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Who Are We?
All are invited to participate in the wiki and the blog to move the discussion forward.
Simply put, if you will participate, we are you. This is user-driven project completely independent of any other genealogical organization and will remain so. This community relies on your participation to work. Please jump in and lend a hand! Add your name and profile info as you see fit.
The organizers of BetterGEDCOM are members of the genealogy user community not affiliated with any particular genealogical organization and not advocating for any particular constituency except the end-users.
The organizing team at BetterGEDCOM was set in place to advertise the BetterGEDCOM workspace designed to bring groups from all parts of the net into one place for decision making. We hold joint voice meetings weekly for reporting purposes, and are in constant communication in the mean time. As BetterGEDCOM expands and actually makes decisions by consensus, the organizing team will not exercise control. Our goal is to organize large-group meetings and report progress to the world at the direction of the consensus of participants.
- Tamura Jones, a computer scientist writing about genealogy and technology on Modern Software Experience.
Creator of the Genealogy Framework, the basis for scientific genealogy. A Hurried introduction to Scientific Genealogy provides a quick introduction of scientific genealogy. GEDCOM and GenTech are products of traditional genealogy thinking designed for traditional genealogy, incapable of supporting scientific genealogy.
Encourages better GEDCOM implementation through highly-acclaimed genealogy software reviews that critique vendor's GEDCOM support in detail. Created Three Torture Test and Some GEDCOM Torture Tests Resultsto highlight common failings of current GEDCOM implementations, thus challenging vendors to improve their GEDCOM support.Publishes annual GeneAwards, which highlight the year's best and worst of genealogy technology, with attention for the status of genealogy standards; both the GeneAwards 2008 and GeneAwards 2009 gave FamilySearch a dishonourable mention for neglecting its responsibilities as keeper of the GEDCOM standard.
Has moved understanding and specification of GEDCOM forward while FamilySearch did not. GEDCOM Usage Conventions, documents the usage conventions that have evolved around "GEDCOM". A Gentle Introduction to GEDCOM, is likely the first text that introduces GEDCOM at a practical level instead of merely discussing the file format. An extensive series about FTW TEXT, the GEDCOM-like but incompatible format supported by Family Tree Maker Classic document the issues and presents practical solutions. The GEDCOM Magicis essentially a technical note on the GEDCOM specification that provides the first correct description of how to detect GEDCOM files (and while doing so, avoid misdetecting FTW TEXT files as such), because the specification itself is incorrect.
- James Tanner, A former Apple computer dealer and technician, owned an Apple Macintosh software development company, has extensive genealogical experience. Supported GEDCOM file transfers for years. Has been writing about genealogy for some time on Genealogy's Star. Is retiring from practicing law as a trial attorney for almost 36 years.
- Doug Blank, professor of computer science and a volunteer developer for the open source genealogy program Gramps.
- Kristiina Ruokoja, ICT + genealogy, interested in information quality, usability, interaction design, and localization.
- DearMYRTLE a genealogy blogger, podcaster and lecturer, who feels the issue of GEDCOM incompatibility is too important to sit quietly on the shelf for another 14 years and provided the Wiki space. "Regular" folks want to exchange genealogy data and cannot do this without losing important data along the way.
- Russ Worthington, an End User wanting to be able to share my research with another family researcher. That can not be done today. This Wiki is defining a long term project that is very technical, and work that really needs to be done. The reason that we started, came from the inability to Share, successfully, data from one software package to another. This Wiki is a great place for this long term technical discussion. The BetterGEDOM Blog will have posting's there about the End User experience with the current GEDCOM format.
- Brant Gurganus, a genealogy enthusiast and software developer.
- Xavier Van Dessel, working 15+ years in IT (banking sector) and since 20+ active (when I have time ...) researching genealogy. I think I may say I have a good vision on data modeling, and I would like to bring that to this community. As I live in Europe, I'm rather familiar with specific issues that arise there, like alternate calendars (Napoleon, Pope Gregory XIII, etc), language issues, changing borders, countries that disappear, foreign occupation etc.
