So close and yet so far

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 5.31.44 PMI felt like I was at a library of obscure books the other night when I googled “Coahuila, Mexico.” You know, so I can learn more about why, oh, why I can’t find my great-grandfather Braulio or any of his compadres.

But wow – the books I came up with, most of which are out of print or so rare you couldn’t possibly find them in any library or bookstore, are a treasure trove of (presumable) context and insight.

I’ve learned recently to search for obscure book topics or titles in Google Play, but who knew I’d come across stuff like this?

So I’m kind of overwhelmed now by what could either be a treasure trove (glass half-full) or a bunch more needles in my haystack (glass half-empty). The mind is getting weary and I might just be sucking my positive juice dry.

Now, if I could just find a book that can tell me what the heck happened to Saltillo parish records from the mid-19th century – a fire, flood, some disaster? – I might have more of a lead of what was going on in those days and whether it’s my great-grandfather who’s “missing” or just his records.

For now, a little spittle on a test strip for DNA-by-mail is going to have to do.

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The next chapter … faster?

I know I won’t be the first to be hung up, possibly for years, on researching an ancestor.

But the optimist in me wants to believe my case will be different – that I’ll get a break of some kind and be able to forge ahead.

I’m not sure whether last night was “that” break, but the vetting and sorting process for getting to the bottom of my great-grandfather Braulio‘s history just got a whole lot easier.

Braulio-AncestryAs a beginner genealogist, I’ve gotten so much out of Family Search, although it’s easy to lose a lot of time due to the need to search manually from so much data.

Until recent weeks, I hadn’t really taken Ancestry.com seriously – mostly because, of all the data available on my family members, very little of it could be validated through actual documentation. Regardless how much I found, it seemed I’d always have to return to Family Search for validation or more research.

So I lost confidence in Ancestry’s validity – even though, I have to admit, the DNA test was becoming more tempting.

And then last night, I caught something on the Ancestry site that prompted me – finally – to download the mobile app, which I’d resisted because I thought it was only for photos.

I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.

Let’s just say that, once installed, this app saved me hours upon hours – possibly days – of compiling peripheral family members around Braulio.

Sigh. For what it’s worth: I now love this (late) man dearly, merely due to how hard I am having to work to “know” him.

Anyway, I basically rebuilt my family tree within the app in just a couple of hours. Nearly everyone for whom I have records in past generations is now loaded into my Ancestry family tree.

Then tonight, I caved and bought the DNA kit (20% off through 4/27 this time around). Its results, I hope, will keep me busy for awhile by helping me discover within-scope ancestors and, by contrast, those who might not be in my lines.

As my friend Estelle likes to say, the beat goes on … And the mirror ball – my head – keeps spinning right along with it.

Ogilvy and great content

I need to do a better job of cleaning out my bookmarks. Found this under a pile of moth balls, so I had to dust it off and air it out.

david-ogilvy-don-draperCopyblogger’s original post was inspired by the father of all Mad Men.

No, not Don Draper (left). I’m talking about the real father of advertising, David Ogilvy — the copywriter’s copywriter and author of the creative classic, Ogilvy on Advertising.

Because before social media, there was advertising. And then social media changed everything.

Copyblogger clearly anticipated this transition, which changed one of the sexiest industries forever. (Although from experience, I can tell you: it wasn’t all that sexy. Pan Am would’ve been a lot sexier.)

Basically, good content is good content, regardless of its era or semantics. Call it advertising, blogging, whatever. It’s content no matter how you slice it.

Advertising = Information

While advertising has long been perceived as a trendsetter in pop culture, Ogilvy viewed it as content that informs.

Granted, the path to the consumer dollar today is kinder and gentler, and less linear. But the idea is the same: Make your content so useful that people want to take action.

Ogilvy summed it up like this:

I do not regard advertising as entertainment or art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’

And we thought blogging was risky business

meerkat on yellow backgroundAs if life with social media weren’t real-time enough. I never thought I’d be curious enough to jump into video, let alone real-time video.

For the moment, I’m not. Not personally, anyway. Heck, I hardly take selfies, much less video of any kind. But I am fascinated by emerging technologies and their potential uses.

