Why do we have a "Big Tree"? What is the purpose of it?

Started by Private User on Thursday, October 28, 2010


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Private User
10/28/2010 at 1:03 PM

Somethings have been happening on here that have made members, paying pro members, and non paying members upset over the last few weeks. Some feel we should have all public profiles and trees, others want only private profiles and trees. Most of us would like to see both. Could we have a discussion on this matter with out name calling.
And talk about the pros and cons of both. If we look at the "big tree" as a joint research project that we are all working on as something positive, I think we could all have a nice time working on this never ending project.
I too think that those who do not want to be part of the "big tree" should not be forced, dragged or tricked into it. Maybe if we can talk about this without name calling we can get somewhere. I am part of the big tree, not willingly at 1st, but I welcome working with cousins, near and far on these great project.

What do the rest of you think. What is the real purpose of the big tree. If we talk about it, maybe it will not be such a problem for so many? Lets all remember the tree is one big family and we are each one small part of it.

<private> Baldwin
10/29/2010 at 6:59 AM

Too many scattered forums...perhaps GENI could sort on a weekly basis or something so blocks of discussions would be together....that WOULD be a way for people to identify like purposed people and let them connect with each other....

Right now the forums are on pg 1 or pg 320 etc....when they are both on the same topic or area...

Just a thought, for what it's worth.

Private User
10/29/2010 at 7:16 AM

Hi Fay, I know the pages that they are on...my blackberry and email have been filed with this for days. We are off subject on those threads, "Friends back" and "Salem Witches". I was hoping to open a dialog off those threads to deal just with the issue of why we have the big tree and the purpose of it.

thanks..for your thoughts. : )

<private> Baldwin
10/29/2010 at 7:21 AM

This has been the subject of other forums.
Some want to be part of a 'big tree'...some see religious significance, some want to go back to Adam & Eve, some want famous people as ancestors, some study migration trends ,social trends, etc....
The individual purposes are multiple.

Private User
10/29/2010 at 7:24 AM

Fay, the point is that it is NOT the subject of many of the other forums that it's being discussed in. The other forums are being hijacked with constant talk about the big tree. I really wish people would stop hijacking discussions.

Terri, thank you for trying to consolidate everyone into this discussion!

10/29/2010 at 7:28 AM

Terri - why not finding locked prfiles of your grandfather and great grand father - and the person who has control of them is no longer on geni as a user as another has taken managership of his 'non-private" profiles - he does not answer mail - there is no way to get him to join a faimly group - the only buttons remaining are of contact & request to edit a profile which is ingnored - and what I have been taught of genealogy descent he is not even in a direct line of desecent of these 2 people and what little he put up of their families - and the neareat connecting ancestor is 6 or 7 geneations back - here is the example - yet it is claimed they are within his 3-4 close family lines

7 6 Aquilla Hardesty children:
6 5 Joseph Noah Hardesty -----------------------------Thomas Jefferson Hardesty Thomas Henry whitworth m. Sarah Gulick children:
5 4 clara Hardesty-Joseph Henry Whitworth-------------*Jacob T. Hardesty m. ---------------- *Mary Susan Whitworth ---------- Joseph Henry
4 3 William grant Overman -artemacia Jane withworth---*Minerva Jane Hardesty- charles Sigel Emery (3) my great grandmother
3 2 patrick Henery Overman----------------------------*clarence Ovid Emery m. Effie Edington (2) My Grandfather
2 1 william Estell overman ---------------------------Reba doris Emery m Alivn robert McKee (1) my mother
1 0 William Ray Overman ------------------------------Judith Elaine mckee - david Boswell burns

from what I have read my understanding what was that "private profiles' were to be for me would and should be - 1) myself, 2) my parents, 3) my grandparents and 4) my great grand parents and information on their siblings . By my chart above he is only a X cousin X times removed and thus is not a direct descendant of clarence etc... Am I wrong in this concept?

