WeRelate talk:Next Steps

We've been approached by some people from the Wikimedia Foundation about possibly becoming an official Wikimedia Foundation project. Becoming an official Wikimedia Foundation project would increase WeRelate's credibility and would bring more people to the site. It would be a significant step forward for WeRelate, but it would require us to address a couple of challenges.

First, we have deviated in some significant ways from the traditional wiki software. WeRelate began almost nine years ago. During that time we have added a lot of custom features to the wiki software. Some features have turned out to be useful; others less so. In order to become a Wikimedia Foundation Project, we need to upgrade to the current version of the mediawiki software. Given all of the changes that we've made over the years, this would represent a significant investment in programming time. We need to look at the features that have been developed over the years and decide which features are really worth carrying forward. We don't have the resources to carry forward all of our current custom features to the latest version of the mediawiki software. Also, fewer legacy features carried forward means the software will be easier to upgrade and enhance in the future.

We'd like you to rate our current custom features on how valuable they are to you using this form. Think of this like a spring cleaning and a chance to correct poor past decisions. Please fill out the form by Feb 23rd. We will compile the results of the survey after the 23rd and share them with everyone.

As we do this, rest assured that no data will be lost. For example, if it is decided that Family pages were a bad idea and should be replaced with direct links between Person pages, we would take the information on the family pages and move it onto the Person pages for one or both spouses. We expect to have lots of discussion around how to move forward on the software over the next few weeks.

Second, over the past several years we have discussed the notion of quantity vs quality. Are we a site that values quantity and welcomes all comers, including those who do not cite their work, with the idea that their data will be improved as others come along later and improve it, or are we a site that values quality first, and we have high standards that people must meet in order to contribute?

The answer to this question becomes more important as we think about becoming a Wikimedia Foundation project. Wikimedia projects have a reputation for citing sources. We need to talk about what this would mean for WeRelate. I believe that our working toward becoming a trusted site for genealogy would set WeRelate apart as one of the most valuable genealogy sites on the Web.

In summary, would you please

  • fill out the survey,
  • share your views on becoming a Wikimedia Foundation project, and
  • share you views on emphasizing quality and sourcing.

Note: The equivalent to this discussion page on the Wikimedia side is https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wikimedia_genealogy_project (there is also a WeRelate-specific page, but current discussion is happening under the 'Wikimedia genealogy project' title).

Topics


Discussion [28 February 2014]

I would like to see a strong encouragement for source documentation, but would hate to have to refrain from posting information because there is no proper documentation. I have many individuals that I am trying to connect to a given family, but there isn't any solid documentation, only analysis of names, and location, and associated names and dates. I try to comment on my data, that it is based on analysis, but I don't have a single source. To explain the full basis of my analysis would be lengthy and confusing. But maybe there is another researcher out there that has a snippet of information that can confirm or refute my analysis and a dialogue can take place. [posted by PhilGambrel.]

Thank you--Dallan 17:01, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

Then I will have to resign from contributing from WR immediately. Daniel Maxwell 17:14, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Could you possibly explain why you feel that way?--Dallan 17:16, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Because Wikipedia as an organization is the lowest common denominator of 'knowledge'. Internet-searches masquerading as 'research', google search results (read: popularity) numbers as whether or not something is :::incorrect, not to mention (aside from the problems as a research tool) as a religious person I object to Wikipedia because of the flagrant amount of pornography used in common articles. Even without these :::problems, Wikipedia has a very British conception of copyright so the hard work that many of us have done in transcribing of article snippets, vital records, etc will be kissed good bye Daniel :::Maxwell 17:22, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
I think this is a very interesting point, and one I hadn't thought of. I wonder if it would be possible to get some clarification from the Wikimedia people about whether/how copyright enforcement might change as part of this plan? -- Jdfoote1 19:18, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
They will demand it all be removed. Do you see transcriptions of anything on Wikipedia? So there will be no way to know if the source is being accurately represented. In the genealogical world, you almost have to quote the source or someone will misunderstand it/misrepresent it. Daniel Maxwell 19:21, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Yes - Wikisource and Wikiquote are both sites full of transcriptions, and run by Wikimedia. I definitely don't think all transcriptions from WeRelate would be removed. However, I do think it's worth reviewing whether there might be some changes needed to fall in line with their policies, and whether those changes are worth it. -- Jdfoote1 19:38, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Or, we could not be apart of the Wiki-cult, and keep things the way they are? Why fix what isn't broken? Am I the only one here that has problems with this? Utterly amazing. Daniel Maxwell 19:53, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
If some of our transcription pages are copyright violations then they need to be removed to protect the site and its contributors. This is the case regardless of whether werelate becomes a wikimedia foundation site. I don't understand the reference to "British" copyright - both werelate and the Wikimedia Foundation operate under US law. AndrewRT 12:06, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
We believe we fall under the definition of fair use, but there is really almost no allowance for that on WP, which made me think of the stronger British copyright laws. That is what I meant. Daniel Maxwell 12:39, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
In that case this is a good example of where WeRelate and Wikipedia could end up having different policies (assuming ours was legally reliable of course). At the moment, Wikipedia does allow certain fair use - [1] - whilst Wikimedia Commons does not [2]. The very fact that different policies have been adopted on separate projects should reassure you that it would be possible for WeRelate to have its own policy on this. AndrewRT 13:19, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
One other thing - am I to understand that this decision has already been made? It would have been nice to maintain independence from all mega corps, as it always means giving something up to 'fall in line' with the masters. Daniel Maxwell 17:44, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
The decision has not been made. We're gathering feedback from the community.--Dallan 17:54, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Dallan, I just want to clarify... can you explain to what extent WeRelate would consider operating under Wikimedia's guidelines - how much autonomy we would be able to maintain? --Jennifer (JBS66) 17:40, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
We would continue to have our own volunteers and create our own editorial policy just as we do now. The benefits to us of becoming a Wikimedia Foundation project are (1) increased visibility, and (2) it avoids having another family tree wiki become Wikimedia Foundation's family tree project, which might draw people away from WeRelate.--Dallan 17:54, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, but a 'Wiki' tree would become just as bad as Wikipedia itself very quickly. Please! By all means, let them create their own Wiki-tree so we can all laugh at it. Daniel Maxwell 17:57, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Aren't we a wiki tree as well?--Dallan 17:59, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
We are not a Wikipedia tree, not yet anyway. Daniel Maxwell 18:02, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
The site is big and quasi-global and it is kind of obvious that it needs a more sophisticated corporate structure to resource that and foster growth. I very much support that structure being a non-profit foundation of some sort and I am not averse to wikipedia. I can see the need to align with the existing hegemonic foundation in the field (or lose market share and ultimately fade and die -- and I've already put so much work in!). I've tried to get extended family to use the site and two things have frustrated that effort: (1) the tech details are a little too arcane for non-expert users, (2) the graphic presentation of the site is slightly too amateurish and not as confidence-inducing as their experience with sites that have glossy logos, etc. There are some much-discussed issues with the site and I offer the following comments/suggestions:
  • Eliminate GEDCOM upload to prevent skeletal and unsourced dumping of framework data (but keep GEDCOM export -- no one will invest in if they can't get it out). Names without dates and places are basically useless. I say this as an over-confident 20-year genealogist who started by trying a GEDCOM upload and then realize how I was missing tons of dates and places and that my places were inconsistent. So, I started putting them in one at a time and sourcing as I went and, voila, much better research quality on 700 people.
  • Potentially consider using library style name authorities as person and family page titles instead of auto-assigned key numbering. Force the user to input at least one evidenced vital date to help define and contextualize the individual. Libraries have rules for how to do this, but given the person volume, you might have to add a short place element, so it would be something like: "...person/John_Doe (1 Jan 1800-12 Dec 1880) New York City" for families it would be the combined parents "family/John_Doe (1 Jan 1800-12 Dec 1880)&Jane Smith (1 Jan 1802-). Without a date -- and people should be encouraged to make it as accurate as possible -- the page cannot be created and named (also, date spans will need to be describable, in those cases where a fixed date will never be found for a birth or death but can be bounded). I am assuming that this conforms with the wiki code which relies on unique article titles.
  • You could pick up an edge by introducing some tools that are not otherwise available and would be happy to send some ideas under private cover to a designate at a non-profit foundation entity.--Artefacts 18:45, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

My focus in WeRelate is on quality, not quantity. We have enough junk genealogy on the internet. I don't use the GedCom feature and have hand entered every bit of my data into WeRelate and carefully sourced it. To be honest, I wanted my genealogy and research someplace so it would be available after I'm dead and gone, and not just thrown out or put into a file someplace. I especially like the "one person page" feature that is sourced and I have tried to add some kind of note to those I've entered when it isn't. This is what attracted me to WeRelate in the first place.

What is the difference in Wikipedia and Wikimedia? I really don't know enough about these sites to understand what kind of change it would bring to WeRelate. I'm also in agreement on the porn issue-don't want to see any part of it mixed into WeRelate. --Txbluebell6 20:22, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

Wikipedia, Wikimedia, wikischmedia: What are all those things? Some quick information:
  • Wikipedia - the Encyclopedia; the original project and most well-known part of the group of projects.
  • WikiMedia - an umbrella term and site; the Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit organization which legally controls and supports Wikipedia and the other various projects.
  • Wiktionary - a multi-language dictionary, another Wikimedia Foundation project
  • Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikivoyage, ... - other Wikimedia Foundation projects
  • Mediawiki - the software which runs an enormous number of sites, including WeRelate and Wikipedia; developed and supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. --robert.shaw 22:07, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

I went and read the proposal, and I don't understand what we're talking about. What, exactly, does it mean to become part of the Wikimedia Foundation? Apparently we would need to upgrade the software, which requires thinking about cutting some features, but would the basic interface change? What about policies, governance, independence? Our source, images, and transcriptions? I don't have nearly enough information to have an opinion. People are saying they don't want to "become Wikipedia", but unless it's much clearer about what would change here, I don't think we can intelligently discuss the dangers.

I also don't understand the pressing need to answer the quality v. quantity question in this context. It's a continuing debate that we've had numerous times, and I hardly think we're going to come to a consensus all of a sudden--unless there's a particular new outcome or consequence that the Wikimedia proposal adds to the mix. --Amelia 21:58, 15 February 2014 (UTC)



I agree with the comments of Txbluebell6 and have the same motivation for my participation. Therefore I want to assure that the pages I create or contribute to survive and do not become littered with "junk genealogy" or edited to comply with Wikimedia Foundation policies.

I agree with the comment of PhilGambrel regarding source documentation. I personally am a stickler for documentation, but there are times when it is not practical and research must always be considered a work in progress. I think this fundamental difference demonstrates why Wikimedia Foundation policies may be a poor fit for werelate.org and for genealogy, generally. For this reason, a Wikimedia Foundation family tree project may never be able to achieve the quality werelate has, presently. Daniel Maxwell's skepticism in this regard seems well founded to me.

I disagree with the comment of Artefacts that "the graphic presentation of the site is slightly too amateurish". On the contrary, I view the clean, simple, graphic-free format as one of the greatest assets of the site and believe that it contributes to the sense of quality. I also do not find the technical requirements for using the basic features of the site difficult in the least. I do agree with Artefacts' comment that Gedcom uploads should be scrapped or at least placed under some control. The quality of the upload will always depend on the quality of the uploader. Perhaps there is some means for vetting Gedcom uploads to assure that those like AndrewRT and Jocelyn_K_B, who do quality work and understand what they are doing, can continue to use that approach.

I agree with these comments about the graphic presentation - recognizing that there is virtually always room for improvement, I would not want to mess too much with what we have. Many "latest generation" web pages leave me depressed because I can't find what I am looking for amongst the razzle-dazzle. --DataAnalyst 23:32, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Re: GEDCOM - They already are under control. Every GEDCOM has to be reviewed before it is accepted for upload. This was not always the case, which is why some horrendous GEDCOMs were uploaded in the early years, but the control is there, and we can continue to have conversations about how rigorous the control needs to be (i.e., the standards the reviewers should be checking for). This may become more of a challenge if we suddenly attract a lot of people, but GEDCOM upload is THE reason I joined WeRelate.--DataAnalyst 23:32, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

The desire for "increased visibility" and avoidance of "loss of market share" can best be addressed through the quality of the work preserved on werelate, vs. the "junk genealogy" available elsewhere. There obviously is the need for adequate financial support for the project, but absent evidence to the contrary, I would expect that it is capable of being self-sustaining, with its support base growing along with the increasing size the project. I would encourage more transparency regarding the budget and sources of funding to encourage increased contributions from users.--Tbrady 22:31, 15 February 2014 (UTC)


Today I don't have much motivation to spend my usual 6-8 hours a day improving the Place pages on WR. Not if it's going to die. And that's the way it looked when I first read Dallan's message.

Before I joined WR my concept of Wikipedia was a volunteer-provided crutch for high school students looking for essay material. Then I found myself in a community which infers that it is the best source one can find for anything to do with genealogy. I have gradually found a middle ground between the two positions. I amazed by the quantity of material it provides, but not necessarily by its quality. Some volunteers simply do not measure up to others doing the same job. I even joined Wikipedia so that I could fix typos and grammatical errors instead of carrying them forward into WR.

What would happen to each of the custom features on the questionnaire if we decide to cosy up to Wikpedia? The ordinary user hasn't a clue from what has been said.

Reading the comments of other contributors to the questionnaire was a real challenge. Couldn't they have been provided in a more readable presentation?

Let's stop worrying about joining another organization and put our minds to cleaning up our own house:

  • Firmer rules on GEDCOMs.
  • Limit of three generations in one upload.
  • Sources to be quoted with the facts within them, not just where the facts were found.
  • Places altered to WR setup. Let's put a stop to red-lettered places.
  • Better written instructions—consider what a newbie may not know about the topic. (e.g. Images. How to upload and display them. Consideration of other images besides photographs. Ease up on U.S. copyright regulations unless the terms are better defined.)
  • A friendlier, more active homepage.
  • Routine operations that need to be done by those with programming experience carried out at the promised intervals or passed to people willing and capable of doing them when they are promised to be done.
  • New members need mentors. Possibly provided as part of first GEDCOM approval? More help provided by those who know what they are doing to those who are struggling. Help provided on a one-to-one basis off the "support" page, perhaps on a Talk page, perhaps as "chat".
  • If a member of a help team cannot carry out his/her duties due to illness or holidays, there should be a place where this can be advised.

--Goldenoldie 12:00, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

These kinds of rules and processes are atypical on the internet. One reason is that they are hugely resource intensive and logistically challenging and the internet runs on the cheap whenever it can. Secondly, you may see "newbies" as incompetents who need to be guided by authority figures but it is unlikely that the majority of them see themselves that way and will be open to spending time jumping through your hoops. They can so easily go elsewhere and feel competent, in control, and part of a sophisticated web project, corporate or not, where they get to enjoy their hobby without risk of judgement or trouble. --Artefacts 17:51, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
These kinds of rules and processes weed out the people who want an easy drop and go genealogy. That is what this site started out as - we are still dealing with the pieces and remains of the place from 2007-2009. This site would not still exist if they had no been implemented. They are not her hoops, by the way, but ones that the site administrators have come up with over time as a solution to the low quality problem we had. In the genealogical world, we have to be judgmental of bad sources and bad research. Now, I grant that there is a little more leeway with newer lines which is why I have suggested that we clamp down source wise on very old lines but allow more recent persons a bit of slack. Daniel Maxwell 17:57, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Well, here's my "two cents". As a former genealogical librarian. I've searched for an online "home" for my research for years. I've passed by Ancestry and numerous other sites as "too commercial" "too expensive", "too amateurish" "too undocumented", etc. WeRelate was a breath of fresh air when I stumbled upon it. The combination of so-called conservative and adventurous contributors seems to be a good mix.

Though I don't consider myself as sitting atop the genealogy pyramid here, I do pride myself as a constant contributor and diligent detective. I've also built a dozen or so New England and New Jersey, Pennsylvania family lines that had little or no organization previous to joining 5 years ago.

I get a rather bad feeling about being under the wings of Wikipedia. If biographical information contained in Wikipedia is an indication of how WeRelate may look in the future, I'm very skeptical. I've spent numerous hours trying to "debunk" bio information from Wikipedia, only to find a high percentage of misinformation, skipped generations and erroneous dates. As we are here at WeRelate, the cooperation and determination to find the puzzle solutions is far more valuable to me than joining an organization that appears not to have a lot of concern for accuracy or genealogical savvy. I would hate to be part of a cookie-cutter wiki with colorless bland information. I see the person pages as blank canvasses that should be decorated; don't confiscate my brush and palette !

I'd like to have a "wait and see" attitude, but at this point I have to say, by instinct, NO at this time, unless we still have a majority voice in what changes and a good deal of autonomy.--Neal Gardner 01:38, 17 February 2014 (UTC)


Like Neal Gardner, I've been searching for years for an online 'Home" for my research regarding Dutch Immigrants to the United States, like him I've seen and experienced numerous sites and finally found WeRelate and since about 4 years I consider myself as 1 of the Top Contributors of WeRelate. Besides that I really could copy his opinion about working together on WR. But........ In my opinion, because there is no good alternative, Wikimedia is at this moment the best possible choice. Of course there are many bad pages on Wikipedia, but we really have to look at our own Database too, It is definitely not 100% reliable, in the early years of WeRelate there are added a lot of polluted data. Another point is that at this time WeRelate is focussed mainly on the USA, and we do want a World Wide Tree (at least I hope) Nearly 90 % of the US population are immigrants from other countries. So when we want to expand, WeRelate needs interfaces in different languages, Wikimedia can play a Huge role in that. The only alternative is that we find 'funds" from f.i. Universities or familyorganisations or maybe even the Unesco [3] (not kiddin') --henk 13:25, 22 February 2014 (UTC)


My experience with Wikipedia runs counter to some of the radically negative opinions expressed here. While I have had a few unpleasant experiences with heavy handed editors, the net result of WP is that it is a transformative achievement, providing the world with a public service that lifts the capabilities of all individuals who can access the free website.

Regarding sources, I believe that both WP and the genealogical community could benefit by mutual understanding and partial harmonization of their policies. In particular, the narrow focus of genealogists on primary sources leads to an onerous repetition of effort and at times unfairly discounts historical compilations whose primary sources are now inaccessible. Likewise WP's aversion to primary sources, sometimes amplified by unthoughtful and zealous editors, leads to outdated or skewed presentations. Surely the expert authors of traditional book encyclopedias were familiar with primary sources in their fields.

It seems self-evident that every factual piece of information must have a source or sources. It seems that some minimal requirement, such as at least one source for each person, should not be too onerous. WP's citation policy is not absolute, for example source citations are not required as a matter of style in the introduction of an article.

One improvement that moving to Wikimedia should bring is to protect passwords by using https when signing in. In today's internet this is required (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firesheep). OpenID is also a potential future security and usability enhancement (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:OpenID_Proposal)

Joining the Wikimedia Foundation is a great opportunity for WR. What roles would the current sponsors of WR -- the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy and the Allen County Public Library -- have after joining the Wikimedia Foundation? Presumably this change would reinforce the secular stance of WR without being exclusionary. There are religious alternatives already.

Congratulations to the WR team and sponsors for this important step.

Prcb 18:47, 22 February 2014 (UTC)


While NOT a professional in this field, I do have extensive experience as a senior military intelligence officer in the "art" of criminals, terrorists, and other miscreants creating false identities from information they either (1) outright steal from legitimate persons/sources, OR (2) self-generate by using bits of accurate data that's then supplemented with bogus information. This proposed move under Wikipedia is fraught with issues that will likely end up in the hands of Department of Homeland Security officials or etc; an enduring lesson from those who executed horror in the USA on 9/11 is that false identifications are an excellent form of "cover" for misdeeds. (Among many other thing, some of them had taken flying lessons under various false identities.) Wiki is self-annotating...that is, one can enter data without source documents or other academically-acceptable substantiation. As with Wikipedia, it will take no time at all for your field to be polluted with undocumented "facts" for which there's no actual basis. Using shreds of fact which are then mixed with plenty of make-believe, a criminal or terrorist could create a false family history documenting their supposed existence for many generations back, and in whatever country they wanted...providing GREAT cover for those who might do the public harm or have past reasons to "hide in plain sight."

As an additional observation, I understand (second-hand, so forgive me if I don't have the details correct) that there's some thought/discussion about adding living persons into this movement. That would be so fraught with litigation possibilities involving multiple privacy issues that I can't imagine it's even being considered. The possible legal ramifications are boundless.

As an outside observer to your interests, I find it more-than-a-bit reckless. Just my experienced thoughts on this topic...--Adobe 17:03, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

However, many widely-used genealogy sites do have living people, such as Ancestry and Geni. Neither of them have had major lawsuits about privacy or terrorism. -- Ypnypn 17:38, 28 February 2014 (UTC)
I see it as a pointless risk and an administrative/policy/cost burden if it did. If living people are on the primary server, then we have to come up with privacy technology, rules for how much material can be uploaded, who decides who can see what, and a great deal more. Put the living people and their information on separate, privately owned, and administrated servers. We should work out how private sub-domain servers can conveniently interact with the primary server - but responsibility for the sub-domains doesn't reside with FOLG or Allen County (and seriously - Ancestry and Geni have millions and lawyers on retainer - we couldn't even afford to deal with a harshly worded letter!). --jrm03063 19:00, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

Pretty Lukewarm [17 February 2014]

It is not intuitively obvious to me that this will be a good move. The upgrading of the wiki software is a serious concern, not just because of loss of features we have, but because of complexity of some features I see at wikipedia. I don't want writing WeRelate pages to require a bunch of training! We have have lots of proposed improvements waiting, and this would only delay many of them further. The software upgrade would take a lot of resources, but probably result in few visible changes.

The exact governance is a concern. We've been spoiled with Dallan because he is very level-headed and considerate, though stretched a little thin. Will this bring new resources, or only new demands from the wikimedia side?

At the same time, this site has been pending in Beta for a long time, and seems to need some new life. While I think it is the accumulating data that represents the primary value of this site, is the alternative to wikimedia to be on permanent auto-pilot? And again, will this bring resources?

