Difference between revisions of "FamilySearch Wiki:Introduction"

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:''Most of this information was presented at the BYU  
+
:''Most of this information was presented at the BYU Computerized Genealogy conference in March 2008, and appears in the  [[Media:FamilySearch_Wiki_vision_BYU_2008.doc|syllabus]]. A compressed version of the [[Media:BYU_2008_March-compressed.ppt|Powerpoint file]] is also available for download. Feel free to use it to tell your organization about FamilySearch Wiki!''
  
Computerized Genealogy conference in March 2008, and
+
People seeking research advice have to search many sources to find it. FamilySearch Wiki is a Website where the community can write and update research advice for any locality. Here's an overview of our vision and an invitation to join us.  
 
 
appears in the 
 
 
 
[[Media:FamilySearch_Wiki_vision_BYU_2008.doc|syllabus]]. A
 
 
 
compressed version of the
 
 
 
[[Media:BYU_2008_March-compressed.ppt|Powerpoint file]] is
 
 
 
also available for download. Feel free to use it to tell
 
 
 
your organization about FamilySearch Wiki!''
 
 
 
People seeking research advice have to search many sources  
 
 
 
to find it. FamilySearch Wiki is a Website where the  
 
 
 
community can write and update research advice for any  
 
 
 
locality. Here's an overview of our vision and an  
 
 
 
invitation to join us.  
 
  
 
== Our mission and funding ==
 
== Our mission and funding ==
  
The mission of the Family History Department of The Church  
+
The mission of the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is to provide genealogical records and services to customers worldwide. Our services are free, as are most of our products -- including data sets online. We have occasionally offered products at cost, such as genealogical records on CD-ROM. We are funded by tithing dollars contributed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We do not receive funds from any profit-making companies with whom we collaborate on projects.  
 
 
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is to provide  
 
 
 
genealogical records and services to customers worldwide.  
 
 
 
Our services are free, as are most of our products --  
 
 
 
including data sets online. We have occasionally offered  
 
 
 
products at cost, such as genealogical records on CD-ROM.  
 
 
 
We are funded by tithing dollars contributed by members of  
 
 
 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We do not  
 
 
 
receive funds from any profit-making companies with whom we  
 
 
 
collaborate on projects.  
 
 
 
== Our customers -- and why serving every country is
 
 
 
important ==
 
 
 
We serve (# million) customers per year. The overwhelming
 
 
 
majority of our customers are not LDS. Our customers range
 
 
 
from the richest of people to the poorest. They ask us how
 
  
to find ancestors in all countries -- developed ones and  
+
== Our customers -- and why serving every country is important ==
  
undeveloped ones.  
+
We serve (# million) customers per year. The overwhelming majority of our customers are not LDS. Our customers range from the richest of people to the poorest. They ask us how to find ancestors in all countries -- developed ones and undeveloped ones.  
  
Some people are curious as to how there could be a demand  
+
Some people are curious as to how there could be a demand for genealogical research support regarding a country where people live on a dollar a day. If residents there must focus their time and resources so heavily on mere survival, how could anyone there be doing genealogy? One of the answers lies in emigration.
  
for genealogical research support regarding a country where
+
When survival is tough in a country, people tend to emigrate to countries where life is easier. In countries where life is easier, people tend to have leisure time. Some choose to spend this time learning about their ancestors. Descendants of emigrants often become disconnected from their heritage and want to learn about their families. Thus, FamilySearch receives questions regarding genealogical research in even the poorest of countries -- including those where genealogy is an oral tradition rather than a process of documentation.  
 
 
people live on a dollar a day. If residents there must
 
 
 
focus their time and resources so heavily on mere survival,
 
 
 
how could anyone there be doing genealogy? One of the
 
 
 
answers lies in emigration.
 
 
 
When survival is tough in a country, people tend to  
 
 
 
emigrate to countries where life is easier. In countries  
 
 
 
where life is easier, people tend to have leisure time.  
 
 
 
Some choose to spend this time learning about their  
 
 
 
ancestors. Descendants of emigrants often become  
 
 
 
disconnected from their heritage and want to learn about  
 
 
 
their families. Thus, FamilySearch receives questions  
 
 
 
regarding genealogical research in even the poorest of  
 
 
 
countries -- including those where genealogy is an oral  
 
 
 
tradition rather than a process of documentation.  
 
