Sunday, November 02, 2008

Store our family history on the world wide web for the future generations to read and enjoy?

First of all, I am going to break the 500 word rule and the Saturday morning Rant Rule. What I want to RANT about this morning is all about different ways to solve a problem, thanks to two of my relatives, One from Atlanta and one from Australia.

The problem at hand:

1) Why should we use Geni to document Family history? Why not facebook, Orkuchee (orkut), myspace, and other social media collaboration outlets that we currently use?
2) Why document Family history at all?.

Two questions with many answers: I hope I can get decent momentum going here. I don't plan on solving this problem, It would be foolish to do it by myself when I have 222 blood relatives on my Mom's side all participating (begrudgingly I think) on Geni. Insted I just plan on presenting some thoughts, that might provoke deeper insight, in the young minds of the Dsouza clan.

Documenting Family history: I have been a big proponent of documenting Family history for a long time now. I remember about 25 years ago a conversation I had with my Aunty Benna (then a principle of Mount carmel's mother ship) about this. The fact that I am still on this kick should mean something. There is also another reason. When I lived in India, not once was I asked to explain, why I have a Hispanic last name. After I came to the US, I have been asked this many a time. So I set out in search of the truth, at least the documented truth. What I found or did not find surprised me and increased my resolve to find out more.

Why not just use the world wide web as the repository for our family history?

I really believe we can pull this off:
But to understand how, we need to look at a similar problem space. A few years ago Google came out with the Google desktop. The feature that made it stand out from the rest was its capability to index all your files and even mail. By doing so they gave us an option to do away with filing/categorizing data. The premise was, you store data where ever and however you want to. Then when you need to retrieve a file, you simply search using key words and it pulls it up. So remember the time we used to spend cleaning our files and filing them away, If you were smart and used this indexing, you did not need to.

Let me give you an analogy. Lets say you lived in a college dorm. Your parents are not around to ask you to clean up your room. You just let it pile up. But mentally you arrive at this ingenious solution. Your mind indexed the contents of the room, so whenever you needed something, it was easy to find. So no sorting, no cleaning, no mus, no fuss. Its all there, and you get it when you need it. Indexing at its sophisticated best!!

The premise was simple: They did away with elaborate folder heiarachies to store and retrieve data, instead they just indexed every word in each document. It is an amazing retrieval system which they developed for the world wide web and just scaled it down to the desktop and it was a paradigm shift from the older ways of thinking about information retrieval.

So In theory we the M&M clan should be able to use any social network out there, and post our Zeitegeist as we live. If at any time any one wishes to retrieve how it came to be that Terry lives in Kalamazoo today, about 12000 miles where he was born. You can serch for Terry+Trichur+Fernandez Lane+Kalamazoo and wallah!! you have the answer.

I got out a couple of concepts there so let me tag them so folks can easily get to this information:
Semantic Web, cognition and recall, Indexing, Social media, Social networks, Search algorithms, Information retrieval.

The question is how do I capture the Stories I heard Dennis Britto tell us when we were young?. How can I capture and convey the moment, when he let us put our finger in the hole in his head? Gary V. is perhpas one answer. Any one who has watched Gary V and his incredible story telling, will agree he is Dennis Britto reincarnated. There are other great story tellers out there: Sir Ken Robinson, Larry Lessing, Jon Steward, Ze Frank to name a few. They all have one thing in common, they use other forms of media to convey their stories.

So lots of questions for the future generations in the M&M clan to sink their teeth into. One thing is for sure, When my Uncles, Aunts, Cousins travelled far away from Managalore (uncle George, Aunty Flavy, Uncle Willy, Uncle Jimmy to name just a few) their only medium of communication was writing letters. Whats more, I am sure there were Stories like Edgar told us the other day about a Dog named Puski that we are not priviy to becuase there was not way to use the world wide web as a repository and google was not aournd to index the information. With the result, we lost a lot of history. What are we going to do about it?

Let history repeat it self?

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