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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 5 days ago #1

  • trejder
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It was noted on some other topic , by Webtrees key contributor, that shared notes is a pure evil and the beginning of all hell! :) I'd like to discuss this further, why.

I use shared notes often. Most situations are when one note is for a more than one individual or a fact. For example, I have a single sentence that denotes some relation between two or three persons. I then put this single sentence as a shared note and attach them to all three persons (either directly or to some events or facts).

Example:

> John had a daughter, Yan and a son, Joseph.

Since this is the only existing remark that confirms existence of John, Yan and Joseph, I don't want to just add source to these three individuals, but I also want to a note.

Assuming that shared notes are bad, I'd have to use three separate single / standard notes in here. Correct me, if I am wrong. Updating all three notes instead of one shared note, if any update would ever be needed, is a nightmare for me.

What am I missing? Are shared notes truly that bad and, if yes, then why?

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 5 days ago #2

  • norwegian_sardines
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I disagree with this notion.

shared notes is a pure evil and the beginning of all hell! :)


I don't use them very often because most of the time notes are specific to an individual fact or event. BUT I use them where the NOTE is a universal addendum to the a fact or event.

However you trejder said:

I use shared notes often. Most situations are when one note is for a more than one individual or a fact. For example, I have a single sentence that denotes some relation between two or three persons. I then put this single sentence as a shared note and attach them to all three persons (either directly or to some events or facts).

I would put this NOTE within the source record that is contain the proof of the relationship as a TEXT value. So the fact is proven by the source and the source contain the sentence that denotes the relationship which is text in the source..
Ken

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Last edit: by norwegian_sardines.

Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 5 days ago #3

  • bertkoor
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I have some often shared notes for marking analphabetics, married cousins, children born within 9 months from marriage date...
The hell is in consistently maintaining them.

trejder wrote: Example:

> John had a daughter, Yan and a son, Joseph.


Sorry, but why is this even a note?
Just go to the Family tab add those f#$ing children!
I hope you do have better examples.
stamboom.BertKoor.nl runs on webtrees v1.7.13

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Last edit: by bertkoor.

Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 4 days ago #4

  • fisharebest
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OK - this is why I personally dislike "shared notes". I'm not telling anyone else to stop using them. I'm not planning to stop supporting them in webtrees.

Firstly remember that webtrees is a format for DATA TRANSFER. Transferring data between applications.

A typical genealogy application will have its own data-model - that is to say the way it represents families, facts, etc. in memory. It will have a way of storing this data in a file. Usually a proprietory format. It may also have a way of exporting/import in GEDCOM format.

webtrees is pretty much unique in that it uses GEDCOM as its data-model.

There are two ways to look at "NOTE records".

One is the way it is used in webtrees. These are "first-class" objects. A single copy of data that is referenced in many places. If you edit it, then every occurrence of it will be updated.

The other is as an implementation detail. Applications just have "notes". The software may save them inline or as note-records. The user doesn't know or care about this. The application just lets them add notes to things.

Now, if it is just an implementation detail, then the application can store notes inline - or as note-records.
It can also decide to save space in the GEDCOM file, by storing only one copy of each note-record, and referencing it many times.

(Incidently, this is how Microsoft Excel works. If you type the text "fisharebest" into a thousand cells in a spreadsheet, the file contains only one occurrence of "fisharebest" - but a thousand cells that link to it. If you edit one of the cells, it does not change all the others.)

Now, a bit of history. I added support for note-records to PhpGedView many years ago. Initially, it was just read-only. That is to say, we could display note-records from existing GEDCOM files, but could not create/edit them.

When I came to add support for editing, I had to choose between the two behaviours. Are note-records just an implementation detail that is hidden from users - or do we create a new type of first-class object?

The all the other PGV developers wanted new first-class objects - so this is why webtrees has them.
Once a feature has been added, it is difficult to take it away!

A good question to ask is how many other applications chose the same interpretation? That is, how many support shared-notes as first-class objects?

As far as I am aware, only webtrees (and PGV) work like this. The rest have no concept of "sharing" notes.

Which means that if you decide to transfer your data to another application, your "shared note" will simply become many copies of the same note.

By analogy, imagine an application that had the concept of "shared facts". For example, a census event that could be linked to many individuals. Or perhaps an event where many people could have different roles, such as baptism where you have a child and godparents. This may work beautifully within the application, but to convert to GEDCOM, you would need to "unshare" these events by creating many copies, using ASSO/RELA tags, etc.