  
 
== Our employees and volunteers ==
 
== Our employees and volunteers ==
  
It takes a lot of people to provide millions of patrons  
+
It takes a lot of people to provide millions of patrons genealogical research support worldwide:   
 
 
genealogical research support worldwide:   
 
 
 
*More than 1,000 employees and missionaries serve in the
 
 
 
Family History Department and the [[Family History
 
 
 
Library]]. 
 
*More than 55,000 family history consultants help patrons
 
  
in 163 countries.  
+
*More than 1,000 employees and missionaries serve in the Family History Department and the [[Family History Library]]. 
*More than 10,000 volunteers help patrons at 4,500 family  
+
*More than 55,000 family history consultants help patrons in 163 countries.  
 
+
*More than 10,000 volunteers help patrons at 4,500 family history centers in (#) countries.  
history centers in (#) countries.  
 
  
  
 
== Challenges in providing research advice  ==
 
== Challenges in providing research advice  ==
  
In 2007, we decided that in order to serve our customers  
+
In 2007, we decided that in order to serve our customers successfully, we needed to solve some challenges:  
 
 
successfully, we needed to solve some challenges:  
 
 
 
*Provide content for more places. (In 2007 our publications
 
  
covered less than half the world’s countries.)  
+
*Provide content for more places. (In 2007 our publications covered less than half the world’s countries.)  
*Provide content in more languages. (For years we had a  
+
*Provide content in more languages. (For years we had a research guide for Mexico that was published only in English.)  
 
+
*Revise content more often to maintain its usefulness. (In 2007, most of our publications were at least five years old.)  
research guide for Mexico that was published only in  
+
*Increase the number of missionaries and family history consultants to accomodate patron demand.  
 
 
English.)  
 
*Revise content more often to maintain its usefulness. (In  
 
 
 
2007, most of our publications were at least five years  
 
 
 
old.)  
 
*Increase the number of missionaries and family history  
 
 
 
consultants to accomodate patron demand.  
 
 
*Identify records worldwide.  
 
*Identify records worldwide.  
*Provide local lessons. (FamilySearch generally provides  
+
*Provide local lessons. (FamilySearch generally provides only general lessons that work everywhere. But the best genealogy advice is specific and local!)  
 
+
*Make content easy to find. (The Research Guidance tool on FamilySearch.org is hard to navigate. Our tools need to have search engines!)
only general lessons that work everywhere. But the best  
 
 
 
genealogy advice is specific and local!)  
 
*Make content easy to find. (The Research Guidance tool on  
 
 
 
FamilySearch.org is hard to navigate. Our tools need to  
 
 
 
have search engines!)
 
  
 
== Our strengths as an organization  ==
 
== Our strengths as an organization  ==
  
Taken together, family history consultants and the LDS  
+
Taken together, family history consultants and the LDS Family History Department have some major strengths:  
 
 
Family History Department have some major strengths:  
 
  
 
*Knowledge of many genealogical topics  
 
*Knowledge of many genealogical topics  
*Huge volunteer base (55,000+ family history consultants  
+
*Huge volunteer base (55,000+ family history consultants worldwide)  
 
 
worldwide)  
 
 
*Many locations (4,500 family history centers worldwide)  
 
*Many locations (4,500 family history centers worldwide)  
 
*Excellent international records collection
 
*Excellent international records collection
Line 161: Line 47:
 
== The answer? Community!  ==
 
== The answer? Community!  ==
  
Our list of challenges illustrates a need to increase the  
+
Our list of challenges illustrates a need to increase the scale, publishing speed, and scope of research advice. Our strengths in knowledge, volunteer base, number of locations, and records collection indicate we can overcome these challenges if we work together as a community.  
 
 
scale, publishing speed, and scope of research advice. Our  
 
 
 
strengths in knowledge, volunteer base, number of  
 
 
 
locations, and records collection indicate we can overcome  
 
 
 
these challenges if we work together as a community.  
 
 
 
If community is the answer, who is doing community work
 
 
 
well and what can we learn from them? Wikipedia, the online
 
 
 
encyclopedia built by volunteers, is arguably the most
 
 
 
notable community site. Like other wikis, Wikipedia allows
 
 
 
regular people to write about their favorite topics using a
 
 
 
simple editing tool. In other words, it allows people who
 
  
aren’t techno-geeks to write content online. Most Internet  
+
If community is the answer, who is doing community work well and what can we learn from them? Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia built by volunteers, is arguably the most notable community site. Like other wikis, Wikipedia allows regular people to write about their favorite topics using a simple editing tool. In other words, it allows people who aren’t techno-geeks to write content online. Most Internet users are familiar with Wikipedia, but many who have used it are not aware of a few important facts:  
 
 
users are familiar with Wikipedia, but many who have used  
 
 
 
it are not aware of a few important facts:  
 
  
 
*Wikipedia is the 9th most popular Website.  
 
