Comment to a private group on Facebook about DNA genealogy

This group has grown to over 100,000 members. I see some wonderful advice that should probably be in a globally accessible form. This is a “private” group, so nothing posted here is seen or indexed and available except to people who join. I have helped more than a hundred people with finding their birth parents, so I know about privacy. But there are things that everyone should know about DNA, about forming groups around a person to help do the massive amount of work needed to fill in a complete family tree for someone.

This group’s materials are NOT being curated, indexed, organized, cleaned up for ease of sharing. Most everything that get’s written and is more than a few hours old is effectively lost forever, except to the random few who happened to see it as they were browsing. Or who deliberately search.

This group ought to have subgroups and it ought to have categories and tags. I really think there are a lot of people being helped, but there is no one counting and no mechanism for walking new people though the basic questions – did you take a DNA test? Where? What are your closest matches? Do you have a background in genealogy? Whatever we always ask people — that is being duplicated for every person coming here.

There could be a standard form for new people asking for help. There could be a standard form for people offering to help. There could be a standard form for indexing and sharing resources. There could be a standard way to share permanent resources and methods. There is no wiki or FAQ. No way to mark “this ought to be shared globally”. No way to publish best practices for other groups (there are many many private groups like this, not many as large, but there are some).

Mostly I wish there were ways to send “Here are the best practices to get started, and the best questions to answer first.” and “Do you want help, fill in this basic information and we will post it for someone to help”

More than a hundred thousand people and one level of organization? No structure or design??? A list of questions and comments and discussions that disappears soon after it is created? Does that make sense at all? Doesn’t it seem horribly wasteful to you?

If the group became “public” there can be private groups and private messaging for things that need that? There could be ways to anonymize the people asking for help.

Certainly 100,000+ people, as smart and caring as I know are in this group — certainly there are ways to do better than this long list and NEVER gathering best practices and NEVER finding ways to be sure that everyone is being helped? It would probably mean going through all the old postings. Do you think that is even available or kept? It must be huge! And uncurated, unorganized, a string of things with massive repeats and variations.

Perhaps there is more organization than I am seeing. But it seems that way to me. And I know and have helped other Facebook DNA genealogy groups — all using the default Facebook string of conversations method – no better tools, no database, no subgroups, no tracking, no “is everyone being helped?” or “what has been learned?”

Richard Collins, Director, The Internet Foundation

Posted to another (public) group:

I just wrote to one of the Facebook groups I have been helping for a long time – DNA genealogy stuff with over 100,000 members. A private group. But much of what has been learned ought to be public, and ORGANIZED.

There are tens of thousands asking for help, and many volunteers but no more organizing tools then these “horribly long and impossible to find anything lists of postings, comments, replies”. No “database of people asking for help”. No “standard form with questions to walk new people through the basics”. No way to form working groups.

And most importantly no way to publish best practices and share with similar groups.

You would think that Facebook with as much experience as it ought to have from hosting so many groups would have basic software for group management and organization. Is “this” the best they can do” Is it going to stay “long lists of questions and answers and posts” forever?

Richard Collins, Director, The Internet Foundation
Richard K Collins

About: Richard K Collins

Director, The Internet Foundation Studying formation and optimized collaboration of global communities. Applying the Internet to solve global problems and build sustainable communities. Internet policies, standards and best practices.

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