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Update: 1 Feb 2012

The BetterGEDCOM ad hoc committee, "Developing the Organization," issued a press release today signaling the founding of the Family History Information Standards Organisation (FHISO). Members of the committee have been reporting about the organizational progress during BetterGEDCOM weekly Developers Meeting. You can read more about FHISO on the BetterGEDCOM home page and at the FHISO website, http://fhiso.org.

We have set up a BetterGEDCOM wiki discussion, "Let's talk about FHISO."

Ad Hoc Committee

A BetterGEDCOM ad hoc committee is working to develop this project using a Google Group and Google Docs. If you'd like to participate in the work of the ad hoc committee, please contact Andy_Hatchett or GeneJ using Wikispaces e-mail.

Background, Related Wiki pages

During the 19 Sept 2011 Developers Meeting, Gordon Clarke discussed the potential to develop a community-owned organization that would become the focus of technology standardization for the international genealogical community. From the meeting notes, "When there is a formal organization, then there can be formal discussion." Mr. Clarke offered/subsequently provided various materials (instructions and links) that serve as guides for formalizing such an organization--these materials follow below the horizontal rule, below. Organized as eight instruction points ("Eight Points"), the materials reflect the need to formalize a common strategic purpose/mission, goals and objectives, governance/decision making and procedures, among others.
Since these materials were posted, various members have worked independently to advance "Developing the Organization." In the 24 Oct 2011 Developers Meeting, an ad hoc committee (herein, "the committee") was created to collaborate about "Developing the Organization" (occasionally, "DTO"). Specifically, this committee will work to expedite an initial proposal for further comment by the BetterGEDCOM membership. While most of the collaboration will take place off-wiki, two information pages are being added to the wiki today (30 Oct 2011). Both of these wiki pages may be edited by members by clicking the tab "Edit" in the upper right hand corner of the linked page.
1) Summary of BetterGEDCOM wiki topical pages and discussions--"DTO Wiki Links"
2) Summary of where we are relative to the Eight Points from Clarke's instructions--"DTO Starting Summary"

A third new wiki page was added 31 October 2011--DTO Forward Looking. This page is intended to be a starting point for the ad hoc committee. Additional information about the committee is available on the DTO Forward Looking wiki page.

How to Develop an Organizational Charter

An organizational charter is a document that details the objectives, structure and workings of an organization. Any company, group or team can benefit by having one. While it is usually written at the creation of a new organization, it can also be helpful for existing ones. An effective charter will help guide the organization and ensure that its members understand its purpose and stay on track to accomplish it. The following steps will help you write an effective charter, and should be adapted for your organization's specific needs.


  1. Create a name for the organization and use it as the first section of the charter. Ideally, the name will represent the purpose of the organization.
  2. The second section of the charter should be the statement of purpose. It is critical to understand and keep in mind the strategic importance of the organization. Write out the major objectives of the organization in a succinct paragraph.
  3. In the third section, write down the key criteria for success of the organization. What specifically will need to happen in order for the organization to be considered a success?
  4. In section four, write out the organizational structure. Who are the key members of the organization, and what are their roles and responsibilities? These roles will vary from organization to organization, but some examples include the organization's sponsor, board of directors, finance manager, head writer, marketing director and office manager.
  5. The fifth section should outline the applicable background information, including an explanation of the factors leading to the creation of the organization. What other organizations, people, environmental influences, market trends, consumer needs, etc., are and will be influential in the creation and duration of the organization?
  6. In the sixth section, detail the scope of the organization's activities. What will the organization do, make, sell, sing, etc.? Also, it is important to specify what is out of scope for the organization. This will help keep the organization appropriately focused in the years ahead.
  7. In section seven, write out the processes by which the organization will conduct business. For example, how will the organization implement decisions, changes and partnerships? How will the organization communicate, internally and externally, and what templates, guidelines and quality-control methods will be used? This section will need to be very clear, and should be carefully reviewed and approved by all key stakeholders to ensure the appropriate information is included and accurate.
  8. The final section should discuss finances. How much money will be required to begin work as an organization, and how is it being funded? What income will be required, and how will revenues be invested and/or distributed

    Expert Andy Updegrove

    Consortium Building Info

    Wc3 Community Group Process

How to Developer a Charter Template Instructions:People in business, non-profit organizations, and managing projects utilize the structure of a charter to convey key objectives about their initiatives to interested parties. The typical content of a charter includes information about the purpose, how the mission will be achieved, financial position, organizational structure and the cost or benefit anticipated. A well-written charter can help organizations organize these items, validate them against expectations, condense them into marketable highlights and serve as a trigger for acceptance, financing and marketing activities.

