The Family News Center

Are you looking for an easy, affordable and private way to share news, photos and family history in your family? The Posthaven blog platform may be just the thing. Posthaven doesn’t have the whistles and bells offered by the the major blog sites, but it does provide a simple and easy service for posting and delivering content. Posting is a easy as sending an email message. That message is automatically posted to the blog site and delivered via email to everyone subscribed to the blog. And, when subscribers receive the post, they can add their comments by simply replying to the message.

Posthaven isn’t free. It will cost you $5.00 a month, but that gives you ten blogs to use however you wish. Don’t think you need ten blogs? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be put to good use. More on that later. I suggest you begin with two blogs – one public and one private. The private one allows your family to share news that isn’t appropriate for public access. This could include vacation pictures or announcing a new arrival. Posting this kind of information on a public blog or social network can result in identity theft, burglaries and other unpleasant incidents. 

The beauty of Posthaven for family networks is how easy it is. Subscribers don’t need to remember passwords to see the latest post from a private blog. It’s delivered to their inbox. When others comment on a post, those comments are also sent to all. In our family, we post a “birthday card” – a scrapbook style graphic created just for that person. Once posted and delivered, family members can reply with their own greetings. 

Take advantage of a public blog to post family history stories. This serves several purposes. First, it’s a way to share your family’s history with your family. Stories posted on public blogs are very search-friendly and it’s not unusual to meet a research cousin (someone researching the same family you are) through your blog. 

Here are some ideas to put those other eight blogs to work . . .

  • Build a virtual museum of family heirlooms using the blog to post photos and scanned documents along with the stories associated with these artifacts.
  • Posthaven makes a great travel blog. Take pictures with your smart phone and email them with supporting descriptions to your blog. Within minutes, those photos will be delivered to all subscribers.
  • Tired of all those round-robin emails as you organize a large family event like Thanksgiving dinner, a wedding or a family reunion? Task assignments, who’s bringing what dishes and other details are delivered to each person via email while the “master list” is always available at the blog.
  • Give the kids in the family a blog and challenge them to learn about their family history – documenting what they’ve learned on the blog. As site owner, you can oversee their efforts and adult subscribers can offer encouragement and support.

Want to learn more? Download a copy of the Posthaven Primer (PDF) for details on how to get up and running.

Posthaven Traveler

We just got back from a trip to Louisiana where we ate some great meals in New Orleans, visited the World War II museum and then drove down to Avery Island to visit Tabasco headquarters. We only took our iPhones with us on this trip, but that was all we needed to capture and share the sights and special moments. All it took was a quick email to our blog's address and the latest photo and notes were posted to our family's blog and emailed to each family member. 

I was surprised at the number of comments we got as replies. Of course most of them were putting in orders for things to bring back for them, but I'll take any kind of reply I can get. LOL.

Society Posthaven

Posthaven is a great solution for small genealogical societies and family associations who want to build an online presence but have neither the money or the experience to support the project. At $5.00 a month for 10 blogs, Posthaven is quite affordable and it is surprisingly easy to use. If you can send an email message, you can post content to a Posthaven site. But - there's always a but - first you need to do a bit of planning and organization. 

Any organization - large or small - needs to set up email accounts for their officers and essential staff. These accounts can be created using an online email service like Yahoo! Mail or Gmail, but should be created using position titles rather than an individual's name. When people rotate in/out of a position, the incoming member updates the account profile and changes the password. He/she then has access to all the historical messages and can quickly get up to speed on what he needs to know. These organizational addresses are the ones that should be used to create any other accounts needed for society operations. For example, the person assigned as the society's webmaster would use the webmaster email address to create an account in Posthaven.

Speaking of Posthaven, it will serve as your society's online home, but that's just the beginning of its capabilities. It can also serve as a mailing list, delivering the latest news and announcements to your members' inboxes. And, since you can create up to 10 blogs in your account, why not also create a private, members-only site supporting two-way conversations. Posting content is as easy as sending an email message and the email delivery service supports replies from your recipients. The reply is added as a comment at the bottom of the original post on the Posthaven web site and is forwarded to everyone on the mailing list. While this could be problematic for a large society, small societies can put it to good use.

Posthaven is built around posts and pages. Posts are used to announce meetings, society news, share tips and other information. New posts are displayed on your Posthaven site in reverse chronological order with the most recent post at the top. Posts are organized using keywords - called tags. Each post is tagged with one or more keywords describing its content before it is published. If you look at the left sidebar, you'll see a list of tags. They serve as the index for the site. Click on any of the tags and you will be presented with all the posts tagged with that keyword. Click the blog's title (Posthaven Gazette on this site) and you're taken back to the home page.

