Time to kill the Family Membership

+26 votes

I'm not sure what was the rationale behind the Family Membership (nobody consulted ME), but I think it's clear by now that it causes more confusion. People think they've signed up as members and discover they can't do things members should be able to do, not knowing why.

If WikiTree wants to make it easier for new members to join, I would suggest:

One level of membership. A member is a member.

One requirement: Sign the Honor Code. As this is the sole requirement, its importance should be emphasized.

The requirement to Volunteer is redundant.  If you sign the Honor Code you are a fortiori volunteering. It just stands as an unnecessary hurdle to new members.

The requirement to add tags is unnecessary. It confuses people. If members want to add tags to their profiles, they are free to do this.

in Policy and Style by Lois Tilton G2G6 Pilot (139k points)
edited by Jillaine Smith

kiss Well said, Lois. 

Couldn't agree more. When I joined I just had to answer the question why, I think. I'd probably have moved on if faced with tag (what are tags, I would have asked, and do I really want to get my inbox all filled up?).
A good portion of the sign-up process is changing (Friday?) that will address some of these issues, but the Family Member level is staying.

I'm very excited, Jamie! I know you guys have worked very hard on this and I thank you. smiley

4 Answers

+15 votes
I have several relatives who are Family Members.  They signed up as favors to me, because I wanted their DNA tests listed on WikiTree.  They don't care about the Honor Code.  They don't want to edit profiles.  I was grateful they spent the few minutes they did to help me out.  Making things more difficult for them would not help WikiTree.
by Anonymous Kelts G2G6 Pilot (512k points)
My ex is a Family Member and is happy to leave it that way.
Who is going to force such persons to edit profiles if they don't care about it?  What I propose should not make things more difficult for them - it streamlines the membership process. No separate Volunteer step, no mandatory tags.
My point was, why should they sign the Honor Code if they are not going to edit profiles?

There have been past G2G discussions about whether we should make it easier for people to sign up.  I recall opinions being expressed, for example, that even a question about DNA, even one that simply asked if the person had any interest in DNA, would be alienating.  So do you not think that, likewise, being asked to study and sign an Honor Code would put people off, when all they are trying to do is sign up and list their DNA tests?  Especially when you propose that we emphasize its importance?
As Julie says -- I doubt anyone I have who may become a Family Member would be all that interested in signing the Honor Code.

Even my one genealogy-interested cousin has not done that.  He remains a Family Member by choice.
You said your point was not making it difficult for them.

But if it's too difficult for someone to read and agree to the Honor Code to become a member, why should they become a member at all?  Why should they want to?

If having their DNA entered into the WT system is important enough to them that they want to join, perhaps they should show that basic respect for the system here.

My concern is with people who do actually want to be members here, who do want to edit profiles, to remove unnecessary and confusing obstacles to the process. The Family Membership, I assume, was intended to make the process easier for such persons; it manifestly has not done this; it has made the confusion worse.
It wasn't important to them!  It was important to me!  I am the family genealogist.  They only did the tests in the first place as favors to me, and at my expense.  

Maybe the family membership should be a separate track for such people, and there should be a way for people signing up to choose their status from the beginning.
I gave Lois an upvote earlier, Julie, but I can see why your family members only opted for the "family membership" at your urging and why having such a membership option is a good one.

I think you are right that knowing about the types of membership from the outset would eliminate much of the confusion Lois is describing. I just logged out to see what the joining experience is like now. No explanation of the membership types on the home page, none on the next page where you put in your name, create a password. Not wanting to establish a second account, I did not go any further, but I assume the membership types are explained on the next page after you actually sign up rather than before.

I also think there was some concern when this new level of membership was discussed that calling it "family membership" could create some issues. To Lois' mind, there is confusion. So, naming the memberships differently may be a way to alleviate some of the problem, too.

I think this can be resolved without "killing" the membership option but tweaking it to make it less confusing.
There used to be other website (or maybe there still are) where they used the term "Family Membership." Everyone in a family group had the same contribution and editing rights. I think that is the confusion.

But you are correct that everything should be spelled out on the first page one encounters. You should not have to sign up first. In fact, many sorts of websites require you to sign up to see what they are offering. They are offering an opportunity for me to hit that little "x" in the corner and close my browser!
+3 votes

I think that it is a good idea to have different membership levels But not Guest and Family Member and Wiki Genealogist. Just two levels would be better.  However it needs to be made clearer what people can do at each level. So something like this would make it clearer

  • Family Member or a different name : Can create up to Grandparents/First Cousins or 150 years ago born whichever is less. If profiles are already created they must ask to be on trusted list to edit. Can upload DNA tests. Can Upload Gedcoms
  • Wiki Genealogist : Signs the Honor Code and can do anything subject to pre-1700 & pre-1500 tests
There was a G2G question recently where a Family Member wanted to link to and edit a profile that was born in 1710. It is the question makers fifth great grandfather. The question maker may have felt that was a close family member to them. 
The restrictions need to be clear as to what they are as currently they are not clear and subject to interpretation issues. 
by Darren Kellett G2G6 Pilot (185k points)
That's just the kind of case I see going on, frustrating the new members.
+5 votes

I agree with your idea in large part, Lois. What I think is needed is a more actionable plan for what it would look like. 

