Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Some Random Observations About The FamilySearch Family Tree

I had a question recently about how many people could be helped and stored in the Family Tree Consultant Planner. I learned that, supposedly, there is no limit to the number of people that can be helped and no time limit yet set on how long they can remain in your Consultant Planner list. Questions like this arise, from time to time, inside continue to work on the Family Tree. This program becomes more complex the questions become more frequent.

The question concerning the Consultant Planner is not a trivial question. For example, initially, there were no limits in the Family Tree program to the number of individual types of Memories that could be stored for an individual. However, eventually, a limit was placed on each type of memory, i.e. photos, documents etc.

As the Family Tree becomes more complex and the underlying programs on the website become more sophisticated, it is inevitable that even people who work with the program frequently will lose touch with all of the features. For example, years ago when I began using wordprocessing programs it was easy to learn all of the functions and features of an individual program such as the early MacWrite program from Apple. However, as word processing programs became more and more complex, I no longer even have an incentive to learn all of the features. There are presently programs that I use regularly, such as Adobe Photoshop, where I have no idea about some of the features of the program, even when those features might be beneficial to my use of the program.

Has the FamilySearch Family Tree program reached the point where the features exceed the ability of the average user to comprehend the program's complexity?

I think we may be getting close to the point where the entire website exceeds the average ability to know about or use all of its functions. Right now, the Family Tree program is about the right level of complexity from my standpoint. However, I also recognize the fact that many other people are completely lost when trying to use the program. I'm certainly not advocating "dumbing down" program. In fact, simplifying the program would begin to destroy its utility.

In making these observations, I also recognize that the complexity of the data far exceeds that of the program itself. Working with the Family Tree program is trivial compared to the complexity of dealing with historical genealogical research and accurately representing that research in the family tree format. Most of the frustration that I see among users of the Family Tree involves the information or data incorporated in the Family Tree, not the program itself. There are however certain functions of the Family Tree that have exceeded the ability of the average user such as the standardization issue. Since I am by no means an average user of any program, how can I make such an observation? Basically, I talk to people about the program almost daily and have done so for years back going back to the program's inception.

Since complexity is inherent in doing genealogical research, making "family history" simplified and available to a low common denominator of user is a really bad idea. The focus of a program such as the Family Tree should be aimed at adequately representing the complexity of the data rather than adapting to the lack of ability of the users. You cannot make this issue go away by ignoring it. No effort to popularize genealogical research will minimize its complexity. Likewise, efforts to simplify the Family Tree program would be misplaced. More effort should be placed on training and supporting users rather than simplifying the program.

 To see my opinion about the need for user training, see The Family History Guide.

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