The original purpose of Geni

Started by Private User on Saturday, July 28, 2012


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Private User
7/28/2012 at 7:02 PM

"The original purpose of Geni was to create a World Tree, connecting everyone on earth. However, some users found that they like the Geni platform but they didn't like having to get along with their relatives." -

This statement is currently made in this project, and there is no excuse for such a blatant inaccuracy.

ONE of the original purposes of Geni was to create a World Tree. Another original purpose, just as important, was to allow folks to create a private family tree where they could share information and interact privately with the members of their family.

Please correct this blatant inaccuracy.

7/28/2012 at 10:48 PM

Interesting perspective, Lois, and you might right. Let's let the discussion mature a bit before we make changes.

I first encountered Geni long before I joined, and they were already touting a World Tree.

You joined in September 2007. I first joined in May 2009, left, then joined again in January 2010, so your perspective probably pre-dates mine.

Since this is a frequently debated issue, it will be interesting to see if other old-timers like you also believe that Geni originally intended to allow private trees.

Either way, we will settle a long-standing dispute.

7/28/2012 at 11:13 PM

I'm an original joiner. I actually signed up in pre release and was notified when they went "public" to join, which I did. Wish I still had those emails.:).

So now you have to rely on hazy memory which might be really hazy. But I do remember believing - "this is not, this is a lot more like social networking meets Wikipedia." I loved the interface, it was hip.

I was probably like most people. Entered a few profiles, lost interest, went off to do other things.

When I got more serious (and had more time) in 2010 I made it a mission to join the world tree. It took me months! I was sooooo disappointed. Finally I connected through Al Gore, 45th Vice President of the USA who is not currently showing "the shortest path" to me (not that it's so close or anything).

Privacy options felt much the same to me - 2007, 2010, 2012. I just improved in working with them.

Private User
7/29/2012 at 5:05 AM

Interesting. Way more than I was suggesting, which was simply a correction of that opening sentence I quoted from "The original purpose of Geni was ...." to "One of the original purposes of Geni was ....".

Private User
7/29/2012 at 5:22 AM

I started a Discussion back in August 2011 asking “Are Geni ‘s Goals Compatible - Or Incompatible?” - in the opening entry I set forth the two goals, and provide then current indications of both being equally claimed by Geni.

Most folks seemed to believe they were compatible. I think that they are not, and the belief – by the Geni creators and programmers - that one could do both simultaneously is at the heart of many of our difficulties now.

Private User
7/29/2012 at 6:28 AM

First article I saw - which is not in Justin's interesting list of links above, was it quotes David Sacks: “The site maintains security by letting users choose whom to invite into the tree. No one but invited family members can see it, and as each family becomes invested in the site and its accuracy, it has the potential to become a venue for family announcements, birthday reminders, and baby photos.” --

Possibly part of the problem comes from Geni's distinction between a Tree and a Forest, which does not seem to be being honored in most discussions now (perhaps never was much understood or used as apparently intended), and is totally blurred (obliterated?) when we say "The Big Tree".

7/29/2012 at 7:40 AM

Would it be would be more accurate to say that the original purpose of Geni was to create a World Tree, but the implementation changed? In the beginning the design envisioned a network of linked trees. Later it changed to a network of co-managed trees.

Even that statement needs work, but perhaps it points to the differing perceptions that lead to arguments.

Private User
7/29/2012 at 12:19 PM

There are now separate Discussions for two points in a comment above, either of which would derail this discussion if pursued here, but both of which merit discussion. The comment I am referring to is:

The two new discussions, for responses to two of the points, are: - Follow up – Sharing our experiences and expectations

and - What have been the Changes in Geni’s Privacy Options?

Private User
7/29/2012 at 12:44 PM

Justin - I had never thought of Geni's decision to allow more than one manager of a Profile to be part of the creation of this problem in differing perspectives. Am still digesting the idea.

At this time, I think it is another example of the creators not realizing the implications - if I merge my profile of AAA, a second cousin of mine, with the profile of him entered by a second cousin of his who is not related to me - do not think Geni really thought thru the implications before diving into programming the reality of that. (At first, only one was manager - Surprise, this upset the one dumped - so make both managers) -- They wanted a World Tree, but seems they did not properly envision - - what happened when these Trees overlapped -- for example, in the sense that my second cousin's second cousin and I may not be in the same Family Group, and how in that case could they keep it so only my Family could see the profiles in my Family? Think they focused on the logistics of the profiles, ignored the above plus the reality of family feuds, disagreements, etc, etc.

