This week the folks at FamilyLink, in an attempt to generate another revenue stream, invited genealogists to join a Ning network site named GenealogyWise.com, and in fact, offerred to pimp (oh, sorry, pay) some of them to make the new site look "lived in" with content prior to an official launch later this month.
I have no issue with Ning networks, and in fact manage two myself. The concept of creating your own themed social network is wonderful, and might be something Facebook should consider offering.
Where I think the GenealogyWise concept is a bit misguided in trying to splinter genealogists away from Facebook for the purpose of making it look like the "official" genealogy social network. This will undoubtedly help them attract non-facebook genealogists to the site, which they will need to do in order to generate revenue.
Rather than try to pry genealogists away from Facebook to connect with non-Facebook genealogists, why not come up with a slick way to draw more non-Facebook genealogists into Facebook? Oh, right, if they did that, how would they make money off of the reputations of hard-working professional genealogists and bloggers?
Where GenealogyWise cannot compete with Facebook, is in connecting genealogists with cousins that have (or have had) no interest in genealogy. I have no interest in abandoning Facebook (as some genealogists on Facebook have suggested) and the relatives that I've been able to connect with. I've seen comments from some genealogists new to Facebook to the effect that "they don't understand what Facebook is all about." Well, it's a phenomenal tool for connecting with distant cousins that you may not otherwise have been able to locate.
Sure, the Ning functionality is cool (like I said, I run two Ning networks myself), but something about GenealogyWise makes me feel uneasy. It just doesn't seem right that a for-profit genealogy company should be fueling a social network that should be independent and neutral (as Facebook is). Will the folks from Ancestry.com or Footnote.com be joining GenealogyWise and contributing? Or will they remain on Facebook? I value my interactions with them.
And why not own up to it? Why doesn't the masthead banner say something like "A FamilyLink Service"? Do the 1,400 members realize that this site is operated by FamilyLink who will profit from their use of GenealogyWise through advertising? How come when Ancestry.com flipped RootsWeb.com to RootsWeb.Ancestry.com (and added advertising), many genealogists chose to abandon the site, and yet "we" seem to have no problem with GenealogyWise doing the same thing?
Yes, I joined GenealogyWise and intend to stay involved, but I'd rather see the site turned into a neutral, not-for-profit network so everyone can participate. At a minimum, FamilyLink should step up to the plate and clearly disclose that they are the company behind GenealogyWise (just as Ancestry does on the RootsWeb home page).