I will take a segment comparison tool over raw data, if Ancestry really is squeamish about what uninformed larks we'll get up to with third party tools (as Ancestry's Senior VP indicated - see below), but I'm mostly saying that because I've gone on to test elsewhere and will have raw data shortly. So, my priorities have shifted a little. (And my genealogy budget, haha.)
A few uses for raw data: 1. Send it to Dr. Doug McDonald for a detailed BGA. (Instead of the limited pie chart for ethnicity that we have now and which some regard as iffy.) 2. Use it on sites like GEDMatch.com to do segment comparisons and play with other fun tools. 3. Use it with Promethease to look at health information/risks.
Just today I had a situation where segment comparison is going to be vital to sort out the connection. I have a Shared Ancestor Hint with someone who either descends from either my ancestor or his brother. (It's a case where I know the grandparent but not the parent.) If I discovered, through segment comparison of several matches, that I match the *wife*'s family of this person's ancestor, then this mystery that has been stumping researchers for decades might be on the way to being solved.
But wait! There's more! I looked past the Hint and discovered that I also match the person on a completely different line. Wow. So, is our shared DNA coming from the first line or from the second line? Or both? Again, being able to compare segments (especially since I have other matches on both of these lines) would be insanely helpful.
Just think, if one of us hadn't researched one of those lines, we'd see that single Shared Ancestor Hint and think, "Yep, there's the connection," and that might be that. And since we're all now flooded with hundreds or thousands of matches that appear to need our attention more (a royal headache since we have zero searching or annotating capabilities - add that to the feedback wishlist), who knows if I would have looked at that profile again for a few years?
Right now, all I can do without segment comparing is say, "Yep, that's my cousin, one way or another," and move on to the next match.
Since this is the *second* time this has happened to me in the past week or so (see the thread called something like "Verified matches aren't verified"), I think it's a real concern. I'm not saying that the ability to compare segments is going to fix everything, but it will help.
Without it, well... I'm a fan of the test and the company, despite my grumpies. But knowing that sorting out some of these wonderful pages and pages of potential connections might be one raw data download away? And knowing that people are going to make (and pass along) bad assumptions about how the matches fit because they aren't doing more than matching GEDCOMs? Maddening.
I feel as though playing with raw data is going to make people get smarter, faster. The forums on 23andMe and FTDNA are incredible - a real testimony to how much people are willing to learn. I thought I learned a lot here, but that's nothing compared to what people are discussing at the other sites, and the community is so huge and varied. (I'm ten kinds of psyched about the X-chromosome analysis for genealogy right now!)
One person here said that she heard from a customer service rep that Ancestry is planning to release the raw data. That is encouraging, but who knows if it's true or just typical phone rep-speak, and if it is true, when it will happen? Ancestry remains mum.
I don't want to post the link to the blog post with the Senior Ancestry VP/General Manager of Ancestry DNA's quote just in case it's used as an excuse to remove the post, so here is the quote directly from the DNA-Explained blog:
"My thing — what’s interesting from a commercial standpoint is we — a lot of customers get data from either us or from other services. And what I see that’s a little disturbing sometimes is that they upload their data to sites that quite frankly I can’t even have — I try to research who these individuals are that are doing additional research on people’s data. And I’m not even sure who they are or how they’re qualified and if the data that they’re getting back are even, you know, valid, right? So the point is that I think that we are moving in a direction where consumers feel comfortable, rightly or through ignorance, uploading their data to other sites. So I do think that restricting sort of the end I think is important just to be able to take care of that issue."
(Google with some phrases from the quote to find the blog. Some people are critical of Roberta Estes, the blogger, for not being an Ancestry fan, but unless you think she invented the quote, that's not relevant.)
I actually do think Dr. Chahine has a point; people are sending their data off to sites without knowing a lot about who is looking at their data (which might bother some folks), and people will inevitably misinterpret the results. But is it right for Ancestry to attempt to protect all of us from this possibility? Especially when it's data about *our* chromosomes? I'd much rather they protected us from all those copied-and-pasted family trees here where the only source is "Ancestry Family Tree," lol.
(Good luck, Ancestry, with playing nursemaid. I'm not the only person who ended up giving money to 23andMe and FTDNA to get what Ancestry doesn't offer. Nanny nanny boo boo - my raw data is going on a ride!)