Family History Stuff

Discussions around the Help Center website located at clerksupport.lds.org. (Formerly called Record Keeping and Technology Support or RKATS)
sammythesm
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Family History Stuff

Postby sammythesm » Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:38 pm

Over the weekend I helped a neighboring stake redo their family history center. It had fallen into disrepair, no one knew any passwords, and the computers just needed to be reimaged and brought back from scratch.

As this was my first time needing to do this as STS (the FHC in my stake is so well managed I hardly ever hear from them), I started trolling the forum here and at familysearch.org to figure out what I was to do.

It was successful, but I had some observations along the way:
1) family history kind of 'does their own thing' on their own little island.

Some tools (i.e. sophos) are common, while others (LANDesk) are not. Software distribution is done differently, etc etc etc. I've heard a General Authority say, in passing - "Well, when the Family History department decides to join the rest of the church..." - indicating they are well-aware of that dept kind of doing their own thing.

2) we don't have a lot of "authoritative" information here on family history center stuff.

IMO, the new STS-focused LDS.org site needs to be a single-source of truth for Technology Specialist. This includes supporting local units, family history centers, mission offices, etc. (I suppose the only thing I've never heard a STS being asked to support is a Temple.) Even though the church departments aren't set up for this type of information sharing/exchange (and it shows), some heroic effort needs to be done to bring all the policies, procedures, software, etc into one location as it all runs downstream and makes the STS's job harder.

3) it would be helpful to have a place for privileged information

I anticipate the new site for STSs is going to be this place, but it should include things that have been historically left out of forum posts and wiki posts: commonly used/standardized usernames, passwords, wifi passwords, etc. No need to leave new STSs guessing or relying on old paperwork passed down over the years.

That's about it. I'm posting this here so it can be taken into consideration with the new site being developed. Thanks!

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:08 pm

sammythesm wrote:IMO, the new STS-focused LDS.org site needs to be a single-source of truth for Technology Specialist.


I would like to see that, but there's a practical issue to contend with. FamilySearch is a separate organization within the church. It even has it's own IT department. I don't know for sure, but I'd suspect part of the reason for being separate is tax laws. The church is a religious organization, while FamilySearch is probably organized as a "education", or at least as some other classification of non-profit. So in that sense it's not much different then the church and BYU being different. So yes, there is a lot of 'does their own thing'.

Because of this, whatever you download from mls.lds.org should only go on clerk computers. What's downloaded from familysearch site should only go on FHC computers. Even if the product seems to be the same. Because chances are the update is pulling from a different server.
Have you searched the Wiki?
Try using a Google search by adding "site:tech.lds.org/wiki" to the search criteria.

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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:38 pm

sammythesm wrote:IMO, the new STS-focused LDS.org site needs to be a single-source of truth for Technology Specialist. This includes supporting local units, family history centers, mission offices, etc. (I suppose the only thing I've never heard a STS being asked to support is a Temple.) Even though the church departments aren't set up for this type of information sharing/exchange (and it shows), some heroic effort needs to be done to bring all the policies, procedures, software, etc into one location as it all runs downstream and makes the STS's job harder.


Although I certainly share your desire to get all that information in one place, I wouldn't hold my breath. Your choice of the word "heroic" in describing the effort is fairly accurate, since FamilySearch and ICS truly are separate departments within the Church, operating in different locations, reporting up through different apostles. Requiring two different departments to feed their extensive information into a single site would take a lot of work both initially and on an ongoing basis.

And who exactly would benefit from these heroic efforts? Not very many people. It would be wonderful for all the STSs, but not too many other people would benefit from the huge efforts required. My guess is that if anyone were to give careful consideration to your suggestion, chances are that the cost/benefit analysis would lead to a decision not to merge the information. As long as those departments continue to operate so independently, it just seems impractical.
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johnshaw
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Postby johnshaw » Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:39 pm

If we're hoping for the future, I'd like to have the STS granted some kind of official status in the scheme of things. I'm not the PFR so FMG refuses to interact with me one-on-one, meaning lost in translation EVERY time. I'm not the FHC Director or the HC over Family History so FamilySearch refuses to deal with me (new computers, new FHC, not a single contact to the STS about the process... but Directors, areas directors, etc...) I sit at home waiting for something to happen and the phone to ring, then boom, hey we got this computer 3 weeks ago why haven't you installed it yet! at least 2 occasions that has happened.

The only way to solve this is to give the role to a HC IMHO, or give STS the decision making ability over some FMG funding to get things done for the stake. I say an Area/Regional STS with decision making ability is in order.
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”
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hutchinsbb
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We're working on this - Better coordination with Family History and other departments

Postby hutchinsbb » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:09 am

This has been a great conversation, and I want you to know that we are actively working on better coordination between eleven departments of the Church that interface with the meetinghouse - - regardless of who they report to. We started two new committees in February of 2012, one at the manager level and one at the director level, with the sole focus being how to better coordinate our efforts. Here is the charter of both groups:

We review meetinghouse technology opportunities, solutions, and policies to improve cross-department communication and coordination. Specifically, we:

1. Evaluate opportunities to be addressed.
2. Increase cross-department visibility and participation.
3. Review projects, policy, and communications.
4. Identify executive review paths.

Point #4 only applies to the directors.

