I was invited to Ancestry’s Expert Connect before I’d even heard about it, so I think I was very early to sign up. Even so, I did not find the site terribly useful. It reminded me of all the Rent-a-Coder sites. Before I was a genealogist, I was a web site programmer (well, I still am). People would request sites that were clones of Yahoo or such, with a budget of $100.
I was asked to bid on many projects. One such project was an Iranian who wanted his ancestry researched back to Adam and Eve. I think he asked every genealogist on the site to bid. Many left serious replies that it wasn’t their field; others were more creative and it was fun to read. Other requests were more in my specialty but usually their budget was below my minimum. Plus, since Ancestry kept a percentage, I had to raise my rates for the site in order to still earn the same amount.
One of my long-time clients requested a record through the site, and I emailed back, “No, don’t do that.” Getting a rating might have been nice, but charging him more was unnecessary.
I once received a request to bid on a translation, but Ancestry refused to list me as a translation provider and would not let me bid, so why would they even send me that request?
Another person requested that I bid on her project, then quickly contacted me off-site, even telling me that my bid was not the lowest but I had the expertise she wanted.
At NGS last year, Ancestry invited the bloggers to a meeting; I was included. We discussed EC a bit. Some had gotten jobs from the site and I asked how. The presenter told us that he had awarded a job to the lowest bidder, and the genealogist had probably done at least an hour of work just during the bidding. Just as I suspected, it was the new Rent-a-Coder… um, Rent-a-Genealogist.
One other thing I hated about the site was the login. I would receive an email that someone asked me to bid. Clicking the link would take me to… a login screen, which usually took at least half a minute to load. In web site terms, that is an eternity. Even if I had been logged in recently, I would have to log in again. I can visit Ancestry at almost any random time and I am logged in, but for EC, it was separate and annoying.
I have seen mostly two kinds of responses to this news. Some people don’t care much (like me) because they didn’t use the site or never got any projects from it. These are probably the genealogists (like me) that still wanted to earn their regular fee and weren’t trying to underbid everyone else. The other type apparently started or seriously built their businesses using EC. I’m not saying they deliberately underbid the first group, but when I first started, I charged a lot less, so they probably did too. They will have the harder time trying to rebuild without EC’s help; putting out a web site, figuring out marketing and networking to get clients. I’m glad I was established before this and my client base comes from elsewhere.
I have signed up for some of the other alternative sites that have been mentioned. One emails me about as frequently as EC with people too far under budget for their projects, not really in my expertise, or with no information for me to even know what they want. Genlighten, on the other hand, has provided me with a small bit of income. If I took the time to add more look-ups, I’d probably get more from them. But that site is just for quick look-ups and I prefer the in-depth research anyway.
So for me, losing Expert Connect is, well, going to eliminate a few emails every week. And that’s about it.
Addition: I suppose this article should have started by mentioning that Ancestry sent an email to it’s providers yesterday that it was shutting down Expert Connect effective February 3.