15 February 2010

Protecting vs Sharing

     A big aspect of genealogical research is collaboration and the sharing of research.  If researchers do not share information and documents, the research process may be slowed or even impeded. On the other hand, if you are in possession of a document or photograph, you have certain owner rights and want to protect these items.  So, where should we drawn the line between protecting and sharing?

     Personally, I place all historic family family history documents and photos online in multiple locations.  I do this for a few reasons.
  • First, I want to attract other researchers who share my family lines. Placing these items online acts as a lure. If I place a photo of Great-Great Grandma Nina online, another researcher who's searching for her can find the photo and may be attracted to my website or family tree. 
  • The second reason is a large part of the first: I want to connect with them and my share information.  By putting these visuals online and luring the researcher to my information, I'm able to present my research to others. Hopefully others will find my information useful to their research.
  • Finally, I hope that those researchers will provide some of their information in return.  If they contact me, we may be able to help each other further our research.
     However, my effort to share information often works too well for others and not very well for myself.  I have found many, many times that my family photos and documents wind up posted on someone else's family tree without any credit attributed to me.  These researchers found my information and, obviously, found it valuable - but they did not contact me to communicate and share information.

    Honestly, this can make me a little grumpy. Now, there's a simple solution to protecting my photos and documents: take them off the internet.  But that would certainly defeat the original purpose of posting them online. I want to share, but at the same time I'd like credit and acknowledgement and to connect with others.

     So, how can I share my information and still protect it? Here are a few ways:

  • Only post thumbnails or small resolution versions of an image online.  By doing this this, other researchers can see the photo or document, but do not have access to high-quality copies of it.  This makes it hard for them to distribute your media and might entice them to contact you for a better copy.
  • Add a watermark to your images. Watermarks are usually simi-opaque words or images that can be placed on the photo or document.  They can work to cover part of the media to make them partly obscured, or can be used more like a signature. To the right, you can see to watermarks that  ancestry.com adds to their documents. 
  • Pick one place to post your items online - a website that offers protective features.  Chose a website that allows you to maintain ownership of your media.  By placing your items in one location, you might be able to choose who can see your items and may be able to better track your items when they end up other places online.  Photo sharing sites like Flickr allow you to choose a license for your media. Ancestry.com allows other researchers to add your media to their family trees in a way that links back to your tree.
   And remember to keep these thoughts in mind when views the research of others. Don't just take - share in return.


Amanda said...

GREAT post!

Unknown said...

Very good advice. I agree with you about wanting to share while not wanting others just to take.


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