How to Use Technology to   Strengthen Family Ties 

by Robert Dunford 

with Adam and Bryan Dunford      Copyright 2008. Robert R. Dunford 

    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. —Kahlil Gibran This book is dedicated to our seven arrows and their families. —Robert and Jill Dunford        
Note: Throughout this book you will see three petals or links.   The link on the left represents your parents, grandparents and other ancestors (i.e., the past)  The link in the middle represents you (i.e., the present), and  The link on the right represents your children and descendants, whether you currently have any or not (i.e., the future).

You are the central link between those who have gone before you and those who will come after you. If you don’t pass on important family traditions and other teachings to your own children, who will? We invite you to think about this. You are the key link.

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

Introduction 
  I recently asked myself how much someone would have to pay me not to publish this book. I suppose there may be some number, but it certainly would be in the millions of dollars. Why? Because what we have learned and enjoyed with our family has been priceless to us. We want to share it with you. Our whole desire behind this book is to help strengthen families. We live in a time of changing values and questionable ethics. As my sons and I write this,    once-solid economic institutions are teetering on the verge of collapse and some have already fallen, local and national governments are being shaken to their foundations, and wars and rumors of wars seem to be regular fare in newspapers.

And these are only some of the difficulties facing us. We have found that staying close together as a family can be a strong defense against, and a stable influence in, difficult times. We have found that, in addition to one’s religious faith, which has proved be a powerful stabilizing influence in hard times, three of the most helpful methods of bringing about the stability we seek include the following: 1. Doing things together as a family regularly, even though some of us are separated by several time zones. 2. Communicating often with each other. 3. Recording and passing along family memories and traditions from past and present generations for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations.     This book is about how to use technology to help you do all three more easily and inexpensively, even if your family is spread around the world.

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

Table of Contents  
Introduction What is “Technology”? Tool #1: Blogs Tool #2: CDs/DVDs of family memories Tool #3: Email newsletters Tool #4: DVD slideshows with music Tool #5: On-demand book printing Tool #6: Online meeting services Tool #7: Private websites Tool #8: Videos Tool #9: Online family meetings Tool #10: Family organizations Invitation 3 5 8 11 14 16 18 22 25 28 32 40 45

     

You are invited to reprint or redistribute this book freely. The only restrictions are that the content and links may not be changed or edited in any way and that proper credit and attribution are given to the author and his website, www.strengthenties.com

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

What is “Technology”?  
Let’s first define what we mean by the term “technology.” For purposes of this book, technology will mean “computer-based tools and software for communicating with specific groups of individuals, such as families.” We’ll not be discussing tools for communicating one-on-one with individuals, such as telephones, cell phones, instant messaging and the like, nor videogames, nor technology for broadcasting to mass audiences such as radio or television. Technology Is a Tool. Money Is a Tool. A Shovel Is a Tool. Like money or a shovel, technology is neither good nor bad in and of itself. Rather, it becomes good or bad depending on how it is used. For example, the power of technology can be used to strengthen families through connecting with each other and promoting family-centered learning, or to destroy families through isolation, Internet affairs and online addictions. So, instead of letting technology control them… Healthy families have learned how to control technology for their benefit.

 
When I was a child our family was the first that I knew of to own a television. We were probably also among the first to have a de-coupler installed on the power cord when my mother realized we weren’t getting our chores completed! Studies have shown that… The very technology that saves us time and expands our potential can present barriers to basic human needs such as love and belonging. 1 We as parents are responsible for teaching our children how technology can be used to support building happy and healthy individuals and families. When I was invited to give some presentations on strengthening families at Brigham Young University’s annual Conference on Family History & Genealogy 5 

this past summer, I called on two of my married sons, Adam and Bryan, top graduates from their respective colleges and excellent fathers themselves, to assist me.

I knew they’d do a great job, and they did! Adam brought up the fact that there are two big barriers to any technology: lack of awareness and lack of comfort.   “First, you need to have actually heard of a product or technology before you will try it,” he said. “Second, you have to learn enough about it to weigh the pros and cons and determine whether you are comfortable enough to try it out.”

Ours is a pretty highly-connected family. I was grateful that both sons were excited to help me teach in simple, non-marketing, layperson terminology what great tools are out there for furthering family connectivity and the pros and cons of each. What follows are the essential elements contained in our BYU lectures, plus some additional thoughts and suggestions where electronic technology can open whole new vistas as tools for strengthening ties to and among your family.

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

Ten Tools of Technology to Strengthen Family Ties We hope you will learn enough about these tools to feel comfortable enough to try out a few of them. See which ones will work best for you and your family! By the way, we’re fully aware your children are likely more familiar with and more savvy about these than you may be. So… … how about enlisting your children in your journey of discovery! Remember, we’ve chosen these particular tools because they allow communicating simultaneously with several individuals, such as a family, rather than tools such as instant or text messaging and phone calls which involve just two people. Nevertheless, text messaging, old-fashioned letter-writing and picking up the telephone and calling a loved one shouldn’t be ignored as powerful, one-on-one ways to strengthen relationships. So these are the Ten Tools of Technology we’ll be discussing that you can use to help strengthen your family ties. You may be using some of these already:           Tool #1: Blogs Tool #2: CDs/DVDs of family memories Tool #3: Email newsletters Tool #4: DVD slideshows with music Tool #5: On-demand book printing Tool #6: Online meeting services Tool #7: Private websites Tool #8: Videos Tool #9: Online family meetings Tool #10: Family organizations

