Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tech Tuesday - Information Standards in the Family History Space

A few months ago I reached out to the organizers behind the Family History Information Standards Organization (FHISO). They had published a position paper/comment draft titled Why FHISO, seeking input on a "proposed community-owned standards organization serving genealogists worldwide". This was intriguing and right away I saw a connection between my primary field of Internet security, governance and policy with my family history interest.

After exchanging ideas on ways in which family historians might fit within FHISO's structure, it is clear that they have embraced the concept of using a multi-stakeholder model for information standards in the genealogy and family history community. Quick disclaimer - the views in this post and blog are in my individual capacity and do not represent an official position or views of my employer - end of disclaimer. The model being adopted by FHISO is close to my heart as it follows the model of community-driven collaboration in the coordination of the Internet's unique identifier systems. FHISO's approach is also along the lines of the Open Stand movement announced in August 2012, although FHISO's focus is specific to bringing together a diverse spectrum of entities to support open, international standards for the genealogy and family history communities.

Like the Internet unique identifier ecosystem, the family history community has its issues with handling Internationalization and character sets, dated information standards (GEDCOM) that are in need of modernization while balancing scalability, flexibility, security and privacy. These are big topics, but are better addressed through broad collaboration rather than through proprietary or government-driven approaches. This "self-governance" approach follows Internet principles of open, respectful collaboration for accessibility to historical data in a manner that is independent but inclusive of business and institutions, government expertise, the academic community and individual historians.

As more archives (national and local), libraries, and historical societies grapple with digitizing records, there is a need for uniform standards so that this data can be accessed and shared globally. I'm interested in seeing FHISO move into its next phases and begin to serve as a platform for multi-stakeholder engagement on information standards for the family history community.

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