Genealogical Research Logs: Integration of Google Calendars

The class project for Digital Media before Spring Break was working on the Glessner House Museum website. While the copy of the site is good and updated, the visual representations need a Web 2.0 or 3.0 streamlining face lift. That said, for GHM3, the group inserted calendar and Google Maps functionality. Apps and embedded code structures are not hard in WSWYG editors. That said, the first commentator said that it was too light and the duplicate event calendar cluttered. No one else had a calendar, and it is easy enough to further streamline. That said, I thought about other applications of the calendar, and using WordPress to embed documents along with calendars and to inter-link between the two. That brought me to the inter-linked reference blog.

While there are literally thousands of genealogical blogs out there, I haven’t seen how they record their information. It’s as if no one thinks about how the person actually does the research, or the process. Sure, there are millions of databases on some heavy-hitting sites like A.com (Ancestry), Heritage Quest, FamilySearch, what have you. There are databases for keeping families together: RootsMagic, FamilyTreeMaker, Brother’s Keeper, the Master Genealogist, Legacy, Ancestral Quest, just to name a few.

Keeping track of how a person knows something is more self-conscious than this. The resource itself has to survive the inter-linking between the different databases, and as of this writing (I have not yet tried RootsMagic 5 but plan to do so soon) none of the database programs do the field justice. There’s no such thing as “one stop shopping” where the database is good enough for the necessary citation models and can keep track of the document by date, etc. There is at least one toolkit that is all about being an electronic filing cabinet. That’s great, but Windows already does that.

Maybe that’s needed for Macs, but I wouldn’t know in that regard. I am a late adopter of Mac basic technologies having had my last atrocious experience with them in 1998 while working on the high school literary magazine. The annual awards ceremony had most commonly heard phrases in the newsroom. “I HATE MACS!” came from me. Considering that Windows isn’t keeping up, I’ll have to look into them more closely, or else break down and buy a Chrome Book soon since I need something that’s more portable and lighter than my work laptop.

All of that said, I want to embed the Gmail Calendar into a Genealogical blog. Add the ability and necessity of uploading pictures of documents and then the text to explain said document. Although the second theory for that sentence is basically standard blogging with a separate application, the next part may make it a bit more complicated, and I’m sure that I’m not the first person to think about it. Adding the Google Calendar with a dynamic interface which GPS records where a person checked in for research: National Archives, Chicago, or the Newberry Library, for example. That needs to automatically be added to the research log aspect of this as also every document and which families apply to the given situation. This doesn’t look hard from the outset, and it seems completely obvious to anyone who uses research tools regularly. I want to find this in a program available today, but maybe it’s not there yet.

It will add to the phenomena idea of “Big Brother is Watching You” but when ISN’T “Big Brother” watching somewhere? A few years ago a news article focused on how that the average person is on a camera seven times a day. I hope not, because it is creepy, but the idea of someone wanting to mess with my business? Why would they? What sort of benefit would it give them? I agree with the tongue-in-cheek analysis of my old History 482 professor from undergrad who said that he almost wanted to get hacked. He definitely didn’t have enough cash for attracting a hacker, but the hacker could have his debt.

So there you have it. Make the research log into a virtual calendar with “check in” abilities to remember what repository you found what thing at, and then anything scanned goes there. I think that I may need to put a portable scanner on my Christmas list. Just something small that I can bring in a backpack or a smaller bag since backpacks are becoming less and less acceptable at repositories as the moral fabric of society erodes and shreds to nothingness. I can’t leave my backpack anywhere in Chicago without locking it. Never realized how valuable lockers were. Hated them in high school. I don’t use them in college. Potentially interested in a rolling backpack, though I’m also learning to literally carry a lighter load where I go. And I’m not into messenger bags for myself. They simply don’t work for me.

Best of luck to the beginning researcher. More basic family history blog posts to follow.

Something to Emphasize

Just learned that a good friend of mine’s Dad got diagnosed with cancer. While I used to think that there was separation between professional and personal parts of life, her blog reflects what I now realize: they’re the same thing. No matter how it’s put, and no matter what else happens, the principle player in life is always the same. What you do in one sphere directly affects all of the other spheres.

I have friends who are afraid of posting what they really think online due to possible negative reactions. This is a fair and honest thought process. A blog post found recently on the topic mentioned that monitoring your online presence is crucial. I have been using Google Alerts for this purpose for years. Why Google your name when Google can do it for you?

Otherwise, I take the stance that I am not afraid of my posts. I can edit as need be, and I strongly do not want self-righteous inflections. That said, I am who I am. A quote modified from Abraham Lincoln mentions pleasing people some of the time. It is a rare person who has convictions who pleases a mass audience. For the 400 friends  in my queue on Facebook, my main group is less than 30 of them and even then, restrictions to information apply. My closest friends give me solid advice and never sugar coat things, but have substantial wisdom. Over time, they prove sincerity. If I need to move, they ask where and when to help, and they can get things done.