Thus if I read my chart right Mr. Overman is not a grandson of clarenece my grandfather nor a great grandson of minerva jane (Hardesty)

I have started the Hardesty project in hopes that some of these problems might be solved in the future - -

as for profile stealing - - - I am sorry I can not see that attitude - how did we come by our genealogy anyway? Mine when it was all pencil/pen and paper was by sharing and researching with others - did we call it "profile stealing' back then - if we rent a book, get a book on loan, or buy a genealogy book to obtain data to complete our tree can that not in a way be called "profile stealing" stealing ????

I have no one to leave my years of research to - I wanted it to be available yet I want to be able to access my material, edit it and continue work on it -

i wanted to be able to retain my profile - but with merging it becomes one profile with many enteries - it is my understanding that maybe somewhere way back underneath our orginigal profiles still exists

i admit i do not fully understand it all - - i would still like to think we could have our own individual tree to work with as an overlay of the big tree and yet others can have access and view our data and vice versa and then when comfortable to merge into it - then one can do so - but a guess this theory is impossible

10/29/2010 at 7:44 AM

My understanding is that "profile stealing" is an anomaly caused by Geni's software, the way it is currently programmed. It is, basically, a computer glitch. As we go about merging profiles, Geni's software sometimes hands over profile management to others who were doing the work of merging. It has the unfortunate effect of creating the appearance that management of the profile has been stolen. Nobody is proactively stealing profiles... it is a bug in the system that transfers profile management to the wrong people.
As I have been going about cleaning up the tree when I wind up in areas that need cleanup work, I have seen this occur, where profiles created by someone else were handed over to me, even though I am not a direct relative of the profile. It is unclear how to grant management of these profiles to others, even the rightful 'owners'.

Private User
10/29/2010 at 7:55 AM

I hear and feel your pain...I have some of the same issues with my tree. I have an elderly cousin on here, who has one of her cousins, though marriage and no relation to me working on our tree. He 1st introduced himself by sending me a standard note from the site asking to take over management of my GG Grandmothers profile, who he is not a blood relation to. And unlike many on here, I have been the only one working on parts of my tree for the last 40 years alone. I started as a child with my grandmother who is now gone. This take over was not welcomed. He has messed up my tree, I have emailed him...get no where at times. My tree that was clean is now a mess! So I get it. When I started this tree with my youngest daughter it was to take up where my grandmother left off. Get other family members to help with the tree by taking a section to work on and by having each person work on the tree, we could get it done in our life time. Well, that is what the big tree is, each family member working on a section..right?

The problem is that some don't want to be part of the big tree. We have some on here who want to bully them into it. If there was some way to have both, that would be great. I am not sure how that would work. But I don't like seeing members tossed off the site, or members "flaming" others, none of that is helpful. Perhaps we need mediation for problems on this site. An area off the discussion pages where you can deal with conflict's in private.

Just a thought....

Private User
10/29/2010 at 8:04 AM

Tim, When this has happened to me, when I end up becoming the "main" or 1st manager on a profile that is clearly not mine, I turn management back over to the 1st manager. There is a place on the profile where you can do this. The place where it lists the managers, you can remover yourself as a manger. I have done this when merging profiles that I have merge for family. It keeps the peace! And when someone has taken over management of one of my profiles, I have requested sole management back. I had a cousin post a new profile for me, my parents and grandparents and asked her to turn over management of all of those profiles after we merged back to me, she did. She was a 3rd cousin, and related though our 3rd grandparents. The only time I don't turn over management, is when I was a manager of my blood line to begin with.

10/29/2010 at 8:08 AM

Terri, I agree, we do need extra mediation.
As for the private trees vs. big public tree, and the bullying efforts to join the big tree, the fight also seems to be coming from top-down, from the Geni programming team. They introduce the site to new people by showing how easy it is to add your tree, like any family tree making software. Users coming for the first time may be mislead into thinking they can keep their tree separate from everyone else's. But then Geni's software reports duplicate profiles to everyone else, encouraging merging. As one's private tree grows and creates more profiles, the temptation for big-tree users to merge the private tree increases, until the private-tree user is merged into it, or "tricked", unaware of the consequences.

