The technical challenges of running a growing startup

While we are constantly trying to add new features to your Twile timeline and family tree, I thought it might be useful to give some insight into how much time is spent simply ensuring Twile runs smoothly behind the scenes.

One of the things we love about building Twile is the close relationship we have with our customers.  We have always actively encouraged our customers to give us their feedback and reach out when we can help in any way.  And our customers clearly appreciate this level of conversation – something they very rarely get from other online brands.

The feedback we receive makes it much easier for us to build the features that customers want to use.  Pretty much everything we add into Twile has been directly or indirectly requested by our users.

Unfortunately, there is also a large amount of development work needed that doesn’t lead to shiny new features.  As Twile has grown (we’ve been around for nearly four years now), we’ve had to adapt many technical aspects of Twile to accommodate the requirements of our audience.  Who knew you guys could have 50,000 people on a family tree?!

And as we add new features to the app, we have to review its look-and-feel and layout, to make sure it still has the minimalist simplicity that our customers have told us they love.

Fortunately, we have a great team of developers who are experts in all of the above.  Every single piece of Twile that you either can or can’t see has been designed and built internally by Twile’s own developers.  We’re very proud of them 🙂

So, please keep your suggestions coming – we love to hear your feedback and we take on board every idea or request you send our way.  We have to spend a lot of our time maintaining the existing features and keeping Twile running smoothly, but we’re also working as hard as we can to add all of the features you’re hoping for.

And we have some very big features coming soon!

Twile present to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions

This week, Twile’s Paul Brooks and Kelly Marsden attended a council meeting of members of ALVA – the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions – at Wembley Stadium in London.

As well as a great opportunity to rub shoulders with leaders of some of the UK’s leading tourist attractions, we had a chance to tour England’s national football stadium and sample some truly fantastic food!  We were made extremely welcome and are very much looking forward building on the relationships we started there.

ALVA represent some of the top UK attractions to Government, media and business and lobby for support for the sector, as well as providing valuable networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities for their members.

Twile were introduced to ALVA through our relationship with Pitch@Palace, the startup competition founded by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.  The Pitch@Palace team felt there was a natural connection between Twile’s mission around family and history and the goals of ALVA’s members, which include museums, palaces, galleries and heritage trusts. All members have rich histories, perfect for viewing on a timeline.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to introduce Twile and look forward to long and prosperous relationships with ALVA members.

Twile is announced as one of Creative England’s Top 50 companies

Every year, Creative England reveals their CE50 – a list of the fifty best up-and-coming, innovative companies in the creative industries in England.  Twile are delighted to be one of this year’s 50!

The list includes some of the most exciting startups in the film, music, gaming and digital spaces.  It’s a very broad range of companies, reflecting and celebrating the success and diversity of British creativity.

CE_Live_2017_089

Creative England have supported Twile since we first launched in 2013 and it’s an honour to be among their top companies.  We’ve changed a lot since our early days and have evolved Twile into a uniquely innovative offering in the family history space – they’re still there supporting us as we grow and our place in the CE50 must mean we’re doing something right.

Read the interview with Twile’s CEO, Paul Brooks, in the Daily Telegraph this week: Three tips for launching a company in the creative sector

And read the full report here: Creative England CE50 2017

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Twile at RootsTech 2017!

The largest global genealogy conference in the world – RootsTech – is finally here and we are delighted to be in Salt Lake City to be a part of it again.

The Innovator Summit kicked off the event today, reminding us of our experience in the Innovator Showdown in 2016, where we came away with two awards, including the coveted People’s Choice (read our previous article here).

Are you visiting RootsTech this week?Here are 10 reasons you should come and see us on booth #332 & 334.

10 reasons to visit the Twile booth

  1. It’s now completely FREE for everyone!
  2. You can create a FREE personalized infographic of your family history
  3. We can show you how to get the rest of your family interested in your research
  4. You could win a $200 Amazon gift card
  5. We’ll show you how to import your FamilySearch Tree
  6. We have free balloons for your kids!
  7. We’re on the way to the restrooms
  8. We’re from England…we might be related!
  9. We have cute British accents
  10. Our flights have cost a fortune (we’re from the UK)

Twile demonstrations

We are also doing several demostrations of Twile, so come along and find out more:

Thursday 9th February 

  • 2.30pm. Not just about records –  Kelly Marsden, Co-founder of Twile – at the Findmypast booth
  • 4.40pm. How to create your family infographic – Paul Brooks, CEO of Twile – in the Demo Theatre

Friday 10th February 

  • 2.30pm. Not just about records – Kelly Marsden, Co-founder of Twile – at the Findmypast booth

Saturday 11th February

  • 12.40pm. Turn your FamilySearch Tree in to a Twile Timeline – Paul Brooks, CEO of Twile – in the Demo Theatre
  • 2.30pm. Not just about records – Kelly Marsden, Co-founder of Twile – at the Findmypast booth

We look forward to seeing you!

 

 

Twile is now FREE for everyone

We are really happy to announce that – as of today – we have removed the subscription fee for using Twile and our family timeline is now free for everyone!

When we started Twile, our vision was for it to be used by all family members, who would share and collaborate on their family story. We feel that our subscription fee was getting in the way.

