Friday, June 28, 2013

Genealogy and Tech: Google and Ancestry

Google Reader disappears on Monday

As they announced back in March the Google Reader app will be retired on July 1st. At the time I said I was going to try NetVibes and TheOldReader and choose the one I liked better. I chose TheOldReader very quickly. I was even very impressed when TheOldReader discovered where some old blogs had gone and moved to.

I've seen an uptick the past few days in people asking for suggestions. Not too surprising. I'm usually in the group that waits to the last minute. Many people are recommending Feedly. However, Feedly still doesn't have a version for Internet Explorer. As I said back in March, I hate IE, but I am restricted to using it for a good portion of my time. I have also heard some complaints that Feedly doesn't have a 'search' function. TheOldReader does have a search function. On the other hand, TheOldReader doesn't have a mobile app. This isn't an issue for me, as I don't like reading blog entries on my iphone. I prefer the larger screen.

Correction: TheOldReader has opened up their API and there is an iPhone/iPad mobile app that works with it. Feeddler. I will need to test it out, even though I think I will still prefer using a computer screen.

While there are other options, depending upon your OS and Browser needs, TheOldReader and Feedly seem to be the favorites.

For quite awhile has been maintaining two separate search engines, one they called New Search, and the other Old Search. They announced yesterday that they are going to stop doing that. But unlike Coca Cola, they aren't retiring New Search. 

An email they sent out yesterday to Old Search users:
Dear John, [I suspect the name was different on different emails] is continuing our efforts to improve the search experience across and will be making changes to our search functionality in the upcoming months. Some features will be added and some will be discontinued. As part of the 2% of our subscribers that use the old search function on the site, we know that you are passionate about the search experience on and we are reaching out to you to get input on potential improvements. We hope you will take the opportunity to share your insights and feedback on our plans. 
To identify which areas of the experience we should focus on this year, we have drawn on customer input, usage data, usage patterns and our old search function for inspiration. From all of that, we are looking at making your time on more productive by improving these areas of the search experience in 2013:
  • More relevant search results with the best results at the top
  • Easier refining and control of your search results
  • Keeping a better history of the work you have done
  • Publishing more new content and more corrections to existing content
  • Performance improvements to return results faster
As we begin to make these improvements, we will no longer maintain two separate search systems for the site. Maintaining two systems limits the resources we can use to make improvements and increases the complexity of every improvement we try to make. Additionally, continuing to maintain the two systems limits our ability to direct more investment into other areas like adding more record collections and correcting existing collections.Based on that, as a part of the work this year we will be bringing together the two search experiences into a single search experience on We hope to bring forward the best features of both the old and new search systems into the consolidated experience to facilitate the transition for our users and to improve the overall search experience. We expect to discontinue the old search function as a separate experience within the next 6 months.As a user of the old search feature, we wanted to give you advance notice and let you influence the changes we are making in search. Please take this survey to share your feedback and ideas on key features to improve.Best regards, 
The Product Team

As a former computer programmer, their explanation makes perfect sense, and I am surprised both search options lasted as long as they did.

If they do combine New Search with the best 'features' of Old Search, I think many of the 2% will be happy. I find the layout of the search results in New Search less appealing, and more difficult to navigate. There are complaints that wildcard searches more often return error messages on New Search, and when they do work, yield less complete results than Old Search.  As a former computer programmer I will state, working correctly isn't a 'feature' it's a 'requirement.' But if Old Search ceases to exist, there won't be a way for people to easily discover the results are incomplete.

Other Commentary on the Upcoming Retirement of Old Search

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