My public face is extremely formal. The better a person knows me, the crazier and more fun I get. All of that said, I did not originally intend to post passionate opinions, but find that is better writing for me. I am an amateur writer and like writing for mass understanding. Not that I need to dull my speech patterns or purposely talk in slang jargon or underhand. Instead, I like clear speech written freely. My personal hero is Thomas Jefferson. He was smart, intelligent (not directly synonymous attributes) and his clarity of expression strikes awe and harmony in beautiful concordance. A goal for my dissertation or for my Masters essays is clarity. While my enunciated discussion garbles easily during every day conversation, writing allows for direct expression. Both forms of communication matter equally and in each I have failings. Reading better writing assists, as do style manuals, or diction coaches and confidence-building.

Admitting flaws and failings is not easy. Especially in times when a person would make someone “an offender for a word” (see Isaiah 29:12) it is hard to think that anyone would let someone get away with less. For able competition in the marketplace, the more highly educated a person is, the more able they are. However, this requires proof of class beyond degrees (multiple intentions meant.) I like being personable, and I love delivering the goods with dignity. Class, polish, and sophistication are hallmarks of this view. At the same time, I like to eat Gino’s East pizza and think it ludicrous to pay more than necessary for a given commodity. I am middle class America.

My writing organization needs help, and my normal vocabulary is not where I prefer, but I am smart and I can do anything that needs doing given the time and resources. There is no fear in this standpoint. I hope that there is no arrogance, either.

I am a grad student and tired. Signing off from Chicagoland,

The Genealogy Doctor

Running the Gamuts of Blogging: Digital Media Class Readings for Week 1

Digital Media Class Readings:

Fletcher, Stephen J. “A View to a View to Hugh: Reflections On the Creation of a Processing Blog.” A Different Kind of Web (unknown): 22-32.

Lovink, Geert. Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Massanari, Adrienne L., and Meghan Dougherty. “Best Practices For Bloggers.” Center for Digital Ethics and Policy.http://digitalethics.org/resources/best-practices-for-bloggers/ (accessed January 21, 2012).

Fletcher’s article was informative and positive. The article was too-close-to-home as I know the one of the subjects of it, having been through part of my undergrad school time with her, and hearing about how “they were making an article about [the experience].” At the time, I was a little jealous. Now, I am glad to have known her when… and to know that she is off doing other things. The article and the process taken within it are good practices for showing how blogging from personal diary entries evolves to tracking processes in the information industry by respected institutions. A blog is more than tracking a summary. It is a work credential.

Lovink’s introductory article on Web 2.0 was wise. His article on “blogging as nihilist activity” left me listening to his arguments at about the same rate as the teacher of Charlie Brown fame. I am sure that he knows much more on the subject than I do, but this chapter felt over-indulgent in its negative viewpoint and pontificating in the same article. Lovink uses diverse source materials from different continents and I enjoyed his use of different culture’s experiences with the World Wide Web. However, in his quest to provide templates and examples of his highlighted points, he displays the mentioned “snarkiness of blog writing” within his own article. The article could cross-reference itself.

The best and most useful article was from Loyola (Massanari and Dougherty) and dealt with basic blogging techniques and attributes. In a quest to find a positive introduction to the formal stylistic merits of blog writing, this was the best article read. I found the applications and possibilities of blog writing a good exercise for processing work in Fletcher, while I understand that most people simply blog for their own use according to Lovink. I will agree with this sentiment in that I do not expect my blog to act a cash cow or to change mass audience opinions. I am not an “A-list” blogger or famous, and I am fine with that.

My first intention when setting up the blog was having content to link to from my newly established Twitter account as of a few months ago. The primary focus was giving tips on genealogical problems, and without self-generation of questions, or another party with a question, that idea did not go far. I am definitely not against giving advice of that nature. However, the current purpose of the blog is to put forth thoughts about views on where history is now, what I am learning at school (both schools), and to have an outlet for self-expression. The blog also serves a dual purpose being a place for posting of class assignments and development of the needs of a Digital Media class.

Digital Media class applications:

During a two-part final last semester where I did not have to present one of the days, I spent that time unobstructed in thoughts and writing down notes. An idea for an open-source geo-coded multi-layered historical map came to mind. The software that I want to use to get this to happen is available as of searching on Monday night. The same night of searching, I conversed with my Dad, and he said that the concept is leading edge and that I should start with a website first and then work from there. He was cautious about how I would do it given my lack of programming background. To me, that does not matter. Either I figure out a way of doing it myself with guidance and direction from the people who do, or else I still figure it out without direction. I am of the opinion that anyone can learn how to do something given the time and patience. I do not have extreme quantities of either quality, but I have determination to see this concept to completion. Determination is something that gets a person through anything, with the help of Deity. I am busy, but there is no exact timetable and I can’t get this out of my head no matter what else I do. I’m sold and in love with a concept that needs to happen and until I can demo it for someone else, I can’t and don’t want to get rid of the thought process. Here’s to a combination class blog, writing on history as a diverse field, and other varied blog applications.