Private User
10/29/2010 at 8:35 AM

Yes....Tim, I know that all too well. That is just how my tree ended up in the "big tree".
We were "tricked" into it back then by a "merge broker". One who had no relation to your tree, blood line and would "help" merge duplicate profiles for others...this one pretending to be a family member. We don't have those anymore that I know of. We just have the collaboration pool that works in the same way.
Anyway, He was like the big bad wolf to my family. We were naive back then. The note that is generated to collaborate say...lets build our family tree...we thought he was a cousin. We sent notes...how are we related?, he was vague..and lead us on..."I will explain how later"... then asked to be a member of our family group. I was really dumb back then, I am far more diligent now. He was not part of my family...after he got in he finally answered my questions. In the mean time, he snooped into my parents and grandparents profiles, my kids and then contacted a minor child who was helping to work on the tree with her family. Our tree was a family project! This was very unsettlingly to my whole family. I when back in to all profiles and made sure that all safety measures were taken, had to contact my whole family to make sure that they protected their profiles as well. When I asked geni help to get involved, it got ugly. I still don't like to ask them for help as of this day, as they had no problem with what he was doing. Yet, as far as I know, he is still on this site and he was not tossed off?
This is why we need an open dialog on these issues.

10/29/2010 at 8:51 AM

I was sucked into the big tree by only one merge - which turned out to be a 4 month headache - geni told me to lock out this one person which i did but the merges kept on coming and coming it was a nightmmare - I finally got geni to tell me how to back out - of it - which was one profile at a time and breaking up the "stacks" as they are called - of course i learned alot doign that - the bad merges - the merging of females with females, the merging of son with fathers spouse or grandfathers; mergign every John smith or mary smith together just because the bore the same name - or merging a john Smith with a jonathan smith because I was told john and joanthan and the same name only a variation of spelling, merging deceased childred in the early families who kept naming a son John in hopes one would live long enough to outgrow child hood and marry - I was within one family group of breaking out of the" Bg tree' when coaxed back into - I even pulled all but the one line of proflies that were connected to the tree thousands I deleted one by one and was told I should not do it but leave them there - - I have re-entered them all and more - back into trying help and tyring to promote - - to share.

i started genealogy bcause I new nothing of my family - my parents never talked of the family - I have dubbed my self 'generational misfit' as I was born 1951, dad 1908 and mom 1920' the next bg gap is my dad father & grandfather of 1880 and 1834 but g-grandpa had 3 families and lost the 1st 2 all but one child a girl who lived to marry. you top me i have only been doing this 34 pluss

i was lucky in that I had 2 hardesty lines - and my family lived in the same countys depending upon entry from 1820-1948 dad and mon being the first to leave

10/29/2010 at 12:13 PM


Thank you so much for starting this discussion. I am finding it very educational, as it covers a lot of "geni history" I wasn't part of.


Your descriptions of the way the software operates matches my understanding as well. You stated it very well and very clearly.


Fascinating stories and some major pain on *both* sides of the issue it seems.

Private User
10/29/2010 at 1:56 PM

I went to a genealogy motivated/sponsored family reunion about a year ago. Many of my cousins showed up with multiple binders full of papers, they had all been researching many of the same ancestors, very little of the research was digitized, none of it could be easily shared.....there were hundreds if not thousands of hours of duplicated research sitting in all of those binders.

Avoiding a repeat of that scenario 10 years from now is why I think the big tree is a cool idea.

Private User
10/29/2010 at 2:11 PM

Regarding some history of the big tree, at one point someone logged in everyday and recorded the number of users and charted it here:

It started snowballing, grew very quickly and has been an absolute mess for a long time. Things are finally starting to get cleaned up but the cleanup process has upset a lot of the users who want private trees. I don't think geni anticipated that it would grow nearly as quickly as it did. I also don't think they anticipated the enormous number of duplicate profiles that would be created via gedcom import.

As for the big tree vs private trees I can understand that some users want private trees. What I don't understand is why they are using geni instead of family tree maker or ancestry.com or myheritage.com. Geni is the only family tree website whose main goal is one tree for the whole world so why use this website if you want a private tree?

Don't flame me, it is just my opinion.

