Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Ethics for Consultant Planners
We recently received our weekly update from FamilySearch.org telling us about all the changes to those we are watching on the Family Tree. I say "us" because some of my daughters and I are watching the same people. The Changes List had a record of some extensive changes to my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner." This is not at all unusual and I keep a separate copy of all of the entries in Ancestry.com so that the changes can be easily reversed. We always send a kind note to the person making the changes to inform them of why we might disagree with what they did. In this case, dozens of sources had been removed. Within a few hours, we got a message from the person saying that she had not made the changes and didn't know what we were talking about. She made the same comment to both me and my daughter.
There were a number of possible reasons for this response, including issues well beyond our control, but one interesting issue could be that a Consultant Planner helper was signed in under her name and made the changes. Unfortunately, we have no way of either knowing that this was the case or communicating with the Consultant. So, the main user gets the feedback from changes made by the Consultant Planner.
The simple solution for the user seems to be to change passwords. But I am not sure that this would release the Consultant. However, the access given to the Consultant expires after one year and to continue a new request has to be sent and accepted.
But the possibility that a Consultant of some kind was "helping" her with her portion of the Family Tree raises some serious questions about the ethics of acting as a Consultant under the auspices of the Consultant Planner.
First of all, it is important to realize that any changes made while acting as a Consultant show up as having been done by the primary user of the Family Tree. Just a suggestion, but perhaps the help given by a Consultant does not need to be completely transparent. It would be a good idea that when changes are made that the changes show as having been made by the Consultant acting for and on behalf of the User. This would give family members and other interested parties the ability to confer with the Consultant if there was a need to do so.
However, I do think that there should be some guidelines about what and how a Consultant "helps" the main user. Some Consultants take the position that they are "passive" observers of the main user's portion of the Family Tree. Those who take this position avoid making any changes at all to the entries. However, the Family Tree is designed to allow anyone to make changes, corrections, additions, and do other types of actions. So limiting the Consultant in this regard seems superfluous and unnecessary.
From my own perspective, having helped dozens of people now using the Consultant Planner, the amount of "work" that I do depends on who I am helping. If the person needs extensive help because of a disability, for example, I would go further in making changes and adding information than I would if the person should really be doing that work for himself or herself.
The quandary here is that unless the Consultant has the latitude to make changes, add sources, add Record Hints and do other such actions, there is little they can do to help the person "find names to take to the temples." Of course, the Consultant's job (task, challenge etc.) is to teach, but in some cases, Consultants can also help those who cannot help themselves. I have several friends whose physical condition prevents them from using a computer or working with FamilySearch. But they are willing to do the temple work and so by using the Consultant Planner I can work on their family line and help them find names to take to the temples. This may not have been the primary motivation for developing the Consultant Planner but it has turned out to be a great blessing in the lives of some of the members of the Church.
Should a Consultant make changes? If so, should there be any limits as to the type of changes that should be made? I think the answers to these two questions, once again, depends on the interaction between the main user and the Consultant. In some cases, I simply cannot find any "easy" names for ordinance work. The only way the person is going to make any progress is to recognize the degree of research that is necessary. The Family Tree is entirely cooperative based. Anyone can make any changes where they find new information or whatever. There is no reason that a Consultant should be limited more than anyone else.
If we understand the cooperative nature of the Family Tree, the only real issue is accountability. In making changes, adding information, and cleaning up entries in the Family Tree for myself and dozens (hundreds?) of others, I very rarely receive any comments back at all. Most of the time, I feel like I am operating in a vacuum.
In short, I do not feel that Consultants should be put in any different category than any other user of the Family Tree. They should be free to do research and help in any way. But I do think that if a consultant is making a change, this fact should be communicated to anyone who is interested and anyone interested should be able to contact the Consultant through and by means of the program.