*Wikipedia is the 9th most popular Website.  
Line 197: Line 59:
 
== Community sites and quality  ==
 
== Community sites and quality  ==
  
Many Internet users have heard media stories about a  
+
Many Internet users have heard media stories about a handful of Wikipedia articles in which incorrect information was posted and wasn’t fixed for a long time. These are aberrations. One Nature study showed Wikipedia’s accuracy rivals that of Encyclopedia Britannica. Our managers have tested the Wikipedia community’s ability to correct errors quickly. When they put erroneous information on a Wikipedia page, it lasted only 27 seconds. An IBM study showed the average error in Wikipedia is corrected within five minutes.
  
handful of Wikipedia articles in which incorrect
+
But to what extent can a community site really offer accurate content? One way to look at this is to remember how Linux and Firefox were developed. Both were built by volunteer communities. Linux is an operating system used by the world’s largest corporations to serve out their Websites. If the site goes down, these companies lose millions. They choose Linux because it’s so stable. Linux is simply superior to operating systems built by some of the world’s best-known software companies.
  
information was posted and wasn’t fixed for a long time.  
+
Firefox is a Web browser. It, too, was built by a volunteer community. It’s very stable, and its feature set tends to grow so much faster than that of commercial browsers that Microsoft copies Firefox features in new versions of its browser, Internet Explorer.  
  
These are aberrations. One Nature study showed Wikipedia’s
+
So how does a volunteer community produce a product whose quality rivals or exceeds that of commercial products? The answer lies in the mantra often heard from Linux developers: “Many eyeballs make any bug shallow.” If enough people invest their time in contributing to a product, they tend to catch bugs early and fix them quickly. Community brings quality.  
 
 
accuracy rivals that of Encyclopedia Britannica. Our
 
 
 
managers have tested the Wikipedia community’s ability to
 
 
 
correct errors quickly. When they put erroneous information
 
 
 
on a Wikipedia page, it lasted only 27 seconds. An IBM
 
 
 
study showed the average error in Wikipedia is corrected
 
 
 
within five minutes.
 
 
 
But to what extent can a community site really offer
 
 
 
accurate content? One way to look at this is to remember
 
 
 
how Linux and Firefox were developed. Both were built by
 
 
 
volunteer communities. Linux is an operating system used by
 
 
 
the world’s largest corporations to serve out their
 
 
 
Websites. If the site goes down, these companies lose
 
 
 
millions. They choose Linux because it’s so stable. Linux
 
 
 
is simply superior to operating systems built by some of
 
 
 
the world’s best-known software companies.
 
 
 
Firefox is a Web browser. It, too, was built by a volunteer
 
 
 
community. It’s very stable, and its feature set tends to
 
 
 
grow so much faster than that of commercial browsers that
 
 
 
Microsoft copies Firefox features in new versions of its
 
 
 
browser, Internet Explorer.
 
 
 
So how does a volunteer community produce a product whose  
 
 
 
quality rivals or exceeds that of commercial products? The  
 
 
 
answer lies in the mantra often heard from Linux  
 
 
 
developers: “Many eyeballs make any bug shallow.” If enough  
 
 
 
people invest their time in contributing to a product, they  
 
 
 
tend to catch bugs early and fix them quickly. Community  
 
 
 
brings quality.  
 
  
 
== One contributor makes a difference  ==
 
== One contributor makes a difference  ==
  
A common misconception about community sites like Wikipedia  
+
A common misconception about community sites like Wikipedia is that they are built by huge teams of volunteers. While it’s true that a massive number of people have contributed to Wikipedia, it is interesting to note that 75% of its content edits are made by only the most active 2% of its users.<sup>1</sup> So in a community Website, a few good people make a huge impact.  
 
 
is that they are built by huge teams of volunteers. While  
 
 
 
it’s true that a massive number of people have contributed  
 
 
 
to Wikipedia, it is interesting to note that 75% of its  
 
 
 
content edits are made by only the most active 2% of its  
 
 
 
users.<sup>1</sup> So in a community Website, a few good  
 
 
 
people make a huge impact.  
 
