24 January 2012

Changes I'd Like To See at 23andMe

     23andMe' new Ancestry Ambassadors Group, made up of customers, has posted in the community asking "what improvements we would all like to see for Ancestry in 2012." The query was for everyone's top two requests. I thought I'd post my additional thoughts here, where I have more room to expound. My concerns are more about improving the system already in place, rather than introducing brand new features. These are in no particular order, but simply stream of thought.

  • The Ability to Hide Non-responsive Relative Finder Matches.  I have 1,005 matches, which is capped. When I get new matches they have to be closer than my furthest match to show up in my results. This then kicks out my more distant matches.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of my matches are "anonymous" and do not reply to invitations. I would love to be able to hide these matches. If you have an ancestry.com family tree, think about how the hints feature works. You can "ignore" a hint, but it doesn't go away entirely. It actually gets moved to another tab, which you can always access later to bring back that hint. So for example, if I have a RF match at 23andMe who has not responded to my sharing invitation, I can "hide" it. If I want to try again later I can view my hidden matches and resend the invite. If they eventually respond I can bring them back to my main page of matches.
  • No Anonymous Relative Finder Matches. I don't know why anyone would want to participate in Relative Finder and yet keep themselves private. How are new cousins going to find you when they can't see your ancestral information? There's nothing to differentiate between an anonymous match is only there for health or is actually interested in genealogy.  If you want to participate in Relative Finder you should be required to fully participate. Why would someone else want to share with someone who can't share anything at all to begin with?
  • Gedcom import / Family Tree App.  This is a feature that's badly needed. 23andMe does have a place to record surnames and another place to record locations where your ancestors lived, but there is a disconnect between the two. You know that your match has Millers, and that they have ancestors from Edgefield County, SC. But I don't know if their Millers are from Edgefield. If this information was in the format of a family tree there would be a clear connection between surnames and locations. They already have a start on this, with the Family Health History tool. This is a tool designed to help trace health risks through your family tree. A version of this could be integrated into profiles, minus the medical data. This tool does need work though: when I "auto sort" my tree I end up with grandparents on different vertical levels and other strange arrangements. 
  • Eliminate 1,000 Match Limit. I have no idea how many Relative Finder matches I have at 23andMe. I have 1,005 matches, my mom has 999, my great-aunt has 998 and my uncle has 994. These numbers do not change. When I get new matches, more distant matches are kicked out unless I am sharing genomes with them. Who am I loosing? They might be a distant relative, but they might also be someone with whom I have an easy to find most recent common ancestor.  I have found matches at GedMatch who should show up in my 23andMe matches but who don't, likely because all my spaces are used. This ties into the "hide non-responsive RF matches." If we can hide a non-resposive match, that would open up a space for a new match.
  • Last Login Date. This is a feature that could be integrated into the Relative Finder view that would tell us if a user has logged in during the last months, six months, year, etc. I can only send five sharing invites a day - why waste one on someone who hasn't logged in in six months? They are more than likely not going to respond.
  • Lab Status Updates. It would be great to see some sort of feature that would allow users to see that status of tests in the lab. This could be user specific to each customer's own test - which step is our test in? It could also be more broad, showing the date the the latest completed test was received at the lab. Or even just the estimated "turn-around time" that the lab is currently experiencing. This is important because  the lab often runs at different speeds. I've had results come back in two weeks, while my current test is about to hit six weeks.
  • Enhanced "Family Inheritance: Advanced" Viewer. This is a feature that is still in the "labs" section at 23andMe, which I would guess means it still "beta." It allows you to pick one of your matches and compare them with your three of your own accounts. It would be great if this were switched: if you could compare yourself to three or more of your matches. If you don't have multiple family members on your account, this feature is useless.
  • Projects. Let users create projects or groups in which they can compare their DNA on a larger scale. Allow projects for y-DNA (surname), mtDNA and autosomal DNA. This is a no brainer and I don't understand why this isn't already in place.
  • Y-DNA and mtDNA Matches. This goes along with the Projects idea - it's a no brainer. Right now you can find RF matches that share your Y-DNA and mtDNA, but you don't see a marker by marker comparison. Without that, sharing a haplogroup doesn't really mean much.
  • More Population References in Ancestry Painting. Want to know your ethnicity? 23andMe will tell you how much European, Asian and African you are. Ok, but where in Europe? German or French? Where in Asia and Africa? This is currently a neat tool, but it could be so much more helpful.
     Ok, so that's what I've come up with. There are a lot more ideas, especially concerning expanded DNA testing and results. You can share your input by answering this survey: here.


Susan Clark said...

Great list, Valerie. I especially like and agree with your first, fourth, fifth, eight and ninth points.

Jody Lutter said...

Thanks, Susan. 23andMe COULD be a great genealogical resource. It is very frustrating to have genetic relatives in the database who either ignore me or respond that they aren't interested in genealogy.

Jody Lutter said...

And thank you, Valerie, for posting this list!

Taneya said...

excellent suggestions Valerie! 23andMe would have such enhanced utility if they incorporated some of these. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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