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Louis Kessler’s Behold Blog

What’s happening with FHISO? - 2 days, 21 hrs ago

To the FHISO Board, TSC Coordinators and Membership,

Richard Smith said on Feb 21: "Earlier this year, the FHISO Board, TSC and other stakeholders decided that designing a new conclusion-transfer format /ab initio/ was not currently a priority … and unless and until we have the resources to develop a new technology we’d like to focus on incremental changes …"

As a paying individual member of FHISO, I am interested in seeing FHISO moving forward and not having to sluff anything off, especially due to lack of resources, which in this case I think means people and expertise. Richard mentions the FHISO Board. Have they been meeting 4 times a year as required in the Bylaws? Do we have minutes of the Board being recorded to document the decisions the Board is making and the actions it is taking? Is the general membership allowed access to the minutes to see what is being decided?

I am concerned because I did see (and retweeted) the really-nice-to-see picture of the meeting of the four FHISO Board members at RootsTech 2015 this month and that was great. But from what people tell me about RootsTech this year, FHISO was almost invisible and never mentioned there. There was no FHISO information available, there were no lectures centralizing on a new standard, and nobody organized any discussions or even informal meetings for interested people about it. This was, for goodness sake, Roots "Tech" and there were all sorts of developers there who could have an interest and maybe participate to help develop the new standard. If nothing else, Drew Smith should have been advertising himself as the Chair of FHISO and promoting FHISO, but he only seemed to be referred to as one of the two Genealogy Guys. Is FHISO not at all interested in looking for people with skills and interest in helping the effort?

What of our Founding Members? There are some great companies in FHISO’s Founding Member list. As an individual member, I’m disappointed to see that not more than 20 unaffiliated individuals have taken enough of an interest in the past year to participate in the TSC mailing list. And of us, very few were and are willing to volunteer for the Technical Standing Committees when so many are needed. There’s a lot to do and it will never happen at the current pace.

I’d like to know if the Board has considered asking their Founding Members to send some people to participate in the discussions and help FHISO create a momentum that will get this new standard creation going. If the Board has not, then it would be my suggestion that they do. If FHISO can get one or two people from each Founding Member to actively and interestedly help with FHISOs goals, then that could really get the ball rolling. Plus there would be the double advantage of giving those members a stake in this, to make it happen, and it will.

My biggest worry is that there’s nothing happening in the background. No Board Meetings. No decisions. No initiative. I as a member am completely in the dark as to what’s going on. Please reassure me.



This article has also been posted on the FHISO TSC-public mailing list.

About #RootsTech 2015 - Sun, 15 Feb 2015

This year I was #notatRootsTechbutWouldHaveLikedToBe.

RootsTech began in 2011 and became an annual event, held each year in February at the Salt Palace Convention Center in SaltLakeCity. It has been growing every year, starting with 3,000 attendees in 2011, 4,500 in 2012 and 6,700 in 2013. In 2014, they added Family Discovery Day bringing attendance up to 13,000. This year the conference was held alongside the conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies Meeting and a reported 20,000 attended.

I was at RootsTech in 2012 and 2014. In 2012, I entered Behold in the (what was then called) Developer’s Challenge. I was on a panel about “Sourcing, Citations, Meta Data”, I got to demo Behold in the demo hall, and give away 2 copies of Behold at Dick Eastman’s after conference dinner. In 2014, I met other developers at the Blue Lemon before the Innovator’s Summit and gave a talk on “Windows Phone for Genealogists”. Both years I went to many interesting keynotes and talks of use to me.

Both years, I enjoyed meeting all the people, asking questions and getting ideas. This is the perfect conference for me because the people cover all my venues. As a developer, I get to meet and spend time with other small developers like myself. The large companies: FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage and Findmypast are all represented, give talks, and have large booths in the exhibit hall. There were dozens of other genealogy software companies in the exhibit hall, and I talked to many of the developers who I’ve given GenSoftReviews User’s Choice awards to. I have contributed to the discussions on BetterGedcom, FHISO and GEDCOM X and I met many of the people involved in advancing genealogy standards. As a geneablogger, I got my blogger beads from Dear Myrtle and enjoyed talking to the bloggers I follow and met some new ones. Finally, I meet many Behold users, and learned more about you and what you want in your genealogy software.

A big thing I see that has been happening from these RootsTech Conferences is an increased interest in genealogy in North America. The keynotes include big names such as Laura Bush and Donny Osmond who are giving genealogy a higher profile. Watch Donny Osmond’s keynote and catch where he mentions PAF and GEDCOM.

