RE: [gensoft] new member self-intro
Although the early days of the Web 2.0 hype suggested that we were entering a phase when everyone would be a producer of content, time would suggest that this isn’t so. Blog posts appear to be waning in popularity, Wikipedia active editors are declining although the “micro blogs” (Facebook, Twitter) appear to be on the rise, but in all cases, the ratios of readers to writers is still very much on the side of the readers. While it is now possible for “everyone” to contribute to a range of projects and conversations, the majority of folk do not choose to do so. Most “crowd source” or “open source” projects are sustained by a relatively small core of very active participants. For this reason, I am dubious that the descendants of your particular ancestral village are going to get on board with your plan – a few will contribute directly through your UI, others will contribute if they can email/mail you the information for you to enter (do not underestimate the reluctance of folk to directly engage with even the most intuitive of UIs), a larger number will be happy to occasionally look at what you’ve produced (and probably criticise it), but most won’t be at all interested.
On the question of security/privacy, there is something of a two-edge sword here. If some/all of the content is to be kept “private”, then I am not sure why people would bother to contribute it in the first place. They either wish to share it or they don’t (or are you talking about private until death or some embargo date?). You say you don’t trust some of the public genealogy sites, but equally if you run your own site, you are asking people to trust you. I presume your reasoning here is that you have no commercial motivation to exploit the material whereas a public genealogy site might do so, but how will it look to your potential contributors?
Also shared genealogies don’t seem to work very well in practice. There are three versions of anything, yours, mine and the “truth” (which we can never really know). Just because Betty believes that the father of an illegitimate child “must have been SoAndSo” doesn’t mean another relative believes it. We can all look at the same evidence and draw different conclusions and a genealogical database is just that, a set of conclusions, not a body of evidence.
A lot of people in the genealogy space have been a bit burned by crowd-sourced projects. Many get started with grand ambitions and solicit contributions, but the project falters and the contributions are never made available/integrated (or whatever) as promised, or the site exists for a while and then disappears. The return-on-investment for contributors in many such projects is often low to non-existent and certainly I am now much less likely to contribute to a project unless I can see the clear path to a long-lived site/resource. What commitment will you be able to give to contributors as to the longevity of the site/resource created?
Is software-enabled collaboration really possible? Well, yes, Wikipedia demonstrates this is possible. Wikipedia is not perfect – there isn’t much you can really do if two people want to edit exactly the same bit of text at the same time – one set of edits wins and the other has to be refused but most of the time it works out OK. Given that the material you are trying to collect is only partially genealogical in nature, you might do better with a Wiki of some kind. While you are interested in families and individuals, there are also likely to be a wealth of other information: maps, photos, histories, farms, businesses, churches etc that does not neatly fit into a genealogical framework – to which family/individual do you link the photo of the village hall in 1900? It might be easier to not have a genealogical structure but instead focus on providing source material from which you or others could construct genealogies, which, as GEDCOMs or as PDF/Word reports/trees produced by conventional family history software, could be uploaded and made available from the wiki too. That way you have the family history according to you and the one according to Aunt Betty co-existing even if they disagree.
I would say grab some open source Wiki software (e.g. MediaWiki which underpins Wikipedia) and start gathering material. This is minimum investment to test the enthusiasm of others to contribute. If you can attract contributions, you can gradually configure/tweak/re-write the code as you go if required (take an agile approach). I think building your own software suite first is pretty much dooming your project from the outset. Our genealogy software forums are littered with “grand plans” to build the ultimate family history software, but very few ever produce even version 1, let alone something others would use.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Henry Neugass
Sent: Monday, 8 October 2012 6:12 AM
Subject: [gensoft] new member self-intro
Hello, I'm a old-time s/w (and h/w) engineer working on my eastern European family history with a small group of my co-descendants. I have a theory that if I can just find a super-user-friendly genealogy CMS, all my colleagues will join in enthusiastically to enter data. So far... nada.
Seems like I've been looking for about 5 years now. Near the start I found PhpGedView. Long story short: I couldn't figure out how to use it and get reliable results. Fail. Fast forward: At the moment I'm evaluating a PhpGedView fork/descendant, webtrees 1.3.1, on a fairly narrow collaborative project with a cousin.
I'm aiming towards (or: dreaming of) a comprehensive record of all the people who lived in my ancestral village up until 1 September 1939, the start of WWII, including 1st and 2nd generations of those who emigrated before that time. (There were probably around 3000 people in the village in 1939.) Basic genealogical data plus photos, stories, ...whatever can be found to recall that community as it was before 1939.
It is obviously a tough job: due to multiple waves of destruction of that region over the last century or so, records are fragmentary, there are multiple languages to deal with, the emigrants are scattered world-wide, and there's frequently a strong reluctance of the emigrant families to recall the old country.