The association would probably bring more users, but more of the average Internet user is not what is needed, rather more users dedicated to accurate genealogy. In other words, life as a specialty website is not all that bad. I am not sure this site has the data formatting and policing that is really needed to handle more users. I would really like to see more new-user education developed if large numbers of newbies are going to start showing up. In most cases, the quality of data goes down as the number of users goes up.

wikipedia has appeared to place some emphasis on scholarship, which I would welcome here, but at the same time, it hasn't resulted in very good genealogy on wikipedia. I think genealogy should be a natural for wiki, allowing individual efforts to be combined into the proverbial "exhaustive search", but building a family tree is not like writing an encyclopedia. Except for focused groups, researchers are largely descendents whose focus and lifelong connection motivate their expertise. Few sources prior to 1900 felt any need to identify primary sources, and even now, many do not, so finding an answer is not as simple as pulling a book off the bookshelf and citing it. Restrictions on sources and "personal research" and such would need to recognize this. --Jrich 22:29, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

What brings me here: honestly, it is the ability to challenge or correct errors. It is in response to frustrating years of seeing wrong data and not being able to get any response from some long-dead email, and an easily-correctable mistake sits there getting copied left and right, adding to the "must-be" status of the wrong answer. Our research should be building on each other, the whole more than the sum of the pieces because of our diverse access to sources, and presented so that future researchers don't have to do it all over, but can build on our work. While a wiki offers the tools to accomplish what I want, the key element is not that it is a wiki, per se, rather it is that there is a single tree (single truth) and no-one owns a page, rather we collaborate on it. The "broadcast-my-research" approach doesn't work.
That ads bring in revenue to cover the operational costs, and that hopefully, the worse case is, that 2 generations years from now, I may be dead, the system may not have changed a bit, but my work can still be improved by some yet-to-be-born researcher as he solves one of my brick walls, is reassuring. We already have access to the part of wiki that we fundamentally need. So, part of my worry here is that the tool is becoming more important than the purpose we are here for.
These are ill-formed worries because there is nothing like a detailed plan. Statements like "they would want us to keep our own editorial policy" need more definition.I assume there is some branding or overall vision, that goes with wikimedia membership, that ultimately, must take priority over WeRelate editorial policy. While it seem this website fits reasonably within my understanding of what wikimedia is about: enabling everyman to share knowledge, I read some of the responses to the proposal, and some of the reviewers clearly have no understanding, and worse, no respect, for genealogy. So I wonder. What are the specific benefits here that we are risking loss of control for? Sister projects are "publicly available wikis operated by the Wikimedia Foundation". Is that the goal: to turn over operation in the hope of getting resources? It seems pretty obvious that the biggest challenge for WeRelate is finding development resources and administrative resources. Specifically, how would wikimedia help?
"... the main requirements to get out of beta and to start promoting the website more are for us to get to the point so that if the user base were to increase dramatically over a short period of time, we wouldn't (1) be overloaded with support questions, (2) have newbies make changes that decrease quality and/or turn off existing users, or (3) have a lot of people upload material and then not return." Yet, we seem to be talking about something which is claimed will to increase visibility, and hence the number of new users. Have we answered the above issues? It seems like this is also a requirement for this project? --Jrich 16:59, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

--- At the present time I would be very disappointed to have WeRelate pulled into Wikimedia. I like where WeRelate is headed and this is where I have chosen to place my family records -- not Wikipedia/Wikimedia --Susan Irish 02:52, 16 February 2014 (UTC)


[15 February 2014]

I'm biased in some ways, as I have been a Wikipedia contributor longer than a werelate contributor, although i now contribute far more to werelate. I do think this would be a very positive move for werelate. As I've said before, the Pando concept only works when you have lots of data so lots of opportunities to connect. The Wikimedia Foundation would help us expand. There is no reason why becoming a Wikimedia project would force any compromise on quality, but it would make available significant new technical resources, attract many new like-minded people and give us a bigger profile for attracting new readers and new contributors. We could lose some people on the way - I hope not too many. If the objections are about pornography on Wikimedia Commons or deletion policy on Wikipedia there's not much we can do about that (and there's nothing we would do about it as an independent group anyway!). Let's focus on the impact on werelate, given this is what should really matter most in this discussion. AndrewRT 19:31, 15 February 2014 (UTC)


Definite Yes! [15 February 2014]

I am very much in favor of this idea! For us to realize the full potential of WeRelate, we need lots and lots more people participating, and this is the most clear path toward that goal.

The fact is, Dallan has done a great job on creating WeRelate, but it's large enough that it is going to start to require more help just to maintain things, much less to create new features and improvements. If we want WeRelate to be able to compete for the attention of the next generation of genealogists, I think we need some help to make that happen. -- Jdfoote1 19:34, 15 February 2014 (UTC)


Discussion of Specific Functions


GEDCOM upload [15 February 2014]

I personally think the GEDCOM upload feature is one of the biggest achievements of werelate. Hundreds of thousands of genealogists across the world has done painstaking research on their trees and the majority have stored it in a format that can be readily converted to GEDCOM. It would be a real shame to lose that ability. Has anyone tried entering a n entire tree by hand? I have and its hard work!! AndrewRT 20:08, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

Yes. I have never uploaded a GEDCOM, all of my work is by hand. Daniel Maxwell 20:09, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Yep, it's hard work. Still easier -- by a huge margin -- than writing even one encyclopedia-quality wikipedia article from scratch. Yes, DMaxwell has spotted the weaknesses in bad wikipedia articles but to contrast that with the good, there are definitive pieces written by dedicated experts on wikipedia as well. I chuckled when I heard the intelligence services sometimes use wikipedia because a local expert has accumulated more knowledge than they can get their hands on. --Artefacts 20:34, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
Not having written a wikipedia article I am not sure what feature makes it so hard to write (and in context of this discussion, wonder how much of that is due to overly-featured software that we are now talking about upgrading to, or to heavily-regulated page formatting that presents a significant learning curve for a prospective author). I have a feeling, as bad as people say WeRelate is, that due to the highly structured nature of its specialized data, and its relatively simple presentation, the data entry is relatively trivial, whether by hand or GEDCOM. Like DMaxwell I also have entered all my data by hand, except for an experiment with GEDCOMs which convinced me they were not easier, and that hand entry allowed me to format the data more appropriately for the WeRelate audience. But having added one or two pages to WeRelate that I think marshall facts and sources to support conclusions not seen elsewhere, i.e., "definitive pieces", the page entered in minutes can represent weeks, or months, or years of work. --Jrich 21:01, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
An encyclopedia-quality article on wikipedia (most daily "Featured Articles" would qualify) can include hundreds of citations -- even in the first edit -- and hundreds to thousands of edits from many users over several years. The technology aspect is actually easier than WeRelate as it is an article with no field data (not suggesting we do that, just addressing the question). Today's feature article happens to be a biography that is not incomparable to a person page and has 181 citations: Mark Hanna--Artefacts 22:47, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

The ability to upload a GEDCOM is why I choose to add my information to WeRelate rather than some other website (such as the FamilySearch tree). Using the GEDCOM upload, with a little manual editing after it's imported, I've been able to quickly and easily produce properly sourced people pages - quality and quantity! Doing them by hand simply takes too long, and if the upload function was retired I'd go back to just uploading my information to my own website and lose the ability to collaborate that is so appealing with WeRelate. I feel very strongly that the GEDCOM upload must be retained. I should note that I haven't got the hang of the merge function within the upload so if a page already exists for a person I exclude them from the upload and edit their page manually. WeRelate is still quite young and some of the problems of unsourced info/too little data on people pages will probably be ironed out as more people add their information - the more people we can attract to add their information and sources the better so if this move attracts a bigger audience I think it's a great idea--Jocelyn_K_B 22:05, 15 February 2014 (UTC)


I think we should recognize that we each work in different ways. Some realize that their existing databases are not as rigorous as they would like, and use their hand-entry of data into WeRelate as an opportunity to verify the data with additional sources. Others, like me, decide to improve our personal databases first, before contributing them to WeRelate. This works best for me because I like to collect my sources and work out problems prior to sharing the results (I recently read that this is a classic characteristic of an introvert). Where I suspect that my ancestors are already in WeRelate (about half aren't), I use WeRelate as one of my sources and work out problems between WeRelate and my data as part of this process. The genealogy software I use has a source copying feature not available in WeRelate, which reduces the effort of citing data. For these reasons, my approach works for me, and it requires the use of GEDCOM to upload the results once I am reasonably satisfied with them.

Also, I have not committed to making WeRelate my only genealogy database. In the future, I plan to use the GEDCOM upload feature to compare my database to WeRelate so that I can see what has changed in my own database and evaluate whether or not to make the changes (including adding new source citations) in WeRelate. I don't want to contemplate the effort involved to do this manually.

So, to each their own, as long as the end result is of reasonable quality (and defensible within the limits of available sources). I applaud having controls on GEDCOM uploading, but I would not be a happy camper if the capability were to be removed.--DataAnalyst 00:22, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

I should add that I put significant effort into GEDCOM uploads (sometimes reformatting data to take advantage of WeRelate features), but I still prefer that to hand-entry of several hundred or thousand people and families - at the very least, I know I will not introduce new copy errors. BTW: I believe the expected rate of data entry errors (e.g., transposing digits or simply getting them wrong) from people who make a living doing data entry is somewhere in the range of 3-5%.--DataAnalyst 00:36, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Family Pages [18 February 2014]

Note to defend the presence of family pages. Establishing definitive family context when undertaking biographical research of non-notable people is paramount. A significant portion of genealogical research errors are made when a person is not contextualized within a family group (and the errors come up when that is finally and inevitably done, so keeping the framework up fosters doing it early). Yes, there may be a certain redundancy of narrative but really, you can tell the story of a person and the story of a family and both have value as well as different boundaries. Also, excellent way to get people to hoover information out of sources: if you are looking at a census and have the option of dropping every name into a page, you will do it, but creating separate people pages, less instinctive, maybe.--Artefacts 20:29, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

While I've indicated that I could live without it as a separate page, it's awfully useful software-development wise to have a "node", the purpose of which is to bring together parents and their children. It simplifies the Person pages a lot, since they don't have to carry around information about what wife with what child. One of the things that I really hated about the ancestry interface, was that - by hiding this - it was often unclear when you were creating a relationship connection. Also - their software often screwed it up (failing to create both sides of the relationship and similar embarrassments). On the other hand, I remember finding it perplexing, because software that I had previously used buried things that are more explicit when you have the separate page. --jrm03063 16:31, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
Family pages are one of the more useful features here. Let me give you a real world example - I do alot of work on New England families. Quite often, I will be working on a family group, and I will note the marriages of the children. I had a family page, a source for the marriage date, but since I am not working on the spouse's family, I do not add her at that time. Yet I have several times had people who were working on the wife's family come by and add her while they were working on her family group (perhaps as a result of seeing if that family group already existed). Without family pages, I wouldn't be able to do this. So the family pages are INCREDIBLY useful, and many genealogical programs (Gramps, what I use) now have something like them. Daniel Maxwell 16:53, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
Family pages have traditionally been a source of confusion for new users. It can be hard to tell what is the primary entity (do I start by adding a person or adding the family), and splits information, sometime creating confusion about where to put things (do I justify a person's inclusion in a family on his person page or on the family page?), sometimes requiring the information be provided twice (of course, documenting a census on the family page since it shows the children makes more sense that putting one copy on each child's person page). Of course, early genealogy used family group sheets and the notion is built into the GEDCOM model which, until something better comes along, somewhat constrains possibilities. But there are two distinct things here: the data storage and the presentation on the screen, and they do not need to be the same. It is entirely conceivable that the presentation could pull in all the families a person is involved with when presenting the person page, and allow updating of any of the information on the person page, and then distribute the changes across the person and family data entities as required. It just makes the software more complicated, creates more risk of edit conflicts, etc. But is this really part of the wikimedia consideration? --Jrich 17:39, 18 February 2014 (UTC)

Before Pulling the Trigger... [16 February 2014]

I'm a tentative supporter of a merge with the foundation, but am struck that the shift is not without peril:

  • Standards of proof and quality of source standards are quite different in our world from the Wikipedia world. For example, Cawley's Medieval Lands project is not respected by WP as a source, since it's self published. However, it's vastly superior to information that WP is happy to rely on, from antiquated yet published material. Family bibles are often considered pretty high quality in our world - in WP they're just notes. So there may be culture conflicts.
  • Technical changes may have unintended consequences. Sure, I'm a software developer, and I promise everyone that I'll test the dickens out of whatever I do, but things can go wrong. Sometimes in subtle and nefarious ways.
  • Becoming part of that group means a legal entanglement (perhaps a good one, but an entanglement all the same) that doesn't exist today. A court order binding on the foundation would be binding on us - but today it isn't.

WeRelate strikes me as the largest and most openly licensed unique genealogy store out there (wiki or no) - and while I'm optimistic about what joining the foundation means - I see no reason to take chances either.

I assume that there is - or will be - a road map of steps that take us from where we are now to sufficient compliance for a decision, yes or no, to be taken. At key points on that map - before hard-to-reverse legal or technical steps are taken - I would like to see public source and database snapshots taken and made accessible. There may be practical problems with a network download of the full database, but perhaps DVDs can be put on a shelf in reference at the Allen County Library? I don't care about the practical details particularly - as long as the snapshot contains everything needed to resurrect the existing site and store - on a new host. Indeed, the process ought to be proofed at least once - with someone other than Dallan taking the source and data to another machine and making sure that a server can be recreated (no need to make it accessible over the web - just see that it all seems there).

--jrm03063 22:55, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

"Family bibles are often considered pretty high quality in our world - in WP they're just notes. So there may be culture conflicts." - this alone is a deal breaker I had not considered at first. Virtually this entire site's contents are 'original research' by Wikipedia standards. There isn't much on very modern genealogy in books unless it is celebrity related - I don't see how WR could get around this dam.Daniel Maxwell 23:35, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
I think some background here could be useful: The Wikimedia ("-m-") Foundation hosts around a dozen projects, each of which are largely autonomous with editing communities that maintain policies on what content can be included, how it is to be presented, how disputes are to be resolved etc. By far the most successful project is Wikipedia ("-p-"), the online encyclopaedia that we all know about. Other projects included "Wikimedia Commons", an image library, "Wikisource", a transcription project mainly for out-of-copyright texts and "Wikivoyage", a travel site, who became a Wikimedia Foundation project when the community on "Wikitravel" fell out with their commercial owners. The proposal is that WeRelate would become a Wikimedia project, alongside Wikipedia, Wikivoyage, Wikisource etc. WeRelate would not be merged into Wikipedia - clearly most of our content is not encyclopaedic as it does not relate to notable people. I'm sure as part of the negotiations we would have to be able to convince the Foundation that our model and our policies are sufficient to ensure the quality of our content - and we may have to significantly strengthen these to do that. However, to take this particular example, I don't see any reason why we couldn't successfully argue that a family bible might be considered a reliable source on WeRelate even if that would not be the case for a Wikipedia article. AndrewRT 12:44, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Important points -- this is not merging the content into wikipedia's portal. I get the impression from the proposal that there is a benefit for Wikipedia in this in that the more obscure biographies that get posted to Wikipedia without meeting the notability guidelines could, over time, be encouraged to go to WeRelate instead. I've spotted a fair bit of American colonial genealogy on wikipedia that does not really meet the guidelines, in one case some far distant cousin of mine is lying about our ancestor being a mayor of NY in order to post his bio. That bio would actually be good and appropriate content here.--Artefacts 17:59, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
On standards of proof, Cawley, etc.:
A Wikimedia genealogical wiki would have to have standards that were at least somewhat different from Wikipedia, or it couldn't even exist. I am assuming that this is being taken for granted. How could "no original research" possibly work on a genealogical wiki, for example.
On Cawley, I think Wikipedia attitudes towards him have softened recently, as a result of ongoing discussions. But, in any case, even from a genealogist's point of view, I think we could benefit from some careful thinking about sources such as Cawley. I have a ton of respect for what he is doing, and have cited him a lot on this site, but I still think that he is far from ideal as a cite. Much of the criticism leveled against him on Wikipedia, while (sometimes ludicrously) unbalanced, does in fact have a point. He is one guy, who is not a professional historian, spreading his research over a vast temporal and spatial range. He tends to pick primary sources and "run" with them, rather than focusing on individuals or families and basing conclusions on comprehensive surveys of the evidence. If you want the GPS-standard latest word on someone medieval, then Baldwin's Henry Project is a better example of where to look online. Don't get me wrong. Cawley is miles above the typical amateur genealogical enthusiast. He is even better than many published sources. He is often the only easily accessible reasonable-quality source for the people appearing on his site. You would be an idiot to ignore him. But I am not convinced that he is a truly satisfactory cite, as opposed to a finding aid -- at least with respect to wide swaths of his work. (On a personal note, I have found that he very graciously accepts corrections, unlike some notable others.)--Werebear 18:33, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

False solution to a real problem [16 February 2014]

As one can see in my comments above, I am 100% opposed to such a move. But the real problems seem to be that 1) Dallan seems overwhelmed by running the place (correct me if I am wrong Dallan) 2) Upgrades are expensive and would cost tens of thousands of dollars. It seems to be this is the wrong solution to these problems, because it would bring with it the whole kit and kaboodle of wiki-drama that quiet WR has yet to experience. There is too substantial a difference between WR's vision and Wikipedias. WR is user oriented - a place to share your personal research with others and combining them to get the best information out there. But at Wikipedia, these pages would be considered 'original research'. Source quoting would be considered 'copyvio' or 'plagiarism' at Wikipedia. Instead of having a real conversation with the top users of this site, we just throw up our collective hands and put it in the lap of Wikipedia, a very unfriendly place that has been declining in number of edits for years, and where the genealogical errors in articles are often legion and the userbase lacking an even cursory knowledge of genealogy. What should have happened is a site wide conference of solutions to the problems that WR has. Why not have a fundraiser? Or have a conversation inviting the top users about what the ownership seems as the problems and how we think they could be fixed? The complaint I hear about the most about WR from non users is that it doesn't allow living people. These kinds of things won't go away on WP, but they will probably get ten times worse, not to mention for the fact that Wikipedia has been militant about continuing to allow anon editing of articles. We have to ask ourselves, do we want to become the fast food of genealogy for the sake of more users? Sure, we can eat and be fed by eating nothing but big macs but is it healthy? We should ask ourselves these questions before doing anything rash.--Daniel Maxwell 23:20, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

I have been wondering for some time about the financial health of WeRelate. Without adequate financial support, it will be difficult to keep up with user demand for enhancements (and administrative services). I think we all are very impressed with Dallan, but he is only one person, and the backlog of Suggestions is fairly long. When I was in a similar position many years ago, I told my users that they could either hire another person or live with a permanent backlog of about 100 items that would never get done. What is WeRelate going to do? What are the options, besides Wikimedia? Is a fund-raiser in order, and what would be the dollar goal? What are the chances of success? I keep thinking of donating, but my donation wouldn't go far without others also contributing. Do we have enough users to make a difference in the finances of WeRelate?--DataAnalyst 00:48, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
I think a fundraiser is an excellent idea. I agree with both Daniel and DataAnalyst here - we do not seem to have the resources to maintain and develop the site. Wikipedia just sticks a banner at the top of the site and that's remarkably successful - perhaps we could do the same? Lets see if we can raise the $20,000 we need to hire a developer? Alternatively, there are plenty of people we could apply for a grant from. AndrewRT 12:50, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
And I bet you have some ideas of just who we should apply for a grant from. Daniel Maxwell 12:51, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Some answers [16 February 2014]

  • The Wikimedia Foundation is an umbrella organization / brand. Several wikis are a part of it. Wikipedia is the most known, WikiVoyage is the newest.
  • I certainly don't have all the answers as to what becoming a Wikimedia Foundation project would mean for WeRelate. I know that they want us to keep our own volunteers and administrators, and I assume that they would want us to keep our own editorial policy. At this point the question is whether it is worth starting an exploration, not making a final decision.
  • WeRelate is self-sustaining. The ad revenue more than covers hosting costs. There will never be a reason to shut the servers down because we don't have enough money.
  • The software is completely open-source and available on Github. At least one other person has gotten it installed on their own servers. The data is open-content and is freely downloadable.

If I've missed a question above, please re-ask it. Thanks--Dallan 05:50, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

If it is mainly about exploring the option, I have absolutely no problem with that. Go ahead and find out what they are offering and what would be involved in the process. I don't have an aversion to Wikipedia (or some forms of porn, but I digress) and even use it from time to time. I have to doubt that Wikimedia would ever try to impose any kind of Wikipedia-style editorial policy on WeRelate. The two sites are just much too different in purpose for that to work. I would also guess the reason they approached you has in some part to do with the quality of the existing site, and they wouldn't want to strangle that golden goose. If they can help cover the costs of upgrading the software and adding the existing customizations to the upgraded site, it could be in WeRelate's favor to make the move. I would like to see the site have access to the Wikimedia Commons for those cases where useful images are available. Otherwise there isn't much more as a user that I need. I get along fine with this site as it exists now. -Moverton 08:28, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Maybe you think the porn thing is a red herring, but my point in mentioning that is that Wikipedia has a policy called 'NOTCENSORED'. How does this related to WR? Imagine if a user wants to make a living person

page for a 'notable' porn star. Being not censored, they could use explicit pictures on the page and there wouldn't be anything you could oppose it with. But this (WR) is also a family site, and I think it is worth mentioning to those here of a religious bent like myself if they want to be associate with a group who has made it clear that they have no problem with porno on their Commons site, and quite a bit of it, and that there is a chance it could find it's way here. Daniel Maxwell 11:35, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

I can't see any circumstance where this would happen and I don't see why, if I could do it in the future why couldn't I do it now? If you think it's so important, why don't you propose a policy to specifically exclude it? AndrewRT
Haven't had to cross that bridge yet, as WR is already supposed to be a family friendly (PG rated perhaps) site. But Wikipedia's infamous 'notcensored' bias I think would prevent such a rule from happening...someone would come along and make such a page just to prove a point. Daniel Maxwell 13:39, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
It would be nice if one would take a look at the spitefulness of the policies used at Wikipedia - such as 'Checkuser' used on enemies by admins, malicious accusations of being a 'sockpuppet' as a means to getting opponents banned. The number of edits at Wikipedia have been in decline since 2008 due to the high learning curve and drama of the site. Critics at Wikipedia don't usually last long. I do not think that there is anyway we could prevent 'cross overs' from other Wikis jumping ship and then throwing their weight around to their liking. Users here need to seriously ask themselves if they want their data being controlled by these people. This entire site is original research save for perhaps royal or early colonial lines. The idea that Dallan you suggested in the first post that maybe the site would move not to a user based one but one where everything meets the Wikipedia definition of 'verifiable'. What would that mean, I believe, is that any kind of 'original research' (ie recent genealogy) would no longer pass the smell test. WR would become a genealogical museum of only medieval or early modern lines. And I believe that as an independent wiki, our work stands for itself, and not just some brand name. I don't think we'll be taken as seriously if we are connected to Wikipedia because of it's reputation. (added by Daniel Maxwell 11:35, 16 February 2014 (UTC))

More questions [16 February 2014]

  • It seems like partnering with someone would raise the visibility and legitimacy of WeRelate. If not Wikimedia, then who? Or should we continue to go it alone?
  • I think it's worth asking ourselves what makes WeRelate unique among all of the other collaborative trees on the Web. I have my own thoughts about what this is, but I think it's worth a community discussion. If we can agree on what makes us unique (our core competency or unique value proposition) then it will be easier for us to agree on future direction.
  • Where do we want WeRelate to be in five years? Do we want to get more people involved and if so, how? And how can we move the software forward? To a degree these questions are linked. Currently we would be overwhelmed if a large number of newcomers got involved because of the learning curve of the software, but the more people we get involved, the more resources we have to improve the software and provide volunteer support.
  • There are two roads to go down when considering adding new features to the software - this holds for any software project: add the features to the existing software, or re-write the existing software. Adding features to the existing software is the cheapest path in the short-term, but over time it becomes harder and harder to add features and at some point it becomes better to re-write. We can certainly continue to go down the road that we're on and add features to the existing software, and perhaps that's the best path. I'm spread too thin and don't have time personally to work on the software very much, but we can use the ad revenue to hire someone part-time. If we started fresh and re-implemented all of our current features, it would require a significant investment of time and money - much more than we have available without doing a fundraiser. So in order to decide whether or not we want to start fresh an important question is, are any of our current features not of value? The more features we find don't have value, the more viable the starting fresh option becomes.
  • Related to this, which of our current features causes the most pain / learning curve for new users? If we wante to attract new users without overwhelming ourselves with support needs, are there things that we should do differently? Pinterest for example does one thing and does it extremely well. We do a lot of things, none of them extremely well. If we were to focus on one thing (or a few things) and do it extremely well, what would it be? What (if anything) would we want to cut out of our existing experience so we could focus on that?

I'd like to make sure that people realize that I'm also perfectly willing to leave the site as it currently is. Some things are better left as-is. I think it's good to take a stop every so often and look at where you're going and where you want to go and make sure you're heading in the right direction to get there. Maybe we are. If not, then let's talk about where we want to go and what we need to change to get there.--Dallan 05:50, 16 February 2014 (UTC)


Pro's - Con's - Questions [16 February 2014]

After reading what others have written I am trying to sort-out my own comments and concerns.

