Star Profile Checklist

+5 votes

Draft here

Unsurprisingly, the 5 star profiles aren't a random sample across WikiTree.  There's a bias towards the rich and famous and controversial.

So what about the more controversial aspects of profile improvement?  For instance

1 - splitting conflated profiles

2 - disconnecting spurious royal ancestry

3 - neutral point of view, as they say at Wikipedia.  But Wikipedia is becoming infested with apologetics - defensive arguments in support of questionable positions, and WikiTree isn't immune.

4 - guff.  How the immigrant was descended from the Pharaohs, the Vikings, and the richest Lords in England, and became the ancestor of the finest, most upstanding, most heroic citizens of the frontier.

Trouble is, it's all very popular on the internet.  The non-members might be so happy to see Wikitree goes along with their take that they'll click on an ad and buy something.

in The Tree House by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (475k points)
My great great grandmother is a 5star, and I assure you she is not one of the rich and famous, nor is she controversial.
Ros, a bias toward the rich and famous doesn't preclude the presence of some who were not.  I might also add that, as members, your profile and mine are frequently accessed by other members to leave comments or send us private messages, which results in us being 5stars.  I don't know about you, but I'm neither rich nor famous.  I'm not so sure we can rule out RJ's third possibility of controversial, though …
Yes, it seems a high proportion of the 5star “Native Americans” are either completely mythical or have no Native American connection outside of the world of fantasy genealogy.  Sometimes it seems that as quickly as we correct and flag these profiles they either get duplicated or changed back.    I wish there was a way to put big red “Warning” labels on these people and to lock them down so only projects can alter them.  I think Geni is mostly junk, but they do have a category of “Master Profiles” and the ability to lock.
Of course a lot of popular guff gets a lot of visits. You don't need to know a thing about proper sourcing to use Google.

7 Answers

+11 votes
Best answer

Unsurprisingly, the 5 star profiles aren't a random sample across WikiTree. There's a bias towards the rich and famous and controversial.

From the information posted on Star Profiles, the rankings (assuming 1 to 5) is based on the level of unique page views over a period of time (one year). This means the higher the Star number (5 in this case) happens to be the profiles that people are landing on most of the time.

So the ranking was never meant to be unbiased sampling of profiles across WikiTree, but rather, 'What is the public face of WikiTree? What are people viewing the most? Let's make sure we can make these profiles the best they can be.' It just so happens that these profiles are of famous, rich or controversial natures/origins - it is the 'nature of the beast' so to speak - that is what people are searching for and/or interested in.

by Steven Harris G2G6 Pilot (272k points)
selected by Fann Fann
I didn't suggest it was meant to be an unbiased sample.  My point was that postings so far have ignored the nature of the beast, as if all profiles were equal.

A disproportionate number of these profiles are liable to need more than cosmetic tidying up.  They tend to have known issues that have been left alone for years.

Some visitors will look at those profiles and throw WikiTree straight into the same bin as Geni and MH and PRF.

Others - probably a lot more - will see where WikiTree gives somebody "unknown parents" and decide WikiTree is useless, because they know perfectly well he has ancestors back to Noah.

So which market should WikiTree appeal to?

Is this a good time or a bad time to revisit those issues?
RJ, that checklist is just a basic draft, a starting point, not a "this is all you can do on this profile" list.  :)  Not to mention it is only a draft and nothing official.  Several of the projects are working on more in-depth efforts on profiles and rallying project members to help.  If you participated in projects you might be more aware of that.  But there are plenty of requests for help if you want to get involved! See:  I'm sure there are also many pre-1500 profiles that would benefit from your knowledge.  Go grab some of those ones that have been waiting for years!
There are profiles that have been determined to represent fictive people among the five-stars. Needless to say, we need to twist the checklist a bit with these! (the confirmed fictive profiles usually look fine - a lot of work got into documenting them properly as fiction).
But we also have fictitious profiles still presented as fact, and a lot of bogus connections with the flimsy excuse of Uncertain flags.

But in Liberty Valance, the reporter says "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend".  WikiTree is in the same business and is also concerned about circulation.  So should WikiTree print the legend?

If WikiTree is more concerned about accuracy than it used to be, is that part of the reason for falling numbers?  We have a new reason here to feel guilty about pursuing "accuracy".

