IAGenWeb Conference Proceedings
Pre-conference Get Together August 4, 2006
5:00 p.m. Begin to gather
6:00 p.m. Supper
7:00 p.m. Chat and socialize
Conference Activities August 5, 2006
9:00 a.m. Gather and Register
9:30 a.m. Welcome and overview of the day's activities
9:45 a.m. Gravestone Photo Project - Rich Lowe
What's New and Fixing GPP Problems
10:45 a.m. Break
11:00 a.m. Web Site Design and Technical Issues - Barbara Hug
11:45 a.m. Break and pick up lunch
12:00 p.m. Forum and Lunch - Leader: Karen DeGroote-Johnson
Volunteer Help - how to find them and how to keep them
Where and how to find data for the county site
Others decided by the group that day
1:00 p.m. Break
1:15 p.m. Closing Forum - Where do we go from here?
1:30 -2:00 Clean up

Welcome and overview of the day's activities

Barb opened the meeting. The meeting was held in Newton because it is a central location in the state. She stated that we were lucky to have Karen De Groote-Johnson here, the assistant state coordinator and we are sorry Greta Thompson couldn't make it.

Barb then introduced Karen, who stated she was glad to be there. She is excited because the IAGenWeb is known as being better than those found in other states. Working in the national arena a great deal of the time, she hears the IAGenWeb constantly used as an example of what an excellent GenWeb site should be. It is much harder to do research in other states due to poor organization.

It is striving and insisting on being the best that makes us better. Earlier in our history, we began to require search engines and people complained initially. Now search engines are standard for IAGenWeb . It is making those types of requirements that make us the best in the country

Web sites across the country aren't as well-maintained as ours, either. A CC in the USGenWeb project has been checking web sites across the country to see who has broken links. We are finding that there are very few counties in other states that have actually updated their pages this year

Barb mentioned that having this conference is another thing that will make us the best. Karen replied that Don Kelly mentioned on the national list enWebIowa is hosting this conference. Celia asked whether Texas had done this? Karen replied that there are some other states that have had conferences but they were in the past, not this year to her knowledge

We then introduced ourselves. In the course of the introductions we learned that Kent has over 8500 obituaries online. Barb has 7500. Lynette's great-great grandmother brought her family from Illinois to Iowa on her own in a covered wagon. Harvey has arranged with funeral directors to post obituaries on the Johnson County website. Other obituaries are copied from the newspaper website which he then posts. Rich has been with Rootsweb since 1997 and is the Van Buren county GenWeb coordinator as well as special projects coordinator for Gravestone Photos Project and WPA Graves Survey Project.

Gravestone Photo Project
Rich Lowe, the coordinator of the Gravestone Photo Project (GPP), briefly introduced himself. This was followed by a tour of the GPP web site as it exists today and finished with a preview of new features to be released soon.

Rich inherited genealogy bug from his great aunt whose ancestors came to his county in 1837. He joined GenWeb in 1997 and had been accumulating gravestone photos before then. He also joined his local genealogy society who were a bit set in their ways, protective of their information and sources of income. He encouraged them to offer gravestone photo lookups to generate income hoping it would encourage them to free up some of their information for public use.

The GPP started as a way for Rich to put some of the gravestone photos he had collected on the county web site. He worked with his son Jeff to find a way to make it easier to put information up on the web. Jeff found ways to program this in his free time. He set it up so people could submit their own pictures without sending them as attachments. Jeff then made it possible to do this for all the counties. The state leadership approved this as an IAGenWeb Special Project and the space on the server to hold the photos was provided by Friends of IAGenWeb.

The service was opened for all 99 counties in January 2003. It currently holds over 236,000 photo records using 4 GB of disk space and 1500-2000 new records are received each week.

Rich then gave everyone a tour of the site, beginning with a nice picture of George Brown's grave and his widow standing next to it. He pointed out along the way that there are some tools we don't use often enough to remember that they are there. He showed us how to login to the service and then described the icons and the storage statistics on the first page we see. People who administer several counties can have access through one username to those multiple counties He then described each of the items on the navigation bar.

Rich encouraged us to go into the site on a regular basis and verify the names of cemeteries for each of our counties and to merge variations in cemetery names into a single version for each. He said he can help get this done if we'll let him know the specifics. To keep photo records up-to-date, we can search all records and make changes to individual entries.

Rich finished by showing us the new exciting improvements being developed for GPP that will be released soon.

There were several topics that caused discussion. Rich suggested, for example, that when linking to the Cemetery project logo on county page, the URL should point to the particular county's page on cemetery project site. We had a long discussion on how to take and upload the best photos. We agreed that there was a need to educate people to take close up pictures of their grave and how to use image processing software make the memory size of their pictures smaller. There are free programs available from Microsoft like ImageResizer and others, such as EasyThumbnails to help resize images. We can also edit photos when approving them during the submission process.

Web Site Design and Technical Issues
Barb gave us a tutorial on good web site design and the issues we should keep in mind when designing our sites and laying them out.

During and after the talk, there was lively discussion and plenty of input on how we can all design useful web sites. Barb pointed out that the more you have on a web site, the more people are likely to contribute. We had a good discussion about the size of graphics. Dave mentioned that when he and Lynette were designing the Cherokee site, they deliberately made the icons for the special projects smaller and put them off to the side because they distracted the visitor away from the other information on the site. Barbara replied that we want people to visit the special projects but there should be a balance between both the site and information about the special projects.

Karen pointed out that we should provide these topics as guidelines and not requirements. We don't want our sites looking like every other corporate site on the web. We are genealogy sites, not sales sites.

Dave asked whether IAGenWeb could provide a Content Management System (CMS) for people who don't want to write their own HTML. A CMS is a site with a general look-and-feel that has tools for uploading information and writing new pages. The page maintainer doesn't need to write the HTML and is freed to concentrate on the information. He also suggested this be an opt-in system. Those people who wanted to write their own HTML could do so and those who wanted to use the CMS could use it.

We actually began to discuss other topics over lunch than those listed in the agenda. Barb had said she would like to do more online chats. We're going to have an online forum once a month. Several people complained about the amount of socializing and chit-chat that occurred on the forums in the past. So, a social hour will be set at 7:30 Central with the meeting itself beginning at 8:00. We'll try to draft some guidlines to follow to make sure we get business done.

Harvey showed us an example of using tables for formatting.

Kent related to us the gold mine of information he recently unearthed. He went to the Madison County Historical Museum to do research for the Madison County website and found 2 ½ years of Winterset Madisonians that had never been microfilmed. They ran from Aug 1871 through the end of 1873.

Karen passed out pamphlets and a postcard about IAGenWeb to be handed out at the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conference in Boston this year. We all made suggestions for changes.

Closing Forum - Where do we go from here?
Everyone agreed that this conference was useful, successful and FUN! We would like to do it again next year. A central location would again be ideal. Lynette Edsall volunteered to organize next year's conference at Iowa State University in Ames. Karen suggested we open this to people other than county coordinators but we agreed it would be better to slowly build the conferences. We would like to teach more workshops, such as web design in a computer lab, and possibly do a cemetery walk field trip workshop at the Ames cemetery. We would also like to place more self-teaching modules up on the web site. We will choose a date soon so that people can plan their vacations around it. More than likely it will be at the end of June, 2007. Please watch the message boards for more information.

Dave took notes and agreed to put a web page together of the conference proceedings, including photos taken by Rich and Harvey and a copy of Barbara's slides.