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Re: Hosted Genealogy Software

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  • kr_afol
    The idea of web-hosted collaborative software is not new. There is at least one system out there (can t remember its name though). However, the problem that I
    Message 1 of 18 , Feb 11 2:24 PM
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      The idea of web-hosted collaborative software is not new. There is
      at least one system out there (can't remember its name though).

      However, the problem that I have found with putting even limited
      information onto the WWW (in a non-collaborative way) is that there
      is always someone who wants to violently disagree with it.

      For example, I have a relative who thinks our great-grandfather had
      3 marriages compared to the 2 I believe occurred. The issue hinges
      on one document that contains the name of this purported third wife.
      I believe that this is simply an appalling rendering of the German
      name of the second wife by an English clerk and that there is no
      third wife. He believes there is a third wife. Now my point here is
      not who is right or who is wrong. My point is that different people
      can look at the same source material and form different conclusions
      and this is where collaboration gets tricky.

      Yes, you can have a system of confidence levels that each researcher
      can assign to each fact, but frankly I'm not sure I want to
      have "my" family history full of putative spouses and other junk
      that I have to run around assigning low levels of confidence to. I
      think it would irritate me enormously. If every researcher maintains
      their own database, then everyone is free to have their own version
      of events and add only that which pleases them to add.

      I guess in summary, the idea is a good one, but I worry about the
      social side of collaboration.

      For example, who would ultimately control the information on the
      collaborative site? Look at this Yahoo group as a point in case.
      There is a group owner who ultimately controls the group. I presume
      that any message I post can be unilaterally deleted by the group
      owner and that I can be thrown out of the group by the group owner.
      So the group owner is all powerful but since I have very little
      invested in my involvement in the group, that's OK.

      But how would a collaborative genealogy site work in this regard? I
      have a lot of research invested in my family history. Would I be
      happy to use a site hosted by SomeoneElse as my primary information
      store? Would I be confident it would continue to be available? Would
      I be happy that the site owner could (for whatever reason) delete
      material I had added? Hmm, maybe not.

      Kerry
    • Paul Blair
      I have had phpGedView running for about 2 years less a couple of months. There are 30 users, about half of them have edit rights. This means they can suggest
      Message 2 of 18 , Feb 11 4:04 PM
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        I have had phpGedView running for about 2 years less a couple of
        months. There are 30 users, about half of them have "edit" rights.
        This means they can suggest amendments, or add new data. The data is
        a copy of what I have on my own home machine, and the site is
        password protected.

        All changes comes back to me to approve. That sounds a bit extreme,
        but this starts can start a negotiation process. In all of the work
        (perhaps a couple of hundred amendments), there have been only 2
        unresolved issues, and these are added to the notes so the
        disagreement is known about.

        The collaboration spans the globe - England, Canada, Texas (well,
        they seem to think it's a country!), all over Australia (where we're
        not so sure...) It has saved me countless hours of research, created
        interest where there may have been none before, and opened doors that
        I've really delighted about. The process holds no fears for me. And
        it sure speeds up family debate!

        My 2c worth.

        Paul

        At 09:24 am 12-02-2006, you wrote:
        >The idea of web-hosted collaborative software is not new. There is
        >at least one system out there (can't remember its name though).
        >
        >However, the problem that I have found with putting even limited
        >information onto the WWW (in a non-collaborative way) is that there
        >is always someone who wants to violently disagree with it.
        >
        >For example, I have a relative who thinks our great-grandfather had
        >3 marriages compared to the 2 I believe occurred. The issue hinges
        >on one document that contains the name of this purported third wife.
        >I believe that this is simply an appalling rendering of the German
        >name of the second wife by an English clerk and that there is no
        >third wife. He believes there is a third wife. Now my point here is
        >not who is right or who is wrong. My point is that different people
        >can look at the same source material and form different conclusions
        >and this is where collaboration gets tricky.
        >
        >Yes, you can have a system of confidence levels that each researcher
        >can assign to each fact, but frankly I'm not sure I want to
        >have "my" family history full of putative spouses and other junk
        >that I have to run around assigning low levels of confidence to. I
        >think it would irritate me enormously. If every researcher maintains
        >their own database, then everyone is free to have their own version
        >of events and add only that which pleases them to add.
        >
        >I guess in summary, the idea is a good one, but I worry about the
        >social side of collaboration.
        >
        >For example, who would ultimately control the information on the
        >collaborative site? Look at this Yahoo group as a point in case.
        >There is a group owner who ultimately controls the group. I presume
        >that any message I post can be unilaterally deleted by the group
        >owner and that I can be thrown out of the group by the group owner.
        >So the group owner is all powerful but since I have very little
        >invested in my involvement in the group, that's OK.
        >
        >But how would a collaborative genealogy site work in this regard? I
        >have a lot of research invested in my family history. Would I be
        >happy to use a site hosted by SomeoneElse as my primary information
        >store? Would I be confident it would continue to be available? Would
        >I be happy that the site owner could (for whatever reason) delete
        >material I had added? Hmm, maybe not.
        >
        >Kerry
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • Kerry Raymond
        ... This is my point. The reason it works (for you) is that you remain in control, some are allowed to assist you, while others have merely an observer role.
        Message 3 of 18 , Feb 11 8:35 PM
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          > All changes comes back to me to approve. That sounds a bit
          extreme,
          > but this starts can start a negotiation process.
           
