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Welcome to another Techburgh Webapp Wednesday Thursday. Before we get started, congrats to Rob White and Daniele Rossi on the Seesmic invites from last week. This week, we’re going to take a look at an app that has hooked my extended family. And hooked them HARD. My family is now spending hours, and hours, not only working with this application, but researching things that they can do with it, and outside of it. This week, we’re taking a look at Geni.

Geni is a site that is, as you may have guessed, devoted to family. They have created an easy, flashed-based UI to create a family tree. When I first, signed up, I went from being the only person on my tree, to having added my sister, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in about 20 minutes. Like any genealogy application, you can fill in details on your family members such as emaill address, birthdays, anniversaries, death days and order of birth, and the Geni flash interface will connect them correctly and make the links obvious. Geni also makes it really easy to spot who’s who by allowing you to add pictures of relatives. But none of this is what makes Geni so powerful.

I invited my mom to help… By clicking a button.

Geni, by it’s very nature of being on the web, is pretty easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection. And anyone you add to your tree, you can invite to help build it further. Be using this mass-collaboration idea, you can get large groups of people involved in constructing your extended tree – while they build theirs at the same time. Each person who joins the site can fill out a much more detailed profile about themselves, which becomes accessible to the other family members working on the tree, and everyone can communicate with each other to share notes, ideas and pictures directly through the site. Once someone is helping, they, too, can invite another person to participate.

But what does all of this mean to you, the user? It means that I added about 50 people to my tree, from both my side, and my wife’s, and invited 5 of them to help out. Today, I have over 250 people in my family tree, and have a dozen people working on adding, and completing details. Information like birthdays and anniversaries, or birthplaces, or deaths… all sorts of things bout my relatives that I had no idea I was connected to. It has my whole family hooked andwanteing to learn more.

Geni’s not without it’s faults, though. We’ve had some issues figuring out the best way to add some relatives (mostly involving children and complex multiple marriages) and it’s social networking UI can be a little cumbersome, even for someone who spends a great deal of time online. And while their help file claims they’re working hard at their import/export tool, it’d be nice to see that running, as some of my relatives (As I’ve learned) have some extensive research done already.which could make this process a lot quicker.

I trust that they’ll get some of this worked out though. They’re founded and being run by some former execs and early employees of some companies you may have heard of (Like PayPal, eBay and Yahoo! Groups) so I’m not worried. It’s a great site, and I encourage you to check it out and get your family involved. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some archives to go through, and names to correct.


Tommy’s column on web applications runs every Wednesday on Techburgh. If you’ve got feedback on this piece, or have a web app you’d like to see Tommy take a look at, you can contact him by email: tommy [at] techburgh [dot] com.