  1. Gather a variety of existing charters. Planning documents for business ventures are different from those of non-profits or projects. Review the contents of each to determine the common denominator (body of knowledge) and use this as your basis for the template.
  2. Develop categories for these common areas. Many charters have similar content, such as executive summary, purpose, product or service description, target population (market), strategy (approach), and organizational structure (participants). Determine which categories are appropriate for a single (or general) charter and which can be applied to specialized charter templates.
  3. Create an outline of suggested content. Templates should provide guidance for the user, not tell the story. Develop a set of questions the each section should address. Alternate the road map, starting with a description of each segment, or section, followed by a list of questions that should be answered in greater detail.
  4. Evaluate the template by conducting a test. Provide the template to potential users and experienced charter writers. Gather their feedback and incorporate the suggestions into the template.
  5. Create a section for frequently asked questions that are likely to come from novice writers. Prevention and being proactive can help minimize the opportunity for misunderstanding.
  6. Provide links to sample completed charters. Good examples will help build confidence and understanding among potential users and strengthen the validity and reliability of your instrument.


    Sample Charter 1

    Sample Charter 2

    OpenGen Charter - Final Draft (PDF)

Standards Development Process

When an organization develops standards which may be used openly, it is common to have formal rules published regarding the process. This may include:

Although it can be a tedious and lengthy process, formal standard setting is essential to developing new technologies.


Five Reasons to Incorporate Your Nonprofit

Incorporate You Business for Free


Starting a Nonprofit Organization

Starting a Nonprofit (PDF)


gthorud 2011-10-02T04:45:59-07:00
A few comments on Developing the Organization
This round of discussion about governance started as part of a discussion about SourceTemplates.org.

To me it seems that what is needed first is a definition of the scope or goal of that work, detailed with a list of requirements to the solution. Then you need to find out who intends to participate in the work, and thirdly you need to decide how the work should progress and how decisions will be made etc.

Discussing incorporation at this stage, in the context of SourceTemplates, seems a bit premature. It is certainly possible to develop a specification without being incorporated, and you can even maintain it that way – it will in any case be an improvement on the current situation. From what I have read of your referenced material, the main reasons for incorporation have to do with economy, durability and liability. If all participants cover their own expenses, if you have made sure you do not infringe on copyright and want to make the result public domain, what other reasons are there for incorporation? I have not heard of standard bodies or developers being sued for bugs in a specification, but I can not rule it out.

If one were to discuss this in a larger context, i.e. in the context of a revision of the Gedcom standard, this would be a very different discussion. Economy and a long lasting organization will be more important, and so will the formal legal organization.

In the context of a "revised Gedcom", it becomes equally interesting to discuss
• How can users and experts/organizations that do not offer (commercial) products participate in the work? How do you balance user and vendor power? I believe that these users/experts can provide value to the organization once you get a critical mass of them, so that you can have real majority decisions or "rough consensus", cf. IETF, provided there is a clear set of rules governing the participation. The experience of BetterGEDCOM has also shown me that ordinary, non-technical users can be a valuable corrigenda to the technicians, and that users have requirements that the technicians do not think about or which do not fit their business model. Also, a lot of the specifications that has been published since the last update of Gedcom have been made by non-commercial actors. There will be a need for separation of random informal discussions and formal user contributions in order to prevent anarchy. There may also be a need for qualification of participants, possibly based on contributions and/or a very small member fee. This will be a difficult issue, but I think an effort should be made to try to get the non-professionals involved.

• You also mention "bias and commercial interests". Will the big players control the result, or will the standard describe a data model that will satisfy both those who want to maximize their internet services and those users who want to do things independently of these services by using a file format?

• A critical issue is an "open process" or "transparency" which will be important in order to assure for example "non-bias". This includes publication of minutes, contributions and "who voted what, on what grounds" (c.f. e.g. ISO).

• Ownership of the result and input contributions to the work is also important, and I believe they should be "public domain". One factor that contributed to the widespread implementation of the TCP/IP based implementations, and applications, was that you did not have to pay for the standards, as opposed to ISO, ITU etc. standards.

