网络化身家庭餐桌
大耳朵英语  http://www.bigear.cn  2007-11-08 16:18:06  【打印
Have you ever felt guilty for hearing news about your mother second-hand? It's all too easy to fall out of sync with your family, especially when relatives are spread out in different states, time zones or countries. So it makes sense to use the Web to keep in touch. And while email has its place, as do photo-sharing sites and blogs, none of these solutions truly knits family members together in an environment where everyone can share, post and comment on content -- much like sitting around the dinner table.

This week, I tested one of the many Web sites created specifically to target families: myfamily.com. Myfamily is a free site that serves as a place where invited members can upload photos, videos, news, recipes, family-tree entries and other data in a few steps. Naturally, this idea of helping families stay in touch through a Web site is one which many companies are anxious to monopolize. Sites vying for the spotlight include the likes of Famster, The Family Post and MyGreatBigFamily.com. Some of these charge monthly or annual fees and offer features like online chatting within the site or ritzy background music while the site is being viewed, neither of which are currently included in myfamily.

Myfamily's ace in the hole is its popular relative, Ancestry.com. Both sites are owned by parent company, Generations Network Inc., which means that Ancestry's wealth of digitally scanned data and genealogy research can be linked to myfamily.com, enriching the site. Another big plus for myfamily is that it gives users the chance to add voice recordings to photos. These can be used to narrate a slide show (called SnapGenies) or when commenting on a shared image. Voice comments are added by following on-screen instructions and calling a 1-800 number.

I enlisted help from seven of my family members to test our own myfamily.com site. With a little coaching, my 82-year-old grandfather added a digital photo and an accompanying audio comment to our site. My Mom supplied images, voice comments and text comments. And my Dad needed only a little time during a busy week to add his voice comments to photos I posted of last year's Thanksgiving.

But myfamily.com isn't without its flaws. The site has been around by name for 10 years; however, I tested the newest version of this site, myfamily.com 2.0, which is still in its beta, or test, stages and is definitely still working out some of its bugs.

For example, a 'What's New' list on the home page should display recent site changes yet unseen by the user, but a video that I posted didn't show up here, nor did new comments about photos. Also, two of my relatives received error messages when first trying to access the site with my invitation. And when a friend of mine added a 96-person family tree to her own site, the tree disappeared upon her next visit. (Luckily, she found it via an emailed link from the company.)

Myfamily cleverly starts new users on a page where they can create a site, rather than first asking for a username and password, as is done by many sites. It works on Macs and PCs, and on all three major browsers, though Apple's Safari browser has a few hiccups.

For now, myfamily.com doesn't offer unique URLs like www.boehretfamily.com; instead, users go to myfamily.com and sign in with a username and password. The site automatically remembers you when you return, so regularly accessing it from the same computer is a cinch.

The family member who creates the site (in this case, me) is designated the administrator and can invite anyone to become a site member. Invitees are labeled as either members or guests; the former can add content to the Web site while the latter can only view and comment on the site's contents.

Administrators can choose from four themes with different colors and patterns, and each site is laid out in the same way: members listed on the left, three advertisements, a centered photo and lists of What's New and Upcoming Events. Myfamily will introduce themes with more variety in the next few weeks.

Simple tabs running across the top ridge of the page organize the site's content into Photos, Videos, Discussions, SnapGenies, Trees (as in family trees), Events, Files and People. I got started by dragging and dropping batches of digital photos from my hard drive onto the site using a fast uploading tool. Photos can be listed alone or in virtual albums, which organize them a bit better. I also added videos to the site, and though these took a little longer to load, they were as easy to post as my digital photos.

Myfamily.com's integration with voice comments is a huge plus for the site. I smiled listening to my Mom's emotional tone in a heartfelt comment that she left with a photo of my cousin's 21st birthday. On another photo of two relatives asleep in chairs after Thanksgiving dinner, my Dad left a voice comment in which he joked about how exciting the dinner must have been. These comments could easily have been left in text form, but by following on-screen instructions to call a number, enter a PIN and leave a message, my own family site suddenly became much more personal.

I also used the phone to create narrated slide shows called SnapGenies. I spoke into the phone to describe each photo and then skipped to the next image on my computer screen before talking about the next shot. When finished, I hung up the phone, and the result was a simple slide show that anyone in my family could play back with ease. The instructions for ending these SnapGenies could stand to be a bit clearer, but myfamily says it is working on this.