- Geir Thorud, retired computer geek who used to work on national and international standardization of data/mobile communication, and structured business data interchange standards, in the 1980s and 90s. On the Internet since 1984. During the last decade I have been working on solutions for freely available source transcriptions and I am a frustrated user of genealogy software that have some shortcomings wrt support of customs in my country (Norway), and in most cases have shown little innovation during the last decade.
- Louis Kessler, software developer and genealogist, both for 35 years. Started chess programming (See: Brute Force) in the 70's. At the same time, I started programming my genealogy with a SCRIPT text-based wordprocessor. I tried many software programs for genealogy. I really liked the reports produced by Phillip Brown's Family History System. For data input, I moved to Reunion for Windows and had many discussions with Frank Leister and Brad Walter regarding features and my suggestions. When Leister Productions sold their Windows rights to Sierra, I became a beta tester for the newly named Generations and again had input with them. But then Generations was bought and dropped by Genealogy.com. I put up my own website in 1997 and included a Genealogy Software Links page, which has now evolved into GenSoftReviews. I have been developing my own genealogy software: Behold, which is now an output-based GEDCOM reader that will, in Version 2, introduce formless word-processer-like editing to the genealogy community. I've worked with GEDCOM for decades. It has served us well, and if it is to be replaced, I think I can contribute to the effort.
- Adrian Bruce - took a maths degree in 1972, so please excuse any pedantry with logic from me, I can't help it, it's the way my mind was shaped. During the maths degree, I first met programming in the shape of ALGOL-60 (your first language is always the best). Spent 30 years working for British Rail and its successor organisations in IT, writing, designing, specifying software for business systems relating to trains. Have made some use of data modelling but never past the Third Normal Form. First came across XML when we commissioned software to publish train schedules and events. Latterly, ran a 2nd level support team for the trains systems, so I'm used to translating between software propeller-heads and users who "call a spade a spade", to use a British phrase. Throughout my career, I always tried to balance pragmatism with that logical pedantry - i.e. I can make a pragmatic decision if I know why. Retired in 2008 to spend more time with my family history - I use Family Historian software from Calico Pie,which is unusual in that it uses GEDCOM as its native file format - hence my interest in ensuring ease of conversion from GEDCOM to BetterGEDCOM formats.
- Brian J Densmore - Information Technology Consultant, part time genealogist and all around geek. I have 14 professional years experience in various platforms and have designed and implemented financial and transportation systems, transfer protocols and migrations. I have degrees in Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science. Part time inventor and engineer. My first program was a "compiler" written in GW-BASIC on my 1983 XT clone. I have been an amateur genealogist for more than 30 years, and seriously for the past 20, using mostly Gramps, phpgedview and Open Office to record my results.
- Andrew G. Hatchett - Amateur genealogist for 50+ years. I've beta tested for several companies in the past. Presently a user of The Master Genealogist. Before retiring I held the position of Data Entry Quality Control Supervisor with LabCorp at their Nashville STAT Laboratory.
- Roger Moffat aka “theKiwi” - amateur genealogist since about 1989 when I first delved into genealogy and its software as a way of using my new Macintosh computer to keep track of what a cousin had compiled and then presented as a set of over 20 typewritten pages - which then had to all be retyped as soon as there was a change on the first page. As well as my own genealogy first put online in 1997 (I think) using Brad Mohr's SparrowHawk but now is using Darrin Lythgoes' TNG - The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, I'm the Genealogist for the Clan Moffat Society and so am often being presented with GEDCOM files, or native files from various genealogy software for addition to our master database which I maintain in Reunion for Macintosh and then present online using TNG. So I'm certainly interested in easy and complete data transfer between applications and platforms.
- testuser42 (realname Klemens Maier), hobby genealogist.
- Robert Burkhead - Software developer, amateur genealogist.
- Tony Proctor (ACProctor) - See profile.
I think the rules of engagement need to be written. (bylaws?)
Should there be voting? Who gets a vote? Founders only? Should voting members be
selected by the founders according to some critera?
I think to make progress, this has to be made explicit and followed so that decisions
can actually be made.
I am involved in some non-profits in New Jersey. I wonder if the founders should
see if forming one would be useful? I don't know all the rules on founding one, but
have read the bylaws of a few. That is where founders, officers, elections, conflict
resolution, etc. are all described. And in formal meetings, Roberts Rules of Order are
And in NJ, one may ask for state grants under the umbrella of preserving history.