Tool #1: Blogs
A blog (which is a contraction for web log) is an Internet-based communications tool set up and written by an individual with regular entries covering events, photographs, personal thoughts, movie and book recommendations, etc.—about whatever the “blogger” chooses to write. A blog is like an easily-updatable website. They’re really easy to start. Here’s an example of one of the hundreds —or thousands— of free blog templates available to help you get started:

My daughter, Brittany, like many bloggers, uses her blog as an online diary or an information site for invited guests who can make comments about what has been posted. It is a valuable way to communicate with a number of people when one does not have the time for individual updates. She relates marvelous insights about her family and activities. Reading about them is almost as good as being-there, because…

…Sometimes more complete information is found on our daughter’s blog than what we hear in conversations with her! Many people use their blogs as an enriched personal journal because they allow the insertion of photos, music, video clips and other material that would be difficult to include in a regular journal. Software providers include, among others,  Blogger/Blogspot (Free)  MovableType,  Textpattern,  TypePad, and  WordPress. These are some of what we feel are the advantages of blogs: 1. Engaging format 2. Inexpensive, sometimes free 3. Easily distributed 4. Easily updated 5. Can sometimes take the place of a standard website 6. Helps one keep a running record of his or her life After reading the preceding overview of blogs, you may already be asking yourself… …How does one decide which tools are best for one’s own family? We have provided a chart to help you compare and decide—focusing on blogs in the chart below, but later we’ll be presenting the other nine tools which can also be used to help strengthen families, along with their respective comparison charts. There are a number of criteria or decision factors that one can use to choose the best electronic communication source to employ with a particular audience. We have listed the eight criteria we use across the top of the chart below. In each criterion we have shown a performance rating reflecting how well a tool performs in that criterion, based on our experience. Performance ratings are on a 1-to-10 scale: “1” = does not perform well; “10” = performs very well. A similar chart after Tool #8 (p. 31) summarizes the performance ratings of all the electronic tools evaluated.

Our evaluation chart for blogs can be found below. You may use your own ratings for this or any other chart if your own experience leads you to disagree with the rating shown.

Easy access to data 7 6.8

Low cost

Easy to use

Minimal equipt., software,

Low maintenance

High permanence

High privacy

Rich user experience

Totals

CRITERIA→

“Blogs” performance ratings: Average of all performance ratings:

8

7

7

2

3

7

7

48

6.4

6.4

6.8

4.4

5.8

7.8

7.3

51.4

Let’s turn our attention now to the second tool, CDs and DVDs of family memories.

                     
 

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

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Tool #2: CDs and DVDs of Family Memories  
In our family we try to undertake a major project or event every seven years. Borrowing from Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, we call it a BHAG for “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.” At our 1998 family reunion when we were discussing our next BHAG with our children and their spouses, I guessed they would want to set a goal to have some “fancy shmancy” vacation in Aruba or Mexico at the end of the next seven years. Surprise, Surprise! OUT OF ALL THE COOL THINGS they could have chosen to pursue (like a vacation in Aruba), the single goal they most wanted to achieve in the next seven years was to develop what my oldest son, Matt, called an “index of memories.” or a FAMILY ARCHIVE of all of our photos, videos and other family memorabilia. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I had no idea our family memories were so important to them that they would pass up a vacation in Aruba to have their own copy of our family archives.

I wish I could say we got all of the necessary digitizing completed in the following seven years, but I can’t. The sixteen CDs and DVDs shown above contain the beginnings of our family archive, but it is nowhere near complete. We still have a bunch of movies and videos to edit and digitize before the job will be complete. But we’re working on it! Nevertheless, the digitizing of several thousands of our slides and photos has already yielded significant dividends. For example, the easy access to our memories on CDs has been a major advantage for…  stories,  wedding videos, 11 

  

online family meetings, animated picture frames, and other family-memories-enhancing projects

Importantly, the peace of mind that we feel knowing that we have copies of these import memories cannot be ignored. And each family has its own set, meaning that even if our household were to suffer fire or flood, there are other copies of the same information CDs and DVDs of family memories can contain organized presentations, such as music slideshows (explained in Tool #4) or be merely compilations of electronic files of documents, photographs, recipes, etc. with no organization at all. Regardless, they can be a valuable and cost-effective way to make precious and fragile material, such as photos and movies, available for the whole family. Including some kind of a menu or index to the data can make the information more easily-accessed. These are some of the advantages of digitizing memories on CDs or DVDs:         Holding many types of files: documents, photographs, movies, videos, recipes, etc., i.e. anything that can be digitized Large capacity Organized (menu-based) or not Compact Inexpensive Easy to reproduce Easy to distribute Semi-permanent backup

Although they are not usually sold in regular retail stores, we suggest you try to buy CDs or DVDs that are certified archive-quality. 12 

Why? Because… Government testing has shown wide variability in the expected life of a CD or DVD. Certain types show symptoms of “CD rot” or “DVD rot” in as soon as five years. Here is our evaluation chart for the benefits of CDs and DVDs :

Easy access to data 10 6.8

Low cost

Easy to use

Minimal equipt., software,

Low maintenance

High permanence

High privacy

Rich user experience

Totals

CRITERIA→

“CDs/DVDs” performance ratings: Average of all performance ratings:

7

4

6

5

8

8

7

55

6.4

6.4

6.8

4.4

5.8

7.8

7.3

51.4

Next, let’s focus on tool #3, email newsletters.

