I read with interest Randy Seaver's blog post, "What's Bad about Genealogy Software" http://www.geneamusings.com/2011/11/whats-bad-about-genealogy-software.html, which is a discussion of Louis Kessler's Behold blog http://www.beholdgenealogy.com/blog/?p=874 and his list of items he finds disconcerting about the current offerings available to genealogists.
The one thing that I found most disturbing about this discussion was the shifting of emphasis from using the gold standard for citing sources as published in Elizabeth Shown Mills' work "Evidence", and encouraging genealogists to just document their sources and then draw their conclusions. Perhaps my reading of Louis' comments was too literal, but I do not think so.
There is a reason that Mills' tome is the gold standard and should be on the desk of every serious genealogist out there. The field needs and will require a continuity of standard for citations. To say that one can document a source and then draw infinite and proven conclusions does nothing to improve the field-wide standards we all seek that will allow us to duplicate and double-check any prior work done by another genealogist. It makes a difference "when" you viewed a certain set of records, "where" you viewed them, and the "context" in which you found yourself analyzing them. Records are lost, transcribed incorrectly, moved, re-ordered, and handled every single day, and it behooves us to track ourselves so that others may ultimately track our research.
To encourage genealogists to just document, rather than carefully create proper citations is a step backward, in my humble opinion, and does nothing to further the standards so desperately needed in genealogy. We are striving to better our information and documentation and analysis rather than relying on the research practices of yesteryear. Websites are chock-full of "conclusions" that are drawn from poorly cited, rarely documented information that is basically meaningless except to serve as an example of what NOT to do with your family history. There is a proof standard, and it should be applied to every bit of information we gather, especially before it is set out for public consumption.
Granted, some genealogists are perhaps not as serious as others about their family history, but for the sake of generations to come, instead of making things less cumbersome for the casual family researcher, we should embrace them and help them, and teach them how valuable their information is, and in what fashion it can best be preserved. I do not think this point can be stressed enough. You simply cannot have documentary proof without proper citation. An experiment in any other field must be reproducible. Genealogy should be no different if it is to be worthy of its legacy.
Louis, we need you to keep working on the GEDCOM conversion standards. Your sorting of tags and the things that I see as "gobbledy-gook" most certainly must be improved if we are all to preserve our work in a communicable manner. But let's keep the standards high in all aspects of what we do, and whichever part of the field we're involved in.
Thank you, Randy, for your wise analysis of Louis' post.
And yes, I do have a copy of Mills' book on my desk at all times. We all should.