Monday, November 30, 2015

DNA: My New 23andMe Experience

Received the email yesterday that my 'new' 23andMe experience was ready, so I took the plunge and logged into the site.  After the preliminaries of making sure how my name would be displayed and opting into sharing of reports, etc. I was ready to start exploring.

I must say that I bought my first 23andMe kit the day they stopped giving health reports - a strange coincidence, so I had never had them in the first place.  I was disappointed that they wouldn't be providing those, but my main concern was genealogy and solving family mysteries, so that disappointment was quickly forgotten.

Now that I can see some of the health reports that they are providing, I'm not sure that I was really missing anything.  I realize that the types of reports they can provide is likely dictated by the FDA, but I can't see the increased value that they are providing.  If the health reports are the justification for raising their kit price to $199, all I can say is "wow".

The reports tell me information that I could find out by looking in the mirror, such as hair and eye color, as well as caffeine usage and lactose intolerance.  Not something I find too impressive.  The other reports are negative results for rare diseases, which fortunately I do not have, but if they are so rare, then why would I be worried about them?  Maybe I'm missing the point of the reports, but I'd like to know more about indicators for cancer or epilepsy or alchoholism.

The biggest changes I see at this point have to do with the DNA Relatives and how that experience will be enhanced or hindered by the new site.  It would appear that it would be hindered.  

While not an advanced user by any stretch, I have been able to find and make connections through DNA relatives, and have been tracking my results with a spreadsheet, comparing segments and finding triangulations, etc.  When it was announced that the 'old' website would be going away, I quickly went in and re-invited all the connections that hadn't responded to me in hopes that I would keep them as a connection.

Kitty Cooper's blog has a good run-down of the changes at the new site here.

I don't like the fact that you can no longer get the table view of matching segments of DNA.  That was what I was using to populate my spreadsheet and then comparing matches to each other.  

I don't understand why you can no longer sort your DNA relative matches by the most recent, either.  That was one way to find out which new matches you might have matched.  Granted, many of them were small matches, but every little bit counts when you're working with DNA.

I'm really confused by the fact that I still have anonymous matches showing - I thought one of the changes would be that everyone would be forced into sharing or they would not show in your DNA relatives.  Perhaps these folks haven't transitioned yet to the new system.  Will have to wait and see.

I've checked out the forums at 23andMe and to say that many people are unhappy would be an understatement.  Kitty's blog posts states that they have heard from the community and many of these complaints will be addressed.  We shall see.

Honestly, at this point I'm going to move my focus on to FamilyTreeDNA for any future testing.  I have tested both of my parents, my wife, my mother-in-law and brother-in-law at 23andMe, but will use the other sites in the future. There is no reason to recommend someone pay $199 for a test kit if you are wanting to use DNA for genealogical research.  The health reports do not justify the increased cost.  I'm not ready to buy into the "big pharma" conspiracy theories on the forums, as I already understood that was part of the exchange, but I question why the company appears to be trying to turn away the genealogy community.

Just my two cents worth.

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