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A Better Way to Cite Online Sources–Reprise

Thursday, 10 Feb 2011 | by Mark Tucker

Back in April 2009, I created a video that showed my dream for how citing online sources should be done (see blog post).  It would be a partnership between online record repositories and desktop genealogy software.  I created a prototype close enough to the real thing to prove that it could be done and to help others visualize how it would work.  I even created a survey to get feedback from others. 

Over 300 people responded to the survey and at the end of the trial period I sent a copy of the results to all participants that provided an e-mail. I planned on blogging about the results but got discouraged at the time.

Two events have happened this week to get me thinking about this again. The first was a comment on my blog by Bruce. He has a website for his personal family history and wanted to know how to go about setting up the site to do citations like the video demonstrated. It saddened me to tell him that it is not possible to do this yet without cooperation from the desktop genealogy software vendors. The second was a direct message via Twitter from fellow genealogy software innovator, Dean.  He contacted me to say that my blog was mentioned in a discussion today at RootsTech on how to handle sources.

Maybe it is time for me to publish the survey results from 2 years ago.

What type of people responded to the survey? People like you and me.  The majority are non-professional researches (plain Jane/Joe family historians)  many of whom belong to local genealogy societies.  Some have visited courthouses, the National Archives, or the Family History Library, but almost all had done research on the internet in the last week. They used sites like Ancestry, Footnote, and FamilySearch and desktop software like RootsMagic, Legacy, Family Tree Maker, and PAF.  Over 99% thought citing sources was important but 75% thought it was difficult to do it.  Over 90% thought that there should be one standard citation guide and 57% were using “Evidence Explained.” When asked if they were interested in the solution provided in the video, 93% said they were interested.

There are more details and nuggets in the survey results.

Maybe we can explore them more in future posts.

Genealogists Can Share Ideas and Innovate

Thursday, 27 Dec 2007 | by Mark Tucker

The more we understand the design process, the better we can design genealogy software. In a previous post titled “More Design in the Genealogy Community”, we discussed the development process. In this post, we will look specifically at the Design Process that was represented as Phase 0. 

Development Process - Phase 0

Design is represented by a funnel showing that more ideas exist at the beginning of the phase than at the end. Much of this information can be found in “Sketching User Experiences: getting the design right and the right design” by Bill Buxton.

Genealogists as well as designers and developers must work together as part of the design process. In the early part of this process, it is important to generate as many ideas as possible. No idea should be held back as it might be a stepping stone to a much better idea. Ideas tend to generate more ideas. As the two-time Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, once said:

The best way to a good idea is to have lots of ideas.

The diagram indicates that no matter how many great ideas enter the funnel, there will be less at the end. Not all ideas survive.

On page 144 of “Sketching User Experiences”, a slightly different visualization by Paul Laseau is presented which shows two opposing funnels: one for idea generation and the other for idea reduction. My modification of the diagram is as follows:

Design Process Timeline

The process begins with a single idea or a few ideas. This leads to more ideas. Ideas are explored quickly and cheaply and can be discarded just as fast – easy come, easy go.

At some point choices need to be made and ideas need to be refined. After all, idea generation cannot carry on indefinitely. We must create something to ship. If we do this correctly, we won’t just have something we will have the right thing. Ideas are refined roughly at first and then with more granularity. More ideas might still surface but they are more fine tuning of existing ideas than radical new ones. More choices are made as we approach the final design. If you think of these two funnels superimposed, it’s not too difficult to visualize the single Design funnel represented as Phase 0.

To make this point a second time, designers, developers, and users (genealogists in our case) are involved in this process. Everyone’s ideas are important. Designers share their ideas and also guide the others through the process.

The subtitle of “Sketching User Experiences” is “getting the design right and the right design.” This process of working together to generate ideas and refine them into a final design is part of getting the “right design.” When this process is not followed or those who use the software are not involved, a design will result but quite possibly not one that will provide an effective, usable, and enjoyable experience.

This blog is a place where we can have a conversation about design and go through the process together.  I want to listen to your ideas.  All ideas are welcome as we are at the starting point of design.  We can change the world of genealogy software.  Innovation can happen.

In a future post, we will explore the technique of sketching and how it can be used to quickly capture and share ideas.

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