Curators -- and how YOU can help
The goal of Geni has always been to create a shared family tree, so our users around the world can meet new cousins and discover how they relate to historical figures as well as well-known contemporary public figures. Geni has recently (in September, 2010) designated a group of experienced users as Curators to help achieve this goal. Similar to Wikipedia administrators, Curators are users who are active and well regarded by the community. Curators are volunteers and are not Geni staff. They are users like you, and most have been actively working on the collaborative project of creating a shared historical family tree for over two years.
Curators have the following privileges:
- Designate Master Profiles and, optionally in special cases, to lock them so that only Curators can edit and merge them
- Add curator notes to profiles to help prevent bad merges and edits
- Edit and merge Public Profiles
- Convert historical profiles that are incorrectly marked as living (known as "zombies") to deceased
- Convert deceased famous and historical profiles that are currently marked as private to public (if they don't have any close relatives on Geni)
- Detach incorrect parents and/or spouses from a profile
Only users with a good track record over an extended period of time have been granted these privileges and, of course, they can be revoked at any time if necessary. Each of these privileges also contains safeguards to make sure that they are not used irresponsibly, even by accident. As expected, Curators have already had a significant impact on the quality of the data on Geni.
How to become a Curator
As mentioned above, being a Curator is dependent on a "having a good track record". This generally means that you are more or less known to the Geni community in general, or at least the sub-community that you are part of (e.g. there are a number of Estonian Curators, that are almost completely unknown to non Estonian users).
There are a number of simple ways to become "well known".
- Projects - People who actively get involved in Projects of public interest, by creating them or working on improving and resolving issues with Project profiles. Doing this will get you a lot of public recognition and respect! Such people make great candidates! In fact, the last couple of Curators appointed all came from among such users.
- Translation efforts - In order to reach out to lesser known sub-communities, people active in the Translation project are also being considered. While most present Curators know English (and a dozen other languages), Geni wants to be able to better interact with the non-English speakers.
- "Writing Skills" - As Curators start moving past the tree "clean-up" stage, there is a need for Curators with a good sense of how to create well documented and understandable write-ups for the historical profiles.
- Historical Tree - people actively working to improve our shared historical tree. This often involves Collaborating with a large number of people, whether in a specific part of the tree or overall. With the introduction of Projects there is a large overlap here, but not necessarily.
- Public Discussions - Curators try and monitor ALL Public Discussions (~80 per day!), looking for people needing help and giving tips to users. People who are actively helpful here will be noticed.
The actual process
Candidates are suggested by Geni Staff, current Curators, other Geni users or even nominate themselves. The Curator team constantly reviews these potential candidates, by looking at their work, often Collaborating / Following them and their public interactions with the Geni Community. This takes time, often weeks. The Curator team debates each candidate, and when if a positive decision is reached, Noah, President of Geni, invites them to join the Team. The final decision is ALWAYS Noah's.
What skills are expected of a Geni Curator?
- Critical thinking, research and problem-solving skills; ability to organize, structure and critically analyze genealogical and historical information within its larger historical context
- Research skills: willingness and ability to seek out the most definitive sources and to be open to various interpretations of sometimes-conflicting data
- Ability and willingness to represent Geni and to communicate diplomatically and respectfully with Geni users
- Ability and willingness to work collaboratively, to negotiate through controversies, and to work for the good of the whole rather than serving individual interests
How Curators Help
Presently what Curators can help you with is:
- "killing zombies" - Zombies are historical profiles that are wrongly marked as living, and thus block merges. Please continue posting these requests in this Public Discussion.
- Make a profile public – if a historical profile is wrongly marked as private, we can ask the system to check if it should be marked public.
- Complete pending merges between any pair of public profiles.
- Designating some profiles as Master Profiles. When you are merging, try to merge into the master profiles. While we are building these there may still be conflicting and unresolved information, but as we make progress with our cleanup, these will become the most accurate and reliable profiles for a given person and should contain all the research material and references and sources.
If you find a duplicate profile that is from a tree that is not yet connected to the "Big Tree", curators most strongly recommend that you always first try and contact the other managers. Besides being the most courteous and respectful option, you will get better and faster results that way (we are a last resort).
Curators also highly recommend that anyone who is serious about merging in the shared parts of our tree join the Collaboration Pool. You will find there 500+ people there all wanting to help each other out. Read about it and join here.
