall marketing efforts. I blog and write about the genealogy market and on the profession of genealogy. I’d be content with media credentials (and stated requirements as to why I qualify and what any obligations involved) instead.
  • Consider Self-Designation Options. If possible, allow any blogger meeting minimum requirements (must be a genealogy blog, must attend the event, etc.) to designate themselves as an Official Blogger. They can then step into the role of cheerleader and evangelist for the organization and the event using their blog, social media, video or any channels at which they excel.

Are there any other ideas you’d like to see implemented at genealogy events in terms of official bloggers or some variation on the “event evangelist” concept? Let me know in the comments section below.

Finally, the practicalities of having 50 or more Official Bloggers at RootsTech needs to be addressed.  Would there be room for them in one area? Would they all have access to high speed Internet? Or would this be reserved for those with just media credentials? Again, there is going to be some designation of an “elite” group based on their social media reach, even if we decide to call them “media.”

From Irritation Comes Beauty

Yes, Banai Feldstein’s post ticked me off. I guess more so in the method of message delivery, but being one who has done this as well, I understand that often to get results you have to be the burr on the donkey’s butt or the irritant in the oyster shell to produce a pearl. For that, I do want to thank Banai; as many readers know, what I love most about our community is that we are like family. We don’t always agree. We can have heated discussions. But I think that deep down, we are all very much the same and we have similar goals: to not only document the journey of finding our roots, but to also encourage others to do the same.

©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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About Thomas MacEntee

What happens when a “tech guy” with a love for history gets laid off during The Great Recession of 2008? You get Thomas MacEntee, a genealogy professional who’s also a blogger, educator, author, social media connector, online community builder and more. Thomas was laid off after a 25-year career in the information technology field, so he started his own genealogy-related business called High Definition Genealogy. He also created an online community of over 3,000 family history bloggers known as GeneaBloggers. His most recent endeavor, Hack Genealogy, is an attempt to “re-purpose today’s technology for tomorrow’s genealogy.” Thomas describes himself as a lifelong learner with a background in a multitude of topics who has finally figured out what he does best: teach, inspire, instigate, and serve as a curator and go-to-guy for concept nurturing and inspiration. Thomas is a big believer in success, and that we all succeed when we help each other find success.

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