Thursday, July 7, 2016
Can't Take a Hint
It's a glorious scheme, isn't it, to create a system to automatically prompt users to check specific genealogical documentation for the very facts they are seeking. Enter some detail about a family member from a bygone era, and almost instantly, Ancestry.com remarks, "I believe I have something on that person." And gives you a "hint."
Of course, not all hints are created equal. Some, I value—like digitized images of birth and death records, census enumerations, marriage licenses. That's the good stuff.
Some hints, however, don't add up to as much. In my book, that usually includes most photos and definitely all family trees. I'm simply not going to add that material to my own trees. Period.
What does one do when the item just given is something you'd prefer to not receive? Expect the giver to take it back, of course. That, in the case of Ancestry, is not so easily done.
Lest you think it is just a matter of going through the hints and deleting the unnecessary ones—something akin to what I described yesterday—think again. I've been through that routine, and somewhere deep in the midst of the multiple hundreds count, the system chokes up.
It goes something like this: I delete, delete, delete...until the instantly declining count says I am at the very last page of hints. That, at least, is what it says on the page counter on the right. If, however, I look over to the hint counter on the left, I still have hundreds of hints yet to go.
If this sounds confusing to you, perhaps this screen shot will be the picture that eliminates the need for a thousand words of explanation.
See that counter on the right that says I'm down to page one of one pages? See that explanation in the middle that says, "You currently have no member tree hints for..."?
Then why does the "Member Trees" category on the left still say I have umpteen pages yet to clear out of that category of hints?
That routine repeated itself several times last night. I'd hit one of those impasses, switch out of that category and on to another—photos was a good target—and then, go right back again to "Member Trees."
Miraculously, in that wandering moment, the system would reset itself, and all of a sudden, I'd have pages upon pages of hints, once again.
What's the matter, Ancestry? Can't take a hint back?
There are some who say it's not worth it to put the effort into clearing out that hint counter at Ancestry. I can't blame them. After all, the Inbox Zero concept is anathema to me. Why adopt it for genealogy?
Yet, I'm using an entirely different system right now for my current project. You see, I'm moving my Gordon family file from my dinosaur computer over to my mother-in-law's tree at Ancestry. Yes, piece by piece, I'm taking a twenty-something year old database and hand-checking each entry for verification. I want to evaluate some work done a couple decades ago. I don't doubt that I'll find mistakes that will need to be updated. Indeed, I've already found some.
In the process, I first type in the data from the old file. After a long sitting, doing only that process on my Ancestry tree, I then go back and review the hundreds of hints that action has triggered. Bringing that hint count down is the signal to inform me of my progress in checking all those entries I've transferred from that old database. I need to have a way to confirm that I've checked them all—otherwise, I might be leaving unverified entries on my new system.
All the more reason to have a hint system that truly works—not just in the notification, but in the follow-through. A way to track progress. And yet, when the system seizes up and doesn't compute properly, the tool can become useless to me. I have that uneasy feeling I sometimes have gone back over the same trail more than once, removing the same hints again today that I had removed yesterday.
This task begins to feel remotely sisyphean in the doing of it. But it shouldn't be that way. If the system offers a way to remove a hint, then it should also be able to work if I choose to remove one hundred hints. Or one thousand.
Of course, wouldn't it be grand if Ancestry reconfigured their hint-taking apparatus so that, with one click, I could say, "Remove all member trees" from my hints?
Perhaps that is asking too much. But I can dream. In the meantime, to demonstrate that perseverance has not lost its luster—even in this modern, computer-glitch-prone world—I spent the remainder of the evening clicking away until I did achieve Inbox Zero.
Just to prove it was possible, I took a screen shot of the moment. After all, that zero count on my Member Tree hints will probably be back up to the hundreds by tomorrow. I may as well celebrate the moment.