WikiTree Profile Ownership Frustration

+6 votes
I'm fairly new to WikiTree (joined in March) but I have to say that so far the experience has been one of frustration. The source of that is the concept of profile "ownership", meaning I cannot modify a profile unless I'm on the trusted list, and I can't add cousins to the trusted list unless I'm the profile manager. Unfortunately, when I arrived here at WikiTree, my mother's profile had already been created by someone else, so I had to ask permission to make changes to it. Now I want to update the profiles of my mother's siblings, but it seems the manager of those profiles is no longer active (or at least not responding to my requests for access). So my enthusiasm is gone. Much easier to simply take my genealogy hobby to another website where I'm not locked out of updating my own family tree. But before I leave, a couple of (perhaps dumb) questions:
- Why does WikiTree even have the concept of ownership? The whole idea of a Wiki as originally devised by Ward Cunningham was data without ownership, where any changes could be easily reverted by any member of the community to thwart any accidental or deliberate destruction by bad actors. A wiki where I need permission to update my own family tree is not a Wiki, but rather just another useless (and incorrect) internet data repository, IMHO.
- If ownership of profiles is necessary, why doesn't it automatically assign to the nearest relative who is an active WikiTree member? Why do I have to ask a stranger for permission to correct the information they posted on the internet about my family?
in Policy and Style by C Ellens G2G Crew (300 points)
retagged by Maggie N.

1 Answer

+9 votes

Hi C,

I understand your frustration.  WikiTree can be difficult to learn.  It took me two years before things started to click.  Since that time we have improved the process of understanding but perhaps we can do more.

First, the concept of "Ownership" is misplaced.  No one owns the profiles on WikiTree, except perhaps your own.  The idea is that we are growing a one-world family tree where we have one profile per person. This is one of the things that make WikiTree special. The interconnected profiles allow for many new discoveries.  Rather, think of the profiles as gifts to the community.

Profile Managers (PM) have accepted the responsibility to manage a profile.  That is they should be improving the profile to meet WikiTree's Style guide and Standards.  The Trusted list was designed to allow others to help maintain those profiles that are close family or are part of a special project.

You should certainly be on the trusted list of your Mother and likely a PM.  (Probably also for your close family members.) 

The Honor Code asks for Collaboration and Communication.  If you feel a PM is not responding appropriately, that they are not Collaborating, you can review the Problems with Members help section for appropriate actions you can take.  

If you are patient, the issues you have can be resolved.

Thank you for reaching out on G2G to express your frustration, we can help you.

If you have not yet reviewed the New Members How-To, I would encourage you to spend some time working through the tutorials.

And come to G2G with your questions, we are here to help make your experience work.

by Michael Stills G2G6 Pilot (471k points)

Thank-you for your response. Please understand that this is not a problem with understanding WikiTree. I have already added and updated many profiles. The problem is with profiles which I cannot access. You might insist that "No one owns the profiles on WikiTree" but the fact is that I can't access profiles for members of my own family without the permission of someone else, who isn't responding. Yes, I've read the Unresponsive Profile Managers page. The timeframes mentioned there are "60 days". I can get a lot of work done on some other site in that period of time.
So my two questions are still unanswered: 1. Why does WikiTree have ownership/permission restrictions/whatever you want to call it? 2. Why isn't that ownership automatically assigned to the nearest active relative?
And to that, I'll add a third question:
3. Why does WikiTree even allow someone to create a profile for a living person with whom they have absolutely no relationship?

1. Restrictions are there to protect the privacy of the living or recently deceased. That's why profiles of people who were born over 150 years ago or died 100 years ago must be open edit, because it is unlikely that any private information will be added to the profile. I'm the manager of my maternal grandmother's profile. I have no issue adding relatives that I know to her profile, but her 6th cousin twice removed won't have anything useful to add to her profile and could possibly add information that my mother doesn't want public. So by managing the profile, I'm protecting my mother's privacy.

2. If there weren't any protections on recent profiles, what is stopping someone unrelated from adding themselves as a close relative so they could gain control of a profile and view and edit private information?

3. Two things I can think of: 1) a parent of an adopted child wants their child attached to the child's biological parents for DNA purposes 2) someone wants to build the tree of a living notable person. People adding unrelated people will probably decrease since next week all living non-WikiTree users will be made Unlisted.
I think you may have got a little confused with the '60 days' thing.  It actually means 'if the unresponsive person hasn't been on WikiTree for 60 days', not 'you must wait 60 days'.  Your waiting time would be:

1.  Send a Trusted List request.  If the manager hasn't replied in 7 days, then
2.  Put a public comment on their profile (like "have you had a chance to review my Trusted List request?").  If they STILL haven't replied 7 days after that, then
3.  Send a Private Message to the manager.  If they STILL haven't replied 7 days after that, then

Submit an Unresponsive Manager Request..

So you would be waiting 7 days, then another 7 days, then another 7 days.  Not 60, 21.  Hope that helps.
Or you could do what I do and do all three of those things simultaneously. Then you only have to wait seven days.
I thought you weren't supposed to do them simultaneously.  I thought you were supposed to wait 7, wait 7, wait 7.

Jamie Nelson wrote: "1. Restrictions are there to protect the privacy of the living or recently deceased."

That may be true for profiles that are owned by a relative, like you owning your maternal grandmother's profile. But in my case a complete stranger created a profile for my mother, who is still living, and I had to ask their permission to be able to edit her profile. So your answer doesn't really make sense for WikiTree in general, because in my case the restriction prevented me from protecting my family's privacy.

(I realize this is a very old discussion, but don't get back here very often)

Hi C,

Welcome back! In case you're not already aware, WikiTree's privacy policies have changed. As Jamie also indicated in that same comment that you quoted: the privacy policies of WikiTree were changed at the end of May 2018 such that "all living non-WikiTree users will be made Unlisted."

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