• How can the internet be utilized to make this an international effort that can satisfy the needs of users in many countries? Will the participants be required to attend face to face meetings in the US that only some (international) vendors or users can afford? Note that a lot of the work made by one of the most successful standardization organizations, IETF, was carried out over the internet, an internet that was far less sophisticated than today.

• Will non-US vendors, organizations and users/experts be invited to participate?

• Will the organization do real development, or will it just polish and publish an existing specification?

• It is also my belief that a process must be directed by user requirements, or a description of what needs a solution satisfies. There has to be a formal procedure that ensures this, as in many ISO standard processes. The standard should not be based on technical solutions in search for a need, but there is also a need for technical excellence.

• Invitations to Board dinners may be an issue for some …….

• And there are other issues that I will not go into now.

Or, will it be claimed that this is too complex, so that it is better that the big actors control it all, possibly with some pro forma participation from genealogy organizations "representing" users?

I totally agree that in this context, tedious work is required to set a standard, and I also believe that a tedious process is required to set up the organization that will produce it.
Andy3rd 2011-10-03T14:24:19-07:00
Just a thought but...
I don't know if everyone has looked at the file Gordon was kine enough to post:


It seems to me this might be very useful in the development of the various sub-groups that it seems will be needed to complete BetterGEDCOM's work and in particular in our interfacing with SourceTemplates.Org.
GeneJ 2011-10-10T09:19:43-07:00
After looking through the various helpful documents, I went back and made notes to the listed items Mr. Clarke had added to the page "Developing the Organization.

The first of these Input items is titled "Instructions." Mr. Clarke listed eight successive concepts. They seem like building blocks, so my comments below pertain only to the first two points.

"1. Create a name for the organization and use it as the first section of the charter. Ideally, the name will represent the purpose of the organization."

BetterGEDCOM is the current name of the wiki and the blog. Consistent with Mr. Clarke's comments in the meeting, if broaden that branding appeals to the group, below are some domain names that were recently available:

IGDSD.org-International Genealogical Data Standards Development
IGDSC.org-International Genealogical Data Standards Consortium
DSFG.org-Data Standards for Genealogy
IDS4G.org-International Data Standards 4 Genealogy

"2. The second section of the charter should be the statement of purpose. It is critical to understand and keep in mind the strategic importance of the organization. Write out the major objectives of the organization in a succinct paragraph."

[Name of Organization] brings together independent stakeholders from the global genealogical community for the purpose of developing and maintaining community technology standards. All members ascribe to, and the organization conducts business in accordance with, the “ISO Code of conduct for the technical work”—we organize ourselves and operate without prejudice toward any existing or future genealogy software program or website, ethnic group, culture or country.

DearMYRTLE 2011-10-10T09:52:18-07:00
We discussed Gordon Clarke's at the meeting following his postings. Gordon did not attend, as you will recall.

It was determined by the group that with our small active group, it would dilute our energy to spend time incorporating at that time.

It has only been two weeks since that choice was made.

I am assuming that you do now favor incorporation?

What was your suggested time frame for this?
DearMYRTLE 2011-10-10T10:01:04-07:00
Team Charter --

The elements of Gordon's .doc concerning a TEAM CHARTER closely align with the original design and content of the BetterGEDCOM Wiki. Adding one's listing to the "Who Are We?" (and subtracting) indicates.

1. Purpose
(Describe the purpose for forming the team and the anticipated outcomes.)

2. Background

(Summarize the program or project the team is supporting, state how the team fits within the agency organizational structure, identify who are the users/customers of the program/project including external customers and stakeholders, state the estimated cost of the acquisition over the life cycle, and describe special circumstances surrounding the acquisition.)

3. Scope

(State the scope, mission, and objectives for the acquisition and the team’s role in achieving it. This is similar to preparing a mission need statement. Define the high level goals the team/acquisition must accomplish.)

4. Team composition

(Identify the functional areas and agency organizational components represented, the number of members from each, state who are core [essential] members versus support or advisory members and full or part time designation, and the anticipated time/resources commitments involved over the anticipated duration of the team.)

5. Membership roles

(Identify roles and responsibilities of each team member. List member name, organization, contact information including telephone and email address, and team role if designated already. Also identify specific functional level of expertise associated with each member.)

