Friday, March 22, 2013

Indexing Ninjas

In addition to RootsTech 2013 going on right now, FamilySearch Indexing is thisclose to reaching the milestone of having 1 billion names indexed/arbitrated. You have no idea how many times I had to backspace on that last sentence because autocorrect has a mini-seizure when you skip a crucial space. Anyway, the Indexing team is promoting this milestone as a big deal because it certainly is. For the indexers and arbitrator that end up doing the billionth name, there will be prizes of some sort. I think it's a great way to spotlight just how much work has taken place over the last several years through this massive volunteer effort.

However, it is also interesting to me to read through so many of the comments on the website for FamilySearch Indexing. There are many indexers and arbitrators who understand the purpose for the work they are doing. And then there are some who just don't get it.

FamilySearch Indexing is a volunteer effort. From dictionary.com, the second definition of volunteer is "a person who performs a service willingly and without pay." Okay, so can I just point out that without pay often also means without recognition? While it would be awesome to be the one who indexed that billionth record, I am perfectly content remaining an indexing ninja. You know. Get in. Index a few names. Get out without being seen.

Many commenters on FamilySearch talk about how they like to keep their percentages of "arbitration agreement"up high. This number is simply a statistic for us volunteers. It helps us to see if we are making mistakes and where we can improve. However, due to the fact that we are all human, arbitrators (and indexers, I might add) tend to make mistakes. And yes, many of those mistakes are frustrating when we want our arbitration percentage to stay nice and high in the 90% range. I get it. I really do. I take pride in trying to keep that number as high as possible, as well. But, is that number worth criticizing other volunteers who are so willing to serve, no matter how imperfectly?

I noted, in particular, a comment that someone shared on the Indexing Facebook page. "Now I remember why I quit doing indexing before... It is way to frustrating to do all that work and have none of it matter..." Looking further down on her comment thread, I realized she was having some issues with her indexed batches being returned, and she is having trouble figuring out why. It could be a technical glitch, human error, or who knows what else? However, this speaks to a larger complaint I hear so often from a very vocal number of indexers, and that is that the work they do is somehow negated if another indexer or an arbitrator gets something wrong. What does it say about our own motives when we get so frustrated that we are sharp or contentious with other volunteers? When we claim our work is being ignored or somehow "ruined" by someone else's mistakes? And doing it so publicly, as well.

The purpose of this work is not perfection or 100% accuracy. That wouldn't be possible considering the nature of the project. Too many volunteers. Too many different projects with different instructions. Too much room for human error. The purpose of this work is to get that many more genealogical records accessible freely to those searching out their genealogy and family histories. If we assume that the mistakes of ourselves or others will somehow keep that from happening, where is the power of God in this?

For those of us, particularly, who are LDS, and attempting to do our family histories in order to have family names to take to the temple, do we not trust in the Spirit of Elijah and the help of those beyond the veil? Mistakes happen. Mistakes in records happened long before the Internet. This is not a new problem, but do we have faith that the Lord can help us surmount these mistakes and obstacles as we work to find our ancestors? And more than that, does it truly matter if a batch, or even several batches we have indexed are returned and not used because of a mistake by an arbitrator? I think we need to remember that records here may not be perfect, but records in heaven are. I firmly believe our work and efforts in indexing and arbitrating are all recorded by someone who knows perfectly how to reward our diligence someday. My plea is that we keep the Spirit of Elijah in our hearts as we do this work, and that we let our hearts not only be turned to our fathers, but also to our fellow laborers in the vineyard. Our desire for accuracy or recognition should not override our compassion.

New Words from RootsTech

Genea-jaunt. Okay, that's going to be one of my new favorite words. Like ever. I'm going to keep that word in my vocabulary FOREVER.

I have been watching RootsTech 2013 via the live stream, and so, of course, as of right now, I'm limited to the sessions that are being broadcast that way. Hopefully, I can dig through the other good stuff on the RootsTech website as it is made available.

Keep in mind, when I comment on the RootsTech sessions, they are the thoughts of a younger genealogist. By younger, I mean, still very little gray hair, except those few strands that can directly be traced in one form or another to my 5 children. I'm still in my 30s, and not yet my late 30s, I might add. I won't get more specific than that. Also, keep in mind, I did web programming for over 10 years so my grasp on technology and newer technology is better than many family history buffs.

I was watching the international panel of The Genealogist's Gadget Bag yesterday. Of course, Jill made the disclaimer up front that they weren't going to necessarily be showcasing the "high-tech" gadgets, just the ones they currently use the most for their genealogy purposes. However, even with that disclaimer, it kind of felt like an "I Love Apple" event being broadcast out of Cupertino. Except of course for the lone Samsung Galaxy cheerleader in the panel.

That said, while there wasn't anything particularly new or helpful for me, what I did learn in this particular session was a whole bunch of delicious new words I'm going to use whenever I can. We Americans think we have the market on the English language, and it's awesome when we are reminded that not everyone is used to our way of saying things. To be fair, the word genea-jaunt was used in a question to the panel, not an answer, but I totally love that one. And considering the very PR-friendly news right now about cruises (brings new meaning to the phrase poop deck, doesn't it?), genea-jaunt sounds much more fun (and less messy) than a genea-cruise. And honestly, until we have covered every square inch of the globe with Google Fiber, I'm not about to sign up and pay for a ride on a crowded boat with tiny cabins and absolutely no Internet. Our prisoners have better living conditions. Seriously. And probably better views. And food. But, I digress.

The next new word I'm going to put in my vocab-bag is boot. No, not the footwear, the trunk of a car. All of the international panelists kept calling it a boot, and it seriously did not get old to chuckle every time they said it. When someone here in America says car boot, I've always thought of the little mechanism they hook up to your car before towing it away because you didn't see the No Parking sign in front of the cemetery you stopped at to "dig" for names. Car boot. Try using that sometime in a conversation and see if people snicker. "I have to go get my umbrella out of the car boot."

Okay, the next word I'm adding to my "use-it-as-often-as-possible-randomly-in-ordinary-conversation" list is satnav. Yes, that's how it sounded when they said it. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized they were kind of saying sat nav, as in satellite navigation. We Americans call it GPS. So one panelist kept referring to the satnav lady, and I realized she wasn't insulting anyone. We seem to have more acronyms here in the U.S. than abbreviations, especially the last few years. LOL has been around FOREVER, it seems. The slang abbreviation cray-cray, well, that one just sounds uneducated and silly now. It lasted like a nano-second, and with that one example, I have just proven my point. Acronyms rule. Abbreviations dro.... See what I did there?

Anyhoo, this last one isn't really a new word. It is just a pronunciation of a word. And I LOVE it. When Jill was talking about visiting a cemetery, she pronounced it that cool English way, so it sounds like symmetry. And then she said it our way, like seh-meh-terry. And honestly, now I see why the rest of the English-speaking world thinks we have slaughtered the language. Really, saying it symmetry sounds so much more refined. I'm going to visit the "symmetry." Just saying it makes me feel certain my IQ has risen by a few points.

Obviously, I wrote this post after either staying up too late, getting up too early, or drinking one too many Dr. Peppers. Okay, wait, that last option is totally not even humanly possible. Which is why after I go grocery shopping, my car boot is full of 2-liters.