11 Aug 2000 tja   » (Journeyer)

Diary entry number one, after a few weeks of existence at Advogato. We just shipped a new release of our software at work so I have a little more time for other pursuits. I've recently caught genealogy. It's an interesting disease, because it lets you see a whole new side to internet culture that you wouldn't see by hanging out at the usual Linux/free software/open source haunts. Basically, there is a lot of genealogical information on the net, but the people who maintain it don't have a clue. They keep pointing you to dead-tree publications, and they keep asking you for money. There are people who try to create a miniature monopoly on some small collections of information (eg some subset of birth and death records for the UK from 1830 to 1910, or whatever), and extract monopoly rents from it. There are web sites where they apologise for putting _all_ their information on one page and thus making the page take a long time to load. Any member of the free software cognoscenti (or any sort of software cognoscenti, actually) would immediately wonder WTF they don't just shove it into a database and generate web pages on the fly. What little information there is freely available is not linked together in any useful way. Because my surname is fairly common, and none of my ancestors on that side of the family spent any time living in the USA to my knowledge, I get quite peeved that whenever I try to search for any of those ancestors I have to wade through several hundred references to Americans with the same name. Why can't I just search for all the Allen's who didn't live in the USA? Or all the Allen's who lived in England, for example? I guess I've just gotten used to the idea that all useful information ought to go into a real database, and I forget that the rest of the world doesn't necessarily grok that concept.

There is some semblance of something resembling the free software ethic in the genealogy community (eg a couple of projects where volunteers transcribe census records, or birth and death records), but these projects are all in their infancy.

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