6. Team empowerment

(Define existing authority the team, by virtue of its individual membership, already possesses, additional authority needed to fully perform as envisioned by the team objectives, and level of empowerment requested.)

7. Team operations

(Describe team operational plans. This includes, for example, such activities as the team’s decision-making processes, how changes in membership occur should the need arise, plans to establish “ground” or operating rules, relationships with other organizational entities or teams, logistical support, etc.)

8. Team Performance Assessment

(Document key areas of performance needed for team success along with means of measuring progress.)

9. Acquisition milestones and schedules

(Include major activities and milestones forecasted along with associated timeframes and schedule.)

10. Signature Page

(Each team member signs, agreeing to the contents and being held mutually accountable for adherence.)

11. Approval
GeneJ 2011-10-10T13:23:11-07:00
@ Myrt,

Hope this helps.

I understood the decision to table on 26 Sept 2011 was because there had been insufficient time to review the extensive materials. In at least three meetings, "assignments" (for lack of a better term) have been given relative to the materials.

As I commented this morning, "Developing the Organization" does not strike me as a "yes/no" decision about incorporation. Rather, "Developing the organization" puts forth a process by which we up our game/improve our effectiveness.

Somewhat in haste ...

(1) I cut my teeth with a company that controlled the larger share of one market. Officers did not participate in industry associations that hadn't passed a certain "no collusion" smell test. (And that was back in the good old days.)

(2) As Adrian recently wrote, "[BetterGEDCOM is] >>a wiki<< It's never had any process to deliver a product." I assume all want to improve our effectiveness. "Developing the organization" offers the opportunity to develop a transparent process beyond the informal structure of the wiki without losing that open door. If we aren't willing to invest the time to organize for success, is it fair to expect volunteers to continue to contribute?

(3) We've lost contributors because we couldn't or wouldn't answer specific questions about the group and its decision making. I believe we can reverse that trend once and for all.

(4) If we want to develop standards for a community, we shouldn't shy from the opportunity to develop the "standards" that same community expects of us.

(5) The decision to "incorporate," to me, is dependent on the needs that become clear in the organizational process--not to unlike the decision some make about whether to form a partnership or create and LLC, etc.

Hope this answers your question. Wish I had more time.--GJ
Andy_Hatchett 2011-10-10T13:54:50-07:00
Here are my thoughts in a nutshell..

Incorporation isn't needed at this point in time but some sort of formal internal organization of BG is, otherwise we remain a debating society.

Some may see this as 'giving up' on the consensus model but it really isn't. It just means that that consensus will be reached thru a formal set of rules - namely proposals and formal voting.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that without formalizing the BG organization we are forever doomed to be in 'herding cats' mode.
DearMYRTLE 2011-10-10T20:20:01-07:00
I agree that incorporation isn't needed. My comments are that the goals, who we are etc as mentioned in Gordon's link are elements we have at our wiki.

The space for creating a product and the administrative controls are being developed for the sub- group SourceTemplates.org.

I think that effort will be a good model for action that other aspects of BetterGEDCOM can employ. Determining who does what in that admin capacity will take care of the problems associated with 100 BG lurkers and a smaller team who comment and discuss.

We lost contributors to this group because there was no pipeline for actual development, and the fact that most members work elsewhere and have limited time to devote to developing theory.

Once we have a mechanism for product development, a place for placing work in the pipeline, the more motvated volunteer participants will have something to do.
GeneJ 2011-10-07T16:25:16-07:00
Additional reference materials
Possibly some will find these worthy.--GJ

1. "www.StandardsLearn.org," American National Standards Institute. The
StandardLearn website is described as "the portal to online standards and
conformity assessment education."

There are three e-Learning courses
(a) Short Course: Through History with Standards
(b) U.S. Standards System ­ Today and Tomorrow
(c) Short Course: Legal Issues in Standard-Setting

2. PDF files available from ISO.org
(a) iso_selection_criteria_for_people_leading_the_technical_work.pdf (4
pp., 2011)
From the introduction, "The success of any Committee or Working Group is dependent on its leadership. This selection criteria applies to Committee1 Chairs, Working Group Convenors and Committee Secretaries. ISO Members are therefore required to apply this criteria when nominating people to these roles in order to ensure that the new ISO Code of Conduct for the technical work is upheld and that the ISO/IEC Directives are correctly applied.

