Thursday, March 17, 2016

#RootsTech: Ron Tanner – Family Tree in 2016 and Beyond

Ron Tanner addresses RootsTech 2016In Ron Tanner’s RootsTech 2016 presentation about FamilySearch Family Tree, he shared a number of coming improvements.

In 2016 FamilySearch will completely shutdown NFS (the old New.FamilySearch.org). When Family Tree was created, it was not created independently of NFS. The current architecture looks like this:

The current FamilySearch Family Tree architecture synchronizes through New FamilySearch

Even though you can’t directly interact with it, NFS continues to inhibit system functionality. Over several years, FamilySearch engineers have been adding code so Family Tree speaks directly with the backend processes.

Once Family Tree bypasses NFS, it can be retired.

When Family Tree can completely bypass NFS, then it can be shutdown. When it is shutdown, a bunch of issues go away.

  • Because of the current interdiction of NFS, you cannot merge persons that, in NFS, are Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUS). In a list of possible duplicates, you sometimes see the message “Can’t Be Merged At This Time.” (Ron showed an example.) Once NFS is eliminated, you will be able to merge all duplicates.
  • NFS was built so that gender could never be changed. Once NFS is eliminated you will be able to.
  • Today there are times when you delete a relationship and it “magically” reappears, with the change attributed to FamilySearch. This occurs when the NFS architecture prevents the deletion from NFS. When synchronization occurs between Family Tree and NFS, the deleted relationship comes back.

Currently, Family Tree gets really slow on Sundays. That’s when there are the largest number of users. Ron likened it to a crowded freeway. When FamilySearch built Family Tree, they created a system that would handle ten times the traffic of NFS. Now, the traffic is 30 times bigger. That’s why it gets so slow. While they have been moving away from NFS, they have also been converting Family Tree to use cloud-based computing. When they flip the NFS switch off, they will simultaneously move Family Tree to the cloud. By using the cloud, FamilySearch can add lanes to the freeway when necessary, and remove them when not. The expectation is that this will keep the system from getting overly slow.

Ron thinks that it is crazy to think that anyone alive today will have to be researched later. It would be best if they can put up their own sources. However, those sources contain currently confidential information, so FamilySearch does not currently allow attachment of sources to living persons. This is because sources and memories are all completely public, even if attached to a private person. FamilySearch is going to add the ability to mark a memory private.

The system today does not allow shared living persons. Only deceased persons in Family Tree are shared. Ron has a private space (as does each user) containing private copies of the living members of his family. His wife, CheRee, has one as well. She has her own copy of Ron and their children. If she adds information to one of their children, Ron’s copy does not show her changes.

FamilySearch Family Tree private spaces

FamilySearch is designing a concept to allow shared living persons. A group of people would create a shared workspace, like the Tanner Family in the diagram, below. Users invited to the space could copy living persons from their own private space into the shared spaces. Changes made within the shared space would be visible to all. This isn’t guaranteed to be ready for 2016, but they are working on it.

FamilySearch Family Tree proposed shared spaces

FamilySearch is working on code that will be able to show how you are related to anyone else in all 1.1 billion persons in the tree. It will probably be ready this year or next.

Adding lanes to the freeway has kept FamilySearch from making other improvements they wish to make. They wish to encourage correction of bad information and discourage corruption of good information. Ron calls this impedance – “something that slows the change.”

One possibility would be to provide a warning when a user was changing a value. It would indicate how many people were watching that tree person and would warn that all would receive immediate notification of the change. “Be sure your change is accurate and sourced.”

Another possibility is the detection of a deleted value being re-entered. If a user tried to change a value back to a previous value, the system would give a warning and display the reason why that value was deleted.

Ron’s interested in hearing your ideas of other impedance possibilities. Send them to Ron at FamilySearch.org. Don’t suggest that he lock your people so no one can change them; he’s not going to do that. (May I add, that your ideas are best if they avoid manual intervention. We don’t want bottlenecks. Ideas involving competence are also problematic. Who is qualified to determine another person’s competence? Mix the two together, and you have the worst of both worlds: “Have a competent person review each change.”)

“We do recognize that you do good work and you want your good work preserved for future generations,” Ron said. “You want it safe and you want it unchanged from anyone else and we have provided a place for you to put your good work.” That place is Genealogies and it is found in the Historical Records section of FamilySearch. “You can go to this Genealogies section…and submit your GEDCOM and it will be stored into the system for future generations.”

View Ron Tanner’s entire presentation on the RootsTech website.

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