We all run into ‘homers’ from time to time. Homers, in sports, are those people who are blindly loyal to their home team, no matter what. In my mind things that go hand-in-hand with being a homer are concepts such as ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’, ‘my (fill in the blank) right or wrong’, ‘looking at the world through rose-colored glasses’, and ‘don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind’.
Needless to say this is not the healthiest way to live in society. One only needs to look at the recent United States Presidential election to see an example. Many in the Republican Party were such homers and only believed their own PR, that they were blind-sided by reality on Election Day. In my own personal life, I once worked for a Fortune 100 company. It crashed and burned in large part because it chose to not listen to the outside world and in doing so has now vanished.
While I understand the tendency towards being a homer, people can still be a good fan and not blindly act as a homer. No team is perfect. No hometown, state, nationality, etc. is perfect. No business, no product, article, etc. is perfect.
Additionally, I will add that I personally believe that a bit of constructive criticism and debate over things tends to make anything better. It may even open one’s eyes! Again, on a personal note, I will never forget the time in Debate Class when I was in the middle of my counter-argument, in front of a full auditorium, when the realization hit me that ‘hey, the other side actually was right and I don’t believe this anymore.’ I lost that debate, but I ‘won’ something far more precious; the understanding that debating issues is good, an open mind is a critical learning skill, and constructive criticism can be strengthening, not destructive.
With this in mind, I have become concerned lately with a trend I perceive more and more in genealogy and that is that of what I will call ‘homerism’.
This homerism comes in many shapes and I find it very sad for genealogy. Let me say that I love genealogy and the pursuit of family history. I really do! However, as I said earlier nothing is perfect and all of us who love and enjoy genealogy should welcome debate, discussion, and constructive criticism of our industry and that which affects it. Let me also say that I am not, to use that lovely phase by Spiro Agnew ‘a nattering nabob of negativity’ since I also do my share of lauding good products, good articles, and good efforts by many in genealogy. However, as I said I sense that the homerism in genealogy is getting worse.
Want some examples? Here they are:
- In an online forum I happened to disagree with the author of the item and stated my case, respectfully and with an explanation. I was immediately called degrading names and then told I had no place in not fully agreeing with him. I will only add that the comment I was reacting to was 100% opinion and not a factual issue at all.
- I discovered that with a certain genealogy software product that I pay a fairly expensive subscription for seemed to be not providing the same quality of search results as it had previously. I posted a question on this and while several folks agreed that they had been seeing the same issue, I was taken to task by representatives of the firm who insisted that I must be a newbie (only if you consider six years of subscription a newbie) and that the problem must be all mine and simply a result of not being able to ‘understand’ the software. Not once was any statement made about the fact that perhaps it was at least worthy of note that a customer was having trouble with their product. Nope, it was consistently said that the fault was all mine and by default all those other customers who professed to see the same degradation that I was experiencing.
- Recently a very large company asked whether or not anyone had tried their DNA/genealogy product and if so what their experiences and thoughts on it were. By the time I saw this post, there were in excess of 100 comments and I have to say well over 90% were negative, some downright angry, and most had to do with the excessive marketing ‘promises’ that are being made with these tests, but then in the eyes of the customers not delivered. However, there was never any response by the company other than the continued marketing of these tests the same as before. No acknowledgment of the dissatisfied customers, even though it was the company, itself, who asked for input.
- And speaking of DNA/genealogy/ancestry testing, I was quite surprised that so many in genealogy have decided to ignore the recent excellent article in The Guardian by Professor Mark Thomas that appeared on Monday, Feb 25th, 2013. This in spite of the fact that the story was shared on Facebook more than 1,100 times and that the last time I looked there were dozens of comments posted on the site in response to this article. Oh, plus some of the same issues had been covered previously in the genomes unzipped website, also largely ignored.
We, as genealogists and fans of family history understand the importance of seeking what verifiable facts we can find. Facts must be separated from fiction. Accuracy and honesty must be upheld. We continually strive for the best we can find. Just as we do not blindly accept any family tree, family Bible entry, etc that we encounter, we should not be expected to accept everything related to our industry as if it were in some manner perfect.
I refuse to stop and will continue to raise issues that I believe to be evident in genealogy, genealogy products, and utterances by self-proclaimed experts in an effort to improve the industry, not besmirch it.