I’m sure the response to live video tweeting tools is something like it was back when blogs and social media were winding up, especially in corporate environments:

  • Too risky: Who’s gonna control outgoing content?
  • Too raw: Great. Now we need another editor.
  • Too transparent: The execs will never let us do it.

And yet, just like social media, opportunities abound. If your marketing or communication needs call for the immediacy of video, it’s official: the tools are here.

The space is definitely evolving, but between Vine (edited), Meerkat and Periscope (both real-time), a few practical ideas that come to mind are:

  • Conferences, concerts, sporting events: Real-time action & “reporting” (I cringe to use the term, but hey, these tools make citizen reporters of us all, with or without contextual info)
  • Farmers (or any) markets: Stream what’s at market – today only
  • Flash sales: Discounts on new or limited inventory; viewer-only discounts
  • Restaurants/Food Trucks/Food Service/Cooking Classes: Watch it being made; drive instant traffic
  • Disaster response & fundraising: Show what it’s like “on the ground” (depends on availability of communications services, which can be a tall order in a crisis)
  • Oh and of course – law enforcement. Can’t forget that.

The possibilities are really endless and don’t necessarily have to be invasive or high-risk, although for those of us unaccustomed to putting our entire lives out there, this can feel pretty voyeuristic.

Some folks will “go there” and it will be interesting to see how responsible users will be. But I’m more excited to see how this space matures and the good things it has the potential to do. My mind’s wheels are definitely turning.

How [Irish] [Mexican] [Fill In Ethnicity] are you?

DNA helix under spotlight against red background

Photo by Svilen Milev at sxc.hu

I *could* have signed up for a DNA Kit from Ancestry.com at their $99 rate , but I really didn’t want to spend that much. It’s just that, the more I feel like I’m not from a Cabello bloodline, the more I wonder, Where the hell did we come from?

So when I saw a discounted rate on the kit in honor of St. Paddy’s Day, I told my hubs: “Hey, let’s find out how Irish I am!”

To which he responded: “Why don’t you just wait till Cinco de Mayo and find out how Mexican you are?”

Touché.

Ms. Peterson and writing for mobile

Journal being written in by a hand holding a pen

Photo by ynsle @ sxc.hu

A project I worked on recently re-taught me something I learned way back in high school English – but only because I’d gotten a big, fat, red “F” on a term paper.

At the time, I was crushed.

How could it be that, after spending time reviewing my draft with me, my teacher, Ms. Peterson – who’d even told me she’d not seen some of the perspective I’d presented on that classic work – still gave me an “F”?

Ms. Peterson: Nydia, I couldn’t even read it. It was all in one paragraph.
Little, naïve me: So what’s the problem?
Ms. Pete: You can’t write a paper all in one paragraph. Every new idea starts a new paragraph. Give it back to me that way tomorrow and I’ll change your grade.

Ever had that Why-didn’t-anyone-ever-tell-me-that-before feeling? Yeah, that one.

One idea, one paragraph – or less?
These days, the one-idea-per-paragraph rule applies more than ever. With more people accessing the web via mobile, most ideas need to be broken down, sometimes to one sentence per paragraph. (I don’t do it often, but it can be helpful, especially in longer-form pieces.)

After all, what fits on a web page doesn’t necessarily look as good on the screen of a handheld device.

Chop, chop
It feels choppy to write like this sometimes, but when I look it over on my phone, for example, I know that if someone can finish a paragraph there, they’ve completed a thought. That means they’re more likely to finish the article.

So if you’ve gotten this far, thank you. Clearly, Ms. Pete gets at least partial credit for it.

The story of Facebook vs The Internet

THIS IS A REBLOG.

Reading this post’s first paragraph flipped the switch of how I understood my mom’s perception of the internet. Just think: What are the implications of internet newcomers thinking that the Web = Facebook?

Even Better News

According to Leo Mirani of Quartz, millions of people on Facebook have no idea they’re using the internet:

This is more than a matter of semantics. The expectations and behaviors of the next billion people to come online will have profound effects on how the internet evolves. If the majority of the world’s online population spends time on Facebook, then policymakers, businesses, startups, developers, nonprofits, publishers, and anyone else interested in communicating with them will also, if they are to be effective, go to Facebook. That means they, too, must then play by the rules of one company. And that has implications for us all.

Read more…

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