Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Away with the disputes in New FamilySearch

When New FamilySearch was introduced to Mesa, Arizona back in October of 2007, one of the first things we all did was to use the dispute function to tell the world we disagreed with their inaccurate or wrong information in the file. I literally spent hours and hours searching through the files, disputing all of the wrongly included children, incorrect marriages and other issues. Over time, it became apparent that the program had no real way to make corrections. Eventually, we learned that disputing a person or a fact, locked that individual so that no one could make a change.

To make a long story shorter, I began the process of removing all of my disputes for a number of reasons. Those reasons included all of the angry E-mails I kept getting from other users of the program. Once I figured out that putting in correct information merely duplicated what was there and did not provide any way to make changes to the incorrect information, I started to get rid of my disputes. Unfortunately, I think I may still have a few hiding out there in the far reaches of my family tree. Finally, we got some guidance from FamilySearch about limiting the use of disputes to certain types of problems, such as when an individual was identified with the wrong gender.

Fast forward to today. As recently as July 6, 2010, there were a whole list of Help Topics on the issue of disputes. That is about to change. As stated in the June 2010 update to the Users Guide for New FamilySearch: (See Document 1016383).

Where the Information from Disputes Now Appears
In previous versions of the system, you could “dispute” information, which marked it as incorrect. An individual’s disputes are now in his or her Discussions. The disputes are collected in a discussion that is titled “Legacy Disputes.”
In the “Legacy Disputes” discussion, you can do the following:
  • Review the disputes that were entered on an individual’s record. 
  • Comment on disputes. This will hopefully lead to corrections that resolve the issues. 
  • Edit or delete your own disputes.
Note: You cannot delete the entire “Legacy Disputes” discussion. If all of the comments are deleted from the “Legacy Dispute” discussion, the system automatically deletes the discussion.

Now, in a July, 2010 Beta Test Instruction, the comment is made that eventually, the dispute feature will be removed. In the first phase, you can no longer add disputes, but you can still see old disputes and you can edit or remove the disputes you added.

So, I decided to re-visit my test comments in the Discussions tab that now appears for each individual in the Family Pedigree with Details view. Here is a shot of the menu items:

Back on my Great-great grandfather, I found one comment by one relative. I replied and have had no further comments or discussion. The comment made was:

"Joshua was the son of John Tanner and Lydia Stewart. He needs to be removed from the family of Joshua Tanner and Thankful Tefft."

I replied, "It might be helpful if you specify the person you are referring to by using their Person Identifier Number so that the person can be found. There are at least six different sets of parents in New FamilySearch (NFS) for John Tanner, each of which is named Joshua Tanner and Thankful Tefft. See the * mark next to Josua Tanner. However, NFS will not allow these duplicate families to be combined because the number of combinations exceeds the present 250 person limit."

So far, no further response. I do think the discussion mode is better than the dispute system, but who reads the discussions? Apparently, almost nobody, yet. I would be helpful to this whole process if they made reading the discussion, if any, a prerequisite to making any changes or adding any information. 

In any event, I for one, am not sad to see the dispute function disappear. 


  1. What I'd really like to see is some way to correct the bad information that is bound to exist in a globally shared tree.

    If you look at a large project like Wikipedia, the way they keep the information accurate is by having a hierarchy of editors and moderators, so that there is an "authority" on a particular entry. NFS should have something similar, where you could be declared the "authority" for a particular individual or family. When there is a dispute, you have the expertise to resolve it properly. You could be nominated to be the authority based on how people rate your work in the tree.

    Everyone knows that there are some people who know what they are doing in the tree, and others who just mess things up. We need a way for those who know what they are doing to be in charge of the accuracy of NFS.

  2. I'd like to see a ranking of the source information. If there is no source information, then the reliability of the information would be skewed lower. If there is source information, that would increase the reliability rating of the information.

    I would also love to see the Temple Record source merged some how. When someone exceeded the present 250 person limit and much of those records are Temple Records, it's frustrating to have dangling individuals all over the tree. I don't know how they could solve the problem but it is frustrating

  3. The "Discussions" have the disadvantage to be long and never resolve anything. I really like the idea of a family "authority" but there are so many crossover families, who is the expert for which data? How about something like this: Really "bad" data (like children linked to incorrect parents, etc.) can be sent to "isolation." Isolated data would be marked, but not deleted. All contributors to that data would be automatically notified by email (if available). Contributors could "vote" to remove the data. If all contributors who reply within a year (say) agree, then the data would be removed from view, but the data would remain in "isolation" and marked as "removed." Yes, a lot like a virus. But you can look at the isolated data--just in case it later proves to be correct. Also, if there is not a response from contributors, then the person disputing the data could appeal to the Church/NFS with the explanation and have the data "removed" to isolation if the source or valid reasoning is accepted.