(b) ISO codes_of_conduct.pdf (1 p., 2011)
As below, from the introduction:
"This Code of Conduct (Code) is to facilitate ISO's work which is carried out in an international, multi-stakeholder, multi-sector environment. It applies to people who choose to participate in an ISO committee, working
group or other consensus group. The Code is an obligation for participation in the above groups that work in the framework of the ISO/IEC Directives.
"As participants in ISO work, we acknowledge the responsibility and value of participating in developing International Standards. We therefore adhere to this Code in accordance with the terms below."

3. Ernest Gellhorn (George Mason University), "Standard Setting," [?n.d.],
_US Federal Trade Commission_
Includes some comments about how adoption of standards can be used to exclude competitors. See item, "common occurrence: standards can and are often used to exclude newcomers and and block innovation of rivals."
GeneJ 2011-10-17T09:46:44-07:00
Developing the Organization-What's next? How do we advance?
Please post below if you are interested and would like to participate in advancing Mr. Clarke's helpful page, "Developing the organization" (http://bettergedcom.wikispaces.com/Developing+the+Organization)?

Noteworthy from my journal--Mr. Clarke's suggestions are similar to the very process Greg Lamberson hoped to advance with this group last November-December.

Also added to the wiki is a page, "ISO and ISO Code of conduct for the technical work." (https://bettergedcom.wikispaces.com/ISO+and+ISO+Code+of+conduct+for+the+technical+work) That wiki page, while brief, provides some over view of how ISO is organized and operates for the purpose of standards setting. The ISO's website, ISO.org, provides more details.

Perhaps Mr. Clarke will have more suggestions if sufficient numbers among us are interested in advancing "Developing the Organization." --GJ
GeneJ 2011-10-17T13:19:46-07:00
(1) This topic was discussed in the 19 Oct 2011 Developers Meeting. Notes from the meeting are here:

(2) There is also a short discussion on a related topic under the Home page discussion thread, "May we please have "Developing the Organization" added to the Home page and the wiki nav bar" (link below).
GeneJ 2011-10-18T08:21:03-07:00
W3C Community Groups.
Has anyone participated in a W3C Community Group?

W3C makes a governed process available for "Community Groups."

Mr. Clarke included a reference to the offering on this wiki associated page. As I recall, the W3C process was mentioned in the early organizers meetings and is noted on the wiki in at least a couple of discussions.

The W3C group process seems created for the purpose of developing a specification. Is it permitted to use the facility to organize for the separate purpose of otherwise developing specifications.

There seem some nice assistance available through the W3C set up.

W3C Community Group links
Group Process-http://www.w3.org/community/about/agreements/#general-policies
W3C Process Document-http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/
General Communications Policies-http://www.w3.org/community/about/agreements/#general-policies
W3C Community Contributor License Agreement*-http://www.w3.org/community/about/agreements/cla/

*This agreement includes language, "I acknowledge that the goal of this CLA is to provide coverage for Contributions to the Specification, if any, created by the Project. The Final Specification itself, if any, will be subject to the W3C Community Final Specification Agreement. "
hrworth 2011-10-30T11:55:10-07:00
General Question about the Development of THE Organization

I am not against the effort in developing the organization.

What I see, is further getting away from setting up "something" that will improve the transferring of information between Genealogy Programs.

You and others have done some amazing work is Source / Citation / Evidence / Conclusions but I have not seen anything the will 1) Bring End Users to the Table, 2) Bring Vendors to the Table, 3) Bring Genea-Bloggers or "Super" genealogists to the table. By "to the table" I mean getting these groups of people to contribute to this project.

I think, and this is only one persons (oh, and that is an End User) view of the Better GEDCOM project is that we have missed the boat.

I think, and I may be completely wrong here, that Something WILL surface at RootsTech 2012 that will be a solution to sharing our genealogy research between end users.

Andy put out some Awesome Numbers today, about the work that has been done here. My fear is that diverting the limited energy to an organization will over shadow all of that work that has been done.

Again, that is NOT to say that it shouldn't be done, but I don't see someone 'handing over' something that is being developed to 'an organization' such as BetterGEDCOM.

Thanks for listening.

Andy_Hatchett 2011-10-30T18:23:24-07:00

I don't see it as "diverting the limited energy" but rather as a chance to increase the energy.