Pages are maintained outside the "flow" of your posts. They are used to present more permanent content - things like a description of your society, how to join and who to contact. Pages are listed at the top of the sidebar. Right now I have two pages - About the Gazette and Posthaven Primer. There's no limit to the number of pages you can create. 

Take a look at the Posthaven Primer below to learn how this platform works. It won't take long to learn how to build and post to your site. For more help getting your small society online, check out The Society Journal. It's full of ideas you can use.

A Posthaven Primer by Moultrie Creek

Scribd for Posthaven

Scribd is an amazing platform for posting and sharing documents - and now books too. Anyone can create a free account and build their own library of documents and other original works. As a family historian, I've found it a great way to share family stories with my digitally-challenged family. And, because it's both public and very search-friendly, it also attracts relatives I haven't met yet. I like that!

When you upload a document to be included in a post on your Posthaven blog, it is automatically sent to Scribd, processed and then embedded on your post. All you have to do is upload the document or include it as an attachment in an email post. That's the good news. The bad news is that your documents are getting posted into a Scribd account associated with Posthaven. You'll never know how many people read your documents and won't "meet" the people who discover your documents through Scribd.  

It only takes a few minutes to set up an account on Scribd. Yes, it will take a few more minutes to upload and label each document, then copy the link and paste it into your post. But if you want to control your documents and keep track of the viewers who visit it at Scribd, then it's worth that extra effort.

Oh, and did I mention you can sell your own original works at Scribd? Here's the details

Posting Photos from Flickr

Flickr is one of the popular photo-sharing platforms. It's especially interesting because each user gets 1TB of storage to post their photos. That equates to more than 500,000 high-resolution photographs. So, if you've already got your photographs online at Flickr, there's really no need to upload them again at Posthaven. All you need to do is capture the link to the image(s) you want to display, then paste it on a line by itself in your post. 

Find the image you want on Flickr, then click on the Share icon to display your options. Now click on the Link icon to display the shortened link, select and copy the link. At this point you can either paste that link on a line by itself in an email message, add a subject line and send it to your Posthaven blog or use the web editor to paste that link into a post - again on a line by itself. Publish your post and Posthaven will take care of the rest.

You can email multiple photos - each link residing on a line by itself - but Posthaven displays them as inline images rather than as a gallery. 

One note, don't try to use Flickr's email option - also found as a sharing option. That email is sent from an automated service with an email address Posthaven doesn't recognize as an authorized account for your blog. 

Scheduling Posts

When using the browser to post content, you can now schedule when you want your posts to be published. It all takes place in the Post Settings area.

The first step is to check the Schedule post option. Notice that the Save and Publish button becomes Save and Schedule Post and the Schedule date section appears so you can set the day and time you want this post published. The "fine print" just under the date box will help you format the appropriate date and time. 

Note that when you choose to make a post private, the Schedule post option is no longer available. 

Conversational Twitter

Twitter is an amazing platform. It's best described as an announcement system, but thanks to a number of creative users, Twitter has become much more. Twitter's developers have taken those ideas and added features to make those creative uses much easier to accomplish. One of those is providing an easy way to display a collection of tweets (Twitter updates) on blogs. Here is one example.

Creating your own display of Twitter updates or conversations is quite easy. All you need to do is past the web address (URL) of the tweet onto a blank line in your blog post. Here are the steps involved. Click on the gallery thumbnails to wall through the demonstration.

Email Posting Goes Live

You can now publish to your Posthaven blogs via email. Doing this is as easy as sending an email message to post@posthaven from the email address you used to register your account. The subject line of your email becomes the title of your post and the content of your message becomes your post's content - including any images, documents or other files you may attach. 

Of course there's a lot more functionality than that. You'll find the details on their Post by Email page. The Posthaven Primer user guide has also been updated to include details on email posting.

Posting Inline Photos by Email

When posting photos via email, all you need to do is drag and drop the image you want to include into your email message. If you attach more than one image file, Posthaven will organize them into a gallery. However, if you include text between each attached image, then those images will be presented inline with your text. Here's what an email message looks like for posting inline photos.

Notice that the photo captions are on a line immediately below the photo but then there's a blank line between the caption and the next photo. Without those blank lines, Posthaven will collect each caption at the top of your post and then organize the images as a gallery.  Below is what the posted results of this email looks like.

View of St. George Street through the St. Augustine City Gates.

The Arrivas House on St. George Street.

Tolomato Lane