Making Genealogy Interfaces More Engaging, a Rootstech Talk

Charles Knutson, a professor at BYU, had a very enticing title for his talk, “Genealogy Meets Angry Birds: Making Interfaces More Addictive.” You can see how I picked the presentations to attend … by catchy title.

Play is part of being human and a mammal. All mammals play. Playing develops our skills in a safe environment. It’s great fun to run from a dragon in a game but in real life getting burned while you scramble over the gold would not be fun at all.

So why is genealogy like doing taxes for most people and not more like playing? In a game like angry birds, you know what you have accomplished so far and what your goals are. Genealogy programs do not save your place nor do they set your goals. They are just tools to manage your data and do not engage you the way a game does.

In a quick display of numerical scale he mentioned that there are 2.7 million paying ancestry.com members which sounded impressive until he pointed out that there are 2 billion Angry Birds players …

He showed us the Bartle model of gamer personality types: Socializers (80%) Explorers (10%) Achievers(10%) and Griefers (5%) and then proceeded to demonstrate that most of the genealogists in the audience were explorers while software developers are achievers, so a bit of a mismatch.

He also demoed some of the features of his in-progress solution to this – kinpoint.com – which really looked fun.

His talk got me thinking about how to better involve my family on my family history site. Perhaps I should offer a few discreet projects for family members to do and keep them better posted as to where different research efforts are at the moment. I feel extremely lucky that so many family members are already genealogists!

It was a wonderful Rootstech 2014 and I conducted some video interviews which will be shown in future posts.

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