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Group Administrator Guidelines for FTDNA Projects

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  • #76
    Project Admin Guidelines

    It seems fairly clear that the authors of these guidelines have little concept of what administering a DNA project entails; some of the items have not been thought through sufficiently. Perhaps, more admins might have been involved in the early development.

    Particularly egregious is "Represent Family Tree DNA as the testing company of choice, and facilitate a positive public image of Family Tree DNA and your project." As others have noted, FTDNA is not always the testing company of choice. Further, such a requirement requires an admin to abandon objectivity, the basis for trust by project participants actual and potential. My project members respect me because I do not lie to them.

    "Facilitating a positive image" is fine, so long as that image is earned (as it mostly has been). However, admins need to be free to make criticisms when due.

    Removal of project admins: I'd recommend criteria and a process for this. At least one very large project seems to have suffered from a lack of process.

    Moving members from one project to another -- This fails to recognize that, occasionally, reorganization of projects is necessary. Shouldn't provision be made for accomplishing this? Again, a process -- potentially involving members' and FTDNA consent -- is required.

    The privacy items concern me as the admin for a large, multiple-origin surname project. They fail to recognize the cooperative nature of genetic genealogy. I can not match you with you also matching me. If we are to discover our common ancestors, we must work together; nether of us can accomplish the task in isolation.

    The most frequent complaint I receive as project admin is that "so-and-so, whom I match, will not respond to communication". This is a large and growing problem; it remains un-addressed. Excessive emphasis on privacy inhibits sharing of information; it conveys the message that genetic genealogy is a solo undertaking.

    Unfortunately, these guidelines apply only to admins. Where is even a suggestion that participants, too, have responsibilities?

    Moses came down from the mountain with Ten Commandments written in stone. These guidelines do not have as good a provenance.


    • #77
      rt-sails had some very good points..
      this one "Moving members from one project to another -- This fails to recognize that, occasionally, reorganization of projects is necessary. Shouldn't provision be made for accomplishing this? Again, a process -- potentially involving members' and FTDNA consent -- is required. "

      ~ had me turning myself inside out yesterday as 3 of my testers were asked to join a group and only one of them could figure out how to do that.. which often happens..we can send the e-mail from them with request to enter the new group to the Help Desk who got back indicating a back log and a estimated 2-3 days to accomplish what I wanted.

      We got this done but it took a lot of effort..These are people who I have permission to perform such tasks for them but if tried you get this " has changed his permissions so the Administrator cannot do that" ( words to that effect).. which is not the case..

      so much extra work has me rethinking some groups.. I am Co-Admin on 2 of them..hmmmm...


      • #78
        As to upgrades

        I think that any sample collected from a donator should be handled with care, no matter who paid for the test. In that sense, and I think FTDNA does try to advise as to which tests might be used for which purposes, not sure the advice is always clear for people who have tested or for the administrators. So, take the example of a group where some of the males have already done extended Y-DNA tests. It does not make sense to use other, confirmed male relative's DNA to repeat that process. Maybe an autosomal test would be in order, for example, if not done, within that family line, or whatever...?



        • #79
          Kudos to ftdna for their efforts and good works so far.

          Restating some previous posts, just to add my weight:
          Genealogy existed long before the invention of ftdna.
          GAs are not ftdna employees, nor necessarily cheerleaders.

          The following phrase needs clarification:
          "Publish research or information that may disclose or identify a member’s personal information without the written permission of the person tested and those who paid for the test."

          Our project website publishes 'lineages' that have been voluntarily submitted by members.
          They are useful for members who are comparing paper trails.
          They are trimmed to show only pre-1900 information, but a suitably clever and industrious person could of course use them to trace down the member.
          Does this 'disclose a member’s personal information', an if so, does a member's voluntarily submission satisfy the 'written permission' clause?


          • #80
            I am in full agreement with John's recommendations

            Originally posted by jrcrin001 View Post

            I wrote with slight modifications ...

            I would like to see these options on the member's FTDNA personal results page with an option check type box allowing ...

            1) I give my permission to the Group Administrator to use my provided genealogical lineage for comparison purposes.

            2) I will allow upgrades by the Group Administrator, if paid by the project. I understand they will send me an email notification prior to upgrading, in case I change my option before the test is ordered.

            3) I give permission so that my FTDNA DNA results will be posted on the project Non-FTDNA website.

            4) I will allow the Group Administrator to be my beneficiary, IF no other beneficiary is designated or such designated beneficiary declines via email or in writing to FTDNA.

            This would be on the member's personal results page under myFTDNA - Account Settings - Project Administrator Settings - Choose the amount of access to my settings and information that Project Administrators have. This is in addition to what is there now.

