Our five highlights from RootsTech 2017

The Twile team were at RootsTech 2017 last week, at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, one year after we won 2 awards there in the Innovator Showdown.

Last year there was a huge buzz around Twile, because we were pitching in the competition and because we were introducing Twile for the first time to most people.  And the buzz was still there this time – RootsTech is such an exciting experience for family historians and we love being among such enthusiastic people!

Here are our five highlights from RootsTech 2017:

  1. Twile is now FREE for everyone
    On the first day of RootsTech, we announced we were dropping the subscription fee for Twile and making it completely free for everybody to use.  Needless to say, this was a very popular piece of news and we had a lot of new customers very excited to start using our family history timeline.
  2. Family history infographic
    We showcased our new family history infographic at RootsTech, allowing attendees to sign up and get their free “My Family In Numbers” chart, based on their FamilySearch or GEDCOM tree.  Get yours for free at: https://twile.com/numbers
  3. Innovator Showdown
    Five teams made it through to the final of the Innovator Showdown competition on Friday, 10th February.  Congratulations to Old News USA (1st), Qromatag (2nd), Double Match Triangulator (3rd) and Kindex with the coveted People’s Choice award! As one of last year’s winners, Twile were invited back on stage to give an update on what we’ve been up to since then.
  4. LeVar Burton’s keynote speech
    The keynotes are a big part of the RootsTech conference and the highlight for many was LeVar Burton’s speech on Friday morning.  The actor, best known for his roles as Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Kunta Kinte in Roots, gave a truly heartwarming talk about his relationship with his mother, his African heritage and slavery in the United States.
  5. The exhibition hall
    If you’ve never been to RootsTech, you’ll struggle to comprehend how big it is! More than 30,000 people visited the exhibition hall during the 3 days of the show and there was never a quiet moment on the Twile booth. We spoke with so many customers and made some fantastic contacts with exhibiting brands (big and small), forming the seeds of some really promising partnerships.

And Twile appeared on Utah’s KSL News as the exhibition was getting set up:

RootsTech 2018 is on 28 February – 3 March and Twile will most certainly be there!

Did you visit RootsTech this year?  Please add a comment below to tell us what your personal highlights were.

 

 

Add your review of Twile in the FamilySearch App Gallery

If you are a FamilySearch user, we would really appreciate a review in the FamilySearch App Gallery.  This will help to let other FamilySearch users learn about Twile.

To read our reviews and leave a review yourself:

  1. Visit https://familysearch.org/apps/product/twile/web
  2. Scroll down and click the blue ‘Write a review’ button
  3. Log into FamilySearch if asked
  4. Scroll down, click 5 stars 🙂 and then enter the text for your review
  5. Click ‘Submit’

It takes a couple of minutes, but will be really helpful in raising our profile in the App Gallery and spreading the Twile word.

Thanks!

Timeline of Inventions

Twile now includes a timeline of the big inventions that have pushed the human race forward (or maybe backward in some cases).

Starting with the invention of the mechanical clock (circa 724), via the hot air balloon (1783), right up to the invention of the digital satellite radio in 2001, you can explore the progress of human innovation on a single visual timeline.

Did you know the first mobile phone was invented in 1973?  Or that people have been wearing eyeglasses since the 1200s?  Do you know who invented dynamite?

Take a look at our timeline of inventions at:  twile.com/timeline/inventions

What have we missed?  Is there a glaring omission that you’d like us to add?  Please add a comment below and we’ll jump straight on it!

Invite your family by text message

Because you may not always know their email addresses, you can now invite your family members by text message to join your Twile tree and explore your family timeline.

You can invite as many family members as you like to join Twile, which lets them explore your timeline and add their own milestones and photos for free.  We’re building Twile to help make family history more engaging and interesting for the wider family, so we encourage our customers to invite their family and let them see what you’ve built.

To invite your family by text message:

  1. Start at your Twile family tree
  2. Tap on or move your mouse over the person you wish to invite – a small popup menu appears
  3. Click the ‘Invite them’ option
  4. Enter a mobile number and/or email address
  5. Click ‘Send’

We will send them a message which includes a private link to join your tree.  They will be able to view what you’ve added to your timeline and tree and add their own content to the timeline.  They won’t be able to remove any of the people you’ve added to the tree or events you’ve added to the timeline.

