How do we tackle these undated profiles and privacy levels which are too strict?

+23 votes
This is more of a rant than a question, but I need to write about it.  I am frustrated with the long lists of undated profiles.  Lately I have been making date guesses on undated profiles, or looking them up in Google (and sourcing it; even if it is not a primary source, I figure it is better than no date).

I was searching the Elizabeth Chandlers, and sooo many have no dates. Even worse, about half of those are privacy level public, when they should be open (born over 200 yrs ago).  I just spent the past half hour writing private messages to profile managers. So I wrote the notes, but I did not save all the names of all the managers, (so I could follow up after the required week to ask Paul to open them).  I have to budget my time, and right now, I feel it is more important to get the word out; making profiles public when they should be open hinders collaboration.  Not to mention the tan, yellow, or red level profiles; many of which are also undated.  I don't even try to deal with those.

We have a huge problem with undated profiles.  It hurts us from the start.  When folks first join WikiTree, they want to see their tree.  So they download a GEDCOM, and faced with long lists of undated names, they are frustrated.  People have worked at the user-friendly pay sites.  They think, "Surely I am not meant to open every single one of these profiles to see whether there is a match!"  They let the duplicates go by, and we have even bigger problems.

I suppose it all comes down to education.  We need everyone to help. How can we get the word out that an undated profile is a problem?  How can we encourage managers to correctly set privacy levels?  I am willing to help;  I just don't know what to do, so I am writing this, ... and feeling a little Don Quixoteish here.
in Policy and Style by Cynthia B G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
retagged by Lianne Lavoie

3 Answers

+11 votes
The good news is no new profiles can be created without birth and death dates and profiles 200+ years are automatically set to open.

The bad news is since this is a volunteer site, there is no way to enforce "rules" or even the honor code and we must keep it welcoming and friendly.  I also wish everyone "new" would make sure to read all instructions, but even I jumped in and started working without doing that myself and I think a lot of others do as well.  Honor Code?  sure, sure, just let me get to that treasure trove of family tree!!  :-)

I would like to see one thing changed, the "family member" membership.  It basically gives a pass on the whole Honor Code/Volunteer process and I don't think that's right since anyone confirmed as a family member can then create profiles and become profile managers possibly without even understanding the purpose of the site or the obligations that go with managing and collaboration.
by Lauren Conte G2G6 Pilot (115k points)
Thanks, Lauren for reading that long thing I wrote yesterday!   And thanks to everyone else who read it, too.

I am thinking along those same lines.  Someone suggested we could do some kind of a "fun" quiz for membership.  Maybe something like that?  It has taken me months to really start to understand all the workings of WikiTree and all the ramifications of my actions.  Thank goodness the GEDCOM I hurried to download had only a couple hundred names in it (pure luck).  

I do think we should warn folks who want to download a GEDCOM that 1) it is not an automated and easy, nor a simple task  2) it is easy to make mistakes and difficult to correct them. 3) they may not have a complete "tree" instantly.

We all know WikiTree is not easy.  Everyone struggles at first to do the simple things like add family or make a merge.  I suspect the retention rate for new members is not high.

I am no computer programmer, and have no idea how to make it more intuitive, but that is what we need. We definitely need better instruction and more education.  Maybe emphasize that this is a user-run website, a software program written, (or evolved), by a bunch of genealogists.  Either make it more user-friendly or warn people that it is not, maybe both.  You know what they say, "Promise only what you can deliver. Then deliver more than you promise."
No problem, we all get frustrated and need to vent sometimes.  :-)

It's funny, I was remembering my first profiles.  You think piece of cake - and then . . . birth location?  Ummm, not exactly sure.  Death location, hmm, same thing.  Middle name??  So, blank, blank, blank.  Sources . . Oh dear.  You think you'll go back, but x number of profiles later, you realize you really have to do some serious research and cleanup!  I'm just glad I'm enjoying the work and sticking with it.

All the instructions are well laid out and easy to find so I don't know what can be done. As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  ;-)

From a Newbie - Yes, the dates are a problem - maybe some reformatting on the match screen with more info given would help; 

i.e, For Instance:  :Remove the Managed by section (place either above or below (or button to display); insert fields for:

Father, Mother, husband, child of, location, or some other pertinent facts like earliest Ancestor; Living / Died. 

