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ThinkGenealogy Innovator Award #1

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2008 | by Mark Tucker

The winner of the first ThinkGenealogy Innovator award is Elizabeth Shown Mills and her book, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace.

Ten years passed between the publication of Evidence Explained and its predecessor, Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian.  Even with the passing of a decade, I consider Evidence Explained an incremental innovation that has caused some beneficial side effects. 

Incremental Innovation

Whereas Evidence! simply gave citation examples for primary, subsequent, and bibliographic entries, Evidence Explained gives citation examples, explanation of record types, and QuickCheck Models:

(more…)

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.

Evidence Arrived!

Thursday, 9 Aug 2007 | by Mark Tucker

I just received my copy of Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills and I am so excited!  I look forward to studying it in detail.  I am very interested in how its contents can be applied to genealogy software.  What if this book were used as a requirements document for software?  If the knowledge and best practices from this book were coded into a genealogy application, then genealogists and family historians from beginners to professionals would speak the same language.  What if all genealogy software encoded these same best practices and they became a standard feature just like the pedigree chart?  That would be some real innovation. 

The book can be purchased from Genealogical Publishing Company.

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