While initially Curators would like to concentrate on cleaning up the shared parts of the historical tree (such as European royalty and nobility prior to about 1600), they can and will assist anywhere needed. Be aware, however, that curators are only able to use their curatorial privileges on public profiles and cannot generally assist with private trees within four generations of a Geni user's claimed profile.
What Curators can’t and will not do is:
- Do your work for you. If you see duplicates in a tree, and can stack them, please do so, before you ask us to complete the merges. Do the maximum that you can. There are 5,000,000 users, and only about 50 Curators... WE need YOUR help at least as much as you need us. This is a team effort.
- Before you ask a curator to merge a "stack" of pending merges, go through the stack yourself and check to see if all of the profiles belong there. If there are pending merges that are clearly incorrect (different names, extremely different dates, and so on), then you should undo that pending merge. If you see pending merges that are correct, and if you have collaboration rights with the managers, then you can make the merges yourself. It is not too hard, and you'll make a huge contribution to the collective efforts. You might find the following guide on how to resolve merge issues useful.
- Most importantly - curators will not force any decisions on anyone. If you have issues with the other manager(s), please try and work them out first.
Post requests for Curators to help in the ATTENTION Curators, please assist discussion.
How You Can Help
Since Geni is a collaborative project, each person makes an incredible contribution to the overall effort. We have close to 50 million profiles in the shared historical Big Tree, and you can help to create one unified family tree in the following ways.
Researching and Fact-Checking
- Research and provide documentation for every relationship that you can. If your tree is based on research, then please share that with us all. The biggest problem we face is with people copying trees and GEDCOMs online and then just perpetuating them endlessly, with very few people actually fact-checking. We need fact-checkers! If you can choose one family line at a time and collect as much documentation as you can on that line, your work will be valued and appreciated by all of us using Geni.
Building Solid Profiles
See also Master Profile
- Work hard and take care to make sure that the data fields are as accurate and complete as possible, to the best of your knowledge and based on your best research.
- See our Naming Conventions for how to insert names. Even though Geni provides a space for "Maiden Name," most genealogists and Curators prefer that married women still be listed by their birth name in the main name field rather than their married name, especially for the historical tree. You may use the "Maiden Name" field to duplicate that information or, occasionally, to provide alternate spellings of the name. Be aware that naming conventions are culturally specific and also vary from time period to time period, so if you have questions, it's best to consult a curator who specializes in the culture and/or time period in which you are working.
- A secret tip - the "maiden name" field for men is hidden, but it's there. You may access it by temporarily changing his gender to Female, and then the Maiden Name field will appear. We often use that field for birth names for males as well as for alternate spellings of the name. Be sure to change his gender back to male when you have completed your edit, however!
- The Overview/About Me section is a place to put well-documented information about the person from primary and well-researched (especially scholarly) secondary Sources. Avoid (and delete) references to private websites and your own private Gedcom-notes as "sources" - use Primary Sources and, whenever possible, scholarly articles. A Rootsweb or LDS page is not a "source" - some of these are the cause for some very wrong connections out there. The curators recommend the following for the About Me section:
- (1) a basic capsule summary of information at the top/beginning of the section with the preferred name of the person, their parents, spouse(s) and children, and very brief biographical information, *including" any controversies or disagreements (conflicting information) in the sources about them;
- (2) quoted material from primary or very reliable secondary sources such as FMG or scholarly books, with reference citations and links to the online references if available;
- (3) quoted material and links to wikipedia profiles of the person--in most cases these are accurate, but each curator should evaluate them based on the sources used for the wiki profile, and should make note at the top of the About Me as well as at the beginning of the quoted material if there is conflicting or questionable information.
- (4) If there are well-researched other sources, such as material from genealogical societies, primary documents such as deeds, wills, census records, and so on, they should be included too.
- Avoid using Tree Matches to merge - most bad errors seem to be initiated by these. If you do use Tree Matches, please make sure that the two profiles are exactly the same, since Geni's matching algorithms frequently suggest matches with people with similar names that are not always the same person. Check the parents, spouse, children, and dates of birth and death to make sure that all are in alignment between the two profiles before you agree to the match.
- There are two stages of merging: creating a pending merge (that is, suggesting that two profiles are for the same person), and completing that merge. See below.
