Monday, March 28, 2011

Some Comments from Chris Whitten on my Exploring WikiTree posts

As I've been Exploring Wikitree, a relatively new FREE online family tree using a wiki format, the creator of WikiTree, Chris Whitten has been commenting on my posts with suggestions and explanations.  It's been great to have these comments, and I want to share them with my readers.  The Exploring WikiTree Compendium has all of the posts in this series.  Here are some of the comments by Chris:

1)  In the post Exploring WikiTree - Post 5: Adding Photos:

"You wrote: "I haven't figured out yet how to delete a photograph from the Photo list, or change the preferred photo once I have more than one."

"Users often ask these questions, so we'll have to figure out a better way to explain them.

"I'll answer the latter question first since it's easier. You can replace the preferred/primary photo for a person by selecting another one. You check the box on the image editing page in the right column. If you want to remove (and not replace) the photo, you can uncheck the box.

"The explanation for deleting images is a little more complicated. Actually, it's not just a complicated explanation ... because there is no way to delete a photo! Sounds crazy, I know.

"You can remove a photo so that it doesn't appear anywhere. To do this, you just click the "REMOVE" link under the person or page's name on the photo editing page. The image will not appear anywhere but it will still exist on our server. This way, if you want to recover it later it still exists. Photos that aren't associated with any profile are automatically deleted periodically.

"Leaving the photo on the server can be valuable because other trusted people can "REMOVE" someone (even the last person) from a photo you uploaded. Your cousin might be saying "that's not Aunt Jane in this photo" and your cousin might be right. Or he might be wrong. The point is that images are collaboratively tagged and edited just like other things on WikiTree. And since they're collaborative, we need some protections against deletions.

"All that said, we've been working on a way to enable the person who uploaded a photo to delete the photo without eliminating the benefit described above. In the meantime, anyone who needs a photo deleted can ask us to do it immediately rather than waiting for it to be automatically cleared."

2)  In the post Exploring WikiTree - Post 8: Searching for Common Ancestors:

"Counter-intuitively, the most direct way to make connections on WikiTree -- a search like you explain above -- isn't the most common.

"There is an automatic search when you add a new person to WikiTree. For example, if you had added Peregrine White manually while growing your tree it would have shown you the list of possible matches.

"Since many advanced users like you import a GEDCOM, and automatic searches don't kick-in, there is a tool for searching your entire Watchlist for possible matches.  This way you don't need to search for matches for Peregrine White and then William White, etc., etc. It will show you all the potential matches on one page.

"Still, most connections on WikiTree currently happen in a completely different way. People find you on Google.

"I like to say that our search page isn't  -- it's

"Someday a distant cousin of yours will be searching for one of your common ancestors on Google and find the WikiTree page you created. It could take weeks or months, I know, but it will happen. That cousin will be in research mode and they'll be ready to collaborate. That's when the real benefits of wiki collaboration will start to kick in for you."

3)  In the post Exploring Wikitree - Post 9: Another Search for Matches:

"Our search system is more primitive than you imagine! Good search algorithms are remarkably complex. We're releasing some major improvements to our matching system in the next couple days, but it will still return a lot of matches that any human could easily eliminate.

"The colored icons don't indicate anything except the Privacy Level. I'll look for a way to clarify that."

 I really appreciate that Chris takes the time to explain some of the areas that I have challenges with, both in comments and in private emails.  He has expressed his gratitude in other posts for the suggestions that I, and my readers, have made while I've been exploring WikiTree.  It's fun for me to see a new FREE family tree system grow and expand and to play a small part in it.

If you've been looking for a FREE family tree system that encourages collaboration, then I suggest that you try WikiTree.  My opinion is that it's the easiest to use collaborative family tree currently available.

If you are struggling with WikiTree features, I suggest that you read the Help pages on and if you're still struggling, email Chris Whitten at and ask questions and let him help you.

1 comment:

Chris Whitten said...

Randy, thanks for all the kind words. I couldn't resist pulling a few of them for

You're playing more than a small part in the growth of WikiTree.

I've come to the conclusion that WikiTree needs to offer more features for serious amateur and professional genealogists, especially the online genealogy community.

I think we've done a good job of making the site user-friendly so that any member of a family, young or old, can contribute what they know. But for every thousand casual users who browse and contribute a photo or a memory or a date here and there, there is one serious genealogist who makes a thousand contributions. If we can make WikiTree even better for that core of tech-savvy, genealogy-savvy users, we can make the site better for everyone, because it's the serious genealogists who are contributing the bulk of what others are enjoying.

I'm not saying we want to make WikiTree "GenPerfect"
There will always be a variety of tools out there, some of which will be much better suited to the specific needs of advanced genealogists in research mode. We want WikiTree to be the ideal tool for genealogists to share, grow, and preserve what they learn. It's a site for genealogists to collaborate with non-genealogists.

Well, that was a bit of a tangent. My point was to say that I appreciate your help. You're giving me good suggestions and ideas, and you're introducing WikiTree to the people we really want to reach. A number of your readers have already started contributing and exchanging e-mail with me.

By the way, for anybody who e-mails me this coming week ... I might not respond immediately. I'm going to be out of the country and away from my computer.