20 September 2013

Social Disgrace II: Photo Edition

Lots of images in this post so apologies to those of you with slow internet connections. Today's post covers Ancestry.com's Facebook page, their blog and their "online support community."
First up is a Facebook thread with just a screen cap of the image and no links at all. The admin who posted it is assuming that 1) everyone can recognize a Google Doodle and 2) Rosalind Franklin is a household name.

When asked about relevancy here was the admin's reply:

No "historical tie in"? How about a tie-in to the company you work for? I know it might be difficult to figure out how to relate a scientist who made significant breakthroughs in DNA to Ancestry.com but maybe if you think really hard.
The photos-of-kittens Facebook mentality has crept its way onto Ancestry's blog.

That's right, a photo of cats jump roping with a doll. I doubt it even crossed her mind that this post would be more appropriate for a personal blog, not the company one.
While the social media team expects everyone to adapt to their way of doing things (more on that after the jump) they refuse to learn anything about an important aspect of genealogy, sourcing. After the Cindy Crawford episode of Who Do You Think You Are? there was an Ancestry.com blog post about some of the research. If you go to that link you'll notice a change from the original post which is screen capped below.

The original post had no reference whatsoever to the professional genealogists who actually did the work. Now the first "we" is changed to "our ProGenealogists" with the link going to the ProGenealogists.com homepage. Well that fixes everything.
No mention that ProGenealogists wrote the summary for the case study section of their website. Meanwhile, Dick Eastman is giving credit to Kristie Wells. To her credit, she does manage to plagiarize well. [Note: I attempted to comment on Mr. Eastman's post to let him know about this the day his write up was posted but when I clicked "post" my comment would just disappear. No "waiting to be moderated" or error notice. I tried multiple times.]
Ironically while Ms. Wells doesn't see the point of giving credit to others for their work she wants all the credit for hers on the Ancestry.com Facebook page and doesn't want to be hidden by posting as the company. She and one other member of her team insist on commenting from their personal profiles without identifying themselves as Ancestry employees. Well no one new ever visits the page and all of the 600,000+ fans read every post the page makes so everyone knows who she is, right?

She claims that she is also part of the community and should be able to comment from her own profile but the comments are almost always (I've only seen one exception) made as an Ancestry.com employee, not as a fan of the page. If the other members of the team are fans of the page they are smart enough not to comment as employees unless they are signed in as a page admin.

After the jump: Censorship, a.k.a. The Borg

ⓑⓐⓡⓚⓘⓝⓖ  ⓤⓟ  ⓣⓗⓔ  ⓦⓡⓞⓝⓖ  ⓣⓡⓔⓔ

While the social team leader has done nothing to conform to the world of genealogy she is confident that you will be assimilated into hers. Everyone should be sugary sweet and the page should be all "unicorns and dancing bears." (Her words, not mine.) The post below was deleted soon after the screen cap was taken. After it was deleted an apology took its place.

This from the team that, for months, created posts that did not prompt discussion or only had a question with an easy answer. Did they just want one person to answer and have everyone else like the answer?
To prove resistance is futile the social media team, or at least a few of its members, actively censor those it considers troublemakers. Most offending posts are just hidden and can be found on the activity logs of the original poster and those who comment and/or like it which is why some of the links I've included in this post are still visible. Those posts are just hidden. If any of them get deleted just let me know and if it's possible I'll post a screen cap. Posts that are vulgar, pornographic or spam are usually just deleted outright.
Can anyone spot the profanity or personal attack in the post below? Can anything I wrote be considered libelous? Threatening? Offensive? Bueller?

The post was censored within minutes. I guess an admin didn't want the website's feelings to get hurt. Maybe they were right. Ancestry's entire system completely crashed two days later. Shocking, I know, and completely unexpected.
Admins have since stated that any post they consider to be a personal attack on them, anyone who works at Ancestry.com or any group of workers at Ancestry.com subject to censorship. You can read their attempts to justify their actions here and here. There are a handful of us seem to fall victim to the censorship more often than others. You may be thinking that I just don't see the other posts that get censored. You're right but I do see the posts that stay on the page. This post and others like it have not been censored.

Maybe it's just a coincidence that posts like this that aren't commented on by the "troublemakers" are also not censored.
Censorship is not just part of Ancestry.com's Facebook page. It's also spreading to their support community. Few people have noticed because Ancestry has done such a poor job at integrating these boards. Unlike the message boards, you need a username and password separate from your Ancestry.com account for these boards and a link to the community was only recently added to the drop down menu of the collaborate tab on Ancestry.com. The creation of the support community seems to be an attempt by Ancestry to get their customers to provide technical support rather than paying a knowledgeable staff. Ancestry will only hire people with little to no genealogy experience.
CaraL is the new moderator in the support community. She has no experience using Ancestry.com (her account was created on Aug. 6th) but has no problem telling a "Level 5" commenter he is wrong and giving him a poor rating for his answer. Can you find anything in Jeff's comment that isn't "fair or accurate"?

But what happens to the user who tells her she is wrong?

Das ist verboten!

The thread is closed to comments but it is still on the board.
While censorship is the only way some Ancestry employees can find to deal with dissent, I'm amused that this post on Facebook was never censored. (It was posted to Facebook on July 4 and as of Sept. 20 it was still there.)

PREVIOUS POST: Social Disgrace II
RELATED POSTS: Social Disgrace, Social Disgrace - Photo Edition


  1. I do understand Kristie's attempt to stop some of those individuals who constantly go on Ancestry and simply harass other researchers for no reason what so ever - it is rampant on the message boards. However, it is taking it way to far to censor someone just because they tell another researcher that something such as "look I descend from God 'cause I found it on this tree here with census records for proof" is not sound research methodology much less possible.

    There are a handful of people on the Ancestry boards that make the boards a nightmare for other users. Why can they not just terminate those individuals' accounts and never allow them to post again? Really, it is not hard to find all their old posts since no post is EVER actually deleted. They are simply placed in a recycle bin that the users can not see but the admin of the board and thus the Ancestry powers that be can see.

    I do not think that the Ancestry FB page is going to be a great seller for Ancestry if every time a customer complains on the FB page about bad customer service, functions, etc their post gets deleted and they end up banned. Ancestry may have thought that their FB page was for one thing; however, they forget that FB has been around for years and users are accustomed to company FB pages being the very place you go to complain about the company, their customer service, etc. The company then uses their complaint to sell how great they are at caring about their customer and getting their complaint addressed - NOT DELETED. Deleting only makes their customers angry. Their well paid fancy, "professional" social media guru should have been able to tell them all that.

    Perhaps if Ancestry had 2 FB pages (one for research help and one for customer questions and comments, etc) this would not end up so bad for Ancestry. After all, Ancestry has the message boards so what were we all supposed to think that the FB page was for? Again, an actual professional social media consultant could have told them this and helped to set up the proper boards and promote them correctly.

    After speaking with my husband, I am wondering if they are moving towards removing the Ancestry message boards? Hmmmmmm...

  2. Thanks for posting all of this - entertaining, to say the least, although it reinforces my inherent bias against visiting the Ancestry twitbook page. And, although I wouldn't have thought it possible, it actually makes the Ancestry message boards look relatively enlightened (well, if you squint) on subjects like criticism and censorship.