When it comes to labels, the term "true believers" may carry baggage. Nevertheless, whether seen negatively or positively, those who are vocally committed to a concept, a cause, or even a product are a powerful force to reckon with.
Over the years in the genealogical community, we've encountered some product-oriented changes which have raised a hue and cry. We depend on the various tools which streamline family history compilation, and when a tool proves useful, the only acceptable change is true improvement. Witness changes to the product lines at Ancestry, especially those for genetic genealogy, and the outcry when such decisions were perceived to be a step backwards.
Lately, another DNA testing company, 23andMe, has been the recipient of the outcry over retracting some product features. Whether genealogists are indeed the majority of the core constituency at 23andMe, I can't tell, but they comprise a committed and vocal customer base—"avid users," as genealogy blogger and speaker Shannon Christmas has graciously called them.
Like a similar decision last summer at Ancestry DNA, 23andMe announced their decision, weeks ago, to cut the maximum number of DNA relatives to an arbitrary 1,500 matches. This, understandably, had some genetic genealogy bloggers—Roberta Estes, for one—concerned about negative impact on customers. Customers had felt their longstanding good will shown toward the company through such actions as voluntary participation in scientific surveys had been violated—not to mention, realized the impact on their main reason for testing in the first place.
Fortunately, as did Ancestry last summer, 23andMe realized the people they serve through the sales of their product are not "just customers," but what can be called "true believers" in not only their product but their mission. A company may not realize—or may have forgotten—who actually comprises their core constituency until a crisis point such as this, but having crossed the line, they know now.
What has been heartening about the latest move by 23andMe—although they are far quieter about this than I'd hoped to see—is their willingness to work to make a compromise which will step closer to a win-win resolution. A recent blog post by Shannon Christmas detailed a brief company statement which appeared early this month in the 23andMe forum.
To view the statement in the forum, you will need to be signed in to your own 23andMe account, although a facsimile of the announcement may be viewed on "Through the Trees," Shannon Christmas' blog. Basically, if you, as a 23andMe customer, wish to retrieve the data lost upon the reduction in match count, you can contact their customer service through that forum entry. The company is performing a beta test to revise how they handle the issue, and are requesting fifty customers willing to volunteer to work with them on testing that revision.
For better or for worse, customers are becoming an integral part of product development and revision with their feedback throughout this ongoing process. How can it be surprising that products enthusiastically endorsed by that core customer base at their introduction can be revised—or even disappear—without as energetic a response? Once the genealogy community found its voice, we apparently haven't, since then, been afraid to use it.