I'll give you two examples...

1) The data about the status of the Wiki. I'm an end user and can't contribute a lot to the tech side of things so I tried to figure a way to contribute to the overall effort using what skills I have. Most of my expertise has been in management so I'm looking at ways to both improve the efficiency of the Wiki and also encourage new memberships. I'm hoping that those stats may re-kindle some people to take a second look at the Wiki.

2) Increasing Wiki membership. Over the week-end I've done some work which I'll explain at tomorrow's meeting that may help get new people involved.

3) I'll also take up re-organizing part of the Wiki to make it easier for new people to find things on the Wiki.

As to RootsTech and a solution to sharing-
I'm willing to bet that there is more than one solution presented and that rather than having one clean pond (a solution everyone has agreed to) we'll have a churning cauldron of muddy water (competing solutions) that leaves us just about where we are today (various GEDCOM dialects that don't play well together).

If nothing else, BetterGEDCOM has at least gotten the larger players talking about solving the GEDCOM problem and that in itself is, imho, a minor miracle.

hrworth 2011-10-30T18:29:20-07:00

I hope you are right and I am wrong.

I don't participate because some folk have told me that I didn't know what I was talking about and that my comments weren't welcome.

I am just expressing that fact that we have lots of text, posts, messages, but no deliverables, yet.

Again, I am not saying the an organization is not important, but in reality there aren't enough folks helping out.

EssyGreen 2011-11-12T01:57:58-08:00
How will BetterGEDCOM be adopted?
I *love* the idea of a new genealogical data standard. I am a techie and a genealogist so have an interest from both user and developer perspectives. BUT I'm not yet convinced that a standard is possible in the commercial world we live in. It seems to me that the only reason that GEDCOM existed in the first place was as a tool for LDS to propagate to its submitters ... as genealogy became more commonplace and more and more companies sought ways to make a profit in this area, the "standard" naturally fragmented as companies sought to provide their own "better" software based on uniqueness rather than sameness. With no legislation or regulating body to oversee and enforce a standard it has stagnated.

So my question here is: how can an organisation be developed with the authority to enforce a new standard? And if it can't enforce it then how can it influence the market effectively? And if it can't influence then surely this becomes just another software product? Albeit hopefully a "better" one!
ttwetmore 2011-11-12T05:25:18-08:00
The Better GEDCOM view on this might be called the Field of Dreams approach: "If we build it, they will come."

The two big boys in this area are Family Search (the LDS) and Ancestry.com. They are driven by their internal requirements, and those requirements do not include developing a common model in consultation with the rest of the industry. Rumors are, based on the published schedule for the upcoming Roots Tech conference in February, that the LDS may announce a new standard. If this happens I doubt that Better GEDCOM can survive.

The only way a new genealogical standard with full support of the industry could be developed would be if the industry itself decided that that was in its best interest and they formed a consortium committee to develop the model. At the beginning Better GEDCOM hoped it would become that consortium. The vendors were invited, and a few expressed polite interest, but that's as far as things went. If such a consortium existed, it might just be possible to get the attention of Family Search or Ancestry.com, but without it, those two organizations will continue on wholly internally driven.

The genealogical industry, other than the two big boys, is made up of small companies with 2 properties that make it hard for them to cooperate: 1) they are shoestring operations that can't afford devoting time and money for a consortium effort; and 2) they all basically believe that what they do now is right and everybody else is wrong. Most of the systems were developed by Mom & Pop organizations where Pop was a highly opinionated developer with very strong views on what is important in a genealogical system. I would say that some of the small vendors also believe they have a vested interest in keeping their models different from their competitors as a way to lock in customers. Once a new family historian discovers that sharing of data is important, and that sharing of data with their program is difficult, they are so invested in the program they began with, that they can't switch. Each system claims to support sharing by providing a "GEDCOM import" feature, but the features generally suck, generally because the GEDCOM that every system exports, sucks.

But have no fear, if we build it they will come.
gthorud 2011-11-12T05:56:35-08:00
Creating an organization will not be an easy task, but unless you want a standard developed only for the same purpose as you describe for Gedcom, there is no way without an open organization.

If the commercial actors are not interested in a standard, who else but users are interested in them? I am surprised that there seem to be no (few?) established genealogy organizations pushing the issue.

