Thursday, August 01, 2013

Genealogy data sharing REVISITED

James Tanner described a perplexing problem in his post Sharing Data Files or What Happened to GEDCOM? in the Genealogy's Star blog. As a co-founder of BetterGEDCOM, I feel to speak to the issue. Our initial work garnered attention of some good thinkers internationally and has morphed into FHISO.

The legal entity FHISO ( Family History Information Standards Organisation) headed by +Drew Smith is now forming the technical standing committee and has most major genealogy software and web developers on board. Noticeably absent from the list is FamilySearch. FHISO's goal is to create standards that all genealogy developers can incorporate into their products for seamless file sharing, including containers for attached media files.

GEDCOM X is a file transfer product proposed by FamilySearch that has been largely ignored by FamilySearch management. Not having updated the current GEDCOM 5.x in nearly 15 years, there appears no urgency to produce GEDCOM X anytime soon. If FamilySearch wanted GEDCOM X done, we would have had it two years ago, and with FamilySearch's standing in the community, end users like me could enjoy large scale adoption of the product by other genealogy developers.

Instead, FamilySearch puts its weight behind the concept of crowd sourcing, with all data in the cloud on the FamilySearch website. It is unrealistic for any genealogy product to expect universal acceptance by end users like me. Sadly, without  a reliable file transfer mechanism, it remains impossible to get Aunt Madge's well-documented genealogy data about 23,000+ individuals seamlessly up in the FamilySearch website, or any other website or software program for that matter.
Most genealogy software and website developers have responsibilities to improve their products to maintain a revenue stream. FamilySearch has no such restraints. Dropping the GEDCOM X ball is regrettable. It is also regrettable FamilySearch has failed to hear the cries of genealogists the world over, who just want to share their data with a cousin. Why should a website be part of the equation?

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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  1. Dear MYRTLE,

    Wow. Thanks for bringing this up. I hadn't gotten to that Blog in my reader yet.

    Can't let this one go by.

    I was very surprised by this comment in his last paragraph:

    "Do I have a solution? Yes, but no one really wants to listen to specifications for image transfer and technical problems with text file formatting."

    Having been in conversations with members of FHISO, THEY ARE willing to listen. I certainly can't speak for them, but they have already put out a Call for Papers, which is the way to get them to listen. They formally announced that Call for Papers at Roots Tech 2012. Those Specifications, as I understand a Call for Papers, is just what FHISO is looking for.

    Just to step back a moment, "something" did happen as a result of the Better GEDCOM effort, that has not been picked up by FHISO, is that our frequently used genealogy database management programs have started to play 'better' together. Not perfect, may take a little work, but it IS better then the Better GEDCOM testing that was done at the beginning of the project.

    Since we did that work on Better GEDCOM we now have many web based "trees" that are available to us. The same genealogy database programs are working on sharing between computer base applications and web based applications so SHARING IS HERE.

    In Mr Tanner's last sentence, he says:

    "Are we creating a dead-end file sharing environment by allowing JPEGs to become the de facto standard file sharing format?"

    Based on his question, the answer would be Yes, BUT, FHISO hasn't completed their work. I would hope that if Mr Tanner has those specifications, even at a very high level, could provide that information to FHISO, then the answer could be NO, not a dead end 'standard'.

    With Mr Tanner's knowledge and skills on this and other genealogy topics, he could really help FHISO get the "show on the road". Get his thoughts on the table so that the discussion can continue to get a long term, INTERNATIONAL Standard so that we CAN Share our research, independent of the platform we choose to use.

    Thank you James Tanner for bringing this subject up for us to talk about.

    Thank you, cousin Mryt, for posting this on your Blog. After all, all you and I want to be able to do, is to share our research, transparent to the program we choose to use.


  2. Mr. Tanner was mistaken in calling GEDCOM X an organization. It is a program. As Myrt noted, ". . . a file transfer product proposed by FamilySearch. . . ."

    Tamura Jones has extensively covered developments regarding this program in his blog, and gives a brief history (and links to other background) here:

  3. I posted a comment on Mr. Tanner's blog advising hims that FHISO had grown out of BetterGEDCOM, but it hasn't been approved yet.

    I would be interested in other views on: It sounds like a 'cake and eat it' proposal. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced I'll enjoy the cake that GEDCOM X is baking... I'd like to have some say in the flavouring.


    1. A am xoncerned about the "product" of GEDCOM X proposed by FamilySearch, since they don't have a good track record for supporting individual software use (PAF) or previous versions of GEDCOM.

      I wholeheartedly support FHISO as a "standards organization" not a producer of a specific product.

      The sadly use of an .api script means FamilySearch expects us all to get on their bandwagon.

    2. That pretty well lines up with my views. If FamilySearch choose to make GEDCOM X as a product compatible with international community-developed standards, then great. BUt I really don't want them to own the standard in any way.

  4. I'm wondering if Family Search isn't trying to drive people toward its new collaborative tree - which is basically a wiki. I see the larger players in this game trying to get people to collaborate on the web and then the site controls the material. I find this type of collaboration frustrating.