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

13 

Tool #3: Email Newsletters

 
Email newsletters are another example of a great way to correspond with a number of people, especially your family, at one time. My daughter, Heather—a busy mother of five—is the driving force behind our family newsletter for her siblings and parents. I think you will believe me when I say that every monthly issue brings smiles, laughter and often a lump in our throat. Although one could make it fancier, with bold headings, colors, etc., a good newsletter can be nothing more grandiose than family email messages pasted one after the other, as in the following example. It’s the content that counts.

In some families, newsletters are sent as a chain letter where one person writes his or her information and then sends it to the next member of the family.  The next member adds their information and forwards it to the next, and so forth.  When the letter is finally returned to the original member, he or she deletes their old information, adds new and begins the process again. Our way, however, is to have all participants send their information to Heather as our “family record keeper” who combines them all into a single newsletter which is sent simultaneously to all participants. Unlike the “chain letter” format, the single newsletter requires all contributors to submit their entries by a specific date to send out a newsletter covering events from the period before. A reminder results in more responses. BUT… emails can be very fragile and are easily misplaced. Further, Have you ever had your computer crash and lose all your data? 14 

For this reason, many families have found it valuable for the record keeper to print hardcopies of the newsletters to make an additional form of preservation. Some advantages of email newsletters, then, include the following:      They can either be a chain letter or be content sent to a central person who distributes the newsletter to all the others They can serve as part of the historical (or hysterical, in our case) record of the family They’re easy to do They’re inexpensive They’re easy to distribute

Easy access to data 10 6.8

Low cost

Easy to use

Minimal equipt., software,

Low maintenance

High permanence

High privacy

Rich user experience

Totals

CRITERIA→

“Email Newsletters” performance ratings: Average of all performance ratings:

10

9

9

4

2

7

3

54

6.4

6.4

6.8

4.4

5.8

7.8

7.3

51.4

Let’s turn our attention now to tool #4, DVD slideshows with music.

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

15 

Tool #4: DVD Slideshows with Music

 
When I prepared my first video slide show for my siblings and their families years ago, it was just that: a slide show of 35mm slides recorded on VHS video. It was about our deceased parents and their ancestors, with accompanying narration and music. I wasn’t prepared for their reaction. Following the screening for my siblings and their spouses there was dead silence. “Don't they like it?” I wondered. When the lights came up I could see that my oldest brother was in tears— completely unlike him at the time. Why? I asked. Everyone knew our mother was an angel, but he said he’d forgotten what a great man our father was. It was then that I learned first-hand that… There is great power in combining music and words with images in communicating deep feelings of family.

A DVD slideshow brings that same communications power via a compilation of still images and/or video, usually with a music background.  Music slideshow DVDs can be particularly meaningful when a family member is celebrating a birthday or some other milestone or as a memorial of one who has passed away.  They are also a fun way to introduce family members to their ancestors at a family reunion or for personal home viewing with the kids.  They can be organized just about any way, but the most usual is chronological by the subject’s life or by themes. Unlike my first slide show, DVD slideshows do not usually contain spoken dialogue. Nevertheless, images combined with appropriate music can make for a moving and impactful presentation. As a rough guide to avoid making a boring presentation, 16 

  

A still image should be changed about every six seconds. This means an average of ten still images per minute are required. A twenty minute DVD slideshow, therefore, will need about 200 images; a ten-minute video will use about 100 images.

There are many providers, both of “Do it yourself” software and of “Let us do it for you” services. Here are a few:  iDVD  ProShow  DVDSlideshow  LastingLinks.com (sponsor of this eBook)  Slideroll.com  Dvd-photo-slideshow.com Summarizing the features of DVD slideshows:      Use still images and/or video Require many images Music makes them moving and impactful Dialogue can make them even more powerful Many providers, both in do-it-yourself software and services

Here is our summary evaluation of the benefits of DVD slideshows. Easy access to data 3 6.8 Low cost Easy to use Minimal equipt., software, Low maintenance High permanence High privacy Rich user experience Totals

CRITERIA→

“DVD slideshows” performance ratings: Average of all ratings:

7

7

7

5

8

7

9

53

6.4

6.4

6.8

4.4

5.8

7.8

7.3

51.4

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

17 

Tool #5: On-Demand Book Printing

 
When we were teenagers, my brothers and I rarely left the house on a date or with our friends without our parents sending a familiar admonition ringing after us: “Remember who you are.” We knew what they meant—that we were to behave ourselves in ways that would not bring reproach or shame upon our family. We apparently had ancestors, too, that we weren’t supposed to disappoint. But if my siblings were like me, few, if any, of us knew who we were or from whom we descended. Yes, there were some photographs of old people we knew were relatives sitting on the mantle, but we didn’t know much about who they were. So… When we married and had our own families, we resolved to change that. In 2005, my brothers and sisters and I researched and published a print-ondemand book on the history of our parents and their forebears entitled, appropriately, Remember Who You Are. My son Bryan designed the cover made up of photos all the newspaper clippings, my father’s journal, letters, watch, etc. in this picture:

The book’s purpose was to help our own children fulfill that admonition given by our parents so often so many years before.  It seemed to fill a real information void in our lives.