            Add a check type box for the above four items for each project the member joined. See Suggestions above.

            When a member quits a project, the options for that project go away. When a member joins a project, the options appear.

            In this manner, FTDNA members can make an informed choice for themselves regarding the options given to each Group Administrator for each group joined.

            I also suggest that a link be added to go to a FAQ explaining or clarifying these GA options.

            John R. Carpenter
            Carpenter Cousins Project

            In addition I am concerned about the language and intent regarding our own hosted websites. Although the vast majority of results are from FTDNA my off site pages include people tested elsewhere and where they have tested is so noted in a column. I believe the vast majority of Administrators work tirelessly and to very high standards. They do so for free and to the great benefit of FTDNA. The tenor of the new Guidelines seems punitive and controlling.

            I cannot understand how the IRS excepts my "electronic submission" of my Tax return and an "electronic signature" yet we must have Permission in writing (non email) for everything we do. That adds an unnecessary and unmanageable burden to managing a project.

            The genealogical and genetic analysis that I provide is not the "property" of FTDNA.....and I bristle at the thought that FTDNA thinks it is. I think this is a very slippery slope and although FTDNA rightly needs to make sure Administrators are behaving ethically there seems to be something afoot here that feels wrong to me.

            I have not had the time to read through everyone's comments ---perhaps I am the only one that feels this way.

            Kelly Wheaton
            WHEATON surname project
            Rehoboth, MA DNA project


            • #81
              Originally posted by Jim Barrett View Post
              I wonder what guidelines FTDNA requires of their customers. I wonder what the guidelines are for their employees.

              If FTDNA is going to tell me that I have to LIE to project members or anyone else, they can remove me as a project admin today!!! If FTDNA is not my company of choice for a particular person I'll tell that person who is and why.

              I'm a volunteer. They didn't buy me!
              Indeed. I promote FTDNA heavily but it is because of what it offers. Other companies offer things FTDNA doesn't. I do not believe we have signed an exclusivity contract nor should we. If FTDNA pushes too hard there will be adverse consequences for all. Someone upthread said if it ain't broke....i would add don't bite the hand that feeds ya.

              Kelly Wheaton


              • #82
                "I have not had the time to read through everyone's comments ---perhaps I am the only one that feels this way.
                Kelly Wheaton"

                Kelly, you definitely are not. It is troubling to me. Trying to decide which surname groups I will keep if it becomes to onerous and getting some of my close relatives (Carrow/Faunt) into their larger Y groups.
                Kathleen Carrow Ingram


                • #83
                  Admin Guidelines

                  I was actually relieved to see the FTDNA guidelines. While some of them may need refinement or further definition, the part I was overjoyed with was that all projects must have an FTDNA web presence. They can still have a private website too. Here are my reasons I'm pleased.

                  1. One haplogroup project is not at FTDNA - it's at WorldFamilies. Now this makes no sense at all because haplogroup projects need to be updated regularly and grouped. In essence, without the maps, it's significantly hamstrung and there is no mapping at Worldfamilies. I don't care if they have a second site there, for whatever reason, but the one at FTDNA is critical for a haplogroup project.

                  I don't want to call any admins out publicly, but here are three more reasons.

                  2. One of my family surnames has a WorldNet site, no FTDNA site, and it hasn't been updated in almost 2 years. I check to see if my line has finally tested, but there is no way to know. I can't believe no one has joined or had updated testing in 2 years. Plus the testers are listed by first initials plus surname, not by oldest ancestor. In some cases, the oldest ancestor is shown in parenthesis.

                  3. Another does have an FTDNA site, plus a private site, but the admin feels that "haplogroups only confuse people" and so doesn't publish any more than absolutely necessary, including omitting most distant ancestor. The only way to find out if your line has tested is to contact him personally, and since my line is not his primary line of interest, he's not terribly helpful. If he would display the oldest ancestor info, I wouldn't have to ask. Why withhold this?

                  4. A third one of my lines, has neither an FTDNA site nor a private site and the admin forces everyone to sign up for a Yahoo group where they tell you what they want you to know. They have said from the beginning they are doing this to "protect your privacy," so in essence feeding people unnecessary fear. The kit I paid for from my line, years ago, they put their e-mail on and I have never seen the results, except for a spreadsheet they gave me. The admin wrote a book though, so so much for protecting the privacy of the group as their motivation.

                  So from a user perspective, I'm extremely pleased to see that all projects are required to have an FTDNA site. Even if they are abandoned for some period of time, at least there is a web presence of some sort.

