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A Reply To Randy - Tue, 22 Nov 2011

Randy Seaver is a genealogist who I really admire and respect. I read his Genea Musings blog posts religiously as they come out. He spends more time at genealogy than most of us spend just being awake. His continual investigation into the programs he uses - Family Tree Maker, Legacy and RootsMagic hold me captivated with his insights and conclusions.

Yesterday, Randy posted his views about my list of “6 Bad Things About Today’s Genealogy Software”. I’ve had a chance to think about Randy’s views. They probably are representative of 95% of the genealogists out there, except that few have the expertise Randy has.

Randy said: “Every relational database has fields in forms for data entry. It has to. Using the current software … does a pretty good job … and many are very useful.”

Randy, that is true. The false assumption here is that a genealogy program has to work the same way. And that current software defines what is possible.

It’s sort of like someone using his Palm Pilot for years and by now is an expert at it and loves it. All the competing handhelds he ever saw were similar to his Palm Pilot. In each one, everything is entered in a similar (but slightly different) way. They all have their own set of apps, each with their set of extra features, but they all basically worked the same. Palm came out first and everyone copied it. Everybody uses these handhelds, so the immediate thinking is that this is the best and only way to do it.

So now lets say Steve Jobs came up to this person and said, don’t use your Palm Pilot, try this iPod touch instead. It will make everything you do easier and faster and better.

Well, every experience the Palm Pilot user had was his own handheld and all the others he has seen. That is the only context he has known and the idea that anything so completely different can get the job done better just doesn’t make any sense to him.

Randy, I don’t want to sound pompous and compare myself to Steve Jobs, but I’ve been frustrated for decades with the current state of genealogy software. As far as I’m concerned, they just don’t work right. Genealogy software today is horribly wrong and needs to be fixed. Software in every other field has improved by leaps and bounds … except in genealogy. Version 2012 essentially works the same as version 1992, except that each year some fluffy features are added, many of which (like merging and citations) are worse for the genealogist or take them away from the primary task they need to do.

The current programs are giving genealogists today the idea that the goal is to enter all your people and facts and events into the deep-dark bottomless black hole of data and then you’re done. Now merge it with everyone else. Make sure you add citations to make it look pretty. There. Don’t you feel good now?

I think the mold needs to be broken. Those 6 bad things in my article can be remedied. I think I have one solution, and there are likely many other ways to do it. It’s time to build a better Palm Pilot. I want to spur on innovation and get out of the relational database - form filling - get your data in - get some of it out mentality that currently exists.

Currently I am releasing a GEDCOM viewer program upon which the non-relational data storage system and editing will be incorporated. I’ve had thousands of people try Behold during its alpha and beta phases. If I’ve been the least bit unsure of my ideas, my users have clearly and powerfully expressed that they believe I’m going the right way.

“I have found the software brilliant” - Robert Whitehead - April 22, 2009

“Behold is a paradigm shift in genealogy programs!” - Rich Crooks - March 26, 2005

I can’t ignore that. I must take this forward. If I could help in some way to change and improve the way genealogists work, then I’ll have done my job.

*** Just One day left until Version 1.0 *** :-) :-)

2 Comments           comments Leave a Comment

1. rjseaver (rjseaver)
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Joined: Wed, 5 Jan 2011
6 blog comments, 0 forum posts
Posted: Tue, 22 Nov 2011  Permalink

Thank you for the cogent reply…I appreciate the comparisons of genealogy software with the first handheld device, and I think your comment is right on. I really do look forward to trying Behold! out to see if it is really much different from the other programs, if it is easier to use than the other programs, and if it can do the tasks that I care most about in a program (data entry, source citations, report writing and chart making).

I don’t care a whole lot about merging trees from other researchers with my tree, or doing web searching from within the program.

I do want to put my tree in online trees as “cousin bait,” and I do want to make it as accurate as possible while trying to adhere to the Genealogical Proof Standard.

As you know, i’m an aerospace engineer with pretty conventional creative skills, meaning I don’t think out of the box too often, but I love to tinker with the neat boxes created by other people. I tend to analyze rather than create.

If iBehold! can satisfy enough customers, and I hope that it can, then your effort will be highly rewarded and you’ll have a lifetime job of upgrading it. I wish you only the best!

2. Louis Kessler (lkessler)
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Joined: Sun, 9 Mar 2003
237 blog comments, 226 forum posts
Posted: Tue, 22 Nov 2011  Permalink


Unlike one’s genealogy research, I do have an idea of where Behold should end up.. Once Behold provides 99% of its intended benefits, which will solve those six bad things plus add multimedia handling (correctly), then development needs to stop. Then what is required is simply maintenance and conversion from dying platforms and technologies to new ones to keep it running. Additional “features” at that point only serve to make a program more complicated and harder to use and more difficult to document and maintain and convert.

When that is done (hopefully within 5 years, or about the time I retire from my day job), I plan to devote my retirement to use Behold to properly document my genealogy and family history source-centrically by going through my 5 boxes of material and my thousands of pictures and videos and emails that have been steadily accumulating and patiently waiting all these years for me.

Of course, I will also always continue to provide support to users of Behold.

“The iBehold”. I like it. But somehow, I think I’ll get in trouble with a certain red fruit if I use it.

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