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buspar 2007 | September | ThinkGenealogy
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Genealogists Be Aware – Desktop Software and Web Applications are Converging

Saturday, 29 Sep 2007 | by Mark Tucker

All users of genealogy software should be aware that desktop software and web applications are converging in exciting ways that will soon affect the applications they use. One way that they are converging is through something called Rich Internet Applications (RIAs).

Are there any genealogy Rich Internet Applications today? The answer is yes. At least a few. Currently, they all are created using Adobe Flash.

It might surprise you that FamilySearch Labs is on th leading edge of genealogy Rich Internet Applications with these prototype applications:

Pedigree Viewer
panning, zooming
direct-line highlighting
ancestor/descendant view
search
GEDCOM import

FamilySearch Labs - Pedigree Viewer

Life Browser
add artifact (photo, record)
edit details
associate artifact as evidence
image representing potential timeline feature

FamilySearch Labs - Life Browser

Other genealogy sites using RIAs include:

Geni
panning, zooming
enter details, support for single birth, marriage, death date
intuitive interface for adding parents, spouse, siblings, and children
appealing design

Geni

MyHeritage
2D/3D perspective, animation to help flow through tree
enter details, support for multiple facts (birth, marriage, death, many more)
intuitive interface for adding parents, spouse, siblings, and children
appealing design

MyHeritage

(more…)

Idea: Early Handwriting Tutor Software

Thursday, 13 Sep 2007 | by Mark Tucker

At some point every genealogist/family historian will come across a handwritten document that will challenge their ability to read it.  An excellant resource for early American handwriting is Kip Sperry’s book, “Reading Early American Handwriting.” The study of early handwriting is called paleography or palaeography.

My idea is handwriting/paleography tutor software that will systematically teach users how to read early handwritten documents. 

Inspiration:

Typing software systematically teaches correct fingering and allows for repetitive practice.  It breaks these down into lessons and records both speed and accuracy. What if there were similar software that would help us read, transcribe, extract, or abstract handwritten documents?

The preface to Kip Sperry’s book states:

“One of the best ways to begin a study of paleography is to read facsimiles of documents and then transcribe them word for word, letter for letter.”

The software would include the following features:

  • Instruction on how to transcribe a document
  • Handwriting styles (secretary hand, Italic hand, etc.)
  • Different modules for different languages and time periods (Nineteenth Century American, Eighteenth Century American, Eighteenth Century British, etc.)
  • Start with transcribing single letters to get to know different alphabets and styles, then single words, then word phrases, then sentences/lines, and finally on to paragraphs.
  • Expansion of abbreviations and contractions (Alexr [Alexander], Chas[Charles])
  • Arabic and roman numerals
  • Dates (7ber [September])
  • Obsolete letter forms (long s, thorn, etc.)

I imagine this software running on my desktop.  It will track my progress through the different lessons and show me my accuracy, problem areas, and maybe speed.  I can go back to previous lessons.  It would also be interesting if I could run it as a tool tray application where it would periodically, pop up a little window that asks me for a short translation.  That way I can practise a little each day.

One possible user interface idea comes from the UK National Archives site:

handwriting1.jpg
An expanded idea on this could be a website where people contribute image fragments (that are not under copyright) as well as the translations.  These could be categorized by language, handwriting style (if known), time period, difficulty level and length.  The Handwriting Tutor software could then download these “online modules” for an almost inexhaustible source of practice material.

 This idea is open to anyone who wants to work on it.  Let me know when you are finished or if anyone comes across software that does this.  Maybe the software can be sold as a companion to Kip Sperry’s book.

Useful links:

Expanded Vision of Genealogy 2.0

Tuesday, 11 Sep 2007 | by Mark Tucker

Is Genealogy 2.0 simply the application of Web 2.0 to genealogy or is it a separate wave of innovation in genealogy software?  The version number “2.0″ has been applied to the web and genealogy to indicate a “new release” or “major upgrade” to the way things were done before.  This article discusses Web 2.0, Genealogy 2.0, and something I call Web 2.0+Gen. 

  

  

Web 2.0

The term Web 2.0 has been around since 2004 and is defined by wikipedia as the:

“perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted services — such as social-networking sites, wikis and folksonomies — which aim to facilitate collaboration and sharing between users”

There is much debate over the definition of Web 2.0 and what makes a website “Web 2.0″.  According to SEOmoz.org, some of the defining characteristics of Web 2.0 are:

  • User generated and/or user influenced content
  • Applications that use the Web (versus the desktop) as a platform, in innovative ways
  • Similar visual design and shared functional languages
  • Leveraging of popular trends, including blogging, social tagging, wikis, and peer-to-peer sharing
  • Inclusion of emerging web technologies like RSS, AJAX, APIs (and accompanying mashups), Ruby on Rails and others
  • Open source or sharable/editable frameworks in the form of user-oriented “create your own” APIs

Web 2.0 links:

Sample Sites:

  

  

Genealogy 2.0

When I search the internet for “genealogy 2.0″, I get a number of sites that talk about the application of Web 2.0 to genealogy.  These sites mention social networking and collaboration as key components of Genealogy 2.0.  One blog, The Plog: Pytlewski Log, states:

“traditionally genealogy 2.0 has only referred to the new internet based applications that are changing the way we collaborate as a genealogical community”

My view of Genealogy 2.0 is broader than Web 2.0 genealogy application or what I term, Web 2.0+Gen.  Maybe it is because I have developed both web applications and Windows client applications.  Maybe it is because I see so many areas for improvement and innovation in genealogy software and I don’t want to wait around for Genealogy 2.5 or 3.0.  Or maybe it is just the developer in me that wants to avoid tight coupling. But pairing Genealogy 2.0 with Web 2.0 excludes genealogy software that is not web-based.  It also seems to focus too much on what Web 2.0 is and not what Genealogy 2.0 could be.

Genealogy 2.0 links:

Sample Sites:

  

  

Expanded View of Genealogy 2.0

Many of these ideas are not new, but have been in the genealogy community for years.  The time is ripe for them to materialize as software that will aid genealogists and family historians to do things that they have never been able to easily do before. 

An expanded view of Genealogy 2.0 includes the following characteristics:

  • Social networking 
  • Collaboration during research, analysis, and conclusions
  • More than just sharing data and results
  • Supports sources, information, evidence, and conclusions
  • Document-centered data collection
  • Standardized source citation (see Evidence Explained)
  • Source citation as data not text
  • Source provenance
  • Information extraction
  • Evidence evaluation and weight
  • Conclusion recording
  • Online data backup
  • Community of researchers
  • Online data storage or peer-to-peer offline storage
  • Data linking and layering, not merging
  • Expanded to include not only web-based applications but also desktop and mobile
  • Modernizing of GEDCOM or replacement with XML-based format
  • The ability to not do anything with genealogy for a year and then start right where I left off without any loss of information or momentum

Now the last point may just be my own personal wish list item, but if  a Genealogy 2.0 application included a place to put everthing and kept track of what I have done and what else needs to be done then it would be much easier to continue where I left off.

Genealogy 2.0 Expanded links:

I look forward to your comments and ideas about Genealogy 2.0.

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