A Message from the Indexing Workforce Team

Our previous indexing newsletter generated more than 600 reader comments, many expressing concerns about indexing or providing ideas for how to improve the indexing software. We thank you for your feedback and are pleased that so many volunteers are willing to be involved in helping us improve the indexing experience for everyone.

We have read through every single comment and concern that was shared in our last newsletter and have compiled a list of common topics. Most of the feedback received centers, in one way or another, on producing high-quality indexes so researchers can find their ancestors. We couldn’t be more pleased with the passion for excellence we see demonstrated every day by our volunteers. While there are isolated examples of careless indexing and arbitration, we know it is rare to find a volunteer who isn’t first and foremost trying to do his or her very best work.

Below, we address the most common themes we observed from your feedback.

Inconsistent arbitration
A frequent concern expressed is the inconsistency of arbitration. We are currently piloting a program of peer-to-peer mentoring for new arbitrators in order to improve their preparation and establish a consistent set of training and qualification procedures. This program pairs new arbitrators with proven, experienced arbitrators in a one-on-one mentoring experience. Each new arbitrator is led through a series of activities so that they thoroughly understand the tools, policies, and resources necessary to succeed.

If this pilot is successful, we expect to expand this program to more arbitrators in a phased approach by language and location. Our plan is to make the program available in all indexing languages within the next 12 months. A companion program is also anticipated that will make a similar mentoring experience available to new indexers. In this way, we will utilize the collective wisdom and experience of our volunteer workforce to further raise the quality of the indexes being published on FamilySearch.org.

Improve indexing instructions and consolidate into one location
We recognize the need to consolidate the location of project instructions to one easy-to-find location, as well as provide clearer instructions from the launch of a new project. When the new indexing program is available, we will be able to consolidate all project instructions into one location and easily update as needed.

In addition, we are implementing an enhanced quality check process for instructions before we launch a new project. We will be expanding our early-read test group of volunteers who will provide feedback to project instructions and recommend improvements prior to a new project launching. We believe this will help alleviate much of the confusion and lessen the need for project updates. Watch for future communications inviting volunteers to join the early-read test groups.

Along with improving the project instructions, we are also working on simplifying the Basic Indexing Guidelines. Watch for future communications on this development as well.

Editing of incorrectly indexed records by users
Many volunteers justifiably feel a need to make corrections to arbitrated batches. Researchers are also asking for the ability to make corrections through FamilySearch.org as they find an ancestor who was transcribed incorrectly either by the original record taker, or interpreted incorrectly by the indexer or arbitrator. For our earlier response to this question please refer to the article entitled, What “Final” Really Means which talks about future abilities to search all indexed and arbitrated values, as well as the possibility of making corrections to published indexes.

Communication between indexers and arbitrators
Volunteers are asking for the ability to communicate with one another. Three common requests that fall under this category include:

  1. Allow arbitrators to receive feedback from indexers.
  2. Allow indexers to leave notes for the arbitrator before submitting a batch.
  3. Provide a way for collaboration to take place within the indexing program.

With limited resources, we are not able to offer solutions to all three requests immediately. However, we have a few solutions we are currently evaluating in an effort to meet your needs. Possible solutions include the following:

  1. Allow indexers to provide a general reason for marking an arbitrated record “Please Review” (for example, reasons for review may include “Record matching skipped,” or “Check field helps”). This basic feedback would allow the arbitrator to see what areas they can improve in.
  2. Provide a field that would allow an indexer to leave comments for a record before submitting a batch. This would provide another reference for the arbitrator on difficult entries in addition to the project instructions and field helps.

We’d love your feedback on these possible solutions to your requests. Please leave a comment below or email us at fsindexing@familysearch.org and let us know what you think. As far as a chat feature goes, we think it’s a great idea. As we look at the development of a new indexing platform, we hope to incorporate a chat feature so that help may be received within the indexing program.

Increased use of mobile technology
We know there are people who may never index using the current desktop program, but who will index on a tablet or smartphone. Their collective contribution to making names searchable online could be immense. The mobile app beta test has been an important stepping-stone to the future of mobile indexing, and it also has important implications for future versions of the desktop indexing program.

The new indexing system is being designed with the tablet user in mind. We believe it will be a great solution for tablet-sized devices. Because of the limited viewing area of phone-sized devices and the challenges associated with presenting small image snippets (lacking context from the larger image), we are still exploring appropriate tasks and field-types for this platform.

Big changes like these will take time and resources. We ask for your patience and continued feedback to help us know where improvements are needed most. Together, we’re constantly moving toward the ultimate indexing experience.

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