Cosmetic changes (specifically, images) to protected project profiles

+14 votes

Hi! A question about adding background images to a project-protected profile (PPP) was recently discussed in the Leaders group. The consensus was that cosmetic changes don't really fall under the PPP admonition to discuss significant changes in advance, but that image changes should be discussed beforehand since opinions vary greatly & there is a concern about copyright issues.

The following unofficial guideline is what came out of those discussions:

a background image is ok if all the profile managers are ok with it, but if one objects, default is to remove it, and that a background image should not be added without prior discussion/unanimous agreement.

I would like to specifically include the addition of a primary photo to that unofficial guideline. The primary photo is the thumbnail pic that appears at the top left of a profile page, but it is also the image shown in many tree widgets. One of my pet peeves is the use of non-portrait primary photos. I prefer to have the default male/female image unless there's an image of the person that can be used instead. (I really, really do not like tombstones or document images as the primary photo, with the exception of effigies or an image with the person's own signature). So, I propose

Selecting an image to be set as the primary photo or as the background photo should be discussed with the profile's managers beforehand and added (or changed) only if there are no objections.

Sound ok to y'all?

For example, based on that last proposed guideline, I was ok when I removed the document image as the primary photo for Drury-727, since I'm a manager and I objected. But I need to discuss "un-setting" Stith-10's primary photo, since I'm not a manager, even though I'm a lineal descendant and dislike seeing the document as representing John when it shows up in my family tree. (sorry - I was trying to remain neutral, but... ack ptui <grin> - but it goes the other way too, in that lots of folks really like the pop added by a background image & enjoy seeing one on the profiles of their ancestors even if they're not on the profile's trusted list.)

Cheers, Liz

edit was to correct typo in "question in one sentence" field
see comment in response to Chris's answer for edit to proposed guideline

WikiTree profile: Jane Stith
in Policy and Style by Liz Shifflett G2G6 Pilot (398k points)
edited by Liz Shifflett

What is the difference between unilaterally adding a primary and/or background image and unilaterally removing either?

I'm hesitantly on-board with a default removal if any of the profile's managers object to the image . . . but I'd really prefer that the objection has merit other than "just because". As Chris states; "Unanimity on any profile changes is like getting a committee to agree on something, without the committee even meeting in real time".

No one likes, of My Heritage trees added as sources for profiles, but I believe the consensus is that any source is better than no sources. We don't remove, or shouldn't be removing, the notes or links to those trees when they are the only sources listed . . . and even if there are better sources we should still acknowledge the trees rather than removing them, IMHO. So why should images not be handled in the same manner?

I'm not a fan of using non-portraits as primary images generally. I'd prefer those images be added to the profile but not as either the primary or background. That said, if I have an ancestor who was a signatory of the Magna Carta I would not object to an image of the document being used for both primary and background if no portrait was available.

The best solution is discussion, prior to adding or removing images. In the absence of discussion before adding an image I would think it becomes even more imperative to discuss removing one. The old two wrongs rule. As long as the objection has at least some substance there shouldn't be a problem removing a image.

Great question and perfect timing. I just had a reply concerning the background image for FitzAlan-29 that requested it also be removed as the primary photo. So... I did. As an artist friend of mine once described my personal website: it looks plumb nekkid!

5 Answers

+13 votes
Hi Liz,

Thanks for raising the issues.

Personally, I'd agree with this as a style rule:

"a background image is ok if all the profile managers are ok with it, but if one objects, default is to remove it."

But I'm not comfortable with this:

"a background image should not be added without prior discussion/unanimous agreement."

Requiring prior discussion and unanimity would discourage and prevent many (most?) image changes. Many people would hesitate to contact other managers about it, since it might feel like such a minor thing, and if they did, other managers might not respond.

Unanimity on any profile changes is like getting a committee to agree on something, without the committee even meeting in real time.

I could see a suggestion, perhaps added to <>, that encourages posting a comment on the profile mentioning the change and inviting others to change it back if they don't like it.

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)

Thanks Chris. So, delete one bit/add another OK?  note... I edited out the added bit. see following note.

a background image is ok if all the profile managers are ok with it, but if one objects, default is to remove it, and that a background image should not be added without prior discussion/unanimous agreement. Same for primary photos.