Most of the people in my little group of co-descendants are not technical at all, many are elderly, so whatever I use needs to have a very clear and streamlined UI, and the security/privacy provisions need to be equally clear and strong -- without getting in the way.
The point is to have multiple people adding data to the same database, potentially at the same time. But does that ever, ever happen? (Am I dreaming?) Is software-enabled collaboration really practical? (Am I dreaming?) For that matter, does anyone even try to do a comprehensive population database? Well, sure, in places where there are longtime religious/civil records, unbroken by war or systematic destruction, right? I should have picked a family who came from one of those places. <sad grin>.
- - -
Some of you may be itching to respond, "Why not use one of the free genealogical web sites such as geni.com?" Yes, I've seen some very reasonable UI's on such sites. But, on the other hand, I'm not so reassured by the privacy and security measures - and my standards in this regard are fairly relaxed compared to some of my co-descendants. I also have some doubts about the flexibility of such sites, say, to accept any kind and length of relevant material.
Admittedly, I can't say this opinion is based on much actual experience. And I'll admit I feel a strong desire to have full control of the project, which makes me reluctant to trust public genealogy sites. What is their accountability?
- - -
Or, how about buying the best genealogy app my own computer will support --I'm on a Mac-- give up the dream of direct collaboration, do the work myself, and upload the results to, say, webtrees for viewing? I must admit this alternative is looking better and better over the years.
But I'm not ready to give up finding a really super-user-friendly genealogy CMS, even if I end up writing some of it. What's going on in this area? I haven't found much of anything, though these days, "not finding" can mean "slightly wrong search terms".
There's yet another point of view: a genealogical approach simply isn't suitable for my purpose. Maybe not, but at the moment, I can't think of any better organizing framework.
- Kerry:Thanks for your thoughtful reply on this thread:On Oct 8, 2012, at 1:57 PM, Kerry Raymond wrote:
Yep, as we used to say in the heyday of the valley: Every tekkie has a scheme for getting rich that won't work.I'll settle for finding --or developing-- some efficient data entry/transfer techniques for myself. And finding some folks who have experience doing roughly the same kind of projects from whom I can learn.And: I'll still dream of getting some actual help from my co-descendants.Thanks,Henry
- On 9 Oct 2012 at 6:57, Kerry Raymond wrote:
> Also shared genealogies don't seem to work very well in practice. There areMy experience certainly fits in with that.
> three versions of anything, yours, mine and the "truth" (which we can never
> really know). Just because Betty believes that the father of an illegitimate
> child "must have been SoAndSo" doesn't mean another relative believes it. We
> can all look at the same evidence and draw different conclusions and a
> genealogical database is just that, a set of conclusions, not a body of
Four years ago I started a family Wiki for sharing family stories, but
practically no one has contributed to it. Lots of people visit it, and read
what I have written, and probably nick some of the information for their own
family trees, but it's all take and no give, so I hardly ever update it now.
> A lot of people in the genealogy space have been a bit burned bySome of them have been remarkably successful, though, most notably FreeBMD,
> crowd-sourced projects. Many get started with grand ambitions and solicit
> contributions, but the project falters and the contributions are never made
> available/integrated (or whatever) as promised, or the site exists for a while
> and then disappears. The return-on-investment for contributors in many such
> projects is often low to non-existent and certainly I am now much less likely
> to contribute to a project unless I can see the clear path to a long-lived
> site/resource. What commitment will you be able to give to contributors as to
> the longevity of the site/resource created?
which is a very useful resource, as are the spinoffs, FreeREG and FreeCEN,
though to a lesser extent.
- In ten+ years of tracing a couple of family lines, the most success I've had in getting other people to contribute to a family tree is with a printed multi-generation chart with pictures - posted on a wall at the site where the yearly reunion is held. Those who don't find family member pictures on the chart almost always contribute at least pictures - and while you have their attention you can ask for other info.
This can lead to big charts - one year I had access to a roll-fed plotter and the chart was 3 feet high and 20+ feet long but almost everyone wanted to themselves and their immediate family. There were even a few who looked at multiple generations.
I've had almost zero success with anything promised for 'later' - maybe 1 person in 100 actually follows through.
- A lot of people do that and have lots of pens or pencils hanging around so
the blanks can be filled for dates and children.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2012 4:34 PM
Subject: [gensoft] Re: Shared genealogies and crowd sourcing
In ten+ years of tracing a couple of family lines, the most success I've had
in getting other people to contribute to a family tree is with a printed
multi-generation chart with pictures - posted on a wall at the site where
the yearly reunion is held. Those who don't find family member pictures on
the chart almost always contribute at least pictures - and while you have
their attention you can ask for other info.
This can lead to big charts - one year I had access to a roll-fed plotter
and the chart was 3 feet high and 20+ feet long but almost everyone wanted
to themselves and their immediate family. There were even a few who looked
at multiple generations.
I've had almost zero success with anything promised for 'later' - maybe 1
person in 100 actually follows through.