We have been meeting monthly with both groups since February and much is changing as a result. The new LDS.org "Record-keeping and Technology Support" site for all clerks (member, finance, technology specialists, etc.) coming out in the next month is a direct result of these committees at work. Without them, the site would have been for finance and member clerks only. Now it is for all clerks, an authoritative place for all clerks to come and get trained. And we will be able to add a secure login for sensitive information. Another big potential win coming out of these committees is a consolidated policy document for meetinghouse technology.

So . . . keep the feedback coming. It is not falling on deaf ears. We are working hard to improve the coordination of work between departments, especially with family history. Thank you for your consecrated effort to serve and give of yourself, even when it would appear sometimes as if you are on your own.

Ben
Meetinghouse Technology Manager

sammythesm
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Postby sammythesm » Thu Sep 13, 2012 12:21 pm

Thanks for working hard on this, Ben. I know the church has a unique internal structure, but really awesome things happen when we find ways to bring the various departments together, especially when they so often collide in front of a single, volunteer network administrator per stake.

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johnshaw
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Postby johnshaw » Thu Sep 13, 2012 12:24 pm

Ben,

I agree this is fantastic, does the FMG have participation on that board, that is the place I see the greatest divide.
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”

― Thomas Paine, Common Sense

sammythesm
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Postby sammythesm » Thu Sep 13, 2012 12:26 pm

RussellHltn wrote:FamilySearch is a separate organization within the church. It even has it's own IT department. I don't know for sure, but I'd suspect part of the reason for being separate is tax laws. The church is a religious organization, while FamilySearch is probably organized as a "education", or at least as some other classification of non-profit. So in that sense it's not much different then the church and BYU being different. So yes, there is a lot of 'does their own thing'.


Understood, BUT - the Church has obviously figured out a way for this separate legal entity to occupy space in its buildings, burn its electricity, use its network connections, etc. If it can do that and still remain a separate legal entity, I don't see why there'd be any problem with hosting its software and policies on the same web page as the church's software and policies.

Bizegrama
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Re: Family History Stuff

Postby Bizegrama » Sat Dec 15, 2012 11:50 am

To give a little perspective from a FHC director of 10 years and our specific situation:

1. Originally the FHC director set up all the computers. They were shipped directly to the FHC director's home address. I set up all of our computers. The MS Canon was sent to the FMS & then set up by the Canon rep. My understanding is all computers now go through FMS. Because we are geographically at least an hour from STS, and because of his busy schedule I have done most of the work on computers, including software upgrades, etc. I had to replace a hard drive on one of the computers, as it would have been month or so before STS could have done it. Without the hard drive, our patrons could not use the MS Canon 300 microfilm/fiche scanner. (Not all FHC directors are capable doing this & may have to rely on STS.)

2. We have to had to deal, for a number of years, with four different entities within the church: FMG (which originally was for furniture, maintenance of microfilm viewers), Distribution Center for microfilm/fiche loans, Family History Center support (now via FamilySearch) and STS. I have tried as much as possible to maintain our microfilm viewers in the FHC as most repairs are minor such as replacing the drive belt. I try to keep the FMG, etc informed as much as possible.

3. My experience has been when the STS does come to the church, the FHC director is NOT notified, which provides for some disconnect. I am very computer knowledgeable. Do I know everything? No. But I would have liked to be present went the Cisco 881 was installed or at least some notification that it was going to be done, since I am usually the one that has to reboot the system. I have some questions that I would have liked to be answered. Instead I walked in to the FHC the next time to a whole different system.

4. All areas (FMG, STS, etc) that support a FHC should be cognizant of the fact every FHC director is different in their abilities, but there should be mutual respect and coordination amongst all of organizations (FMG, STS, etc). Some of the issues I have had to address over the years: 1) Though I tried to tell everyone the wireless would not work in the Clerk's office in our meetinghouse due to building construction and weak signal, it took quite a while for everyone to realize it didn't work; 2) When they finally decided to go to Ethernet connection (which I had recommended all along), someone came without my knowledge, and proceeded to make a mess over the computers, MS Canon scanner in FHC (where our internet connection is located). Had I known they were coming I would have covered the equipment, since they apparently didn't think to cover equipment; 3) Walking in to open the FHC, only to find the rug shampooers have shampooed the carpet & it is sopping wet, not mention the mess (I had have my husband go home & get our rug shampooer to suck up the water); 4) Installation of the Cisco 881 without so much as an e-mail to that effect; and I could go on.

5. All I ask is for mutual respect and coordination amongst all the organizations, something I have seen lacking for many years. We can all do a better job of communication.

Thanks

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johnshaw
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Re: Family History Stuff

Postby johnshaw » Mon Dec 17, 2012 7:00 am

AMEN!!!!!! AMEN!!!!!!!!! and AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As the STS, and I hear about things AFTER they are done, because I'm not included during any kind of planning, process or coordination - I always notify, EVERY Bishop, Clerk in the meetinghouse (including other stakes if they occupy a building) - Stake PFR and FHC Director and if FHC is in that meetinghouse - and Stake Presidency.

I will lay the blame squarely on FMG, typically, they control ALL of these interactions and should be responsible for communication. But their skills do not lie in this area. EVERY FMG should have a service missionary, that is wholly responsible for communicating the work done by the FMG to stakes/wards/branches.
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”

― Thomas Paine, Common Sense


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