In yesterdays Ancestry.com bloggers meeting, held at the National Genealogical Society conference, leaders of several parts of the company talked about what the companys been up to and goals for this year.
A lot of numbers were tossed out, which the company uses to understand which Ancestry.com databases and features you use most. For example, after member-to-member messaging was moved onto the site (so instead of just sending an e-mail to another user, you send a message thats stored in the persons in-box on the site), members sent 25 percent more messages. Responses increased 35 percent.
Some interesting stats involved the new search interface vs. the old one. Use of the two is evenly split, with longer-time members sticking with the old interface and newer members favoring the new interface (I have to wonder if they just havent discovered the old search yet). Old-search searchers do an average of 37 searches a day, and new-search searchers do an average of 21 searches per day.
The guy in charge of developing a newer new search, Tony Macklin, was frank about whats wrong with the new search (this is from my scribbled notes, so its not a direct quote): queries dont always return consistent results between the two platforms, you get too many irrelevant results, browsing by place is too difficult, and the individual database search templates arent as customized (Macklin uses the old search for individual databases). His examples were coupled with user comments.
He said changing the search interface without changing the actual search was a mistake, and the goal is to eventually bring together the best parts of both platforms.
Content-wise, Ancestry.com has grown to 8 billion names. Family trees recently passed the census as the most-used data set.
Some upcoming additions include the WWII Old Mans Draft for Illinois, newspapers from 30 new cities, Jewish records with two new yet-to-be-announced partners, Navy cruise books, pre-1850 city directories and vital records.
In a large reception Ancestry.com held last night for conference attendees, senior VP Andrew Waite said the company is aiming for a balance of 30 percent upgrading current collections and 70 percent adding new onesbut that this figure has been more like 50/50 during the last few months.
Ruth Daniels from the UK office talked about negotiating digitization agreements in other countries, where records may be widely dispersed at state and local repositories, and laws and cultural attitudes differ around who should have access to records. For example, public access laws make UK records easier to acquire; Italys decentralized archives make things more challenging there. The just-released German telephone directories and records from the London Metropolitan Archives, launched in March and still being added, are two successes.