It might be possible to get some funds for things like founders to travel to meetings,
travel awards to major contributors, even hire a consultant to get over a sticky
issue. Here in NJ, one can ask for up to $10k a year. Not that you'd get that!
Just a thought. Trying to avoid chaos by a well known organizational model.
I don't think the question is, "Are we a benevolent dictatorship?" The question, as I see it, is, Does the user community have enough muscle and determination to will the genealogy software and services companies to cooperate regarding data exchange and give us the features we want?"
We've got several structural issues to discuss, such as the pursuit of a process for internationally-recognized standard codification. We will do what is necessary in regard to these issues as needed, but right now we need to have an idea of what we're talking about.
Don't worry. These issues are on our minds, and they have been since the beginning. Right now, it is to our benefit to NOT define ourselves in a legal fashion. Right now our primary concern is to build support and develop practical solutions to the problems of genealogy technology standards.
What good does it do to decide who is in charge right now? In charge of what? Besides, what good does it do to be the one in power and yet get nowhere?
We'll get there (or some entity likely will), but we're not there yet.
Practical solutions means,if nothing else, making decisions about the practicality of the solution.
So the question becomes how when, and who decides when a solution is practical?
We can even, for the moment, dispense with the who and the when.. but the how really needs some sort of definition - if for no other reason that to judge how close we are to one.
But, I think we need more focus on describing the benefit for users, in terms that non-technical people can understand.
You said: "How will progress be made when there are competing ideas? Are the founders a
That was a real shock to me.
As one of the "founders" of the BetterGEDCOM wiki, I don't know how to respond to the dictatorship question.
Just a small piece of how this started.
A small group of Users of several genealogy software programs where sharing "how to do" things in our own software. One thing lead to another and one of us tried to share information with another member of this small group. The data sent was not received is a way that the information was useful at 'the other end'. The Vehicle for this sharing was a GEDCOM.
Each of us, in our own way, have run into GEDCOM issues for years. Each of us had helped or tried to help users of our respective software packages over the years.
Thus began the BetterGEDCOM project. Two users wanting to share, and there was a participant who IS very technically talented in this group. A few short weeks later, we kicked of this wiki.
Bottom line here, is that this IS a Community effort to create "something" that will allow Two End Users Share Genealogy Research Information.
I hope that this has been captured in what is on the Wiki to this point and we hope to continue to expand what we want and how to make it happen.
Clearly there are Users, I am one of them, there are folks, like Greg, who can 'translate' what we want, into a format that our Vendors can create for us.
Thankfully, there are a number of 'Gregs' from various disciplines and technologies / applications that are participating already and we are trying to get some of the other vendors to participate.
Offering of suggestions, questions, requirements, solutions are most welcome. And, at some point, may reach a conclusion.
Keep in mind that this wiki has only just begun. It has all be done Online. There ARE efforts to get some face to face time, either in person as a group with some online participation in the meeting to move this project forward.
Again, this is a Community Effort. The Community will make the decision. We ALL are the decision makers.
I hope that you join us in this effort.
For example, the decision to use an XML data structure seems to me to already be a benevolent dictator decision. I saw some that disagreed, saying it is too complex, and whatnot (I happen to strongly believe that the XML data structure is the best one to use, but am just pointing out how I see that decision as being made).
What about where it is less clear cut. How do we make progress there? I submit we model a democratic method similar to an organization's bylaws, as I mentioned above.
I think voting is important. But informed voting. I would recuse myself from things I don't understand. I don't think I can educate myself by reading thousands of conflicting posts. I think I could learn if the smartest people advocating positions wrote an executive summary white paper arguing for their method, and put it up for comment. At the end of the comment period, a vote could be taken. If the loser continues griping, and is listened to at that point, no progress would be made. If the founders thought that the decision is too clear to them to be A and not B, well, that is benevolent dictator model again.
I am not trying to be difficult. I am trying to say we need to codify how progress can be made in the face of adversity. Which there is already plenty of conflicting opinions. Without such a plan, I assure you, progress will not be made. (unless benevolent dictators step up! ;-) ).
This effort is going to be hard enough without setting up power struggles from the very beginning. This is my main thought when reading this.