Some policy clarity is needed, or there'll just be unnecessary disputes between members, as on the New Netherlands thread.  Where Ellen and Weldon seem to be at odds, not over the genealogical position, but over what to do about it, a big policy question that isn't really one for them to decide.

Of course it's not an isolated issue - there are probably a lot of questionable gateways on the 5-star list, mostly not managed by projects.
+5 votes

I have a remark about Point 2 on the checklist "write under Research Notes where you looked so others don't have to repeat that": Out of experience I say you sometimes have to repeat searches because databases are constantly updated and enlarged. Maybe "your source" wasn't online when the database was originally put up, but came later online in an enlargement. According to the Research Note you would not find that because "someone looked and it isn't there". But in the meanwhile it is there...

by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (239k points)

So what you're supposed to do is put the date you looked, as well as the fact that you looked, using the four tildes.

That's a really good point, Jelena. It might also help for people to be comprehensive in their Research Notes and include name variations they've used to search, which locations -- and why, birth date ranges, etc.

In other words, make it clear what you've done so that the next person coming in can pick up where you left off.

This is the most difficult concept to convey to people who have never worked on a collaborative platform before. You have to write your notes so that anyone can understand them.
+8 votes
Not sure I understand the OP's point. I didn't think 5-star profiles were supposed to be a random sample. I thought they were the quantifiably "most viewed." Makes sense that the "rich and famous" are viewed more frequently. Makes sense that improving these most viewed profiles would be a point of emphasis for Wikitree and for WT Volunteers with an interest beyond their own family. Makes sense that the same guidelines that apply to all Wikitree efforts apply to these profiles.
by Ellen Curnes G2G6 Mach 5 (55.9k points)
I think what he was implying is that it would appear somewhat random, based on the types of profiles, their places in history, time periods, what the individuals might be known for, etc. I would absolutely agree that it's based on the most viewed principle, so while the group is based on a factual principle, looking at the group as a whole probably reveals some patterns but won't explain the randomness of some of those in the group.

Sort of a Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder thing, I would guess. We can't predict who will come over and view which profiles until they've done it. :)
+7 votes
There are several "controversial" (points 2 and 4 of your list) star profiles in the France project, and I can assure you I fully attend to cleanse them of their spurious connections and expose "guff" for what it is. If I can.

As to "rich and famous", that is human nature.
by I R G2G6 Pilot (283k points)
+2 votes
Can I recommend that for the checklist that we put a link to the latest version of the profile list as well? Would help those of us who are challenged in that way.
by Scott Fulkerson G2G6 Pilot (520k points)
+3 votes
I saw the post for 5Star profiles the first time today. I only needed to read the "headline" and know before I started reading the article that most would be the rich, the famous, the infamous, etc. After all we live in the world of social media.

Then after reading the article and taking a quick look at the list before I decided to see if I had any 5Star profiles. What amazed me were the number of 4Star profiles in my family and my husband's family both have 30% DNA German roots. We live in "Pennsylvania Dutch" country. I have been calling them the backbone of our country, the farmers. I also had a few of my Italian paternal side at 4Stars.

I am not offended by the 5Star ratings of the rich and famous or whoever. I like that WikiTree strives to have "quality profiles with reliable sources". That's hopefully the reputation we are building. I don't think so many would volunteer if we were just working on the 5Star profiles.

One person, one profile, one family, one tree!
by Louann Halpin G2G6 Mach 4 (43k points)
+3 votes
I'd say there are probably two factors at work with 5star profiles:

1 - Fame

2 - Having lots of living descendants.

Plenty of 5star people are not famous; they just have lots of living descendants. The profiles with the most views, however, have both traits. John Adams has over 150,000 views. He is both famous and also supposedly had 89 grandchildren. As a result of having a large number of descendants, he has almost 3x as many views as either George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.

I would also suggest that "rich" has nothing to do with it. Being rich but unknown is not going to get you 5stars.
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (133k points)
edited by Chase Ashley
Maybe if you're rich, you can afford to bribe Mr. Google to list you higher, which would then lead to making you a 5-star.
Lol. Or you could set up a trust fund to pay people to repeatedly visit your page to up your view count. ;-)

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