Also - from comments I recall seeing way, way back - think as Public Profiles (originally called "Shared") were introduced, that the creators [or at least some of the programmers then] were expecting these and the World Tree Focus not to be used for the recent ancestors, but mostly for those folks they referred to as outside your 'Max Extended Family'. Turns out many do not want to just use it this way, but many do.

Private User
7/29/2012 at 1:20 PM

Justin - By "co-managed trees" - did you mean co-managed profiles (as I was interpreting above) - or situations such as -- I start a tree, then I invite my sibling/parent/child/first cousin who accepts - and then we are co-managing the tree? Surely since this was part of the concept from the get-go they had envisioned this? OR ??

7/29/2012 at 3:19 PM

Some people didn't realise this was the goal as it wasn't 'shouted' about but their tag from the beginning was "Everyone's Related" Clearly indicating their goal of one world tree. The way they went about achieving this could be said to be questionable but they are a small company and there has been a certain amount of trial and error. I sincerely hope and believe they will get the right balance in the end but they probably need to remember they can't please all the people all of the time.

Private User
7/29/2012 at 5:28 PM

Terry - there is a difference between the World Tree being ONE OF the goals and it being THE ONLY goal - even if your comment about the Tag confirms it being ONE OF the goals - it in no way proves it was THE ONLY goal.

Moreover, not sure that tag even proves the World Tree was a major goal. Just a statement of fact. More elaboration or information is needed to turn that into a one World Tree goal.

Private User
7/29/2012 at 5:43 PM

Terry - Have you read the various postings above in this thread, and the links in them? Hopefully you will do so. In any case, thanks for bringing your comment over to this discussion. (should have said that in posting above; no edit feature, so posting it after)

7/30/2012 at 3:12 AM

Private User I return your question to you but to the most relevant to this thread, have you really read and understood

"This is a new internet company I’ve founded. Our mission is to solve the problem of genealogy (the question of how everyone is related) by creating a family tree of the whole world. "

Says the CEO of Geni.
You cannot go any higher and this is right at the very beginning of Geni.

It matters not what people 'thought' Geni's goal(s) was/were what matters is what they actually were and this statement tells you in a nutshell. As far as I am concerned, no further argument is necessary.

Private User
7/30/2012 at 3:28 AM

Does any of this really matter? Could we not just get on with working on the Geni tree, our tree, refining it, sourcing it - making the most of a wonderful opportunity to share our information (if we wish) with others; surely whether the original purpose was or wasn't to have one big tree or not is not going to make much of a difference to what we are doing right now?

There is so much more to do than debate this until the cows come home!! let's enjoy!!

7/30/2012 at 6:20 AM

Private User Amen!

7/30/2012 at 10:41 AM

Too true, no more argument from me but people may not be aware of the project which may answer some questions and show the development of the Big Tree.

Private User
7/30/2012 at 11:03 AM

Terry - The exact same person, David Sachs, CEO is the source of the comments in which focuses on the Goal of Family Privately sharing with Family (and does not mention the Goal of World Tree). So I think clearly you are mistaken if you believe the article you quoted proves the World Tree was the ONLY goal.

As I mention above, all I was asking was that the sentence in the Project Statement be changed from "The original purpose of Geni was ...." to "One of the original purposes of Geni was ....".

And yes, this is majorly important - folks see the statements claiming Geni has only the one goal, and this leads to even more folks believing it, which harms those of us focusing on the other Goal.

Private User
7/30/2012 at 11:06 AM

Sacks, not Sachs - sorry.

7/30/2012 at 1:10 PM

I see nothing in that article to contradict the one world tree notion as the 'original purpose' it is merely a description of how it will come about.

Private User
7/30/2012 at 3:55 PM

To me, the following are some statements from that article that let me know Families sharing info privately with their families was a Goal of Geni at that time.

1] “How about a site that lets your whole family build a family tree together?”

2] No one but invited family members can see it, and as each family becomes invested in the site and its accuracy, it has the potential to become a venue for family announcements, birthday reminders, and baby photos.

3] “We want to be the repository of all your family’s information,” he says.