Every single step of this process will be negotiated over and over again. To set some process up by which something is voted upon this early is just a sure-fire way to kill the whole project. Having plenty of experience with nonprofits, community organizations and big corporations myself, to say nothing of the entrenched and insular world of genealogy software companies/organizations, I just find the whole idea of even discussing ways to formalize this process and finalize ideas completely counterproductive.
How about we work on the ideas first before digging in our heels and suggesting there are deal-breaking decisions we must decide upon?
This is just completely unhelpful at this point. Completely.
Every project begins like this, with enthusiastic if informal brainstorming and discussion, and folks bounding off in all directions. Lots of ideas are generated and everyone learns a lot. This initial phase is not self-sustaining, though, because brainstorming/informal discussion is a tool and must be followed by coordinated effort to produce a product.
When we get to that point in this project, it will either fizzle or we will organize and press on. We should keep this in the backs of our minds.
Most software projects of any stature seem to be backed up by nonprofit corporations. Certainly, when the LibreOffice folks separated from Oracle recently, one of the first things they did was to incorporate. Of course, they had the existing OpenOffice.org model and product to build on. Incorporation offers advantages like legal presence, limited liability, copyright assignment, etc. (Is there a lawyer-genealogist in the house?)
An alternative to incorporation would be to hook up with an existing organization. Merge with NGS GenTech? Form up under the Federation of Genealogical Societies?
Organization assumes some particular importance when we get to standardization. As I think Greg observed, getting into the standards business is complicated and time-consuming. Do we want to be a standards-setting organization, or part of one?
Internally, I think we will want to think at the same time about development process. I favor and recommend OpenUP, the open course incarnation of IBM Rational Unified Process. Go take a look at http://epf.eclipse.org/wikis/openup/. OpenUP offers tailorable tasks, roles (for team staffing), work product templates, and so on. Including a complete, ready-made, downloadable and modifiable website.
One could say we're right now at the very, very beginning of the Inception Phase, working on the Technical Vision and maybe a little on the Project Plan. Again, something to keep in mind.
2. We don't need to do this now and trying to shoehorn this effort into some organization right now would be counterproductive.
These two points sum up my thoughts on this matter.
The first step should be to get a show of hands, of who wants to participate in this procedure of discussing and voting.
Than you could make clear decision points (rather soon if not now) as to
VOTE on it
- develop a complete new structure for genealogical data or improve GEDCOM by motivating the authors to follow a strict standard of interpretation of the meaning of the tags
IMHO most of the problems encountered with GEDCOM are not due to GEDCOM but are caused by different interpretation of the GEDCOM tags by programmers and by different interpretation of the boxes in the programs by the users.
Thus a Checking programm for GEDCOM files and a translation program for GEDCOM files would be an other option.
All the minorities who have voted against some decision should be able to stick to the discussion and eventually let themselves be convinced by the progress.
At the moment the discussion is so widespread that it takes more time than I have (better: I want to give to the topic) to follow and I think I’m not by myself with this feeling.
Have a nice day
This very interesting discussion can go on forever without anything formal and usable getting accomplished. If you want, you can read the last 16 years of the GEDCOM-L: http://listserv.nodak.edu/archives/gedcom-l.html and merge all that discussion to this Wiki as well.
But AFAIAC, the discussion cannot lead to anything tangible until some formal document is made. I don't know if voting is required, but we at least need a formal document to scrutinize and improve upon. I'd suggest something like starting with the GEDCOM 6.0 XML draft.
Rather than try to reinvent the wheel (which might be tough to get consensus on, and to get developers to change to), why not do it in steps. Start with GEDCOM 6.0 and lets not try right away to develop GEDCOM 10.0, but instead lets develop GEDCOM 6.1. Let's simply take what's is wrong with 6.0 and needs to be fixed, and also add anything missing that absolutely needs to be added.
GEDCOM 6.1 might be a product we can come out with in 4 or 5 months. It might be something that we can get majority approval on.
It's important this initiative get something out quickly, or we will lose momentum and everyone will start to get tired and leave.
We can always make further improvements after, but lets get a GEDCOM 6.1 out as a first priority.
As Yogi would say...
"Its deja vue all over again!"