          This is my point. The reason it works (for you) is that you remain in control, some are allowed to assist you, while others have merely an observer role. I'd be happy if I remained in control of the data too :-) But would it work for you if you didn't have that control and if everyone had edit rights? Would you be happy to put your data on my phpGedView where I had the control?
           
          Just out of curiousity ... with phpGedView (which I have never used, but have seen it on a few sites), what happens if I set up one too (over which I retain control as you do) and then we discover that we have a branch of our two families in common. How do we combine the information? Which site holds/controls it? One or both? If a WWW-hosted collaborative system was to work, it must scale to encompass this kind of thing from both a technical and social standpoint.
           
          To some extent, I am replaying a discussion here that took place among some of my colleagues (all distributed system researchers, but most of them not genealogists) a couple of years ago. Our conclusion was that a distributed network of genealogical information was probably possible, but there were a lot of pitfalls to be dealt with, both in terms of the technical side and the social side.
           
          Kerry
           
           
        • Paul Blair
          ... Well, if everyone had edit rights, I d still have control. Note that I have control only because its my site. If it belonged to my sister, she would have
          Message 4 of 18 , Feb 11 8:53 PM
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            At 03:35 pm 12-02-2006, you wrote:
            > > All changes comes back to me to approve. That sounds a bit extreme,
            > > but this starts can start a negotiation process.
            >
            >This is my point. The reason it works (for you) is that you remain
            >in control, some are allowed to assist you, while others have merely
            >an observer role. I'd be happy if I remained in control of the data
            >too :-) But would it work for you if you didn't have that control
            >and if everyone had edit rights? Would you be happy to put your data
            >on my phpGedView where I had the control?

            Well, if everyone had edit rights, I'd still have control. Note that
            I have control only because its my site. If it belonged to my sister,
            she would have control. I guess I then have to show people that I'm
            using my power responsibly. If I didn't have control...hmmm....I
            think there would be difficulties.
            >
            >Just out of curiousity ... with phpGedView (which I have never used,
            >but have seen it on a few sites), what happens if I set up one too
            >(over which I retain control as you do) and then we discover that we
            >have a branch of our two families in common. How do we combine the
            >information? Which site holds/controls it? One or both? If a
            >WWW-hosted collaborative system was to work, it must scale to
            >encompass this kind of thing from both a technical and social standpoint.

            Sites like mine depend on GEDCOMs for feedstock. So, if we want to
            share info, we need to share GEDCOMs, I guess. The web site is only a
            mirror of my work, not the prime holding. Changes that come to me get
            transferred by hand back to the master file. Tedious at times, but it
            gives me thinking time...

            At the end of the day, software is only a tool. But remember that I'm
            collecting data for me, to share with whom I choose. I don't own
            anything, nor would I criticise anyone for doing what I might have
            done already. Anyone else can do what I did (probably better!) and
            I'm not shoving my work (and errors) onto them. They have free will.
            >
            >To some extent, I am replaying a discussion here that took place
            >among some of my colleagues (all distributed system researchers, but
            >most of them not genealogists) a couple of years ago. Our conclusion
            >was that a distributed network of genealogical information was
            >probably possible, but there were a lot of pitfalls to be dealt
            >with, both in terms of the technical side and the social side.

            I agree totally. Being able to negotiate is an essential part of all
            this! My mother had a poster in her kitchen about sweet words, and
            not having to eat them tomorrow!

            Regards

            Paul
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