Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Watercooler Wednesday #12 - Whiteboards

The first thing we did when moving into our office was to install some whiteboards. Being a startup, we went with a slightly unorthodox solution. We used glass tabletops from ikea. Not only do they look as nice as a $250 whiteboard, they last a lot longer as well. If they get dirty just use some windex.
Wall o' Whiteboards
We do most of our large scale brainstorming, planning, and collaboration using these whiteboards. When we're done we take a picture of the whiteboard and erase it. Over the last 12 weeks we have collected quite a few images. Enjoy a few of the more interesting ones.

Some early infrastructure and cost planning
Planning the Map View
Working on our customized R-Tree for Neo4j
Debugging our R-Tree Indexing and Neo4j Graph Queries
Deciding which attributes to sort by in our Neo4j query
Having a nomenclature discussion

Hopefully you enjoyed the small glimpse of what our whiteboards go through on a daily basis. We'll see you in two weeks!

Ikea link: Buy just the tabletop from this set. Article number 601.546.45

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Watercooler Wednesday #11 - Find-A-Record's Logo

We have chosen a logo for Find-A-Record after running a successful logo design contest at 99designs.

Of the almost 300 entries, this best reflects the values that we wanted in a logo. It has the correct balance of simplicity while still being able to speak to our purpose of finding records. It's not distracting but is unique enough that people will be able to identify us when they see it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Watercooler Wednesday #10 - Simplifying the Experience

The map interface we've created for Find-A-Record is cool, but it's not simple enough for our target audience.

1. The collections being returned are not ordered. We should be able to tell the user which collections they should search first, with priority given to collections that are easy to access and most likely to contain the info the user wants.

2. When doing genealogy, our target audience thinks in terms of people, not places. They are thinking, "I want a record for my great-grandmother." But our map interface expects them to be thinking, "I want a record for my great-grandmother who was born in Adliswil, Switzerland between 1813 and 1816 and most likely attended a church within 5 kilometers of that village."

We can solve both of those problems.

When a person is browsing their family tree and thinks, "I want to find a record for my great-grandmother", they should be able to just click a button and get results from Find-A-Record. The profile for their great-grandmother contains place information and dates. We can process that information and generate the necessary query without having to ask the user anything other than "What ancestor do you want to find records for?"

Above is the profile of Charlies Davies in the FamilySearch Family Tree. This has all of the information we need to generate a query. On the right, in the "Research Help" box there is a "Find-A-Record" link. When the user clicks that link it takes them straight to Find-A-Record and initiates a search.

The results are an ordered list of collections. They represent the best method we could calculate for finding the records you want. Clicking on a collection reveals instructions about the different ways of accessing it.

The integration with the FamilySearch Family Tree is done with a Chrome Extension. We will eventually add integration for many more online family trees such as, MyHeritage, WikiTree, and WeRelate. Integration with popular PC programs would be much more difficult and therefore isn't really on our radar yet.

We will keep the map interface as an advanced view. We can't throw it away; it's too fun to play with.