Go ahead – share your Twile!

Family history in numbers

How much time and money do you spend researching your ancestors?  We surveyed family historians recently to see how much commitment it takes to build the family tree.

First of all we looked at when they started researching their family history. The common belief is that family historians are typically aged 50 or over.  For example, according to Ancestry Insider more than half of the attendees at the annual RootsTech genealogy conference in Salt Lake City are over 55 years old.

According to our survey however, the average age of starting to research family history is 40 years old, with 42% of our respondents having started before they were 40 – and a few beginning before they were 20.  So, while family history is typically considered a hobby for the retired, there is clearly some appetite for it in younger generations – look at the growing popularity of groups like NextGen, for example, who work to foster an interest in family history among the “next generation”.

We found that family historians spend more than 12 hours per week on their research, with more than a third spending 2 hours a day on average. 11% donate more than 4 hours a day to their hobby!  This includes time spent online in sites like Findmypast, FamilySearch and Ancestry, plus working in libraries or attending local groups.

And family historians spend $360 per year on their research on average.  Most of the large online genealogy services charge around $100-200 for an annual subscription.  Our survey respondents are either subscribing to more than one of these services or paying for extra records, society attendance fees or travel.

The amount of time and money that family history research requires, possibly explains why most people wait until they are 40 or older before starting.  Parents with young children will struggle to find the time (or energy) to dig through census records, birth certificates and black-and-white photos for clues about their ancestors.  But once the kids are older and more independent, those same parents will look for hobbies to fill their newly-found free time – genealogy is one of them.

Our mission at Twile is to make family history more engaging and accessible for the younger generations now.  If you’re keen to get the rest of your family interested in your hobby, import your years of research into Twile and share your timeline with them, for free.  Your commitment so far means that they will be able to explore your research easily, minimising the time and cost to them. They can contribute their own memories and photos too.  Sign up for free at www.twile.com.

How does your family history research compare with these numbers?  Add a comment below to tell us how much time you spend each week on your research or when you started showing an interest…

Flying the flag for Northern tech startups

While the tech industry in the North of the UK never seems to get the attention that London does, some recent successes for Northern startups show that innovation is alive and well outside of the capital.

The Queen and Duke of York at Pitch@Palace
The Duke of York introduces The Queen to the Pitch@Palace entrepreneurs
Last night, Twile was one of 42 UK startups that attended Pitch@Palace at St. James’s Palace in London – at the invitation of Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.  Pitching in front of The Queen and a room full of high profile investors and entrepreneurs, the overall winners were Drenched (first place) and Mobile Power (second) – both from Sheffield – and the People’s Choice award was won by Manchester-based OfferMoments.  As a Yorkshire business, we were immensely proud to see our fellow Northerners take the top prizes!

Meanwhile, the grand final of the Northern Stars competition is about to take place in Manchester on 17 November, showcasing some of the most innovative early-stage tech startups in the North of the UK.  Run by TechNorth, with finalists in a wide range of sectors – from eCommerce to finance to education – the competition is proof that the North has a lot to add to Britain’s technology economy.

The TechNorth delegation in Seattle
The TechNorth delegation in Seattle
In October, I was one of a small group of Northern entrepreneurs that joined TechNorth on a trip to the US west coast.  We visited San Francisco and Seattle to raise awareness of our region’s tech industry and learn a little about how things are done across the pond.  While San Francisco is the undisputed centre of the tech world, it was clear from this trip that the UK’s North is able to generate businesses that can compete on every level with those that spring up in Silicon Valley.  The ambition, creativity and potential of the startups I travelled with were really quite inspiring – and we felt more than comfortable among the entrepreneurs and investors we met along the way.

I’ve written before about the challenges of raising investment and profile in the North of the UK, but these recent successes for the region’s tech sector should help to close the gap.

Related articles

Twile visits the US west coast

Twile Wins Two Awards in the Innovator Showdown at RootsTech 2016

Twile integrates with FamilySearch

Twile Partners with Findmypast

 

Do more for free with Twile

Who says you don’t get anything for free?  From today, Twile’s free subscription allows you to add up to 10 milestones and 10 photos to your timeline every month.

