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Louis Kessler’s Behold Blog

Behold Wins a GenSoftReviews Users Choice Award - Sun, 4 Jan 2015

I’m very happy to be able to say that Behold has been given an award for being a Top Rated Genealogy Software by its users. See the official press release.


The award is given to any genealogy program that users gave an average rating of at least 4 stars out of five in 10 or more reviews with at least one review in the past year. Behold reached the 10 reviews just this past year and rated 4.26 stars out of 5. You can look at the individual reviews and ratings for Behold.

Now I have to say that I’m the one who developed, administers and maintains the GenSoftReviews site. And I’m the one who each year tabulates the winners, sends out the press release announcing the winners, and informs each of the winners of their award. I also moderate the reviews, deleting duplicates or spam or non-reviews, and try to prevent the site from being used as a discussion area, which is not what its for.

I try to ensure my work on my Behold program stays independent of the moderation duties I perform on GenSoftReviews. I have not in any way changed the ratings or reviews of Behold. They are as they were posted.

It took several years for Behold to get to 10 reviews, and the three reviews last year got it there. The algorithm I set up on GenSoftReviews to determine the time-decaying weighted average score was written many years ago. The site determines the winners, not me.

Listen to me. It’s almost as if I feel a little guilty winning the award.

But it really feels nice. I’m in good company, with 15 other programs including  well known and full featured programs like Family Historian, Ancestral Quest, Brother’s Keeper, Family Tree Builder, Reunion and RootsMagic.

I’ve now re-jigged my Behold home page, and put the GenSoftReviews award in a noticeable position on the top right of the page. You’ll notice some of the other winners have also done so.

I developed GenSoftReviews in part because of Behold. I was already trying to catalog all the other programs out there, to see what they do and maybe to find one that I would want to use. But I wanted more than a list. I wanted to know what other people thought of them. What was good, what was bad. Those ideas would help me decide what to do with Behold and help me make it better.

And by having Behold on GenSoftReviews myself, I get additional feedback. I am using Behold’s feedback on GenSoftReviews as another source of user input to help me make my product better. The goal is to have a program that people like, and if they don’t, to fix it.

I would hope that all the genealogy software developers use GenSoftReviews as their own useful benchmark. The goal is to have a program that your users will rate at least 4 stars out of 5. If you don’t achieve it, you are doing something substandard. Figure out what it is, fix the problem, and see if you can reach the benchmark the next year.

One program is not for everybody, just like one type of car is not for everybody. We all have our specific needs and preferences. But wouldn’t it be nice if there were not just 16, but 816 programs that won GenSoftReviews Users Choice Awards that you could choose from. Thats my challenge to the other genealogy developers. Lets get your products out there, but make them good. Good enough that your users will rate them at least 4 stars out of 5 and get you a Users Choice Award next year.


GEDCOM File Finder Wins a GeneAward

Meanwhile, I got another surprise in the new year. The freeware program called GEDCOM File Finder that I spun out of Behold won a Tamura Jones GeneAward for Best New Genealogy Utility of 2014. It was very nice to be recognized, and it is much appreciated.

Now, to get back to finishing Behold version 1.1

More GEDCOM Archaeological Discoveries - Wed, 31 Dec 2014

Interesting events! Yesterday, Bob Coret realized that there were two versions of GEDCOM 5.5. Bob wrote on his Google Plus account yesterday:

I compared the grammar published in the #GEDCOM 5.5 LDS/PDF ("2 January 1996") version to one in the #GEDCOM 5.5 McBride/HTML ("Revised 10 January 1996") version and found several differences, some small, some big!

And then he posted on his blog: Which GEDCOM 5.5 grammer is correct?

Supposedly there was an “Errata sheet” that includes the corrections that would descript the differences in the two version. The problem was, there was no such Errata sheet to be found anywhere on the Internet.

Looking through the GEDCOM-L maillist archives, it was apparent that this Errata Sheet was only sent to a few people. Tamura Jones, in an email about this yesterday found this reference in the GEDCOM-L maillist archives from Brian Madsen in 1996:


From what I can tell, Brian Madsen was one of the developers of a DOS program called Genealogical Information Manager. It still has a website up at www.gimsoft.com, although the page was last updated on 11 Jul 2000 (over 14 years ago). Who knows if GIM still works, but none-the-less, I still list GIM on GenSoftReviews.

So there was someone who had it! Or least someone who had it over 18 years ago. I thought I’d follow that up and found a more recent email address for Brian Madsen (from 4 years ago) and sent him out an email.

To my great pleasure and surprise, he emailed me back and said:

Boy, talk about a blast from the past.  I had to go digging through an old file drawer in the back of a closet that hasn’t been opened in a long time.


He sent me a scan of the two Errata pages, which I’ve now converted into a pdf document and have sent to Bob and Tamura.

And yet another bonus:  Brian said he also has, on paper, a GEDCOM 3.0 spec dated 9 October 1987, and a GEDCOM 5.0 spec dated 31 December 1991. He said that he will, when he gets sufficient time, scan those and send them as well.

So this is really wonderful. Here we have “lost” paper documents that really are archival treasures describing the evolution of GEDCOM, that are finally being resurrected. They feel like papyrus documents, but really they are just 18 to 27 years old. We finally are doing our duty and preserving this important history.

The final tabulation now of what has been found in the past few months:

Pretty awesome!

2014 and Behold - Tue, 30 Dec 2014

2014 is almost over. It’s been quite a full year for me. This is my 35th blog post for the year. I’ve also been active on Twitter and GooglePlus.

I started the year off preparing for a lecture on Windows Phone for Genealogy at RootsTech 2014 in Salt Lake City. Then shortly after I got back, my father passed away and that messed up the entire spring for me. During the summer, I spent a lot of time preparing a comprehensive talk called “Reading Wrong GEDCOM Right” for the Gaenovium Genealogy Technology Conference in October in Leiden Netherlands. I helped rediscover GEDCOM 2 and GEDCOM 1 and GEDCOM 4 specs. I submitted a paper on Standardizing Sources and Citation Templates to FHISO in August. Shortly after that, FHISO started getting active and I was following the discussions and contributing to them somewhat.

But it was the Gaenovium conference that got me motivated again. After I got back, I knew it was my task to put all my efforts into getting that next version of Behold out. I motivated myself with an #amprogramming hash tag on Twitter, with the goal of programming every day for as long as I can. I even have an App on my Windows Phone that counts the days for me and says today is day number 78 since I began. I’ve been pretty diligent, and I’ve probably been able to work hard on Behold on 70 of those 78 days.

In the process, I upgraded the Find Files routine from Behold for the next version, and in November released it as a standalone freeware program called GEDCOM File Finder.

But alas, I never did get a new version of Behold out in 2014. Tamura Jones has threatened that I may get one of his GeneAwards as Vapourware for 2014 for promises of a release without the actualization of one. I hope he doesn’t, as I’ve given up all my excuses up above.

Even so, right up to a week ago, I was still hoping I’d still be able to squeak Behold version 1.1 into 2014. But it wasn’t to be. The last 3 days, I was trying to help my daughter solve her computer crash. Looks like we’ll be reinstalling Windows for her on Jan 1. (She did do a full backup less than 2 weeks ago)

I’ll be back working hard on Behold in the new year, and I do expect to release Version 1.1 in January.

Hope your 2014 was good and productive.
Wishing your 2015 to be bigger and better.

Open-mouthed smile