 
 
Another surprising fact about community Websites is that
 
 
 
only 1-5% of their users contribute. Most people use
 
 
 
community sites to find information, not to contribute. If
 
 
 
only 2.5% of our 50,000 family history consultants
 
 
 
worldwide contribute content to FamilySearch Wiki, we’ll be
 
 
 
gaining 1250 contributors! Imagine how fast we will
 
  
generate research advice for all places and time periods!  
+
Another surprising fact about community Websites is that only 1-5% of their users contribute. Most people use community sites to find information, not to contribute. If only 2.5% of our 50,000 family history consultants worldwide contribute content to FamilySearch Wiki, we’ll be gaining 1250 contributors! Imagine how fast we will generate research advice for all places and time periods!  
  
 
== Combining a wiki and discussion groups  ==
 
== Combining a wiki and discussion groups  ==
  
FamilySearch Wiki is a site where the community works  
+
FamilySearch Wiki is a site where the community works together to post articles, lessons, news, and events that provide research advice. But the world is a big place, and there are a lot of records out there, so the wiki will never have everything there is to know about how to do genealogy research. Therefore, when customers can’t find the information they need on the wiki, they’ll need somewhere they can go to get answers from others who know about the topic in question. If I’m researching Church of the Brethren ancestors from Pennsylvania and the wiki can’t tell me what their migration patterns were, I want to be able to get answers from Church of the Brethren experts. For that reason, we’re also building discussion groups or forums. Many will be focused on places (like Pennsylvania), and others will be focused on ethnic, religious, and racial groups (like Church of the Brethren).  
 
 
together to post articles, lessons, news, and events that  
 
 
 
provide research advice. But the world is a big place, and  
 
 
 
there are a lot of records out there, so the wiki will  
 
 
 
never have everything there is to know about how to do  
 
 
 
genealogy research. Therefore, when customers can’t find  
 
 
 
the information they need on the wiki, they’ll need  
 
 
 
somewhere they can go to get answers from others who know  
 
 
 
about the topic in question. If I’m researching Church of  
 
 
 
the Brethren ancestors from Pennsylvania and the wiki can’t  
 
 
 
tell me what their migration patterns were, I want to be  
 
 
 
able to get answers from Church of the Brethren experts.  
 
 
 
For that reason, we’re also building discussion groups or  
 
 
 
forums. Many will be focused on places (like Pennsylvania),  
 
 
 
and others will be focused on ethnic, religious, and racial  
 
 
 
groups (like Church of the Brethren).  
 
  
 
== Leveraging our strengths  ==
 
== Leveraging our strengths  ==
  
So how will we leverage our strengths? What will be the  
+
So how will we leverage our strengths? What will be the result when we provide research advice through our worldwide community? We will:  
 
 
result when we provide research advice through our  
 
 
 
worldwide community? We will:  
 
  
 
*Shorten the publishing cycle from months to minutes  
 
*Shorten the publishing cycle from months to minutes  
Line 337: Line 87:
 
== An invitation  ==
 
== An invitation  ==
  
We’re eager to build this site to suit your needs, and we’d  
+
We’re eager to build this site to suit your needs, and we’d love to see you contribute your knowledge, as well! Come find research advice on http://wiki.familysearch.org. Create an account and contribute your knowledge!  
 
 
love to see you contribute your knowledge, as well! Come  
 
 
 
find research advice on http://wiki.familysearch.org.  
 
 
 
Create an account and contribute your knowledge!  
 
  
 
== Contribute!  ==
 
== Contribute!  ==
  
On Wikipedia, the most active 2% of users contribute  
+
On Wikipedia, the most active 2% of users contribute roughly 75% of the edits.<sup>1</sup> One person can make a huge difference, and other users need your knowledge! Adding content is easy – a significant portion of our content is added by senior citizens who have little computer experience. They can do it because it’s simple: Using the site’s editing tool is much like using Microsoft Word or Wordpad. Give it a try!  
 
 
roughly 75% of the edits.<sup>1</sup> One person can make a  
 
 
 
huge difference, and other users need your knowledge!  
 
