Concerns about new ordinance reservation process

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KathrynGZ
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Concerns about new ordinance reservation process

Postby KathrynGZ » Sun Aug 09, 2009 8:25 pm

The latest beta nFS introduced a change to ordinance reservation requiring users to reserve all available ordinances for an entire family at the same time in order to “focus on a family” (per the beta instructions).

Helping a ward member in new FamilySearch tonight, I was surprised (and a bit dismayed) to see that this change is now in production. I’m sure it’s well-intentioned. But I don’t think the practical implications were fully considered. I suspect this change will cause confusion and error without really improving our focus on families.

These are my concerns, and I’d be interested in feedback from the community.

Why the Underlying Rationale is Questionable

1. Consider the logic: “Since families are important, all ordinances for a family should be cleared at the same time.” The conclusion actually does not follow from the premise. Clearing all ordinances at the same time doesn't make families more important, and clearing ordinances individually doesn't make families less important. Living family members don’t get all their ordinances at the same time, and that has nothing to do with the importance of the family.

2. Consider this analogy: You can't strengthen a family directly because a family is not a conscious being. It's an organization, and you strengthen it by strengthening the individuals in it. In the same way, the way you do temple work for a family is by doing the work for each individual in the family. We are already focusing on families by doing temple work. Forcing all ordinances to be cleared at the same time just adds an unnecessary layer of complexity.

Why The New Process Is Problematic

1. On the individual LDS Ordinances screen, it’s counter-intuitive to be directed to sealings as the starting point when they are typically the final ordinances done. It’s even more counter-intuitive to click on a link for doing individual ordinances and have the whole family come up.

2. The messages on the screen are confusing. “To select these ordinances select either sealing to parents or sealing to spouse links below” is rather like saying, “To select what you are trying to select, select something other than what you are trying to select.” Can you imagine how this will puzzle users who are new to family history, web applications, or both?

3. The new process provides an inconsistent user experience: If enough information is available, I’m forced to use one of the sealing links; if not, I’m not. The distinction between the two scenarios isn’t apparent unless you know what to look for. I suspect this will also confuse users. (“Hey, there was a different link here last time. Why isn’t it there now?”)

4. By taking the focus off individuals and putting it on a group, we are encouraging members not to take the care they should with each individual name. We already know that nFS frequently marks people as “Ready” when they are not in fact ready, due to duplication/inaccuracies.This new process will likely lead to more names being cleared with less accuracy.

5. Aren't we supposed to be focusing on our direct-line ancestors before we do collateral work? So why would we focus on clearing entire family groups?

6. The new process makes collaboration more difficult. For example, I work with my parents on family history. They live in Utah; I live in Tennessee. Often I will do the endowments and my father will take care of the sealings. If we can’t reserve ordinances separately, we revert to the necessity of snail-mailing cards back and forth.

This isn't to say we shouldn't carefully track our work or proceed methodically through a family group to be sure no one is left out. In fact, maybe visibility is really what we’re after. Why not have some pre-reservation means of displaying all the ordinances needed for a family?

When the Savior visited the Nephites, they went forth to him "one by one" (3 Ne 11:15). So it is with temple work. I strongly recommend restoring the former ordinance reservation process, allowing users to clear one individual at a time, so the process is as simple, manageable, and as error-free as possible.

Kathryn

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Concerns about new ordinance reservation process

Postby KathrynGZ » Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:33 am

One more possible drawback, from a real-life example: in one family I'm working on, the father shows Ready, but I suspect his work may already be done as there are several potential duplicates in nFS. However, I need to do more research to make sure they're the same person. I've exhausted online sources and am having to turn to traditional, slower resources (microfilms, etc.)

In the meanwhile (as far as I can tell) the new process makes it impossible to move forward with the rest of the family's work, both where he is the father and where he is the son. That doesn't seem fair to the rest of the family.

I realize I can reserve his name and just not do the work, but that feels like a hack instead of a best practice, plus it raises the chance of accidentally duplicating his work if I forget in the future that he shouldn't really be on the list. (Since I'm working on multiple lines for myself and others, forgetting could happen!)

Someone please correct me if I'm missing something.

I worked as a technical writer for almost a decade. In that work, I discovered that when a process was awkward to document or explain, the process probably needed improvement. I've been imagining how as a consultant I will explain this new process to ward members:

Ward member: "I'd like to be baptized for my grandfather."

Me: "Okay, click on the sealing link."

Ward member: "Huh? I wanted to do the baptism."

Me: "I know, but you have to click the sealing link."

Ward member: "Well, okay. [clicks link] What's this? Why did the whole family come up? I just want to reserve the baptism right now. My brother in another state wants to do the endowment. I don't want to reserve my grandfather's brother--my cousin wants to do that work because it's his direct ancestor."

Me: "I'm sorry, one of you will have to reserve all the ordinances for the family. You can mail the cards to each other."

Ward member: "Seems like a hard way to do it..."

The new process seems to ignore the realities of actually doing research and temple work in favor of (mis)applying a concept ("We should focus on families.") I feel there must be a better way :)

Kathryn

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Postby garysturn » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:06 am

This new Temple process also allows you to remove a reserved name from the reserved list. If you are not comfortable doing an entire family, remove those family members from the reserved list that you do not want to do at this time.

In the previous release you could only release names to the Temple but with this new release you can remove them from your reserved list without sending them to the Temple.
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KathrynGZ
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Concerns about new ordinance reservation process

Postby KathrynGZ » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:42 am

GarysTurn wrote:In the previous release you could only release names to the Temple but with this new release you can remove them from your reserved list without sending them to the Temple.


