Thursday, 12 March 2015

The last straw

This can be enlarged by clicking on it.
About two years ago, I had a good old rant about the family research web site Geni in which I'd discovered that putting my research on a Geni web site is a tacit agreement (on their part, not mine) that, despite the privacy settings, all relatives further out than five generations are fair game for any so-called family researcher to claim -- and edit.

So I did the best I could to remove the relatives I could, and remove the information from those I couldn't.  (Closing your Geni account doesn't make any difference; your tree stays even if you don't.)  I decided to be philosophical about it; it was a handy place to store online documents and a platform for sharing discoveries with the branch of the Resident Fan Boy's that had invited me to Geni in the first place.

Last summer, I had another small shock.  Geni had adopted an "opting out" privacy policy -- all the ancestors within the five-generation limit had been set to "public".  It was up to the profile "managers" (as they call us) to set them back to "private".  Since the message was at the Geni inbox, I didn't find out about this for a few weeks.  I was cross enough to set every single profile to private -- it took me the better part of the morning -- only to get a rather snippy message from Geni telling me I was a naughty girl for re-setting the profiles beyond the five-generation limit as it was not in the spirit of sharing.

I remained philosophical.

This morning after a minor disaster doing my time-lines, I went to Geni to double-check some information that I hadn't stored at Ancestry.  On my home-page was a long list of "merges", that is, blending profiles from different researchers.  It didn't really affect me because it concerned the immediate family of the second cousin who had issued me the invitation to Geni, but two things made me enormously uncomfortable:
1)  With one exception, the merges concerned living relatives;
2)  I didn't  recognize the name of the person doing the merging.

Above, I've taken steps so you won't recognize any names either. It's from the home page of the "merger" which I had immediately checked.  It turns out I'm not the only one who doesn't know who he is and is not okay with his "fixing" other people's family trees.  You'll also see that he is very unperturbed.  He says he is a volunteer Geni "curator" whose job it is to merge as many trees into the "World Family Tree" as possible.

I'm not getting into the pros and cons of "collaborative trees" here.  There are plenty of impassioned arguments going on in the comments sections of popular genealogy blogs and web sites.  Suffice it to say, I double-checked my privacy settings, all set to the maximum that Geni will allow, and discovered that Geni staff can go into any profile they please.  Our friend above said, in response to yet another exasperated request that he stop putting his oar in, that as a "curator", he has "special privileges".

That was enough for me.  I went straight to my Geni tree and set to work feverishly, first deleting my daughters' profiles which are supposed to be visible to family only.  As I worked through the morning, I discovered that if I deleted profiles in a certain order, that is, children, spouses, then siblings, then I could usually delete the profiles in my direct line.  When I couldn't, I went directly to the profile, and  sometimes could choose "delete"from the Actions menu.  Failing that, I used my old trick of manually erasing all information from the profile itself, using the "edit" tab.  Once that was done, I found I could delete those profiles as well.

By late afternoon, I had cleared my side of the tree to my name only, and the vast majority of the Resident Fan Boy's paternal relatives.  I'm leaving the RFB's maternal ancestors because, as I've said, it was those cousins who invited me in the first place.  Besides, they're usually the managers of those profiles, so I couldn't delete them anyway. (I can't delete my husband or his immediate family because other cousin manage their profiles, for example.)

For good measure, I went into my photo file at Geni, and deleted all photos of living relatives and my own deceased ancestors.

I will now wait and see if I get another snippy message.  If so, I will complete the job and close my account.

You can lecture me all you want about collaboration, Geni.  Cooperation still doesn't mean co-opting other people's work -- particularly without their permission.

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