Open Thread Thursday: Defining The Genealogy Community

open thread

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

In the past week or so there have been some thought-provoking posts about the “genealogy community,” bloggers and their role in both the field of genealogy and the genealogy industry.

Some examples that you should read (and read the comments too!):

The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are Bloggers the New Expert?
Planting the Seeds

Are Bloggers Really the New Experts?
Marian’s Roots and Rambles

Genea-Bodies: The New Somebodies
Luxegen Genealogy and Family History

Share your thoughts on not just the role bloggers should or shouldn’t play in the genealogy community, but also what exactly constitutes this “thing” we call community?

Post your responses in the comments or at a post on your own genealogy blog and place the link here in the comments.

What Exactly Is Community?

These are my opinions on the concept of community and whether or not such a thing even exists in the field of genealogy.

I like to use the snow analogy when talking about community (appropriate for the first day of winter, right?): I see each individual genealogist and family historian as a snowflake. And the community is basically a snow bank, where all these snowflakes land.

  • Each “snowflake” is very individual with its own features that are unique. While their education or skills that they bring to the snow bank may not be unique, their journey is.
  • The snow bank benefits from different shapes, sizes, insights and journeys in its components, its snow flakes.
  • Because of this a snow bank is ever changing – snowflakes arrive at different times, in clusters or individually. And they also leave and journey to other snow banks. They also return and go – from one snow bank to another.
  • There are also snowbanks within snow banks – communities within communities.
  • There is a fluidity to a snow bank – some snowflakes have been around for some time and form the foundation of the snow bank. New snowflakes, while all sparkly and shiny, often need the support of that foundation. They are inter-connected.
There is almost no way to “define” a genealogy community since it is an ever-changing social construct. The best we can hope for is a snapshot of what the community looks like at any one time, and a history of how that community developed and changed as well as a projection as to what that community might look like in the future.

The Role of Technology and Community

I think that some of the conversations via blog posts last week were as much a search for a definition of genealogy community as they were a realization of the role of technology and its impact on such a community.

Again, as I’ve said before, the technology itself is innocent. It is how we decide to leverage and use such technology, to our benefit or detriment, that can help shape our community.  I don’t believe that those who can best use technology – such as social media or blogging – make for instant experts. All it does is amplify a voice or group of voices. Voices backed up by action, by deeds is what we need and should seek.

There is talk and then there is walk. I think we as a community want not just loud voices, we want loud actions too. And this is what separates the sea of experts, this is what creates “authority” vs. expertise.

I just want more for genealogy: more walk, more action, more sharing, more dialog, more deeds, more lessons.  And I want less division and fewer margins. I want abundance in genealogy, not famine.

A Look to 2012

I won’t try to tackle all my 2012 goals and wishes for the genealogy community here, but I think you can see that the above discussion, thankfully, should get all of us pondering 2012 goals and resolutions for ourselves as genealogists and for the genealogy community.

I’ll have more next week on what I want for 2012!

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This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

©2011, 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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