We've been busy with the renaming of the company and a wonderful pre-family reunion season rush this last several weeks (THANK YOU--we're loving it). I've been very quiet on the social networking front, so quiet that I'm feeling a little shy about diving back in. But I'm going to take a deep breath and do it. In return for this indulgence--I promise we'll announce the winner of the renaming contest here tomorrow :).
Luckily, I have caught the continuing posts in the blogging community prompted by Thomas McEntee's revealing Genea-opportunities and Genealogy Conferences--the magic recipe series. The discussion has been interesting. Here's something else to think about...
The view from where I sit:
I was particularly interested in Thomas's Us vs. Them post. I cross many us vs. them boundaries. I've been involved in conferences and the genealogy community from all sides. I currently have about 17 active lectures that I give in all sorts of venues--from webinars to Family History Center staff meetings to large national conferences, paid and unpaid, about our company and on completely different topics. I blog and tweet and facebook. I periodically teach genealogy at Salt Lake Community College. I'm president of the Utah Genealogical Association this year and in the past have been involved in setting up and running conferences--everything from venue to bills to food to vendors to speaker contracts (SLIG and etc, this year's annual conference will be August 19th and 20th, watch for info at ugagenealogy.org.) And of course as Development Director and Co-Owner of Generation Maps, I'm one of the vendors (cue the ominous Jaws music.)
With my Master's in Library Science degree I could do genealogy research and get credentialed but instead I've chosen to become one of them--the vendors. I've chosen to follow what I love--helping people share their genealogy and entice others into searching out their history by helping them display their family's history in beautiful ways. I'm finding that in some ways, by buying vendor's space at a conference, I put up barriers and some prejudices to our involvement in the genealogy community. To some people I become a "them."
In the last couple of months, I have watched some of our "vendor" partners be uninvited to conferences, told not to mention their company when speaking, and be excluded from social networking, promotional and educational opportunities. We observe a lot of mis-trust of anyone who is a "vendor" because they are "only in it to make money" or perhaps "only in it for the advertising." In some corners of the blogging community there are people who are wary of anything "commercial" and yet the definitions of what is commercial are sometimes ill-informed. I've seen database companies invited to participate in events because they are "helping" but then other companies excluded. We even had one conference years ago that uninvited vendors and then proceeded to advertise for the local restaurants at lunchtime. And yet we are consistently approached by some of those same entities to donate items for gift bags and drawings--which we are happy to do. These sometimes strange attitudes make it very hard for new and upcoming companies, or even established ones, to get the word out about their services.
As a vendor, I don't feel very different from other members in this community. In fact, I think many would be surprised to know that as I've moved throughout this community, I've found that many of the companies in the vendors hall make much less than many of the lecturers, authors, and professional researchers do. There tends to be a perception that the "vendors" are the only people who advertise. However, if you look around, there is self-promotion everywhere in this community. So to follow Thomas's generous transparency, I'm going to pull down one more curtain. Often the people you trust the most to bring you the genealogy information you need--bloggers, lecturers, authors, professional researchers, and etc. "the educators" are the ones who are succeeding at the self-promotion the best. I've seen the contracts and I've seen the affiliate checks. When you promote "the educators" but don't promote "commercial vendors" you have your lines crossed and confused. Why can't we all advertise? Anyone who is good at what they do deserves reimbursement.
Making a living is a good thing. I am sad to sometimes see a general mis-trust in this community towards anyone who is trying to make a living--speakers and researchers, but especially a mis-trust against helping vendors get the word out about what they are doing. I'm still trying to figure out where that comes from. I think in part it comes from having two major industry players--one who is highly subsidized and not interested in making a profit but very vested in maintaining their non-profit status, and one who is so interested in making a profit that it aggressively acquires other companies and opportunities in the marketplace. In any other industry, a hard day's work is rewarded handsomely because we want to see that person continue to do what they are doing. Isn't it time that we do the same in the genealogy community? If you want to see more companies and individuals who are working hard to make your genealogy adventure easier--support them. Help them get the word out about what they are doing. It is ok to make a buck on family history. We want them to make a living so that they can continue to do what they do--help us. It is in all our best interests to have a strong, thriving genealogy industry where vendors are welcomed and encouraged.
So please go out and thank a vendor today for making your genealogy endeavors easier. Go spend some money on your genealogy pursuit. And then tell someone about it when your money was well spent.