Future of the NFS Tree
Credit: Ancestry Insider, July 2008
Tree on the Peter Whitmer Farm
Dear Ancestry Insider,
THANKS for this great informative post. A real service to the genealogical research community. (And why should FHD hire someone to write this kind of news releases, when you do such a fine job?) I'm a retired copyeditor so I feel qualified to say that.
One question: "Someone" wrote a few weeks ago that nFS will be rolled out to "everyone" gradually by temple districts, as it was for LDS members. Reading your post carefully, I don't see any indication of that. Can you clarify?
Thanks again. Cheers,
Dolly in Maryland
(non-member, a FHC volunteer for 39 years & counting)
First, let me send a capital THANKS right back at you. Our family history centers (FHCs) could not function without wonderful volunteers such as you. FamilySearch and all our patrons are indebted to our wonderful community volunteers.
I spoke with a member of the new FamilySearch (NFS) Tree hardware team the other morning about the rollout. His team is looking forward to it with great excitement and trepidation. FamilySearch really has no way to know exactly how much the general public will load the system.
That is why the Tree must be rolled out gradually. Rather than temple district, the rollout will probably start with a few, select invitations. Ron Tanner didn’t comment on the rollout method at the Family History Expo, but I seem to someone saying publicly that that would begin this year with just a few targeted invitations. After that, I’m guessing that FamilySearch will do something along the lines of Google’s rollout of Gmail.
As the capacity of Gmail increased, Google gave some existing users a few invitations that could be given to friends. If Gmail remained stable with the additional users, more invitations were distributed among current users. In this way Google had great control of the speed of the rollout. That is something that FamilySearch needs as well.
Does anybody remember better than I how that whole Gmail rollout worked?
Thanks for writing,
-- The Insider
P.S. I assume you already have your own account with access to the NFS Tree. As a 39 year, current FHC volunteer, you qualify for current access.
Fixing the Tree
Dear Ancestry Insider,
Occasionally I check the old FamilySearch site for certain ancestors. For one search I did today there are 7 IGI entries, 1 Ancestral File entry, and 2 Pedigree Resource File entries. The 10 entries contain liberal numbers of errors.
I am confident (abstractly, not having access to nFS Tree) that there are several copies of the target person in the Tree, probably all with wrong spouse, wrong parents, wrong marriage place, wrong place of death. Hence merging (which I do understand) will diminish server load but probably not increase truthiness.
My point is that the source materials for the nFS Tree are derivative, secondary, and lacking citations; these sources do not give much guidance for accuracy.
I am glad that the correction-of-conclusion process is heading in a more streamlined and rational direction. The elephant in the living room is that countless numbers of religious rites have been performed based on erroneous genealogical assertions. Surely the submitters have an emotional attachment to their mistaken submissions, this over and above the sheer weight of error-riddled trees on the web and their mistaken sources.
I hope a robust correction process will be able to prevent the 'wiki-war' phenomenon.
Dear Pseudo-G. L.,
Today, one cleans up multiple copies of a person by combining them all together in a mishmash that preserves each and every single assertion from each and every single source. In your example, the resulting person would have ten copies of the name, even if some were identical. Every birth date from all ten sources would be present. Likewise for the other facts. The person could theoretically have 10 different mothers and 10 different fathers. The person could have ten times the number of children they actually had—or more if some of the 10 sources had too many children.
Fortunately, today a contributor can correct information they contribute. Unfortunately, the contributors of most of the IGI, Ancestral File, and Pedigree Resource Files are unknown or have yet to claim their contributions. And unfortunately, only the contributor can correct or remove erroneous information. Fortunately, one can dispute it. Unfortunately, once disputed, even the contributor can not fix it.
In the NFS of tomorrow, sources (such as the IGI, AF, and PRF) are extracted and exist independently. Anyone can “fix” any problem in the tree.
Keep in mind that in "our tree," "fixed" is determined by the community. It happens like this: You or I applies "your fix" or "my fix." If no one objects, it becomes "our fix." If someone objects, they undo the change and engages the fixer in a discussion. When consensus is reached, you apply "our fix."
Once a discussion is underway, it is bad form to apply or re-apply "your fix." Doing so can result in temporary suspension.
When consensus can not be reached, the decision goes to an arbitrator who decides "our fix." I worry that FamilySearch product managers are operating under the assumption that in any disagreement, genealogical practice and standards dictate a clear, best decision. I believe in many situations even the best genealogists can disagree. I believe it will be necessary to allow contributors to appeal an arbitrator’s decision to a panel of arbitrators.
You are quite right that a robust correction process, arbitration as it is called, is the only thing that stands between success and anarchy. FamilySearch owns the first task: create an arbitration process that works. We, the community, own the second task. Able genealogists must step forward and donate time as arbitrators. That will determine whether the Tree becomes the greatest genealogical tool ever created or the greatest genealogical failure.
-- The Insider
Please have a wonderful holiday! As you labor on your genealogy today, try not to slow the Internet down too much while I’m laboring on my genealogy. :-)
-- The Insider