Looking back at 2010

Posted December 30, 2010 by George | No Comment

As we prepare to usher in the New Year, we thought we’d stop and take a look at the last twelve months to see what has been accomplished on Geni…and the list is quite impressive.

The Big Tree

Steady growth of the Big Tree has been a constant in 2010.  We started the year with more than 30 million connected profiles, and that number has increased more than 60%.  In fact, there’s a chance that the 50 million profile milestone will be reached before 2011 even begins!  You can join us on pins and needles as we monitor the progress.

Connecting to the Big Tree has never been easier, and we expect the growth trends to continue.  However, we have always fancied quality over quantity, and that has been the majority of our focus in 2010.

2010 From Start to Finish

The past year has been both busy and productive, with frequent feature releases and updates.  A large percentage of our releases have included features that promote collaboration and shared research, and we expect much more of the same in 2011.

Here are some highlights of our product updates from 2010:

Documents (February 5th)
In this release, we provided Geni users the ability to upload source documents to the site.  We support many formats, and we provide a free and easy way for you to upload historical documents and tag your appropriate family members and ancestors in those document.  

Sources (April 6th)
An extension of documents, sources allows you to cite a document as a specific source for a genealogical event.  Sources are a vital part of genealogy, and we will be making significant enhancements to this feature in 2011.

Translation (June 23rd)
While we’re based in Los Angeles and most of us speak English as our primary language, we understand the importance of internationalization much more than the average company.  Many of our Curators and power users read, write and speak a language other than English, and ancestry is global by nature.  Our translation software (tr8n) ranks among our proudest achievements.  Upon release of this feature, Geni was translated into twenty different languages within a matter of weeks.  That is a crowning achievement, and we take our hats off to the community for all of your help!

Revisions [beta] (July 28th)
In our attempts to turn Geni into a Wikipedia-like resource for genealogy, this was a major step forward.  Revisions provide so much necessary information and context, and this feature has proven invaluable time and time again.  Not only do revisions “keep everyone in check”, but they also provide a new discovery method for collaboration and research.  To put it mildly, our development strategy has been very focused around these sorts of tools, and you can expect a lot more features in this vein in the new year.

Note: Revisions were launched as a Pro-only feature, and were released to all users on August 19th.

Curators (August 19th)
Wikipedia has Administrators; Geni has Curators.  Our first four Curators began their duties on August 19th.  Since then, we have expanded to more than fifty Curators, and the response has been tremendous.  The efforts of our Curators have been far beyond expectations, and we think we have a pretty great thing going right now :)

As Geni continues to grow, Curators will be the staples of our community.  From effort to passion to shared knowledge, we feel privileged to work beside some of the best and brightest genealogy collaborators in the world.

Merge Center (August 19th)
Based on feedback and site activity, we created the Merge Center to make collaboration a lot easier.  A number of Geni features were rolled into a single, convenient interface that provides a much more efficient means of sorting through the inherent issues of a shared family tree.

The Merge Center has allowed our users to significantly reduce the number of duplicate profiles on Geni.

Following (October 14th)
The theme around the Geni offices when we released this features was “Goodbye Friends, Hello Followers”.  We like friendship a lot; but collaborative genealogy isn’t about your close friends.  It’s about sharing your hard work and knowledge with the people who will appreciate it most, and help expand upon your work.   Genealogy is worldwide and transcendant, and Following allows any Geni user to stay abreast of her interests.  This feature was met with some resistance, but we truly believe that following is far more important for collaboration than “being friends”.

Projects (October 20th)
We released this feature with pride.  While we know there is a lot of refinement necessary, Projects appeal to the core of individual genealogists.  We created Projects as a means of uniting individuals with similar interests, and the response has been fantastic.  Since the release of this feature, Geni users have created more than 16 new Projects each day on average.  Projects allow for true collaboration based on interest; whether the Project is based on a surname, a genre, or something different or in between, this feature has proven useful for uniting genealogists with similar interests and lineages, and we expect it to continue to grow in a rapid fashion.

Geni’s most active users have rallied around the Projects feature, and collaboration is at an all-time high.

The Geni Blog – Relaunched (November 1st)
I pushed for a re-launch of the Geni blog so I could show off to my Mom that I was important.  (Kidding!)

There are so many interesting things happening on Geni. We have such a large number of amazing contributors and we constantly shake our heads at the information that is surfaced.  So we resurrected the Geni Blog as a means of sharing all of our amazing content with anyone who feigns interest.  We have been very happy with the response to our blogging efforts, and we are committed to turning Geni into one of the top genealogy publications on the web in 2011.  We hope you’re following along on a regular basis :)

Project and Discussion Search (November 12th)
Based on the vast amount of information that Geni users have contributed to Projects and discussions, we enabled a search feature that allows our users to easily find information that they want to consume.  Our vast set of data is constantly growing; as such, we constantly refine our features to accomodate.  Our initial search offerings have provided a lot of value for Geni users, and we will continue to innovate and expand our search features in 2011.

Digital Crack for Geni Users: The World Family Tree Page (December 2nd)
When we realized that a Big Tree with 50 million profiles was close to realization, we wanted to provide the community with a means of monitoring their progress.  So we released our World Family Tree page, which provides constant updates on the size of the Big Tree.  We also added some interesting data points to highlight some more fascinating aspects of Geni.  We apologize to anyone whose employers’ became suspicious of the constant data requests from this page :)

Surname Pages (December 13th)
It’s barely been two weeks since we released Surname pages, and we’ve already seen thousands of updates from various Geni users.  A surname is a starting point for genealogical research, and we want to provide as much information as we can to both current and potential Geni users.  We expect the Surname pages to explode in 2011 as more users contribute their personal knowledge to the site.

The Geni API (December 15th)
Demand for an API became very evident in the latter stage of 2010.  The progress we’ve seen from the initial adopters is encouraging, to say the least.  In fact, the first script using our API was able to put a significant dent in the number of outstanding merges on Geni.  We envision some pretty creative apps and features based on our API in 2011.

Text Revisions (December 23rd)
This was a big first step towards our goal of total transparency and collaboration.  To provide true and accurate collaboration tools, we must allow all users to see revisions and revert to previous versions of a text field, document, profile, or any other data point on Geni.  On Geni, data is never lost; but the creation of tools to work with revisionist data is still a work in progress.  Our engineers have spent countless hours in the past year creating a system where we can record every movement on Geni, and therefore empower our users to work with each of those movements.  We have been developing some revolutionary technology, and we will share many more collaboration and revision features with our users in 2011.  We consider this to be the tip of the iceberg.

Other Fun Geni Stuff!

Geni is once again named in the “Best Free Software” list by PCMag
This is quite an honor, and we hope to make the list again in 2011.

Geni in One Minute
We put together this video to quickly highlight the benefits of Geni.  A lot of people have liked it :)

Open Sourcing tr8n
Our translation software has worked so well, we want to share it!  Earlier this month we released tr8n as an open source package to the Ruby development community.  The response has been fantastic.

What’s Next?

We have no shortage of projects or goals for 2011.  Stay tuned in the next couple days for a post about our optimistic plans for the new year.

On a closing note, we’d like to thank the entire Geni community for a wildly successful year, and we look forward to everything we can accomplish in 2011.


Post written by George

George joined the Geni team in September, 2010 as Geni's marketing director. You can find him on Twitter where he never posts but is happy to respond: @georgegeni

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