Is anyone working to make the WikiTree software user friendly?

+8 votes
698 views
The creators of the Wikipedia decided to use software which would make it as easy as possible to enter and edit data.  In contrast, I find the WikiTree software profoundly difficult to use.  I have other trees to submit, but cannot yet face the prospect of going through all the steps to incorporate them in WikiTree.  It should not take more than one click to say that two people match or do not match, and after having done so it should not be necessary to scroll about looking for the next candidate.  I found most of the suggested or candidate matches quite impossible, only a few being remotely likely.  If it is really necessary to include poor matches, then matches should be sorted by match-quality, so that new users such as myself will not become discouraged by wading through many low-quality ones.  I am sorry to be so critical, but making the software easy to use is VITAL.  Unless that is achieved, WikiTree will no succeed.  As a retired software professional, I am quite willing and able to help, if there is anyone else working on it.
in WikiTree Tech by Doug Wilson G2G Crew (380 points)
You've got my vote!!

Even breaking your work down into smaller gedcom files results in a lot of manual entry to get names in the required format and re-connecting families.

One of the things that set's WikiTree apart from all of the others is that We cite sources. If you upload a GEDCOM file the sources will not transfer properly so you are going to have to edit EVERY profile after the upload. That means you will not save any time by using a GEDCOM upload, in fact I have found that it takes much more work to go that route and I did mine back when we had much less restrictions on an upload. That is the reason it is difficult, to discourage those who do not really want to do the work.  And we are growing larger every day so we must be doing something right.

You can just make a good profile for yourself and your parents and then add siblings, etc. as you work on those and before you know it you'll connect to profiles that already exist.

I am sorry, but I just cannot agree with Dale Byers that one would save no time by uploading a Gedcom.  Even if every single record has to be edited by hand at some point in time, it is much much easier to edit a record than create it from scratch.  The fact that WikiTree cites sources does not change this at all.  It is much easier to edit a record, adding or removing source data, than it is to type in all that data by hand.

I regularly use the Wikipedia, which strongly urges its contributors to cite sources.  If you look at typical Wikipedia pages, you will see a list of footnote citations at the bottom of each page.  If a page contains too much unsourced material, the Wikipedia automatically inserts a warning to the reader before any of the text.  There are almost always some contributors who will work very hard to make those warnings go away, either by finding and adding source citations or deleting spurious stuff.  As a result, the Wikipedia is surprisingly reliable -- as a study published in the respected science journal Nature demonstrated.  Yet the Wikipedia has expanded explosively, becoming better all the time.  Its success has led to what is literally an exponential growth, quantity, depth and quality encouraging every more quantity, depth and quality.  That is success.  It is quantifiable success, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Statistics  for information.

I would urge you to consider judging the success of the WikiTree in the same quantitative ways, and trying hard to make it more successful.  Key to doing that, I think, is to make it as easy as possible to collaborate in growing an accurate tree.  Certainly do not make it as easy as possible to incorporate masses of unreliable information into the tree as if it was gospel, no, but make it easy for people to upload, compare and collaborate, yes.   I am a retired software professional and could help do this, but I'd need to be put in touch with the people who currently maintain and improve the software.

Looking at all of the comments I see both sides of this argument. In the current format GEDCOM's are a cumbersome way of adding to the tree and require a lot of work and editing to produce accurate well sourced profiles. In the current state large GEDCOM's should not be uploaded to WikiTree but it is very important to think outside the box like Doug is suggesting to help the tree to evolve into something that becomes more and more user friendly so that we have the quantity of contributors necessary to grow a world tree.
I realize this is an old post but I'm new to WT, and I am already encountering problems with it. I am sorry to be critical as well, but WT is not user-friendly.   I've spent quite a bit of time (years) on my family tree, but I will not manually add all of my data to WT.  The creators of WT should take a look at some of the software programs that have been around awhile.    