18 

Although intended to benefit our children, my siblings and I were major beneficiaries, because we learned so many things about our parents and their ancestors that we never knew before.

A statement by my older brother, David, during one of our progress reports aptly described the new appreciation each of us had for our parents: “I wonder if any of us,” he said, “will ever measure up.” I realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to grow up in a family like I had. But our family wasn’t perfect. No family is. Nevertheless, great value has come from preparing our family history. Both good examples and bad examples have provided cautionary and insightful tales that have benefited, and will continue to benefit, our children and grandchildren. Print-on-demand books made it all possible. Modest, middle-class income families like ours could not have afforded to purchase the hundreds of books in a typical printing run of years gone by. Today however, print-on-demand (or P.O.D.) books are not printed until they are ordered. New technology makes small, short runs possible.      P.O.D. uses digital technology to print items for a fixed cost per copy, often without regard to the size of the order. It eliminates the need for large inventories of books and the waste from unsold ones. If more books are needed, the process of reprinting materials is quick and usually no more expensive per-copy than the original run. P.O.D. books also allow one to make additions as new material is developed or found (as in our experience with another book of family history). Although not as initially flashy or interactive as other tools, content printed in books can often move people very powerfully, as we have experienced in the books we have created as a family.

19 

We have two family history books in print that you may also see online:  Remember Who You Are, available in excerpts here: Google Books and in a complete edition here: Family History Archives  The Isaac and Leah Bailey Dunford Family Story available in excerpts here: Google Books and in a complete edition here: Family History Archives. The writing, printing and binding of any book, but especially a book of family history, can be a major undertaking. For this reason, as the general editor for both the above two books, I involved a number of family members to help with such things as:  Research  Writing  Editing  Layout  Funding  Cover design Nine key contributors were involved with the first book and eleven key contributors were involved with the second. This proved to me again the old adage… Many hands make light work. As with DVD slideshows, there are a number of providers, both in the “Do it yourself” vein and of “Let us do it for you” services. Here are a few:       Blurb.com Borders.com Lulu.com LastingLinks.com (sponsor of this eBook) Mimeo.com MyPublisher.com

Advantages of print-on-demand books include:        Low runs Nearly fixed-cost per copy Easily reprinted No technical or format obsolescence No “crashes” or “booting up” time required Usually long life Can be physically held, touched and enjoyed.

20 

Here is our evaluation chart of the benefits print-on-demand books:

Easy access to data 9 6.8

Low cost

Easy to use

Minimal equipt., software,

Low maintenance

High permanence

High privacy

Rich user experience

Totals

CRITERIA→

“Print on Demand Books” performance ratings: Average of all performance ratings:

5

6

7

5

9

8

7

56

6.4

6.4

6.8

4.4

5.8

7.8

7.3

51.4

Continuing these Ten Tools of Technology to Strengthen Family Ties, online meeting services is discussed on the next page.

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

21 

Tool #6: Online Meeting Services

 
One day about two years ago I was pondering on my family’s progress when I received the following inspired thought (which I viewed as direction): Use my business’s online meeting service to strengthen our family’s ties to one another. My business associates and I had been using an online service for our weekly meetings. It saved a lot of time and effort not having to drive across town to meet together. We found we could be just as effective reporting to each other on our progress via a computer screen and conference call as we could in person. When I brought up the idea (of using our online meeting service for family meetings) with my associates, it was favorably received. Just as long as my planned Sunday night family meetings didn’t interfere with workweek business meetings, it was fine with them.

Inasmuch as using online meeting services specifically for family meetings is a fairly new idea, we will give you much greater “how to” detail later on. (See “Tool #9: On-line Family Meetings”.) For our purposes right now let us summarize by saying that there are several online meeting services available in varying levels of cost, quality, and ease of use/installation. As a pre-requisite for consideration for this discussion, to be applicable to the largest number of individuals, an online service had to: 1. 2. 3. 4. Be free (preferable) or no more than $50 per month, Be available for Windows-based computers, Require no “server-side” hardware or know-how, and Offer a visual component in addition to audio.

22 

Additionally, although many of these services could be used at a “web café”, library, or other public internet location, for privacy and convenience, we recommend a home-based or private internet connection and computer. Examples of providers include:      DimDim.com GoToMeeting.com Oovoo.com Skype.com Yugma.com

Features include:     Visual images (but not always moving video) Audio (either via phone line or computer or both) Group dynamics, almost as good as “being there” Set up and run by host but control may be given to participants

Our evaluation chart for online meeting services is on the following page:

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

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Easy access to data 5 6.8

Low cost

Easy to use

Minimal equipt., software,

Low maintenance

High permanence

High privacy

Rich user experience

Totals

CRITERIA→

“Online Meeting Services” performance ratings: Average of all performance ratings:

5

7

7

5

3

9

8

49

6.4

6.4

6.8

4.4

5.8

7.8

7.3

51.4

Next, let’s discuss private, password-protected websites as our seventh tool to strengthen family ties.