But even more importantly, these RootsTech Conferences have been bringing out collaboration and sharing between the big genealogy companies. They are all here and talking to each other. I remember in 2012, Ancestry got a Keynote one day, and it felt like the “enemy” in hostile territory. But no more. Those first few RootsTech Conferences have been breaking down these barriers and there are now partnerships and data sharing going on that will get even better since everyone is talking. This will help genealogists everywhere and our pastime will evolve cooperatively.

I do highly recommend that everyone see the RootsTech Video Archive for 2015 as soon as you can, because it will not be up there permanently. They likely will put up all 15 live stream sessions, but as I write this, only half of the live stream sessions are there. I expect the others will be added soon. You will see the keynotes and a sampling of some of the talks. Especially don’t miss the Keynote of Tan Le.

I originally was not expecting to make it to next year’s RootsTech either. I’ll be speaking on the 11th Unlock the Past Cruise from Feb 14 to Mar 3, 2016. I was thinking the cruise was going to coincide with RootsTech 2016. But then, they announced that RootsTech next year would be a bit earlier than this year, from Feb 4 to 6, 2016 with the Innovator’s Summit on Feb 3. So now I’m going to try to arrange to go. Will I see you at RootsTech 2016?

Close. But no Cigar. - Thu, 22 Jan 2015

My phone app says today would be my 95th day of working on Behold since I came back very motivated from Gaenovium. I’ve tried to put at least some work into Behold each day, and I likely missed fewer than 10 days over that time. I put in a significant amount of work (sometimes staying up until 2 a.m.) at least half of those days.

I was really hoping to get version 1.1 out this month (January). But my wife and I will be leaving in a couple of days on our first-ever winter getaway holiday together that’s not to a conference and not with our kids.

Behold version 1.1 is close. You can see on the Behold Future Plans page that I’m finishing up the last couple of items of 1.1. The documentation is important since this is not a beta version and documentation needs to be updated at major changes. Besides, running through and updating all the documentation is an excellent check that usually uncovers a few problems that can be fixed before the release, so I consider it a necessity.

My wife and I won’t get back until February, so 1.1 now has a February expected release. I promise it will be worth the wait. And my momentum and motivation should carry me forward to get to the next versions soon after.

Here’s a teaser of what we’re looking at:


We now have Spouse 1 and Spouse 2 information. The family information is no longer separate but is merged into each spouse. The difference is that the family information will be from that spouse’s point of view.

Same goes for the Life Events, which are shown in green. “Life Events” are the relevant events of the parents, spouses/partners and children of each individual, and the actual implementation of these is what has taken all this time since the last release.

There are quite a few programs now that show you a timeline view of an individual. I’ve come to realize that this is the best way to view your information. It puts the person’s life in context and allows you to make inferences about what happened to them.

Most programs that include timeline views include event information, the event date and place and some have the age of the person at the time. A few also include some of the parent, spouse and child events. Excellent!

But they cannot be set up to show all the relevant information you want to see all at once because they are usually a table in a fixed format. Behold’s Everything Report can show much more of what’s relevant, including the age and years of marriage of the relative, as well as all the notes and sources associated with the Life Events. Clicking icons to see those one-by-one just doesn’t do it.

For fun, take a look at my first mockup of what I thought this might look like. That was a contrived template I put together of what I hoped I’d build. It looks similar because I used it as a model to follow. What we’ve got now is actual working output, almost ready for release.

That was also over 2 and a half years ago. Wow! I wrote many blog posts over that time about some of my struggles to get Life Events implemented just right. I originally included just about every relative imaginable, but realized recently that more is not necessarily better, and the less relevant information about non-immediate relatives simply overwhelms and hides the important information - which is why it’s back to just parents, spouses/partners and children. The same goes for my Who’s Alive display. That was conceptually a good idea, but once I started implementing it, I saw that it did not add enough useful information to cancel out the added irrelevant noise. That made the report less useful, so it had to go.

So the last two years have been a roller coaster of development. It is not always clear what you’re going to get when you start. What is necessary is the right idea, which Life Events are. The implementation is more like following the yellow brick road with many obstacles. But finally Kansas is close.

I will be taking my new Lumia 930 Windows Phone with me and I should have access to respond to emails, follow the world’s genealogical happenings as I usually do, and Tweet and/or Google+ a bit. Maybe I’ll even add a few blog posts. But I’m really looking forward to this recharge, and then releasing 1.1 after I’m back.