Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What's Not To Love About WikiTree?

This is the first in a series of posts about my experience(s) with WikiTree.  

I have been a WikiTree user since January 2011, and I love it.  I don't know why, but I feel personally responsible when someone doesn't appreciate the concept behind WikiTree.

There was a blog post about a week ago voicing some concerns a user was having with WikiTree.  I don't feel like this person gave the site a fighting chance.  I know they couldn't have reviewed the help topics or FAQs before they started using it.  Here's why:

WikiTree Invitations:

The poster's initial concern centered around the fact that they had to be invited to join WikiTree.  The invitation process is designed to keep folks from joining, dumping their GEDCOMs, not collaborating or maintaining their data, and ultimately leaving it for everyone else to clean up.  The servers were getting bogged down, so they went with an invitation-only system to ensure that everyone was agreeing to the  Honor Code, which promotes accuracy, courtesy, privacy, sources, and most of all - quality over quantity.

This process irritated the poster, which I think probably influenced every subsequent interaction with WikiTree.

There are currently 48,000 users on the WikiTree site.  As it stands, nearly 1,700 have signed the Honor Code, but more get added every day.  If you are already a user and you haven't read and signed the Wiki Genealogist Honor Code, I strongly encourage you to log in now and sign it.  It just makes sense.  (And that *other* paid site doesn't have one of these).

Privacy Settings:

Another of their concerns was that the security settings were "too complicated."  This is one of my favorite features!  Each profile has its own privacy settings.  There are six basic privacy settings:

Unlisted (completely hidden except to Trusted List)
Private (the setting for living people)*
Private with public biography
Private with public biography and family tree
Public - anyone can view, but only Trusted List can edit.
Open (anyone over 200 years old) - this means that anyone can view, but only those users who have signed the Honor Code can edit.

*There are 3 levels of private settings for living people, which are more clearly delineated here.

I am completely in control of the privacy settings for each person in my tree.  Rather than trusting some computer to determine whether I have living people in my tree, I am able to hide some, or all, of the information on living people.  (Except anyone who is under age 13, and the default setting is Unlisted).

GEDCOM Uploads:

Another of their concerns was that the size limit on the GEDCOM upload was a problem.  WikiTree limits its uploads to about 2,000 profiles.  From the GEDCOM FAQ:
If you have more than 5,000, it could be impossible for you to keep up with all the Trusted List requests, private messages, and merge proposals from other users. And if you can't keep up, that hurts the whole community. Therefore we are no longer importing GEDCOMs this large.
I only have 614 people on my WikiTree, and it's hard for me to keep up with everything!

Too Time-Intensive:

I agree that setting up the profiles does take more time than it does on other paid and free sites.  However, on WikiTree, I can decide what I want my profiles to look like.  If I want there to be a biography with source citations, I can have that.  If I want to put the death information first and the birth information last, I can do that.  If I want to make a special page for my great-grandfather's favorite dog (or car), I can do that!  Do you have that much freedom with the other sites?  Nope.  That's why my only public tree is on WikiTree.

Please, disgruntled WikiTreer, please go back and give it another shot.  I think you will be delighted with the flexibility and increased accuracy the site offers - not to mention the collaboration angle - instead of the cookie-cutter profiles that you find everywhere else.

Next time, I'll (try to) explain how I create my profiles using the tools available on WikiTree.

**Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with WikiTree, other than being a user, and I have not received any benefit or payment for my opinions here.

Do we share any ancestors?
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com


Elyse said...

Thank you so much for posting this Jenny! You nailed it - WikiTree is definitely a collaborative environment that provides the flexibility to set up your profiles in whatever way you think is best.

Can't wait to see your other posts!

Claudia said...

I would like to see what everyone is raving and complaining about. There are probably a lot of people, including me, who are unable or put off by the invitation only.

Unknown said...

Claudia, the reasons for the "invitation only" process are mentioned in this blog post, and once you start using WikiTree, you'll understand why it has to be that way.

If you want an invitation, you can find people to invite you at: http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Members_to_contact_for_an_invitation. Alternatively, there are many WikiTreers (including myself) who would be more than happy to extend an invitation to you. All you have to do is ask.

You WILL be asked to read and sign the Honor Code when you receive your invitation.

Be mindful that you will want to look around, read the FAQ and help information, and see what other people are doing before you commit. You may even want to just enter one or two individuals' information by hand before you upload a GEDCOM, just to see whether it's something you feel you can maintain.

One thing that sets WikiTree apart (for me, anyway) is that Chris Whitten and the WikiTree team are all very good about answering any questions you may have about the site itself.

Give it a try and I think you'll see what all the hubbub is about.

gail said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm also a huge fan and happy user at WikiTree. I'm currently volunteering as a greeter and enjoy every second of enabling others to get started with their own trees.

The experience of working on my own WikiTree has given me new insight into how important sources are for each new ancestor I add. It takes only a few additional minutes and now I'm able to explain to newly found cousins where I got my information.

It is still amazing to me that I can find such a rich online experience with so many different options available to me... totally FREE. All that is asked of me is that I be responsible to our community with the information that I'm putting up.

Chris Whitten and the entire WikiTree team deserve a huge thank you for making the internet a better place to be. They certainly have my thanks!

gail cox

Unknown said...

Jenny, thanks again for this wonderful post. I'm really looking forward to seeing the others.

Gail, I love your comment! Thank you so much.

Claudia & company, I do understand why the invitation requirement would be off-putting. To be honest, that was part of the purpose when we introduced it. The site was growing too fast. We needed to slow things down and make sure only the people who really wanted to participate became members.

Now that things are calming down a bit, we're starting to work on making the invitation process simpler and smoother. The plan is to enable anyone to register as a Guest Member. What a guest can do will be limited, but at least you'll be able to join instantly and get started. Then if you want to continue you'll need to be confirmed by a current member and sign the Honor Code.

Unknown said...

I absolutely love Wikitree. I have been using it steadily for almost one year, and I have several hundred ancestors on my tree. I have been contacted by several different distant relatives of mine who I otherwise would never have met, including one who sent me pictures of a great uncle that we had only heard about.

The use of profiles for ancestors is what really sets the site apart. It makes it really easy to see the relationships among various family members, and it allows you to go into depth with birth, marriage and death dates - and pictures and documents. I have made it a practice to try and include an obituary in an ancestor's profile whenever possible. This combination of information and narrative on the person's life really helps provide a lot of context to your family tree.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Ray! I love hearing this stuff.

I wanted to mention to everyone that as of this week our "Guest Member" system is now live. Anyone can register instantly and get started, but what you can do is very limited and your membership will expire unless you choose to volunteer to become a Wiki Genealogist or a Wiki Genealogist volunteers to help you with your genealogy. See the press release on Dick Eastman's newsletter here: http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2012/10/wikitree-reopens-member-registration.html

You might also want to check out the first comment there, the one from Jon Preston. Essentially, he's asking "Does WikiTree signal the slow death of the genealogy hobby?"

Unknown said...

I joined in Dec 2012 and I was able to register without requiring an invitation. So that complaint can be crossed off peoples' lists now.

Ron said...

Do you still like and use WikiTree?

Unknown said...

I do, and I do. I probably don't use it as frequently as I'd like, but I do continue to update my profiles and collaborate on merges, etc.

Check out my new blog over at aremyrootsshowing.jenny-ology.com.

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