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Tool #7: Private Websites 

 
When a former business partner’s son took his own life, and when my daughterin-law came out of surgery for a brain tumor blind, mute, and virtually paralyzed, we and both our families were devastated. It turned out that a method our group had recently developed for creating private, password-protected websites, provided centers of family and friends’ communications and support for both of us during these difficult times.

Both of us were able to meet the needs of a large number of concerned family and friends who wanted and needed to…  Grieve,  Share their feelings,  Receive answers to their questions,  Contribute memories of happier times such as photos, stories, poems and other information,  “Be in the loop” on detailed updates, and  Rejoice in the positive things surrounding the lives of our respective children … without it being a big demand on the family or broadcasting our private situation to the world. My partner then made a print-on-demand book from the marvelous content uploaded to his deceased son’s web site. Both the website and his book memorializing his son’s life became major healing balms for him, his family, and for his son’s friends. Now, two years later, my daughter-in-law seems 80%-90% recovered from her surgery. Through her “recovery website” we’ve been able to easily communicate with and update more than 80 concerned family members and friends on her progress on a regular basis. 25 

Unlike social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook, private websites are password-protected. Here’s the scoop on private, password-protected websites:        Private websites are developed by individuals or families to communicate and collaborate with one another. Participants receive access to the website by invitation only. They are often used to share what each family has been doing, such as among the children of common parents, making it a family website. Participants can share video and audio clips, photos, other digital files and comments with one another. They can be used to communicate information for coming events, such as family reunions or vacations. Private websites are often used to express condolences to the family of an individual who has passed away or to communicate to others the status of an individual who has been hospitalized with a serious illness. Like blogs, those involved can make comments about other members’ activities or share information.

A summary of advantages would include:     Sharing and collaboration Invitation only—privacy Able to handle all digital files: photos, audio, video, text, email, etc. Upload and download files (selected providers)

Here are several providers of private, password-protected websites designed for both families and friends:    getmyfamilysite.com lastinglinks.com (sponsor of this eBook) myfamily.com 26 

  

mygreatbigfamily.com thefamilypost.com ning.com

Here is our evaluation chart for the benefits of private websites:

Easy access to data 7 6.8

Low cost

Easy to use

Minimal equipt., software,

Low maintenance

High permanence

High privacy

Rich user experience

Totals

CRITERIA→

“Private Web Sites” performance ratings: Average of all performance ratings:

6

8

8

6

5

9

7

56

6.4

6.4

6.8

4.4

5.8

7.8

7.3

51.4

Let’s move on now to Tool #8, Videos.

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

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Tool #8: Videos Videos prepared for private settings as well as those viewable publicly over the Internet have become hugely popular ways of sharing information on a myriad of subjects. In the U.S., more than 11 billion online videos are watched on a monthly basis and the number is climbing. 2

Although our family has more than 50 VHS and 70 Hi8 videotapes in the process of being transferred to DVD, we have only 10 or 15 of what we consider real “videos” in our family. We don’t consider videotaped raw materials to be real “videos” until they have been made watchable at least by editing, and preferably the addition of music for emotional impact, titles, and even narration or scripting for storyline. Our finished videos include the presentations made of the courtship and marriages of our sons and daughters. One daughter told me that when she moved to Alaska with her new husband to help start a new business, she watched the video we made for their marriage nearly every day. Videos can also include productions for the fun and enjoyment of family members. When our sons were serving missions for our church at various times, the brothers at home would sometimes make a video for whichever brother was serving away at the time. These videos are hilarious and often exciting spoofs of famous adventure movies with amusing content and titles such as    The Golden Sphincter Mission Unpossible Redneck Fury

Each features the fight of good against evil (with themselves acting both as heroes and villains) and contains feats of skill and daring mixed with physical

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prowess and inside family jokes. These videos became cult favorites in the neighborhood and, later on, often drew many viewers at college dorm screenings. The girls in the family (mother, sisters and wives of our sons) got tired (or jealous) of all the attention the boys’ videos were getting and made their own spoof of the boys’ spoofs. Shot in one Thanksgiving weekend, their version of the above “The Trilogy of Mayhem” was entitled Demosnik’s Revenge. It was so entertaining that it became the fourth member of the now-renamed collection, “The Tetralogy of Mayhem.” The important thing about these videos is not whether they were well- or poorly-executed. (There is much of both in these videos.) The thing is that they provided an enjoyable important vehicle for our sons and daughters to work together team to accomplish a good, mutuallyunitedly as a end. edifying The question of whether the end results are praiseworthy or laughable is secondary. And, with the exception of a little filming and editing help on the girls’ video, all were completed with little or no input, help or even encouragement from the parents. Another type of video, a video documentary, can be an effective tool in communicating any message, including turning the hearts of the children to their family, including their ancestors.

Unlike a slideshow DVD that usually has just pictures and music, a video documentary often includes those elements plus interviews, and views of actual locations where events took place. A documentary can require a

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significant amount of research, even writing a script and perhaps selecting a producer, etc. How to get started:   Speak with family members—get input Circulate a Request for a Proposal (RFP) o Background and need o Objectives—what you want video to do o Methods—to be specified in RFP o Cost and timing—to be specified in RFP Circulate RFP to candidate producers Execute agreement Track results, progress

  

Our extended family organization is undertaking a video documentary as we write this. Here is our evaluation chart for videos:

Easy access to data

Low cost

Easy to use

Minimal equipt., software,

Low maintenance

High permanence

High privacy

Rich user experience

Totals

CRITERIA→

“Videos” performance ratings: Average of all performance ratings:

3 6.8

3 6.4

3 6.4

3 6.8

3 4.4

8 5.8

7 7.8

10 7.3

40 51.4

A summary of our evaluation of electronic media tools is on the following page.