Edited (again) to delete the added "Same for primary photos." Trying to implement the guideline, and the additional comments in this discussion... it really only works with setting background images. And I'm not so sure about the "default is to remove it" anymore. I'm not a fan of background images, but it makes no difference to me whether a profile has one or not because I've set my screen size such that I don't see any background. But I'm not sure how to share that info with others who don't like background images without sounding rude. Even trying to phrase it here was a challenge. How _do_ you nicely encourage someone who has asked that the profile have its background image removed that they might instead like to alter their computer setting so they don't see the background image (by increasing the profile's window size using Ctrl+scroll [the middle roller thing on a mouse] or by narrowing the window... having two windows visible on screen simultaneously usually does away with the background images, if there are any).

+5 votes
Sounds like a good plan Liz. Communication is always good in collaboration! Thanks for moving this forward.

by Mags Gaulden G2G6 Pilot (506k points)
+6 votes

Hi Liz,  Are we talking about just PP Profiles?  Those should only be for profiles over 200 years ("Do not protect any profiles under 200 years old unless they fit Wikipedia's guidelines for notability.") and thus generally pre-photography.  That narrows the portrait images to paintings and sketches and such of mostly rich and famous people.

I guess I prefer to see a primary image of the individual better than of a document or gravestone, but I prefer a document or gravestone to the WikiTree male/female silhouette.  For most of our colonial American ancestors, there are no portraits, but there are documents.

In answer to your question, however, I see no problem with requesting collaboration on primary images.  


by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (525k points)
The question started about PPP, but I think it would/should apply to any profile.
In that case, I would indicate that images of the profile individual are primary, but in the absence of a primary portrait, a secondary image of some other relevant type would be acceptable.  A secondary image would be replaced with a primary portrait if one became available.

sounds good Kitty. I personally still prefer the default image - especially when the document isn't anything special (see Stith-10) - but I guess I should just leave it since I don't know of any portraits of him.

Well, just as an example, my Revo War ancestor let Washington use his house as a headquarters and the Continental Army camped on the surrounding farm land.  I put a picture of the house as a primary because I do not know of any pictures of man.  There are good reasons for most pictures.
I would also like to have an exception made for a recognized Coat of Arms (shield) for primary photos especially for Euro-Aristos over 200 years old when clearly there were no photos.  Many did not have portraits made that were later photographed and available online but most "houses" have their coats of arms and this, I feel, is a very good visual addition to such profiles - unless a profile manager objects.  I prefer the default to be "unless any manager objects" rather than "if all managers agree" as that's much easier to manage for WikiTree.
Yeah, I should have thought of that, but Chet is correct.
Based on discussion here, and trying to implement the unofficial guideline, primary photo was dropped from the default "unless any manager objects" & falls under "discuss changes" rule.
+6 votes

I concur in broader lines with everything Liz, except as the primary photo goes we use the standard in the Dutch Cape Colony project of adding the baptism image where there is no photo (it had not even been invented yet when our project ends) or a painting of the person.

I'd really hate to see another amendment (style rule) interfering with our workflow because we have now more than 2000 profiles protected and the amount is growing and most of them has baptism images as a guide as primary photo. So when we see a profile with a baptism image as primary picture but it has not yet been protected, we know that there is something that still has to be processed. Either the LNAB or the profile itself.

At times it is also useful to use photographs of old maps, towns where there are no baptisms to be sourced.

Frankly I find the persona thumbnail pretty boring, and working with more than 10000 profiles in this project, it really helps to have some distinguishing features.

As far as copyright issues go, as long as they are (any photograph or painting / reproduction) sufficiently cited and legally sourced, this should not be case for objection.

Please, please do not start removing baptism images from our thumbnail primary images.

by Philip van der Walt G2G6 Pilot (149k points)
Philip - I promise I won't remove baptism records (and Kitty - I'll leave photos of significance alone too... I've posted a note on Stith-10 asking if I can remove that document as the primary photo).

Also - Philip - a project's guidelines should definitely be honored when it comes to a profile's primary photograph. Thanks for bringing that up!

Cheers, Liz
Thanks Liz! Appreciate it ....
+5 votes
This all seems like another step towards giving PMs total control over content of Open profiles.

Why is it always assumed that PMs are the interested parties?
by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (561k points)
I agree RJ. Coming late to the party (and therefore not a profile manager), I still have a strong interest - and sometimes apparently the sole interest - in my ancestors' profiles that are managed by other people (who run the spectrum from being completely "hands off" themselves to completely "hands off everyone else").

I think bottom line answer was nailed by Mags early in this discussion: "Communication is always good in collaboration!"

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