RootsTech 2014

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, May 18, 2012

An Ominous Silence

There is an ominous silence out there in the genealogical community about the upcoming transition from New.FamilySearch.org to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree program. I can only interpret the total lack of discussion to a strongly worded non-disclosure agreement between FamilySearch and any interested developers. You may be aware that FamilySearch has created a rather involved system of third-party products that are affiliates. Most of these products filled gaps and shortcomings in the New.FamilySearch.org program or provided secondary services such as charts. This has been administered through the FamilySearch Developer Network for Software Programmers.

Now FamilySearch has announced that New.FamilySearch.org will be abandoned for the new FamilySearch Family Tree program which is already online and actively being used.

The question of integration has arisen already in the context of people moving to Family Tree and wondering if they can enter their data from their own computer-based program. These users recognize the advantage of the links between their computer-based personal program and New.FamilySearch.org and are asking whether or not such a relationship will exist with Family Tree?

I notice on the Developer Network site the following:
Multiple RESTful Web Services with documentation and training
  • Family Tree API with over 600 million lineage-linked names of people
  • Authorities API with standardization for date
  • Code examples throughout all documentation
This appears to be a direct reference to the development of third-party integration with Family Tree. It is likely that discussion of the integration is taking place in a closed environment due to the as yet incomplete implementation of Family Tree. But I question the wisdom of developing integration with an absence of community input and involvement. I have no doubt that the developers and FamilySearch are trying hard to provide a unified experience for the Family Tree user, but what about the issues that have already arisen in conjunction with the data issues of New.FamilySearch.org? It is likely that the community has some pretty developed opinions about how the carryover issues from New.FamilySearch.org to Family Tree should be handled.

I fully understand the huge investment in time and effort required to develop a new version of a software program. I further understand that those developers who have had less of a return on investment from their efforts with New.FamilySearch.org may not be enthusiastic about starting over with a new set of APIs. But if I were involved in the development of a genealogical database program, I would be anxious not only to satisfy the requirement imposed by the FamilySearch environment, I would also be anxious to involve those in the community who had worked with both my program and New.FamilySearch.org to find out what issues need to be addressed in any new implementation with Family Tree. It is likely that in the near future, whether or not a program thrives or fails may depend on its integration into the larger genealogical community and particularly, the way it handles an interchange between the program and Family Tree.

Knowing that development is going on in a consumer vacuum does not make me confident that the ultimate products will address the basic issues of the New.FamilySearch.org data set.

There is a related issue that will be the subject of another post shortly. That is, the over-all integration of data in the community at large.

1 comment:

  1. As a database developer for corporate credit unions, I think I understand the silence. There are many aspects of development to consider, not the least of which is maintainability. Your point is well-taken, however, because without user-feedback the end product may not meet the users needs. (It will never meet all users' expectations!) Still, many at FamilySearch ARE users, too, and contribute their concerns toward the outcome.

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