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

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Summary Evaluation of Electronic Media Tools
As promised earlier, and inasmuch as the final two tools are not strictly electronic but are facilitated by electronic tools, let us summarize at this point our evaluations of the performance of the foregoing technologies. Again, the scale is from “1” to “10” where"1" = does not perform well and "10" = performs very well, within each criterion.

Easy access to data

Low cost

Easy to use

Minimal equipt., software,

Low maintenance

High permanence

High privacy

Rich user experience

Totals

CRITERIA→

Blogs CDs/DVDs of family memories Email newsletters On-demand book printing Online meeting services Private websites Slideshow/music DVDs Videos

7 10 10 9 5 7 3 3

8 7 10 5 5 6 7 3

7 4 9 6 7 8 7 3

7 6 9 7 7 8 7 3

2 5 4 5 5 6 5 3

3 8 2 9 3 5 8 8

7 8 7 8 9 9 7 7 7.8

7 7 3 7 8 7 9 10 7.3

48 55 54 56 49 56 53 40 51.4

Average of all performance 6.8 6.4 6.4 6.8 4.4 5.8 ratings: Ratings key: "1" = does not perform well; "10" = performs very well.

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Tool #9: Online Family Meetings
This tool and Tool #10 for strengthening family ties may incorporate electronics, but we will be focusing on their content, rather than on the method of delivery. The following discussion is based on our family’s two years of experience conducting online family meetings. Since this concept is so new, we’ll go into more detail on this tool than we have on the other tools.

This discussion covers the following topics:  Background and need  Types of services available  Services review, strengths & weaknesses  Conducting an online meeting  Considerations for effectively involving family members

Background and Need Drawing near to living family members is an important element in strengthening ties that bind families together, as is remembering and learning about those who have passed on. Nuclear and extended families are often strung out in various cities and states from coast-to-coast, if not in other countries. “Getting together” periodically on a face-to-face basis can be a difficult, time-consuming, and an expensive undertaking.

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Today’s modern electronic meeting methods can minimize or remove entirely much of the difficulty, time, and expense involved in getting together on a regular basis and in turn aid in strengthening family ties. The set-up varies from family to family, but requires, at a minimum:  Computer  DSL or cable connection  Telephone or speakerphone  Meeting service such as DimDim, GoToMeeting, Oovoo, Skype or Yugma A typical set-up looks about like this:

For us, a typical electronic meeting consists of:  Brief welcome  Music slideshow or story with pictures  Sharing time with cousins  30 minutes, once/month We call our online meetings, “TeleTime with Nana and Bapa”. Our purpose is to strengthen our relationships with our children and grandchildren scattered across the country. You may have a different purpose and a different audience. The following is an example of a typical meeting. To prepare for each meeting, we first open up an image management program on the computer. We use a free program, Picasa, by Google. We organize a slide show, often by selecting and putting in order photos of our children when they were younger, which their own children now love to see. This is what the slide show “light box” looks like in which we arrange our photos:

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A few minutes before the meeting begins, we connect using the meeting service’s interface like the one below…

…and dial the conference call number, show the opening screen and wait for the other family members to logon. This is our welcome screen:

We wait for about five minutes for everyone to get online, and then launch into our pre-prepared slide show. Sometimes the slideshows have music, sometimes not.

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Often, we will have made copies of the pictures from favorite children’s stories and narrate the stories as we advance the pictures. Here’s an example of a series of slides from ‘The Princess and the Pea”:

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After about five or ten minutes, we turn the time over to the other families for “Sharing Time.” If the families have any pictures that children have drawn, or photos from recent activities like a birthday, or school event, they will show them during this time.

We keep these online-get-togethers to 30 minutes, which is about the maximum attention span of our grandchildren. We asked for responses after our first TeleTime. These were one family’s reactions:     “What a great thing! I especially thought the slide show was great. The kids had fun seeing us as youngsters and trying to figure out who was who.” “The book was great and held the attention of my kids amazingly well. They were glued to the screen.” “I think my kids will look forward to this every time.” “What a clever idea and a great way to remain close to the grandkids who don't get to see you very often. I think the kids had fun hearing their other cousins as well.”

