Thursday, September 4, 2008

Possible Changes in NFS 0.94 Revealed

Alert Internet watchers alerted the Insider today that FamilySearch has posted a publicly accessible document some time in the past several days titled "What's New in FamilySearch (August 2008)." As we've previously informed you, New FamilySearch (NFS) releases are tentatively aimed for the middle day of each quarter. We are now definitively into September (observant, aren't I?) without the release of 0.94.

Users and visitors to the current NFS home page know that the page contains a link to "view a list of recent updates to the new FamilySearch." Apparently, release 0.94 is now in beta testing, using a publicly available URL, so anyone who knows the URL can go to the beta website, click on the usual link and see the changes expected for release 0.94.

WARNING! Because it is a beta website, the documentation may not reflect the actual software present. And because it is a beta website, the software may change before it is officially released. But as of the time I'm writing this, which is the evening before you read it, if all goes well, which is a long shot considering I experienced a catastrophic computer failure last night. My computer is deader than a door nail. And my wonderful backup system failed as well. Fortunately, all I lost was my presentations for the UGA conference in two weeks. Yikes! But I digress...

Third Party Product Support

The first of five major changes expected is official and better support for 3rd party products. FamilySearch is serious about opening things up so that 3rd parties can put them out of business--at least the desktop genealogy software business.

I understand that FamilySearch officials have candidly told 3rd parties that they wouldn't mind if 3rd parties provided the tools, records and resources that are needed by the larger genealogical community. That allows FamilySearch to concentrate on the goals, tools, records and resources that are unique to FamilySearch and its owner, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church). I assume at the moment that means sealing the departed together into eternal families in Church temples, digitizing a vault of priceless, microfilmed records and managing their expanding army of "volunteer" indexers.

I put volunteer in quotes because FamilySearch benefits from formal assignments made by local lay clergy to individual Church members to participate in the indexing program. Formal assignments are not always necessary, however. In my experience, the satisfaction I feel when I help index is exhilarating. You feel like you are giving a gift to humanity. If you've ever experienced a serendipity in genealogy experience that convinces you that an ancestor really wanted someone to remember them, then you'll already know the feeling that I often have when I help with an indexing project. Highly recommended. Highly recommended.

Other Changes

  • When you uncombine you can show more records at a time, jump to a specific record and--here's the best part--uncombine multiple records at the same time. And if you do, all the uncombined records remain combined with each other.
  • You can not combine records if the resulting record is too large. I don't know if this is a change the limitation made in the 30 June 2008 interrim release or if is just the official release and documentation of the change made at that time. (See the release history here.)
  • You can now change your contact name. Your username is still permanent, but thank goodness you are no longer locked into the contact name you chose back when you didn't know what it was used for. Having three different names (username, contact name and real name) can be confusing, but there are good reasons to have all three. The system needs to know your real name. But for privacy and security reasons, you shouldn't share your real name or your username with others. Having a separate contact name allows you to specify just your first name. Or you can use the cool-sounding handle you used on your CB radio back in the '70s. ("Breaker-one-nine. This is Pedigree-Papa. Can anybody give me the correct 10-36?")
  • The screens used for selecting ordinances and printing Family Ordinance Requests have changed slightly. Buttons may have been renamed or moved.

Well, I'm out of time. And I've got a computer to go work over. Grrr....


  1. Interesting list of .94 updates, still doesn't look like they've found a real solution to the IOUS problem though. Not allowing combinations is not going to work in the ideal "One World Tree" scenario (that's probably a copyrighted term...). Sad to see that .94 probably won't include the IOUS fix-all we're looking for.

  2. I think most of their efforts are being put on the FamilyTree version we see being developed at FamilySearch Labs. It seems the updates to the current nFS system are just bandaids to hold it together until they can get the newer technology FamilyTree version ready. The current system requires the servers to create each of the pages, then sent them out to the user. The new system will load the user interface into your browser when you log on and the servers will then only send and receive the data as you work, which will greatly speed everything up. Maybe that is when they will fix IOUS.


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