Until now, only our paying customers could add content to their timeline, but we want to encourage everyone to record their family memories, even if that means adding just a few events from time to time.  We hope this free service will encourage the wider family to contribute, where they might not have had enough need to justify paying for it before.

Our mission at Twile is to make family history more engaging for the whole family, especially the younger generations, and Twile Free is an important step towards that goal.

Twile Free
Our free subscription now allows you to add up to 10 milestones (such as birth or marriage) and 10 photos to your family timeline every month.  You can also add any number of people to your family tree and invite any of them to explore and contribute.

Twile Premium
Our Twile Premium subscription allows you to add unlimited milestones and photos to your timeline and also lets you import your family tree and import photos from Facebook.  Twile Premium is £29.99 ($49.99) per year.

Twile Family
Everyone in your family can add unlimited milestones and photos when you subscribe to Twile Family.  One payment of £74.99 ($124.99) per year gives everyone on your family tree all of the benefits of Twile Premium. And they’ll love you for it!

For a full breakdown of what’s included in each subscription, take a look at our pricing page and when you’re ready to give Twile a go you can sign up for free at www.twile.com.

New Milestone Types: Military and Legal & Justice

We’ve just added a number of new milestone types to Twile, including two new categories: “Military” and “Legal & Justice”.

Milestones are events that you can add to your family timeline to tell the story of each person’s life.  Most people on your family tree will have key events like birth and marriage, but adding more detail can help you and the rest of your family understand what their life was really like.

Now you can add military milestones – such as conscription, awards or even court-martial – and legal milestones – such as arrest, sentencing and execution! We’ve also added a few extra milestones into other categories, such as wedding anniversary and blessing.

To add a milestone to your timeline:

  1. Login or register for Twile at www.twile.com
  2. Click the ‘Add’ button at the top of your timeline
  3. Click ‘Add milestone’
  4. Choose the type of milestone you’d like to add
  5. Choose the person you’re adding the milestone for, enter the date and other details
  6. Click the ‘Add’ button to save the new event

Watch our video for an overview:

All of the new milestones we’ve added have been requests and suggestions from our customers, so please keep those ideas coming – you can add a comment to this blog post or send us an email to help@twile.com.

Five Tips For Scanning Your Old Photos

If your family is anything like mine, you have hundreds or thousands of photos that will never be seen again.  We have boxes filled with old photos (typically hidden in the attic); everything from black-and-white pictures from the early 1900s through to colour photos of me and my brother growing up.

Even if we open up those boxes and look through them occasionally, that doesn’t help the family who live elsewhere.  I have cousins living around the world who, of course, share the same grandparents – of whom we have a lot of photos.  The only solution is to scan the pictures and put them somewhere we can all access.

Scanning in old photos is a BIG job – especially if you have as many as we do – so I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned while working through our old photo collection.  Here are five tips for scanning in old photos…

1. Choose your device

The first decision is whether to use a flatbed scanner or your camera (or smartphone) to digitise your old photos.  Using a camera is certainly the simplest option – it is far easier and quicker to snap, snap, snap your photos than it is to load them one-by-one into a scanner and wait while it scans.  It probably takes an average of 60 seconds per photo using a flatbed scanner, versus maybe 10 seconds using a camera.

But the quality of the scan from a scanner is far superior to what you’ll achieve using a camera.  Scanners are designed for scanning flat documents, while cameras are designed for taking photos of 3D things in the real world – and the difference shows.

With a camera, curled paper edges, lighting glare and lens angles can all diminish the quality of the final output.  With a scanner, these problems are all removed.

Whether you invest in a scanner and spend the extra time it takes to use one depends on the quality you want in the digital versions of your photos.  I’d suggest you try a camera first and see if the output is good enough for what you need.

2. Don’t aim for perfection

With the choice between scanner and camera in mind, it’s worth noting that any digital version of your photos is better than nothing at all.  Your family and your future self will be delighted just to see the photos, even if they’re a little skew or there’s a little glare in the top-right corner.

It’s tempting to spend a lot of time perfecting the scanning process, but your main aim should be getting your paper photos onto a computer.  The longer it takes to arrange photos, align them, adjust lighting and everything else, the less likely you are to finish the job.

