family – Stay N Alive

Vlog #1 – JJ Talks About Holding the Cat

While I have certainly shared many videos about my life and my family, I don’t think I’ve ever called it a “vlog”. Let’s make this post the first – I officially call this “Vlog #1”. In today’s Vlog JJ talks about holding our cat #hashtag, and yes, we spell it that way! Enjoy, and please subscribe to our STAYTube channel!:

5 Different Ways to Tour Disneyland (Stay N Abroad)

It has become an American icon–Disneyland (or Disney World). Even budget conscious large families often plan at least one trip to a Disney property. It’s magical. It’s memorable. Parades, Fireworks, Rides, Characters that come to life. It is also long lines, long days, and quite a blow to the bank account. Entire books are devoted on how to beat the lines, the heat, a cranky toddler, etc. And I recommend you read one before going on your trip. But to get you started, here are my 5 ideas on picking the right the tour for your family.

Families Can Be Together Forever

I hope you’ll forgive this diversion from tech so I could share something that touched me.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (my employer, and Faith) just released this video and I just had to share it.  It’s based on a song I’ve sung since a kid.  In my faith this carries a particularly powerful message.  It’s called, “Families can be Together Forever”.  Here are the words:

I have a family here on earth.
They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them through all eternity.

Families can be together forever,
through Heavenly Father’s plan.
I always want to be with my own family
and the Lord has shown me how I can.
The Lord has shown me how I can.

Be sure to watch the video below:

You can learn more about what Mormons believe about family on

"Super Indexing Sunday" Breaks World Record With 2 Million Records Indexed in a Day

Facebook has quite a database with 500 million active users, and rumored total users in the billions.  There are few that can relate to the types of problems engineers and architects encounter with a database of that size. is one of those, with a claimed database size of over 1 billion individual records, and possibly comparable numbers in associated documents and files.  Their Facebook Page claims over 400 million records indexed since 2006, and a goal to do half that number in just 2011!  Today broke another record, with an organized “Super Indexing Sunday”, claiming over 2 million records indexed in just one day, breaking their previous record of 1.9 million.

What is Indexing?

For those unfamiliar with Family History or Genealogy research, “Indexing” is the process of taking scanned in images and putting them in searchable, text form that others can easily find.  Similar efforts are going on in smaller scales with, the Gutenberg project, and other organizations, but seems to have mastered this technique (arguably, is pretty good at this as well).  With modern technology, FamilySearch has found ways to quickly and efficiently scan in records, then use its army of 400,000 volunteers (over half of those aren’t Mormon, the LDS Church being the parent owner of to index those records for searching and attaching those records to applicable individuals in users’ Family History.

Example records indexed are Census records, Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, Civil Registrations, and Marriage Certificates.  With such a worldwide effort it is becoming easier and easier for individuals around the world to prove their lineage and ancestry, and know more about their ancestors.  See the video below for a glimpse at what goes on to make this happen.

“Super Indexing Sunday”

That’s why today is particularly important.  Today, as others were watching the Greenbay Packers play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Superbowl, potentially hundreds of thousands of people were participating in breaking a new world record in the number of records indexed in a day.  The event “Super Indexing Sunday” was organized by a person not affiliated with, Ken Sisler, a Family Historian who lives in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.  It was a grassroots event started on Facebook, and spread to hundreds or even thousands on Facebook as all rallied around this event.  I’m sad to admit that despite my employment at the LDS Church, I had not even heard of this until the event was over.

This evening the FamilySearch Indexing Facebook Page announced that over 2 million records had been indexed in a single day.  Assuming the 1.9 million record from before is correct, that would make this a new world record, and goes to show that Family History and Genealogy are things that aren’t going away any time soon.  To me this is an amazing feat!

If these types of efforts continue, is going to have no problem growing by almost half its size in indexed records for the year.  As the world’s largest database for genealogical information, I think they could easily say that they could compete for the title of one of the largest databases of individual data in the world.  To me, this makes one Web 2.0 website that is worth paying attention to.

You can participate in the FamilySearch Indexing effort at

Disclosure: is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my employer.  While I am employed by the Church, the statements herein are my own opinion and do not constitute official word or doctrine from the Church or its counterparts.  To be clear, I have not recently talked to and the information contained is all information I gathered from publicly available resources – I have no insider information.  I’m sharing this because I think it’s cool technology and something my readers might be interested in.

Are You Inspiring Others This Holiday Season?

When I was about 16 or 17 years old I liked to sing in the car. A lot.  One time I was driving somewhere with my parents and they had a song, of which one I can’t really remember, but I started to sing along with it.  It was probably one of many times I would sing along in the car with my parents, but this time my parents complimented me.  They said, “Jesse you’ve really got a nice voice.  Your singing is really good.”

That compliment really stuck with me.  I had never heard those words from them before about my singing.  I probably wasn’t really as good as they said I was, but the fact was they complimented me and gave me a sense of confidence I never had before.

I came upon the same type of opportunity today as I saw my son singing to some Christmas music we had on for the family (We reserve Monday nights for family in our home – a tradition held by many Mormons).  Truth be told, to my more experienced ears (to the extent you can call, “experienced”) it didn’t sound very good.  But I noticed he was trying.  I took this same opportunity to tell him, “Tom, you have a great voice – you should keep practicing what you’ve got going for you.”  I noticed a little gleam in his eye, a kick in his step as he sang louder.