Compare might display "Tree" as opposed to Profile Page (if you can't see; you can't determine possible match without contacting each manager

 If still undetermined  - then send message..  

This probably would reduce the need to "step through" and message to see if there is a match

I know this would not resolve the problem, and patience and help is necessary, but  there might be someway to pull something from the profile that could help to put in a "Century like 1800, 1900, etc.

It might also help newbies to include a statement in the Greeting message that says something like "there are a large number of profiles that need dates to facilitate matching - Feel free to fill in missing date fields with an estimate and tag profile with the {{DateGuess|ALL}}.  I did not find this for about 2-3 weeks..

Just a thought -- that got longer than intended.

Thanks very much, Sandy


+1 vote
Cynthia I must admit sadly im guilty of it due to gedcoms when I first started here, Iv been trying to fix them, but im sure some of gotten in under the radar. The only potential duplicates I dont check are the clearly wrong ones such as mine was born say 1840 and the duplicates say 1960. I dont see any logic assuming that one may of simply being a genealogical error  unlike a +- 20 year difference or so.


but I do agree with your post it does cause some confusion.
by Matt Pryber G2G6 Mach 4 (48.4k points)

Sandy, I love, love, love your idea about a message letting people know it's a good thing to add dates, even to profiles that aren't "yours."  After all, they're all *ours,* right? (in the sense that it's one big project, and we're all responsible, not in the sense that we want to mess with anyone's immediate family)  :)

And I agree, we need more information on lots and lots of these profiles.  If each profile just had *one* accessible source listed, that would help immensely.  At least we would be able to tell whether there was a match (even if we did have to open them to see it).  It would be a link to lots more information.  So many books are online now, even if the book is from the 1800's and not perfect, (not sourced well), we would know which family it came from.

Not sure changing the match screen will get us more information, only if it's there to start with. (can you tell this has been a day of nothing on 'em profiles?)  

I would hate to let the manager go out of the match list.  So often I can tell it's a duplicate by the manager's name.  Or with a common name, I can see which line it is by the manager.  Sometimes it's little crumbs like that.

Matt, not to worry.  You're part of the solution.  You're still here and still working on it.  Those GEDCOMs are tough, easy to make a mistake and difficult to fix it.  It's just "ant work."  If we each do a little bit at a time, with a whole lot of ants working together ... eventually ... I believe, I do, I do!  Make sure as many profiles as possible are open, and other folks will help.  Hey, there's another message to put up front and center for newbies, "Any profile of a deceased person without any sensitive information in it should be Open."  It's there, but maybe put it right on the profile instead of the bottom of the help page

Yes -- I agree -- but to clear up one point -- I did not mean "delete" the profile manager; just let the profile manager have their own line, either above or below the "match" name that displays -- this would allow for "more colums for the display -- may be this is too hard to do because of space limitations; i.e., in order to gain three fields you must lose three fields.  Maybe it could work with a "hit button" for the profile manager info.  Like the Newbie message also.
+2 votes
Joining your Quixotic theme ... what if the tech people could come up with a report? Send every profile manager a list of the profiles that are lacking a birth and/or death date. I went through all of mine a few weeks ago to ensure there were at least some guestimates on each of them so that others could determine if they were potential matches. I'd also like to see some mandatory location fields, but maybe that's asking too much...
by Bobbie Hall G2G6 Pilot (188k points)
Hi Bobbie,

I am doing a little happy dance in my mind right now, knowing you dated your profiles.  Wonderful!  (One windmill down)  : )

It is a good idea ... the generation of a report, (have actually given this problem some thought), and though it's along the right lines,  probably isn't going to happen for two reasons.  One, WikiTree is loath to send any bulk emails that could be labeled spam.  Two, we sort of do have a report ... it's do-it-yourself.  You probably know already that if you pull up your watchlist and arrange them by birth date (by clicking "date" at the top), the undated ones will be listed last.

So I send little notes to folks who need 'em  "Her father-in-law was born in 1768, so Mary's profile should be privacy level Open. It helps so much with collaboration ... yada yada ... also important to add birth dates, even if they are a guess (using the {{DateGuess}} template and explaining how the guess was made in the bio). We generate a lot of duplicates, partly because profiles are not dated and not open."

Tonight, I think the wind is winning.  More ants!  We need more, more.

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