So, the structure gets lost when you use GEDCOM to transfer the data - and our shared-notes are the same.
Greg Roach - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - fisharebest.webtrees.net

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 4 days ago #5

  • norwegian_sardines
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Greg Said:

The all the other PGV developers wanted new first-class objects - so this is why webtrees has them.
Once a feature has been added, it is difficult to take it away!

When did you add the NOTE record as a first class item? I know that GEDCOM 5.0 from 1991 was part of the specification (I don't recall if 4.0 from 1989 did but I don't think so.).


So the reason you dislike NOTE_RECORDS is that it does not follow the way other programs may implement their databases. I would of course (as a data modeler) try to normalize even more and break out other items like Place, Facts/Events. Devil those round-trippers!! :-)

But on the other hand I realize in world of "flat files" and "card desks" having too many record type made reading in cards very hard!! ;-)
Ken

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Last edit: by norwegian_sardines.

Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 4 days ago #6

  • fisharebest
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> So the reason you dislike NOTE_RECORDS is that it does not follow the way other programs may implement their databases

Before a user can add a note, they must choose between inline/object. New users stumble here because we are forcing them to make a choice when they don't know the consequences.

Displaying inline and object notes using the same layout means that neither is satisfactory.
See github.com/fisharebest/webtrees/issues/3444 and others.

Unlike individuals, families, sources, etc., notes do not have an obvious "name". Yet if they are objects, we need some way to refer to them. We use the first part of the first line. This is often unhelpful, and doesn't contain enough information to identify the note or its meaning.

This makes selecting them for re-use difficult.

When you show the page for a note object, or a list of note objects, they are completely out of context.

Note objects are frequently used (misused) instead of sources/citations.
Greg Roach - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - fisharebest.webtrees.net

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 4 days ago #7

  • trejder
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bertkoor wrote: Sorry, but why is this even a note?
Just go to the Family tab add those f#$ing children!
I hope you do have better examples.


It is just a matter of how you approach your tree! :>

I know people who are not using sources at all. They're just adding individuals and facts and events about them and absolutely don't care about sources. I know a guy who has 1000+ individuals tree where he has 0 (zero) on lists of sources and repositories.

I know people (probably like you) that in the situation above would just add a source from which did the learn about John, Joseph and Yan. That's another way of approaching to data denoting and I respect that.

And, finally, there are people (like me) who in above situation would like to cite a particular sentence that was used in some discussion. Not just denote source (memories of some person in this case), but also a cite. That's all.

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 4 days ago #8

  • trejder
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Thank you, Greg, for a very detailed explanation.

> As far as I am aware, only webtrees (and PGV) work like this. The rest have no concept of "sharing" notes.

If I am getting you correctly, the only (or at least the major) reason for not using shared notes is in this case data portability and the ability to transfer it between Webtrees and other applications.

This case becomes a far, far easier, if you simply assume that "there's Webtrees and nothing else" :) Or that you're going to use Webtrees "until the end of time"! :) In my case this is how it works.

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 4 days ago #9

  • norwegian_sardines
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It is the “round trippers” that have the biggest issue. It is probably ok to use webtrees as your only data entry program, then use other programs one way to take advantage of some of their reports and diagrams.

Unfortunately a lot more data gets lost moving between webtrees and other programs than SharedNotes. I’ve tried several other programs and their database does not match up well with GEDCOM. The data model for Ancestry does not support a lot of information and is a one way load in my opinion. FTM and RM7 have no Family record at all. All attributes of a family are actually attributes of the parents. “Shared Facts”....

This is why I am heavy supporter of GEDCOM first then custom data after. Most programs (every one I’ve tried so maybe all) don’t support GEDCOM very well and not in the same way. Data will be lost when moving between programs, that is just a fact.
Ken

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 4 days ago #10

  • georg
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Now you point to one of my most serious complaints I hav about webtrees. It is far too difficult to find the key of a given record. If I could just easily find the key, it would be so much easier to cross-reference. The string-matching is impressive, but if the DB gets big enough, there are too many hits. If the UI simply (and discreetly) displayed the key, also shared notes could be used easily.

Not that I see any need for shared notes. To facilitate processing, whether manual or automatic, data should be coded in the most precise way possible. If it is a source, it should be recorded as a source. If it is verbatim quote, it is TEXT, rather than NOTE. I find it rather hard to read some of the databases I have received from others, because shared notes are used for so many different purposes and it is often hard to see which one. However, if I do find that I need a shared NOTE I would not worry about other programs. As others have pointed out, other programs will cause so much trouble that the shared note is going to be the least of my concerns.

I am very grateful that there is an open source piece of software which works with an open data model which is transparent enough that I can hand-edit the underlying text file. It gives me confidence that my data will survive any change of hardware and software.