Family trees can be created on the site or uploaded from existing family-tree files. Photos, audio and video can be uploaded from your computer to the tree, and these trees are shared with family members who can also contribute to them. With an Ancestry.com subscription (annual U.S. searching cost is $13 a month), users can attach historical census, immigration and military records to their trees, as well as hints about other people. Before the end of the year, myfamily.com users will be able to upload content from a family site directly to the tree.

My sister posted a couple of items under the Discussions tab: a recipe for Skillet Tamale Pie in Recipes, and Web sites related to our next family vacation in the News section. She asked our whole family to take a look at a list of midvacation excursions to decide which ones we wanted to go on, evoking a few responses from the younger members.

In its current state, myfamily doesn't limit the amount of data uploaded to a site, though individual file sizes are technically limited (videos can't exceed 100 megabytes each and photos can't exceed around 10 megabytes each). Myfamily plans to offer an ad-free subscription model at the start of 2008 that will offer more storage; the company estimates that this paid model will cost about $30 annually.

Email updates are sent to site members daily or weekly to inform them about the site's latest developments. Improvements are on the horizon for myfamily.com, including person-to-person chatting through the site, simple photo editing and the ability to create hyperlinks in posts.

The myfamily.com name has 10 years behind it -- staying power that resonates with families who worry about their tediously entered data disappearing should a Web site go belly-up. To placate old and new site members, this 2.0 version of the site needs to make sure it's dependably usable at all times. The new version of myfamily.com is off to a good start, and family members of all ages will feel comfortable here whether browsing the site or adding content of their own.

你曾因为通过别人才得知自己母亲的近况而感到愧疚难当吗?人海茫茫,很多人一不小心就失去了家人的音信,尤其是在你的亲人们分散在不同的州、不同的时区,甚至是不同国家的情况下。因此,利用互联网保持联系也就意义非凡了。虽然你完全可以通过电子邮件、照片共享网站以及博客与家人互通有无,但是其中没有哪种方式能够真正将家人紧紧地连接在一起,让每个人都能够分享、上传各自的信息,并且畅所欲言──就像大家其乐融融地围坐在餐桌前的情形一样。

最近我对myfamily.com进行了测试,它是时下专门针对家庭设计的诸多网站中的一个。Myfamily是一个免费网站,受到邀请的家庭成员可以上传照片、视频、消息、菜谱、家谱以及其它资料,只需简单的几个步骤即可。显然,通过网站帮助家庭成员保持联系是许多公司都急于独占的一个创意。Famster、The Family Post和MyGreatBigFamily.com等网站也都在千方百计地吸引人们的眼球。其中一些网站按月或按年收费,并提供站内网上聊天、或者配备网站时髦背景音乐等功能,不过myfamily在这两个领域都没有涉及。

Myfamily握有一个秘密武器,那就是它倍受欢迎的姊妹网站Ancestry.com,它们都是Generations Network Inc.旗下企业。这就意味着,Ancestry在数字扫描资料和家谱研究方面的资源可以直接连接到myfamily.com上,从而大大丰富了后者的内容。Myfamily的另外一个明显优势在于它允许用户为照片添加录音。这些录音在用户阐述幻灯片(被称作SnapGenies)、或者点评共享图片时都能用得上。你可以根据屏幕上的指导并拨打1-800免费电话加上语音评论。

我召集了七位家庭成员一起来测试我们自己在myfamily.com上的网站。简单教了教他们怎样使用之后,82岁高龄的祖父很快就上传了一张数码照片,并搭配了一段语音评论。我妈妈则发布了很多图片、语音评论和文字评论。我爸爸在百忙之中只抽出了一点时间,就给我上传的在去年感恩节时拍摄的照片添上了他自己的语音点评。

不过,myfamily.com并非完美无缺。这家网站已有10年的历史了,但我试用的最新版本myfamily.com 2.0还是供测试的beta版,而且其中存在不少缺陷。

比如说,主页上的“最新消息”(What's New)一栏本应显示用户尚未看见的网站更新内容,但是我上传的一个视频文件在这里就没有显示出来,新加的照片评论也是一样。此外,我的两个亲戚在首次试着通过我的邀请信登录网站时都收到了错误讯息。此外,我的一个朋友在她自己的家庭网站上发布了一个96人的家谱,但等她再次登录网站时,却发现家谱竟然不见了。(幸运的是,她通过来自myfamily的一封电子邮件链接找回了那份家谱)。

