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Final Thoughts and Random Notes from RootsTech - Mon, 6 Feb 2012

As I sort through my #RootsTech binder one last time before I file it on my genealogy bookshelf, I am reflecting on the happenings of the last week.

Most of all, it was great meeting people face-to-face instead of just virtually. I especially enjoyed meeting my BetterGEDCOM group, my Behold users, other developers, other geneabloggers and all the dedicated genealogists out at RootsTech.

I see a big battle coming between FamilySearch and Ancestry. FamilySearch just put on this super-successful RootsTech conference. FamilySearch is opening themselves up and promoting sharing and cooperation. But Tim Sullivan of Ancestry said clearly at the end of their Saturday Keynote: “Cooperation is good. But Competition is also good.” The lines have been drawn. It will take a few years to see whether Cooperation or Competition wins. Either way, I hope it is the genealogist who will win.

A few random things from the conference:

This was the first time I heard of the term “authorities”. This in concept would be a single place where the accepted values of certain items will be kept and maintained so programmers can access them and use them consistently. Details of who and how are yet to be determined, but what was said to be needed include:

  • A Name Authority (same person, different names)
  • A Place Authority (same place, different boundaries)
  • A Date Authority (same date, different calendars)
  • An Event Authority (same event, different terminology/languages)

,,, and standard Citation templates can fall into the “authority” category as well.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Jay Verkler

“Nobody is as smart as everybody. Everybody brings their own expertise and experience.” – Ryan Heaton

“Do you know why it’s called C? Because A and B didn’t work.” – James Raleigh

“Can we hold the questions … unless they’re funny.” – Steve Morse

“With data, less is more.” – Dovy Paukstys talking about infographics.

“There is a 100% chance of constant change and innovation.” – D. Joshua Taylor

“It won’t happen without innovation and revolution.” – Tim Sullivan

Lastly, I tried to take all the ideas I heard and place them in the context of Behold. I’d love to see GEDCOM X come out. I’d be able to absorb it into Behold quite quickly and presto, you’ll have your GEDCOM to GEDCOM X (and back) translator. Robert Raymond’s citation principles talk was especially valuable to me, as I finally heard about citations from a developer’s viewpoint. He emphasized derivatives, which Behold easily supports via source links from one source to another. And Ron Tanner presented his genealogical workflow, which I thought was brilliant, and I’ll use that to evaluate how well every feature I add to Behold contributes to that workflow. And that reminds me, I was going to email Ron for the entire document like he said I should.

My mind is still absorbing all the feedback about Behold. Behold was a very difficult concept for me to communicate to many people. I was asked “So what’s it do?” and I had no simple one line answer. I needed a minute to make some headway because its framework is completely different than any other program. It’s like trying to explain what the Internet is to my father, who has never used a computer. Yet, every single person liked the idea once I had a few minutes to explain it.

The one biggest takeaway for me were the reactions I got whenever I said that Behold in version 2 will support source-based data entry. I even got applause at the discussion panel for that. The feeling I got at the conference is genealogists universally think that sources and citations are the current weakness in genealogy software. People need new and better tools to enter them, deal with them, share them and make use of them. Now I know that with the editing in version 2, I will need to bring the source-based data entry and the resulting evidence/conclusion modeling to the forefront.

Well that’s enough of all of this talk. It’s time to get back to work and put words into action.

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The Following 1 Site Has Linked Here

  1. Whither FHISO and GEDCOM X? Observations and Commentary : Wed, 18 Jul 2012
    ... Other geneabloggers in attendance wrote about these topics also, for example ...

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