JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Using Viewmate effectively #general
Tom Venetianer <tom.vene@...>
Viewmate is an extraordinary resource (*). It allows publishing
photos, documents, vital records and everything else one can
imagine. It's almost certain that somebody will decipher what
the publisher's eyes can't.
However my experience indicates that many publishers undermine
their effort to get answers to their questions. Allow me to offer
some tips on how to improve your chances to discover what you are
1) *Phrase carefully* your questions. Sometimes they are very
confusing. "I would like to know what is written in the 2nd
column". >from left to right or vice versa? On which line? Instead
of such a vague question, why not mark the column in question with
a number or by circling it? "Do you recognize the person on this
photo?" Where and when was it taken? Can you determine the country
or place? In other words, give as many clues as you can and your
chances for an answer will increase.
2) Size the scan to allow the *best reading*. Try it yourself on
your computer and see if you can view the scan clearly. If the
original is bad, make a xerox copy and reinforce the writing with
a black pen, then scan. Even photographs can be improved by Xeroxing
them. Too small and too large scans are difficult to read mainly if
they contain old handwriting. Small scans mix up letters, large
scans can result faded.
3) Use the *correct resolution*. For viewing a picture or
handwriting on the screen 72 dots per inch are recommended (and
sufficient). Larger resolutions only serve to enlarge the picture,
extending their downloading time and, in some cases, turning the
4) Scan in *black and white*. Usually it reads better then color
scans, mainly handwritings. Even old photographs show better in
grays then in their original sepia color.
5) *Improve scans* before publishing them. Most of the scanning
programs allow to improve contrast, luminosity and brightness.
Try these controls and find the best match by trial and error. This
is specially important when publishing tombstone inscriptions which
may look faded on the original picture. Augmenting contrast and
balancing luminosity may do the trick of turning a bad photo into
6) Mention the *full URL path* to your scan.
(where 1000 is the number of your picture) takes one directly to
your scan, whereas http://data.jewishgen.org/viewmate/toview.html
only shows Viewmate's entry page. And *don't forget* to mention the
Viewmate number of your picture!
7) Corollary of the above: *always* add "http://" to the URL
address. Inside an email message such addressing scheme allows
(double)clicking on it and jumping directly to the pointed page.
Without that prefix one is forced to copy the address, switch to the
browser and paste it in the location box.
8) *Repeat your question* on the page containing your scan. People
read your message, then try to decipher your request jumping to the
pointed page. Meantime they already forgot your question.
9) Send emails *thanking* for all replies received, even those
which missed the answer. Courtesy pays off in future requests.
I hope you will find this useful.
Wishing to all a "git yur" :-)
(*) Show your appreciation for this extraordinary service by visiting