10/29/2010 at 2:28 PM

The "big tree" is not a bad idea. I think thaht the implemetatin is a little incorrect.
If someone starts a "professional" tree with a lot of research hours - someone else that enterd the tree by merging - can do real damage if he has no self discipline or understanding of his actions.
I think that changing data of a profile can be done only after the real manager approved it.
maybe we need a "chage request"

10/29/2010 at 2:30 PM

Daniel your right - but i still think in this age of computer technology there could be a way for us all to at least retain part of our trees as private untill we are sure we belong or want to merge - yet seeing those of the big tree under ours; and other being able to view ours - thus we are still sharing data, colloborating and making sure that a line or profile is correct or as correct as possible before connecting

i was not lucky enought o have been able to gedcom my line in - which is of over 10,000 people; I chose to carry out each set of grandparents, listing their children and each child who married I carried out there family 7 spouses -

Like I said our original profiles are there somewhere down the line of all those merges - whether it can be done again i am not sure - but it takes hours and hours of work to follow all those blue dots, the yellow triangles and those greene dot's with the

i guess I was very gulliable and did not understand what "mess the big tree" was in - when I jumped at the one single request to join her family group and collobrate - -

I amde alot of enemies I think during my process of doing just what geni help reps told me to do - disconnect and then follow very blue dot, and yellow triangle and break up the merges into my tree - - - needless to say I seen horrendous errors and many uncalled for - - its as if they did not read they only saw a 'john Smith' and 'mary smith' and they merge them not matching spouses, or parents - and as fast as I unmeged them someone would reconnect them even if it was a nephew marrying his uncles wife or a granson marrying his grandfathers wife

The four mooonths of workign almost 24/7 restoring and correcting my one branch was a real eye-opener as the the problems that existed with the 'big tree'

10/29/2010 at 2:35 PM

Daniel, I share your sentiments. Being a part of the 'big tree' is beneficial in many ways, and the original reason I thought Geni was a good idea in the first place. If one is to spend thousands of hours doing personal research, why not concentrate only on areas that have never been touched by anyone else before? Why try to 'reinvent the wheel' when you can, instead, make better use of your time off the beaten path? One way to do that is to first acquire copies of all the research that has already been done. This 'big tree' contains a lot of previously done research, and a lot of it needs work done on it for further proof. When you discover something in previous research that is questionable, spend your research time proving or disproving that. You will, also, always find an ancestral grandmother whose family history has not been researched, so why not spend your time in the archives researching those lines rather than trying to duplicate someone else's efforts(?).

10/29/2010 at 2:43 PM

Since april the big tree has come along way in my one branch I had so much trouble with - but I have not even had the interest of goign there and working - I only take a peak now and then to see how it looks - which is a _ alot better than when when i was with in one family of recovering my tree and was talked back into colloborating - and then I just left after takign off all but the line that was connected to the tree I had my whole ancestry in there as I do today (back then it was the direct lineage from me backwayrds but it was there with my brick walls and all of my husbands Scotland lines - I keep dreaming someone researching them will show up and help fill in alot of blanks and questions that exist there -

when I left the one branch had vicous cyles of up 10x's behind a name - and breaking just was one of those was a major break through - and it jumped you around ling a ping pong ball bouncing off of 4 brick walls and you never ended up on on of you own profiles - - only having to start but punching tree and climbing back up the ladder to where you were working .

Well need to get back to adding the emery aunts/uncles and the created the 2x's in the Hardesty, Emery, Mewhirter, & Edington lineage are truly accurate as cousin married cousins down the line sometimes they married into more than once when you get down far enough -

10/29/2010 at 2:43 PM

Tim -if GENi was open only for qualified researches - i agree with you.
but that not the case. *everyone* can start a tree and then merge profiles and make a real mess.
one that creates a tree must have the option to protect his research from "friendly but not proffesional" changes

10/29/2010 at 2:51 PM

I truly believe a lot of concerns are addressed by the programs Geni has implemented over the last few months. Are they clear to everyone? Since they're so new they may not be.

1. The Master Profile

The idea is that there will be one single well documented copy of every historical figure. The best data is retained, the garbage thrown out, the profile validated and eventually locked down so new users "hook on" but cannot change data.

