04 October 2013

Introducing the New FamilySearch Indexing Tool, RootsTech 2014 preview

I've decided to write a few previews of stuff we will all learn about at RootsTech 2014. Earlier, I wrote about FamilySearch Obituaries. Another product coming next year at FamilySearch is an overhaul of the indexing tool, listed in the class schedule as: "Introducing the New FamilySearch Indexing Tool."

This is another one of my top pics for RootsTech 2014 classes to attend.
The RootsTech 2014 class list states: "Scott Flinders, the product manager responsible for FamilySearch indexing, will provide an overview and demonstration of the new, browser-based indexing tool being developed by FamilySearch."

Today (October 4, 2013), FamilySearch gave a presentation to Stake Indexing Directors which was available for viewing online. I've captured some screens and facts to provide you with this preview. If you don't want to know about this until RootsTech, I suggest you stop reading this.

As advertised before, the new system will be entirely browser-based so that downloading software is no longer required. Most of the basic workings of the system are still there, but everything has been enhanced in accordance with user feedback.

One of the first changes you'll notice, you will be able to use powerful filters and waypoint data to find a specific project to work on. You will be able to choose a specific town, county, or parish to work on, Flinders said.
The view of the actual work process provides all the tools we have come to know and love: Highlights, Lookup, International Characters, Handwriting Examples etc. Flinders pointed out that the traditional data entry modes are still there (table and form), and that two more are available. He said one was for indexers who like to index by column although I do not know how it differs from table mode. The 2nd new mode is "in-line" which will have you type the data in a box right where you see it on the screen, and move from one area to the next as you go. I'd like to try that.

The next thing I noted was Flinder's statement that "In addition to..." the current A/B/Arbitrate workflow, there will be a new A + Review workflow. At first I thought they were just doing a terminology change from arbitrator to reviewer, but it turns out that the new process will be entirely different. The reviewer will not compare 2 indexers' work, but will simply review the work of one indexer. Flinders stated that they believe the index quality will remain the same, and the output will rise 40-50%. Regarding the "in addition to" statement, he later clarified that the old system will be maintained and in use until they are able to migrate all users and stats to the new system. If the A + Review is successful, I think they will stop A/B/Arb when they close the old system, though this was not clear to me. This was perhaps the most exciting news to me because it means 40-50% more records for all of us! I would like to know what selecting "don't know" will do. For that matter, I'd like to know what happens if a reviewer says a data piece is wrong. It seems logical that wrong data be corrected by the reviewer, and "don't know" data get sent up the line to a more experienced reviewer, though nothing was said about that detail.

FamilySearch Indexing Groups are a major step forward as well. These groups come with better statistics reporting for group managers, group goals to motivate all users, an increased sense of "social media," among several other interesting features.

The list of improvements is impressive, although I must admit there are a couple which are over my head.

Further down, I've posted the slides that show the timetable for release.

And another thing is the new way to add indexing projects. Instead of requiring FamilySearch employees to add every new indexing project, specific volunteers can be approved to do this within the same website. Flinders mentioned that this will allow archives and other record custodians more control over adding their projects to the system, although I imagine FamilySearch will still require the images to be digitized and ingested according to their guidelines.

Phew! A lot of interesting facts and screenshots today. Come to think of it, I bet they'll be a lot more to learn by the time we get to RootsTech in February.

FamilySearch Obituaries, RootsTech 2014 preview

At the beginning of September, I looked at the list of RootsTech 2014 classes and found one about "FamilySearch Obituaries"

This is what it says: "Everyone deserves to be remembered forever, for free. FamilySearch Obituaries allows everyone in the world to publish and share the obituaries of their friends. They also allow everyone to be a part of the grieving and memorial experience."

I noticed some days or weeks before, when you upload a story @ https://familysearch.org/photos/stories, that has some identifying word like "obituary" that the story was now being referred to as an obituary. See the screen capture below from one obituary I pasted into the system. Notice the words: "Edit Obituary." The system typically says "Edit Story" in that same spot. The system is recognizing certain stories as obituaries and categorizing them as such.

Categorization seems like a good idea, but it must just be a sign of even more features to come. I imagine that a future feature will be to choose the story type manually. Maybe someday another story type beside obituary will be defined. I also imagined that there would be some ability to sort, search, or put in order stories according to category.

We know that categorizing photos will be a thing. Tim Cross, manager of Photos and Stories has confirmed that photos will be able to be categorized as either person photos or documents. This will change minor things about the experience. He said, documents will be tagged with rectangles instead of the circles used for persons. In addition, photos already uploaded will be able to be categorized as documents in the future. Tim said not to wait, but to upload them now.

Tim Cross will be teaching the class being held at RootsTech, about FamilySearch Obituaries. I presume that he will explain, in detail, his vision for this new stories category. I am always very interested in FamilySearch products that are under development. Unless this class conflicts with another I need to attend, I will be giving you a report afterward.

You do not need to wait until RootsTech 2014, but can see the landing page for FamilySearch Obituaries today at https://familysearch.org/obituaries

Sometimes typing key words after http://familysearch.org/, in your browser, will take you to pages that are being developed. That is how I found this one.

01 October 2013

FamilySearch Mobile App Demo

In the recent FamilySearch "My Family History Calling" newsletter, which I received 4 days ago, there was this link to an interesting video:

FamilySearch Mobile App Demo

From FamilySearch blog 09/19/2013: "Craig Miller, director of Product Development, introduced and demonstrated a new mobile app that allows users to use FamilySearch from the convenience of their own mobile device. This mobile app will be available in 2014...[bold added for emphasis]"

What will this app do? (answered in video)

At release:
  • View information
  • Add new information
  • View a picture
In the future:
  • Multiple picture support, and photo tagging
  • Use the app to take pictures or video that can be directly added to the tree
See the article with the link here.

For those of you who remember the FamilySearch Indexing App, and wonder how that fits into this new app, the same article reports the following: "DeGiulio said that in 2014, the existing indexing system will be replaced with a new indexing platform. This new platform will attract more indexers and will improve the quality and accuracy of indexes." Other sources explain that this will be a browser-based system. No indexing app has been announced. Stay tuned to my blog for major updates.

This is one of my favorite types of genealogy news to share. It has to do with something that will make life easier for users, and it has the cool factor of something cutting-edge for the FamilySearch community.

Perhaps we will have a surprise release of the app at RootsTech 2014, or perhaps they will simply show this video demo. You never know what is being worked on or when it will be released, until you do.