Proposal: Genealogy

There are a number of proposed questions that amount to requests for service/software recommendations:

  • What are viable alternatives to the GEDCOM format?
  • How can I digitize my family's home movies from the 1960s?
  • What is the best way to backup my genealogy data that's in my computer program?
  • Is any census data for the UK available online for free?
  • What are pros/cons of using open source genealogy software/sites (eg gramps, wereleate.org) over pay-for software/sites (ancestry, myheritage)?
  • Can you suggest any genealogy related apps or go-to resources?
  • Google Translate doesn't always give a good translation; is there a good resource for help in translating Slovakia Church records from church Latin?
  • Is there a referral service to assist in finding a researcher in Slovakia?
  • Is there a gedcom processing tool to find societies (for example, Mayflower, Brewster, Society of the Cincinnati, DAR, ...) eligibility?

While they're easy to ask (and easy to answer), questions soliciting a list of recommendations generally do poorly on Stack Exchange: very rarely do they provide more than short opinions and one-line recommendations.

While the occasional community collaboration, when properly managed and maintained, on an oft-asked question can be a boon, you don't want these easy questions consuming the site. Too many questions with a low barrier to entry tends to turn off the domain experts you need to keep a site going.

  • 2
    Some of the questions could be re-written in a way that solicits higher quality answers.
    – user42535
    Aug 31, 2012 at 14:43
  • @JustinY oh yeah, definitely: any ones that can should be edited or re-proposed.
    – user16359
    Aug 31, 2012 at 16:29

2 Answers 2


Don't you think though that at this stage those questions are important? I'm relatively new in genealogy research and those types of answers are what I need. If you're going to attract enough people to get this Genealogy section going on stack exchange it would probably be best not to scare anyone away from the site by thinking their questions too simple. (I already feel stupid trying to figure out all the rules here - and why can I respond in this section, when yesterday I couldn't, etc.)

  • See the @JustinY comment above. The most important purpose of this site is to exchange information. I believe the purpose of the above post was to teach/remind us of how to be most constructive. If you have a question that falls under the described category, try rephrasing it to make it a higher quality (more objective) question.
    – Noremac
    Aug 31, 2012 at 15:08
  • Don't feel stupid: I don't think there's a single person out there who doesn't get tripped up by the Area 51 process (SE is reportedly working on fixing that). In the initial stages of the site, it's more important to establish an expertise: SE is more willing to let a site do its thing as long as it's producing quality content. Sort of a, "design the site for experts, everyone else will come because they experts are there" philosophy.
    – user16359
    Aug 31, 2012 at 16:35


On StackOverflow (as the best example), the sorts of questions that you identify are the ones that tend to get the most upvotes, and the most answers, and the most views. They are some of the most valuable questions at StackOverflow.

Some of them do get closed, but I think it is better to make them a Community Wiki and they then become a resource that everyone can use and expand upon.

But we've got to see what it is in a general Q&A site the Genealogy populous really wants. The voting up and down on questions here is the judge. And we'll get to see once the beta starts, which types of questions do well and which do not.

I think overzealous moderation, especially at the beginning, may do more harm than good.

  • I'm afraid you have it backwards: the goal of the Area 51 process is to determine if the expert Genealogy community in interested in and work with the style of Q&A—complete with question standards—that Stack Exchange provides, not to figure out what the Genealogy community wants and adapt the SE engine to match. Unfortunately, you're also conflating two different modes of evaluation on Stack Exchange: votes, which judge exactly what you describe, and community moderation—through close votes, editing, deleting, and meta-discussions like these—that judge the appropriateness of the content on SE.
    – user16359
    Sep 1, 2012 at 15:55
  • That's not to say the very occasional recommendation question that's well curated and maintained is out of the question: only the idea of making it one of the main thrusts of the site. To take your example of SO, if you look at the top 100 questions by votes, there's only one such recommendation question that's still open, a product of the meticulous diligence of the SO C++ community. Also check out "The Future of Community Wiki".
    – user16359
    Sep 1, 2012 at 15:58
  • Thanks, Mark. I didn't realize Community Wiki designation was no longer recommended to be used. But we're all fleshing this out. What is becoming clear is that getting through Area51 to Beta is a very difficult learning procedure.
    – lkessler
    Sep 1, 2012 at 16:58

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