Many posts in G2G that are seeking genealogical assistance are lacking critical information

+34 votes
679 views
I was asked to address this issue:

Many posts in G2G that are seeking genealogical assistance are lacking critical information needed by the volunteers who are trying to help.

First thing:  This is no fault of the person who posted.  They might be new to forums or even computers.  They might be handicapped, using a translator, or in some other way be facing challenges of which we are unaware.  It is quite reasonable that questions be posted by people who are less than expert posters, masters of the English language, or genealogy gurus... in fact it is encouraged.  We must make a point of being polite and helpful, never criticizing their lack of expertise or communication skills.  

The volunteer researchers work very hard as it is.  They not only answer the quick and easy ones, they dig deep and reach far to break new ground.  They try to help people solve persistent family mysteries; cases that otherwise might never be cracked.  Many of them invest their own money (time) in pay-sites and freely share the information here.  Our volunteers really are a blessing.

The problem:  When no details are provided the volunteers face a far harder task.  Before they can even begin to help they must go through the (understandably frustrating) task of soliciting clues from the poster.

The post says something like "Looking for information on Sally Jones who married a Roberts".  To the novice this might seem like plenty of information to find specific results, but the more experienced know without even searching that without dates and places there will be a multitude of possibilities.  Here the volunteer has nothing solid to work with, so they either move on to help someone else or they begin laboriously questioning the poster, "Do you know where she was born, etc?"

Another similar scenario:  "Anyone researching Jones or Williams from Texas?"  Again, this seems reasonable to the novice who is posting.  They think there are other people like them who wish to connect by exchanging email addresses and their "trees" and swapping details they have collected over the years...something like that.  Or they think only someone who is a blood relative would be "researching" the same names as them and be willing to collaborate.   What they don't know is that our volunteers try to help everyone, and that they can cut to the chase and just ask the question.

Better questions:  Specific questions with as many details as possible are most likely to yield favorable results.  "Seeking the parents of Lilly Mae Jones b. 1818 in Texas, married William Potter in 1838". Additional details in the post could include children's names and places of birth, where William or Lilly died, etc.  A link to an existing profile with sources on it is a big plus.

What can be done?  I believe it unlikely that there is anything to be done in regards to improving the posts of first-timers and newer members.  Those that use G2G enough will eventually become educated through experience, but instructions and pop-up warnings mean very little to a beginner and are often ignored.  It is what it is... Some people will post less than perfect questions.

How we should handle it (IMO):  Be more than polite, be kind.  Attempt to read through the issues and understand what they are really looking for.  Do not post a one-liner saying they are lacking.  Do greet them, ask for more details, or invite more interaction.  "Hi Jill, welcome to WikiTree. I hope we can find the answers you seek.  Please share any and all details that might help the volunteers...dates, places, children, etc.  You never know which clue might unlock the mystery.  Have a great day :)"  (Don't just ask for one detail at a time because that's all you'll get).  Yes it's more steps and more work, but it is the help they need.  

Such is the life of a dedicated selfless WikiTree volunteer :)

Please share your thoughts...

Thank you
in Policy and Style by Keith Hathaway G2G6 Pilot (606k points)
Excellent synopsis, Keith.  Thank you for your comment/answer posts in the last large paragraph.

7 Answers

+14 votes
Perhaps we could have a form for people seeking help which included the essentials required to help better, or at least a prompt saying, "If you are asking for help researching a person, please list the following details if you know them."
by J. Crook G2G6 Pilot (203k points)
That is an excellent suggestion.  No fields required but all the essentials suggested.  I'm not sure if it's possible on the tech end, but it's brilliant on the thinking end.  Thanks for the input J.
I love this suggestion J.  What if there were two ask a question boxes?   If you are new to WikiTree or a beginner -- Use This Box.  It has helpful suggestions.  The other box could be the one in current use.
Yeah, but we have that form for the pre-1700 thing, and lots of times it is submitted with zero or one field filled out - they just are not seeing the need to put all that in - I guess when you start it seems real small - your family - and only after you have done it quite a while you see how big it all is doing this family tree thing so not sure if it would help much
+10 votes

There should be some back end code that does not allow any post to go live if the user has only filled in the question title and not added any text to the main question body field.

I edited my post to remove the discussion about the possible issue with the green Ask A Question box, it appears to no longer be an issue.

by Brenda Butler G2G6 Mach 4 (42.3k points)
edited by Brenda Butler
I was unaware of this issue, thank you Brenda.  I've never used the box on the top-right to post and did not know it worked differently.  It does sound like an issue that could be corrected and solve some of the problematic postings.  Thank you for the input :)
I know about it because I ran afoul of it a few times during my first few months on this site!  That was a few years ago, I haven't used it since, perhaps it should be tested to make sure it still operates in the same way before making any changes?
I've used that "Ask a Question" box rather often, and I don't recall ever seeing the behavior that Brenda describes. Maybe it's a browser-related issue.
With my I-pad I just tried the box top-right and had no issues.  After entering text and clicking enter it brought me to the regular posting page with all options for text, category, link, tags, etc.

Ellen is right in that it must be an issue more particular to you, most likely a setting or condition of your web-browser.  I can't imagine what though.  Reviewing all of your settings periodically is wise anyway so next time you do you might find one that pertains, especially since you are mentally keyed into it now.
Thanks to Brenda for clarifying that this is no longer happening.
+7 votes
Keith:   I think that would be great;You have done a good job covering

all exceptions.I know it can be difficult,to do this,Too modify a system can

be difficult and expensive.I spoke with Mr Wittek months ago about doing

this.
by Wayne Morgan G2G6 Pilot (917k points)
Thank you for giving this your input Wayne.  It's a paradox of sorts, the ones who need the help most tend to ask the least effective questions.  We'll figure out how to help them best.
+6 votes
Thank you Keith.
by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (2.4m points)
Thank you Doug
+6 votes
In addition to more prompts for information from the person posting...

Another thing we could do to help better the posts and help the people is to have a Moderator or Integrator/Leader respond to posts with inadequate information.  They could have procedures in place to politely and effectively collect the needed details, then they could guide or assist in bettering the post including tags and categorization.

Or, we could have an easy to access page with pre-written cut-and-paste messages to be used by anyone as responses to inadequate posts.

Still brain-storming...
by Keith Hathaway G2G6 Pilot (606k points)
this is what is needed - some shortcut to the getting the info needed to actually help them and show them how this works by that request for more from them - maybe a deal with check boxes so we can remove what they DID give and politely ask for what was left out of their plea for help
+6 votes
I started on wikitree about 8 months ago as a complete novice, I admit that i'm finding this much harder technically (as in using my iPad), than building my bit of the tree on ancestry. I am learning everyday and reading posts like this help me a lot. I made several mistakes when starting and the help I have received using the G2G forum means I have made slow but steady progress, (I still have along way to go). I have had great support from sourcerers and volunteers in finding links and sources.

Prompts for more information are always helpful pop-ups for those of us still finding our feet :)
by Lizzie Griffiths G2G6 Pilot (116k points)
+4 votes
You could probably get away with a "Ask about a particular person" button and require showing "ID" (showing exactly where to find the ID.  Then a general question/discussion button.
by Kathy Rabenstein G2G6 Pilot (265k points)
The "Ask about a particular person button" is on every profile.  When you click 'Ask Question' from a profile, it automatically adds the WikiTreeID to the G2G question.
Thanks!  I've only been at this a couple of days.  There is so much going on it is hard to read/take in everything.

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