Possible benefits from joining Wikimedia Foundation:

1) Synergy in development / maintenance of the WeRelate platform?
2) Synergy in adding / maintaining WeRelate content?
3) Attracting more platform developers / administrators to WeRelate?
4) Attracting more content contributors to WeRelate?
5) Attracting more content users to WeRelate?
6) Establishing / expanding / defending WeRelate "claim" to the premiere genealogy wiki "turf"?
7) Attaining / maintaining "critical mass" to ensure long-term viability of WeRelate after the (inevitable) attrition of the initial creators / champions? This is a non-trivial long-term concern for those like myself who have chosen WeRelate as our sole or preferred genealogy repository / collaboration / dissemination vehicle.

Possible detriments from joining Wikimedia Foundation:

1) Imposition of undesirable editorial / administrative / content constraints?
2) Loss of important or desirable features from legacy platform?
3) Attracting undesirable contributors / contents?
4) Loss of focus on primary purposes of WeRelate?

I am not inherently opposed to change - arguably any living organism needs to adapt in order to survive. This is as true for human endeavors as for biological endeavors.

If we do not clearly understand why we are making a major change it will probably be a detrimental change.

So I am asking for more specific clarity on the foregoing questions from the "guiding fathers and mothers" of WeRelate.

--Jhamstra 11:34, 16 February 2014 (UTC)


Pando [16 February 2014]

I DO think that Pando is an important use case for testing WeRelate platform design decisions.

I DO think that Pando is an important criterion for determining whether content is appropriate for inclusion in WeRelate.

I DO NOT think that Pando is a realistic goal or success criterion for WeRelate.

Having read the Wikimedia Foundation Sister Project proposal for WeRelate, including comments by both supporters and opponents, it appears that the question of Pando will be very interesting. The Wikimedia comments are clearly divided on whether "non-notable" data of various kinds should be a focus of Wikimedia.

I submit that the concept of Pando and the concept of Notable are inherently in conflict. While everyone who has ever lived could and arguably should be important to someone else (living or deceased), most people are not Notable as Wikimedia uses the term.

Ongoing support for Pando in the capability and content criteria for WeRelate must not be lost. This potential philosophical distinctive must be resolved in any collaboration agreement with Wikimedia. In other words - it must not be a Wikimedia requirement that Sister Projects be restricted to Notable People, Notable Events, etc.--Jhamstra 12:40, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

I agree, WeRelate wouldn't work if it was restricted to notable people but I wouldn't think the conversation would even have started if this was ever on the table. Incidentally, notability is required for Wikipedia, but isn't a requirement of, say, Wikisource or Wikivoyage. AndrewRT 13:27, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Can someone explain what the Pando thing is?--Artefacts 18:12, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
WeRelate:Pando for genealogy. I think the main point is that we are trying to connect everyone to a common super-tree. I agree with AndrewRT that I don't see how this can be a problem, in that a Wikimedia genealogical wiki would not even be practical if the notability criterion for inclusion in Wikipedia also applied to the genealogical wiki. I think people attached to the notability criterion are simply going to vote against the entire project ever getting off the ground.--Werebear 20:36, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Opposition from within Wikimedia itself. [16 February 2014]

A user named 'verdy_p' left this comment [[4]] :"Not so great. Even if you exclude living people, there are severe legal issues about dead people. Genealogic data could only be useful for people dead 70 years ago or more. For other poeple, there are privacy issues about the kind of info you'll allow inserting about someone that cannot defend its personality. If this is just to collect data about civil records, this data will be subject to many national laws. They are NOT extensible internationaly and CANNOT be free knowledge (notably the licences allowing modifications will be incompatible with these laws). Seriously, such project should remain within private projects monitored by authorized people that take full responsability and audit the data they republish under specific authorization or legal rights, but this right is NOT freely transferable. I strongly oppose this project, except for people died more than 1 century ago (that must NOT be linked to their successors living or not : the names of children must be hidden, and given mean life time about 75 years, this means that NO birth later than 175 years ago should be listed, if we don't know that these successors are dead since more than 100 years). And which kind of data would be useful ? We are not focusing on creating online fac simile backups of national people registries. Anyway this project is extremely badly named, it should be more descriptive with something like "GeneaWiki". May be some parts of Wikidata should be transfered here, using the same wikidata extension, but with specific visual tools to help building and navigating in genealogic trees. And with tools facilitating the exchange of information between existing communities of genealogists (the wiki format is not the best option for massive imports of lots of hostoric trees, and genealogists will want to track the original sources, which are much more important than the data themselves). Not that even if these are facts and facts are not copyrightable by themselves (in US), this does not mean that there's no private rights applicable because the project is all about personal data."

My point in posting this comment is I believe it is reflective of the kind of opposition we are likely to see from the general Wiki community, even if there is more support than opposition at the moment. Wikipedians will not look kindly on data added for people who are recently deceased (even if there is no legal constant on it). The user mentions restricting it to people who are dead 70 years ago and more. This would, IMO, kill the appeal for many other users. Wikipedia would be best served having their own smaller gene related mini-wiki that could serve as a repository for their nobility ancestor tracking, which already seems to have a bit of a following. Support there right now seems to be limited to 'it's cool' or 'it can be connected to medical databases' (what?). Even if initially the data all moves over there, I don't think it would last long. One other user pointed to a write up on a domestic servant as 'not notable', which suggests to me that this could end up becoming a criteria. I think the Wikimedia Foundation's and Werelate's visions are fundamentally opposed to each other and this merging the two will be like oil and water.Daniel Maxwell 13:01, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Rather like a marriage, it takes two to tango and I'm sure there will be plenty on both sides who will oppose the move for various reasons. That doesn't mean it can't, or shouldn't, be considered. The case will need to be made to users on werelate that it will positive for our site and the case will need to be made to wikimedians generally that WeRelate will be a positive addition to the Wikimedia family. Actually verdy_p's comments are something we have all been dealing with for years. Our conclusion - no living people unless notable - is one I'm certainly willing to defend and I have no doubt the Foundation will do a proper legal due diligence to ensure it will stand up in court. AndrewRT 13:14, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
So then, yes, there is a good chance that what he brought up will happen and you seem to admit that - 'two to tango'. Sounds like a marriage that would end up in divorce court rather quickly. He even says '175 years' dead as a rule, which sounds strong but I do believe something like 100 years plus dead will end up becoming a rule. Then they also seem to be demanding we adopt a 'wiki name' and wonder about support for it 'from over there' (I don't support a name change). Daniel Maxwell 13:17, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
The purpose of this discussion here is to establish what the WeRelate community thinks about the proposal. What Wikimedians think about it can be addressed by the Foundation on their side. If they raise particular objections or have particular things they want us to address before proceeding they will do that in due course. Lets let them have that discussion in their own way rather than taking the comments of one individual as if he were a spokesman for the Wikimedia community. AndrewRT 13:25, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
As I said, I think it is reflective of the kind of opposition we would receive, especially on the 'recently dead' side of it. I have edited wikipedia since 2002, though I have not done so in a long time, so I am not new to this and I know how things work (or worked) there. Daniel Maxwell 13:30, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Marriages between influential partners usually involve Prenuptial Agreements which memorialize the intentions of the parties to the marriage. Otherwise the civil laws define a default de facto Prenuptial Agreement. We would certainly need an appropriate agreement.
One needs to understand something very important about the governance of these "public benefit" organizations. The public forums are an interesting way for users to express their opinions and "participate" in the process. The real powers work in the background. They typically read the public comments for information purposes. But the important negotiations and deliberations do not happen in public.
--Jhamstra 13:57, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Global Wiki Genealogy [16 February 2014]

I think that it is a good idea to try to create united Global Genealogical Wiki (for example with the name WikiGenealogy). From my point of view the strong points of WeRelate are:

  • GEDCOM import with duplication person control and Review software
  • GEDCOM export
  • Strong policy to suppress duplicated persons and requirements for sources

The weak points of WeRelate are:

  • Too few persons recorded in the database. It makes it non-competitive with sites having many millions of persons.
  • Too few researchers contributing to the project
  • It is rather US/UK and English language oriented

If you think that it should remain mainly US/UK and English language oriented, do not look in my following arguments. It is a perfect choice, but it should be somehow admitted for clarity in the front page of the project.

If WeRelate will evolve into global wiki project under MediaWiki, i will propose the following important founding principles:

  • 1) Multi language support (like Wikipedia or WikiVoyage or Rodovid). All family relations are the same in all languages. For universality each person should have at least English version.
  • 2) Alternative family relations are allowed only by links in notes and discussions (no multiple mothers or fathers in the main tree). Adoption fathers/mothers links allowed only in notes or special records.
  • 3) Duplicated persons forbidden.
  • 4) Mythological and fantasy persons not allowed in the wiki tree (reinforced by simple formal rules: estimation of the birth or death date are always given, no mothers before ~10 and after ~60, no fathers before ~10 and after ~90 years, no persons living more that ~140 years (exact numbers to be discussed).
  • 5) Sources obligatory, but flexible as in scientific articles: strong sources (birth/death certificates, census, books, scientific articles, graves etc) has priority for definition of the family links and weak sources (private communications, www links, memoires, newspapers etc) are tolerated if they do not contradict strong sources or common sense rules. The proportion of the strong and weak sources may be different for different regions or historical periods. One should not discriminate the regions and periods, where the archives were destroyed or in a bad shape. If we put too strict rules for sources we will end up as the genealogical wiki only for US/UK, not for the full world. In rare cases of extremely weak sources, these persons and links should be flag with clear visible warnings and call for sources.
  • 6) No discrimination between notable (vip) or ordinary people.
  • 7) Living persons allowed only if they have already personal pages on Wikipedia or if they give explicit agreement by signing special www form on the site.
  • 8) Long term unification goal with other genealogical wiki sites like Rodovid, Familypedia, WikiTree.
  • 9) Long term goal to include DNA genetic information. In few years from now it will be possible to verify and find the true biological ancestors from DNA genetic analysis. So the new project should be prepared for genetic markers. For example, WikiTree start already to include genetic markers.

On top of these fundamental principles few pragmatic points may be important:

  • 1) Improved GEDCOM import/export and review software like in WeRelate for all users. Apart from correcting few bugs it should have more efficient search for duplicated persons, requirements for fare amount of sources (for example at least 80% of persons imported). This strict Review software will ease the actual critics on the pollution produced by low quality GEDCOMs.
  • 2) Special effort by few administrators to import best quality GEDCOM's from different regions for the period before 1700, before opening the project to most of the users.
  • 3) Tools for easy import (including review) the persons and families from Rodovid, Familypedia, WikiTree into WikiGenealogy. This import process may take some time to unite the communities, agree on the same standard of sources, clean the mythological, junk and duplicates.
  • 4) Increase the time scope to ~3000 BC in order to include ancient Egypt and China genealogy.--Alexandre 13:31, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Quick comment on this. Ancient genealogy is not provable beyond a certain point, and could very quickly become bogged down with legendary figures/people. Most of your foundational points are in fact already WR policy. No living people, etc (we have in the process of removing all of them from the site, a major process of which I have done alot of work). There is also no point to 'unification' with other genealogical websites because they (especially Wikitree) have different goals. Daniel Maxwell 13:34, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Daniel, I agree with you that actual Ancient genealogy is not provable and infected with mythology. But with the rapid progress in DNA analysis the Ancient genealogy (especially Egypt) will become very precise in few years. China Ancient genealogy has many sources which are not well known to western researchers. As this discussion concern the project which is planned for next 10-15 years, we should not ignore these future evolutions. Concerning living persons i do not see why we should remove from the WeRelate those persons who have already public Wikipedia pages or those persons who are ready to sign www form to make their page on WeRelate public. Hundreds of millions of persons decided to put a lot of private information on Facebook or similar sites. Why we should not allow them to put some basic data on WeRelate (most of them is anyhow public available as birth, marriage and death are annonced in the media)? From the information given on the front pages i do not see significant differences in the goals of Rodovid, Familypedia, WikiTree and WeRelate. On all of these sites there are periodically the discussions about merging to common project.--Alexandre 15:18, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Living people pages are a non starter here and always will be. There are all kinds of liability issues you will get entangled in. We don't even allow an 'opt-in' mechanism. This of course does not apply to notable people, though it is strictly limited to them and not immediate relatives if not famous and living. WikiTree's goals are vastly different than ours, as I have said. People own pages over there, which goes against WR's model of collaborative research. WikiTree has more in common with 'FindAGrave' than WR. Our data is better than theirs as well, so we really wouldn't want to merge with them since they have a ton of errors. The 'Rodovid' is Eastern European centric and main pose problems when it comes to support (ie language gap), but there is nothing wrong with having those pages here. Familypedia is still very new and I don't know much about it, though I dislike the Wikia model, personally. Daniel Maxwell 15:26, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Daniel, the policy of refusing requests of not-notable living person to be in the tree introduce the discrimination of not-notable living persons. I am not fun of legalistic discussion, but if WeRelate will grow to big community it might be a problem of discrimination. Not-notable people will feel being treated as second class. Typical use case can be the tree of descendants of Charlemagne in WeRelate. Only notable living people will find themselves in this tree. You may say that it only vanity to be in that Charlemagne tree. I would agree if it would be only vanity. But with modern DNA markers studies of such tree will help to establish the historical and genealogical truth and dismiss invented myths in case of poor sources. So the value of participation in Charlemagne tree is above simple vanity. Such discrimination policy may push people away from WeRelate or its successor in the long term. Certainly it is not a problem if the consensus is to keep only compact community with slow growth.--Alexandre 18:14, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Then so be it. The living person policy is not up for debate. It has nothing to do with whether or not we think a person is 'notable' or if we like them, etc, but whether or not they are a public figure. Being a public figure in US law means that they are not entitled to the same level of privacy that a regular non notable person is. I must say this debate is several years old and completely settled. There will be no living people pages aside from public figures on WeRelate. End of discussion. Daniel Maxwell 18:18, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Thanks Alexandre - I agree with your summary, in particular the strengths and weaknesses of WeRelate. Just to probe one point though: "Sources obligatory" - are you suggesting that unsourced pages should be deleted from WeRelate and/or that GEDCOMs including unsourced pages should be blocked? This would have far-reaching consequences if you were serious about this. AndrewRT 13:44, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Andrew, i will try to detail my opinion. My proposal for GEDCOM import is to calculate the number of persons without sources (and/or without any date/place estimation) during the Review and if the number of these persons is above 20% (percentage to be discussed) to block the import until the author of the GEDCOM fill the sources (at least with weak sources). This will protect WeRelate against massive pollution by not-sourced material. For the persons who are already inside WeRelate my proposal is to put on the corresponding pages the ban with warning and call to provide sources. Deleting the page should be very rare action, when the page is obviously wrong and contradicting other well sourced pages or common sense (multiple fathers and mothers, duplication, fantasy, mythology, impossible ages, living person without permission, intentionally fake source etc) and if the author does not react to the warnings.--Alexandre 15:18, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Public vs Private Data and the WeRelate Brand [16 February 2014]

FYI for those who might not be aware - - Every Wikimedia Foundation Sister Project is required to have a name that starts with "Wiki". So the WeRelate,org name would be replaced by another name. I would suggest Wikigenea.org

I think that one of the major impediments for attracting more contributors to WeRelate is no support for contributions / collaborations that involve a mixture of Public Data (eg for deceased people) and Personal Data (eg for living people). The number of people who are interested in researching / disseminating information about their family history (writ large or small) is much larger than the number of people who are interested in researching / disseminating information of historical interest only about people who lived and died one or more centuries ago.

I suggest that adding appropriate support for both Public Data and Personal Data (including appropriate privacy safeguards) in WeRelate is probably the biggest single thing that could be done to attract more contributors of quality data.

There is an inherent conflict between supporting Personal Data and becoming a Wikimedia Foundation Sister Project. (This leads to another interesting question - is there any way to withdraw from being a Wikimedia Foundation Sister Project if it proves to be detrimental to other things?)

One way to deal with these conflicting goals might be to maintain WeRelate.org as a distinct "brand" while publishing only data regarding people born more than 115 years ago (or known to have died more than 70 years ago?), or who already appear in Wikipedia, in a Wikigenea.org database that is the official Wikimedia Foundation Sister Project. Then Wikigenea would be the "generic public wiki brand" for historical genealogy and WeRelate would be the "premium brand" that supports added-value functions like Personal Data and Collaborator Groups with appropriate privacy controls.

WeRelate would be a proper superset of Wikigenia. There could be a single software platform that supports both, with two instantiations. In principle there would be no need to duplicate the database - the WeRelate database could link seamlessly into the Wikigenea database (but not vice versa). FOLG could own and operate both "brands" (or possibly the Wikimedia Foundation could own the Wikigenea "brand" and delegate operation to FOLG).

Genealogical data about people born more than 115 years ago (or deceased more than 70 years ago) or who appear in Wikipedia, should automatically propagate to Wikigenea. So Personal Data would still be licensed under the Creative Commons terms - ownership of data would not change, only unrestricted publication would be deferred.

It should go without saying that existing WeRelate internal links and URLs for data moved to Wikigenea should be preserved by automatic translation. So WeRelate would always present itself as a proper superset of Wikigenea.--Jhamstra 13:41, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Two sites? Why? Seems like useless duplication of effort just to satisfy Wiki-bosses for some alleged gain (and I am still waiting to see what that gain is supposed to be). Why can't they just create their own site that meets their definitions of what they want, and we will continue doing what we have been doing, and not merge at all? Daniel Maxwell 13:45, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Daniel, Your position regarding this is abundantly clear. You might very well be right, but some of the rest of us might wish to explore various models for how this could be done before we reach our own conclusions. Please be a little patient with us while we do this 8-). --Jhamstra 14:08, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
IF the assumption is correct that the the Wikimedia Foundation will eventually endorse a Sister Project for genealogy, then whether or not it is beneficial to WeRelate for that Sister Project to operate under the auspices of FOLG, is an interesting question. I can point you to many commercially successful ventures where multiple URLs end-up pointing to the same web site (or affiliated web sites). This is the simple part of the question.
The harder part of the question may come down to this - does FOLG want to be in the driver's seat when and if the time arises when multiple web sites must agree on how to feed content into a single wiki? Or does FOLG want to wait for someone else to invent the de-facto wiki-based successor to the GEDCOM-based stand-alone products?
I view WeRelate, WikiTree etc as a logical stage in the evolution of genealogy platforms from a stand-alone to a cloud-centric deployment model. We are confronting the question of how to provide the quality of the better stand-alone platforms in a cloud-centric world. Someone will eventually get this right. If it is not WeRelate then it will be someone else and eventually WeRelate will either be assimilated or it will become irrelevant.
DISCLAIMER - Cloud-based deployment is not inherently superior or inferior to stand-alone. It depends on your use cases. For the classic introverted genealogist who prefers to work alone and may or may not want their results to eventually be published, stand-alone is probably better. At the other end of the spectrum, those like myself who prefer to work collaboratively and have the current state of their work available to others, are better served by a cloud-based platform.
DISCLAIMER - I have not concluded that the Wikimedia Foundation is the best partner. But they are certainly a strong suitor and their proposal must be taken seriously.
--Jhamstra 14:31, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Jim, I second your comment about personal data. Being able to add my own full tree, and keep parts private, is the main attraction of Geni and WikiTree, and the most important reason why I spend more time there, than here on WeRelate. I don't like Geni's marketing, neither part of their policies, and also think that WikiTree is far behind WeRelate on technology, and yet, I'm mostly there, not here, and that's simply because seeing family connections with fellow members, and notable people, is fun, and keeps me more involved.

This may indeed imply that some sort of dual site approach is needed to serve wikimedia and user demands, just to survive. That's how things work in my world of genealogy. --Enno 21:56, 16 February 2014 (UTC)


Proposals for improving WeRelate sans Wikipedia [16 February 2014]

I'd like to throw out some ideas for those of us who are skeptical (or in my case, hostile) of Wikipedia and any agreement with them. I believe that the problems WeRelate has are best served by remaining an independent organization, free from the constraints of a mother company pulling the strings. Those that are not in favor of an agreement, I would like to hear ideas and things you would like to add to this.

1. Have it so the system can recognize bad or no dates, and have them marked at the side of the page in an auto category. The only exception and only possible way to get around this is by added the notable person tag, which could be monitored for non notables. This will make keeping the livings off the site much easier, and improve the quality of the site.
2. Limit the date on which unsourced people are able to be uploaded/kept. I oppose (but I am somewhat sympathetic to) the idea that there should be no unsourced anything on the site; it will set the bar far too high for the vast majority of users. The easiest genealogy done by most amateurs with some degree of accuracy on those that are in the era of modern censuses and vital records (such as the SSDI). Consequently, I think unsourced people are fine after a certain date, perhaps born after 1775 or so, with slightly earlier for the UK since they had a census in 1841 that is useful. Amateurs generally keep their real research restricted to this area, and anything further back is usually just copy other people's trees. Limiting this any more will make the userbase even smaller than it is already now.--Daniel Maxwell 14:40, 16 February 2014 (UTC)


Yes [16 February 2014]

This is what I had hoped would eventually happen when I started contributing to Werelate. A genealogical Wiki by its nature will always have pros and cons. The cons we are all familiar with -- the unevenness of contributions, the variable commitment to providing sources, and so on. The most important pros, I think, really only become apparent when the number of eyes on a page exceeds a certain critical number. “Eyes” is not really the right word, maybe. What is needed is a certain number of people who have the skills and inclination to improve a page. Absent that, what we have is really more akin to an interconnected set of personal genealogical sites than a Wiki-as-it-was-always-meant-to-be, -- a place where serious, if incremental, improvements are likely to occur. Werelate as it is now is a great start for a Wiki-as-it-was-always-meant-to-be, but it is not big enough. We need to attract far more skilled, knowledgeable users. If we do, the future is bright. If we don’t, not only will we not realize the true potential of a genealogical wiki, but my fear is that somewhere else will. And I suspect that there is only room for one such place on the Web. And that place is where I will be making my future contributions. My desire for my research to be part of such a place is why I am working here rather than on my personal site.

I am assuming that issues regarding notability and so on are specific to Wikipedia, not Wikimedia in general, and will not hamper a Wikimedia genealogical wiki. On technical issues, I don’t have the expertise to comment, but I imagine jrm0363’s suggestion that snapshots be taken, just in case, is a wise one.

On the quality and sourcing issue, I think a genealogical wiki needs strong standards with respect to these, and I think it would be a good thing if we had standards that are more rigorously enforced than they generally are now on Werelate. Editors should feel no guilt about deleting unsourced facts (although I have usually been somewhat hesitant to do so.) A “fact” with no source and not even an explanation of why it is there does not belong on a Wiki. If you feel an attachment to such a “fact”, put it on your personal genealogical site. That said, I am assuming the standards for a future Wikimedia genealogical wiki will not be identical to those of Wikipedia, as it will not be an encyclopedia. (I don’t see how it could be otherwise.)

So, in sum, I am voting a strong “yes”, in principle. Details, of course, could prove to be important.--Werebear 18:01, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

"What is needed is a certain number of people who have the skills and inclination to improve a page. Absent that, what we have is really more akin to an interconnected set of personal genealogical sites than a Wiki-as-it-was-always-meant-to-be, -- a place where serious, if incremental, improvements are likely to occur. Werelate as it is now is a great start for a Wiki-as-it-was-always-meant-to-be, but it is not big enough. We need to attract far more skilled, knowledgeable users. If we do, the future is bright. If we don’t, not only will we not realize the true potential of a genealogical wiki, but my fear is that somewhere else will. And I suspect that there is only room for one such place on the Web. And that place is where I will be making my future contributions." Strongly agree with this --Artefacts 18:18, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

My Detailed Response and some additional thoughts [17 February 2014]

Like a lot of other folks, I found the questionnaire a little perplexing. I filled that out, but also went ahead and overdid it with this detailed response. I'm still a bit confused - but I'm going to surmise what's going on and hopefully someone with greater knowledge will tell me if I'm off base or not.

