Bidirectional Links

MSomers
2004-03-24
2004-04-09
  • MSomers

    MSomers - 2004-03-24

    I just discovered this project so may be asking a question that has been answered elsewhere.  If so, sorry!

    Will GeneaPro incorporate bidirectional links as described in the paper by <a href="http://axon.cs.byu.edu/~randy/gen/wilson.fht2002.bi-link.pdf">D. Randall Wilson<a>

    If so, I have a few other ideas related to the use of these links that I would like to see discussed. 

     
    • MSomers

      MSomers - 2004-03-24

      Oops, sorry about the ugly link.  Apparently I should just type the URL:
      http://axon.cs.byu.edu/~randy/gen/wilson.fht2002.bi-link.pdf

       
    • Tom Morris

      Tom Morris - 2004-03-24

      I don't think this has been discussed in the past and as far as I'm concerned, anything that's useful and practical is fair game for inclusion.

      On the surface this sounds like a hugely impractical idea, but perhaps I'm missing something.  It sounds like he'd require Ancestry to store a link to everyone who made a citation to, say, their 1930 census index or images.

      He also seems to make the assumption that having more than one researcher do the same research is "bad" in some way which I don't think I agree with.

      How about starting with why it would be useful and then outlining how it could be implemented in a practical manner.

      Tom

       
    • MSomers

      MSomers - 2004-03-26

      You mentioned that it would be impractical to store links to everyone who makes a citation to something like the 1930 census images.  I agree but this is not what is being proposed.  It would also be less than useful in the context of the links currently envisioned within the GenTech data model to simply cite the entire 1930 census when recording data for a particular individual.  Instead, a useful link would contain the information needed to help locate that particular individual within the entire census, including the film number, the page within that film, and even the location on that page that contains that person's info.  The idea behind a bidirectional link is to make this very specific link point in both directions. 

      I was excited by Wilsons paper because his ideas are similar to my own.  Wilsons paper seems to indicate that the primary benefit of bidirectional links is to avoid repeating research.  This is bad in the sense that it is pointless to repeat the same work over and over again.  Instead, once one person transcribes data relating to a particular individual within a census image, for example, it would be helpful if the next person interested in the same piece of data could simply copy it.

      Though interesting, I think that there is a more compelling reason to make links point in both directions:  doing so would make possible a powerful new search mechanism.  Suppose that I have recorded census data for one of my ancestors within my database.  Bidirectional links make it possible for me to find everyone else who has recorded the same piece of data and to unambiguously identify that ancestor within their data.   Once found, I could examine any of their assertions involving that ancestor to find additional source data relating to that ancestor or to that ancestors relatives.

      Searching for individuals in the genealogical context always involves a fair degree of ambiguity.  For example, typing a persons name and birth date into FamilySearch typically results in a long list of individuals.  Hence, one important benefit of bidirectional links is that they make it possible to identify individuals unambiguously. 

      I noted while reading about GeneaPro that the goal is to make it a multiuser system.  If so, then I think it is vital to enable one user to be able to efficiently navigate thru data entered by others.  Bidirectional links make it possible for a researcher to quickly and unambiguously identify all source data relating to a particular individual regardless of who has entered this data. 

      I should also note that bidirectional links enable the identification of erroneous assertions.  Imagine that different researchers make assertions that identify an individual in a particular data source with individuals in other data sources.  Suppose that one of these assertions is erroneous.  Bidirectional links make it possible to easily examine the collected set of data relating to the individual.  If the collected data set contains contradictory information then the underlying assertions can be examined to determine their validity.   
         
      Oh well, this is probably enough for now.  These ideas arent particularly well thought out.  They will undoubtedly need to be refined as objections are raised.  We haven't even begun to talk about how(and if) they can be implemented. Let me know what you think.   

      Mark

       
    • Tom Morris

      Tom Morris - 2004-03-26

      Of course citations are specific.  So I've got a citation which references John Smith on sheet 13A, line 17.  Does that citation go in a central repository, such as the same repository holding the original data, or are the citations stored, as is the case today, in a distributed fashion with data for the individual that I assert it's related to.  If the latter, how does one find and search all these distributed citations?  If the former, where is that repository and how do you induce everyone to put their citations there?

      The paper you're referencing was presented at a Mormon conference where the context is much than the real world.  They can just insist everyone does it a certain way and they have to do it.  We won't have that type of hierarchical discipline over the users of this software.

