RootsTech 2012: New FamilySearch Indexing app
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Catapulting cartoon birds around and updating frivolous Facebook statuses on mobile devices may need to find more dedicated users now due to a new, "addicting" app released by FamilySearch International on Feb. 3.
Quietly released during the RootsTech 2012 conference weekend, FamilySearch Indexing is a free app for smartphones and tablet devices that has two purposes: draw in new volunteers to the worldwide indexing effort and provide new ways for them and others to index while on the go.
Scott Flinders, product manager for the indexing program at FamilySearch, said the app provides a way for people to transcribe historical documents on the run.
"The constraint of the current indexing system is that you have to be at a full computer to participate," he said. "We know that smartphones and tablets are becoming more prevalent. And we also know that people love to index. We wanted to give people a chance to index while they're waiting in line or on the go with their devices."
The app changes the way indexing is traditionally done, Brother Flinders said. Instead of committing 30 minutes or more at a computer, mobile users can do one name at a time, helping them "take advantage of the smaller bits of time that volunteers have."
The app was released just five months after Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve delivered his October 2011 conference talk inviting youth to participate in family history work.
He taught: "It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies."
He went on to say, "Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation."
Brother Flinders, who helped create the FamilySearch Indexing app, added, "We believe this app is a manifestation of [Elder Bednar's invitation]. For younger people who have mobile devices, we think this is a way to draw them in to participate in the indexing program as a casual engagement as opposed to a larger chunk of time."
Brother Flinders emphasized that the new app is a beta release, meaning that it is an early version of what the finished product will be and may contain bugs. App developers hope to more tightly integrate mobile indexing into the main indexing system, he said. Traditional indexers might be familiar with administrators and groups, goal setting and arbitration feedback, which has administrators compare original entered text with final edited results. While the new indexing app logs user statistics, such as number of names submitted, those figures won't show up online in group statistics yet.
For youth or not, many mobile users are already finding the app as useful as it is entertaining.
An Android-user, Brandon, wrote on the web that the app "makes bus rides or down time much more enjoyable" for him. The app's simple interface and "easy," "moderate" and "difficult" skill settings also have some users comparing it to their device's game apps.
Apple-device owner Matthew Jarman wrote, "The game apps on my phone are now going to have a hard time getting my attention. ... Indexing is where I want to spend my time now!"
And Android-user David Lifferth added his review, stating, "More addicting than Angry Birds."
Brother Flinders said the FamilySearch team hopes the app will continue to be engaging, adding that future features may include "gamification," or design elements aimed at making the app more interactive with rewards, badges or unlockable features.
"As soon as you submit one name, another name pops up, and then you're tempted to submit that one too," he said. "It can become really addicting and really fun."