And yes, it is a pity that places are not first class objects, but that's a flaw in GEDCOM and not in webtrees. It is so hard to find unique naming conventions, when places have changed names and national and regional borders have shifted over time. There is a great need to be able identify places and stack up descriptions and sources to support further research. But well, the GEDCOM model is tailored for paper card archives, not for computers. It is amazing that it is still the best we have. And depressing.

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 4 days ago #11

  • norwegian_sardines
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georg said:

It is far too difficult to find the key of a given record. If I could just easily find the key, it would be so much easier to cross-reference.


I'm not sure what "key" you are looking for. If you are referring to the XREF, then this is a subject we have talked about before. These are internal not external data-points and should not be exposed or used as keys to a specific record by people. That is what the REFN tag is used for in GEDCOM. Unfortunately creating a unique REFN is not automatic at this time.This would be a better way as part of a list of names to identify an individual, source, media item, note or family.
Ken

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Last edit: by norwegian_sardines.

Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 4 days ago #12

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norwegian_sardines wrote: These are internal not external data-points and should not be exposed or used as keys to a specific record by people.


That's rather illogical. The big selling point of webtrees is that the internal representation is completely transparent and visible in the external interface in the form of gedcom. The XREF is part of gedcom, and hence part of the external interface. Hiding it in the other half of the interface does not make the slightest bit of sense.

REFN could solve some problems, if only it were fully supported. I justed tested in the merge record interface, and I enter individuals by XREF or by name, but not by REFN. Obviously, when I need to use merge record, the name tends to be ambiguous, so unique keys is really what we need. Webtrees does not display the REFN in any way that I can see. It is also difficult to see why an auto-generated REFN is better than an XREF. The strength of REFN is that it allows the user to assign keys which make sense to him, and that's also why REFN is not always defined.

Genealogy forces common users to deal with and repair inconsistent data and thus they face challenges usually left to experts. Hiding any aspect of the data structure just adds to the challenge.

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 4 days ago #13

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norwegian_sardines wrote: These are internal not external data-points and should not be exposed or used as keys to a specific record by people.


That's rather illogical. The big selling point of webtrees is that the internal representation is completely transparent and visible in the external interface in the form of gedcom. The XREF is part of gedcom, and hence part of the external interface. Hiding it in the other half of the interface does not make the slightest bit of sense.

REFN could solve some problems, if only it were fully supported. I justed tested in the merge record interface, and I enter individuals by XREF or by name, but not by REFN. Obviously, when I need to use merge record, the name tends to be ambiguous, so unique keys is really what we need. Webtrees does not display the REFN in any way that I can see. It is also difficult to see why an auto-generated REFN is better than an XREF. The strength of REFN is that it allows the user to assign keys which make sense to him, and that's also why REFN is not always defined.

Genealogy forces common users to deal with and repair inconsistent data and thus they face challenges usually left to experts. Hiding any aspect of the data structure just adds to the challenge.

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 3 days ago #14

  • fisharebest
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@georg

> It is far too difficult to find the key of a given record.

The XREF is visible in the URL bar in the browser.
If you hover your mouse over a link, you will see the URL and the XREF.

> Obviously, when I need to use merge record, the name tends to be ambiguous, so unique keys is really what we need.

Anywhere that you need to select an individual/family/source, you can also type an XREF.
So, you can type the XREFs directly into the merge-records form.

If you want to work with XREFs, it is not too difficult.
Greg Roach - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - fisharebest.webtrees.net

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 3 days ago #15

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fisharebest wrote: The XREF is visible in the URL bar in the browser.
If you hover your mouse over a link, you will see the URL and the XREF.


Good idea. I never thought of the URL. You really have to know what you are looking for though, to find it in between the %2F characters. It would not hurt to make it a wee bit easier ...

fisharebest wrote: Anywhere that you need to select an individual/family/source, you can also type an XREF.
So, you can type the XREFs directly into the merge-records form.


Sure. I have done that many times. The problem was always finding the XREF for a given record.

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Why should I avoid shared notes? 1 week 3 days ago #16

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fisharebest wrote: The XREF is visible in the URL bar in the browser.
If you hover your mouse over a link, you will see the URL and the XREF.


Good idea. I never thought of the URL. You really have to know what you are looking for though, to find it in between the %2F characters. It would not hurt to make it a wee bit easier ...

fisharebest wrote: Anywhere that you need to select an individual/family/source, you can also type an XREF.
So, you can type the XREFs directly into the merge-records form.


Sure. I have done that many times. The problem was always finding the XREF for a given record.

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