Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Answers to my Geni.com Questions

I posted Dear Randy: Geni.com's Shared Family Tree a week ago, and George Gearhart of Geni.com tried to respond in Comments.  Unfortunately, some of the Comments did not publish on the blog post (I don't understand why this happens to me, others have had the problem too.  I do get the comments in email soon after they're posted). 

George is the host blogger on the revamped and more active Geni.com blog, and responded to my questions on 29 December with his post: Response to Randy Seaver: 12-29-2010.  Here are his responses:

Hi Randy,

First, let me clarify a little bit about the Curators. Here’s a link to read more about them. When we decided to create Curators, we modeled them closely after Wikipedia Administrators. They have access to a few tools that other users cannot access, but their primary role is to guide and assist the community, and to establish best practices for collaboration on Geni. We work very closely with the Curators, and many tweaks and small features (including our API that we recently released) are driven by the demand of Curators and some of our other power users.

I don’t know if any other genealogy sites have roles like Curators or Administrators. I’m not familiar with any that do.

* If there is a conflict of information, which data is selected for display, and how is the decision made?

We have a fairly advanced system in place for determining which data is selected by default, but the important thing is that data is never lost on Geni. After two profiles are merged together, our users can always select the alternate data after the merge.

* Is there a discussion process involved – does the curator collaborate or consult with the submitters?

Short answer: yes :)

Users can create a discussion for every profile on Geni. All managers/editors of a given profile are notified when someone creates a discussion for that profile.

Discussions aren’t required, and they aren’t used in every case that a Curator merges profiles or makes adjustments in the tree. But they are common; both public and private discussions are a very significant part of Geni, and our users are very active and quick to respond.

* Is there an appeal process for curator’s decisions?

There isn’t a formal appeals process, but there are a lot of informal ones. Curators follow a pretty standard code of conduct (see the first link at the top of my comment), so appeals don’t actually happen that often.
There is also a lengthy public discussion that users and Curators use as a hub for these types of conversations.

And there are a lot of private messages that flow back and forth with the Curators and other users.
Most importantly, our engineers have been working really hard for the past year to create a data structure that will make the appeals process “insignificant”, for lack of a better word. We have already released the ability for users to see revisions for many text fields on Geni, and our users have the ability to revert to an older/different version of a text field.

Over the next few months, we will be releasing additional versioning features that allow users to revert complex things such as a merge that a Curator performed. With these new features, every action performed to publicly accessible data on Geni will be completely transparent, and completely reversible.

* Can a submitter remove his online tree or make it a private tree after it has been shared?

You can make any of your “close” relatives private at any time (we define “close” as 4th cousins or closer, as well as 3rd great grandparents and closer).

You can also make any living person private if you have permission to edit their profile.

I hope this answers any questions that you and your readers have about the email we sent.


I appreciate George's quick responses to my questions about the Geni.com shared World Family Tree and the role of curators.  I hope to investigate the World Family Tree in the coming weeks.

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