Friday, August 24, 2007

BYU Conference: The Digital Pipeline - Chapter 4

Stages of the Digital PipelineThis is the last installment of our report on Bill Mangum's presentation, "The Opening of the Digital Pipeline," from the final day of the BYU Genealogy and Family History Conference. In the first part, we presented the analogy of a pipeline and introduced the stages in the digital pipeline. In the second part, we talked about handling current gaps in the pipeline and the processes in the pipeline up through the scanning step. In the third part we moved down the pipeline, talking about the processes through the Infobahn stage. This week we'll finish the presentation by talking about Record Search and FamilySearch Labs.

Howard W. Hunter

“In recent years we have begun using information technology to hasten the sacred work of providing ordinances for the deceased. The role of technology in this work has been accelerated by the Lord himself, who has had a guiding hand in its development and will continue to do so. However, we stand only on the threshold of what we can do with these tools. I feel that our most enthusiastic projections can capture only a tiny glimpse of how these tools can help us—and of the eternal consequences of these efforts.”

(President Howard W. Hunter, “We Have a Work to Do,” Family History Fireside, 13 Nov. 1994)

Robot from Lost in Space,
"Warning! Warning! Will Robinson!"
The Lost in Space Robot

FamilySearch Labs

When we reached Record Search, the last stage of the pipeline, Bill Mangum displayed the Lost in Space Robot and warned us that we were now entering territory that was changing constantly and rapidly. What he was going to show us was not a released product. We would have to go to the FamilySearch development labs to see it. He also showed he was wearing slippers, a symbol that Record Search would be accessible in our homes. Mangum admitted he'd also worn a bath robe in previous presentations.

If somehow you have not heard about and visited FamilySearch Labs, then run, don't walk, to http://labs.familysearch.org. The website lists a couple of current projects:

  • Record Search - Here you can search the indexes that are produced by FamilySearch Indexing. You can also browse records that haven't yet been indexed. We'll demo this for you in just a moment.
  • Pedigree Viewer - Admit it. You've never quite given up your love for your 12-generation wall chart. Pedigrees on that teeny-tiny computer display have just never measured up—not just in size—but in utility. Locating a person on that trusty wall chart was immediate. Locating a person in PAF takes twenty-times as long. (Click here. Then here. Once more. Oops, wrong line. Start over. No, maybe try search. Wait! I remember she is RIN number 11327. Got her!) Pedigree viewer brings the large pedigree chart back. Somehow it makes it fit on the computer screen. You can see examples on the website, or you can upload a GEDCOM of your own.

The FamilySearch Labs site also hosts conceptual projects. These are still in the refinement stage and may or may not ever be released for public use.

  • Life Browser - This project is experimenting with ways to present the breadth of records and media you have about an individual. You can collect in one place the stories, pictures and records you have about a person. It doesn't take much before an ancestor becomes alive before your eyes.

The website also lists projects that have been released.

  • Venerable old FamilySearch Indexing was developed at FamilySearch Labs. Hopefully, you're quite familiar with it. I guess they list it to prove that they are more than a think tank. Hey; you may not think FamilySearch Indexing is very old, but in Internet years, its older than your dog.

Record Search

Mangum kept his own project for the very last. He is the product manager for Record Search. The product manager investigates the user needs and designs a product to meet those needs. In Record Search, all the records collected by FamilySearch (also known as the Genealogical Society of Utah) empty from the pipeline into your home or anywhere else you can access the Internet.

From the FamilySearch Labs home page, click on Record Search under Current Projects. Or go directly to http://search.labs.familysearch.org.

Currently, Record Search has not entered a formal beta release. But Mangum is allowing users to register and test it prior to the official beta, so long as the number of users doesn't exceed the capabilities of the current computer hardware. Follow these steps to register.

  1. Near the right side of the page, about half way down click on "Register to Use Record Search".
  2. Enter your E-mail address—twice—at the top of the registration window.
  3. In the spaces provided, enter your first and last names and, optionally, your state and country.
  4. To prevent automated robots from registering, a security feature requires that you view some letters and numbers and type them in the box. For the time being, automated robots aren't able to read these symbols, even though you can. Well, hopefully you can. If you can't, refresh the window. (If you use IE, press F5.)
  5. Finally, you must click the box indicating your acceptance of the conditions of use. In the same spirit of not signing any agreement you haven't read, you should first click on the words "Conditions of Use" and read the agreement. Only after you check the box will the Send Button work.
  6. Well, what are you waiting for? Click the Send button!

Your registration request is sent directly to Mangum's desk. He said he'd try and create accounts within a day of receiving the registration, but if he's out of the office, it could take several days.

Mangum then gave a demonstration of Record Search. I think I'll hold that for another day.

Gordon B. Hinckley

“Our motives are to help members of the Church and others find their roots. The doctrine of the eternal nature of the family is one of the most important and sacred teaching for us. As I learn more about my own ancestors, who worked so hard and sacrificed so much, it increases my sense of identity and deepens my commitment to honor their memory. Perhaps there has never been a time when a sense of family, of identity and self-worth, has been more important to our world.”

(President Gordon B. Hinckley, unpublished remarks, FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service Launch, 24 May 1999)

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