Jumping Curves by Better Online Source Citation

Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 | by Mark Tucker

According to Guy Kawasaki  (author, speaker, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, etc.) one key point to great innovation is “Jumping Curves” which means moving from the curve where everyone else is to a new curve.  The folks at have been talking about this concept lately which is where I heard about it.  See ”How To Innovate And Change The World” by Whitney Ransom and “Jumping Curves At and” by Yvette Arts.  The second article asks for suggestions about jumping curves.  The following is part of an e-mail that I sent in response:

I like the fact the WorldVitalRecords geocodes all records added to their site.  Why you are at it, why don’t you add source citations in metadata/xml form following the conventions in Elizabeth Shown Mills book, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace

Currently source citation is hard.  When it is available, it is in text format that must be copied and pasted into your genealogy program.  But source citation is vital so that proper evaluation of evidence can be done and so that constant re-examination of the same records can be avoided.  If when you click on a document to download the image, the link was instead something like an rss link that has metadata with it (think rss enclosure tag) and if that xml format were a standard then genealogy software could read the information, add the image to the application, and add the proper source citation.  What could be easier for a user than every time a document image is downloaded from an online database, the source was automatically cited?  The software developers would be half way there as they would then just need to add a way to manually add the same information for offline sources. 

The first analysis that needs to be done with a source is to determine if it is original or derivative.  The metadata could include this information already.  The next step would be to have the metadata for derivative sources include the source provenance all the way back to the original.  Who would be in a better position to know that than the site owner who negotiated with the owner of the source content?  This identification would then only have to be done once correctly and it would save many family historians/genealogists from doing the same work and sometimes incorrectly. 

Now the metadata would also be available to search engines and special source searches could be created to find and aggregate the information.  Think about what Google, Technorati, Digg,, Facebook or others could do with this type of information.

  1. Creating a source citation metadata standard. 
  2. Being the first records site to metadata source cite all their content. 
  3. Making it extremely easy to cite online sources. 
  4. Creating a whole new way to search for records. 

Now talk about jumping curves!

Some of these ideas I have shared before in Expanded Vision of Genealogy 2.0.

Happy curve jumping.


  1. Mark!

    Great comments!

    I appreciate the suggestions you gave to us at As you mentioned, we are in the constant process of changing and innovating. Your suggestion about source citation is timely and relevant. We have been focusing much of our efforts on processing data as fast as we acquire it and getting it out where individuals have access to it. We now need to concentrate on making the material usable in all aspects of research.

    Yvette Arts
    Director of Content Acquisition
    World Vital Records, Inc.

    Comment by Yvette Arts — 8 Nov 2007 @ 3:53 am

  2. The problems begin with historical data – for example streets and buildings which no longer exist, or all the old ecclesiastical or administrative parishes and counties which have been replaced by newer systems at the behest of politicians.

    The biggest newbie mistake I ever made was not adding sources to my trees from the very beginning

    Hugh W

    Comment by Hugh Watkins — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:07 pm

  3. [...] as online databases providing better source citations. I talk about this in my previous post about Jumping Curves. So you see, the future is not so hard to [...]

    Pingback by ThinkGenealogy » The Future of Genealogy Software is not “Hard to See” — 29 Nov 2007 @ 11:16 am

  4. OMG! I’m in nirvana here. I’m just a guy working on his “family tree” that has tried to go it alone (freebie bulk data) but now really love because it automatically makes source citations for a LOT of their databases when you build a tree online. THEN they created a GEDCOM export that at least gets my data into (xx standalone software).

    There is SO much un-sourced, badly sourced, poorly cataloged, and generally unorganized info out there on the web though, lately I’ve been thinking it might be just as easy to do it the old fashioned way on paper and in-person. But I do live in Wash. D.C. so I’ve got a big advantage.

    I’ve used XML data before in my job, and I’ve been thinking how much easier it would be if at least XML was widely adopted in genealogy efforts. Hard to explain why, but easy to understand if you’ve used it.

    YOU do a GREAT job of explaining the practical uses. You’re definitely BOOKMARKED! (I’m an old guy, I haven’t figured out RSS yet).

    Comment by Jim Davis — 19 Dec 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  5. [...] Jumping Curves by Better Online Source Citation | ThinkGenealogy [...]

    Pingback by Family Matters » » Genealogy Links 01/19/2008 — 19 Jan 2008 @ 2:49 am

  6. Great suggestion! Somebody should suggest this to too!

    Comment by Carl — 21 Jan 2008 @ 6:27 pm

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