4] “Many minds are better than one. David has tapped into the power of collective production by encouraging lots of people to collaborate on the creation of family trees.
“Crowds, however, can quickly become mobs,” Sunstein warns, pointing out that Wikipedia is a target for vandals …. The danger of letting a crowd control information is real.
“The problem with a crowd is that you don’t know who’s in it,” Sacks agrees. …. “But a family tree represents a select group of people ….”

As I state above, I believe the creators of Geni truly believed the two goals of creating a World Tree and Families sharing info privately with their families were not contradictory. That is not the same as they only had one goal.

The existence and importance of the TWO GOALS was confirmed in the Discussion "Are Geni's Goals Compatible ...", with among other things Michelle Kempner of the Geni Staff explicitly stating : "Of course, we are always looking to introduce features and enhancements that support both goals." Note - BOTH GOALS - not just the one of the World Tree.

Do you truly believe that Families sharing info privately with their families was not one of the original Goals of Geni?

7/30/2012 at 3:59 PM

Not sure that contradicts a world tree where we're all related Lois. It's talking about "the family tree" (the privacy zone). Nothing about distant ancestors.

7/30/2012 at 4:03 PM

Lois my own family - joined relatively recently and without any explanation from me - gets "it's facebook meets Wikipedia! Let the edit wars begin!". Meaning they understand that "the family tree" is within the family group, and hope we collectively find new cousins and ancestors.

Private User
7/30/2012 at 7:51 PM

Erica - re: "Not sure that contradicts a world tree ...."
I agree the existence of one of the goals does not contradict the existence of the other. My point is exactly that - TWO GOALS, not one goal.

7/30/2012 at 8:25 PM

So far, it sounds to me like the goal was one World Tree, but with accommodation for achieving that through smaller, interconnected trees that would (of course) be private in recent generations.

I'd still like to hear from other early users about their perceptions.

It seems to me that this point is highly symbolic, so it generates some strong feelings. Advocates of Geni as one tree want to show that was the vision all along (and the early press reports support them). Advocates of standalone trees are anxious to prove the opposite, that Geni originally supported standalone trees, then betrayed its users at some point, and has only recently re-instituted the necessary protections.

Strong feelings on both sides.

7/30/2012 at 9:04 PM

Since I was invited to curate, specifically to help merge the "wow, lotsa dups!" in the World Family Tree, I think my perspective is understandable:;)

Private User
7/30/2012 at 9:36 PM

My perception when we joined was that Geni was about private trees, individually managed, that linked up with similar adjoining trees to form the World Tree. We assumed that the linkage to other trees would be by meeting and merging on a common, public ancestor.

We encountered a few surprises along the way - not necessarily bad - but surprises nonetheless.

Surprise #1 - Public profiles were visible via Google. We had assumed that 'public' meant viewable by Geni members only.
Surprise #2 - Private profiles were matchable/searchable by other Geni members. The info tells about you linking with the Big Tree - it doesn't tell you about the Big Tree linking with you!
Surprise #3 - Public profiles within the family group became editable by any Pro member without collaboration. To us, this was when the two goals of Geni became wobbly - we can understand members wanting to view our grandfather (say), but why would a non-family member want to edit him?

Our verdict: Leave it as per our perception - that recent generations are optionally fully private, but earlier generations are fully public. The devotees of Charlemagne would not be hindered, but the family group gains it's original perceived function.

Private trees that blend upwards into the public Big Tree - that is how we perceived it.

7/30/2012 at 11:54 PM

"Private trees that blend upwards into the public Big Tree - that is how we perceived it."

That's beautifully phrased. That was also my expectation. I suppose though that since I was so reliant on "those who came before" that a "stranger" editing / adding information to public deceased profiles that technically fall within my family group doesn't bother me as much. For instance if I have a good source that goes down to the early 20th century I would want to contribute that information to any public profile.

7/31/2012 at 1:48 AM

Surprise #3 - Public profiles within the family group became editable by any Pro member without collaboration. To us, this was when the two goals of Geni became wobbly - we can understand members wanting to view our grandfather (say), but why would a non-family member want to edit him?

If there was a profile you didn't want edited by others you could make that profile 'private' but I would say that if they were far up the tree enough to be public then the chances are that someone else editing them would possibly be a distant relative.... would that not be interesting to you?

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