- Stacking (i.e., suggesting merges) is the first step in a two-part merge process. "Stacks" are groups of profiles that have been suggested as being duplicates or for the same person. They are created from Tree View after clicking on the yellow triangle with an exclamation mark inside - this will open up a graphic that allows you to drag and drop profiles you believe to be identical on top of each other, "stacking" them. You may also stack profiles in Tree View by clicking the More field for a person, clicking Move This Person and then, after a rectangular box for that person appears on the right side of your window, dragging and dropping it on top of another profile that you feel is a duplicate and confirming that "They are the same person."
- The second stage in the two-part merge process is to actually merge together the pending merges, one by one, after you have verified that they are correct. Be cautious - this is a big responsibility! Mis-merging two people together who are not the same causes huge problems and is very difficult to fix. When you are in a Profile View, you will see a message near the person's name if there are pending merges waiting to be completed. This will say, "This profile has been linked to another profile pending a merge. View his other profile and complete the pending merge."
- When you click on this, you will go to a Compare Profiles view (sometimes called the Carousel in Geni lingo). Open profiles and try to reduce stacks, checking carefully if the profiles stacked are really the same. There are a lot of bad stacks out there with many different people linked to be merged. Unlink and/or ask for help. These "bad stacks" usually lead to a lot more bad linking.
- Always open all the profiles involved in a conflict and read the information before linking them to be merged (learn to use multiple tabs if you don't already). Be aware that often, the pageview comparing two profiles in a pending merge is NOT providing you with all the information about the person from that profile, and so if you do not see a parent listed, for example, you need to open the profile in a new tab to make sure that the parent listed matches the parent in the other profile.
- Be very careful when linking profiles to be merged. The wrong merges and errors happening out there are absolutely incredible ...
- Curators are able to merge any two public profiles, so we would like for you to merge as many duplicates as possible and then you can leave the rest for us. The more collaborators you have, the more profiles you will be able to merge, so it's to your benefit to join the Collaborator's Pool (see Public Discussions).
Resolving Conflicting or Missing Data
- First, see note above about the importance of good research. If in doubt, look it up. If the information is not already in the profile or the About Me section (or attached as documentation), then please add it.
- Read our Naming Conventions, and leave Name conflicts to Curators/main managers. If a name looks strange to you, you might want to ask why instead of changing it. Remember that names should generally be kept in the original language of the person being profiled, so please do not change the profile names to your own native language just for your convenience.
- Conflicting data? Normally, keep data from Main or Master Profile when merging, except when you find a more specific date or location in another profile (for example, if the Main Profile says birth was in France but another source provides the city and department). If you come across conflicting dates or locations for birth, death or burial, and if you cannot find the correct information out from a research source, then do not just delete the alternate information--please include it as a note in the About Me section so that it might later be resolved.
- Multiple parents for a profile? The secret is to clean up as much as possible (for example, if there are multiple parents who are the same persons) by going to View Tree and clicking the little yellow triangle in the lower left of the person's rectangular name box, and then dragging and dropping the duplicates on top of each other (this process is called "stacking" in Geni lingo). Then click "continue" and follow directions to approve the tree.
- If there are incorrect or conflicting parents, you can go back (still in Tree View) and click the yellow triangle again and after you click Continue, you may get a choice of which parents are correct. If there is only one correct set, please choose it. If there are lots of multiples of the same parents, then first it's best to go back to their profiles and try to merge them so you don't cut any loose. If you get a message that you cannot choose those parents because it will break the tree, then that's when you refer the problem to a Curator or a Pro user with lots of merging experience, since we can use our Pro and Curator tools to remove the incorrect parents.
- Read and start Public Discussions for profiles where there are questions about connections etc. A lot of the time somebody can help. (Tip: Place profile names/areas etc in Topic, not just "Who are the parents?" - that way we know what area you are talking about without everyone having to read everything.)
- Look for and respect the occasional "Work in progress" messages from Curators for some difficult areas - we're doing our best to fix these. They are temporary :-). Similarly, you may come across Master Profiles that are "locked" so that only curators may edit them. These are rare but necessary in cases in which the relationships surrounding a profile are really in a mess and/or for people who are frequently mis-merged with others who have similar names.
- Tell Curators what areas you are or will be working on to avoid chaos caused by several people involved in the same lines simultaneously. This is important for the "busy" lines of the tree only, i.e where there are many managers and errors/issues.
- Stick to areas that you know very well, and start reading/studying before entering a "new" area - educate yourself! :-)