Monday, March 7, 2011

South Davis Fair: NFS is Like a Refrigerator

NFS is like a refrigerator. This photo of a stuffed refrigerator is used by permission of “The new FamilySearch Tree (NFS) is like a refrigerator,” said Dan Lawyer, “with a rule that you can only put stuff in; you can’t take it out.” That produces some really rotten stuff. While there is some really good stuff, the view is tainted by the presence of the bad stuff. “We’re working on that,” said Lawyer. “We’re going to fix it.”

Lawyer made the comments during his keynote at the 14th annual South Davis Family History Fair.

“We failed to understand what it would take to build this system,” said Lawyer. Changes are underway to make it possible to correct anything and totally get rid of bad information. You will be able to attach artifacts showing evidence of what is correct. You can automatically monitor a person for changes. You’ll receive an email anytime a change is made showing who made the change, when it was changed, and what was changed. You’ll be able to reject the change with one click of a mouse. You’ll be able to communicate with the person who made the change.

FamilySearch has several goals.

  • Make it so you don’t have to be a genealogist to do genealogy.
  • Make it easy to receive (and give) assistance.
  • Make the site genealogically sound so that even advanced genealogists will want to use it

Some of the changes have been made. Monitoring changes and communication features were added in the last two releases. Other features are on the near horizon.

“Hopefully in the very near future new familysearch [the tree] will just become a feature of” Lawyer likened it to a bridge built by the side of the freeway and moved into place when completed.

Concerning the search filters that FamilySearch pioneered in the Record Search Pilot, Lawyer said “in a month, or two at most, this feature will be there.”

Dan Lawyer gave the keynote address at the South Davis Family History FairI wasn’t the only one in the room with an alternate identity. Dan Lawyer, FamilySearch employee, accepted the invitation to present the keynote at the South Davis Family History Fair. But it was Dan Lawyer, former FamilySearch employee who presented. Lawyer now works as Chief Product Officer for Paul Allen at FamilyLink. He alerted us to the change and informed us that he had decided to go ahead with the presentation he had prepared as a FamilySearch employee.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the fair…


  1. "You’ll be able to reject the change with one click of a mouse." - So what's to prevent edit warring?

  2. It will basically force people to provide sources so someone else who thinks they are right will have to do the same until the best tree is reached. Of course, this assumes cooperation. All the separate records like Ancestral File, PRF, LDS records etc. being made links instead of duplicates seems like a good idea to me and it should be easier to clean the tree in the long run that way.

    I definitely hope they do a feature where you can click a button or two and be watching all your direct ancestral families or choose groups of ancestors to watch or filter to just watch direct ancestral couples only --- instead of the current system of having to select each person you want to watch separately. That will never do.

  3. Enduring Legacy Genealogy said "It will basically force people to provide sources so someone else who thinks they are right will have to do the same until the best tree is reached."

    There is no way a computer-based site can be set up to do this without very intensive human intervention. The problem is not "sources" -- nFS is based on "sources" (IGI, PRF, submitted family group sheets, etc.) that are largely incorrect.

    It is evidence that is wanting, and no program can determine standards of proof (whether evidence occurs at all or is applicable) within a given source.

    One of the problems is that many current users of this and other tree-hosting sites care nothing about evidentiary standards, and many know little or nothing about how to do research that may turn up such evidence.

  4. It's a very messy and moldy refrigerator at the moment. An earlier blogpost said that the NFS was going to clearly distinguish between the records that were truly historical (e.g. Bishops' transcripts of English church records) and the LDS submissions. At least in the case of the English records, the birth and marriage records include both transcript and submission data with no way to distinguish between the two. I've checked this by backsearching on the old IGI records for source-anonymous entries in the NFS. This is a major step backwards, particularly if one goal is to get genealogists to use the NFS. You can't trust it at all.

  5. I hope that NFS is successful in its dual goals of making genealogy easier for the average user while also serving as a serious tool for experienced and professional genealogists. However, it is quite a daunting challenge as are all attempts to preserve the integrity of the submissions (acceptable sources and evidence) while expanding the attractiveness to a demographic that does not seek mastery of the process. The perfectionist in me wants to aim for excellence and preserve integrity but the pragmatist in me understands the need for dumbing down the process for the common person.

    I will still aim for perfection within my own MacFamilyTree database.

  6. With regard to the post by Anonymous asserting that the new "Historical" records mix extracted and submitted data . . . I do not believe they do . . . the way to check is to check the film number against the Library Catalogue. The IGI back checking method used by Anonymous is likely to be confused by the numerous submissions that merely duplicate the extracted record - the old IGI duplication problem. In several hundred usages of Historical records since its introduction - checking the film numbers has shown every one to be from parish, Bishop's transcripts or civil vital records.

  7. nfs will decide info based on sources, primary ones will carry the most weight. I think there will be arbitrators, but it's all a sticky wicket so far.

  8. Dear readers,

    I'm sorry, but I've had to cap commenting on this article. Refrigerator sales websites keep posting spam.

    -- The Insider