The biggest difference between the account types is the permissions which each has. And I think it might be helpful for each member to have a clear little box on his profile and/or navigation home page a little info box which shows his account level and what editing permissions he has. 

One could re-factor the current membership levels to a set of permission levels:

Level Current Permissions Action
1  Guest  + G2G
 + comment
 • Create account.
2  Family  + edit recent family
(when on trusted list?)
+ Attach DNA info
 • Confirm account.
 (Not a bot.)
3  Genealogist  + create profiles
 + other benefits
 • Sign honor code.
4  "  + edit pre-1700  • Account > 1 week old
 • Over 50 contributions
 • Take the quiz  
5  "  + edit pre-1500  • Zero unsourced profiles  
 • Join a project  
 • Participate
 • Get certified.
...  ...

It is a rather confusing set-up having 3 types of accounts, rather than one type of account with different permissions. As you wrote, 

People think they've signed up as members and discover they can't do things members should be able to do, not knowing why.

Switching from "account types" to one with explicit permissions and required steps should solve that. By having a clear progression of permissions, the path to progress is clear to users and would probably streamline things more. And it offers the same functional benefits (restricting those who aren't ready to commit) that having the different account types offers.

I agree that the requirement to "volunteer" is redundant as an expression, however it is useful for two purposes: (1) It engages users with real human greeters who can act as a guide and friendly face to answer further questions and (2) it essentially functions as a check to ensure that a new user is actually a human editor. Since the "Family Member" level is essentially doing the same through a familial relationships with a current user, we could place the confirmation step here. In that way, someone who isn't closely related to a current member can get a basic account to get connected upon being greeted. So perhaps the "volunteering" step could be re-tooled to ask the user, as a 2nd step, "Why are you interested in WikiTree?... or something like that. Ideally I would make this some kind of direct input box, which can be immediately answered, rather than the current semi-vague method of commenting on one's profile.

Changing to a clearer progression of permissions would also address some of the problems in the terminology around users. I'm really uncomfortable with the term "Family Member" as an account type, since that's a real-world term, e.g. my mother is a family member, but she is not a Family Member, which is creates an inexcusably rude implication that those who are not on WikiTree aren't considered (thought of) as "family members" by a user. (I've addressed some of the issues around account type terminology in my response to Chris Whitten's post, "Should non-wiki genealogists be WikiTree members?" and also my response to "Input on plan for welcoming more genealogists and highlighting genealogical interests?")

And frankly "Wiki Genealogist" just sounds clanky. And technically it applies to those who use WeRelate.org... also a wiki-based genealogy platform. WikiTree is, at its core, not a technology (more like a cartoon snowball of tech, that picks up more disparate pieces as it rolls down the mountainside!) but rather a community, and a community is defined by its membership. Users should just be called "WikiTree members", a term which I hope would encourage them to take pride and contribute in line with that.

There are some real potential benefits to having an easier experience joining and participating in WikiTree. New users might just want to "lurk" for a while, and that's okay. But those users should also be able to connect to the tree in order to get a fuller taste of the benefits. A better user experience helps those lurkers gradually trickle up the ladder to become useful contributors. 

by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (129k points)
Very thoughtful post, JN.

It has apparently been already decided On High, but were I to be asked, I would eliminate the Family Membership in your hierarchy and retain only Guest Member, allowing them to upload their own DNA but NOT edit profiles other than their own.

Editing profiles of others should be reserved to signers of the Honor Code.

Well, the plan to change the sign-up process was discussed a couple months ago here: https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/979886/welcoming-genealogists-highlighting-genealogical-interests

But that will, I think, address one of your concerns. 

And perhaps in a year or so, after the community has some experience with the new process, we'll be in a better place to evaluate whether further change is needed. 

+2 votes
In the past there have been many cases of people signing up and then forgetting they'd ever joined.  With no watchlist and no tags, they'd get no emails.

I suppose the point of having to select tags is to try to ensure that people get the daily emails, which have propaganda value even if no useful information.

Hopefully people might glance at the email and their eyes might be drawn to something that will induce them to click on a link and actually visit the site.
by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (570k points)
And many people get so frustrated with the constant emails they abandon the site altogether.  Until I killed some tags, my inbox was inundated.
Only one daily email is tag-driven.

Following fewer tags might mean you post in fewer g2g threads.  But apart from that, it shouldn't make any difference to the amount of email.

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