I admit I was highly skeptical of the worth of NamUs at first (see my first blog entry about it, from over four years ago). But I quickly warmed up to it and it has become an incredibly valuable resource for my updates, not to mention for all the other people out there looking for missing persons. It is, to my knowledge, the only online missing persons database larger than my own (in terms of number of cases). Probably there are more cases on Charley that have NamUs as one of the sources than otherwise. And it has contributed to identifying many, many people who would have otherwise rested in potters’ fields, their families wondering about them, forever.
However, I am not a huge all-out fan of NamUs like some people are. I have actually gotten hate-mail before because I criticized NamUs. One person accused me of being out for my own glory and being no better than those so-called psychics who exploit the families of MPs and take money for their “predictions,” which left me a bit flabbergasted. I replied explaining I had changed my mind since I wrote the critical entry, and included several quotes from my blog where I praised NamUs; the emailer never answered. Another person suggested I dissolve the entire Charley Project and put it all onto NamUs and just just contribute to NamUs henceforth instead of running my own site. Uh, no.
NamUs is great but there’s room for improvement. I think their database is rather clunky and not as user-friendly as it could be. I don’t expect anyone there to listen to me, but it’s my blog, darn it, so I’m going to spout off and tell them what I wish they would change. This is related to the MP casefiles only, since I never look at the UID ones:
1. Put dates of birth back in public view. They used to be visible (albeit in a not-very-obvious place), but NamUs started hiding them years ago and I don’t know why. I see no reason why DOBs shouldn’t be publicly available; they are on most sites.
2. Make the content more uniform. Many cases are written in a very businesslike, impersonal sort of manner; others leave much to be desired in the way of spelling, grammar and tone. It’s sometimes difficult with stuff like tattoos as well — I find myself uncertain if the tattoo is of a thing or a word meaning that particular thing. Standardization would help a great deal.
3. When you notify subscibers of updates in the casefiles, refer to the MP by name as well as by case number. It humanizes the MP.
4. In your update emails, include also the cases that have been added, not just the ones that have been updated and the MPs that have been located.
5. Also, in said update emails, if a case is removed from public viewing for some reason but the person hasn’t actually been found, say that.
6. Include a separate listing for cases were partial remains have been located. It’s very annoying for me to be halfway through writing up a new case only to discover that the MP’s skull has been found and only the rest of the body is missing. In that case, forget about finding them alive and forget about listing them on Charley and most other missing persons sites.
7. Some information on NamUs is only available for viewing by people who can prove they are law enforcement. (Such as DOBs, apparently; see above.) Which is fine. But in that case LE should have their own updates subscription thingy. A lot of times I get an update notice saying “photo added” or whatever, and I go there only to discover that the photo isn’t visible to me cause I’m only a member of the public and not LE. (I’m assuming most of those photos are stuff like fingerprint cards or X-ray images and not actual snapshots of the MP.) Meanwhile, information that isn’t supposed to be available for public viewing, and isn’t visible when you look at a NamUs casefile (like medical conditions), is visible in NamUs update emails because they always say what they changed. Like Drugs of abuse changed from “” to “marijuana, methamphetamine.” I think that kind of defeats the purpose of not letting the general public know about certain sensitive information.
8. When notices go out that an MP is located, it would be helpful to say just when they were found, and if they were alive or dead. Like, the other day NamUs said a guy got found and I listed him as resolved. He was a severely disabled man who required constant supervision, and I think it more than likely that he was found deceased, but I couldn’t find any articles about him so I simply don’t know.
9. Instead of saying a person is 60 inches tall or whatever, say they’re five feet tall. Or at least give both forms of measurement. I know I’m not the only person who occasionally miscalculates trying to convert the height from inches to feet and change. Including metric measurements might also be helpful, but I’m an American so I don’t take much notice of that.
Another pet peeve of mine that isn’t really NamUs’s fault so much as the people who add cases: I guess they’re trying to make sure they don’t miss any possible UID matches, but so many cases include a range of three inches in height and a range of anywhere from 10 to as much as 30 pounds in weight, which frustrates me. I get my height and weight checked every time I got to the doctor. Last time, which was in mid-March (a sinus infection), I was exactly 128.2 pounds, and 5’6.8 inches tall in shoes. So guys, if I ever disappear, I am five feet six inches tall, not 5’5 – 5’7, and 130 pounds, not 125 – 130 pounds or 120 – 140 pounds. In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t even deal with weight ranges of less than ten pounds, and just settle on one or the other because I figure it makes no practical difference. But that’s just me.
*waits for the NamUs-defending haterz to start sending me hysterical emails again*