04 April 2014

Dear Ancestry.Com: Data from Public vs. Private Trees

For the third time in two days a fellow member of Ancestry.Com has taken information from my public tree, then when I went to their tree looking for any information they might have on our shared relative, I discover their tree is private.

Really?  Seriously?  You are glad for me to share with you, but you won't share back??

Here is my suggestion for Ancestry.Com.  You attach a software switch to all data gleaned from the public tree area.  A simple on-off switch attached to all the data.  If it starts out public on the website as long as it remains public it will be visible on the website.  The switch is set on the data to be public. When a user decides to make that public data private on their tree, it disappears to that user, until they make their tree public again.  

Here is an example.  I go through my family treasures and find a picture of my g-grandmother.  I choose to share it publicly with all those related to her!  A distant relative copies the pic to their tree.  Awesome!  I meant it to be shared!  But then that relative decides to make their tree private.  My pic disappears from their tree.  If they ever choose to make their tree public again, it reappears!

Is this a solution?  A cure?  Of course not.  A user can easily download the pic to their computer and then upload it to their private tree as their own addition of data not from me.  But the principle remains in place -- the pic as I contributed it was meant to be shared.  

It is frustrating to have a fellow user copy my pic to their tree, then for me to see they have pics of the same relative on their tree, and they are unwilling to share. Absurd.  See the logic?  There is none.

There is a longstanding debate in the genealogy community about making data public.  Somehow some of us think if we do the labor in locating it, then it belongs to us.  But it really doesn't.  It is public data or you wouldn't have found it.  I am of the mindset that anything I can do to grow the genealogical community helps me!  The more people in the game the better the game!  The more data is mined, the more data is made public!  The more researchers, the more stories are found!  I want as many people related to me doing research as possible!

So you are welcomed to anything I have, AS LONG AS you are willing to share it (with attribution when appropriate).

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker

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