  
Adding content is easy – a significant portion of our
+
Probably the easiest way to contribute your knowledge is to add new information to an existing article. Find an article that deals with some type of information you’d use often, and then add to it. For instance, if you know a good Website for tombstone inscriptions in Pennsylvania, you can add the link to an existing article called Pennsylvania Cemetery Records. You can do it in only a couple minutes – it’s that simple! <!--{12057231920822} -->  
 
 
content is added by senior citizens who have little
 
 
 
computer experience. They can do it because it’s simple:
 
 
 
Using the site’s editing tool is much like using Microsoft
 
 
 
Word or Wordpad. Give it a try!
 
 
 
Probably the easiest way to contribute your knowledge is to  
 
 
 
add new information to an existing article. Find an article  
 
 
 
that deals with some type of information you’d use often,  
 
 
 
and then add to it. For instance, if you know a good  
 
 
 
Website for tombstone inscriptions in Pennsylvania, you can  
 
 
 
add the link to an existing article called Pennsylvania  
 
 
 
Cemetery Records. You can do it in only a couple minutes –  
 
 
 
it’s that simple! <!--{12057231920822} -->  
 
  
 
== Subjects outside the wiki’s scope  ==
 
== Subjects outside the wiki’s scope  ==
  
FamilySearch Wiki is about genealogical research advice.  
+
FamilySearch Wiki is about genealogical research advice. The site’s scope does not include two important domains. First, this is not a site for posting what you know about a specific ancestor. If you want to document facts about an ancestor’s life, please visit FamilySearch.org and see the section entitled “Preserve and Share Your Family History.”
 
 
The site’s scope does not include two important domains.  
 
  
First, this is not a site for posting what you know about a
+
Another type of content that is not for FamilySearch Wiki is that which focuses on how to use FamilySearch products like Ancestral File, IGI, or Pedigree Resource File. Such information can be found on http://productsupport.familysearch.org.  
 
 
specific ancestor. If you want to document facts about an
 
 
 
ancestor’s life, please visit FamilySearch.org and see the
 
 
 
section entitled “Preserve and Share Your Family History.”
 
 
 
Another type of content that is not for FamilySearch Wiki  
 
 
 
is that which focuses on how to use FamilySearch products  
 
 
 
like Ancestral File, IGI, or Pedigree Resource File. Such  
 
 
 
information can be found on  
 
 
 
http://productsupport.familysearch.org.  
 
  
 
== LDS folks: serve a mission in your pajamas  ==
 
== LDS folks: serve a mission in your pajamas  ==
  
Although people of many faiths are contributing to this  
+
Although people of many faiths are contributing to this site, there is a unique opportunity for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Want to serve a part-time or full-time mission? Hate suits, skirts, stockings, or schedules? We need experienced genealogists who can contribute useful information to the wiki. Some of our best contributors serve from home in their spare time. If this sounds like the kind of mission you could really enjoy, send an e-mail to Family History Research Support by [mailto:fhl@familysearch.org clicking here]. <!--{12057231920823} -->  
 
 
site, there is a unique opportunity for members of The  
 
 
 
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Want to serve  
 
 
 
a part-time or full-time mission? Hate suits, skirts,  
 
 
 
stockings, or schedules? We need experienced genealogists  
 
 
 
who can contribute useful information to the wiki. Some of  
 
 
 
our best contributors serve from home in their spare time.  
 
 
 
If this sounds like the kind of mission you could really  
 
 
 
enjoy, send an e-mail to Family History Research Support by  
 
 
 
[mailto:fhl@familysearch.org clicking here].  
 
 
 
<!--{12057231920823} -->  
 
  
 
== You can make a big difference!  ==
 
== You can make a big difference!  ==
  
Which little facts do you use often in your genealogical  
+
Which little facts do you use often in your genealogical research? Could another researcher benefit from your hard-won experience? Join us on wiki.familysearch.org and help build a storehouse of information that you and others can use to learn how to find your ancestors!  
 
 
research? Could another researcher benefit from your  
 
 
 
hard-won experience? Join us on wiki.familysearch.org and  
 
 
 
help build a storehouse of information that you and others  
 
 
 
can use to learn how to find your ancestors!  
 
  
 
----
 
----
Line 443: Line 113:
 
Notes  
 
Notes  
  
1. Aaron Swartz, ''Raw Thought: Who Writes Wikipedia?'',  
+
1. Aaron Swartz, ''Raw Thought: Who Writes Wikipedia?'', http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/whowriteswikipedia accessed 4 Mar 2008.  
 
 
http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/whowriteswikipedia accessed 4  
 
 
 
Mar 2008.  
 
