Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Geni: On the Fence

I'm not a girl who makes hasty decisions. And I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, whenever possible (unless they disappoint me repeatedly, then forget it).

This morning, Noah Tutak posted A Message From Geni's CEO on the Geni Blog. Please read it for yourself, but what I took away from the post was a) Geni is sorry they sprung these changes on everyone, b) they are trying to respond to comments and concerns, c) the previously announced changes are staying, and d) they are moving ahead with their goal of a world tree. There are already 10 comments posted, most of them from still-unhappy people.

Several commenters to my post yesterday, Dear Geni: It's Not Me, It's You, mentioned a desire to close their Geni accounts and remove all their data. Apparently, this is not as easy as one might think. According to blogger Debbie Blanton McCoy, a friend of hers...
...tried to close his account and it said that he had to switch the ownership of the profiles that he had added to someone else before closing the account. He later closed it but it did not remove any of the people on his tree and it did switch the management of those people to someone else. So closing your account does not delete your tree. The information is still there for Pro users to take.
From what I've read and heard, any profiles that have become "public" cannot be removed. In the olden days, I believe that the default was public. In fact, I distinctly remember a very angry email from my father when he found his own Geni profile in a Google search. Geni now says that profiles back to your grandparents are defaulted to private... so that probably also means that everyone from that point on is defaulted to public. If you did not change this on any profiles initially, they are most likely now public, and up for grabs, as Debbie's friend discovered. I made most of mine private after Dad's email, thankfully.

A commenter on today's Geni blog post mentioned the same thing. He/she says the option was given to either "donate" the tree to the community or put someone else in charge. So it appears that it is not possible to entirely remove your data from Geni. Period.

I decided to log in this morning and see what I could and couldn't do.

  • Delete photos (hugely tedious, unless you delete the entire album at once)
  • Start a discussion
  • Edit my own profile
  • View my tree
  • View my husband's tree
  • Edit a profile 6 generations back
  • Remove somebody from a tree 6 generations back
  • Follow people in my own tree
  • Delete comments on my own profile
  • Merge duplicate profiles within my own tree
  • Search for names outside my own tree
  • View "public" profiles that *I* originally uploaded back in 2008 (still editable and viewable via Google - must be a glitch on Geni's part)
  • Edit a public profile
What else? If you find other things in Geni that you can or cannot do, please let me know, and I'll add them to the list.

Am I going to remove my tree (whatever I can remove of it) from Geni... take my ball and go home? I honestly haven't decided yet. Like I said, I don't like to make hasty decisions. Adding all those profiles took time. And work. Do I really want them gone?

Also, do we really know that the "world family tree" will be a bad thing? I mean, I've got my data backed up in at least 4 different places, so if a PRO user plays in my sandbox and makes a mess, have I really lost anything? Isn't it possible that the PRO user *might* know something I don't, and could potentially help me?

Maybe, but I think what this boils down to is CONTROL. Genealogists are control freaks. We have to be. Every, single, solitary detail is important. T's crossed, i's dotted, we work like crazy to make sure we get things right. And we don't like people messing with our stuff. Seriously. Like only children, we don't always play nice with others (I should know. I am one, and I gave birth to one.). Sure, we share when we want to, but hey, don't touch my stuff unless I say so!

And if you're like me, you hate surprises. Especially bad ones. Bad surprises are when people take stuff we want. This was a bad surprise to pretty much everyone outside the Geni-sphere. Surprise! You can't have that anymore = bad. Genealogists don't like bad surprises, people. Vendors, beware.

Geni says that the world tree was their goal since day 1. Perhaps, but I sure don't remember any of this being mentioned in 2007 when I signed up. In my defense, I had a 1 year-old at the time; critical thinking and memory skills do not go well with parenting a 1 year-old on most days. But I'm pretty sure that even with a 1 year-old hanging off my hip, I would have remembered hearing that one day day in the future, a for-pay option would be created, and he who pays would have the POWA. Over information that I uploaded to what I thought was MY tree.

Nah. Don't think so. Not even with a 1 year-old.

At this point, I'm still on the fence. I may just sit here until the dust settles and see how it all plays out.

So... what are your thoughts? Geni: Should we stay or should we go?

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Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

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Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

I had only entered myself and mom and dad - both deceased. From the beginning, that was last spring, for me, I was uncomfortable with their urging me to "ask your family to join you." That didn't fit my model. It made me uncomfortable. So, I had let it sit. So yesterday, I deleted mom and dad, then closed the account. Fairly easy. No loss, no gain.
Just for info. ;-)

Debbie Blanton McCoy said...


Could you tell me how you made your information private? It will only let me make the first 3 generations private (which is the default) and they were already set to private. Everyone else is public and free for the taking.

Am I going to take my toys and go home? You bet. Well, I never really played on Geni, but my friends did, which means my genealogy is on there, too. I don't play with people who take my things and won't give them back which is exactly what Geni has done with our genealogy.

Elizabeth O'Neal said...

@Debbie, I think that it's no longer possible to make any of your profiles private beyond your grandparents. Originally, you could make a profile private by clicking "edit profile." On the Basics page, there was a checkbox in the upper right corner. If a profile beyond your 3rd great-grandparents has "gone public," I believe it is not possible to make it private. It's gone into the great beyond now known as the "giant world tree."

Wait...I may have found a loophole. I'll see if I can send you a private message. :-)

Elizabeth O'Neal said...

@Dr. Bill, the problem is with profiles beyond 3rd great-grandparents that have "gone public," i.e., were never made private before THE CHANGE. Those profiles have been sucked into the great WORLD TREE and are apparently no longer accessible.