In "real life", I'm a software developer, so I take it as a given that the extent to which WeRelate can narrow its departures from standard media-wiki software, the better. I doubt that the set of departures can be driven to zero, but they might be small enough that they could co-exist in the media-wiki code base without raising the ire of other users. That seems like an outcome to be desired regardless of whether a formal affiliation comes to be or not - and it seems like the first place to focus in any case. Were I tasked with this as a job, I'ld break it down something like this (and tackle it in this sequence):

  • Determine features that we aren't using, that aren't in media-wiki software. Junk 'em - see if anyone screams.
  • For features we use that depart, try to re-imagine their implementation within the context of current WM capabilities, perhaps we can get similar enough features w/o writing special code. To the extent that I can, do so, take 'em on one at a time. Create a test version of the site not just for my own development purposes - but also so that long-time users can provide feedback on re-imagined interfaces and such - without putting the primary site at risk. Roll out such updates incrementally on the primary site, as testing and feedback suggest they're ready.
  • For features that just don't line up at all, and really prove necessary, try to imagine how to provide those features as WM add-ons. As before, take them on one at a time, in a separate site version.

As noted above, I see this as valuable regardless of future WeRelate partnerships. I hope that even folks who are presently hostile to the notion of partnership, would find the technical evolution above useful. Certainly - if WR were evolved to that sort of state - re-incarnating it on another host would be greatly simplified, to say nothing of maintaining it alongside future versions of media wiki software. So even if you hate partnership with the foundation, you probably should support this evolution in order to make it easier for the database to thrive elsewhere if needs be.

I assume that the time taken for the technical process would allow for better explanation of the implications of partnership. Beyond better visibility, I don't know what they might be, and I sense a lot of other people are anxious in the absence of that information. I am too.

Still, if I'm right, then everyone can exhale for the moment. Let's separate the technical side from the political side, and rely that Dallan, et. al., will be respectful in sharing timely information on the latter as he can. --jrm03063 20:46, 16 February 2014 (UTC)



I think this is the most sober and practical process I've heard so far, addressing what we can do NOW without and before connecting with Wikimedia. Boosted by some Fund Raising, I believe we'll be in a much better position to evaluate whether this proposed partnership is beneficial and necessary or not. If we can truly fly on our own, that question will answer itself with a deliberate campaign to become the premier genealogy wiki. --Neal Gardner 21:21, 17 February 2014 (UTC)


Another Yes

In today’s social/historical context, we either grow, or we slowly die. Growing means either amalgamation or affiliation. Amalgamation almost certainly means greater loss of control and independence than affiliation. I don’t know of any other viable places to affiliate.

For Dallan: What is unique about WeRelate, based on my experience with other sites:

  • the general level of sophistication, both genealogical and technological, of active users. For all our disagreements, squabbles, etc., people actively involved at WeRelate just seem to know more, and understand more.
  • the particular combination of features, rather than any one single feature.

The most valuable (for me)
– it’s free;
- It’s (supposedly/potentially) source-driven and tree-building (this is where on-line genealogy has to go if it’s not going to collapse under the weight of it’s own garbage);
- it’s flexible (free-form text on person and family pages, many different kinds of pages are available, alternative birth/death dates are available, speculative relationships can be highlighted);
- pages can be linked in a variety of ways;
- it’s publically visible, and pages can be “watched” by anyone who registers, whether or not they contribute (this is the only way I can get a number of “relatives” involved.) There is more I value, but Pando and flexibility are the most important.

Five years from now:
- genetic genealogy is going to have a major impact on all of genealogy. We need a bigger database (i.e., more contributors, more data generally); and we need a better way to include DNA data and to use it to find “matches”.
- accessibility/support for languages other than English. If we are going to be truly Pando, we need to increase the number of contributors from non-English speaking countries.
- probably more support for new-comers, particularly those who fear wikis of any sort because they don’t understand or can’t deal with the sometimes sticky process of negotiated collaboration.--GayelKnott 23:28, 16 February 2014 (UTC)


Some points by a Wikimedian [17 February 2014]

Disclaimer: I'm not an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF). I am a contributor to some of its projects, and fairly familiar with its policies, environment, etc. So permit me to make a few points on this.

  1. The various WMF projects have very different policies. For example, Wikipedia demands secondary sources, while Wikivoyage relies on personal experience. Similarly, if Wikivoyage joins the WMF, it can keep its own policies on things like sourcing (what kinds and how much), notability, adult content, and so on.
  2. The WMF prefers free content, but understands that sometimes that's not possible. Therefore, projects may create an Exclusion Doctrine Policy, outlining the conditions where Fair Use files may be used. Obviously, this can only be done when legal.
  3. When quoting copyrighted text from sources, it is usually legal to quote a few lines. It's worth noting that Wikipedia already allows this, so WeRelate can certainly as well.
  4. The WMF feels very strongly about allowing anonymous users to edit. While there can be some restrictions (the English Wikipedia doesn't allow anons to create pages, and semi-protects many of them), absolutely requiring an account would go against a major founding principle. It may, however, be possible to get them to change their minds, at least for one project.
    1. That being said, there are many tools in newer versions of MediaWiki that make it easier to handle unwanted edits, such as the Rollback tool. The EditFilter also makes it easy to block certain types of edits (or editors). Rangeblocks can also be used when necessary.
    2. There is no requirement that all features (like the GEDCOM upload, trees, merging duplicates) work for anonymous editors.
  5. The WMF cares a lot about internationalization. It's likely that if WeRelate joins them, they'd invest the time and effort to make this a truly multilingual site, which would help viewership and fulfill WeRelate's goal of becoming a unified Pando across the whole world.
  6. Joining the WMF is not going to immediately bring in millions of users. Wikivoyage joined a year ago, and has less than 500 active users now. However, it did gain a huge boost in visitors, which it partially lost over time. If WeRelate can avoid the drop (by proving to be a useful site), it can stay in the top 1000 sites on the Web, well above Geni and close to Ancestry. --- Ypnypn 18:10, 17 February 2014 (UTC)
"The WMF feels very strongly about allowing anonymous users to edit. While there can be some restrictions (the English Wikipedia doesn't allow anons to create pages, and semi-protects many of them), absolutely requiring an account would go against a major founding principle. It may, however, be possible to get them to change their minds, at least for one project." - this would be an absolute recipe for disaster. I've read that more Wikipedia edits are spent on reversing vandalism than actual new content. More reason to reject any agreement with the WMF. We already have problems with people who try and sneak in living people, I can't imagine the headache anon 'contributors' would bring. Daniel Maxwell 18:14, 17 February 2014 (UTC)
I have to agree with Daniel here. WeRelate does not have adequate volunteer bandwidth to police deleterious "contributions" from anonymous "snipers". We might possibly consider allowing non-member comments or questions on some "Talk" pages but I cannot see how we would survive opening things up on a broader front to non-member contributors. However I would point out that it is possible to be an anonymous member of WeRelate. Nothing in the free sign-up process requires you to disclose your actual identity. Only requirement is that you create a distinct identity on WeRelate so your work can be distinguished from that of others. One possible way to address this would be to enforce the common WeRelate default that in order to Edit a page you must be prepared to Watch the page (at least for a short time). This encourages contributors to pay attention to what others may be doing to the same page. You cannot Watch a page unless you are a registered user. If you cannot Watch then you cannot Create, Edit, etc. We could add a separate category of Followers of a page who only have to provide an email (or other address) for notifications, but would not be required to register as Users. That might or might not help - but de facto we already seem to be evolving into a hierarchy of Administrators, Contributors and Followers so perhaps this needs to be made explicit.--Jhamstra 19:19, 17 February 2014 (UTC)
Folks from the WP/WMF world need to understand that the genealogy community is a lot older than the web or media-wiki communities. For good and ill, there are accepted ways of working that stretch back decades and more. As it is, we sometimes have our work cut out for us selling people on the simple idea of a shared tree space (one page per person). Merely making use of existing WP biography and other content has been a recurring and long-running battle from which many of us are still scarred. Thinking that community is going to be happy or welcoming of anonymous edits - is beyond unrealistic. --jrm03063 19:59, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

Growth Pains [17 February 2014]

Watching the various comments here (and the degree of associated passion) reminds me of similar debates I have seen in churches, country clubs, industry forums, standards committees, etc, when the topic of growth / expansion / outreach comes up.

In principle the current "club" wants to grow - especially when confronted with the alternative to growth which is atrophy. In practice it wants to grow by attracting more participants "like us". Why? because this is the most painless way to grow. But at some point any endeavor reaches the point of diminishing returns on this sort of painless growth - basically you have attracted most of the participants who are "like us" and would be likely to consider joining. The endeavor continues as long as the founders and "true believers' do not burn-out. Then it becomes necessary to make some tough choices.

I am not saying WeRelate has reached this point but it is a possibility that concerns me because I have invested a fair amount of my own energy here and it is the repository / publisher for all of my "public" genealogy and family history work.

When your growth in your initial niche slows, you naturally begin to consider "adjacent markets" and how to attract other kinds of "customers". WeRelate since I joined has always struggled with tensions between the "historical genealogists" and the "family genealogists". These are sharing the same platform for somewhat different albeit related purposes. Aspiring to Pando requires to accommodate both kinds of contributions because far more of Pando resides in family memories and private records (however faulty) than in public records (absent or faulty for most of the world). Very few researchers without some kind of specific interest in a family or person will risk venturing off the safer playing fields of public records and published histories, into the the much more risky morass of family letters, family Bibles, family and community albums, oral traditions, etc.

I have news for the "historical genealogists" that you might not like - to have any hope of approaching Pando you need the "family genealogists" because we have access to a lot of private information that will probably never be professionally published. And we have the passion to dig in unlikely places to find answers to historical (writ small) questions that are not worth the time and trouble of the professional historian.

DISCLAIMER - I am NOT making a case for a "World Family Tree" based on wishful thinking and rash speculation. I AM making a case that WeRelate needs to encourage contributors who want to carefully and collaboratively mine the smaller and less profitable veins of historical ore that we often encounter.

So what does my rant have to do with the topic of this page? Affiliation with Wikimedia is not likely to attract more participants "like us" regardless of who you think are "us". If you want to grow rather than atrophy you need to consider the possibility of attracting participants who are not "like us". Whether the participants you would attract are more or less desirable than those attracted to WikiTree or Wikipedia (or many other examples we might be tempted to bash) is an interesting and somewhat subjective question.

A proven way to cater to different people with fundamentally the same product is to put different "skins" over it that make it more appealing to different people who have different interests. My suggestion that one path forward is to have two different web presences - one that caters more to "family genealogists" and another that caters more to "historical genealogists", with a unified back-end database - is not frivolous nor offered lightly.

The brand name WeRelate should be more appealing to an audience that is interested in the personal relational aspects of genealogy. Yet we intentionally dissuade them from using our platform for the relationships that are most important to them. I understand the privacy issues and I am NOT advocating that we publish personal information about living persons. But that need not prevent our contributors from capturing personal information for controlled dissemination and deferred publication.

(The current prohibitions are an ironic artifact of inconsistent privacy laws that rightly discourage me from publishing "private" data but do not prevent the state where my three adult children were born from publishing a database of birth records, including their full birth names and those of their parents.)

--Jhamstra 18:49, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for your very thoughtful comments. The insight about growing by attracting people who are not "like us" is, I think, very helpful. Like you, I have seen similar conversations elsewhere, and it seems that people can be both scared and excited by inviting in others who are not "like us". Ultimately, they have to decide which emotion overpowers the other - because only if excitement overpowers fear will they take the action required to truly invite others who are not "like us".
Like you, I am not certain that we have hit the limit in attracting people who are committed to contributing reasonable-quality information, and maybe helping with some volunteer work. But someday we will hit that limit, and the number of people willing to do the volunteer work might not be enough. What then?
Dallan has asked some very good questions. In particular, I think the second and third questions need a forum for discussion. I'm not sure that this discussion thread is the best format - this page is getting very long and hard to find points in. Since there is already a survey underway, could I suggest that the reviewers of the survey determine an appropriate way to present the results and set up a forum (similar in usability to the Suggestions page) that would allow us to itemize:
  • core values
  • core points in our vision - both short-term and longer-term
  • core features we believe would meet those core points (at the 10,000 foot level, not the detailed level that the Suggestions list addresses)
  • what we're afraid of - I think this is almost as important as our vision - and can we be honest without tearing each other down? I would like to be able to admit I am afraid of something but still willing to examine the potential impacts and possibilities for mitigating risk.
  • personal deal-breakers - not just for partnering with another organization, but anything that might be a deal-breaker in any potential future direction
I think setting direction for the future of WeRelate needs to be given some time and some structured consideration. If we had such a forum, and allowed ourselves to edit each others points (and revert the edits if the edit missed the original point), we could collaborate to evolve some lists that I think could be very useful for us as we ponder our future. We could then vote on the lists to get a sense of where the community is at.--DataAnalyst 21:29, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

Do we really scale? [22 February 2014]

One direction that this discussion hasn't gone yet, is the question of whether WR could really sanely and suddenly absorb many more users. As most of you know, I've been working a lot with Savage. I know some of you think I'm on a fool's errand, and you can hold entire seminars on why Savage is to be avoided. I ask you to set those concerns aside for a moment.

The Transcript I've been working to create is really the first attempt, to my knowledge, to systematically integrate supporting reference material with the genealogy that it documents. It may be that ancestry has done something like this with US census records, but their business model doesn't encourage them to make that readily apparent or available. I want to create source references that allow you to move back and forth, between the supporting material and the genealogy pages, just as easily as we already can within the genealogy alone (for example - Person:Nathaniel Jones (17) and Transcript:Savage, James. Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England/v2p564).

I'm currently working on a time consuming process of visiting every Person page that has a cite of Savage, and adding a template that displays an active reference to the corresponding transcript page. At the same time, on the Savage transcript pages so referenced, I'm transforming the names of people referenced into active links back to the appropriate Person pages. I have found, that even though our interface encourages consistency in source reference creation, the results are anything but. Some of it is ignorance, some of it is folks never cleaning up pages after a GEDCOM upload, but most of it is just straight up arbitrary choices. There just can't be good reasons for the myriad forms I've seen simply for references to one kind of source.

Savage is a large document from the point of view of one person - 2000+ pages - but it's tiny compared to things like census records - which could REALLY benefit from this sort of treatment.

So, while we're thinking about the things we can do without, in order to come into better alignment with standard WMF software and practice, we should also ask ourselves if there are things that would really cut it in a larger world. For source materials like a census transcript - would it be smarter if creation of the link in the source transcript - resulted in automatic and standard reference creation in corresponding Person pages? Would such a process need to run in real time with page check-ins - or could it occur as an overnight job that reviewed which transcript pages had changed since the last such run?

--jrm03063 17:51, 18 February 2014 (UTC)


Place pages [1 April 2014]

Rest assured, we are not going to abandon place pages.

There are currently four organizations trying to create databases of historical places right now:

I've spent time looking at each of them. Would others also want to spend some time looking at the three other sites and commenting on what you think? What are their strengths and weaknesses compared to WeRelate? I think we may want to explore partnering with one or more of them. The world doesn't need four historical place databases.--Dallan 01:24, 21 February 2014 (UTC)


" The world doesn't need four historical place databases." But it needs at least one of good quality that can look at the world from a geographical and an historical perspective at the same time. It must also be a database that anyone can figure out how to use quickly and effectively. As well as finding out where a place is, how big it is, and what its governing body is now, we ought also be able to learn why it came to exist, what industries were there, what other governing bodies (both church and state) covered it in times past, and what further reference works one should consult to learn more. It is also nice to know how it is spelled on maps, in Wikipedia, and in the Family History Library Catalog. That is a lot of bases to cover, but those bases are what we aim for in WeRelate.

Perhaps it falls down by obliging users to climb a geographical tree rather than looking through a straight-forward alphabetical index. But, being able to set up redirects for places with variable spellings is a major advantage.

Family Search I use the FamilySearch wiki and include it as an additional reference in each WR place page I draw up. Occasionally I have contributed. Each place page is divided into topics to be covered. A contributor can add to one topic and leave the others alone if that is where his/her knowledge lies.

It tends to lean on church-based data somewhat excessively (and here I don't just mean the LDS church, but religious affiliations in general). This leads to it being more useful for 18th and 19th century work than for the 20th and 21st century. Some parts of the world are well-represented, others are not. (I am surprised how little work has been done on Canada.)

One would expect as well-organized a site as this to have supervisors in charge of individual countries or even parts of big countries. But when a contributor asks a question it is answered by someone else each time. Do they all know the world that well? Or is their expertise only on the technical side?

Genealogy.net This was a completely new website to me. Not much explanation on the homepage so I browsed for a small town that came into my head: Selby, Yorkshire, England. No results. There was nothing to say that places written in the search box should not contain commas, but until I entered a single word, I got no answers. Then I tried "York" and got all sorts of places around the city in England but nothing in other parts of the world.

It was at this point I discovered the website was built in Germany. My high school German (last used many years ago) was not up to the vocabulary used in the place-type field and there was way of altering the list for one in English that I could see.

Consensus: well-organized but only useful to those who know a lot more German than I do. From what I understood they are looking at things in a present-day perspective only.

Genealogy Systems Not only is this website new to me, but it is also new to the WorldWideWeb (copyright 2014). It doesn't say who copyrighted it. Its purpose is fairly clear; they want to take history into consideration. But although the map on the homepage shows a part of North America and the map on the "browse" page shows both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, there seems to be very little coverage outside Europe. There is no instruction to indicate that a left double click (more like a quadruple one) will expand the scale and a right double click will reduce it. That came by trial and error.

My browsing example of "York" came up with the City of York in England, numerous little places surrounding it, and New York State. Not New York City or places around Toronto which contain the word York, much less any in Australia that I am not aware of. The map is not capable of moving from the place it is showing to a place that is just off that particular map.

The purposes given on the "About" tab are not at present being fulfilled. And what is a "geojson object"?

Although this website has potential, it is lacking in instructions and it has a long way to go before it comes up to what we have at WeRelate. But what they might need is a partner.--Goldenoldie 16:37, 21 February 2014 (UTC)


Saw the request to review the other historical place db sites a couple weeks ago and spent some time thinking through the permutations since then. The place issue is bigger than genealogy, obviously, and ideally it would split into a global, fully historical db (i.e. a "WikiPlaces" or "WikiSettlements") that genealogical and other types of sites could then draw down from to generate their specific type of content for that place. For example Genealogy sites with an article for the place would have large portions of the discussion surrounding records, settlement events, etc., while Archaeology or Geological sites would talk more about structure and topography (and whatever else they get up to). I tried interacting with updating the familysearch place records and honestly, just not as accessible as the wiki format here. They also lose a little from the library-based indexing structure (key place related items in my research are indexed under the wrong place because the original place ceased to exist). So, in an ideal world:

  • Get wikimedia (or Google or some such) to create a wiki master global index of human settlements over time (OpenMaps suffers because they refuse historical data).
  • Link to that but have genealogically relevant articles about that place hosted on WeRelate. Artefacts 19:22, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
I agree - linking to a master global index that involves non-genealogists as well seems like the way to go. I just joined a mailing list for a group that appears to be interested in doing that. I've also had some discussions with FamilySearch about opening up their place database and also with the GOV people at genealogy.net. Genealogy.net is currently focused on Germany, but they are interested in growing to become world-wide. We'll see where this goes. The mailing list looks promising.--Dallan 16:37, 1 April 2014 (UTC)

Wikimedia Foundation, Strategy and Fundraising [25 February 2014]

Thank you for all of the responses. There were a lot of them - a lot more than I anticipated!

First, it appears that support for becoming a Wikimedia Foundation project is not very strong. Going through the process of becoming a WMF project would likely be a lot of work and consume a lot of resources, and it sounds like at least right now we don't have a compelling reason to do this - that there are other things we should attend to in order to achieve our vision.

As I've been reading through the responses, several people's comments made me realize that I haven't spent a lot of time thinking/discussing vision. I've been thinking about features and but not so much about direction. I liked the comments about what are our core values, our vision - short-term and long-term, what we're afraid of, and personal deal-breakers. What's most important about WeRelate to us? Do we want to absorb more users? What kind of users do we want to attract? How important is quality vs quantity?

Migrating to the latest version of MediaWiki will likely cost around $20K. We could launch a fundraiser to raise the money to do that, but before we do, we should decide if that's the best way to spend $20K. Maybe we need to talk about a shared vision first, then on how to get there, then have a fundraiser to raise money needed to get there.

For example, if we decide that our vision is to be a place for well-researched data and high-quality interactions with people who understand how to do genealogy, then maybe the next question would be how to attract more serious genealogists without attracting too many sloppy genealogists?

I've read a number of comments about things we could address:

  • integration with living data
  • improving ease of use
  • adding DNA support
  • becoming multi-lingual

So maybe I've put the cart before the horse with the WMF proposal. In a way I'm sorry to stir things up, but in another way I'm glad that I did because it's helped us talk about things that we should talk about more.

Will you please discuss what you believe should be WeRelate's vision?

I will compile the results of the survey on Monday and post them here. If there are features that aren't cared about, I will list them and ask people to argue to keep them or we will drop them. Regardless of what our vision is, it seems like a good idea to do some housecleaning to drop legacy features that are no longer used.--Dallan 02:11, 21 February 2014 (UTC)

I am pretty happy with where WR is going, personally. Which is why I didn't understand the need for any 'next steps. I'd like to see some better safeguards against having living people because I noticed a couple of irate comments by the livings themselves that they gave no one permission to put themselves on here! Many of these pages are just space wasters, anyway, as they don't have dates. I think it hurts the quality of the site. I like the family pages, places pages (we need more work on 'Cemetery' pages though, such as ripping them from findagrave), sources, etc - it is an excellent website. Quality clean up is probably one of the biggest concerns. Things like multi-language I consider a more long term thing - I have concerns there that I will go into detail about some time. Quality control is my main concern, we could use some additional things there. I also think that we want, 'quality, not quantity' - we already have enough very bad trees there were uploaded early in the site's history that are being cleaned up. I think it is better that we become a good example - a City on Hill as it were - rather than pushing for 'growth'. Daniel Maxwell 02:20, 21 February 2014 (UTC)
Dallan, I'm personally disappointed that you've come to that conclusion. There were a range of reactions to this idea - some strongly positive, one outright opposition but most seemed to be in the middle, wanting to understand the advantages and disadvantages. This is understandable, given that when the proposal was presented there was no attempt to explain how this could work or put it into any context. Personally, I use WeRelate because it is a good place to publish the results of my research. I have a natural bias towards openness and collaboration and like the fact that it is released under creative commons. If nothing changed, I would probably carry on using WeRelate, as it is clearly the best open content family tree out there. That said, there are plenty of problems with WeRelate. It doesn't have enough resources. The ad revenue might be enough to fund the web hosting fees, but there isn't enough developer resource. There aren't enough people who are both interested in genealogy and skilled in programming to keep it running on volunteers alone. The list on the suggestions page is so long it's clear that most will never be actioned. As a host for our individual trees, it's fine. As a "pando", it's a fraction of the size it would need to meet critical mass. I have met about 20 people on ancestry who are distant relatives researching the same line, plus the same again who have a common interest in one or more surnames. On WeRelate? Zero. That's how a pando is meant to work, but it needs scale. There is no vision for how we would ever get to scale and many aspects of WeRelate are frankly not built for scale (e.g. Google Maps or inclusion policies). All in all, a bit of a missed opportunity. AndrewRT 20:00, 21 February 2014 (UTC)
I agree with the sentiment that it's premature to draw a conclusion. Leave the question of organizational partnership out there as something we're open to pending a better understanding of the implications. For now, focus on software/technical alignment with current MW methods. --jrm03063 20:58, 21 February 2014 (UTC)
I am a bit confused about the basis for this decision. It was not really clear, to me at least, what, specifically, all the pros and cons were. What would be lost, for example? Data? Functionality? Editorial control? And what, specifically, were the advantages? I was basing my support on general principles, but it would be nice to know more. One thing I can say is that once you have put this out there, the status quo will no longer be an option (at least for me), because any decision (for or against WMF) changes things. With a decision for, that is obvious. But a decision against, at least given my aforesaid limited understanding of the specifics, leads me to suspect that I have been contributing to a site which is not going where I had thought it was going. We need more discussion.--Werebear 17:10, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
I completely agree. It seems to me like the next step right now isn't to say "Let's hold off", but to form a list of issues we are concerned about, and to go back to Wikimedia with these questions and concerns, and figure out if they have a good response. -- Jdfoote1 19:46, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
Totally agree.--GayelKnott 20:31, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

I agree that we need to go back to wikimedia with some of our questions and obtain further information which may make people more comfortable with the change or it may change the mind of the supporters. Either way I am concerned that a decision to do nothing different would result in a slow gradual stagnation which will then require a major change at a later stage to reinvigorate or head into decline.