Someone commented that once you've entered your grandparents, the odds are pretty good that they will connect with people already there. And that is true, but there are too many so-called researchers uninterested in actual research.  Many appear to be copying trees that may be sourced, but not by them, and they have no idea if the information is correct.  I've already experienced this on WT.  I connected to another tree that includes the same erroneous data I've seen over and over again for many years.

Also, I found many pages on WT next to impossible to read.  The headers are too large to read the pages comfortably.

WT was a great idea, but if the creators are not open to suggestions and improvements, WT will not be successful.

3 Answers

+11 votes
Doug, new users are encouraged to hand load a number of profiles to acquaint themselves with procedures.  You've been here, what? a day? and sure it's not quite what you'd expected.  Play around, enter  your grandparents manually, and their parents. That's twelve profiles, not many.

Once you've entered your great grandparents, the odds are pretty good that they will connect with people already here.

 I have yet to upload a GEDCOM, and at one time I had 13,800 profiles on my Watchlist. all entered by hand.

Wikitree isn't about software, it's about one large tree.
by Tom Bredehoft G2G6 Pilot (194k points)
You are to be commended on your industry, but I believe you are exceptional.  If everyone was like you, I think WikiTree would be moderately successful.  If that is all you want, then I can ensure you of my cooperation, but not my enthusiasm.  There are a great many enthusiastic genealogists out there, but few will use a site which doesn't make it easy to import all the hard work they have already done.  Perhaps you have no interest in the contributions of those people, but I do.  Anyway, you did not answer my question:  Is anyone working to make the WikiTree software user friendly?  Perhaps you find it easy to use for your specific task, manual data entry, and do not care about the people who have already spent years manually entering data into some other system.  Well, I think you should care.  Please answer the question as asked.
I agree it is not about the software. For me Wikitree is about the COLLABORATION, and help from friends that I made on WT, to improve the facts and sources on profiles. I have been on WT since 2011 and have seen many software improvements and a great willingness of the Tech team to implement changes requested by members.

Doug I have uploaded a gedcom, but wish that I actually went the route of capturing them one by one. That way I would have been able to check and re-evaluate my sources one by one to make sure that what I add to the one big tree is reliable and correct. My GEDCOM was full of smart matches from paid sites with almost no or incorrect sources.

I would also suggest that you manually enter a few family members and see if you get a connection. It really takes time to get the whole concept of Wikitree under the belt but once you do it is very rewarding and with all the great people working very hard to improve the site Wikitree can only get better.
When I dispatched for laidlaw Waste Systems now Allied we had an old AS-400 mainframe, they are now dinosaurs, however the merging is about the same as merging(same person) two separate routes into one= we always transferred/moved all the customers/stops/pick ups to the primary route(if we did not it created duplicates same as here) & never deleted the other lesser route, just left it blank w/ no customers. Only difference merging here is the higher number is removed from the system upon completed merger/when system up-date takes place. However to seriously answer your question... I failed lol :)
Yes, collaboration, I agree, that is the thing, and it's what excited me most about WikiTree.  As I understood it, the idea was that entries I made would compared with existing ones, and when two matching individuals were found, the users studying those individuals would henceforth collaborate.