It takes a little experimentation to see what you get from different methods, so have a play and find a compromise that you’re happy with between speed and quality.

3. Sort the photos first

It’s a lot easier to organise the paper copies of your photos than it is to do it on a computer.  It’s also a lot more enjoyable – you’ll find yourself spending a few moments on each photo, either enjoying your own memories or trying to solve the mysteries therein.

I suggest grouping photos by date primarily.  In some cases you’ll have an exact date written on the back of the photo (or imprinted in the photo itself in some more recent pics).  Otherwise, you might need to make a best guess on the month or year or maybe just decade.  

Organising your photos before scanning makes it much easier to store them in appropriate date-based folders on your computer later. For example, you could scan photos in date batches, so that all photos from 1973 go into one folder.

It’s also an opportunity to remove any that aren’t worth scanning in. Underdeveloped shots or the seventeenth photo of the same anonymous landscape might not be something you want to spend time scanning in.  

4. Check your scanner settings

Most scanners, cameras and smartphones will offer some level of customisation for the resulting image.  You’ll want to get this setup correctly before you start.

There are three considerations: image settings, resolution and file type.

The image settings include options like brightness, colour levels and contrast.  You may find that the default settings are perfect, otherwise you may want to adjust them until you get the image output you’re looking for.  I found that my colour photos looked a little too blue by the time they reached the screen, so I adjusted the colour balance to fix that.

The larger the resolution of your scanned-in photo, the higher its quality (and file size).  Bigger is always better, but there is a maximum to the quality you’ll actually be able to use.  It may be tempting to reduce the resolution to save disk space, but if you go too low you’ll end up with photos that aren’t good enough to print – and you may regret that one day.  I’d recommend a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch), which will give you more than enough for viewing on a screen and emailing and plenty to produce quality prints if you ever need to.

You can often select the file type that you want to create during scanning, such as JPEG, TIFF, PNG or PDF.  For most purposes you’ll want to choose JPEG, which is a good compromise between quality and file size.  It’s the most familiar type of image file and can easily be used for viewing, emailing or printing.

5. Scan multiple photos together

Whether you’re using a scanner or a camera, you can save time by scanning more than one photo at a time.  A typical flatbed scanner can accommodate at least 3 typical photos and you’ll probably fit 3 or 4 into the viewfinder of a camera at a reasonable distance.

The downside of scanning multiple photos together is that you need to crop the resulting image into 3 or 4 photos.  Fortunately, there are a number of software solutions and apps that will do this automatically – and many modern flatbed scanners come with appropriate software as part of the package.

We’ll be reviewing apps and photo software in the future, so watch this space!

Add your photos to Twile

Once you’ve digitised your photos, don’t just leave them hidden away on your computer – upload them to your Twile timeline so that the rest of your family can explore and enjoy them.  Twile is totally private, which means only the family members you invite will be able to see the photos you share.

Click here to create your Twile Timeline

 

Twile Wins a Semi-Final Place in the Innovator Showdown at RootsTech 2016

We’re absolutely delighted to say that we’ve made it to the final 12 in the Innovator Showdown at RootsTech 2016!

RootsTech is the largest family history event in the world, held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Combining a huge exhibition with talks and classes on family history, it attracts tens of thousands of visitors, from seasoned genealogy experts to absolute beginners.

As part of RootsTech, the Innovator Showdown competition aims to highlight innovative technology products that service the family history market.  We’ll be attending the conference and battling it out to win part of the total $100,000 cash and in-kind prizes.

It’s so important to us to have been recognised as innovators in our industry, by one of its leading players – RootsTech is run by FamilySearch, the largest genealogy organisation in the world.

This year the conference runs from 3-6 February, during which we’ll be pitching to secure a place as one of the 6 finalists and to present Twile on stage to thousands of attendees.

We had an amazing 2015 after launching our family history timeline in April and have worked closely with our customers to build Twile into a tool they love.  It looks like 2016 could be even more exciting!

We want to thank everyone who uses Twile, everyone that has helped us spread the word and all of the people that have given us advice and support since we started.

If you’re going to RootsTech this year, please come along to our booth and say ‘hello’ – we’d love to thank you in person!

You can read more about the Innovator Showdown on the RootsTech website.