2. The Project

Projects are collaborative efforts to enrich profiles in groupings limited only by our imagination: family lines (Adams Family), events (Signers of the Declaration of Independence), places (Huguenots of the Carolinas).

Projects enable collaborators to:

- merge together duplicate copies to create one Master Profile
- document and research together
- straighten out /correct / validate the family line

Geni just implemented "project discussions" -- which means that the quality of public discussion has just jumped up a notch. :) Future releases planned include the ability to store shared documents and images *in* the Project, which means the PC's will be able to select the profile image instead of being stuck with something inherited, as an example.

Project Collaborators are the natural "interest group" to look after a Profile / set of Profiles. They are vested. Surely the quality and accuracy of the tree will improve vastly as a result.

10/29/2010 at 3:03 PM

If "the ultimate goal of Geni is to create a single, accurate family tree that connects all of our users"--.the "Big Tree," then it follows that we need a "Big Public Source Document Library" to document and support it.

If we have everyone on the "Big Tree," we're going to need all of the census records for all of the people in the "Big Tree." So, why are we storing one page of the census under one profile (because that profile's owner loaded that page of the census into Geni) and another page of the census under another person's profile (because s/he loaded that page of the census into Geni) and a third page of the census under another profile, etc. etc. etc. Also, since there are 30-40 people on a census page, storing census pages under profiles leads to duplicate storage of census pages. If everyone is in the "Big Tree," we need all of the pages of the census, and I think they should be stored in one place.

The same thing is true of any source document that is basically a list: censuses, ship passenger lists, college and high school yearbooks, college annuals, annual registers and alumni bulletins, military draft registrations, marriage books, tax rolls/receipts, property ownership/sales records, directories and the Social Security Death Index. There are numerous examples of secondary source documents, such as lists of births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, divorces, naturalization records, miltary service, and deaths. These lists are often collected by a location (e.g. a church, city, county, state or country) and for a specified timeframe (e.g. a specific year or a series of years). Lists of people buried in a cemeteries are also common.

All of these documents belong in a "Big Public Source Document Library" with appropriate searching, selecting/filtering and sorting capabilities. IMHO

Private User
10/29/2010 at 3:22 PM

I am in a few of those projects and we have a lot of work even when we divide it up. : )

Any many of you make great points. I started my tree with my family and added each and every profile as I had no program to up load..just old school. All my records are in 30 or more file boxes.

But like many, my family use our tree as a tool to teach our children about history though the eyes of their grandparents and great grandparents...all those who came before us. It gets them excited about history and learning about family.
When I 1st joined it was not clear that there was a big tree, nor that was the "sole purpose " of this site. I am part of it now and work with it, but I have family members that no longer use this site.

One thing that many don't understand, most of the younger people who are on here, or those whose families have not gone though hardship some people are just very private. When asking family to help I have had doors shut in my face, told to leave "sleeping dogs lie". These families don't want to share with outsiders, even if they are family no matter how close or distant. On this site I have been able to bring together family members who have lost track of a siblings line for as long as 100 years. We were all just urban legends. LOL

But really, when your family has been chased out of their home state due to war, as in the civil war, or because a state as in VA deems you to be black, mu...or whatever, even if you are only Native American, it makes families closed. If you have never gone though that, you can't understand it. This is part of the problem with the big tree. No one steps back and asks why are they not wanting to merge, they just don't care and bully members into something they don't want. We need to be careful. I like meeting new cousins, working on a project..it takes the strain off of one person, we don't duplicate over and over again. Well thats what we hope. LOL

But others got on this site not knowing of the big tree and thought that they were only going to be working with family members that the knew. We can't beat them up, we have to learn how to work with them. Kindness and understanding can go a long way.

10/29/2010 at 3:23 PM

yes the damage is not only done to those of the so called "proffessional " but to all of us - geni Lines up a set of profiles conflicts and we mus t"choose" from the data given - we do have to "change' someone's data if it not our own, one of those listed - or the merge will not be completed and thus we still have x amount of existing profiles for the one profile - - if there are ten people with 10 diffirenet answers for an event or all events then which one is correct - who gets the privilege of saying that the data is correct or incorreect - - presonnally i don't like the idea of lining up of the 2-10 may even 20 profiles and having to second geuss someone else's work - but that is the way Geni has set it up - we are forced to chose the best answer from A - B - or c just like we had to do on school exams!

