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Sunday, May 2, 2010

New Web services may impact finding your family history

In an article reported in Mormon Times by Michael De Groote, Alan E. Mann, manager of Genealogical Community Services told an audience at BYU's Conference on Computerized Family History and Genealogy about ten new web services that are changing the ways we share information. His opinions were that the developments may be disruptive of the normal ways of sharing information.

I decided to discuss the items on his list and see if I could tell how disruptive any of the new technologies might become.

First on his list were QR Codes. Quoting from Wikipedia, "A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The "QR" is derived from "Quick Response", as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed. QR Codes are common in Japan, where they are currently the most popular type of two dimensional codes. Moreover, most current Japanese mobile phones can read this code with their camera." Mann gave the example of putting a QR Code on a gravemarker, allowing anyone to scan the code with a smartphone and be taken to a website for biographical information about the deceased, a family organization or other information. QR Reader Apps are already available for many phones including the iPhone.

My own experience with using the iPhone to read bar codes and UPC codes is very spotty. It seems very hard to hold the cell phone still enough to register the code properly. It may be that the technology can be made even more rapid than it already is, and in that case, QR Codes might become ubiquitous. Quoting from a cnet news article, "It's likely to gain ground quickly in the U.S. now that Google has sent out a QR code to 100,000 of the most popular companies in its Local Business Center. When those companies display the QR code, customers can use code-scanning applications on their iPhones and other devices to retrieve the firm's individual Google listing."

I think QR Codes are likely to intensify the Web as a means of communication. Businesses and organizations that have no Web presence will become literally invisible to the rest of the world.

How will this affect genealogy and family history? It will probably increase the trend towards Web based communications for families and likely facilitate setting up family history sites. It may well come to the day when your holiday greeting cards will contain a QR Code link to your own website, rather than any other message.

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