Types of Online Meeting Services Available There is quite an array of online services available in varying levels of cost, quality, and ease of use/installation. As mentioned earlier, our focus for this discussion is on services which are: 1) free (preferable) or no more than $50 per month, 2) available on PC, and 3) require no “server-side” hardware or knowhow. Additionally, although many of these services could be used at a “web café”, library, or other public location with internet service, a home-based or private internet connection and computer are preferred for privacy and convenience reasons. Several of these services also offer a visual or video component. 36 

Computer o Faster is better o Dictates video speed and choppiness/smoothness o Some laptops have camera and microphone built in Internet Connection o Faster is better o T-1 is best, then cable, then DSL; dial-up not feasible o Quality of conference call is often determined by lowest common denominator (slowest connection)

Apart from free and fee-based categorization, online meeting services can be grouped into the following categories, depending on user need:  2-party, 2-way communication o Typically one-on-one discussions, often used for technical support o Requirements: computer, internet connection, software, phone and/or headset or microphone/speakers required for both parties o Optional: webcam for either party  Multi-party, multi-way communication o Collaborative meetings and discussions, planning o Requirements: computer, internet connection, software, phone and/or headset or microphone/speakers required for all parties o Optional: webcam for any parties Presentation, document/photo sharing, 1-way presentation o Group training, taking turns presenting photos, telling stories o Requirements: computer, internet connection, software, phone and/or headset or microphone/speakers required for both parties Optional: o Headset/microphone, depending if others will be talking or taking turns presenting; o Webcam for any party; o Speakerphone if several persons are present Key Considerations for cameras: o Cost o Main differences between higher-end cameras are small o Needs (video recording vs. still shots) o Lens quality o Connection (USB 2.0 is faster than USB 1.0) o Some have built-in microphone, noise cancellation

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Services Review, Strengths & Weaknesses The following is not a comprehensive listing, but rather shows the range or types of services available. Googling “web conferencing services”, for example, will generate a large number of additional options worthy of evaluation, such as DimDim, Yugma, and others. The decision factors or criteria you may want to consider in choosing the solution that is best for your family are shown across the top of the chart below: “Grandma Factor” Document Sharing Webcam Internet Voice Ease of Use

Phone

Name & Brief Description Cost Skype: a specialist in Free 6 8 8 8 7 9 7 53 this field with a lot of support and a large base of users. Phone expertise. Oovoo: a relative newFree 7 7 6 10 5 5 5 55 comer, but many users like the slick interface. Both audio and visual presentations. GoToMeeting: web $49/m 8 7 Not No 6 8 8 n/ conferencing specialist. o. rated a Chat, slide presentations, change presenters. Simple interface. Small software install. MSN Messenger: has Free 9 7 8 9 7 10 8 58 been around a long time. Still primarily a chat/instant messaging application. Note: “Grandma Factor” refers to overall lack of likely technical intimidation for installation and use. Ratings key: "1" = does not perform well; "10" = performs very well. (Max. of 80 points possible)

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Total

Chat

Conducting an Online Family Meeting When conducting an online family meeting, especially for the first time, consider the following recommendations:  Although most applications allow the meeting organizer to send an invitation via email to all parties announcing the meeting date, time and access (password, link) information, don’t depend on a single email to get your audience to your “meeting”.  With everyone’s busy schedules, meeting reminders (email, personal telephone calls, etc.) on the day of the meeting are almost always required to generate the greatest participation.  Participants should download, install, and test the software in advance so the meeting can start on time and issues can be debugged before it starts.  Hardware (computer, microphone, headset, speakers, webcam, etc.) should also be tested in advance. Microphone settings are especially important to test to avoid unnecessary feedback, noise, etc.  When not speaking, sound quality for other participants will generally improve if everyone’s microphone but the speaker’s is muted.  Overall quality is affected by internet connection speed and computer hardware—a faster internet connection and better computer hardware will result in a better overall experience. A fast internet connection is required for the best results.

Considerations for Effectively Involving Family Members Rather than focusing on the technical whiz-bangs and gadgetry of the various services, it is important that the emphasis be on the individual family members and strengthening relationships. The first few experiences using an online meeting service may be frustrating.  Some participants will likely have technical issues and feel embarrassed or frustrated.  Patience and understanding on the part of everyone will go a long way towards a positive experience.  Additionally, it is helpful to take turns or have the meeting coordinator/conductor endeavor to hear from each party to ensure no party is left out of the experience. Finally, let’s turn our attention to tool #10: family organizations. Few groups ever perform well if they are not organized. Inasmuch as they are the most important organizations on earth, let's spend some time on how to organize families successfully.

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Tool #10: Family Organizations 
In the closing days of one’s life, you never hear anyone approaching his demise say, “I should’ve spent more time at the office,” or “I wish I could have bought that bigger house.” No, if there are any regrets, they often surround the family— how he treated family members and how he invested his time with them. This final tool is about how you can organize your family to strengthen and enjoy family ties here and now, and not leave it to someone else after you are gone. Our discussion covers the following topics:  Background and need  The importance of families  How the family may be organized  How to get started  Helpful hints  Examples of family organizations  Helps that are available

Background and Need Strengthening ties that bind families together requires us to look to the needs of present and future generations of our children and grandchildren, as well as to know and appreciate past generations. We are all aware of the great challenges and opposing forces in the world which tend to tear down families and family values. Do what you can do now to organize your own and/or extended family. Strengthening family ties to combat the distractions of the world and to accomplish good works can be both challenging and exhilarating.