And I hope you still have you own original files in PAF, Family tree or such as I do - and they are up side by side with Geni when i work - if an even is answered I fill my blank spot in - it there is documentation to support it i add it - and as I go along i add documentation to the profiles if I feel there is a need to supprt the "change" of data.

i am sorry geni is not really the place for a die hard 'professional genealogist' or so I was told several times - i do not count my self profesional as I do not have the degree or training or licensing behind me to back me up but i have spent 34 year researching documenting etc. etc.

10/29/2010 at 3:37 PM

I like this discussion, hopefully it's going places. Much has been said that I do agree on, but I will still add a few cents of my own.

- Apply some logic to the following sentences & see the writing on the wall:


"Company Summary : Geni is solving the problem of genealogy by inviting the world to build the definitive online family tree. [...] Matching trees are then merged into the single world family tree, which currently contains nearly 40 million ancestors and living users."



The 'higher purpose' of the Big Tree is made pretty crisp & clear by those statements, they do also illustrate how integrated this thought is with the overall purpose of Geni as a company. Easy as pie, yes? How this was formulated in the past, I do not remember, but the current wording sure leaves little room for misleading maneuvers. Of course things may change overnight; most active 'Genians' are fairly accustomed to that. Still, if you for whatever reason don't agree with the current company summary - you will likely not be a very happy chap here.

Some will never 'get' the grander idea of this long term, one tree, and constant "work in progress" status of things. Some even want to fight it. Personally I have always sided with Geni on the "one tree mission" & also feel that the current corporate summary should be clear enough & easy to comprehend for most.

For me, the fairly open & collaborative environment on a big tree is the primary reason I chose this site over many other businesses. No other online genealogy site even comes close to the environment, tools, cost & community on offer here, apart from those offering actual records, of course. There simply is no realistic alternative good enough today - which is also a probable reason to why so many "haters" still decide to stay & dwell here to push personal agendas & opinion for their cause into various degrees of privacy lockdown. I understand them. It’s however also easily understandable that this is in stark contrast to Geni's end game. With full privacy in effect, when it comes to added profiles, there would be no point in choosing Geni & the site would fade into mediocrity.

The 'open environment paired with friendly collaboration & an active community' is the key to success here, the unique selling point of Geni & as long as privacy is balanced fairly, it just works. Why anyone who wishes their data to be private, secure, unexposed & left alone even considers entering any of it online is just beyond me. Read Murphy's law & return educated along with backups of your 'stuff'.

I'm not advocating that every bit of our entered data has to be fully accessed & on display for everyone, we still have to have nuances, degrees of privacy & people should have options to choose their data exposure level. With this & the company summary in mind, there still has to be a certain degree of data exposure or Geni basically fails. We are not doing Swiss banking here, it's probably in most of our interest to 'leak' information to some degree - no new findings or exchange of information/data would otherwise be possible.

Remember, wanting a public tree for genealogy is not the same as wishing to violate someone’s personal integrity or hang them out to dry. I know, I know, just because you are not paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not out to get you. Still though, even with the best of intentions, mistakes & misunderstandings can happen.

People will in all likelihood continue to mix up the notions of 'personal privacy' & 'private tree' in the Geni context. Some good folks seemingly just love to misunderstand this & will keep up their fight with the windmills. In the meantime, why don't you & I go collaborate, check facts & provide sources for getting a step closer to making the grand big tree a reality? And sure, you can have access to my data. Why not?


10/29/2010 at 4:03 PM

Joe Brous Buttrill

I am a thinking of doing an MLS (Masters in Library Science) program, so you're talking my language.

There are numerous obstacles toward implementing these kinds of shared digital repositories on geni, but I believe we can work toward designing and ultimately getting geni to implement it.

Spin off into another thread?

