Most of the frustration we hear from indexers has to do with what they perceive to be good indexing work that gets undone by bad arbitration, generally because project instructions haven’t been followed. So what’s the solution? Judging from some of the feedback by indexers, only public flogging followed by a lifetime ban of certain arbitrators will suffice. But that doesn’t solve the dual problem of needing arbitrators in order to publish records (a greater need now than ever before) and needing arbitration to be accurate in order to publish records that people can find.
So here’s a proposal. Let’s call it the “Ten Commandments of Arbitration.” Keep in mind that it’s the nature of this volunteer work that we all need to be self-governing. FamilySearch can’t possibly police every volunteer, and we won’t attempt to do so. We will continue to provide the means and methods for volunteers to improve their work, but there has to be a high degree of self-governance if this monumental dream of publishing the world’s genealogical records for all to enjoy is going to continue to be a reality.
Although they are certainly not of the caliber of the original Ten Commandments, below are our humble (non-binding) commandments for anyone willing to take on the role of FamilySearch arbitrator.
The Ten Commandments of Arbitration*
- Thou shalt become a really good indexer before attempting or asking to arbitrate (generally this means indexing at least 2,000 records with arbitration results at or above 94 percent).
- Thou shalt not attempt to arbitrate a project until thou hast indexed at least 20 batches of that project.
- Thou shalt not attempt to arbitrate a project until thou hast reread, slowly and completely, all of the project instructions for that project.
- Thou shalt not assume that perfection is required in order to arbitrate. It is not easy to choose between two reasonable indexing values, but someone has to do it. Do your best and carry on.
- Thou shalt not assume that there is always a right answer. Sometimes handwriting just can’t be deciphered. In such cases, follow the guidelines in the indexing tutorial that tell when and how to use wildcard characters in place of indecipherable letters.
- Thou shalt not attempt to arbitrate projects that are in a language you do not either speak or write with proficiency without first obtaining special training in that project from a group administrator or stake indexing director or directly from FamilySearch.
- Thou shalt continue to index between arbitration batches to stay sharp.
- Thou shalt not sacrifice quality for quantity. Numbers are nice, but no one benefits from careless arbitration.
- Thou shalt not quit arbitrating just because you think you’re not good enough to do it. Help is available to enhance your skills.
- Thou shalt know that grateful people around the world have you to thank for helping them find their ancestors.
They may sound a bit cheesy, but if followed, these “commandments” have the potential to make a huge difference. But again, it’s all about self-governance. Anyone who will discipline themselves to follow these ideas will be successful at arbitration and will provide an incredibly valuable service to the rest of the genealogical community.
It is our hope that arbitrators who choose not to follow these guidelines will either go back to indexing or will find another meaningful way to serve others. Whether you serve as an arbitrator or an indexer, you’ll be helping the FamilySearch indexing cause and will be appreciated by the rest of the community.
*If you’d like a version of these commandments that you can print and post near your computer, click here.
*This is the fourth post in a series of articles about arbitration.
- Now Is Not the Time to Get Cold Feet about Arbitration: Over 3 Million Images Are Waiting to Be Published
- Learning to Like the Referee: Why Arbitrators are Necessary and Deserve Some Respect
- “Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain”: Revealing the Truth about Arbitrators
- Ten Commandments for Arbitrators: We’re Doing Great, But We Can Always Do Better
- Arbitration Results Ruining Your Day?: What They Mean and How You Can Help
- What “Final” Really Means: Is Arbitration Really Data’s Last Chance?
- Frequently Asked Questions: Answers to the Most Common Questions Asked about Arbitration