                  From an admin perspective, I didn't see anything hamstringing. Perhaps if others so, a list could be made for clarification and submitted to FTDNA. I can't believe they have intentionally ruffled the feathers of their admins.

                  I just reread the policy and this is the only item I see any issue with.

                  "Publish research or information that may disclose or identify a member’s personal information without the written permission of the person tested and those who paid for the test."

                  The issue with this is that an admin has no way to know who paid for the test.

                  I do think they need to identify what they mean by "personal information" here. My interpretation is that it means identifying information to that individual, not their ancestral information.

                  Maybe part of the problem with this topic as a whole and why feathers are ruffled is a different interpretation of different items.

                  I do feel that Family Tree DNA has made the projects available, for free, and are very useful for all of us. They benefit them and us as consumers. I also feel that if we are going to utilize their free resource, that we do owe them some modicum of loyalty. If an admin feels their users should test with a different company, they should use that company's projects, not the ones at FTDNA. If FTDNA has an equivalent product, why wouldn't an admin recommend FTDNA? If there is no equivalent product, then an admin can't recommend FTDNA. I think that FTDNA is trying to avoid the situation where someone utilizes the projects to be a platform to gather interested people together and then to blanket recruit for another company. If you doubt this, simply recall that at least some of the people who have started competing companies were once FTDNA admins, and may still be for all that I know.

                  I have had issues in the past with FTDNA and I have told them, very nicely, and very directly. They have no desire to have a second rate product. There are instances of admins becoming disenchanted for whatever reason and badmouthing FTDNA to their project members. That's probably at least part of why bulk e-mails must be approved before they are sent. Without a policy saying something isn't unacceptable, how can they enforce anything and remove an offending project admin? It's unfortunate that we all have to live with the results of bad choices by others, but it's certainly not universal to FTDNA. It's those offending people who have forced this - so if we're going to be angry with anyone, it should not be FTDNA.

                  Back to my suggestion. If admins see something they feel is objectionable, I think we need to document exactly why and give examples. I have never found FTDNA to be unreasonable in the light of logic. Perhaps there is misunderstanding on the part of one or both parties and misinterpretation is occurring.

                  Roberta Estes


                  • #84
                    Roberta, thank you for your Voice of Reason.

                    Most of us use this forum as a Learning Tool, but were side-tracked by the Sunami of last Saturday and Sunday. We wonder what first-time visitors to the forum sad.


                    • #85
                      Admins should become verified prior to leading a project.

                      Originally posted by Rebekah Canada View Post
                      Keep the ideas flowing. I will be frank. I am not happy with this version of the GAP Guidelines or any past version either. We need something that explains how to be an excellent admin without fettering those exact same efforts.
                      A verification exam should be compulsory before one can be an admin of a project. There are admins out there who have no idea how dna works and are fomenting some erroneous ideas and getting published!

                      This is the biggest issue that I have with the industry in general. I understand the need to open up new groups to bring in new customers, but what good is it if the information is wrong? This needs to be addressed!


                      • #86
                        My two cents (long post, so more like five cents)

                        Hi y'all.
                        Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lisa Janine Cloud. You can call me Janine, you can call me Lisa, or you can just call me LJ. I'll answer to almost anything.

                        I've worked at Family Tree DNA since July of 2011 and I LOVE my job.

                        I've not interacted too much on the Forums. Not because I have a problem with them, I just don't have enough hours in the day. (That's why this post will be a repeat for some, since I cross-posted the body of it elsewhere. I'm too long-winded for original posts everywhere.)

                        However, I'm sure I've had interactions at some level or another with a number of the group admins who post here.

                        I started as a CSR and was the Customer Support manager for some time, but have recently moved to a newly created position. The title's a bit sketchy because it's difficult to describe, but for lack of a better term we're calling it GAP Liaison or Group Liaison. The job description includes everything from something as simple as making sure that your new member's shipping address gets changed in time ship properly to investigating claims of privacy breaches and mediating disputes.

                        I've been reading many of the responses to the posting of the updated GAP Guidelines, which are still under consideration by upper management. I'm delighted by the level of passion and the degree of engagement exhibited by those of you who participate here and in other social media outlets. I'm also excited by by the great feedback that's come from all of you, feedback I’ll be taking to Bennett and Nir as we go over the guidelines again with an eye to the future.

                        So much has changed in the world of direct-to-consumer genetic testing in the last two years, not the least of which is a more informed consumer.

                        While all of you are looking at the guidelines - which really haven't been changed that much from the last version - from one perspective, the company has to view them from the point of balancing the obligations we have to our customers and the group projects with the ethical, legal, and business implications of any action or statement, especially in light of the additional accreditations that the lab has received. Family Tree DNA isn’t on the FDA’s radar and we want to keep it that way.