One thing I think we can all agree is that we currently like what WeRelate currently does in placing all the information for individuals and their families in one place and not duplicating them numerous times within the one overarching genealogy site. It also seems clear that we also want to maintain this with a quality focus and ensure that this information is easy to access for generations yet to be born.

Yes a clear understanding of vision and direction is important, so is a clear understanding of what the wikimedia constraints would be. I also think that the WeRelate community currently creates a feeling within me and others to submit quality genealogy and improve on the pages where my quality is questionable, this will help WeRelate maintain the quality goals. The question for me is how do we ensure the long term existence of WeRelate so that the collection of many family members shared information which I have put onto WeRelate stays available to the family for generations still to come.--JeffreyRLehrer 23:34, 22 February 2014 (UTC)


It seems to me most people aren't saying "no", they're actually saying "we don't know enough to make a decision". Until some sort of formal agreement is made there is no harm in exploring our options further. If we had a clearer idea of what policy changes might be made we could have a robust debate about them and then make a decision on whether any compromises were worth the gains we would be making. I would be very disappointed if a small number of disproportionately loud negaters stopped the process early. There's been much assumption of what policy changes might be "forced" on us but some of the negativity is hard to take seriously - e.g. as others have said clearly the idea of WeRelate having to conform to WP's notability policy wouldn't even be suggested because it's so incompatible, so there's no point bringing it up repeatedly. There is much potential harm in the site stagnating. There are many similar websites jostling for position and it'll be a continual race for relevancy. FamilySearch have been making it ever easier to contribute to their tree, with sources, and link to actual images of the sources, and while I know they're not independent in the same way as WR it's getting more tempting to contribute to them as the site with the best resources and therefore future following. The more contributors a site has, the more likely it'll become the go-to source for free genealogy. Wikipedia has already gained that critical mass as the public encyclopedia and I would like to see that happen for WeRelate whether or not we come under the wing of the WMF. Perhaps there are ways we can gain more contributors in the meantime, somehow get the word out to more of the existing genealogy community? In any case WR will have its work cut out to maintain market share.--Jocelyn_K_B 09:49, 24 February 2014 (UTC)


Email Advices. How Come? [21 February 2014]

I received an email advising me of the new topic "Place Pages [20 Feb 2014], but not the following one "Wikimedia Foundation, Strategy and Fundraising [21 Feb 2014]. Is it policy to send an email advice for only one topic per 24 hours? I might have missed the second topic--and it is ever so much more important for all members of WeRelate.--Goldenoldie 10:32, 21 February 2014 (UTC)

If you did not visit this page and check the changes of the Place Plages post, then you would not receive an additional email for the Wikimedia post edits. The automated email says "You will not be notified of additional changes to this page during the next 24 hours unless you visit the page." This is to prevent users from receiving multiple emails when users are, say, working on cleaning up a page you watch. --Jennifer (JBS66) 11:16, 21 February 2014 (UTC)

Thoughtfull - Leaning NO [22 February 2014]

Hello All,

I have in the last few days read the different responses. I am now adding my two cents. I hope it helps. The responses have been very thoughtful and interesting. It at least helped me think about this in many different ways. Legal, International considerations, multi language usage, Users Experience, Admin, Focus, etc.

Sometimes I think we (The WeRelate Users) forget that WeRelate is ahead of the curve in my opinion. The world is now starting to catch up with WeRelate. Practically everyone I know personally (i.e. in person) have no clue when I say wiki. They have heard of Wikipedia, but have never done anything with it except on a very rare occasion searched it. They have never heard of WeRelate. I see no problem in talking with the Wiki folks as a learning opportunity. We can learn something, and they can learn more about the genealogy world. In my opinion the genealogy world is a unique, source based, and ongoing evolving world. I have not received the impression that the Wiki folks have any or much exposure to the genealogy world.

If a new focus, or direction is up for a vote (and there is enough money) I would say my vote would be focusing on the mobile world. A WeRelate mobile Application that can be used by all (i.e. Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc.) would in my opinion help WeRelate be future proof. Also to help deal with the workload has WeRelate tried to do internships?

I also think we must keep in mind the growing world of genealogy DNA. I would vote for more DNA focus.

I hope in the future WeRelate continues to emphasis sourcing, user input, free access, and a place for the more experienced and knowledgeable genealogy users a place on the web, and to expose and teach the genealogy newby's the world beyond the commercial genealogy world. In my opinion we also must keep in mind we can not be on a level playing field with the large commercial websites, and the familysearch website. So we have and continue I hope keep WeRelate unique so WeRelate can compete.

Debbie Freeman , WeRelate User --DFree 20:19, 22 February 2014 (UTC)


What happens if another genealogy wiki partners with wikimedia? [24 February 2014]

I have read comments on WeRelate pages and also on the Wikimedia pages. I don’t agree with all the comments and concerns from both sides of the fence but I do want to see WeRelate grow and prosper and so my comments relate to that. I personally appreciate quality pages and I have some good (featured) pages on WeRelate and some very poor, red linked, messy, unsourced pages which I uploaded in the early days and I still have not fixed them.

Another user said that we need to remember the goal of Pando for genealogy and based on that idea and agreeing with what others have said, I believe growth and quality are two areas which need addressing.

Growth in the number of profiles will make it more likely that people doing family history and genealogy research will find and come to WeRelate. Quality will not be high in every profile/article on wikis of any type including WeRelate or Wikipedia, however the higher the quality overall, the better the recognition will be for the wiki overall making it more likely to attract further visitors and members.

Downsides could be that the quicker the growth, the more likely there will be poor outputs within the product (sourcing and red links to places). If the growth is too slow regardless of how high the quality of a product is, there is a possibility that the potential market (visitors / members) will not engage and a small core of dedicated consumers will not be enough to sustain the product. So how do we increase exposure and the number of users while maintaining quality? One potential option has been proposed in becoming a wikimedia project while maintaining WeRelate’s structure and requirements. I consider that this is a viable, acceptable option.

Do we want branding that associates WeRelate with Wikipedia? Some arguements have been forward opposing this and while I consider some of the concerns valid and the disagreement is loud, it is not from a large number of users. Overall the Wikipedia brand has a good name and like any large brand there are detractors, does this make it a bad product or is this an opportunity to see how things can be done differently?

I have been concerned that to ensure the continued survival of WeRelate that there would have to be some changes and most of us don’t like the uncertainties that come with change but here is an opportunity to update, make changes and look towards the long term sustainability of WeRelate. With that change there will be negativity but hopefully we can manage that so that any potential detractors will put forward suggestions and potential solutions and even if not all the ideas are used then maybe today's detractors will become our greatest advocates.

There was a question about potential redesign and changing of features. Overall I really like WeRelate and think it works well. I would not be disappointed if Family pages were eradicated as long as the fact information showed on each spouses profile and as long as each Person page still included the persons birth and married families on the right side as it does now. I know a lot of people like the Family Tree explorer but personally I have not found it useful. I have found that the embedded links in the drop down family tree at the top of each person’s profile has been more than sufficient. Without Gedcom upload and download we will not grow WeRelate in the current climate of genealogy research. Ideally I believe that WeRelate should be multilingual to be able to truly meet the concept of Pando for genealogy. I know that there have been some questions about working with Rodovid developers around that, is this looking to be a possibility?

While we could just let it sit and do what we have been doing and I agree with many others that I just don't know enough to say I support this proposal 100%. However I think this is a positive move and I realise there will probably be something I don't like about it afterwards which just hadn't crossed my mind before the change. In saying that I support the move but more importantly I want to ensure the long term growth and existence of WeRelate.--JeffreyRLehrer 23:07, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

I had a very long response ('manifesto' if you will) to the pro-Wikipedia arguments that is probably moot now since it isn't going to happen anymore. But let me comment on this - any wiki who 'partners' with WM is not likely to survive as a personal genealogy wiki. Wikimedia does not and has never carried personalized content. Notability, etc are it's standards across all projects, except for the more broad Wiki Commons, but you cannot just use Commons as your free personal photo space site, either. We would have required several exemptions from WM rules just to operate as we had, and it is not tenable that we would have had exceptions for all of them (one was called one of Wikimedia's core values - anon editing). WR would have become a shell of it's former self, and it will happen to any wiki that 'partners' with WM, should any others be foolish enough to do so. Daniel Maxwell 23:18, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
I like WR the way it works now, but that doesn't mean I'm opposed to any changes. WM may also change it's policies as part of the deal. Cooperation may give better opportunities for sustained life and maintenance of our treasured data and of the software that supports it. I think Dallan is to be commended for thinking ahead instead of holding tight to his own project. Cooperation with WM or WP may very well result in similar projects to do the same and merge with WR into a larger database hopefully with the WR standards, but not necessarily keeping the current WR look and all the features. --diba 11:34, 24 February 2014 (UTC)

Apologies Daniel, I don't believe that we actually have factual answers from wikimedia around what their constraints would be on sources, images, notoriety or other matters as they relate to a genealogy wiki. I have read a lot of "I think", "wikimedia don't", "wikimedia do". However I have not seen anything yet that says Dallan has taken these questions back to wikimedia and got a response from them.

What I have read is that Dallan is compiling the responses and he has already been learning, thinking and opening his mind to possibilities and not just staying focused on one train of thought. I hopefully, assume that he will take those responses to wikimedia and then provide us with some clarification around what the freedom and constraints truly would be with wikimedia so that we can dispel some of the assumptions which have been posted here and debate the impact of the verified contraints.--JeffreyRLehrer 23:45, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

I am aware of Wikipedia policies on both Original Research and notability, and 99% of WR would not cut the mustard. George Washington, the Queen of England, some celebrities, etc is what would meet the notability guide lines, not our great-grandparents. Those would require exemptions for. Then there is Anon editing, a maintenance nightmare, that would require another exemption. I don't know what posting some of the pro-Wikipedia side read but Dallan just said 'no' because the level of support is low. There are several other users I spoke to that do not support a WP change over but did not post their thoughts on here, so it would have been shown to be even lower. Daniel Maxwell 23:53, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

I totally agree with Jeffrey--Jsfaber 11:34, 24 February 2014 (UTC)


I am for joining the Wikimedia [24 February 2014]

The above page is so long that I have not read completely . sorry

  • I am for joining the Wikimedia
    • (We fail to do it then someone else . )
  • It gives me the assurance that this site, everyone remains open and free .
    • WP:MyHeritage is a publicly traded company that for a lot of money bought WP:Geni . Who will pay for it ? .... That's right. What do they have with FamilySearch ? Sources ... So ... take over and not just links. That can run wrong.
    • The management of Geni example is from above, as a steward you have nothing to spend. You need to sign a document, in order to prevent "dirty laundry" can be displayed. To the outside world, Your good contributions as a volunteer ultimately revenues for the top. I heard that the fee is doubled in short.
    • When you as a user (no longer) paid, work / family left unattended as a result you can not correct or complete. Vandalism occurs. (As for the tracking lists here so handy for checking.) I think most of those sites, with imported gedcom and never to look back. What it can bring, we see what was inserted here. In the beginning I am absolutely not impressed by the high number of people.
  • When we connect with Wikimedia, we may be linked to Wikidata and we can see the pictures of Commons places without uploading.
    • But let us keep our own policy regarding pictures and photos on our WeRelate. (As a son you can on the lemma about your father, places not a picture that was taken by your deceased mother. Mother must have given permission or first 70 years deceased her. As a son, you must prove that you are the legal owner are like son and will therefore documents should be sent.)
  • Wikimedia has a legal department, which might once have been important. X>
  • Wikipedia Well , I have a love / hate relationship with that. Wikipedia is fortunately part of Wikimedia . However, the best known . Even so familiar that I see that there are people who do not know the difference . We have nothing to do with Wikipedia . Now there is connection over the link that is the same after joining . And that's it , I think . And no more
    • The user community is not a cross-section of society . In wikipedia you can read what a group of interest and find neutral. The rest will sooner or later deleted , the importance and quality of the text are not the only concern. See also Deletionism. Beware if you are not in the user profile of a group of existing users , then you will be bullied . It has no problem and then remove . Thousands of pages with every conceivable excuse. Even very active users from the start , stop , because they can not agree with the policy that is implemented. I 'm in that place now for over 7 years daily .
    • Do no illusion that the permanent user of Wikipedia will see us stand in their eyes , we will be first-class incompetents . Wikipedia you can supposedly no involvement with the subject , and do not have their own research . Thus, what we do , not its quality . However, it is precisely the point that is of interest Werelate .
  • A question of interest is what demands of Wikimedia > Werelate ?
    • In any case, remove anything and keep our own identity .

I feel it is important to keep . The whole in one language But maybe everything is accessible with multiple languages ​​such as wikivoyage . It seems important to keep . Place a So a Place:Amsterdam , with all the information that may be important for a genealogist . But maybe Amsterdam in more languages ​​. Everyone will have had the experience that one on wikipedia deleted your texts as not important . For a description of a mill are on wikipedia names such as millers, owners, etc deleted. Architect should stay with people who already have their own entries on Wikipedia , which may be indicated . Such a mill can be described on Werelate in a different way. But are connected via Wikidata with the mill on wikipedia and so for anyone to find.

As a wikipediaan ;-) I'm 100 % for that all the facts are supported by springs . If there are no sources or insufficient sources the information is not behoefd away , but I see that as a stub . To continue with the possibility of GEDCOMs , I believe there is now sufficient control built .

Lidewij more than 50 years genealogist --Lidewij 14:05, 24 February 2014 (UTC)(Netherlands)

I've offered a couple ideas toward language neutrality, that don't require spinning off different language versions of WeRelate. They both make use of Wikidata object correspondence to make different language versions of existing WP content easily available (see "A language half-measure..." and related idea WeRelate:Suggestions/Content Language Neutrality via Wikipedia/Wikidata). --jrm03063 15:35, 24 February 2014 (UTC)

How to grow? [7 March 2014]

I agree with AndrewRT that we need to grow. Growth gets us closer to the "pando" vision, brings in additional revenue for development, and more volunteers. Of all of the questions before us, this one seems especially worth focusing on. What's the best way for us to grow? I can think of several possibilities:

  1. Become a Wikimedia Foundation Project - though note that WikiVoyage received only a temporary increase in active users.
  2. Figure out how to improve the UI to make WeRelate easier to use - thoughts on how best to do this? Forum software?
  3. Figure out a way to integrate with living people.

Each one of these projects would likely take about a year to complete. Which one should we focus on in 2014? Or is something else more important?--Dallan 05:08, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

make WeRelate easier to use ? ---> priority = make WeRelate easier to use ... for people who speak not english, or a very bad english ! Amicalement - Marc ROUSSEL - --Markus3 07:52, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

1. Become a Wikimedia Foundation Project - though note that WikiVoyage received only a temporary increase in active users.

Even after reading through this past week's discussion, I fail to see the reason why.

2. Figure out how to improve the UI to make WeRelate easier to use - thoughts on how best to do this? Forum software?

As Marcus says, this is priority. Even for non-techies whose native language is English. Duh, what's UI? what's Forum software?

3. Figure out a way to integrate with living people.

Adding living people would cause all sorts of problems when we add the living people who don't want to be added.

I hope I haven't started the arguments all over again. --Goldenoldie 11:24, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

just to clarify, integration with living means allowing users to link between private pages for living people, and public pages for non-living.--Dallan 15:37, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

Personally, I see no way to grow without living people. They are in my database, and living ancestors are essential for a member's connection to the rest of the tree. There are technical ways around this, like marking late grandparents as linked to me, without storing anything about living parents. This can be done automatically, and results in no living people on site except members, and still being able to connect. And no connect, no grow. It's that simple, because all competing sites allow them, and have measures to protect their privacy.

Improving user experience is next. WeRelate is more advanced than WikiTree, which has no source and family pages, but at the same time it is extremely difficult to change the title of a source. And my sources need that, because the software that my father used forced him to put everything in a single field, meaning that repository, call number, page number, and comments are all in lots of source titles. That software still exists today, and there are other packages that do the same. Dutch Aldfaer and Pro-Gen are like that, and GeneWeb, used on GeneaNet. FamilySearch too, in a way.

Forum: Yes. I don't really like them, but a lot of other members do, I guess, counting the number of messages that I see on Geni and WikiTree. Talk pages are way too difficult for many. Forums must be integrated, so that you don't need a separate login for those, and allow easy reference to pages on site. --Enno 11:57, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

any thoughts specifically on how to improve the user experience to make it easier to use? Is replacing talk pages with a wikitree-like forum at the top of the list?--Dallan 15:37, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
Forums, regardless of the format chosen (had a hard time finding Wikitree's forums for comparison) would be a great addition to WeRelate. Forums would help prevent overwriting another's work on accident and would make communication easier. I would vote for it being top of the list.--Khaentlahn 01:17, 27 February 2014 (UTC)

To grow based on the 3 provided points.

  1. Become a Wikimedia Foundation Project - I am in the yes vote and I think that this discussion has been mostly healthy, but this would be the least on my priority list.
  1. Figure out how to improve the UI to make WeRelate easier to use - UI? Forum software, possibly. Languages, I am an advocate for multi lingual but I have to put this 2nd in priority.
  1. Figure out a way to integrate with living people. - Linking private living pages with public deceased pages is the highest priority to attract more users and grow. There have been and probably will continue to be discussion around laws, privacy, etc, but my thoughts are that I like the simplicity of living (or likely to be) = private, deceased = public.

Dallan said each of these would take 12 months. So following my priorities, I strongly believe adding living will result in both significant growth and an increased need to be multi lingual and make the user experience easier (whatever that is) and by this stage maybe the Wikimedia discussion will be moot and I will happily reverse my yes vote.--JeffreyRLehrer 16:41, 25 February 2014 (UTC)


1. I still believe this should be seriously investigated, although I grant there is likely a lot I don’t know about the implications of this. Wikimedia Foundation projects seem to have a lot of visibility. They seem to rank consistently high in Google searches, for example. (With Wikipedia, this is obvious. If you search for random nouns, Wikipedia will be on the first page about 99% of the time.) I am not certain that it is in fact the case that Wikivoyage received “only a temporary increase in active users.” What Ypnypn actually said was that Wikivoyage “has less than 500 active users now” and that it gained “a huge boost in visitors, which it partially lost over time. [My bold]. According to the report for the February 2014 Wikivoyage summit at http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikivoyage/Summit, over the last year “[a]ctive users have been tripled.” However, a decrease is expected this month (although I can see no explanation of why). Maybe this Summit report is not an accurate source. Can anyone find a better one?

2. I believe improving the UI is important. I have occasionally seen expressed on Werelate the sentiment that making the UI more user-friendly would result in an increase in sub-par contributors and degrade the quality of the site. I think this is a mistake. What should be keeping our quality up is being serious about insisting on providing sources for facts. The UI should be as intuitive as possible. (I think it is easy to forget how confusing/intimidating it was, before we got used to it. I remember being confused about linking to sources for a while.) I think making the interface multilingual would also be a big step forward.

3. I am not sure yet what my opinion on this is.

I wonder if there are efficiencies involved in the order in which the three are tackled. For example, would becoming a member of WMF facilitate making the UI easier, or the interface multilingual?

One thing I wonder about, longer term, is what happens to Werelate when Dallan is no longer in a position to do the wonderful work he does for the site. What happens to our plans for growth then?--Werebear 00:40, 27 February 2014 (UTC)

It seems from this page that people might think WikiVoyage didn't gain much from coming under the WikiMedia Foundation, but actually it did. As can be seen in this Alexa site rank graph, before joining, WikiVoyage was ranked around 90,000th, and after, it ranked around 20,000th. This represents many times more visits from people. Of course there was burst at the time of the transition, but the long-term effect was a substantial increase in usage. --robert.shaw 01:17, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
"However, a decrease is expected this month (although I can see no explanation of why)." On reflection, I assume that Wikivoyage, being a travel site, would see predictable month-to-month fluctuations.--Werebear 02:25, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
Here, I guess, is a more complete set of Wikivoyage Statistics. The number of very active users (more than 100 edits per month) seems to have received a long term boost. Some other statistics seem to be more mixed. I would probably need to know more about what specifically has been going on at the site to interpret some of the statistics. Mention is made of a decision to delete empty articles, for example.--Werebear 12:02, 28 February 2014 (UTC)
Yes, it does look like their numbers more or less doubled after becoming a WMF project. There's an ongoing discussion about a WMF genealogy project here. Would people be interested in getting involved in that discussion?--Dallan 17:52, 3 March 2014 (UTC)
Yes, but as I said in our Skype conversation, WikiVoyage is not exactly a 'merger' with an existing Wiki; it was more like a schism or secession from a still existing Wiki (with better numbers) - Wikitravel - when the site started to become too commercial for some members. This is explained on WikiVoyage's own site. Daniel Maxwell 13:20, 5 March 2014 (UTC)
I'm perplexed. I could go get involved in that discussion - but the last thing heard around here was that WR merger was dead. Other than correcting misconceptions where possible (I think we've got a lot more pages than they realize) and running my ideas about how to handle the living out - again - what's the point of all that? --jrm03063 20:42, 3 March 2014 (UTC)
Well, one reason could be that WeRelate is NOT the largest wiki based genealogy site. Counting sites that are MediaWiki based, WeRelate is second, after WikiTree, which is more than twice as large: 6,870,568 profiles from 145,151 members as of today. Counting wiki like sites, where people can edit shared profiles, Geni is largest of all, connecting 75,559,951 profiles to yours truly today. They're probably not a true wiki, software wise, and I pay $ 10 per month to access their pando, but the system is the same.
And to put it bluntly, I'd say that this means that WeRelate does not exist in most users minds. Users see Ancestry / My Heritage, iPad / Android, with others far behind. And in todays world, that's Geni, WikiTree, with WeRelate mentioned in this article, but not actually used for the author's plans for a global family reunion. He only recommends Geni, My Heritage, and WikiTree. --Enno 23:23, 3 March 2014 (UTC)
Again - WHY should I go over there? What does wikitree's "size advantage" have to do with anything? The last statement on all this was that it's not going to happen. So what is it that we're supposed to accomplish in going over there? --jrm03063 00:25, 4 March 2014 (UTC)
Simple answer is: Size matters. It attracts newcomers like this NYT columnist, because it gives him way more chances to connect, and that's what this is about, right? What's the value of a site named We Relate, if I can't, because it's small? I put these figures here to illustrate the urgency of change. The world has 3 Pandos bigger than this site right now, two of which are free, and easier to use for many newcomers. And when that's the case, I think that a big step forward is needed. And that is either a major change in software, or an alliance like with WikiMedia. Running copies of the existing software on private servers, like you suggested elsewhere, is not enough, because there are alternatives that I think are way more attractive for newcomers. Have you ever checked how easy it is to attach a source to a person on Ancestry? That's just one example. I can give loads of others, but I'm not here to bash We Relate. It was the first Pando like site that I used, but the truth is that right now, We Relate is past for me, and will probably be, unless a major change is made. --Enno 12:14, 4 March 2014 (UTC)
Was this seriously decided? Is the merger, in jrm03063's words, "dead"? I thought/hoped there was still discussion going on, but I could have missed something.--Werebear 01:34, 4 March 2014 (UTC)
The proposal at Wikimedia is not dead, it's in limbo. In order to take the discussion to the next step, we'd need an indication that there is significant interest here at WeRelate. Is there? If Wikimedia would agree, would WeRelate probably agree as well? -- Ypnypn 02:16, 4 March 2014 (UTC)
As probably the most outspoken opponent of this, I have kept quiet lately, but I would have to say the reception to it is 'mixed' especially among long term or more active contributors, though not all chimed in here. And judging by the discussion at WM itself, it sounds almost as if another project with a different purpose is being discussed there now anyway. AndrewRT mentions the possibility of 'fully sourced' only, which will severely limit the project and scope of what can be added. I am very skeptical about more modern genealogy being allowed there. The conversation has gone on for so long and in so many tangents I think we are now talking about two different sites with different purposes. Daniel Maxwell 13:20, 5 March 2014 (UTC)
Daniel Maxwell, on first reading, I thought you were claiming that you have a deeper insight into the opinions of long-term, active contributors than can be gained from simply following this discussion, and we should be taking your opinion of this into account. On second reading, I see this is probably a misreading, and that what you are actually saying is that, based on the discussion here, the reception is mixed, but this may not actually be the case, as some long term, active contributors have not chimed in here. Am I right in assuming that the second reading is the right one?
More generally, I must say the decision-making process here is unclear to me: are people simply supposed to be drawing their own conclusions from how the discussion has gone, or is someone, or some decision-making body, reading it and making, you know, a decision on how to proceed? Apologies for my probable obtuseness in asking this question.--Werebear 13:44, 7 March 2014 (UTC)

ypnypn, Since you've been active in the discussion on Wikipedia Genealogy Project, and seemed for adopting another genealogy wiki, how would you evaluate the discussion ? --Neal Gardner 05:50, 4 March 2014 (UTC)

