Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Where I would like genealogy to be in five or ten years...

Blogger Tony Proctor suggested "it would be interesting to complement my earlier post with the suggestion that I write about "Where would I like genealogy to be..." as opposed to where you think it will be James, Just an idea :-)." That sounded like a good suggestion to me, so I decided to think about the subject. Meanwhile, I was reading a book about the development of online libraries and ebooks written back in 2004. The author of the book made the following comment, "Device-dependent e-books are likely to be important for niche audiences (such as students who must lug around 50 pounds of print books), but they are unlikely to take the world by storm." I am assuming that the author of this book (Tennant, Roy. Managing the Digital Library. New York: Reed Press, 2004) probably rues the day that he made that prediction. Which brings me to the point of this quotation, predicting the future, especially where technology is involved, can be very risky. But, I can take all the risk out of the equation by simply expressing my opinion as to where I would like things to be in the future. That way, I don't have to predict the future at all.

Most of my thoughts about five or ten years in the future were more concerned with whether or not I would still be alive and functioning rather than any deep technological wishes. I most have all the technology I need right now. Current predictions of the technology of the future focus on things such as Google glasses and quadcopter drones delivering packages, neither of which rank very high on my wish list. One of my discussion recently centered around Google's patent of an electronic "throat tattoo." The news about this subject says that the tattoo would communicate with smartphones, gaming devices, tablets and wearable tech like Google Glass via a Bluetooth-style connection and would include a microphone and power source. The idea is that wearers could communicate with their devices via voice commands without having to wear an earpiece or the the Glass headset. I can almost think of nothing I would less like to have. I don't even turn on my cell phone. I severely limit the timing and type of interruptions I have during the day. This type of device would be the antithesis of what I envision the future to be like. It reminds me too much of the Borgs. But of course, Q is the number one most annoying villain of Star Trek. 

One thing I really would like to see is a completely viable and functional version of Family Tree. It would be nice if it were combined with a sort-of search engine that would suggest sources and help with the more mundane research. I guess in my heart of hearts, I would just like our existing technology to work to its full potential and improve. I don't really need any more bells and whistles. I would be more than satisfied if the current programs just worked better. 

It would also be nice if all those people out there thinking about genealogical standards would get together and come up with a completely workable systems of exchanging data between different programs. Perhaps to protect the insular nature of the current programs, we could devise a two stage process, where the data from each of the programs would work with an intermediary translator that could use advanced data recognition to translate the data structures from one program to another. The intermediary could act like an escrow company for genealogical data. That would be nice. 

I have mentioned this before, but I really like the idea of some sort of data ranking system for online family trees. Perhaps, everyone's tree starts out at zero and gains points or stars or whatever, as people vote for its utility, accuracy and completeness. I think it would also be a good idea to allow reviews of every contributed family tree. 

Did I note that I have little confidence that any of my dreams of a genealogical Shangri La will come true, except the part about rapidly changing from youth to old age? 

Hmm. The question is where will genealogy be in five to ten years? I think the real focus will be on huge accumulations of digitized records. But with billions upon billions of records online, there will still be millions upon millions of family trees without a single source. That's not exactly what I would like to happen, but that is what is likely to happen. 

Techwise, I would like a voice recognition program that learned from my corrections and would be able to handle website links. That isn't asking too much is it?


  1. I like your vision, James.

    I think a program could be put together that can access and work seamlessly with FamilySearch FamilyTree, MyHeritage, Ancestry and others all at once.

    The FHISO people need to get going to get the standards ball rolling. We haven't heard boo from them since Drew Smith became chair last summer.

    And Ancestor Sync was going great guns to be the solution to translate data structures between programs, and then about a year ago, just stopped making advances.

    I can see a genealogy program that can make data sourcing a requirement of data entry and make it so easy and natural to do that everyone will do it.

    So most of your wishes are possible. We all just need to get going on these initiatives.


  2. I share your hopes for most of the points you made. I'll add one and subtract one:

    One of my wishes would be the ability to do more research in remote archives, without travelling there. Maybe the only solution is more digitization, but there might be other technological solutions. Conferences are getting virtual attendees; why not hope that archives can be better utilized?

    I didn't like your idea of ranking trees. Individual profiles, maybe. Submitter track record, maybe (could be automated). Whole trees - no. No tree is of a single quality throughout, and popularity is a bad measure of the quality of work. As changes are made (for better or worse), how can the prior votes be modified? As well, many on-line trees promote collaboration and a world tree view instead of separate individual trees.