Monday, January 23, 2012

"Your Genetic Genealogist" Appointed to Lead 23andMe's Ancestry Ambassador Group

As some of you may have already heard, I was chosen to lead the new Ancestry Ambassador Group at 23andMe. You can read the full announcement on the Spittoon here. I am delighted to have this opportunity to work closely with 23andMe and the outstanding panel members: Dr. Ann Turner, Larry Vick, Dr. Tim Janzen, Andrea Badger and Shannon Christmas, to further the interests of the genetic genealogy community and to promote autosomal DNA testing for genealogy. In our extensive discussions, both Anne Wojcicki and Mike Macpherson have already proven to be very interested in and committed to improving 23andMe's ancestry product and demonstrating to the genealogy community that they value our business. I am very excited about the future of the genealogy customer and ancestry related products at 23andMe.

I do want to assure my readers that I will continue to function as an objective reporter of genetic genealogy related news and a supporter of all companies who serve our community well. I accepted this volunteer position as a means of promoting genetic genealogy and assuring that genealogists' interests are in the forefront of 23andMe's priorities, however this appointment does not mean that I will cease to support other deserving companies in the DNA testing world. Specifically, I am and will continue to be a big fan and supporter of Family Tree DNA. I believe in encouraging people to test, regardless of which company they are using as long as that company delivers a valuable product. I believe in the greater good of promoting this industry, educating and influencing the consumer to participate. This is where I direct my efforts and my passion. I will continue to criticize and praise whenever I feel it is called for, but will always offer solutions when I can in an effort to minimize public backlash that can only hinder the furtherance of our avocation. I invite all of you to do the same.

Since this new position is intended to represent you, my readers and the genetic genealogy community, I would like to receive feedback on what you would like to see at 23andMe in 2012. What improvements, changes, additions would make you a happier customer, a happier genetic genealogist? I have already started a thread in this regard in the 23andMe community forum, but since not everyone participates there, I would welcome comments and ideas here as well. You can also email me privately at the address listed here on my blog. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thanks for your readership and participation.

[Disclosure - my company StudioINTV has an existing production agreement with FTDNA that has no bearing on the opinions I express. I also receive a small commission from FTDNA on non-sale orders through my affiliate link, which I use to fund DNA tests. I am currently serving in a volunteer advisory position for 23andMe, for which I may receive a small number of 23andMe kits for my DNA research.  Any opinions that I express here on my blog are my own and do not reflect those of management at either company.  I receive no other compensation in relation to any of the companies or products referenced in my blog.]


  1. Congratulations to you and the other fine appointees to this committee. I trust things will continue to improve under your guidance.


  2. Thanks, Jim. We will be looking for your valuable feedback too. Have you commented on the thread yet?

  3. I would be delighted if 23 and me offered a place for people to upload a gedcom or build a simple family tree. Even if they could populate it as far as their grandparents it would be helpful for searching. Currently there is a list of names and open text, but the list of names has no context. One woman had listed the url of her family tree in the surname area and it came across as several odd surnames. The rest of her profile was hidden.

  4. Uneven is correct - a simple tree would be extremely helpful.


  5. No I haven't - I'll do that in a day or two. We've had major changes at work this week and I am behind in everything.

  6. Couldn't agree more, uneven and Nelda. @Jim, I know how you feel! Will look forward to your always insightful comments.
    Thanks all,

  7. CeCe,
    In spite of comments elsewhere that suggest that those not chosen are experiencing sour grapes---I am delighted with the choices. I find that being on a committee makes it more difficult to speak freely---just human nature.

    I have commented on a couple of threads. And I have offered not only advice on what I'd like to see most: the ability to browse matches by chromosome and segment.

    But also some very specific advice on beta testing with 100-250 active genealogical minded folks to see what works. Although a small committee is the only way to go to be effective---the only way to test market is to come up with several prototypes and then get lots of feedback.

    FTDNA in their recent upgrades rolled out specific interface improvements their customers had asked for and then used their Project Administrators to test before releasing to the public.

    I also posted where someone on the January Waiting Thread posted that their email to 23's helpdesk got an auto-reply that they couldn't respond because they were too backed up.

    Can you explain that one?

    I'm frankly tired of giving 23 free advice that they simply are too busy to respond to or simply ignore. I know the people I talked to were earnest but something is fundamentally wrong and although it looks like they are trying--- its difficult to see evidence of how hard.

    I remain skeptical that the good will---will turn into real user-driven improvements in a timely manner. I also worry that they will take the tinkering approach which means never throwing the money to the IT side of genealogy such that you really fix what's broken. That's not a knock on the ambassadors it is a concern I continue to have with 23.

  8. My problems are twofold:
    1) 23&Me's messaging system is most difficult to use. No sorting capabilities - especially with sent messages. There should be a way of deleting messages no longer wanted. A search function should also be added.
    2) I would like to see automatic basic genome sharing as a condition of use for relative finder. It serves little purpose to know you have 754 matches when only a few of them are willing to take the next step. As a method of implementation, they could require all users to make a choice before they are able to next logo. If they opt to use RF, then a basic share will be established for all matches found.

    This may seem quite a harsh policy, but I'd rather only see those who are willing to share their basic DNA matches, than be continually ignored or declined. Besides it will help keep the match listing more manageable.