Another question is, is there no benefit in a working standard for the actors of the commersial world? Going even further, could a standard be a disadvantage for any of them? Or is the problem that they do not have an environment to work within, or they lack the resources?

There is group in BetterGEDCOM that has started to look at the organization issue. If you are interested send me a message via the wiki.
ttwetmore 2011-11-12T08:43:01-08:00
Better GEDCOM was formed by experienced users who had faced many problems sharing data, with the goal of building a user-driven organization that would attract developers from the established programs to join together to develop a common exchange and archive format. This was and is an excellent goal, but has as yet has not attracted the level of committment by developers to reach a critical mass. There are a few developers here, but we are not big name folk, and don't have any large systems to our names. We need participants from elsewhere in the industry.

Before retiring I worked for 28 years as a software engineer in the telecommunications industry, at Bell Labs for many years, and then at various startups. The entire telecommunications industry is standards driven. The big players spend millions of dollars annually participating in standards bodies, and have departments whose purpose it is to participate in standards bodies, both helping to write the standards, and especially, to represent the technical needs of their organizations. This level of commitment is not possible in our field. The GenTech committee met together only twice face to face if I remember, and was made up of volunteers who were not financially supported by their organizations.

Standards are required when different organizations must agree on how to communicate with each other and share data with each other. In our industry we have two players who are so big they can promulgate standards by fiat, and we have many small organizations that seem not that committed to solving the problems of sharing data, and we have many frustrated users that don't have the technical or financial wherewithal to support a standards effort. It's a conundrum.
GeneJ 2011-11-12T08:48:22-08:00
Welcome EssyGreen,

I'm an end user, and favor voluntary standards. There is a nice line on the ISO website, "Why standards matter" (http://www.iso.org/iso/about/discover-iso_why-standards-matter.htm). "Standards ensure desirable characteristics of products and services such as quality, environmental friendliness, safety, reliability, efficiency and interchangeability - and at an economical cost. ... When products and services meet our expectations, we tend to take this for granted and be unaware of the role of standards. However, when standards are absent, we soon notice. We soon care when products turn out to be of poor quality, do not fit, are incompatible with equipment that we already have, are unreliable or dangerous."

Our technology doesn't really involved issues of safety (a reason adoption might be encouraged by regulation). On the other hand, our technology does involve practices, quality and the interchange of data.

Interchangeability isn't just about file sharing between one full service program and another, either. Take the case of WorldCat, which makes an API available--third party technology can be developed around that API to effectively import source information about a book's Author, Title, etc. If a core standardized genealogical model exists, then a single development effort might produce an import mechanism for the benefit of all standard-model compliant vendors. In the alternative, when there is not an underlying core standard, each vendor would mostly have to develop their own import mechanics. It's part of the challenge of BetterGEDCOM's organizational effort to develop forums in which vendors of all sizes and shapes are able to participate with users in a process that works.

It's possible. We know this from observing how other industries and disciplines have developed open standards. --GJ
GeneJ 2011-11-12T09:12:45-08:00
OOops... sigh. Corrected insert below

between 3rd para, "their own import mechanics" and beginning of the next sentence, "It's part of the challenge ..." should be ...

The current standard, GEDCOM, was last developed so long ago. Today, some vendors only partially support GEDCOM--they just moved on. Other vendors mostly support GEDCOM. All this means BetterGEDCOM has to look backward, at functionality developed into programs finalized one, three, seven or more years ago. We have to look forward, too--to the functionality developers are working now to integrate into their next release.

IMO, it's at best unrealistic to expect vendors to share proprietary technologies. It's part of the challenge ...
EssyGreen 2011-11-13T22:47:52-08:00
I'm in favour too of standards too but I think ttwetmore confirmed my doubts in his Field of Dreams reply ... sadly I'm not so sure they will follow if we build it.

I worked in telcos too for 10 years (during the mobile madness years here in the UK) and yes it's all standards driven but it's also very heavily regulated. Would it have been so standardised if there had not been legally binding regulations? Personally, I doubt it.
ttwetmore 2011-11-14T02:31:23-08:00

I disagree with your implication that it was regulation that forced standards on the telecommunications industry. The need for interoperability accounts for nearly 100% of it.

Genealogy is in the same state of needing standards for interoperability, but our industry does not have the collective will nor the collective resources to get them written.