18 June 2012

New Beta features at 23andMe

   23andMe's ancestry features have changed a lot since I first posted about them on this blog, and there are more changes yet to come. A few days ago I received an invitation to be a beta tester for some new features at 23andMe.  These new features were announced at the recent SoCal Jamboree and mentioned on a number of blogs.  So far two new features have been introduced to beta testers: the My Ancestry page and Relative Finder Geographic Map View.

     Here's what the My Ancestry page looks like:

     Pretty much, this is a landing or summary page of 23andMe's genealogy features. Each box links you to the corresponding feature, though not always in a way you might expect. For example: the Top Relatives Surnames box. If you click on the Smith section in this box you might expect to be taken to a list of your Smith matches, but you are only taken to the basic Relative Finder list page.  You will then have to manually search for anyone named Smith.  This page is still under development, with graphics updates in the works. Overall I think that this page is a simple, yet logical, addition to the site.

     The other new feature is the Relative Finder Geographic Map View:

     This is a new way to look at the pre-existing Relative Finder match list, accessed via a toggle button on the RF page. Each marker indicates a geographic location that one of your matches has listed in their profile. The number on the marker indicates the combined number of times that place is listed in those profiles.  Here's a closeup view:

     You can see that I have 35 matches that mention North Carolina as a location for their ancestors. The matches don't seem to appear to be in any particular order. It would be nice to see public matches first, in order of percentage shared. Click on a match's name and you'll be taken to their profile

     The matches shown on your RF Map view can be adjusted to the following levels: Close Relatives, 1st-3rd Cousins, 4th-6th Cousins, and Distant Cousins. It's interesting to note that these categories are different from the ones listed on the RF List view. When initially viewing the map, I eliminate the Close Relatives - I know what locations I'm looking for and seeing my self and my parents just clutters the map.

     One thing about this map: it won't work if users don't properly fill out their profile.  The location data seems to be pulled from "Family Locations" portion of each user's profile. This section is a bit confusing to fill out to begin with. There are no instructions and the locations need to be filled out properly and separated by commas and semicolons.  I have seen many, many, many profiles where folks have written paragraphs worth of information, which doesn't work with the system. Because of the confusion created by this, many people list only basic locations, such as states. After not seeing my mom's locations on my map, I realized that I had listed only states on her profile. A random dot in the middle of Georgia isn't exactly helpful when trying to find a match. At minimum, users should list counties. I would recommend that prompt be added on the profile page and the RF pages to help users fill out their profiles.

     Some other improvements that would be nice:

  • When you click on a match, it would be neat to see a "other locations in common" link, that might highlight any other location markers we share.
  • Ditto with any other matches that we might have in common.
  • As the gedcom feature is rolled out, perhaps surnames and locations will be integrated together in this feature. 
  • As I switch over to list view, my settings should be the same. So, if I was just viewing 3rd-4th cousins on the map, I should see those, and only those, results on my list view.
  • Move duplicate listings in the same locations. For example, I list Edgefield County, SC twice in my profile, once for my maternal side and one for my paternal side. I am listed twice on the map for Edgefield County, which is unnecessary. 
     There are more new features coming, including Gedcom uploads. I'm excited to see what new features are coming, as well as what improvements will be implemented. 23andMe is off to a great start so far. 

1 comment:

Ruby Craft said...

Excellent review. Congratulations on having the opportunity to beta test for the new features at 23andMe.


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