  
 
[[Category:FamilySearch_Wiki]]
 
[[Category:FamilySearch_Wiki]]

Revision as of 18:25, 13 February 2009

Most of this information was presented at the BYU Computerized Genealogy conference in March 2008, and appears in the syllabus. A compressed version of the Powerpoint file is also available for download. Feel free to use it to tell your organization about FamilySearch Wiki!

People seeking research advice have to search many sources to find it. FamilySearch Wiki is a Website where the community can write and update research advice for any locality. Here's an overview of our vision and an invitation to join us.

Our mission and funding

The mission of the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is to provide genealogical records and services to customers worldwide. Our services are free, as are most of our products -- including data sets online. We have occasionally offered products at cost, such as genealogical records on CD-ROM. We are funded by tithing dollars contributed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We do not receive funds from any profit-making companies with whom we collaborate on projects.

Our customers -- and why serving every country is important

We serve (# million) customers per year. The overwhelming majority of our customers are not LDS. Our customers range from the richest of people to the poorest. They ask us how to find ancestors in all countries -- developed ones and undeveloped ones.

Some people are curious as to how there could be a demand for genealogical research support regarding a country where people live on a dollar a day. If residents there must focus their time and resources so heavily on mere survival, how could anyone there be doing genealogy? One of the answers lies in emigration.

When survival is tough in a country, people tend to emigrate to countries where life is easier. In countries where life is easier, people tend to have leisure time. Some choose to spend this time learning about their ancestors. Descendants of emigrants often become disconnected from their heritage and want to learn about their families. Thus, FamilySearch receives questions regarding genealogical research in even the poorest of countries -- including those where genealogy is an oral tradition rather than a process of documentation.

Our employees and volunteers

It takes a lot of people to provide millions of patrons genealogical research support worldwide:

  • More than 1,000 employees and missionaries serve in the Family History Department and the Family History Library.
  • More than 55,000 family history consultants help patrons in 163 countries.
  • More than 10,000 volunteers help patrons at 4,500 family history centers in (#) countries.


Challenges in providing research advice

In 2007, we decided that in order to serve our customers successfully, we needed to solve some challenges:

  • Provide content for more places. (In 2007 our publications covered less than half the world’s countries.)
  • Provide content in more languages. (For years we had a research guide for Mexico that was published only in English.)
  • Revise content more often to maintain its usefulness. (In 2007, most of our publications were at least five years old.)
  • Increase the number of missionaries and family history consultants to accomodate patron demand.
  • Identify records worldwide.
  • Provide local lessons. (FamilySearch generally provides only general lessons that work everywhere. But the best genealogy advice is specific and local!)
  • Make content easy to find. (The Research Guidance tool on FamilySearch.org is hard to navigate. Our tools need to have search engines!)

Our strengths as an organization

Taken together, family history consultants and the LDS Family History Department have some major strengths:

  • Knowledge of many genealogical topics
  • Huge volunteer base (55,000+ family history consultants worldwide)
  • Many locations (4,500 family history centers worldwide)
  • Excellent international records collection

The answer? Community!

Our list of challenges illustrates a need to increase the scale, publishing speed, and scope of research advice. Our strengths in knowledge, volunteer base, number of locations, and records collection indicate we can overcome these challenges if we work together as a community.

If community is the answer, who is doing community work well and what can we learn from them? Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia built by volunteers, is arguably the most notable community site. Like other wikis, Wikipedia allows regular people to write about their favorite topics using a simple editing tool. In other words, it allows people who aren’t techno-geeks to write content online. Most Internet users are familiar with Wikipedia, but many who have used it are not aware of a few important facts:

  • Wikipedia is the 9th most popular Website.
  • Its content is written by the community.
  • It receives 3,000 new entries per day.
  • Most errors are corrected in 5 minutes.
  • The average article has 11 edits.

Community sites and quality

Many Internet users have heard media stories about a handful of Wikipedia articles in which incorrect information was posted and wasn’t fixed for a long time. These are aberrations. One Nature study showed Wikipedia’s accuracy rivals that of Encyclopedia Britannica. Our managers have tested the Wikipedia community’s ability to correct errors quickly. When they put erroneous information on a Wikipedia page, it lasted only 27 seconds. An IBM study showed the average error in Wikipedia is corrected within five minutes.