This is why it is now free to do everything on Twile:

  • Build your family tree
  • Share and collaborate with family
  • Add unlimited milestones and photos
  • Import from FamilySearch
  • Import and merge multiple GEDCOM files

Whilst we will no longer be charging customers to use our core product, we clearly do need to make some money. We are planning to introduce some optional add-ons in the future, which will enhance the Twile experience.

We realise there are many concerns within the industry about privacy and we want to take this opportunity to assure our customers that we will never sell their personal data.

So Twile is now free for you and all of your family – go ahead and build an awesome timeline of your family story, together!

“Name That Baby” competition to teach children about family history

Here’s an update on the project we’re running at a local school, to help introduce children to their family history.

In this week’s lesson we held a ‘name that baby’ competition. The children brought in old photos of themselves as babies so their classmates could guess who was who.

Children playing name that babyParticular focus was given to their nose, eyes and ears as they made their decisions and they were reminded that personal facial features are often similar to parents and grandparents – I asked them all to think about who they looked like most in their family and some interesting discussions began.

I had set homework in the previous lesson for the children to write a story about a family member. As our discussions moved on, they added this information to the Twile timeline – again, they all had wonderful stories to tell.  One story in particular was very moving so we asked the child to tell the rest of the class what she had learnt:

‘My 2 x great grandparents from Belfast, Ireland met during the sectarian troubles. My 2 x great grandad was Protestant and my grandma was Catholic. They were in love but were unable to be together because it wasn’t allowed and they would have been in a lot of trouble if they were found out. During the civil conflict they decided to move away to England where they could be married. They did get married and raised their children in England, which is why I live here today.’

The time flies by when I am in the school and it is so great to see how much fun the children are having. Over the next few weeks I am looking forward to discovering more family stories and some of the children are even making videos.

Your family in numbers – a free personalised infographic

We are delighted to share our new feature with you – a personalised digital family history infographic which you can create easily for free, to share with your family and friends.

Last week we posted an article about perspective in family history and the benefits of looking at things in a different way. Our new infographic takes this a step further and what’s more, we think it will appeal to everyone, whether genealogists or not!

What is an infographic?

Family History InfographicAn infographic is a colourful graphic made up of statistics, in this case numbers pulled from your family tree.

Whether you have imported your tree or manually created one in Twile, you can simply click a button to see it converted to an infographic. It displays information such as the average age of marriage, popular surnames and average family size. Fun right?

And we’ve designed it to be very easy to share with your family – you can quickly share your graphic on Facebook or Twitter, or download it to print or email it.

To celebrate the launch of this exciting feature, we are giving away a $200 Amazon gift card. Simply create your infographic at www.twile.com/numbers, share it and tag Twile on Facebook (@TwileTimeline) or Twitter (@TwileTweets) to enter the prize draw.

How to get your free infographic

  • Existing Twile customer? Simply click the ‘View infographic’ button at the top of your family tree in Twile.
  • New to Twile? Visit www.twile.com/numbers and we’ll send your infographic to you by email.

 

Timeline of the American Civil War

Twile now includes a timeline of the American Civil War, which you can overlay onto your own family timeline to see how your ancestors might have been affected.

In 1849, my 3 x Great Grandparents were married in Hull in the UK. In the same year on Twile’s Civil War timeline, I can see that – many miles away – a lady called Harriet Tubman was leading a very different life, as a slave. In 1849 she escaped slavery and, as the American Civil War progressed, she became the first woman to lead an armed expedition.

Seeing my family events on the same timeline as world history generates new questions.  I wonder what my ancestors thought about America. A place where they would never hope to travel.  Did they think about it at all?

In 1861, when my 2 x Great Grandmother was born, was Abraham Lincoln’s election a topic at every dinner table, just as Donald Trump’s recent victory has been?  How much awareness was there of the bloody war that was raging from 1861?

We’d love to hear what you think of our American Civil War timeline – and please let us know if there are any topics you’d like to see timelines for?  Just add a comment or send us an email to help@twile.com

How to add perspective to your family history

Putting your family stories into perspective and giving them context is the key to understanding what life was like for your ancestors and for telling those stories in an interesting way.

We read an article this week by The  Family History Guy, which summed it all up perfectly:

“The character John Keating, in the award winning film, “Dead Poet’s Society” was asked why he stood on his desk. His poignant reply: “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.” So too must we, as genealogists ‘constantly look at things in a different way’. Another way of saying this is we need perspective. Just as the world looks far different at the cruising altitude of a commercial jetliner than it does standing in the midst of a wheat field. Our family history looks much different when examined at “cruising altitude”. The most valuable thing Twile gives me as a genealogist is perspective.”

The Family History Guy goes on to explain how Twile made him – a genealogist of 25 years and public speaker on family history – step back and see his family in a whole new way.

“When I first used Twile and loaded just my parents and grandparents in, just three generations and I noticed something. My mom’s dad died before my parents were married. Not a super alarming fact. But until that moment … those two facts were complete and total strangers. Both living happy, but separate, lives in my brain until that glorious moment that Twile put them next to each other and introduced them … None of the documents I have would give me that information, and I had never thought to ask.”

Take a look at the full article here and if you have had a ‘Eureka’ moment with Twile, we would love you to share it with us!

The Family History Guy will be speaking at RootsTech on Saturday 11th February. If you are at the event, go along to hear his presentation ‘Timelines: Back to the Future of Your Research”.