                        Mostly, though, we want to serve the needs of as many customers as possible and the best way to do that is through successful group projects. The best way to have successful group projects is to have clear policies for group participation and administration. The GAP Guidelines provide necessary structure for the interaction between customer, groups, and the company.

                        I don’t want to make this post too long (Attention spans tend to wander after a couple of paragraphs, plus I have a TON of work to do) but I do want to directly address a couple of hot-button issues. I will revisit the rest later.

                        The decision to have all groups use an FTDNA home page as a base was one I advocated. The pages are set up to update automatically, they can be search-engine optimized and they give potential and current members something to look at if an externally hosted site goes down, is abandoned, or otherwise unavailable. Also, we do not link to external websites from within customer kits, so the customer has to look for your link. They can’t click it from within their kit and we get lots of confused calls about how to get to the group website. It’s just more practical to use the FTDNA-hosted web page as a landing page of sorts with links to your external sites.

                        Most of the rest of the guidelines were already in place, but may have been updated somewhat. They’re basically common sense items that the folks who participate here don’t really have to be concerned about, but there are many more admins who don’t participate here than those who do, and those are often the ones for whom we have to spell everything out.

                        Just use common sense. If you prefer a different testing company for a specific item, that’s fine, but don’t have your official FTDNA page include a link to buy a test from the competitor. Don’t stand next to an FTDNA table (especially one with the CEO working it) at a conference and recommend that someone test somewhere else, then transfer to FTDNA. You’d think that would be common sense, but that really happened, so apparently not.

                        Last item for now: the option to remove an administrator from a group at any time.
                        This option is rarely exercised, but absolutely essential. We cannot have administrators who are verbally abusive or who make libelous or slanderous statements about the company. I’m not talking about censorship, I’m talking again about common sense.

                        For the most part, when an admin or group oversteps boundaries, I’ll contact them about it. I (we) don’t just take the word of a disgruntled project member who doesn’t like the way you group your results, or who you removed from the project because they don’t have a single marker in common with your line, or who says that you never answer their emails - emails you stopped answering because they send five a day about the same questions you answered six months ago. And you better believe that if someone’s going to go publically bad-mouthing an FTDNA admin, they better have something to back it up or I will call them on it. I've also stopped an admin from talking trash about another admin.

                        Someone mentioned a warning process, probation, or some sort of disciplinary protocol. I’m open to ideas in that area and would love to hear what ideas admins have in that regard. I’m all about being fair to everyone whether I agree with their methods and opinions or not. I don’t have to like the way you run your group, but if it’s within the guidelines and you’re not doing anything illegal or obscene, I may contact you about considering options but I’m not going to interfere and tell you how to run your project.

                        I’ll write more later, but right now I need to move on to some other things. I do want to make one thing perfectly clear: I am always available for your comments, feedback, or if you need assistance with your group. Maybe not immediately available, but I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can. You may email me at [email protected]. I will truly be happy to help.


                        • #87

                          Thanks, Janine, for your comprehensive message. I think many of us are reassured by your interpretation of the guidelines. One thing I would suggest is that you review the language carefully, especially the sections dealing with permissions, web sites and test recommendations, to be sure that the guidelines literally reflect your views. It is important, I think, to ensure that the words are as precise as possible so that there will be no misunderstanding should anothe person eventually take over your role.

                          Thanks again,

                          Jim Barry
                          Barry Surname Project Administrator


                          • #88

                            Thank you, Mr. Barry.

                            It is about more than my views though. We have to carefully consider language to prevent any future misunderstandings or - heaven forbid - legal action because of misinterpretations. I come from the old "measure twice, cut once" school where the adage "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

                            Does that mean we're going to be perfect from the start? Of course not. But there's nothing wrong with taking a test drive, then making adjustments as needed.


                            • #89

                              I understan, Janine. However, I think it is possible that individuals could interpret this guideline"

                              "Represent Family Tree DNA as the testing company of choice"

                              as more restrictive than your interpretation:

                              "If you prefer a different testing company for a specific item, that’s fine"

                              That's what I mean by ensuring everyone is on the same page.



                              • #90
                                Originally posted by jbarry6899 View Post
                                I understan, Janine. However, I think it is possible that individuals could interpret this guideline"

                                "Represent Family Tree DNA as the testing company of choice"
                                as more restrictive than your interpretation:

                                To me, this says, "You always represent Family Tree DNA as the testing company of choice even when you don't think so." In other words, LIE! You aren't even given the choice of not replying.

                                Another Jim