My next step was unavoidable and #genchat was born.
And it is an incredible success.
What is it, exactly?
On alternating Friday evenings, a group of genealogists from around the globe gather together and discuss a pre-chosen topic that has something to do with genealogy. These folks have varying backgrounds, skill levels and research focuses that make the conversation interesting, entertaining and incredibly educational. What you will not find is a separation of "hobbyist" and "professional." We are all just genealogists, together.
What can you learn?
So much. Each time we conduct a chat, I learn a great deal. Many have blogged about their success with a new online resource that was shared with them, a technique they had not tried before, or even just the friendships built along the way.
For some, learning Twitter has been part of the experience. For others, it can be intimidating and overwhelming; or perhaps you simply do not have time to learn how to use another social media platform. That's ok. I created the chats because I am lacking a geographically close to me genealogy society, and I thought this would be a good way to get that social interacting I was looking for in the field. Let me help you to help me! I will happily sit down with anyone who is interested in using Twitter for genealogy and give you an hour of my time to give you the best tricks I have learned. I will do this one-on-one or in a group setting on one of my "Twitter 101" hangouts on Google +. These sessions are not recorded, so participants feel safe to ask any question they want.
First, I like the conversational pace of Twitter. It flows well, allows others to have side conversations away from the chat if they have a mutual interest or point of discussion, and it's easy for participants to come in and out as they need. Mack Collier is the man behind #blogchat, and he explains it well in his post, "What is #Blogchat?"
"I want #blogchat to be like a coffeehouse where everyone is discussing the same general topic, but each table is talking about a slightly different take on that topic."
I took another page from Mack's book and modeled #genchat after his highly successful #blogchat. Based on the topic schedule, we all sit down together and share a bit of humor before we start, then I as the host start asking questions. We usually get to between 6 - 8 questions on each chat, depending on the topic. People can respond to each question, or to each other, as they wish, and at any time during the chat. You will find other chats on Twitter that give a set amount of time to respond to each question, and then they move on. I don't do that. I like to keep the conversation flowing and loose, so if a side topic comes up that is off of my line of thinking, but it is popular with the participants, then we will continue that on. If someone else comes up with an appropriate question, by all means, put it out there! The best way for you to learn and gain from these chats is to participate. We have a fair number of "lurkers," and I encourage each and everyone of them to engage in the chat's! The more people we have contributing, the better the chat will be.
You are a professional genealogist. Is this a lecture?
Absolutely not. Often, the topics are chosen because I am not an expert in that area, and I want to learn more too. I do pre-gather a collection of resources, links, and other ideas that I think may contribute to the conversation, but they are often not needed; the participants take the topic, embrace it, and have a lively hour of discussion without anything else from me. (If you see a topic you are especially interested in, know a lot about or have other expertise in, please email me! I'm always open to suggestions and the opportunity to co-host.)
What is #genchat : geography?
#genchat : geography is new in 2014! We are exploring the use of geography as a science to help us in our genealogy adventures. We discuss varying landscapes, resources in different communities and other elements to the puzzle that may have effected our ancestor's life. For example, how is it different to research in the southwest United States before the arrival of the railroad versus after? This chat is conducted during the day, also, so it is an option for those that cannot attend the evening chats.
There are other chats... why should I join #genchat?
#genchat varies a bit from the other chats in two significant ways. First, during the chats, I do not represent any large corporation or am affiliated with any company in any way. The questions and responses are not designed to lead you in a certain direction, only to conduct an intelligent conversation. (If that ever changes, it will be incredibly transparent and I will tell you all about it. I promise.) Secondly, the chats address one specific topic at a time. There are some genealogy chats out there that just open the door; anybody can talk about anything, asking any question they want. Those chats may work for some, and you may find a use for them as well (I encourage you to try them all!), but during #genchat, we're all talking about the same basic idea.
Want to give it a try?
Join us! We would love to have you, and I can guarantee all will be welcomed with open tweets! You can find the schedule on the #genchat website along with a page of best practices, badges for your blog or website, and more.