I wonder if there are times in our lives when we could be complimenting and inspiring each other more, sharing opportunities of encouragement when they come.  I wonder if there are times when we could be lifting up each other, giving each other that little “kick in the step” they need to keep trying harder.

I have entrepreneurs that present new ideas to me all the time.  It always pains me to be honest with them when their idea, at least I feel, is not quite one that will succeed.  Instead, I often point out the positive points of their ideas.  I find areas of inspiration to give them to work harder, ways they can grow their idea and work harder.  Truth be told, they’re going to learn their mistakes on their own, and when they come asking for new ways to improve I’ll be there to help them along the way.  But at least this way I’m giving them the motivation, the encouragement and inspiration to improve.  I’m giving them that extra “kick in their step” to make them work harder, and they’re doing it on their own.

Some times the entrepreneurs I help are like my kids in many ways.  Even though what they’re doing may really be bad I can at least give them the confidence they need to keep trying.  Maybe we need more of this for this Holiday Season.  I’m vowing to try to be more inspiring, more encouraging as I post here, and as I help others in the future and throughout 2011.  It really doesn’t matter if your idea stinks.  What matters is that you feel okay to keep trying.

As I finish up I can hear my son humming the tune to the song we’re hearing now.  He’s trying, and I’m a proud Father.

P.S. – if you really want more inspiring articles like this I highly recommend you check out Brett Nordquist’s blog – his is chock full of these!

Picture of boy courtesy

You Don’t Own My Family History – I Do

I think I’ve rebuilt my Family Tree about 20 or 30 different times throughout my lifetime.  The process usually starts with me entering in the names I know on sites like or or  I usually hit a stopping point where I can’t remember any more, then I start doing searches.  I’ll usually start on and get everything I can.  Then I’ll move over to, getting a 7 day free trial so I can get the data I need (do I really need to pay to get my family’s information?), then I’ll try other sources, like the auto-matched data on  Then I’ll ask family members for the family trees they have, import that as much as I can (merging many duplicates in the process), and then hopefully have as complete a family tree as possible.  I’ll feel proud of myself for completing it, move on to other things, then several years later, start over again because I forgot my accounts from before.  Maybe I’m unique in this, but this is the story of my life.  I just did it again tonight, in fact – this shouldn’t be the case for someone who has most of his genealogy already done for generations.

The internet is too silo’d when it comes to Genealogy and Family History!  It is comprised of numerous, private databases of people all linked together as one, but each in its own separate database.  The problem is one database will have some information while another will have other information, and they all want your money to get at the information you are missing, which, in reality, belongs to you and your family in the first place!  Sure, they often provide an option to export your family history and import it into another service, but then you have just one more database, this one lying on your own computer, and any updates to the other databases never update the one that lies on your computer.  Let’s face it – GEDCOM just creates more databases – it does not unify.

With my background in Social Networking I feel I have a place to say in this.  Many Social Networks have had the same problems to get through.  Facebook, for instance, stores your social graph (in this case your friends) in one database – sure, they provide an API to share those friends and let you store them in your own database and retrieve updates via a real-time interface, but the central repository is still on Facebook’s servers.  They did just create the ability to export your data, but that presents the same problem as GEDCOM – it creates more databases.  It does not solve the problem, but I know they have desires to get around this, hopefully eventually (and I truly believe they will).

Google seems to be doing this right, although it’s proving difficult to compete by doing so.  They’ve established a set of standards, FOAF, XFN, and Google Profiles to link relationships on the web together via open means.  Then any service that wants to (right now the company with the biggest capability to do this is, to no surprise, Google) can index these relationships by following the FOAF data and XFN links back to each individual, bringing in all kinds of meta data along the way.  In this way the web is the database, not any single company.  The problem is Google is the only one capable of indexing all this effectively at the moment, but at least they make it available to the public via their Social Graph API.  It’s no surprise Facebook wants to remain private as they try to build their own index through people.

Family History needs to emulate the Google way.  Currently there is no “Google” of the Family History world.  Everyone’s private!  It’s time Family History makes the web its database and not any one single source.  In fact, there are already standards, such as XFN and FOAF that could make this possible.  We just need to be attaching these to our data.  This can very much be a reality if we work for it and make it priority.

I should be able to upload my records to and any other service that wants to index that data should be able to pull that data from Ancestry and render it for me based on the relationships around the web they have indexed.  The records should be stored on the web.  The relationships should be stored on the web.  The entire family tree should come from the web, not any single database or repository.

I understand there are hurdles to jump – it’s not an easy problem to tackle.  There are privacy concerns to get around.  There is competition to get over.  There is technology that needs to be built.

I’m calling for a change in outlook though.  It’s time we stop thinking about single organizations owning and storing our data for us.  It’s time we start, instead, thinking about the user owning their data.  Anything we store should belong to that user, and that user should be able to access that information on any service they visit on the web, and there should be absolutely no limits preventing that user from getting at that data.  We need standards.  We need organization.  We need to unify.  New players need to step up and make this a reality. (I’m talking to you Google and Facebook, or any entrepreneur that thinks they can do it)

How can we make this happen?

Disclaimer: These comments are my own opinions and do not represent the organization I work for in any way. I have worked for or with most of the organizations mentioned in this article, so I feel I have a say in this matter, but these are simply my opinions, and hope that we can start a conversation.