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Thoughts on RootsTech 2013 - Fri, 22 Mar 2013

Although I’m not at #RootsTech this year, I’ve been very interested in seeing what has been happening there since last year. Last year when I was there, I blogged every day on the goings on.

For those who can’t be there, the live streaming that takes place from Room 1, the big room where the Keynotes talk, gives a good selection of presentations to give everyone a good cross-section of a range of topics.

Here’s a few of my observations from the first two days.

Dennis BrimhallLast year, the first Keynote was Jay Verkler, the at the time outgoing CEO of FamilySearch who was handing the reins over to Dennis Brimhall who also spoke. Jay spoke like a visionary, of all the things he had been trying to put in place, but would no longer be in control of doing.

This year Dennis Brimhall spoke. He had much less enthusiastic vision, but takes a more direct businesslike stance. This definitely is going to be an interesting shift for FamilySearch. I don’t see it as being either better or worse. But it’s different. Change is often good, so by next year, we’ll see.

Then it was very interesting watching Syd Lieberman and Josh Taylor. Both were talking about the power of stories. Genealogy is more than just genealogy.

Technology-wise, I was unhappy that the presentations were not visible on my Windows Phone. They are Adobe Flash videos, which unfortunately Adobe has decided that it is no longer developing a mobile version. Then, I was meeting an out-of-town friend at noon, which mean’t I’d be missing the 11 a.m. Future of Genealogy Panel. But I was very happy when I got back from lunch, that the streaming videos had the full stream in them, and you could go back to any point and start from there.

I was really looking forward to The Future of Genealogy panel, moderated by Thomas MacEntee with panelists Josh Taylor, Lisa Louise Cooke, Daniel Horowitz, Dear Myrtle, Alan Phillips and Dick Eastman. The most interesting answer to me was that of Daniel Horowitz who made the point that we cannot generalize the people who are genealogists. Every one of us is different and we each do our genealogy differently.

The Future of Genealogy Panel

At the 3 p.m. streamed presentation, Jill Ball led a panel through each of their technological gadget bags. I had spent an enjoyable 8 days with Jill (and Alan Phillips from the earlier panel as well) on the Unlock the Past genealogy cruise last month. Jill Ball

A week ago, Jill posted on her blog her trepidation about moderating that session after she realized that it was going to be on the live feed. But she had nothing to worry about. She did fine!

James Tanner

At the 4 p.m. session, it was nice to listen to James Tanner who produces great genealogy posts on his blog: Genealogy’s Star. I was quite surprised to read what James wrote today about his interest in the Family History Information Standards Organization (FHISO). Hopefully he’ll get more involved with it.

Speaking of FHISO, there’s lots of activity going on for it at RootsTech this year. As a signal of FHISO’s commencement of open standards development work, FHISO announced their Call For Papers. And they’ve got their own booth in the exhibition hall. FHISO had an Open Standards panel today that included Bruce Buzbee, Josh Taylor, Drew Smith, Joshua Harman, Patrick Jones and Robert Burkhead. Here’s a picture of Gordon Clarke of FamilySearch talking to three of the panelists. This FHISO panel is the one event that I’m missing most by not being at RootsTech this year.

Tim SullivanToday’s keynote included Tim Sullivan, CEO of Ancestry.com. Tim was very “nice” to FamilySearch this year, especially when you compare to his keynote last year when he said in as many words that Ancestry and FamilySearch were competitors. I did note that he did not mention at all the purchase of Ancestry.com by Permira late last year for $1.6 billion and any benefits that might bring to the company. I also very much enjoyed Jyl Pattee’s keynote.

Today, the winners of the RootsTech Developer Challenge were announced. There were winners in 3 categories.

In the “Find” category, the winner was BrowseHero (Tom Auga & Chris Giesey), a Windows utility that  shows the FamilySearch website and adds features to the FamilySearch interface that includes a Full Family Graph and the ability to find errors and maintain local research notes.

In the “Preserve” category, the winner was Our Family Health by Jaehoon Lee. This is not a publicly available tool yet, but they do have some demos. I think genealogy software does need to track health information, and it should also track DNA, pets, non-family relationships and all the stories that make up family history. Maybe I can get Behold to evolve to one day include it all. By the way, there does appear to be one other programs out there now that I’ve got listed on GenSoftReviews that does family health history: ItRunsInMyFamily.com

In the “Show” category, the winner was Treelines.com by Tammy Hepps. Tammy’s program also won the best overall out of the three winners.

Ron TannerThe one other session I was really happy that was livestreamed was Ron Tanner’s FamilySearch Family Tree presentation. Ron is unapologetic in his presentation of Family Tree. He’s the project manager and he’s determined. He tells you what they want to do, but that they’re not there yet. Ron is also a hilarious presenter and a must-see. If he decided he wanted another job other than at FamilySearch, he could easily become a stand-up comedian.

That basically sums up what I thought of the first two streaming days of RootsTech. There is a lot going on at the conference. Lots of people are blogging about it and during these 3 frantic days, it’s hard to keep up with it all. Although I tend to hate the automated news-gatherer websites, I’ve found over the last two days that RebelMouse’s RootsTech2013 feed is the best to get the widest variety of tidbits.

The worst thing about the conference, as is true with most great conferences, will be the end of it tomorrow. Don’t forget to watch the keynotes tomorrow morning and read all the blogs for the follow up.

1 Comment           comments Leave a Comment

1. geniaus (geniaus)
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Joined: Tue, 20 Mar 2012
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Posted: Fri, 22 Mar 2013  Permalink

Thanks, Louis, for your vote of confidence from afar. We panelists had a fun time in our session.

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