You're right, Gary--and I actually thought about that, but it's also a hack--a workaround which indicates the current process needs improvement.

But again, maybe I'm missing something. I'd like to hear what the advantages are to the new approach beyond being able to say "We are focusing on families by reserving all ordinances for a family at one time" (which in my mind is a rather weak advantage compared to the numerous and stronger disadvantages).

I can only think of one other advantage, a practical one: On the rare occasions when all ordinances for a family are ready to be cleared at the same time, it's easy to do so.

But come to think of it, I don't think I've ever personally had a whole family ready to clear at one time (though I remember one time when my researcher Mom did :) ). In my experience, that's not the reality of research. And even if it were easy and common to clear ordinances for a whole family at once, that still doesn't address other concerns mentioned above.

Thanks! The discussion continues ...

Kathryn

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Postby techgy » Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:16 pm

Kathryn wrote:..... But again, maybe I'm missing something. I'd like to hear what the advantages are to the new approach beyond being able to say "We are focusing on families by reserving all ordinances for a family at one time" (which in my mind is a rather weak advantage compared to the numerous and stronger disadvantages). Kathryn


One of the advantages of doing an entire family at one time is that a little more effort goes into identifying the individuals of a family to insure that you've got the right person. This helps avoid the duplicate ordinance problem, which is the primary goal behind the nFS system and the reason that President Hinckley requested that the effort be undertaken.

When ordinances are performed for an individual and that individual isn't tied to a family, it's easier to choose the wrong person, especially if it's a common surname.
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Postby mkmurray » Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:22 pm

Techgy wrote:One of the advantages of doing an entire family at one time is that a little more effort goes into identifying the individuals of a family to insure that you've got the right person. This helps avoid the duplicate ordinance problem, which is the primary goal behind the nFS system and the reason that President Hinckley requested that the effort be undertaken.

When ordinances are performed for an individual and that individual isn't tied to a family, it's easier to choose the wrong person, especially if it's a common surname.

I suppose, but couldn't there just be a verify step ("are you sure you have the right person, child of so and so?") instead of having the user reserve the entire family, just to go unreserve most of them right after?
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Postby techgy » Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:50 pm

mkmurray wrote:I suppose, but couldn't there just be a verify step ("are you sure you have the right person, child of so and so?") instead of having the user reserve the entire family, just to go unreserve most of them right after?


That would be easier, but how many times do you thoroughly read a software license or agreement before you click "I Accept"???

Questions such as those would simply be ignored because it's easier to say "yes, I know what I'm doing."
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Postby PNMarkW2 » Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:47 am

Techgy wrote:One of the advantages of doing an entire family at one time is that a little more effort goes into identifying the individuals of a family to insure that you've got the right person. This helps avoid the duplicate ordinance problem,


Duplication of work is a problem, one ancestor in my wife's family has had their temple work done at least 3 or 4 times, but it's a human problem not a technology problem. Technology can help avoid the problem, but not correct the problem.

I could be wrong, I'm still fairly new to using the new Family Search, but it doesn't seem to me that submitting the whole family is going to prevent someone from entering doggy data, or ignoring what has already been done, just to so they can submit Aunt Lillian and get her work done. My experience is that forcing the issue often results in more bad data, not less, as people try to get things done.
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KathrynGZ
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Concerns about new ordinance reservation process

Postby KathrynGZ » Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:19 pm

PNMarkW2 wrote:I could be wrong, I'm still fairly new to using the new Family Search, but it doesn't seem to me that submitting the whole family is going to prevent someone from entering doggy data, or ignoring what has already been done, just to so they can submit Aunt Lillian and get her work done. My experience is that forcing the issue often results in more bad data, not less, as people try to get things done.


I agree with Mark. I think focusing on an entire family at a time will cause people to pay less attention to carefully validating each family member rather than more. In working with ward members as a consultant, I've found them to be 1) overly-trusting of the data in nFS, as if it were gospel (after all, it's a Church web site!), and 2) pressed for time. They want to get their family history "done," trying to fit it in with their other callings, a full- or part-time job, running teens here and there, sharing the gospel with their neighbors, etc. The new procedure invites them to cut corners as they deal not with individuals, but groups.

At the last general conference, the church had approximately 13.5M members. Let's suppose that just 10%--about 1.3M--use nFS (I have no idea what the number really is). Suppose the new procedure results in 5 duplicate ordinances per user (probably a conservative estimate, given that families are larger the further back you go). We end up with almost 7M new duplicates in the system.

Add to that the hours spent actually doing those 7 million duplicate ordinances, and finally the time spent cleaning up the mistakes. Think of all those on the other side who needed their ordinances done but didn't have that privilege because we on earth were busy doing temple work that was already done.

Considering the size of the expected user base (hopefully a large percentage of Church membership), as well as the database (eventually all of earth's population), reducing duplicates is not a trivial concern! Yes, members have their agency, but an optimal process and user interface can go a long way toward encouraging adequate research and preventing duplicates.

Kathryn

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Concerns about new ordinance reservation process

Postby MarianJohnson » Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:07 am

It seems to me that if you only enter information into nFS about the members of the family for whom you are ready to do ordinance work, and leave out information about the other members of the family, you can submit only those you want to do, and avoid having to remove the others. Then when you find additional information about the other members of the family and are ready to do the temple work on them, you can add those to nFS and do the temple work on them. I figure that if I am not ready to do the temple work on someone, I have no reason to put his or her name in the database. If I put the information in nFS and then don't reserve the name, someone else might reserve it and do the temple work with incomplete information. nFS assumes that however many names you put in it constitutes a family - it doesn't know if there are other members of the family if you don't add the names.
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