The Importance of Families No society or civilization on the face of the earth has prospered or endured that was not based on the success and protection of its families. From the beginning of recorded history, stable families have provided the key to stable societies. That stable families lead to stable societies 3 is taught in:  Judaism  New Testament Christianity  Roman Catholicism and other orthodox traditions  Protestantism  Islam

40 

        

Ancient Babylonia Mesopotamia Greece Oral traditions of Africa and the Americas Confucianism Taoism Hinduism Buddhism Shinto

We believe that there is no success that can compensate for failure in the family. Why Have a Family Organization? A family organization can:  Address and provide for family needs  Provide stability in turbulent times  Help members understand their place, role in society  Provide an outlet for creative energy  Teach and pass along useful traditions to the rising generation  Accomplish good works  Provide fun and enjoyment  Foster understanding for and appreciation between older and younger generations  Provide a safety net or backup in times of social, emotional, or financial need How the Family May Be Organized There are three levels of family organization:  Immediate (parent and children) family organization  Grandparent organization  Ancestral organization Let’s discuss each one in turn for a moment. Immediate (Parent and Children) Family Organization There are several tools that the immediate family organization of parent and children can use to help strengthen family ties. Here are some we use:  Online meetings (discussed in Tool #9.)  Email newsletters (Discussed in Tool #3)  Family councils

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Because the first two have already been discussed, let us say something briefly about family councils. When I was laid off from work a number of years ago, we called a family council to discuss the situation and what we should do about it. I drew for the family a picture of a bathtub with the water level representing our current financial resources. The faucet, representing our income, was shut off. The drain, representing our expenses, was still open. Even the youngest child could easily see that our resources would dwindle to nothing if our expenses were uncontrolled and our income didn’t resume soon. Our income didn’t resume soon. However, because of the cooperation, careful planning and creative ideas generated by that family council and other efforts, we were able to weather the long drought without going on welfare, and the last of our children were able to complete their college educations. Every parent-and-child family organization should have a family council comprised of all members of the family unit. We suggest the primary goals of this family council are to:  Teach basic responsibilities of the family organization to the children.  Learn how to make decisions and act upon those decisions.  Teach work ethics and self-preparedness. Grandparent Organization The grandparent organization consists of the grandparents, children and grandchildren.

If one or both grandparents are deceased, the grandparent-type organization can still function under the leadership of one or more adult children. The grandparent organization can be responsible for keeping the family and its traditions going through such activities as:  Regular get-togethers  Newsletters 42 

    

Reunions Social activities Cultural activities Soliciting funds for worthy goals, such as writing and publishing histories of parents and grandparents and their ancestors Goal-setting

Ancestral Organization An ancestral organization is comprised of descendants of a common ancestral couple. Some purposes of an ancestral organization are:  Coordinating genealogical activity on common ancestral lines.  Providing resource material from which the immediate and grandparent family organizations can draw to complete family histories.  Accumulating, filing, cataloging, and preserving histories, photographs, letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, and published books. When ancestral family organizations deviate from this major objective and seek primarily to provide social, cultural, or other types of activities, they take over the legitimate domain of the immediate and grandparent organizations.

How to Get Started    It requires only one person to take the initiative to get the ball rolling. Get as many individuals involved from different legs of the family as possible, which includes more people in the effort. Involve the younger generations in the organizing and work, which helps keep things going beyond the older group that typically does family history work.

If you are interested in learning additional ways to strengthen family ties, to preserve your heritage, and to share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations, click here.

 

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Helpful Hints  Establish goals, objectives  Work together on something  Make it fun  Keep an active committee  Involve as many as possible  Review progress regularly Examples of Family Organizations  Isaac & Leah Bailey Dunford Organization o 1,200 members o Leadership meets regularly; reunion every three years o Have fun, publish histories, fund research, maintain web site o See www.dunford.org for family web site o See www.books.google.com: The Isaac and Leah Bailey Dunford Family Story for excerpts L. Clayton and Elizabeth Bitner Dunford Family Association o See www.books.google.com: Remember Who You Are: The Life Stories of L. Clayton and Elizabeth Bitner Dunford for excerpts

Some available helps        www.lds.org, Home and Family; “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” David C. Dollahite (Ed.) (2000), Strengthening Our Families, Center for Studies of the Family, Brigham Young University Ezra Taft Benson, “Worthy of All Acceptation,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 30) L. Tom Perry, “The Need to Teach Personal and Family Preparedness,” Ensign, May 1981, 87 www.b13family.com web site under "Publications" under "Books." Select "Family Organization - The Survival Kit for the 20th Century." Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families: Building a Beautiful Family Culture in a Turbulent World Google: Family Organization

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Invitation
That’s about it. We have implemented these tools in our family and know that they work powerfully to help strengthen family ties. We sincerely hope you will try the ones that might fit your family needs best. See if they won’t help strengthen you and your family’s ties, as they have ours. The sponsor of this web site, LastingLinks.com, offers ways to  preserve your heritage, and to  share and enjoy family memories and traditions for the benefit of your family and future generations. If you are interested in learning about ways to preserve, share and enjoy family memories, click here and you will be taken to their web site.

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If you have any thoughts or feedback you’d like to share, we’d be pleased to receive them. Just click here and an easy-to-use form will open where you can submit your comments. This will help us improve future editions for families like yours. Thank you!
1

Isaacs, M. & Sabella, R.A. (September/October, 2002). For better or for worse: Technology and the family. School Counselor, 10-11 2 ComScore.com, March, 2008, http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=2223. Retrieved 5/21/08. 3 David C. Dollahite (Ed.) (2000), Strengthening Our Families, Center for Studies of the Family, Brigham Young University, 370-381.

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