Two future features I would love to see

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huffkw
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Two future features I would love to see

Postby huffkw » Wed Jan 23, 2008 9:09 pm

Two future features I would love to see: user-selected microfilm indexing, and a unique global name identifier for all historical individuals (using a lesson from Google)

At some point in the near future, when the Church’s huge collection of microfilm images are digitized and online in large numbers, I hope there will develop a general realization and consensus that two more major features would greatly enhance that system. One new feature would be a mechanism for users to be able to chose by time and location which microfilm images they wish to transcribe and index for their (and the public’s) benefit. Obviously, users will tend to choose microfilm that is related to their ancestors, and they will have a personal interest in doing the best possible job of transcribing it. They will have a big incentive to do the indexing on pages of data from several record collections so they can reference those document images in their family collections of data. They will be able to direct any interested person to those same images which will be conveniently online, compliments of the Church. This will mean that every genealogist can have many of the benefits of a family website without the need to actually establish their own separate website. There will be no need to copy those voluminous images to their personal site. Allowing users to select the microfilm data they wish to enter and index should greatly supplement the current, more generalized indexing system where images to be indexed are chosen and assigned by the system itself. (From a user’s perspective, the microfilm selections made automatically by the current system may appear to be completely random, instead of being tied directly to the research work the users want to do anyway).

The other feature, the need for which I hope will slowly creep into the consciousness of a large number of genealogists, would be to gradually establish a single identifying number for each person and name in the history of the world. This concept has been suggested many times before by others, but until now there has been no simple and practical way to carry it out, as far as I can tell. Having a unique global identifier for each historical person would allow the efficient cooperation of thousands of descendents in assembling and correlating in one place all known data about that historical individual. Data about one historical person could be on a single central site or on multiple websites and yet all of it could be linked easily and accurately to that individual through this common ID number. Without getting into the details of execution, I suggest that the final identifying number for an historical person be competitively determined (rather than be assigned by any particular group of people). Google uses a similar concept to automatically rank the importance of millions of websites, helping to determine which will appear highest on a search results page. An historical person might initially have several or even hundreds of numbers established as their potential long term ID number, as many genealogists store the overlapping results of their work in a central database. In most cases the number that would be chosen as the key, around which to collect all future data, could be selected relatively quickly and easily by the simple expedient of choosing the number that already has the greatest amount of high quality data associated with it, giving special weight to names with the largest number of links to that person’s relatives. There would naturally occur a positive reinforcement process whereby the best initial version would also be the one most added to, making it grow quickly into the clear winner. The remaining numbers for that historical person would not be deleted, but would just be ignored thereafter.

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Postby rmrichesjr » Wed Jan 23, 2008 9:17 pm

huffkw wrote:...
The other feature, the need for which I hope will slowly creep into the consciousness of a large number of genealogists, would be to gradually establish a single identifying number for each person and name in the history of the world. This concept has been suggested many times before by others, but until now there has been no simple and practical way to carry it out, as far as I can tell. ...


The PID (Person IDentifier) string used by the New FamilySearch seem to fit your description. Or, is there something you see as needed that nFS doesn't do?

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Postby russellhltn » Wed Jan 23, 2008 9:20 pm

Have you seen nFS? Your second wish just sounds like a slightly different way to accomplish what nFS has done by allowing you to combine individual records into a single person.

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Postby huffkw » Wed Jan 23, 2008 9:45 pm

My contact with the NFS and its internals is limited to the 1.5 hour demo at the BYU conference last fall. So I don’t know exactly what the PID looks like, how it is constructed, or is intended to do. However, it was my impression from discussions at the demo session that the NFS was originally intended mostly for internal member use, especially for verifying temple work done, and for scheduling new work at temples (it requires member number logons, etc.). Presumably, only names with temple work done or to be scheduled to be done would reside there. It is hard to see how it could directly morph into a generic system that would accept data from any person in the world, regardless of their interest in LDS doctrinal issues, including temple work. It is in the context of this worldwide generic genealogy system that I see the greatest value of the unique identifier for each name. Then all the world’s genealogists, perhaps 40 times as many as those LDS members who might want to do temple work, could join with us in mapping out all the documentable historical persons. For that, a very open and nearly automatic method would be needed to establish agreed-upon new numbers, to allow maximum cooperation and minimal duplication.

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Postby rmrichesjr » Wed Jan 23, 2008 9:51 pm

There have been postings, in this forum if I remember correctly, that imply that nFS will eventually be opened to non-members.

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Postby huffkw » Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:05 pm

That would be great. I am guessing that it would require a “fork” as the open source people might call it, to get to a system that could handle the boatload of new issues raised by letting in the whole world, without damaging the good work done already. But it would be well worth it, I believe.

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Postby rmrichesjr » Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:36 pm

I guess we're each entitled to a guess, at least until nFS is opened to non-LDS. My guess is those developing it have already thought of and handled most (if not nearly all) of the issues.

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Postby russellhltn » Thu Jan 24, 2008 3:01 am

nFS in it's current form (I think it's version 0.92) is currently open to members and non-members who are working in a FHC. When it hits 1.0, it will be open to non-members.

Yes, one if it's primary purposes to the church is temple work. But it's also the beginning of linking all the genealogies of man in one chain instead of just fragments.

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Postby huffkw » Thu Jan 24, 2008 11:55 am

I like the “linking all the genealogies of man” idea very much, but I am concerned about the methods made available to get there. The method of combining duplicate entries within the Church’s billion+ collection of ordinance records is an appropriate response to what I view as quite a narrow and specialized problem. In my humble opinion, that method would not scale well, as they say, to worldwide participation. The current system takes a database containing high levels of duplicates accumulated over many decades using many different processes, and provides a way to merge all those duplicates into a greatly reduced, nearly duplicate-free structure that is current.

However, going forward from here, I do hope the assumption does not continue that duplication can only be fixed long (many months, years, or even decades) after many versions of the same research have been done and entered into a central database, without any easily available prior coordination of effort. My concern is that a method be available that can tell researchers (who wish to participate) what everyone worldwide is doing on nearly a day-to-day basis so that people will no longer spend years on research only to find at the end that it has been done multiple times before, and then need to reconcile the many duplicates. Getting up front with a database of current research might require a little more central computer time, but would require far less manual data management effort, to remove duplicates and to improve general data quality, than waiting until after the fact. Call me a dreamer, but I think it could be done, and it would offer a huge gain to the world over other methods now in use, greatly encouraging wide participation.

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Postby rmrichesjr » Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:50 pm

huffkw wrote:...
However, going forward from here, I do hope the assumption does not continue that duplication can only be fixed long (many months, years, or even decades) after many versions of the same research have been done and entered into a central database, without any easily available prior coordination of effort. ...


One of the main points of nFS is to coordinate at least the data entry and management part of research in real time. If you and I are working on the same ancestor or group of ancestors, and if you enter some new information, I will see that at the very next page reload, perhaps within seconds. If you have entered something for the common ancestor, and if you allow your contact information to be displayed, I can contact you by phone, email, etc. to coordinate work even more directly. What is it you see as missing?


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