      Citations are always inherently bidirectional links.  It's being able to index, search, and access them in both directions that's the hard part.

      Tom

       
      • Hans Fugal

        Hans Fugal - 2004-04-09

        >> The paper you're referencing was presented at a Mormon conference where the context is much than the real world. They can just insist everyone does it a certain way and they have to do it. We won't have that type of hierarchical discipline over the users of this software. <<

        You do not have your facts straight, but your attitude shines through loud and clear. This paper was prepared for the 2nd Annual Family History and Technology Workshop at BYU. BYU is a private (church-owned) school but this workshop is not a "Mormon conference", but an academic gathering that has included not only BYU research but others from across the country that do not belong to the LDS church. If Notre Dame put on a conference by the same name would you say that it was a Catholic conference?

        As for family history, members of the church can and do use many different approaches and software to aid them in their work. The only 'requirement' is that you have to use a specific format when submitting genealogical data to the church for temple ordinances, and that is more or less GEDCOM. In any case, any program that can export GEDCOM meets anybody's needs.

        Unfortunately I haven't had time to read the paper and so can't yet reply to the real topic of this thread, but I felt you deserved a clarification on these issues.

         
        • Tom Morris

          Tom Morris - 2004-04-09

          It's too bad you couldn't address whether the proposed scheme is practical in the real world, because my main point was that it isn't.

          As for my characterization of the conference, I'll admit that it was based in part on second hand information from an attendee who claimed that the conference opened and closed with a Mormon prayer and you had to go across the street to get a cup of coffee.

          If I review last year's program though, I see that an opening prayer *is* listed in the program, immediately followed by the keynote from the Mormon CTO.

          If you look at presentations like this one,
          http://www.fht.byu.edu/prev_workshops/workshop/presentations/Kent%20Huff's%20presentation.ppt
          you'll find gems like the following quotes from the "Strategy" slide:

          'Planning to do all the world's genealogy is the cheapest way for us to do our "own" ...

          'Church members could get all the world's genealogy work done more easily, quickly, and cheaply than if those same Church members focused all their resources on doing only their "own" genealogy work.  We hope that "they" and "us" will soon be the same.  As the Church grows larger, the efficiencies will increase.'  (why does this remind me of the Borg?)

          I've been to a lot of conferences and I have a hard time imagining this sort of thing at an ACM or IEEE conference.

          For anyone who cares, even though this is quite off topic, here's the link to the main page where you can review the presentations and presenters for the last four years and make your own evaluation as to the nature of the conference. http://www.fht.byu.edu/

          Tom

           
          • Hans Fugal

            Hans Fugal - 2004-04-09

            >> It's too bad you couldn't address whether the proposed scheme  is practical in the real world, because my main point was that it  isn't. <<
            Yes it is. Perhaps once I get a chance to read the paper and think about your proposal.

            >> As for my characterization of the conference, I'll admit that it was based in part on second hand information from an attendee who claimed that the conference opened and closed with a Mormon prayer and you had to go across the street to get a cup of coffee. <<
            No doubt it did start and end with a prayer, as is customary at BYU. BYU doesn't sell Coffee, as it is against church doctrine to drink it. Would you expect anything different?

            'Planning to do all the world's genealogy is the cheapest way for us to do our "own" ... ' -- so you characterize a conference by its presenters. Fair enough. It's only the second year, and hopefully will attract more people. I'll admit that even as a BYU student it hasn't attracted me yet.

            The Church and its members have an interest in genealogy, as I'm sure everyone is aware. This extends to professors (many of which are LDS) as well, and most of them dabble in genealogy. IMO very few of them know what they're doing and should at least get involved with others on campus such as the family histrory department. This conference is one step in the right direction, and I hope it grows and becomes better.

            Efficiencies of scale has nothing to do with the borg - it is a standard economics principle upon which free markets operate. The fact is the church and its members are interested in genealogy more than most people and therefore they will be an influence both behind the scenes and as customers no matter how you look at it.

            "I've been to a lot of conferences and I have a hard time imagining this sort of thing at an ACM or IEEE conference."
            I agree. It's a small conference, and I have had a hard time taking it serious since I've been involved in the wider (professional) world of genealogy. But some not from BYU have said it is the only academic conference on the subject, and have come from the east coast to attend. (I haven't researched this, so it's hearsay) That's something, at least.

             

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