Tuesday, May 24, 2011

AncestorSync is coming - I got answers!

I asked a number of questions about AncestorSync (www.ancestorsync.com) in my post AncestorSync is coming - I have questions yesterday. 

In email last night, I received answers to those questions from Dovy Paukstys of Real-Time Collaboration, Inc. - SharingTime.com.

Here are my questions (RS in red) and Dovy's answers (DP in purple) to them:

RS:  Is this a computer program that resides on the user's computer and accesses the online tree website, or is it a website that accesses the user's software, file folders, and the online tree site?  It sounds like the latter - a "service that lets you synchronize the genealogy work from your online pedigree to your desktop program."

DP:  AncestorSync is indeed a web service and a desktop component. We utilize a remote server to interact with the API's directly. Often an API may go down and we found a need to have a server we maintain in the middle. This also means that a user can begin a download/sync and despite maybe even restarting a computer, the process is still occurring in the background. This way we can also tweak API calls without pushing an update to all of the user base. The desktop component is responsible for converting any data to a genealogy application format of the user's choosing. Each peace is necessary and unique.

RS:   Geni.com is a site with a freemium subscription - will users need a Pro subscription to use AncestorSync?
DP:  Although I cannot state this officially, that is still in the works. Rest assured we'll do as much as we can, but on Geni there's a certain point where the freemium must go pro. We're still not entirely sure if that will be a limitation of our application or not. You will still be able to use a certain number of generations with AncestorSync. In fact we intend to offer AncestorSync as a trial for the first 3-5 generations to any users without a paid account.
RS:  Will AncestorSync eventually support other genealogy software programs like Family Tree Maker, Reunion, Family Tree Builder, etc.?

DP:  All I can say is we're working on it.  ;)    
RS:  Will AncestorSync eventually support other online family trees like Ancestry Member Trees, WeRelate, WikiTree, AppleTree, GeneaNet, and other online tree systems?
 DP:  See above. When we can say anything we will.    
RS:  Will the user be able to select the persons and facts/events to be synchronized?  Will they have to select persons, facts and events?  
DP:  We're working to put some limits on the sync as we know some users will be leery to share their entire database. Ideas that we are working on include only syncing the ancestors currently listed at the online service, generation limits, and other ever more granular limitations. This will largely be influenced by our beta testers.

RS:  Will the user be able to upload whole databases to the online system, or vice versa?  Can a user download a whole database into a new software file?
DP:  Yes. We will be releasing a beta for people to try with this feature on June 10th. You can select the generations and download a new file from your information on Geni. This beta will have a generation limit however.

RS:  Will all information in the genealogy software programs be able to be synchronized?  E.g., name, dates, places, relationships, notes (with formatting), sources (with EE-quality fields), media (from user file folders or links to subscription sites), to-do list, research log, etc.
DP:  Yes to everything the online service will allow. Any problems found by our beta testers will be resolved. We want to have perfect migration of data. 

RS:  Will the synchronization happen automatically (say when the program is closed, or when the online tree is closed), or will it have to be intentionally started (when the user pushes a button)?  

DP:  You will be able to initiate a one time download/sync or setup an Auto-Sync which will run as a task on your computer and work in the background.

RS:  Will there be a separate version of AncestorSync for each online tree system with each software program (e.g., will there be, say, a specific Geni to RootsMagic program) or will the user be able to use it for any software program and online tree combination?  If it's for a specific site and/or program, will each version cost money?

DP:  There will be a version for each site we support. That means a AncestorSync for Geni and an AncestorSync for FamilySearch. The desktop conversion to all support applications will be included in each version of AncestorSync. You will, however, need to pay for the version designed for the website you prefer.
 RS:  Why should a user use AncestorSync with newFamilySearch when RootsMagic, Legacy and other software programs already can access and use newFamilySearch?  What benefits are there for owners of the FamilySearch affiliates?  

 DP:  If you use RootsMagic and Legacy there probably isn't a substantial reason. Perhaps the fact that you can utilize more programs. Also if you set it to automatic, the sync occurs without your input unless there is a concern. However the developers of Legacy and RootsMagic have done a fantastic job with their integration. If you're true to either, the FamilySearch integration is more than adequate for your needs. AncestorSync is just another direction toward simplicity.
RS:  I can see why online family tree sites are interested in the AncestorSyncGEDCOM uploads/downloads, the AncestorSync seems to offer synchronization without GEDCOM, which may have advantages.  

DP:  Exactly. This is a direct access to the genealogy program database, not a GEDCOM export.  

RS: Is AncestorSync working with the genealogy software companies to develop their product?  

DP:  Real-Time Collaboration, Inc. acquired Ohana Software, LLC just prior to RootsTech this year. Ohana Software has had a product called FamilyInsight (Previously PAF Insight) which has interacted with many of these applications for years. With each genealogy software integrated a relationship has been built with the developer. Often the developers assisted in the integration of Ohana's offering. We want to ensure the developers success as they have done such wonderful work with their applications. Our hope is that AncestorSync will facilitate online sharing while also bringing an interest back to desktop applications since there are features offered on the desktop that no website can provide.

RS:  What product liability will the software companies have if someone uses AncestorSync to download some or all of a tree from an online tree website and the user's database becomes corrupted?          

DP:  Before we sync a new file we create a local backup. That way if something does get corrupted the user has not lost a thing. We encourage all users to report any bugs and we will resolve the concerns. Again our goal is a perfect migration. If a developer has any concern as well we will gladly make the changes requested.

RS:  If collaboration occurs in an online tree and wrong or corrupted data gets added to a user's database, or worse yet - the user's correct data is deleted - who is liable?  
 DP:  The user will have to setup their permissions to sharing. You can keep the desktop as a master or trust the users you collaborate online. The choice is yours. However, the reverse may be true. What if someone corrects one of your mistakes?  ;)

RS:  The first year is only $10 - but the site does not say what the subscription price for subsequent years will be.  

DP:  AncestorSync is a $15/year service. For the time being while we are in beta we are offering a $10 for your first year. The year does not begin until we have a finalized product to ship. We want your users to know we have a 100% satisfaction guarantee that lasts for your entire year of subscription. If within 365 days of your purchase you're unhappy we'll give you a full refund.
RS:  My opinion is that this synchronization system may provide significant advantages for users that want to keep their genealogy database stored on their home computers with one or more online family tree systems. The user then retains ALL of the reporting and charting features of the software programs (which are lacking in online trees) and yet get all of their information online (with all of the "cousin bait" benefits) with the backup benefits of having the tree stored online.
DP:  Exactly Randy. That's our hope and that's why we're making this.

RS:  AncestorSync use should increase significantly when full two-way synchronization is available.

DP:  That won't be too far off. We're working hard. We're hoping to have the full product out third quarter of this year.
DP:  Also note there is a webinar demonstrating the product and the features that will be offered this Friday. You can register for the event here: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/398975558

Dovy provided this email address for questions that you might have:   info@ancestorsync.com

I really appreciate Dovy's openness and responsiveness to my post yesterday.  His answers give us very helpful information to understand how AncestorSync will work.  I look forward to participating in the webinar on Friday (27 May, 8 PM EDT, 7 PM CDT, 6 PM MDT, 5 PM PDT).

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