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Endless Possibilities - Tue, 21 Feb 2012

A wonderful software program doesn’t just get developed. It iterates and builds. It expands upon its concepts and enhances them. It refigures how to redo parts of itself based on the experience of its use and makes things better. It isn’t created wonderful, but it evolves into wonderful.

You look at your smart phone, and it seems wonderful. How did they create it? There was the not-so-smart phone before it, and the handheld organizer before that, and the calculator before that, and the abacus before that, and your fingers and toes before that. (Actually it was the communicator on Star Trek that did it!)

Behold’s Everything Report has done the same. The concept was there years ago, but it is evolving into something wonderful. I haven’t been able to foresee some of these possibilities, and I’m excited about what is happening.

Following the release of Version 1.0, it was pointed out to me that rather than just list an individual’s events and facts in the order they were in the GEDCOM, it would be much more useful to sort them by date.

So I included powerful date checking with inline messages right next to the date to tell you when one has an improper format or is not a valid date.

Once I had date checking, I could now sort the events by date within individuals and families. The notes, sources and objects worked better starting on their own line, so I reworked how those would appear.

This made me realize that I could easily add ages next to the dates, so that is what I’m finishing off now. This leads to a very powerful but simple implementation of consistency/sanity checking done so conveniently that problems can be shown inline right next to the problem – just like the date problems which are included inline next to the bad date.

These ideas made me think that I might want to also expand the parent links, child links, and spouse links within the individuals and families and turn them into individual birth and marriage events within the person’s life. Maybe I could merge the family events into each spouse’s events and just show data for individuals – and not families. It’s possible and may be worthwhile to add as an option. Then consistency/sanity checking could be done on those added events as well. Why not include parent’s 2nd marriages, divorces, deaths, other brothers or sisters birth, marriage and death, children’s marriage and death events all into an individual’s information: after all, every one of those events are significant in the life of anybody and would be useful to help understand a person’s life.

Whoa! Just too much here. I’ve got to cut it off. I checked how easy it was to implement the majority of this, and if I could do all this in a few days, I would. But it’s not so easy with the current Behold data structure. To get a brother’s events, I need to find the parent’s family, go to the family’s children, and scan for appropriate events within the time frame of the individual their events are being added to. These ideas weren’t on the horizon with Behold a year ago. But they are within view now because we’re farther up the mountain.

The other great vision that has magically appeared will be the next step: complete GEDCOM 5.5.1 input checking and legal GEDCOM 5.5.1 export. With Behold’s ability to select families and include only the tags you want, the GEDCOM export will be doubly powerful.

Then there’s saving to Behold’s own data format (already spec’d out, but still to be implemented), plus 64-bit processing to combine to allow Behold to load incredibly large files.

… and then editing … directly into the Everything Report

… and then source-based data entry

… and then evidence/conclusion support

… and then picture support

I’m getting ahead of myself again.

But the possibilities are really endless.

Sorry about this post, but from time to time, I have to burst out about my excitement.

I’m getting there.

2 Comments           comments Leave a Comment

1. Brett (brett)
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Joined: Mon, 12 Jan 2009
36 blog comments, 59 forum posts
Posted: Tue, 21 Feb 2012  Permalink

You indeed sound excited today (or this morning your time).

So does all this excitement, extend to your head nodding response at RootsTech2012 re implementing support for a ‘new’ GEDCOM standard within 30 days of release of said standard?

2. Louis Kessler (lkessler)
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Joined: Sun, 9 Mar 2003
231 blog comments, 226 forum posts
Posted: Wed, 22 Feb 2012  Permalink

I intend to keep up with the development of any new standard. I’m involved with BetterGEDCOM and GEDCOMX and am staying up-to-date with all the progress towards a new GEDCOM. Writing the input and output for any new standard is not difficult, and that could be done in not too long a time, maybe a month.

But it is how the data model will integrate with the existing GEDCOM model that will be more difficult. Translations of one structure to another will be required. Will they be compatible? Will information be lost? For RootsMagic and AncestorSync, will the new data model work with their database? Will it work with Behold’s database that I will soon be creating? How much simplification is needed, and how many “features” of the new standard will require so much additional programming that it will prevent them from being implemented by many programs.

There is a lot to consider here. It will probably be a couple of years at least before a Version 1.0 of a new proposed standard will be available. But by staying involved now, I can say my piece and try to keep the new standard grounded in ideas that make sense to me and to what I think genealogists will need. I’ll also be able to pre-test and ensure that they are not introducing concepts or changes that programmers will find to be near-to-impossible to implement.

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