Tuesday, July 29, 2014

IAJGS2014 Conference - Day 2, Part 2/2

Day whatever of the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.  My entire summary, day by day, here.

And onto the second part of day 2!

I then attended a forum titled "Internet Collaboration: How Do We Share Our Family Trees Online?"  Sallyann Sack-Pikus was the moderator.  It began with each panel member giving his or her individual perspective for 15 minutes.

The first speaker was Adam Brown.  He stated that everyone in the room is related because we all are Jewish and DNA testing has demonstrated that fact. He therefore uses geni to try to see how we all connect.  Geni allows collaborative work. People can add what they know and include photos and information that only they know.  Lots of people working together can be powerful and can correct information.  In other tools, there can be multiple versions of the same tree. Geni doesn't have that--there are ways to resolve conflicts.  Geni is alive and can continually be corrected and updated.  Because trees can be merged, geni can identify potential other branches of your tree automatically.
Next up was Israel Pickholtz. He has a cousin who had a family tree back further than Israel. But while Israel has the tree, there are no sources.  So while geni could be useful in this sort of situation (as the cousin has since died), he still does not use geni.  He collaborates freely. He posts information on his family online which has enabled others to contact him and expand his tree and for him to expand theirs.  Even people with no interest in genealogy find his site via google searches of their family names--geni would not have gotten that connection.  He believes DNA is the most collaborative web of all.  He has public presence, but he wants his data under his own control.  He does not ever envision ever putting one tree online. Each family is its own project.  He also has his Pickholtz single-surname project. There are small standalone family groups whose connection hasn't yet been determined. Such a project doesn't lend itself to ancestry- or geni-type trees.  But his website allows people to search and find information and contribute to his knowledge.  It can tell a story the way he wants to tell it, rather than in a typical database/tree.

Gary Mokotoff then presented a new approach which he believes captures the best of both approaches and removes some of the disadvantages.  He describes "conventional genealogy" as a scholarly pursuit of documenting one's ancestors. "Collaborative genealogy" allows a group of people to help build a family tree; there may be contributors who are serious genealogist and those who contribute information based on their knowledge rather than sources.  He coins his new system "Geni2."  Each tree will have a family historian who organizes his or her family tree.  Every subset of the world family tree would have its own historian. Initially that historian would place a tree in geni2.  As records are merged, family historians would need to resolve issues amongst themselves. Other information could be added (photos, documents, etc.). When there is a conflict between a new contributor's information and what was there, the family historian rules.  He can also add anecdotal information that was deemed inaccurate.  He believes that sources should be mandatory, not optional. (This got a round of applause.) Same with pictures--each individual needs to be identified as well as the photograph's date.  Geni2 would allow gedcom input with exceptions highlighted, which geni does not.  In addition, it should have the ability to produce reports to allow people to read family histories in a structured form.

Sallyann then brought up the issue of maintaining the data. What if someone with a standalone tree dies?  What if geni goes under?  Israel Pickholtz stressed the importance of a genealogical heir--someone who can take over and is interested in taking over the data.

Adam Brown pointed out that books have errors that aren't easily corrected.  In science, you never throw away a theory. Geni helps to preserve all of the disparate information that people have. He also pointed out that digital data dies because of the media it is on becoming obsolete, not because the data disappears. It is important to continually update the storage means.  Gary Mokotoff believes the concept of the internet has the best chance of surviving.

Then off to a bloggers' dinner, organized by Emily Garber of (Going) The Extra Yad blog.  There were a wide variety of bloggers there with a wide variety of opinions and purposes for their blogs.  Lots of chatter ensued.

Stay tuned for Day 3....

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