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10 Things Genealogy Software Should Do

Sunday, 6 Apr 2008 | by Mark Tucker

On March 13, 2008 I presented at the 2008 BYU Family History Technology Workshop and my topic was: 10 Things Genealogy Software Should Do

Here are links regarding the presentation:

Would you like to see these 10 ideas implemented in the genealogy software that you use?  How can these ideas be improved upon?  I encourage you to respond.

Footnote Cares about User Experience

Tuesday, 18 Mar 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Footnote logoIn a continuing effort to have the best user experience possible, Footnote is making visits to a few homes in Arizona cities this week.  I heard about this back in early February from Dick Eastman’s newsletter and decided to volunteer.  Today I received a visit from Dick and members of the Footnote team.  The group had representatives from software development, design, management, business, and marketing.  The visit lasted a little over an hour and I enjoyed the chance to participate and provide my feedback.  Everyone was very nice and interested in my opinions.  I had only used the Footnote site a few times before the visit, but I was able to navigate around and uncover most of its features.  The group asked me questions and let me think out loud as I used the site.

One point that I brought up in today’s visit that is an issue with not just Footnote, but also FamilySearch, Ancestry, World Vital Records, and other online database/document sites is that there is a lack of consistency with source citations.  For example, the same census document could have different citations on different sites and none of the citations follow the format in either of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ works: Evidence! or Evidence Explained.  When I download an image from one of these sites, I should get automatic source citation in my desktop genealogy application as well as additional details such as source provenance.  It should be very easy.  To modify a phrase from an action movie: “With great source repositories, comes great responsibility.”

 It is very encouraging to see companies like Footnote take an interest in what its members and potential members care about.  I was impressed by the Footnote team and site and get the feeling that the innovation hasn’t stopped yet.

As an added bonus, I got to meet Dick Eastman.  Overall, what a great experience!

Genealogy Research Process Map Discussed on The Genealogy Guys Podcast

Friday, 7 Mar 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Earlier this week, Drew Smith and George G. Morgan (The Genealogy Guys) spent 9 minutes of their podcast discussing the Genealogy Research Process map.  Their discussion starts about 26 minutes into the podcast.  I am a long time listener of The Genealogy Guys and am pleased that they are spreading the word about the map.  Both George and Drew were very kind in their remarks about this visualization based on the work of The Board For Certification of Genealogists and Elizabeth Shown Mills.

Genealogy Research Map

Sunday, 24 Feb 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Genealogy Research Process Map

The Genealogy Research Map (downloadable PDF – 11.4 MB) combines the concepts found in The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and the many works of Elizabeth Shown Mills into a single visualization.  It is my hope that others will find this map useful as a learning tool or reference. 

For those interested in a format for use as desktop wallpaper, follow this link.

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 WorldVitalRecords.com 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 WorldVitalRecords.com and FamilyLink.com” 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, del.icio.us, 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.

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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