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Friday, July 8, 2011

My Guesses About FamilySearch

Meteorologists have a pretty easy task in predicting the weather in Mesa, Arizona most of the time. We can go for months with a forecast of sunny and warmer. If you live somewhere else where there is weather, they probably have a more difficult and exciting time. Although every once in a while we do get a noteworthy weather event, like a dust storm or 188 degrees.

Unlike meteorologists, genealogists are not usually in the predicting business. Even when you throw in technology, genealogy is very predictable and pretty tame stuff. Most of the commercial genealogy businesses are all to anxious to tell you about their new developments, sometime announcing new products way in advance of release dates to build interest and sales. OK, so now we talk about FamilySearch. FamilySearch is anything but profit driven. Not only do they hesitate to announce anticipated changes in their products, they sometimes fail to announce the changes at all, letting the users discover them for themselves. So trying to guess what FamilySearch is doing or may do in the near future is more like being a meteorologist in the Mid-West or someplace where the weather changes every day and you have to make a lot of guesses.

Here are some of my guesses at what is happening and will happen with FamilySearch and all of its online resources. Please believe me, these are all my thoughts and guesses. I have no insider information about FamilySearch that cannot be obtained from looking at their online publications, forums and programs directly.

My first guess is that the engineers (read programmers) at FamilySearch are way behind in addressing user issues. I am aware that there are probably very limited resources and that those resources are probably allocated by committees. The basis for my guess comes from the fact that changes made to all of the FamilySearch websites are general in nature and do not seem to address the user issues outlined extensively in the GetSatisfaction.com section of the Feedback tab on the FamilySearch.org pages. Many of the topics go back months with no further action. Some go back more than a year.

My next guess is that there are internal organizational priority reasons that some parts of the FamilySearch websites are less prominent than other parts of the interlinked sites. Why is the Forums.FamilySearch.org site buried down inside the Research Wiki? I realize that the Forums site is still designated a "Beta" site, but it is a valuable and proven resource in the FamilySearch community but is virtually unknown to the public because it is buried so deeply. Maybe my first guess is the reason the second guess.

Moving on to another guess, I guess that there is a lot of work going on involving major changes to some of the onsite resources. This may be one reason why there are few relatively cosmetic changes being made. Further in this guess, I think that some of the changes that seem relatively superficial to the users, such as integrating Indexing more completely into the FamilySearch.org website, are really complicated and involve a lot of decision levels.

I am guessing that there are a lot of internal conflicting viewpoints concerning some of the development processes and it is taking a whole lot of time to sift through the different opinions and come up with consensus. One example, is the Historical Books Collection aka The Brigham Young University Family History Archive which seems rather moribund at the present time. There does not seem to be a practical way to incorporate all of the scanned books already in the system and get them online at all.  (I know from personal experience that there are many more books scanned than have been included in the Archive or in the Family History Library Catalog).

On a different note, I am guessing that the Research Wiki will become the go-to most valuable genealogy resource online. I am guessing that there will be over 100,000 articles within the next 10 months. Although the pace of contributions seems to have slowed, I attribute that primarily to the lack of prominence the program shares with Forums. There is nothing on the FamilySearch.org startup page that says "Wiki" anywhere, at all.

I am guessing that New FamilySearch will not be generally open to the public by the end of this year. In this regard, I think that the problems of adjusting the program to allow for data editing and sourcing are turning out to be virtually insurmountable in the program's present form. (I hope I am wrong).

I am guessing that there are still millions of records waiting to be uploaded to the Historical Record Collections including the last few years of onsite digitizing done around the world. I am guessing that FamilySearch is looking for a way to speed up the project even further.

I guess that FamilySearch will look for additional topics to add to its collection of websites in the future, such as the TechTips site (also buried). In this regard, FamilySearch may become a victim of its own success and have more traffic than it can comfortably manage.

My last guess for today, is that FamilySearch will work through all of its present problems and come up with resources that are even more fabulous than those available today. I am not guessing, I know that they will solve most of the problems and will become the dominant resource for genealogical data online.

3 comments:

  1. I think that most of your guesses are spot on.

    FamilySearch, like all organizations, is operating on a budget that limits human and machine resources. So there are priorities, especially within divisions that are overloaded with development tasks on a deadline.

    FS has also lost some key people in recent months - Dan Lawyer and Anne roach come to mind, and perhaps others I'm not aware of.

    If I were management, I would list my top priorities as bringing digital collections online (indexed or not), getting newFamilySearch ready for prime time, and keeping the Research Wiki spinning out information. When those are working well with sufficient resources and support, then the "wanna have" and "neat things" may be addressed.

    Being in the non-LDS community, I see how little is really known about FamilySearch by the rank-and-file genea-society member. They know that FS has lots of microfilms and some crappy online databases (IGI, AF), but many have no clue about the Wiki, the Historical Collections, the Research Courses, etc.

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  2. I too think that your guesses are about right. Take a look at the White Paper at https://help.familysearch.org/kb/guides/en/The_Case_for_Our_Tree_FamilySearch.pdf. I think that will give you a better idea of what is or will be happening on NFS.

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  3. Thanks to Finn for the link. The word "evidence" does not appear in the document.

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