For some members of the greater genealogical community the computer age has yet to arrive. But regardless of your attitude towards computerization or storing your research online or any of a multitude of other questions, ultimately we all have to face our mortality and become concerned about what will happen to our pile of research whether big or small. I continue to hear horror stories about the loss of a genealogist's entire life's work, usually thrown in the garbage. I recently received the rather extensive comment in response to a post entitled, "Family Trees: Unified vs. User Owned."
1. The fear of losing ownership or control of the data"
I'm sorry but this bundles up several very different reasons, viz:
1a The belief that "these are my ancestors".
1b A lack of faith in the ability of the so-called collaborators to follow sensible research process. Examples are where people alter values without leaving any justification or without responding to the existing arguments on the site that document why the proposed, new values are nonsense or who do not respond to requests to discuss or collaborate.
1c A lack of faith in the ability of the software to implement the collaboration process. Example - not providing a mandatory contact process. How can one collaborate with some who cannot be contacted?
1d Inability of the software to convey any nuance of likelihood. For instance, there may be a probability that X is the child of A and B but also a probability that X is the child of C and D and a probability that X is the child of someone else entirely. I know of no software that allows for all three possibilities and collaboration naturally ends up with multiple possibilities.
Items 1b and 1c are crucial and are dismissed far too often as being the same as 1a.
I'd also add:
7. A lack of awareness that the sensible thing to do is to keep a user-owned family tree at the same time as collaborating on a separate unified family tree. Does any supplier of a unified family tree advise that having two trees is sensible? Or are they all content to let people think that the unified family tree is the only tree you'll ever need?
Also we have:This comment raises some fundamental issues about the utility of online programs to support serious genealogical research. So even if researchers elected to store their data online, how would the conflicts pointed out in the comment be resolved? Aren't we all, in a sense, losing our data the minute we commit to one format, especially if that format is online in a public user supported family tree?
Inability of the target software to accommodate all the data that the user already has. This applies to any online tree not just unified family trees. Example - FamilySearch FamilyTree is incapable of loading all sorts of data - notes against events, multiple baptisms, etc.
I have repeatedly heard the comment that a researcher did not want to commit their data to an online family tree because doing so would allow others to copy the data without qualification and the researcher knew that his or her conclusions were tentative at best.
I have found this to be the case when I uploaded my very early research many years ago. Little did I know that my tentative conclusions would be spread over the entire Internet and copied thousands of times including all my errors and wrong conclusions. But then doesn't this raise a real issue? When is our research done to the point that we can comfortably send it out to the world? And if we die before we are ready? What then?
As the commentator points out, there is really no place that undecided, tentative research can be adequately discussed online and the unified family trees, although the step in the right direction, do not answer all of the questions.