But to what extent can a community site really offer accurate content? One way to look at this is to remember how Linux and Firefox were developed. Both were built by volunteer communities. Linux is an operating system used by the world’s largest corporations to serve out their Websites. If the site goes down, these companies lose millions. They choose Linux because it’s so stable. Linux is simply superior to operating systems built by some of the world’s best-known software companies.

Firefox is a Web browser. It, too, was built by a volunteer community. It’s very stable, and its feature set tends to grow so much faster than that of commercial browsers that Microsoft copies Firefox features in new versions of its browser, Internet Explorer.

So how does a volunteer community produce a product whose quality rivals or exceeds that of commercial products? The answer lies in the mantra often heard from Linux developers: “Many eyeballs make any bug shallow.” If enough people invest their time in contributing to a product, they tend to catch bugs early and fix them quickly. Community brings quality.

One contributor makes a difference

A common misconception about community sites like Wikipedia is that they are built by huge teams of volunteers. While it’s true that a massive number of people have contributed to Wikipedia, it is interesting to note that 75% of its content edits are made by only the most active 2% of its users.1 So in a community Website, a few good people make a huge impact.

Another surprising fact about community Websites is that only 1-5% of their users contribute. Most people use community sites to find information, not to contribute. If only 2.5% of our 50,000 family history consultants worldwide contribute content to FamilySearch Wiki, we’ll be gaining 1250 contributors! Imagine how fast we will generate research advice for all places and time periods!

Combining a wiki and discussion groups

FamilySearch Wiki is a site where the community works together to post articles, lessons, news, and events that provide research advice. But the world is a big place, and there are a lot of records out there, so the wiki will never have everything there is to know about how to do genealogy research. Therefore, when customers can’t find the information they need on the wiki, they’ll need somewhere they can go to get answers from others who know about the topic in question. If I’m researching Church of the Brethren ancestors from Pennsylvania and the wiki can’t tell me what their migration patterns were, I want to be able to get answers from Church of the Brethren experts. For that reason, we’re also building discussion groups or forums. Many will be focused on places (like Pennsylvania), and others will be focused on ethnic, religious, and racial groups (like Church of the Brethren).

Leveraging our strengths

So how will we leverage our strengths? What will be the result when we provide research advice through our worldwide community? We will:

  • Shorten the publishing cycle from months to minutes
  • Geometrically increase the number of authors
  • Boost communication between customers and experts.

An invitation

We’re eager to build this site to suit your needs, and we’d love to see you contribute your knowledge, as well! Come find research advice on http://wiki.familysearch.org. Create an account and contribute your knowledge!

Contribute!

On Wikipedia, the most active 2% of users contribute roughly 75% of the edits.1 One person can make a huge difference, and other users need your knowledge! Adding content is easy – a significant portion of our content is added by senior citizens who have little computer experience. They can do it because it’s simple: Using the site’s editing tool is much like using Microsoft Word or Wordpad. Give it a try!

Probably the easiest way to contribute your knowledge is to add new information to an existing article. Find an article that deals with some type of information you’d use often, and then add to it. For instance, if you know a good Website for tombstone inscriptions in Pennsylvania, you can add the link to an existing article called Pennsylvania Cemetery Records. You can do it in only a couple minutes – it’s that simple!

Subjects outside the wiki’s scope

FamilySearch Wiki is about genealogical research advice. The site’s scope does not include two important domains. First, this is not a site for posting what you know about a specific ancestor. If you want to document facts about an ancestor’s life, please visit FamilySearch.org and see the section entitled “Preserve and Share Your Family History.”

Another type of content that is not for FamilySearch Wiki is that which focuses on how to use FamilySearch products like Ancestral File, IGI, or Pedigree Resource File. Such information can be found on http://productsupport.familysearch.org.

LDS folks: serve a mission in your pajamas

Although people of many faiths are contributing to this site, there is a unique opportunity for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Want to serve a part-time or full-time mission? Hate suits, skirts, stockings, or schedules? We need experienced genealogists who can contribute useful information to the wiki. Some of our best contributors serve from home in their spare time. If this sounds like the kind of mission you could really enjoy, send an e-mail to Family History Research Support by clicking here.

You can make a big difference!

Which little facts do you use often in your genealogical research? Could another researcher benefit from your hard-won experience? Join us on wiki.familysearch.org and help build a storehouse of information that you and others can use to learn how to find your ancestors!


Notes

1. Aaron Swartz, Raw Thought: Who Writes Wikipedia?, http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/whowriteswikipedia accessed 4 Mar 2008.