Private User
10/29/2010 at 4:03 PM

When I started my family tree, my intention was quite far from belonging to the big or biggest tree in the world. I only wanted to go back to my ancestors' story and know more about them. I do agree to collaborate with information if someone requires about any profile I might help with but that doesn't mean I like everyone merging trees with mine if : 1) he's not my relative 2) he hasn't been allowed.
If the purpose of the big tree is to show we're all connected to each other, that's a fact that even needs not to be proved. It's more interesting for me to discover my ancestors by my own working hard to do so, that's the best way to really learn about them than someone just adds it to my tree and I find him or her there, without having demanded any effort from my side. Perhaps not everyone will understand this but I believe that the best work is the one that has demanded the best of you, not the one that has come form others as a gift, not as an interchange of information.
Best regards,

10/29/2010 at 4:04 PM

Heheh.... clear Nordic statement :)
Many people have forgotten that PC has power button and to protect your privacy is enough just push them.
Just push the button and not argue about rights.... easy....?

Private User
10/29/2010 at 4:29 PM


I am a Pro and have been a member since '08. My fascination with Geni is not geneaology but the challenge of a good puzzle. I have seen Geni grow through several phases and therefore I look at the evolution of this community in the long term. We have gone from a wilderness phase where there were few connections and the so-called "cloud" was in the distant future to a frontier phase where small towns began to grow around historic profiles to a lawless cowboy phase where the cowboys began hanging around the big towns and there were lots of gunfights and turf wars. We are now entering the phase where the civilized folk have decided it is time to settle down, make laws and bring order to the chaos. As it was in times past, we old-time cowboys are no longer needed and are being left outside the barbed wire and everyone hopes that we will find some sunset to ride into.

After waxing poetic for a bit, I think some concrete suggestions are in order. First we need to find a way to secure the correct data for the historic profiles without locking out those who are trying to do valid work. Geni needs to put blocks on stacking and merging the profiles of non-collaborators who wish to remain outside of the cloud. If they have no collaborators, they should be unavailable to merge or even view. The possible exception to this would be the ability to duplicate a profile or group of profiles that have better data than the cloud and then be able to merge those into the cloud. Dennis Aubrey has some great data in his lines but we can't bring it into the cloud because he doesn't collaborate.

We are going through a phase right now that could best be illustrated by the presence of the growing pains of adolescence. Geni needs to decide how it will serve its important stakeholders. Should Geni allow the Curators to take ownership of the historic profiles by granting them extraordinary rights and permissions thereby excluding others who have also worked hard alongside them to create the Cloud? Should they open the system back up and allow anyone to do anything their heart desires without regard to valid genealogical practice? Should Geni allow the non-collaborators to hide in their own worlds and not even see the Cloud unless they are willing to collaborate? I am 100% sure that Geni believes that the answer lies not in creating a perfect geneaological world but in providing the most positive user experience for each and every user in a way that keeps the interest level up, allows each stakeholder to share in the ownership, and most importantly provides a path of advancement for all users to go all of the way from amateur newby to revenue generating Pro to experienced Curator. Otherwise, they will be forming exclusive clubs with closed membership. That will result in eventual financial failure.

Those are my thoughts. I hope that you accept them as honest and constructive.


Private User
10/29/2010 at 6:37 PM

Lots of good points in the above. Definitely better in a separate discussion than being part of a "friends or followers" discussion.

Geni certainly should think harder about document storage and access. One document (referring to many people): one place; with easy ways of linking to it from any of the people listed.

Familypedia is working that way, with categories and Semantic MediaWiki making searches and linking easy. Geni's "big tree" is a good idea but not unique. Familypedia has similar projects - e.g. familypedia.wikia.com/wiki/Project_Charlemagne - and capabilities. But it starts with an attempt to have just one profile per person, not throwing millions together and then sorting out the mess. And all changes are recorded and reversible, even if the original authors have gone away and/or decided to be "private".

I put my 13,000-strong gedcom on Geni when invited to, and I've cooperated with requests to merge, but Geni's software has significant flaws (as several people have noted above) and is not very conducive to intelligent collaboration, and I don't actively develop my parts of the tree here. Good luck to those of you who do!

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