After a month of intensive family research in the UK, including attendance at the WDYTYA Live Conference at Olympia, London, followed by visits to the major repositories in London, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Norwich, Kings Lynn, Dorchester and Winchester I have, as one would expect, collected a mighty feast of documents, website details, family history online and offline resources and networks and bright ideas for further research, together with the incentive and encouragement to become more dedicated in my mission to learn more of the lives and times of my ancestors. A suitcase full and a massively overloaded brain in fact.
While on tour I regularly gave thought to how to set up an efficient and effective platform and processes for collecting, storing and accessing this information. The description “dashboard” very quickly came to mind.
Fortunately a few years back in my “real life” I had discovered Netvibes with its award-winning free personal dashboard and reader, and customised one of its basic dashboards to harvest media items for distribution to the New Zealand local government sector. Used with Yahoo Pipes, Google Alerts and some of the other search mechanisms, web scraping at a high level was achieved at a greatly reduced cost to that of media monitoring services.
To gain a quick appreciation of all that Netvibes has to offer Get Started with the ”I am Just Me” option. It’s worthy to note that the Basic edition is 100% free.
This is a quick means of appreciating the expansiveness of the utilities offered by a Netvibes dashboard. I am sure you will be impressed by what pops up on your screen after having entered the topic you want to track – News, Blog, Video and Social searches are conducted immediately without any prompting on your part. If not required these can be deleted.
Then create a few tabs relevant to your project and add widgets through the top left “Add Content” facility. Scan for what meets your purposes under “Essential Widgets” (48 of them at my last count) and “Feeds”. The Essential Widgets include a Mail Wizard (available with most of internet e-mail providers) which notifies new e-mail, Maps Search (useful to find that hamlet in which your ancestors resided), a link module, and an HTML Editor. You name it, I am certain you will find essential widgets that will collectively give you a complete platform from which to launch, most if not all, of your online family research initiatives.
You will soon see just why I rate the Netvibes Dashboard so highly. My wife complains that I “waste” too much time on family history. I had to agree with her before I set up my dashboard. Now I’m probably achieving twice as much in the same amount of time. The complaining continues but at least I have the message about wasting time and have responded.
An added advantage of the dashboard is that it may be used as a check list. Tabs suitably organised and named, allow you to quickly scan and show all possibilities for that big hit that will knock over your brick wall.
Feeds also are of enormous benefit in keeping pace with the exponential growth of genealogy online resources. I have lost count of the occasions recently I have made a discovery of information that I know was not online just a week or two earlier.
Give it a shot, experiment by creating a basic experimental board. My experience makes me confident that this move will soon blossom and you will become another admirer of this solution for easing the drudgery of search and expanding the research horizons and online options.
I should mention that Dashboard Tabs and Widgets may be shared by email or through social networks. If it would help I am willing to help anyone interested in establishing a Dashboard by sharing some of my tabs to offer examples of what might be achieved. It works like this: you set up a dashboard, give me your email address through the Comment box at the foot of this blog and I shall send any of my tabs in which you may be interested. This could be of help to both people and perhaps family history and genealogy societies providing a service to members.
My tabs include: NZ Family Research, UK Family Research, Australia Family Research, Irish Family Research, Scottish Family Research, Migration, Shipping, Newspapers, Family Trees/DNA.
Finally, do not let yourself down by claiming to be a web dummy. Netvibes does all the hard work for you.