Myfamily对待新用户的做法相当高明,他们可以在新登录时就着手创建自己家族的网站,而不是像许多网站那样先要输入用户名和密码。Myfamily在Mac电脑和Windows电脑上都能运行,它支持所有的三大浏览器,只是在苹果(Apple)电脑的Safari浏览器上还有点小问题。

目前,myfamily.com还不是像www.boehretfamily.com那样提供唯一的URL地址,用户需要打开myfamily.com,以用户名和密码登录网站。Myfamily在你下次访问时会自动记忆你的信息,因此用户通过同一台电脑定期登录是非常方便的。

创建网站的家庭成员(这里就是我了)将被指定为管理员,他可以邀请任何人成为网站的会员。受邀者要么被注明是家庭成员,要么就成为这个家庭的客人;前者可以在网站上增加内容,而后者只能浏览和点评网站的内容。

管理员可以从四个具有不同颜色和形式的主题里做出选择,每个网站的布局都是相同的:家庭成员被列在左边,有三个广告,中间是照片,还有“最新消息”和“活动安排”(Upcoming Events)的列表。Myfamily将在未来几周推出更加多样化的主题。

页面的顶端有一些简单明了的按钮,将整个网站的内容整理为照片(Photos)、视频(Videos)、讨论(Discussions)、幻灯片(SnapGenies)、家谱(Trees)、事件(Events)、文件(Files)和人物(People)等几个部分。一开始,我利用一个快速上传工具将电脑硬盘里的几批数码照片拖拉到网站上。照片可以单独存放,也可以存储在虚拟相册里,后者显得要有序一些。我还在网站上添加了视频,虽然上传视频耗时稍长,但是这和发布数码照片一样很容易。

Myfamily.com对语音评论的集成是一大亮点。在我侄子21岁生日的照片里,我妈妈留下了一段深情的评论,听到妈妈充满感情的声音,我不禁微笑起来。另外一张照片是我的两个亲戚在感恩节晚餐后坐在椅子上睡着的情形,我爸爸在语音评论里开玩笑称晚餐时他们一定玩疯了。这些评论也可以很容易地以文字形式显示,不过根据屏幕上的指导拨打一个电话,输入个人识别码,然后再留言,我自己的家庭网站一下子就变得亲切多了。

我还利用电话创建了名为SnapGenies的录音幻灯片。我对着电话描述每一张照片的场景,然后再跳转到下一张照片上,并进行讲述。当全部结束后,我挂断电话,这样就制作了一组简单的幻灯片,所有的家人都能够轻松回放。如何结束这些SnapGenies幻灯片的提示信息应该再明确一些,不过myfamiliy表示它正在改进相关内容。

用户可以在网站上直接创建家谱,也可以把现有家谱文件上传到网站上。你可以将电脑里的照片、音频和视频上传到家谱里,家庭成员可以共享其中的信息,并为之添砖加瓦。如果你是Ancestry.com的订户(美国的搜索成本为每月13美元),用户还可以为家谱添加历史人口普查、移民和军队服役记录等附件,以及有关其他人的线索等资料等。到今年年底,myfamily.com的用户就可以将家庭网站的内容直接上传到家谱里了。

我的姊妹通过点击“讨论”按钮发布了一些内容:在“菜谱”的栏目下公开了Skillet Tamale Pie的做法,在“新闻”栏目下列出了与我们下一次家庭度假有关的网站。她让我们所有的家庭成员看一看度假远足的备选路线,以便做出决定,这引起了一些年轻家庭成员的反响。

目前,myfamily并不限制上传到网站上的资料数量,尽管具体文件的大小受到技术条件的限制(如视频文件不得超过100M,照片文件不能超过10M)。Myfamily计划在2008年年初推出一个无广告订阅的模式,届时用户可以获得更多的存储空间;该公司预测,这项付费服务的年费约为30美元。

Myfamily的注册会员每天或每周都能收到有关网站最新动态的电子邮件信息。Myfamily.com即将对网站进行改造,包括增加站内一对一聊天、简单照片编辑、在发布内容中创建超级链接等功能。

Myfamily.com的历史已有10年,对于那些担心一旦网站破产,他们好不容易输入的资料也会随之消失的家庭而言,这一点非常有说服力。为了使新老用户安心,网站的2.0版本需要确保其使用的可靠性和长期性。Myfamily.com的新版本开局不错,无论是浏览网站,还是增加新内容,各个年龄的家庭成员都可以应付自如。

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