There is clear support for adopting a genealogy wiki, among those who took part in the discussion. In order to actually make this work, however, we'd need to get support from the wider community, by advertising in almost all Wikimedia projects. Then, my guess is that there would still be definite support, but it would be a lot closer. This is because the kinds of people who usually get involved in these discussions tend to be more interested in expanding WM's reach than do the people who stay away at first. -- Ypnypn 14:15, 4 March 2014 (UTC)
As I look at the list of larger websites above, one thing they share is they all include living people. It seems to me that in order to grow, we need to address the living person problem. Becoming a Wikimedia Foundation project will take a fair amount of effort, and integrating with living people will also take a fair amount of effort. To me it's a matter of priority. It seems to me that integrating with living will give us a larger increase in visitors. Based upon that opinion, I believe I need to focus development efforts on a multi-lingual UI first, because that shouldn't take very long, then on living integration. This will occupy my time for this year.
The sense that I got from the Wikimedia Foundation proposal was that people felt that more information was needed before a decision could be made. We need to find out what kind of changes would be needed, if any, to our current policies, what the impact would be on governance long-term, what WikiVoyage's experience was, and whether the Wikimedia Foundation would allow us to have the additional "moving parts" that we have: specifically the gedcom uploader and the customized search. While I'm occupied with development work, I'm hoping that others will be willing to spend the time needed to do the research required and be involved in discussions to help us make an informed decision about becoming a Wikimedia Foundation project.
Another issue with becoming a Wikimedia Foundation project is our current customizations to the core mediawiki code. I assume they will need to be removed in order for us to become a Wikimedia Foundation project. Some of the modifications may be able to be implemented without modifying the core code using extensions that are available in the most recent mediawiki code, but they couldn't be implemented without modifying the core code using the old mediawiki code - that's why the core code had to be modified. As soon as the multi-lingual UI is in place I plan to remove the core modifications and post the result to the sandbox so we can all evaluate whether we can live without them. This will give us further insight into becoming a Wikimedia Foundation project.--Dallan 22:35, 7 March 2014 (UTC)

More on WMF [27 February 2014]

I'm moving this comment under a new topic to be sure it isn't missed.

I'm open to exploring becoming a WMF project, but I've been thinking we should focus on growth first. It was surprising to hear that the increase in active users for Wikivoyage was only temporary. Until we figure out the underlying problems that are keeping us from growing, I wonder if it would be the same with us. Also, it appears that WMF at times overrides editorial policy.

Would someone be willing to do the research to find out more about what it would mean to be a WMF project? Perhaps contact some people at Wikivoyage to find out their experience and report back to the group?--Dallan 05:11, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

I'll try to contact them --Prcb 14:16, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
I was just made aware of a discussion about a Wikimedia Genealogy Project. I hope anyone who is interested will get involved in this discussion. It should be a great place to raise concerns and learn more. Thanks!--Dallan 17:10, 27 February 2014 (UTC)

Survey results [25 February 2014]

First, I made a big mistake on the survey; I labeled the "not important" and "very important" responses but not any in between. That means that only those two answers were recorded in the response spreadsheet. None of the other responses were recorded. I'm extremely sorry about this.

Even still, the responses are pretty valuable. I don't think we'll need to re-do the survey. Jennifer was kind enough to tally the results.

  • Show duplicates: 49.38% very important; 0.00% not important
  • Advanced search on names, dates, and places: 44.44% very important; 2.47% not important
  • GEDCOM export: 38.27% very important; 8.64% not important
  • GEDCOM import: 35.80% very important; 19.75% not important
  • Auto-complete on sources: 32.10% very important; 3.70% not important
  • Linking Images to Person pages from the Image page: 30.86% very important; 4.94% not important
  • Auto-complete on places: 30.86% very important; 3.70% not important
  • Special Page for merging families: 30.86% very important; 1.23% not important
  • Family pages: 29.63% very important; 4.94% not important
  • Maps on Place pages: 27.16% very important; 7.41% not important
  • Multiple "Trees" in your watchlist with people in different trees: 17.28% very important; 9.88% not important
  • List > People menu item: 17.28% very important; 1.23% not important
  • Automated copying from Wikipedia: 16.05% very important; 7.41% not important
  • Family Tree Explorer (FTE): 14.81% very important; 14.81% not important
  • MySource pages: 14.81% very important; 3.70% not important
  • Article pages: 14.81% very important; 2.47% not important
  • List > Contributions menu item: 13.58% very important; 4.94% not important
  • More > Pedigree-Maps / Timelines: 12.35% very important; 13.58% not important
  • Add multiple generations to your watchlist at once: 9.88% very important; 7.41% not important
  • Annotating photos with overlaid boxes and notes: 8.64% very important; 6.17% not important
  • Repository pages: 8.64% very important; 2.47% not important
  • Transcription pages: 8.64% very important; 1.23% not important
  • Auto-complete on names: 7.41% very important; 12.35% not important
  • MyRelate > Dashboard menu item: 3.70% very important; 3.70% not important
  • MyRelate > Network menu item: 2.47% very important; 4.94% not important

It appears that all features except the last two are rated "very important" by at least 8% of WeRelate users. I didn't expect that so many of the features I've added over the years would be very important to people.--Dallan 05:38, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

I'm not saying the exercise had no value, but I would say that analyzing the numbers without drilling down in them will lead to that. Some things that people indicate as very important, might simply be a case of a facility they feel is needed, which is different from saying that they need a facility that works in a very particular way. I would also say that there are features and capabilities here that are not yet well appreciated - source transcription being of particular interest to me, as I will explain.
I've tried to focus on unconventional, often controversial, ways of working. I want to find ways to work that scale - particularly ways that could scale AND use people who aren't (and maybe don't care to become) fully realized classical genealogy researchers. Henry Ford figured out how to make cars without employing traditional carriage makers - and he was able to make cars to better levels of quality and quantity than the carriage makers ever could. People around here love to hate wikipedia - but 22,000 person pages are now linked there, resulting in hundreds of interconnections in our tree, thousands of existing pages de-duplicated, useful pages where we would otherwise have nothing, and over 18,000 of them were done by one person (me). There have been errors and issues to be sure - but in trifling numbers relative to the overall contribution - and the links are always there to allow one to critically evaluate what is claimed by WP. I'm trying to likewise strip-mine Savage using the Kraft Transcriptions as a basis. This also amounts to a very large amount of material that indeed has problems - but so far not at all approaching the value of the overall contribution (and once detected, the problems can be laid bare so that they don't continue to recur). The links are there to also allow that material to be critically reviewed with ease. Folks may or may not agree that I'm pursuing hopeful approaches - but if your alternative is that contributors just have to become fully trained genealogists, who can spend their days in libraries and who want to work here (or worse, try to shame folks into "improving" when they are seen to have made a mistake) I think we can say the jury is in and that's a proven failure. "Pando" can't be built in reliance on a small number of highly trained individuals. It CAN be built if we find ways to let large numbers of people with limited skills contribute in tightly defined but still reliably useful ways. --jrm03063 17:53, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
Could we have some information on the number of responses? --jrm03063 22:10, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
Do you mean the total number of respondents? There were 81. --Jennifer (JBS66) 22:18, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
That's fine - thanks! --jrm03063 22:22, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

How to integrate with living? [15 March 2014]

If we decide that we want to make integrating with living people a priority (i.e., private pages for living people linking to public pages for non-living), I can think of two possible ways to accomplish this:

  1. Integrate with an existing tree that already handles living, such as WikiTree. We could say that people born more to 200 years ago appear on WeRelate, and people born less than 200 years ago (including living) appear on WikiTree. We could establish links between the two sites and maybe a shared sign-on. I believe the people at WikiTree would be open to exploring this possibility. We might even be able to combine the software somehow for a more consistent user experience across the two websites. I have not investigated this possibility so I don't have any more information than this. If people are generally encouraged about the idea of a potential partnership with WikiTree, I am happy to investigate it.
  2. Build something ourselves. If we do this we'll have more control over the end result, but it will take longer.

I believe if we want living integration working by the end of this year, then we should partner (option1). If we don't like partnering and we're willing to wait until next year for a finished solution, then we could build (option 2). I'm ok either way.--Dallan 16:00, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

I've always imagined that a really good way to integrate the living would be to have a version of the WeRelate server that could run locally on a user's system. A user would interact with that server through their browser, just as they currently do with the WeRelate server. The user/client server however, would recognize when a page was retained in the local store, and serve it up from there. If not in the local store, it would try to run off and get it from the server at Allen County. I've even wondered if, instead of an all-up local web server, the local facility could be implemented as a browser add-on - although I'm not sure how much you can do with a browser add on.
This works for the techno-geeks, but how many prospective users who want to integrate their living and deceased relatives, will want to install and run their own server to do this? I think the idea of actually having two databases hosted by WeRelate, or a layered database, is much more likely to succeed. Layering the database might actually be easier to implement if we take the right approach. I would be happy to have an offline discussion with interested geeks about how to do this. Sorry but the Talk page is just too awkward for that kind of detailed discussion that is not of general interest. If we came up with interesting results we could post that to Talk page for consideration. --Jhamstra 19:25, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
I'm quite interested in this discussion. I too have some ideas but they're not fleshed out enough to post. Anyone who is interested in an email discussion on this, please contact me at dallan at werelate.org.--Dallan 18:01, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
An inherent deficiency of locally stored private databases is lack of collaboration (yes people can and do collaborate regarding the living). Another is lack of persistence if and when the hosting person loses interest or becomes incapacitated (I hate to tell you but each of us will eventually become incapacitated). A wiki has a much better chance of surviving the incapacitation of its contributors.--Jhamstra 20:09, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
Yes, a truly local store prevents collaboration beyond the individual. But if able to be implemented as some sort of simple to install browser extension add-on, it would be easy to make available and not be technically challenging to set up. Alternatively, to preserve group collaboration on living subsets, you could look at the WeRelate code base to see how hard it might be to run it as an active front-end with a sense of locally managed wiki pages and an ability to dynamically load others from the primary store at Allen County. That sort of system would be at least as complex and demanding to set up as the primary WeRelate server - which I expect isn't for the faint of heart. However, if correctly packaged for easy set-up by IT folks, perhaps an ordinary person could purchase hosting services with the WeRelate private-data server installed. The private side server would obviously refuse to display any data to non-logged in users - unlike the ordinary WeRelate server. --jrm03063 21:12, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
How user-friendly is this suggestion? How likely would it be to attract new users? --Jhamstra 22:49, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
Setting up the current WeRelate server is possible (at least one person has followed the instructions here but it's not easy - there are a lot of moving parts.--Dallan 18:01, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
As to partnering - if we're giving up our control of the world of the living - I would want to be sure that they're giving up their control of the world of the dead. Partnering with a site that isn't making an equivalent sacrifice isn't the sort of partnership we should be comfortable with. --jrm03063 16:28, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
I'ld also add that I'm not at all happy with wikitree in particular. They don't have ways to explicitly handle sources the way we do, and their approach to GEDCOM dumpers is to make anyone who wants to merge with such data wait for six months before they'll consider that the information was abandoned. --jrm03063 16:44, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
Dallan, I would definitely not recommend integrating with WikiTree. Your data model is way better, and in particular biographies on WikiTree are a mess. That is, because they hold everything that is not in their data model, like baptisms, burials, and every unrecognized pieces of GEDCOM. RootsMagic exports with template extensions enabled create an awful mess over there, and because a large portion of users does not clean biographies after merging duplicates, and others are frustrated because of that, biographies have lots of text that I really prefer to avoid. There are other things too, like the system of approving merges, that I'd rather not duplicate here. I think it's better to rely on MediaWiki versioning for that, and keep all profiles of deceased, and notables, as open as possible.
W.r.t. living, I'm thinking about an idea that allows relation calculations without giving up any privacy of living people, even without storing any data about them. And that works like this: When a member uploads something, all living people are skipped, but the IDs of closest deceased ancestors of members are stored, if they are interested. With that I mean, that for myself, my late father is marked as an ancestor, and my maternal grandparents. With that information stored somewhere, I am able to see who is connected to me, by simply letting site software check the connections of my father, and my maternal grandparents. Everyone connected to them is connected to me, and when you memorize their relation to me, through say their Ahnentafel number, you can calculate the exact distance between members (and notables) without storing any personal data of living people at all. And not storing any vitals of living is a sure way to act responsibly w.r.t. international privacy laws.
--Enno 18:22, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
For me the kind of information I would want to capture about the living is the same as for the deceased - Family and Person Pages, Facts, References (Source / MySource / Citation), Images, etc. So I am not interested in being referred to another wiki that cannot do these things.
That being said, I would see benefit in a common user administration / registration / authentication / association feature between different genealogy wikis. The one downside being that a breach of one would be a breach of all. And I definitely think that secure logon is desirable and arguably necessary. --Jhamstra 19:45, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

Wikitree has exactly those things werelate is missing; DNA, private pages for living relatives, login for family members. But Wikitree lacks a lot of things we use in Werelate. A marriage/collaboration could benefit both! I like the idea!--Jsfaber 19:05, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

Before we commit to adding DNA someone needs to seriously investigate the privacy ramifications. Also as I have remarked elsewhere, the current (and likely future IMO) state of DNA is that it can refute claims of ancestry and it can establish general family relationships, but it cannot estably direct descent of individuals. In order to do the latter one would have to be able to isolate the precise point at which a minor sequence mutation occurred. That is only possible where one has good DNA samples from adjacent generations of presumed ancestors or established relatives. Current methods largely rely on estimation which cannot precisely establish descent. However a very large DNA database of living or recently deceased persons with proven ancestry could resolve some of these questions. But that brings us back to the privacy question. There are a lot of unknown social/economic/political consequences of publishing and linking DNA information. I think we should let someone else blaze this trail. Not worth the risk of unintended consequences to the WeRelate enterprise. --Jhamstra 19:35, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
I manage private pages over there, but have some legal doubts about that too. Some people regard mentioning a full name as a breach of privacy, and that is the default over there. DNA matching is nice, their forum software too, but I'd be very selective sharing data. --Enno 19:38, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
So maybe we should avoid duplicating features of WikiTree that are synergistic with our mission like Forums. If we had common user administration and we could cross-link between our Pages and their Forums then one could take advantage of those features where they do better than we do? This would not compromise the integrity of our platform but could make it easier to use.--Jhamstra 19:56, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

Currently I use Wikitree for the living by providing a link from the deceased persons page and on Wikitree I link back to WeRelate saying that there is more information there.

I like the idea of controlling the outcome of what it looks like to include living people. However a partnership / agreement with Wikitree could be a good thing for wiki genealogy (not WeRelate or Wikitree) and minimise potential long term competition. Then we could go to Rodovid for multiple language assistance.

Just imagine for a moment, a time when WeRelate, Wikitree, Rodovid and Familypedia no longer exist. Our great great grandchildren don't understand how a commercial genealogy site would operate. They just go to that really good free genealogy wiki that includes everyone. What is it called again? It doesn't matter it is saved in my favourites. Thanks to the work of a lot of people years ago that worked together and improved genealogy for everyone. Imagine!--JeffreyRLehrer 20:05, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

I tried doing that for a while, but found wikitree just too frustrating. Somebody pooped out a bunch of GEDCOMs that included my G-Grandparents, and I couldn't even connect to it for six months because they never answered any mail and the admins don't want to hear from you until that much time has passed. Not to mention that they don't retain sources or other elements of GEDCOM structure. I gave up. --jrm03063 03:10, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

For my private website I use a "living families" rule for pages of deceased persons that should have restricted access. "Living families" means that a deceased individual must not be a member of any family with living members to have a page publicly available. In practice, this is a maximum of about 120 years from birth, with many people being publicly available sooner. "Living families" was the originally stated recommendation of the defunct PhpGedView software, although as far as I know it was never actually supported.

There does not appear to be practical reason, generally, to apply privacy to people born more than 123 years ago (the oldest known human died before her 123 birthday with no living children). Well-coded software should not have any trouble determining membership in living families. Exceptions of various kinds may occur, so provision should be made to override the rule-base privacy.

Deciding who can access non-public pages might be a headache for WR, although my experience is that it is not too much trouble. Just making people ask for access cuts out most troublemakers. Shunting pages that should be private off to another site does not seem to be entirely responsible. If living people want to make themselves non-publicly available on WR perhaps this could be allowed, although this ups the ante on the consequences of a data security breach on WR.

Supporting any restricted access makes even more urgent the project of supporting secure logins.

Prcb 23:05, 25 February 2014 (UTC)


FYI, a friend who was a member of the NSA, told me that several years ago one of the watched terrorist suspects gained a passport and other identification by trolling several genealogy sites and grabbing information of a recently deceased person. I'm not in favor of including the living and perhaps limiting just how many years since their decease their information should be posted.--Neal Gardner 23:28, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

I don't think you have to worry about this - I doubt that Allen County would agree to host information on the living on their server - regardless of the scheme used to protect it from being seen by folks not authorized. The only approach that I can imagine being acceptable, is one where another user or group hosts such information elsewhere - be that on a unified server, servers for whatever groups decide to create them, or on private home machines. --jrm03063 01:01, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
Well as soon as you publish an obituary you have effectively abandoned your claim to privacy for the deceased and arguably for any of their surviving family who are named in the obituary. Once you publish something you cannot claim it is private. Also FamilySearch.org has a LOT of information about living people and recently deceased people (census data, recent births, public records databases, etc) - and it is a public web site. So whatever you think of genealogical standards, the web is fast overtaking your scruples in this regard. The US Government needs to wake-up to this and start doing a better job of verifying passport and visa applications, etc. They cannot blame us for this mess. And they are the ones who publish the census data and SSDI, and they allow the states and counties to sell access to public records databases. --Jhamstra 22:44, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

Has there already been a discussion as to the pros of allowing living individual pages or is this a direction which has been intended for a while now?--Khaentlahn 01:54, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

Do you mean to just allow them in the open? I don't believe anyone considers that acceptable, and I'm certain that Allen County would refuse to host such content openly (just as I think they would refuse to provide private areas). --jrm03063 02:05, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

Not at all. This was asked only in reference to the current discussion. What is the value of this type of integration? The pros to WeRelate, if you will. Has there already been a discussion on this topic? Not on "how" to integrate, but on "why" we should attempt this integration.--Khaentlahn 03:16, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

I see what you're saying - just straight-up why? Well, there was a claim that if we supported living people, we would have a lot more users. I'm not sure it was substantiated all that well - but the discussion moved right past that into the how. I know that some folks who left, or didn't start, cited that as an issue - but I can't really quantify it. Feel free to ask more widely... --jrm03063 05:02, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
I submit that the fact that thousands of living persons have been entered into WeRelate despite the prohibition, is prima facie evidence that there are a lot of users who want to be able to do it. I am NOT in favor of uncontrolled loading of living persons into WeRelate, but I would be in favor a of properly controlled way of handling this. For me this would include a principle of deferred publication after the person is deceased (eg after an obituary, burial record, Social Security record, etc has been published), 115 years after their birth, or similar criteria. I think it safe to say that someone living beyond 115 years would be a truly notable achievement and receive lots of publicity in the popular media. --Jhamstra 22:58, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
The evidence is open to interpretation. Just because there are many living pages on WeRelate which shouldn't be here is not necessarily an indication that people wanted them here. Those pages could just as easily have been a normal GEDCOM export from their genealogy program, which rarely differentiates between living or deceased individuals, and were uploaded without another thought.--Khaentlahn 01:09, 27 February 2014 (UTC)

I see using another site for living people as a non-starter. What is the point of allowing living people? To make WeRelate attractive to more users. If you were to have your living relations on, say, WikiTree then the WikiTree environment would seem like one to use, and dealing with WeRelate would be a jarring, alien experience. I think trying to hide the partner, say WikiTree, under a unified WeRelate interface would be as much, and probably more work than implementing adequate living support directly in WeRelate.

(Aside: I think the WikiTree is horrendous in presentation and poor in supported semantics. I would be against WeRelate guiding its users towards any use of WikiTree as it stands.)

But before we spend a lot of time down in the tules of possible implementations, we really should consider what we want to achieve. First, is this to attract more people by making easier their initial documentation of their immediate family having never done genealogy before? This would attract some additional users (although commercial sites probably do a better job at this), but since many of these users would be novices, it might have negative implications for quality.

Would the aim be to attract those who would only be interested if they could add all their data to WeRelate, including the living? Would it be a feature of WeRelate to retain the living data privately until death can be assumed (say 123 years after birth or data entry; WeRelate should survive so long), and then make the data publicly available?

Would the aim be to allow collaborative editing (by authorized users) of living entries? To simply be able to browse and view your living relatives in the same manner as your deceased relatives? Would it be enough just to be able to evaluate your own relationship to any deceased individual in the data base?