I did not want to just dump a mass of data into your system and have it accepted as gospel, I wanted to find people to work with.  Though my Gedcom is not pretty, I think it accurate and well-sourced,  I included 164 people.  The comparison report I got back gave me an average of about two possible matches for 64 people.  Most of these were very unlikely, people with entirely different names, dates and location.  I think I was able to find 5 actual matches, which might mean collaborating with 3 people.  It took hours just to go through this list and toss out the bad matches.  It could have and should have taken about 10 minutes.
Doug, Welcome to WikiTree! It's a great place to be! You'll meet cousins working on the same ancestors, and you may find information for family lines that you thought were complete dead ends. Please work on WikiTree for a couple of months before you try to figure out how to make it work better. One of the things you are going to discover about uploading a gedcom: For each of those people that have matches, and are already on WikiTree, you will have to manually go back and connect them to the people in your tree. This does not happen automatically. I have been working on WikiTree for about 2 1/2 years. I started with a gedcom, and I'm still finding profiles from that gedcom I need to clean up. The advice to manually enter your parents, grandparents, and their siblings, and to get used to how WikiTree works, is excellent advice. After you've been here for a couple of months, you may also decide that uploading a gedcom is actually more labor intensive than entering profiles one by one.
WikiTree is about software. Without the software we would be still keeping our family information in Bibles or shoeboxes. WikiTree could not exist without current technology and must keep up to speed with new ideas and advancements. Yes GEDCOM's should not be able to be uploaded without checks and double checks. It's ironic though that GEDCOm's are the way most newcomers to WikiTree begin adding information. A "simpler way" not a "less accurate" way would certainly be welcomed by all, I'm sure. Easy is better if it is still accurate. I think Doug is talking about making things easier without loosing accuracy...requiring the ability to think outside the box.
Doug:

That effort that you went through in reviewing the matches in an uploaded Gedcom is one of the several reasons why experienced WikiTreers recommend starting with a very small Gedcom.

And when you add profiles one at a time, you can see on a small scale how the WikiTree matching algorithms work (and sometimes don't work). That will make it easier to deal with the matches reported for a Gedcom.
Yes, I understand about starting with a small Gedcom.  I actually have about 18,000 people in my tree, which includes the ancestors of my daughter and nieces, plus many of their relations.  I subsetted this down to 164 people to get a Gedcom to input into WikiTree.  My comment was provoked by what I still see as pointless difficulties with the user interface and a matching algorithm which produced rather absurd suggested matches. I don't think it would be hard to fix these problems, and offered to help.

Wow, if this is the Doug Wilson I so often cite as a resource for my Singletary  line?  I am so excited to have you here. i agree that things on Wikitree could be more user friendly software-wise, but I think you will find in terms of collaboration this is a very friendly place. I tried importing a small GEDCOM (250) and found the experience useless - no one matched. I have now at last count entered 1202 new profiles since November - a long tedious  task. But in the end I welcome it, I have discovered a few major errors in my tree and a lot of opportunities for newer data (my base tree was begun in the 1930s.)   What I do wish was there was an easier way to transfer over photos and other resources I uploaded to Ancestry.com amd now want to upload here. Instead i often cite my Ancestry tree as a resource until I get the opportunity to transfer/reupload each resource. 

Welcome to WikiTree.

Susan

+11 votes
Is anyone working to make WikiTree Software better? YES! But Better is not easier and with WikiTree being around for over 5 years and growing every day I do think that it is already "successful". When the push is to get people to enter accurate sources and not to make merges that are wrong, easier is not better.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
Thank you, Dale, I'm not cognizant of the software improvements, so unable to answer the OP's question
Tom I do know programming but I am not involved with the actual work on any WikiCode. Having said that my point is this some of the things that Doug dos not like have happened recently to try and fix the problems of many duplicate and undated unsourced uploads that will be causing problems for a long time yet. My point is that when things were easier to upload GEDCOM's we were starting to become a very messy poorly sourced site for fiction that we need to correct by making it more difficult to create duplicate bad profiles, and that is the reason we attract serious  genealogists.
Your goal of making it "more difficult to create duplicate bad profiles" is entirely consistent with the goal of making WikiTree easy to use.  Putting up guardrails to prevent cars from driving over the edge of a cliff or into oncoming traffic is entirely consistent with paving or widening the road to make it easier to travel over.

