Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ANCESTRY MEMBER TREES: It's all about COMMENTS, isn't it Cousin Russ?

Some mighty interesting work has gone on during the past week. +Russ Worthington , better known as "Cousin Russ", took up a crowdsourcing problem posted by +Randy Seaver, author of the GeneaMusings genealogy blog. Crowdsourcing is defined by Mashable.com as "distributed problem solving. By distributing tasks to a large group of people, you are able to mine collective intelligence, assess quality and process work in parallel."

What Russ and Randy discovered all boils down to this:

1. Two genealogists of comparable abilities are sharing an Ancestry Member Tree (AMT), but there are problems with the interface.

2. Only one can "sync" the Ancestry Member Tree to a file on his/her computer that can be read by the genealogy program of his/her choice for ease in navigation.

3. Randy was willing to make changes to correct Russ' Ancestry Member Tree; but when Randy made changes, unbeknownst to him, this obliterates data in Russ' FamilyTree Maker (FTM) 2014 database the next time Russ syncs. This potential impact wasn't on Randy's radar because he primarily uses RootsMagic genealogy software.  

4. While looking at the AMT, Randy couldn't see all of Russ' FTM2014 data about an ancestor. 
Ol' Myrt here wonders why Ancestry.com doesn't want all sharable Family Tree Maker 2014 info about an ancestor to show up in an Ancestry Member Tree.

5. Since Russ is the "owner" of the Ancestry Member Tree, Russ has asked Randy to post COMMENTS rather than make actual corrections or changes to the tree.

Since there is no perfect genealogy syncing mechanism on the market today, setting ground rules when collaborating with an online tree is essential. This can vary from researcher to researcher. Russ discovered he prefers "comments rather than changes." Now that Randy knows this, things will go a little more smoothly. 

The only trouble is, Randy prefers to use his familiar genealogy program, RootsMagic, to navigate through the family groups on the shared Ancestry Member Tree. He cannot even download a generic GEDCOM file, since he isn't the "owner" of Russ' tree.
Ol' Myrt here wonders why Ancestry.com doesn't share it's API script so any genealogy software can sync seamlessly with an Ancestry Member Tree.
Yes, Ol' Myrt realizes the "behind the scenes" stuff is slightly more complicated than just syncing, but come on, programmers, this is the 21st century.

With the focus shifting from isolationism to collaboration, we should understand frustrations will occur since most participants will come to a genealogy crowdsourcing project with a variety of:
  • research experience
  • analysis and correlation abilities
  • hardware and software choices
  • attitudes about arriving at a conclusion
  • time to devote to the project
Fortunately in Russ and Randy's case, we have researchers of equal abilities and technical expertise. Each demonstrates a high level of dedication to the task, in addition to a high level of mutual respect. They have no axe to grind, and no egos were involved. Russ and Randy simply wanted to figure out how best to collaborate using the tools available to them at the time.

If these two guys had trouble figuring out how best to collaborate, then what does that say for the rest of us?

You may wish to review these several "short subject" recorded HOAs (Hangouts on Air) and blog posts listed below describing the process of sharing and syncing to an Ancestry Member Tree. Be sure to also tune in to Russ and Randy's discussion of the challenges they encountered when collaborating.

ANCESTRY MEMBER TREES: Sharing Options with Russ and Ol' Myrt

ANCESTRY MEMBER TREES: What is Syncing?  with Russ and Ol' Myrt.


ANCESTRY MEMBER TREES: Practical Collaboration Tips with Russ, Randy and Ol' Myrt.


From Russ Worthington's Family Tree Maker User Blog:

From Randy Seaver's GeneaMusing Blog:

YES, Ol' Myrt here is giving out a great big call to action. Why can't seamless syncing be done? In this case we're talking two of Ancestry.com properties -- Ancestry Member Trees and Family Tree Maker. This is 2013, and we're only slightly farther along than copying and pasting from a newly discovered cousin's email or a message board posting.

I dare say "crowdsourcing" works well for large scale genealogy indexing projects, but why must we leave it at that? Genealogists want to collaborate. They want to put their work out there for peer review.

Programmers, let's get going and make syncing work smoothly.

Happy family tree climbing!

Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Blog: http://blog.DearMYRTLE.com
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  1. Giving many Thanks for your support of the dialog, extracting some problem nodes and making pointed suggestions. And speaking of Tamura Jones, perhaps a review of his latest posts on FTM will suggest some options.


  2. Yes! Here's another vote for universal, seamless syncing! I used FTM Mac for a while and loved the syncing feature. Unfortunately, I couldn't tolerate some of the other features. With a new Mac laptop and not finding Mac software that I liked &/or would take significant parts of my pc gedcom, I've actually had to run emulation on my mac & go back to Ancestral Quest. Thanks for your efforts Dear Myrt!