What are the things that would make support of living data important for the growth and long term benefit of WeRelate?--robert.shaw 20:41, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

Yes, I can remember in the course of doing 'living' clean ups seeing angry notes from the 'living' themselves that their information (husband, children) is even on a public site. The old open system was dangerous both morally and legally, and it is a non-starter to discuss it. I have to confess, I don't really like any of the other genealogy sites like WR except for WR itself; most of the others are either half WR already or are poorly sourced/documented. The old solution was to have it so that 'livings' where only within WR's tree program, ie they did not create person or family pages. That should be looked into again. Daniel Maxwell 21:19, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

My own sense here is that 'livings' may bring in new users, but they will be low-to-very low quality, much like most of the very earliest trees on this site were. Things like private pages are also a very bad step for an open, collaborative Wiki - quality control would be very challenging on these. We should find a solution that avoids at all costs 'lock down' pages like other site have. Daniel Maxwell 21:44, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

If you look at the history of active contributors posted on the Vision page, you will see that WeRelate has had a rather stable (arguably slowly declining) level of active users for several years now. If we are satisfied with this situation then there is no need to consider trying to attract users who are not "just like us". There is ample evidence that churches, country clubs, etc, who are satisfied with stagnation tend to die out after a couple of generations (ie after the founders and their immediate proteges pass on). Either they cease to exist altogether or they merge with other groups. I see push-back here against merging with other groups and also against trying to attract new "different" kinds of users. This does not reassure my concerns about the long-term future of WeRelate. --Jhamstra 23:07, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
You are mistaken if you believe that I do not want some kind of solution for livings. I just don't agree (and I think most of the users wouldn't either) with your proposals. We're trying to hammer something out here, but we had a real problem with these dump and go users early on. The site is polluted by their trees to this day. We already know what the old system led to. Daniel Maxwell 23:12, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
I will not speculate regarding whether any of us actually speak for the "silent majority" of existing users 8-). So far I have seen your comments about how you do NOT want things to change. I am wondering how you DO want things to change? For example, if you are not opposed to some kind of solution for including living persons, what kind of solution would you like to see? (FYI - I believe I have suggested at least 3 different approaches 8-)--Jhamstra 00:05, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
I already did; the solution proposed and (I guess) agreed to years ago - integration from within the tree program. Your solutions all seem like throwing our hands up and saying 'well, it's public anyway'. And far from not wanting changes, I have suggested quite a few that will vastly improve the quality of the site and it's ease of maintaining - something I spend many hours of my time doing. Yes, I don't see the living thing as pressing as some of the others like multilingual and date standardization. Daniel Maxwell 00:16, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
WOW! I have claimed that data regarding the deceased is largely public in the USA (but not for example in Canada). I have pointed-out that the state where my living children were born has already released their birth records (which I oppose), and that both the state and the federal governments are happy to pass privacy laws from which they seem to exempt themselves. I certainly do NOT favor WeRelate publishing information on living persons. That is why I have proposed a deferred publication mechanism so the information cannot be released until after they are deceased.--Jhamstra 00:32, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
"The Tree Program"? What the heck is that? What I really want is a wiki that looks and runs just like werelate - but with a local store for private pages and an ability to fetch shared ones from the WeRelate server. --jrm03063 00:24, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
I could live with this approach provided that:
  1. There is reasonably strong user authentication on the Private database - seamless with the Public database.
  2. The Private database is as easy to use as the Public database - ie users do not have to undertake the trouble of maintaining their own local copies.
  3. There is some mechanism for collaboration in the Private database and some way to deal with "orphaned" data if a user disappears for whatever reason.
However there are some others who strenuously object 8-). --Jhamstra 00:43, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
I would think the approach here, is to partner with a web hosting service. Get them a canned install of whatever we decide the "private" site is - and people can get it created for themselves and whatever groups they care to organize - presumably for a few bucks a month. The private site is in no way part of the WeRelate universe, other than being (probably) based on a lot of the same code, and hopefully, having built in knowledge of how to smoothly grab shared things from the WeRelate site proper. It wouldn't run on Allen County servers and folks would be doing whatever on their own responsibility. The technical/geek problem is solved, as are the cooperation, administration, and potential liability to Allen County/WeRelate is eliminated. Anyone who didn't like it - would be free to ignore the opportunity of doing this sort of thing - they'ld never even see it. --jrm03063 00:54, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, that could work. Not on the main site. Jhamstra, I am totally fine looking for alternatives, and this sounds a little better, what JRM is proposing. I have the best interests in the site in mind, I promise. I just don't want to see locked/living persons pages as I believe they are a bad precedent. JRM and I have basically agreed on this point (I think, correct me if I am wrong) for some time, though. Daniel Maxwell 00:58, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
So what both of you seem to be saying is that those who want to support living persons should take the WeRelate code base and build their own database(s) somewhere else? Anywhere else but Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)? In other words - go away and don't bother us?--Jhamstra 01:14, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
Is your issue only with Allen County Public Library or do you want FOLG to completely wash its hands of this question?--Jhamstra 01:18, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
The good-old Update Conflict feature wiped-out my second set of comments regarding how we could use Private areas to provide a much more satisfactory GEDCOM upload and scrubbing experience. If anyone is seriously interested I will take the trouble to re-type it. Otherwise I will save my fingers 8-). --Jhamstra 01:09, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
I'm interested.--Dallan 18:01, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
I can imagine where you're going with the upload/scrub thing. That's a very cool idea - no more leaving GEDCOMs in some sort of pending review penalty box. Let people work them into good order in their private areas - and maybe software that automatically exports only the people who are already known to be deceased into a GEDCOM for global upload? That's cool - and maybe when the data gets accepted and merged - the WeRelate site can produce some sort of "receipt" - which would in turn be processed by the private site to drop private copies of pages for which the user now has a copy in the public space? Keeping track of where the living people in the local tree transition to the ancestors in the public space. I'm not sure it could be done utterly "seamlessly" - where the user wasn't even aware that he was looking at a public or private page - but that would be a nice goal... --jrm03063 02:40, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
You are on the right track. We could actually do even better than that if we were willing to do some integration between the Public and the Private spaces. None of this makes much sense unless you can integrate the user authentication between both of them. otherwise you would force the users to be continually toggling back and forth between the two spaces. You need to make this seamless if you want to attract more users. This can be done - but not if FOLG simply washes its hands of the problem.--Jhamstra 03:14, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
I don't see why we would want to expose either Allen County or FOLG. There's no advantage to imposing the burden. Imagine a situation where someone is loading their entire family photo library - at high resolution - but they mark it all private. How do you police storage on private data? Who does it? Hosting is a business in itself - let someone else do it - we just try to provide software that's conveniently set up for a hosting business to install for anyone that wants to have a private area. I just don't want the "private" interface to be something that works and looks utterly different than the existing public interface - and it would be a hassle to support people trying to set complex software up on their home systems - not to mention that they couldn't easily get the rest of their family in on it. --jrm03063 02:32, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
An old proverb - No risk - No reward 8-).
Seriously, I am not sure whether a fund-raiser makes sense when you have perhaps 200 active users and fewer than 100 heavy users. That is not a very broad base of financial support to fund anything interesting. Even routine code maintenance will languish. Reading between the lines Dallan is trying to find some way to dig himself out of this hole. I hope he succeeds! --Jhamstra 03:09, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
If this is true, my advice to Dallan is to do exactly nothing. The handful of people adding good data will continue and some day this will achieve notice because it is the only reliable website out there. All the people that went chasing the latest technology will find it did nothing to help improve their genealogy, if they even care. The people that want to tell others what their genealogy is, as opposed to investigating what their genealogy is, will be happy anywhere but here. At this point, and probably for the forseeable future given privacy rules, even DNA is dependent on good paper research. 95% of the people just copy other people's work without adding anything. Everything they do, you can get elsewhere. It's the 5% that could make this site unique. I doubt too many of that 5% care that much about living people. --Jrich 04:06, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
Actually, I would say that 99.999~% of the stuff you can get here, you can get elsewhere. The question has never been whether or not the information can be had - it's whether the relevant information can be brought together and to bear on the life of individuals and their families. To the extent that technology can facilitate that process, "chasing it", makes perfect sense.
Among the questions worth chasing, is how best to benefit from the contributions of numerous individuals, with varying levels of interest, experience, and skill? I work in high performance computing - which is the fancy way of saying parallel computing. When we study how to solve a problem with that sort of machine, we do look at what happens if you take the traditional method and simply split it up - running on sub-domains - across however many processors you have. But it is often the case, that the better parallel approach will not be trivial reproduction of the best known sequential algorithm. This is particularly apt to be true if your processors are not homogeneous (similar in power or speed). The problem of bringing together those disparate efforts in a useful collective whole, is indeed, a serious one. I am convinced this is precisely what we face here at WeRelate - and lies at the heart of how I have always viewed this challenge.
Private sub-domains - whether they be located on remote servers or not - are indeed, one way to deal with privacy issues associated with the living. Genealogy of the living (or at least recently living) can often be performed by individuals without special skills - but with unique access to living family. It is a way to take better advantage of those with less experience, so it should not be ignored. Such records - in the future - become the contemporary sources that future researchers would be very glad to have.
Private sub-domains, besides creating a way to deal with the living, also have potential for other sorts of uses. For example, an individual chapter of the DAR might like to have a site that relied entirely upon the efforts of their own members. A local historical society might want to offer genealogy for a particular location and time frame, created with special attention to quality or conventions - which are useful for them but which couldn't be inflicted on the broader public WeRelate community. We should try to find ways to allow efforts like those to proceed independently - without such efforts feeling any need to locally reproduce content that is already present on the WeRelate primary site.
I'll be the first to agree that it's all a very chancy business - and that the most likely result of any of our efforts here is ultimately some manner of failure. Still, I think we're collecting a contiguous and relatively unique data repository, which is apt to survive - even if the current technology and "social community" serving it up does not. Resistance is not futile. --jrm03063 15:34, 27 February 2014 (UTC)

Jhamstra, fundraising hasn't even been explored and already you're nay-saying ? Your horse seems to be trailing your cart. There are dozens of ways to fundraise, a few of which were mentioned early in the Next Steps discussion.--Neal Gardner 05:29, 27 February 2014 (UTC)

First let me apologize for dragging this current comment thread off-topic. I should have posted my comment about fund-raising in that topic. Having re-scanned this page I found two suggestions re fund-raising - affiliation with WMF or canvass the users. My previous comment was directed at canvassing the users. What did I miss? (FYI - in another life I have actually had to do fund-raising as a volunteer - one of my sons does it for a living for a non-profit entity 8-)--Jhamstra 05:40, 27 February 2014 (UTC)

I can think of four ways to integrate with living. Note that none of this would allow publication of living information into the wiki. It's just to allow people to navigate from their private living information to public deceased information.

  1. We present to each user a private "tree" screen like the one appearing in the "Family Tree" link on Person pages. The user is the only person who can access this information -- information in this tree is stored separately from the wiki. It's not versioned, and there's no wiki text -- just what you see in the boxes. Initially the tree is empty except for the user's name at the root. The user fills in information about living people in the boxes until they get to deceased people, at which point they enter wiki page titles for their deceased ancestors. This allows people to see how they're connected to their deceased ancestors, but nothing else. They can't collaborate on living for example. But it's relatively straightforward to implement. This is like the browser plugin idea mentioned above, but handled at the server so no plugin is required.
    I'm really not keen on this idea as I understand it. I really want something that has the full WR interface and feature set, but simply with some pages retained locally. I've already done something like this limited capability by creating a static page that had initials for living people and links when I hit the deceased. While this might be straight-forward, it just doesn't seem adequate, and it's entirely oblique to the wiki style of working that we're trying to foster. I was looking at the broswer add-on as something that watched URL requests fly by - checking for anything in it's private store before letting the request go to the WR server. It's probably too much to try to do in an add-on/extension. --jrm03063 20:34, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
  2. We partner with a website like WikiTree; any more thoughts on this?
    I tried to use that site for exactly this purpose. I decided nothing was better than their something. --jrm03063 20:34, 27 February 2014 (UTC)
  3. We integrate with one of the existing web-based genealogy programs. People could upload their GEDCOMs into that program and have complete control over who they want to share their genealogy with. We would extend that program with a way to "synchronize" deceased people with pages at WeRelate. We could also restrict the privilege of copying information from the private tree to the public tree to those people who didn't have outright date inconsistencies and who had a reasonable number of sources in their tree. I believe something like this is what people are talking about in the "sub-domains" discussion above.
  4. We develop our own web-based genealogy program and use it as a fundraiser for WeRelate; e.g., a $10/year subscription to use the program (or maybe the program is free but $10/year gets you additional features); sync'ing deceased people with WeRelate would be totally optional. An advantage here is we could make the data models match exactly so the information transfers across more naturally.

I believe either 3 or 4 above would be preferable to setting up a number of private installations of the WeRelate software.--Dallan 18:01, 27 February 2014 (UTC)


I like the idea of partnering with another site/software to take care of living people.

This could potentially be accomplished by simply building a more robust API, and allowing software (like GRAMPS) to sync with WeRelate. That way, people could use whatever software they wanted to view and manage their living people, while everything on WeRelate remained open and accessible to everyone. Plus, whatever software they use would do the heavy lifting of matching, merging, etc.

Initially, I think even having a read-only version of an API would work for a lot of use cases, although being able to write to WeRelate from other software would probably be necessary at some point. -- Jdfoote1 03:05, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

Do you (or anyone else) have any technical details on how this might work? (ie another site that has something like it) Daniel Maxwell 03:07, 28 February 2014 (UTC)
An API for Mediawiki already exists, and is pretty full-featured, and maybe it would be sufficient or maybe we would want to build some more restrictive/descriptive API calls on top of it. We would need to update to a much newer version of the Mediawiki software to be able to use their API, however. -- Jdfoote1 03:17, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

I have to say, I have limited understanding of the technical side of this software integration suggestion but I like the sound of it.--JeffreyRLehrer 08:53, 28 February 2014 (UTC)


Dallan, could you, please, explain in simple terms why the following approach is not acceptable for evolution of this or future project:


1. Display for general public and all accounts in the browser (with possibility of edits to all accounts) only dead or notorious people exactly as it is now in WeRelate.


2. Mark living (not-notorious) people inside the database with "Living" tag. Allow to see in the browser and edit (and export to GEDCOM) these living people only to the "Owners" accounts (and probably to "Friends" accounts). This give the important advantage to the "Owners", that they do not need to separate artificially dead and living persons into different databases. This mechanism works already technically inside WikiTree project for each person. Very similar mechanism works also in MyHeritage and Ancestry for billions of persons. This is for me the experimental prove that there is no fundamental legal problem to incorporate living persons into genealogy tree.


Conclusion: keep the open access to dead and notorious persons exactly as it is now in WeRelate, but introduce controlled "Owner/Friends" access to living. In this case WR does not loose anything from present functionality, but can get much more users.--Alexandre 12:35, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

I can speak to this a little bit. First, although it's technically possible to do this, the MediaWiki software isn't really designed for "private" pages, and I think that WikiTree and others have had to make a number of modifications in order to support password-protected pages.
This leads to a few problems, IMO - people will want all sorts of levels of control (like WikiTree); sharing, merging, etc. become much more complex; and it will take development resources to maintain.
Second, and relatedly, I think that having private pages may be a deal-breaker for becoming a Wikimedia project. I know that isn't bad news to everyone :), but it's something to think about. -- Jdfoote1 15:30, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that's correct. Private pages (and thus, page ownership) defeats the whole purpose of the site (an open genealogical wiki) without even getting into WMF. Most of these other sites have page ownership and all the problems that come with it; not something we want to repeat here. Daniel Maxwell 15:32, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
I agree that private pages defeat the purpose of the wiki here, and also now that ownership on WikiTree can be quite a nuisance, because users can block merges that I think are obvious. But at the same time, I see that the ability to contact 'owners' is THE way to relate to live cousins overseas. I see that happen on public WikiTree profiles that I 'own'. If these profiles were on WeRelate, and would be found by Google, visitors would probably not understand that the Talk page is a way to get in touch, but even when would be able to discover that, they would not be able to use it, because it's public, and most cousins that I meet like to share details with me. They can do that on WikiTree, because there is a clear link to send private messages, and I see that that mechanism works. Without that, i.e. only public talk pages, I see no gain in putting anything on WeRelate anymore. --Enno 16:17, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
And yet, you continue to post here about how you won't put anything on this site. There must be some reason for that. We're working on a solution to this problem, but one that doesn't involve the creation of owned pages. Maybe we could have a true message board system too, although my experience with the findagrave one wasn't good.. Daniel Maxwell 16:20, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
True. The reason is that I know that WeRelate has a better data model, easier merging, and a couple of other things that I still appreciate, which makes it worthwhile for me to think and write about solutions here. One is a mechanism for private messages to page watchers that does not compromise the public character of the wiki. Others are for place handling, and I also think that sources can be made easier without losing quailty. And last, but not least, the app that Dallan mentioned earlier. --Enno 16:56, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
Wikitree has Profile managers, and each person page has a link that says "Private Message: You can also send a private message to the Profile Manager. (Best when privacy is an issue.)". WeRelate doesn't have a single profile manager, multiple users could be watching and adding information to the same page. Are you suggesting that WR add a link like Wikitree to privately message only the creator of a page, or everyone watching it? Also, WeRelate does have the ability to privately message users, but it is not at all obvious. Every User page has an option to "Email this user" under the more menu item. If the user has not disabled their "Enable e-mail from other users" setting, and has a valid email address, they can receive private messages from others. Do you feel it would help to make this feature more obvious? Is it sufficient for this to be on the User pages only? --Jennifer (JBS66) 17:45, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I think it would help, preferably on a person page, provided that these pages can be find via the search engines. Most cousins that contact me via Genealogie Online or WikiTree are not members of these sites, but visitors, and most contacts are about close relatives, like great grandparents, not much further away. I guess that many of these have a single watcher, or profile manager, which makes it more likely that cousins actually use the feature. It is btw not true that WikiTree profiles all have a single profile manager. They can have multiple managers, and watchers that are not managers, but there is no reason to duplicate that scheme here. What does work, I think, is using different words. Like talk, watcher is wiki lingo that may not be understood by many. Visitors may feel more secure when they can see who created a profile, or made a recent change, meaning that this is more about psychology than technology. --Enno 18:28, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
This is a very good suggestion. People unfamiliar with wikis are quite likely to be put off by the unfamiliar terms and mechanisms. The availability of email is very obscure. I think it would be quite helpful to visitors to add a visible function to the lefthand menu (and not under "more"), something like "Email a watcher". This would go to a page with a sentence or two and then a list of watchers (ideally those with email enabled) to click on to go to the normal email message composition page. Not too complicated a feature as features go. This might well help relatives get in contact and encourage visitors become involved with the site. --robert.shaw 21:05, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

As long as we're talking about features, I'd love to periodically see a front page article highlighting a "lesson" peculiar to WeRe re: style, date, citing, etc.

Also, I'm a fairly active FindaGrave contributor and have asked their Admins if I can post a direct link to a WeRelate page which may draw some more contributors here. I've already (this year) convinced 4 or 5 Findas to join WR. Takes a while to get an answer from them, but if the answer is "yes" to my question, I plan on linking to well-researched pages only. --Neal Gardner 03:34, 15 March 2014 (UTC)


Regarding marking certain pages private on WeRelate, the Mediawiki developers recommend against trying to do this.

I'd like to experiment with the idea that you have a personal tree completely under your control, and you can publish portions of your tree on WeRelate. Publishing someone on WeRelate involves going through a matching step followed by a merging step just like we do with GEDCOM uploads, but could be done in smaller increments, and you'd be notified of changes and could re-merge at any time. I'm also working through an idea to make it more difficult for new users to overwrite agreed-upon facts about a person during merges, which is a problem sometimes in the current gedcom upload. I hope to have a rough draft of what I'm thinking about to show and solicit comments on a few months from now.

In the meantime, I'll add an email link next to each watcher to make that less obscure.--Dallan 18:35, 15 March 2014 (UTC)


Growth or a slow decline into perfection [28 February 2014]

I don't believe I have any answers but I do have a passion to see WeRelate grow. I also want to maintain and even increase the quality. I have made my thoughts known above in a few comments. I do not believe that business as normal will sustain WeRelate in the long term and I like wiki genealogy. I think WeRelate is the best option for that but we need to grow and that will bring some of which I may not like. However now that this conversation has started we can't let it die and do nothing because that would likely be the beginning of the end. Dallan has this community conversation provided some direction? Where possible I will assist, not certain how though. As we move forward and the number of users increase, I am willing to take on a mentor role to new members who have a focus in regions which I am also interested in. The idea of this would be to provide a personal connection, provide advice when asked and to encourage, strong source use and quality profiles.--JeffreyRLehrer 13:49, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

I think Jeffrey has hit on what is really needed to improve ease of use for newcomers to WR, and that is easier access to mentors. Trying to figure out how the site works, and to do what you want to do, can be pretty intimidating, not because the site is so difficult, but because there is no real human touch/go to for people who are uncertain. Data entry at FamilySearch is NOT easier (I use both), but is broken down into ministeps which make it seem easier for a new comer (and incredibly clunky otherwise). WikiTree offers all kinds of handholding for new comers. Multiple emails when you register, questions on your user page as to what you would like to do, offers of help from individuals, etc. Being independent and stubborn, I find this a bit annoying, but I could see where it would be reassuring to others. --GayelKnott 19:10, 28 February 2014 (UTC)
There are probably many newcomers who, once they try to add something, quickly become newgoers. The interfaces are strange and difficult to work your way through. One indication I see is the Gedcom review list; a look at the redlinked users show most do nothing beyond the upload. Not a single edit to their talk page, a support help page, or anywhere. They may not even know that they have a talk page that is used to communicate with them. A mentor might have great communication difficulties. (Yes, some GEDCOMs are just name collections, but some of them probably contain useful data important to contribute. In any case, I mention the Gedcom review list as a way of showing concrete evidence of difficulties newcomers have.) --robert.shaw 20:29, 28 February 2014 (UTC)
We should probably set a realistic goal then; I was thinking that the goal should be, perhaps by this time next year, doubling the number of editors - which I think is doable. This is going to be a slow process because there is much to do in that time. Some other thoughts 1) undeleting and cleaning up some older members trees to increase the number of people on the site (I do this quite often and I noticed a couple of other editors who do this too) 2) spreading the word - evangelizing as it were for WR. Encourage our friends and families to move their trees here, or even assist them in doing so. No perfection required, though we want to avoid the very low quality we had when the site was new. I probably haven't done enough spreading the word myself. But now the bulk of my work on here is not my own genealogy; it is just clean up of New England families as a whole or whatever interests me. So I am personally trying to help grow the site much beyond my own tree (I am nearly completed with the Mills family of Windsor, no relation at all to myself). We have to be as altruistic as possible with other people's genealogy as much as we can. I think the only thing I would differ is I don't think the site is in trouble, but that users are afraid (perhaps justifiably) it could be if this level of activity goes on for years and years longer. Daniel Maxwell 14:01, 28 February 2014 (UTC)
I had a tiny discussion with Dallan on his page, related to ideas that I've been pushing above. I won't claim that I've made him a believer - we'll see I guess. The starting point I support would be a simplified install or install package, for the WeRelate wiki and extensions - essentially as is - but available as a buy-your-own server from a hosting provider on the web. The target audience would be people who want to work in small groups where they can call their own shots. One such purpose would be families that want to put together data on the living - in which case a login would presumably be required to see anything. Other possibilities are special purpose groups like a DAR chapter or other genealogy organization - who wanted to support cooperative work in a particular area of interest. A guestimate on cost for this is in the $15-$20/month range (none of that coming to us or from us - that's the cost carried by anyone who wanted one of these).
If you want to use the "cool" terminology, you might call it buying a private genealogy server from "the cloud".
I see this as opening the door to people who havn't yet joined WR either because of the issue of including the living or because of lingering doubts about groups that they don't control. Over time - we could figure out and create ways to share and exchange information between WR proper and these private sub-domains. Perhaps there's a way to start by setting up the sub-domain servers to selectively use some page domains from the WR server proper, while keeping others private. PLACE pages, for example.
For my part, I want something like this because I have a huge amount of family information that too closely relates to living individuals. It deserves to be protected on a professionally run and backed-up site (not just a bunch of thumb drives that I've given out to anyone in the family who wanted them). There are also other members of the family who would be willing to work with me there, but who are not as immediately interested in working on the wider WR world. As time goes on and people pass, it would be easy to shift content from the private site to WR proper.
I think the idea of a cloud genealogy server is interesting enough to get attention from folks who we havn't yet reached. Maybe they won't ever contribute to WR proper - but they would at least be invested in the software and the general approach. That - in itself - is a real help. I expect that others would become believers when they realize the benefits they get from WR at Allen County - and start to do more and more with the primary site. --jrm03063 15:24, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

Quality and quantity are not opposites! [28 February 2014]

This page is already large enough, and it's not as if it needs another subject, but I can't let a phrase like "quality versus quantity" pass without notice. The opposite of good quality is lousy quality - the opposite of large quantity is small quantity. Presuming that quality can't co-exist with quantity isn't reasonable.

