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

Monday, January 4, 2016

Some Observations on the Research Wiki

It has been some considerable time since I have written about the Research Wiki. The Research Wiki continues to grow and become an even more valuable source of genealogical information but the inner workings of the program and its maintenance have changed dramatically over the past two years or so. Here is a screenshot taken back on 29 March 2013 showing the statistics for that date.

Here is the same page updated recently.

There are some notable changes in the last two years or so (almost three years). The total number of page views has almost doubled. This shows that there are over 100 million views a year of the Research Wiki. However, views of the Main Page have not increased as dramatically. This is likely due to the fact that so many pages are now found by Google Searches directly. The number of total Content Pages has climbed from 72,019 in 2013 to 82,800. This is a substantial increase given the fact that much of the easily added content has already been included.

One disturbing statistic is the fact that from 2013 to 2016, almost three whole years, the number of Registered Users has apparently not changed and the number of active users who have performed an action in the last 30 days has dropped by almost a half. My perspective on this is that over the last three years nearly all the functions of the Research Wiki have been moved "in house." That is that FamilySearch, with the aid of Church Service Missionaries, has taken over most of the content and formatting operations of the Research Wiki. In the past, there was a broad base of "outside" contributors, but that day has long since ended. The core of "editors" no longer reach out to those not specifically identified as part of the organization. For example, I had an intensive involvement with the Research Wiki Support Group but I have had no communication from anyone working on the Research Wiki for some time now even though I am still active in editing and adding information. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does move the Research Wiki away from the service of many who could contribute information that does not happen to lie within the interests and expertise of the insider group. This also means that the Research Wiki will not be added to or corrected to extent that it might have been had there been a broader spectrum and a larger number of contributors.

Originally, the Research Wiki was designed as an open, collaborative resource. It grew rapidly because of the involvement of thousands of contributors. Apparently attracting new (or old) contributors outside of the organization itself in no longer a goal. How are only 200+ active contributors going to keep 286,000+ pages of information current and accurate? That comes out to about 1,000 pages per active contributor.

Regardless, the Research Wiki is still a work in progress. Although I note that the only mention of the Research Wiki in the FamilySearch blog post entitled, "2015 Year in Review: FamilySearch Grows as World’s Foremost Family History Resource" made only this mention of the Research Wiki:
Patrons needing help can get immediate assistance by telephone (one-on-one to online volunteer assistants,) by viewing the hundreds of free video courses online, and by accessing the FamilySearch Wiki, an online reference source with over 100,000 helpful articles that are updated weekly.
Not only is this a vast understatement of the Research Wiki and its resources, it is inaccurate. There are more than 286,000 helpful articles including both the content articles and all of the other explanatory and help oriented articles. Apparently, in the view of FamilySearch, the Research Wiki has been relegated to a help center that is "updated weekly" rather than the reality of 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It is probably no wonder that those of us who have made thousands of edits and added hundreds of pages should feel a little put out. In addition, there was only one article posted to the FamilySearch Research Wiki blog during the calendar year 2015.

Is there a danger that FamilySearch will abandon the Research Wiki simply because no in the organization seems to know or appreciate its value? Maybe sees no benefit from the 100 million views of the Research Wiki? The youth that FamilySearch likes to talk about are growing up with Wikipedia as a source of information. They would be very comfortable using the Research Wiki. But how many of them have even heard of it or know where to find it? Hmm.


  1. Thanks for your recent blog of GenSoft Reviews. I was able to find that Parowan Software still offers a free download of PAF. I have a new laptop and had no way to transfer all 27,000 names that I have in my db. I am an old granny and have still not found any genie program that compares with PAF (for me at least). I read all your posts and enjoy them - even the ones I don't quite understand! Keep on writing.

  2. James, are you aware of Yammer? There is a very active wiki research group that communicates there all the time. It looks like they are organized with a leader giving some assignments. But I can bet they'd welcome your input. Here is one link to it

    1. My point exactly. Yes, they are mostly Church Service Missionaries.

    2. Discussion of research Wiki matters should not have been in-housed. I used to receive a newsletter and occasional personal contacts regarding the Wiki, but that all stopped a few years ago. Not very encouraging for those of us who are not attached to some branch of the LDS enterprise.

      Since cancellation of the Forums a few years ago, there is no public venue for discussion of Wiki issues.