I like the idea that people are required to verify by hand that each individual they are adding is not the duplicate of some existing one.  This should, however, require one click for each possible match, no, no, no, yes, maybe, no, no, yes, no.  I don't know if any of you experts have actually tried to read in a Gedcom lately, but it is much much more difficult than that.  I have several other Gedcoms that I'd like to import, but I dread going through that process again.  I think that all of the concerns you have about collecting good information with proper sources can be satisfied with software which would make this process easy and interesting rather than unpleasant.
I just worked on one today and will probably have another one to work with tomorrow, but I am downloading them and would never waste my time uploading one here because even when I did it and it was much easier then there is always going to be more work editing the created profiles than would be needed to enter everything without the upload, that is if you really want quality profiles on WikiTree.
I have no idea why Dale Byers thinks that "there is always going to be more work editing the created profiles than would be needed to enter everything without the upload".  How can that possibly be?   Let us say that one had a perfectly clean Gedcom, such as might be obtained, for example, by downloading a subtree carefully created by hand, but for a largely different set up people, not currently in WikiTree.  If the Gedcom is perfectly clean, and correct, then surely the result of uploading it would be just as good as typing the data in by hand.  If it is extremely messy and full of junk, then yes, of course it would be easier to start from scratch, but to say that it will always be more work to edit than enter makes no sense at all to me.
Doug, Please listen to the voices of experience here on WikiTree! I understand that you're trying to save time. We're trying to help you.
The "voices of experience" are telling Doug that the system for uploading gedcom files is crap and the attendant problems in the aftermath are a huge hassle.

Doug wants to know if anyone is trying to improve the situation, and generously offering to assist.
Gerry, I appreciate what you're saying. I know that Chris and others are working on making gedcom uploads work better. I think moving a gedcom file from any software to any other software is always going to have a potential for serious problems. But when Doug has been here only a few days, has barely worked on WikiTree and has never uploaded a gedcom, I think it's too early for him to know how to 'fix' the situation. I just checked. Doug has uploaded about 100 profiles in a gedcom. Doug, please let us know how it went!
Gerry, what you and Doug are missing is that the problem is not with the method of uploading the GEDCOM that is the problem but rather that WikiTree uses different data fields and stores information differently than any other program. So when you upload a GEDCOM the fields do not match and the program generates a lot of clutter that has to be edited later. If your GEDCOM has only names and birth or death dates then the profile will be labeled as Unsourced and that is another whole can of worms. You would still have to go back and add sources to them. The other problem is that most GEDCOMs do not have sources but those that do they do not transfer properly due to the way our profiles are set up. In this year alone the number of profiles on here has gone from about 9 million to over 11 million so I think we are growing pretty well the way things are and in fact there were several changes to the way things work on here just announced today so things are constantly changing and we are experiencing steady growth so the problems are not as bad as some would have us believe.
Dale, thanks for your great explanation!
Chris will be making an announcement about some GEDCOM improvements either later today or tomorrow.

Doug, one thing to keep in mind is that to keep WikiTree free we have a very small paid staff which limits our ability to make lots of changes quickly.  But our tech folks work very hard to do as much as they can.  We have to prioritize though so some things can take longer than some members might like.  Like, the GEDCOM improvements Chris will announce.  Those have been bumped for some time now by things that take greater priority.

The best thing to do if you think there is a problem is to post here in the G2G and if you can offer a solution or suggestion. Then our tech team can take a look and see if it's feasible to consider, other community members can way in with their opinions and suggestions  and if it's something that could work it'll be added to the To-do list.

It may seem like nothing is happening in improving one particular area but that's because we're working to improve things in three other areas.  :)
+5 votes

Doug, WikiTree uses a customized version of Mediawiki software and isn't open source for security reasons. There are few who work on the software. Improvements are made all the time.  Have you joined the Wikitree Apps project? Might be of interest to you. Please see 

http://www.WikiTree.com/wiki/Project:Apps

 

by Michelle Hartley G2G6 Pilot (152k points)
Thank you very much,  That is not quite the answer I was looking for, but very close.  I will most certainly join the WikiTree Apps project and see what I can contribute.  I am surprised to learn that WikitTree uses a customized version of WikiTree.  I see no resemblance whatsoever and assumed otherwise.  Somehow it has been customized out of all recognition.
I guess I should have said "highly" customized. Lol!

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