I believe there are approaches to quantity that don't sacrifice quality - particularly over the lifetime of a progressively refined database built cooperatively by many - like a wiki. Indeed, latent in this whole discussion is the idea that we need to get more quantity precisely in order to increase quality.

So can we try to lose that phrase ? --jrm03063 19:11, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

Hear, hear! We all want quality; many of us want ever-improving quality for the lines we are working on. For the survival and growth of WeRelate, we should recognize that increasing the quantity of useful quality entries is a path toward that growth. The larger the collection of useful data, the more people are attracted (and some will add data and improve quality).
We might do well to find ways to add more quality data. We do some now; the Great Migration WR project and the Savage transcript activity come to mind. Maybe there are other sources of useful data that could contribute to WeRelate. Perhaps some family associations have family data already computerized which references standard works in the entries. What about authors of articles published in respected journals like NEHGR or TAG? These days those authors would have worked with computerized data; perhaps recruiting them to contribute that data, with either their underlying sources cited, or with citations to their published article would be a good increment to WeRelates quality data. --robert.shaw 20:52, 28 February 2014 (UTC)
I agree. I would expect that there would be a positive correlation between the number of editors who have worked on a page and its quality. If we had an influx of new editors, I think existing pages would, on average, improve in quality, although watchers would be busier. (Right now, of the approximately 57 000 pages I am watching, only about 10 are changed in a given month.) There would probably be more dubious material added to the “periphery”, but at least that would mostly be replacing nothing. And if we were to get more hardcore about insisting on providing sources for facts...--Werebear 22:12, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

Family Search and Family Tree [16 March 2014]

Link to video by Ron Tanner outlining improvements to Family Search planned in 2014.--Beth 14:49, 16 March 2014 (UTC) [https://rootstech.org/about/videos/?id=3163707431001}


Promoting WeRelate [16 March 2014]

There's been previous discussion about how to grow WeRelate by what changes can be made to the website, but I wondered if there are also "marketing"-type steps we could take to increase our visibility and users, especially from established genealogy communities. For example, the Stone family association currently hold their database on Rootsweb, with many pages not updated for many years. Perhaps we could approach these communities with some information about WeRelate that sells the benefits of collaboration and suggest they consider adding their info to WeRelate. There are many of these name-based associations out there, including DNA-based projects such as the Bunch Y-DNA project, which I feel is a future growth area for genealogy in general. I suspect some of the administrators of these projects will feel protective of their research, and be reluctant to put it in a collaborative space, so we may not get them on first contact, but as the site grows in popularity they (or future administrators) may reconsider. Even if they let their members know about us in a newsletter or provide a link to a patriarch's WeRelate page on their website it would help.

We could also contact local history museums and societies with similar information, especially if there is already information about their early settlers on WeRelate. When I was visiting such places I often asked if they knew of websites with good genealogical information on the local area, and if we can we the site they recommend it would be great.

So far my interaction with WeRelate has been mostly just adding information to people pages, so I'm not sure how such a "marketing" project would be facilitated, but I'd be happy to help with it.--Jocelyn_K_B 20:46, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

I have considered starting 'DNA Project' pages on WR, similar to what you suggest. Naturally putting my money where my mouth is, I will probably see if the Maxwell DNA group is interested in moving their material here. Daniel Maxwell 20:53, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

I think this is a great idea. One of the benefits to a DNA group might be that their existing tree connects with one or more trees in WeRelate, leading them to additional people they might be able to contact re: DNA testing. We'd have to assume that WeRelate users would not be offended by being contacted, and that the contact would be polite and not pressuring people to do something they don't want to do - that is, all in the spirit of WeRelate etiquette.

A slightly different take on this is to offer to help split up a large tree so that it can be uploaded using GEDCOM (up to 5000 individuals at a time), and maybe even volunteering to help with the uploading and merging. This reduces the barrier for those who might be interested but daunted by the effort. This is an approach I would like to take (and did for one tree last summer) - but I want to get my own tree finished and uploaded first, and I still have several months of standardization and citation cleanup to do first.--DataAnalyst 21:11, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

"Marketing" is a great idea, one that I agree we need to seriously consider. Focusing on DNA projects certainly makes sense. Would it be worth co-ordinating ideas and discussion through the Publicity Committee? In my efforts to promote interest in the site at our local annual Genealogy Seminar, I've found people are often most interested in the potential for discussing/posting explanations of why certain conclusions are more appropriate than others, which could be another focus of "outreach". --GayelKnott 23:31, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
Probably needs to be experimented with first, so we have an idea what it would look like here. I intended originally just to push ahead with Maxwell DNA project and then ask for opinions on what I had published, but if others have some ideas before I do it, I am open to hearing them. Daniel Maxwell 23:33, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

Current roadmap [6 April 2014]

I wanted to let everyone know what I'm working on right now in development as a result of this discussion. My primary goal is to focus on growth. To this end, I'm working on the following:

  1. Prepare the WeRelate interface to be translated to other languages.
  2. Remove the changes that have been made to the core Mediawiki software on the sandbox, then invite people to the sandbox to comment on what's been removed that we can't do without. We need to back-out the core changes in order to upgrade to the latest version of Mediawiki. Based upon how much this impacts necessary functionality, and how much work it will be to add necessary functionality back in, we'll decide how much of a priority it is to do the upgrade. This will also give us more information about whether it is worth the effort to go down the path to become a WMF project, since we would have to upgrade prior to this. If others are interested in becoming a WMF project, I'm hoping they will continue to research the pro's and con's.
  3. Integrate with living - this is big and where I will spend the majority of my time this year.
  4. Make the software easier to use.

Sound good?--Dallan 20:33, 29 March 2014 (UTC)


very good--Jsfaber 09:26, 30 March 2014 (UTC)


Sounds great. Also, as a note for the future connected to adding other languages, would there be room for adding copyright information for images for other countries as well?--Khaentlahn 13:07, 30 March 2014 (UTC)

Do you mean instructions on what is copyrighted in other countries? I'd like to do that now, but I haven't researched copyright law in other countries to feel comfortable doing it myself.--Dallan 16:37, 1 April 2014 (UTC)

Dallan - I would be interested in exploring whether a few of these ideas might be fruitfully combined. If we upgrade the Mediawiki software, then we could provide access to WeRelate via API. This would allow other software (maybe GRAMPS or others) to get data from WR, and that way connect to a database that includes living people. If you wanted to build a more seamless web interface, then you could do that, but still build it on an API that would be flexible so that others could connect to WR.

In addition, having a write API would allow us to do things like make a browser plugin to auto-add sources from other websites, for example. Plus, that way if we did decide to go down the WMF road, there wouldn't be any technical barriers. What do you think? -- Jdfoote1 02:18, 31 March 2014 (UTC)

I agree. WeRelate needs an API. As you say, if we are able to upgrade, we'll get the API for free from the latest Mediawiki software.--Dallan 16:37, 1 April 2014 (UTC)

One other thing you have not mentioned is data quality. I think that poor quality data (largely from old GEDCOMs) might be a turnoff for the very people we would most like to attract. Amongst the other things you (and other programmers) are working on, can we get help identifying poor quality data (old GEDCOMs with few sources, and data that fails the current GEDCOM edits) so that volunteers like myself can work on cleaning up the data. The duplicates list has been cut down to about half what it was last fall - in a few months, we should start tackling other data quality issues as well. Thanks --DataAnalyst 03:29, 31 March 2014 (UTC)

I would love to do this. Here is a list of GEDCOM's uploaded in 2007-2008 without any contributions since then. People could review the gedcoms in this list and send me gedcom's that should be removed for example. Please let me know what you need to tackle data quality issues. Thanks.--Dallan 16:37, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
When I think about removal, my first thought is not abandoned uploads, but persons not connected to the main tree, meaning the largest cluster of connected persons on this site, i.e. the real Pando. Would you be able to figure this out in some way? I have no idea about statistics in this area, and many uploads by active members may also not be part of the Pando, so IMO, it would be nice to figure out subtrees that are both abandoned and isolated.
In my experience poor quality is everywhere in the peripherals of trees, like foreign ancestors of immigrants, whose data comes from published genealogies (still sort of 'good'), or who were simply copied from other trees on Ancestry/RootsWeb, and so on. Many of those appear to be sourced, and thus slip through with every upload here, but look quite clueless to me. --Enno 12:22, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
Let's come up with some specific criteria. Should the report list unconnected 'people' or unconnected 'trees'? Should it include people watched by only one user? People watched by only one user who hasn't made a contribution after a particular date? People without sources? People without events that include a place? Other criteria? What search criteria can we come up with that are likely to return low-quality people?--Dallan 17:20, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
I think this is a bit misguided. You cannot judge the importance of people by how many other people they are connected to a WeRelate. One must assume the person was important to someone - every one of us is. I do not view myself as building trees. I view myself as capturing interesting information about people and families. Sometimes there are a lot of connections and other times not. Quality is not the same as connectivity. I have on occasions documented information about isolated individuals I uncovered in my research. One reason is to differentiate between that person and others I may be researching. Sometimes I just think it is interesting. I am not only interested in my relatives. Every person is a part of Pando. We should not exclude people just because we do not know their larger connections. Nor should we assume that Pando must somehow be rooted in or connected with New England or Dutch ancestors (just because mine are 8-). This is a very parochial view especially if we intend to reach-out to other parts of the world.--Jhamstra 18:54, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
I see your point, but as far as I'm concerned, the value of a person on this site is related to connections in some ways. Not by number alone, but I really see no point in having undocumented isolated persons, or small trees, here or anywhere else. I have persons in my tree that have no vital events, let alone sources, but are mentioned as a parent of a spouse, or a witness. They have a role in research, and the same goes for persons with a reasonable source, but no connection. They may solve someone else's brick wall some time. The combination of unsourced and isolated however, is not what I call genealogy.
To answer Dallan, I can only suggest to create a list of person clusters, ordered by size, and provide a link to one person in each cluster, so that we can all look at these, and evaluate. I see no point in counting watchers or sources, because we have loads of persons that have no other source than Ancestry trees, which basically means no source at all. There are also persons without source, that have adequate documentation in notes, and both are hard to evaluate with software alone. Therefore, I suggest to start with that list, and forget about the GEDCOMs themselves. --Enno 19:34, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
Just to be clear, I think Jhamstra is saying that isolated but well-documented individuals and small trees are worth keeping, while Enno is saying that isolated but not documented individuals and small trees are not worth keeping. I would agree with both these statements.
In particular, I agree that it is worth having well-documented information on isolated individuals if they are created for the purpose of differentiation from other individuals. I see this as an example of pre-empting bad data by creating (and documenting) good data - well worthwhile. Isolated individuals who we just find interesting? - If we have uncovered interesting info, the person who finally connects that individual to their family tree will be grateful. Having sufficient information to allow someone to eventually make that connection makes all the difference.--DataAnalyst 01:24, 4 April 2014 (UTC)
Dallan - thanks for the list of abandoned early GEDCOMs - I will certainly start reviewing these in the next month or so. This is a good place for anyone who wants to help with cleanup to start, as we know that the early GEDCOMs were not subject to the edits and reviews we have now. Some of these will meet Enno's criteria of undocumented isolated small trees.
In terms of other data quality reports, eventually I would like a list of individuals who:
  • have no dates (partly because the rest of these edits are meaningless without dates)
  • have events before birth
  • have events after death (other than burial, estate, and similar things)
  • were born when either parent was younger than, say, 14
  • were born when mother was older than, say, 46
  • were born after death of mother
  • were born more than 9 months after death of father
  • were born within 9 months of a sibling
I suspect, though, that reviewing early GEDCOMs and removing those that are of poor quality would be more efficient than looking at individual situations - so maybe this can wait until we have decided which early GEDCOMs to remove.--DataAnalyst 01:24, 4 April 2014 (UTC)
I think you are missing one very important criterion - abandoned persons/families would not have been edited in at least 5 years and would only have one watcher who was the original creator.
I would also suggest that if a person or family was entered by hand rather than being part of a GEDCOM upload then (except for duplicates) one should assume the creator had some specific purpose for including that person.
Regarding your age criteria I would suggest your numbers are a bit too tight. Mothers younger than 14 and older than 46 do give birth with surprising frequency. Many mothers of large families including my relatives, gave birth in their late 40s and early 50s. Also premature babies are born and survive as young as 5 months. Not to mention twins born 1 or even 2 days apart. Your are also going to get flooded with persons whose birth or death dates are estimates. --Jhamstra 09:35, 4 April 2014 (UTC)

Am I reading that my small trees should be deleted?--50vicar 20:40, 2 April 2014 (UTC)

No. They look well documented to me. --Enno 20:44, 2 April 2014 (UTC)

I think a little background information would be helpful here. When WR began allowing GEDCOM uploads around 2007, the software did not have data validation checks. At that time, WR was flooded with many poor quality GEDCOMs where the users never returned to make any edits. WR now has a system of quality checks when the user first uploads their file. If it passes that level, the file is then checked further by a volunteer.

The report that Dallan created is just a list of the GEDCOMs imported in the early days that we should look at for basic quality standards. We're trying to catch obvious files that would never be allowed now. Files with absolutely no dates, places, and a large number of potentially living people. Many of the files in this report we'd keep - but some, we need to remove. Here are a few examples of the files that could be removed:

  • [5] This one has all Unknown pages.
  • [6] No dates or places. Only names is not helpful in a collaborative research environment.
  • [7] There is a problem here with the characters and the pages lack places.

Reviewing the GEDCOMs in this report only a first step to improving the quality of the data on WR. If the user is interested, they could choose to re-upload a file, and it would be subjected to the newer quality checks. Perhaps in the future, we could run checks on the whole site like those done during GEDCOM upload. However, to my knowledge, that is not planned for the near future. --Jennifer (JBS66) 19:03, 6 April 2014 (UTC)

Thank-you Jennifer. I was about to say something similar but not as well :-). Enno, you can find the size of a gedcom by clicking on "view" and looking at the count of the number of search results, and you can see how connected it is by clicking on "deletion impact" -- this lists all people not in the tree that link to someone in the tree, where the link would be removed if the tree were removed. Perhaps a follow-on project would be to list people that fail one or more of the improbable/impossible-date checks that we now have in place for gedcom uploads so that they could be reviewed (either by the watchers or by someone else). This is something that could be done after the internationalization work is complete if people are interested.--Dallan 00:52, 7 April 2014 (UTC)

re: cleaning up poor-quality GEDCOMS [5 April 2014]

I am happy to help to clean up some of these and strongly favor cleaning them up over deleting them. I was wondering if it would be possible to "temporarily" remove some of them, clean them up off-site, and then re-import a cleaned version? Until we get the ability to quickly add the same source to multiple pages, I think it may be more efficient for some of us to do this type of work in our desktop programs vs. working within the "one page at a time" wiki environment. We could alert the originator that we are doing quality control and that their GEDCOM will be "temporarily" removed in order to bring it up to the current standards. Of course we should also invite and encourage them to do the cleanup themselves. This would also eliminate the need to cycle each possible Living thru the Speedy Delete process one at a time.

Also, I realize that you can view each file to see how many individuals and families it contains, but I'd like to see those parameters added to the Main List (if I may ask some kind coder with more experience than I to add that). --Cos1776 18:09, 4 April 2014 (UTC)

I agree with cos. I personally don't like the idea of removing things just because they are 'old'. Sometimes when something is done, there is no need to edit further. I wouldn't want pages I finished being deleted in another 5 years for 'lack of activity'. I've made my concerns plain before - easier ways to detect living people, side category for people with invalid/no dates would go along way to keeping the site clean. Daniel Maxwell 18:11, 4 April 2014 (UTC)
Hello ! Please, first excuse my very bad english !
  1. Very important for the development of WeRelate is the ... multilingual function.
  2. Let's be careful and not too fast with the process of destruction/removing ! Indeed, we have to clean data already present but we have also to motivate new contributors. Incomplete data can be improved and errors can be corrected. It just takes time and needs volunteers.
  3. Do not destroy too quickly records containing "living". I saw some people "disappear" whose parents' marriage took place between 1885 and 1900. And sometimes the contributors created these records before 1999. We are in 2014. People still alive in 1999 (with parents married before 1914) are still very rare !
  4. I contribute to WeRelate since April 2013. I've cleaned a lot of records. My cleanings are not all important (with for example input of sources and acts) but : 1) better typo ---> replacement capital locks (family names and/or names) + inversions surname / first name. 2) research and improvement/validation of places in France. 3) removing unnecessary information for collective genealogy -> fields with "record change" (more than 6,400 items removed), but there are still many "ref num".
  5. I think we can gradually comment on this page WeRelate:Old GEDCOMs. We have the corresponding talk page, but we can also comment by adding 1 or 2 lines between each item.
Amicalement - Marc ROUSSEL - --Markus3 04:43, 5 April 2014 (UTC)
I agree that old nor abandoned should be a reason to remove. I found well documented trees in that GEDCOM list, and am still more interested in the loose and undocumented class of trees. I understand that GEDCOMs are a way to take inventory, and to bulk delete bad data where appropriate, but some small GEDCOMs with bad data may still be worth keeping, because some of the persons in those are connected to other parts of the tree, and thus can provide clues for everyone here.
OTOH, I'm also not in favor of keeping data because removing that might demotivate people. I myself am way more demotivated by unsourced data that keeps showing up in duplicate lists and so forth, and when I have a choice, I'd rather remove that, and hope that someone uploads better data some time, than leaving it there and have it frustrate me. Another reason behind that, is that bad data will show up as duplicate on every GEDCOM import attempt, and weeding through bad duplicates is a sure way to stop new members from uploading anything.
This does not mean that I don't appreciate Marc's efforts to clean records. I really do appreciate those, and hope that some things like the all capital names can once be done by a bot. Same for reference numbers, _UID, etc.
For the GEDCOM list, I really like to see sizes, and as mentioned earlier, whether they are connected or not. --Enno 16:13, 5 April 2014 (UTC)

re: deleting "abandoned" pages [4 April 2014]

Hearing this proposal concerns me... I agree with the others who have urged extreme caution in this area, especially when a page was entered by hand. Please remember that there are a lot of "projects" underway that may result in pages that may not be connected to family members yet, such as military unit studies, alumni lists, transcripts, bio indexes, etc., but they all have value and should be retained. At the very least, a warning message should be added to the Talk page well in advance of a proposed deletion, and pages which originally fell into the "contender for deletion" category but were later justified should carry a Template which prevents them from showing up on the "contender for deletion" list again. --Cos1776 18:09, 4 April 2014 (UTC)

There are no "abandoned' people pages here -- the pages belong to everyone no matter how many users have edited them. Some are low quality; they should (eventually) be improved or, in some cases, removed. But that is not dependent on how long they have remained unedited, or how many edits they have, or whether they came in via gedcom. We can use such attributes (such as 2007 gedcom upload with no edits) as a hint to find problem pages, and may in fact uncover a large group of problem pages, but those attributes should not be the basis for deciding on deletion. --robert.shaw 20:52, 4 April 2014 (UTC)

An interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales [5 April 2014]

Just found this on the Al Jazeera English site. Posting it, to inform, not influence. --Enno 15:43, 5 April 2014 (UTC)


Discussion on Wikimedia Meta wiki [19 June 2014]

I think it's a terrific idea to become a WMF project. I'd go into the reasons, but I think it's all been said now. :) I just want to add that everyone here is welcome to come over to the Wikimedia 'Meta' wiki and add to the discussion there: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wikimedia_genealogy_project I've also added the link to the top of this page.

We've been building a table on Meta listing all existing (and some defuct) wiki-based open genealogy websites. If anyone knows of any more, please add them there or let me know! It's just nice to get a feel of the land (and yes, WeRelate is the biggest).

—— Sam Wilson ( TalkContribs ) … 00:09, 18 June 2014 (UTC)


I have just reviewed the Wikidata list of Person properties at [8]. I would NOT want to see WeRelate adopt this data model. For our purposes our existing data model is far superior. --Jhamstra 00:46, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

Yes, this discussion died down for a couple of reasons, and one side of that was that we'd have to change too much of what is good about WR. WR needs some work, but we have an excellent thing going here. Daniel Maxwell 00:48, 18 June 2014 (UTC)
I agree that WR is excellent; my worries are really just about the software. I've recently been looking again at the WR codebase and pondering the upgrade path. At least I've got it running locally now and can play with it. Maybe the best option is just to carry on and bit by bit upgrade it and improve it and stay pretty much just as things are! :-) I am very relieved to hear that finances are healthy. Now it's just the technical battle of writing good software. :) — Sam Wilson ( TalkContribs ) … 01:00, 18 June 2014 (UTC)
We probably need to run a fundraiser for that. Some small upgrades have been made recently (the translations of the site for both French and Dutch, by far our largest foreign language sections, are under way), but there is still much to be done. I am also sandboxing a couple of projects of my own that I hope will attract people who want to keep their DNA project on a forever free and open site like WR instead of paywalled ones like Ancestry. Daniel Maxwell 01:06, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

What about something different? [6 July 2014]

What would you think about something different than a wiki? What about a Quora-like genealogy website, where people can add their own opinions and vote up or down others' opinions, but can't edit or remove others' opinions? Opinions down-voted more often than they are up-voted could be hidden by default. Each opinion would be associated with a source. People who up-voted or down-voted the opinion would be visible. Thoughts?--Dallan 03:36, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

I like what we have here. That kind of site you suggest I don't think I would have even visited, let alone have contributed to. Daniel Maxwell 03:37, 18 June 2014 (UTC)
I totally agree with Daniel. I have no interest in that kind of site as opposed to a wiki. I am not sure how you would even structure a vote on many of the facts that are not absolutely certain. There are far too many minutiae that could be voted for. Variant spellings of names, parents, children, spouses, types of facts, dates of facts, details of facts, bios, where would it end and how would it converge to anything useful? --Jhamstra 05:31, 18 June 2014 (UTC)
Agree with Daniel and Jhamstra.--GayelKnott 14:55, 18 June 2014 (UTC)
If I understand what you are suggesting, I would say definitely no to anything other than a wiki for the site, but for discussion of pros and cons of becoming a WMF project, a more structured approach might help keep track of where we are in that discussion. --Artefacts 16:30, 18 June 2014 (UTC)
I reckon the great advantage of a wiki is that people have a great deal of freedom to shape it to be what they want. I love the idea of a democratically-weighted fact database system (although Jhamstra raises a good point about the granularity of a 'fact'), but I'm not sure it's what a genealogy site needs. For example, I'd imagine most facts would only have the up-vote of their creator, and perhaps one or two other people. Flexibility is what's needed (and the minimum of software support to make the repetitive things easier). For example, one wouldn't be able to create source-specific transcription templates such as {{GRO Marriage Certificate}} in a more prescriptive system. — Sam Wilson ( TalkContribs ) … 00:04, 19 June 2014 (UTC)
Good points. Thanks for the feedback.--Dallan 04:16, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
I agree with the other points, in the main. What is the problem that a voting site is trying to solve? Is it keeping alternative opinions? Providing a more democratic way of solving them? Something else? I agree with Sam that one major problem with the idea of voting is that expertise is so localized - for many pages, there are only a half a dozen people (or less) who have done the necessary research to have an informed opinion. IMO, I think that the freeform nature of the Wiki provides a really nice space for discussing alternative opinions, etc., without trying to anticipate all of the different ways that people might disagree, and how to handle them. -- Jdfoote1 21:00, 6 July 2014 (UTC)