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Sessions at RootsTech 2014 - Thu, 5 Dec 2013

#RootsTech - I always like to review the speakers and sessions well in advance prior to going to a Conference. As I noted in my last post, RootsTech is really making it hard by offering too many speakers and not enough time slots. Decisions will be tough, but lets see what’s of interest.

Mine will be a slightly different viewpoint than most, as I’m a genealogy software developer and someone who has been to a previous RootsTech (2012). So here’s my rundown of which of the 20 time slots and the 238 sessions currently scheduled that I’m most interested in.


Wednesday February 5 is the Innovator Summit day, sponsored by FamilySearch.org. This day is new for 2014, and is one of the reasons why I wanted to come this year. I’m arriving on Tuesday to allow me to attend the whole day.

The day starts late with the General Session and Keynote Speaker from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Then there’s four afternoon time slots. There’s also just 4 sessions in each time slot. That won’t make it any easier to pick which three that I’ll have to miss out on.

12:45 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.: Two sessions on business, two for the developer. Not sure here, but my initial leaning will be towards the RootsDev Javascript Software Development Kit. I’m on the RootsDev mailing list and in that session, I might get to meet in person some of the people I’ve had the pleasure of communicated with. Besides, I’d like to eventually hook Behold up to use the FamilySearch API (Application Program Interface), so it would be good to get my feet wet.

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.: One session on business, three for the developer. I really must go to the talk by Ben Bennett about Family Search’s Partner Services – to see where it might benefit Behold.

3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.: I’ve communicated with both Jimmy Zimmerman and Luther Tychonievich and would like to meet both of them. Luther’s talk on Building Data Models for the Research Process is probably more applicable to Behold than Jimmy’s on Collaboration Models, so I’m leaning towards Luther right now.

4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.: Three business and one programmer session here. The one that seems to stick out for me is the FamilySearch Industry Leaders Town Hall – Latest Updates From Key Executives – Open Q&A. This is a roundtable session where we should hear about FamilySearch’s latest updates, ideas and innovations, and where they say they want to hear from us as well.


Thursday February 6 is the first real day of RootsTech. Today the 6,000 or so attendees should all descend upon the Conference and the mass of us should all be together for the opening and to hear the Keynote Speaker from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Then at 10:00 a.m. the Expo Hall opens with all the exhibitors. From the sounds of it, there will be from 100 to 200 exhibitors. They all need to have a tech slant. There was a controversy in the past when book sellers were told they weren’t techie enough and had to fight to come.

In 2012, I visited the Expo Hall as soon as the opening day session ended. This year, I won’t have that luxury, because I’ll be setting up for …

10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.: My session on Windows Phone for Genealogists. They only accepted one of my three talks, but I’m fine with that. Unfortunately, my talk will make me miss a few sessions that I would have considered in this time slot. There are 17 other sessions competing with me. Ryan Heaton will be talking on GEDCOM X. I would have also wanted to hear Tammy Hepps, Randy Whited, Denise Levenick or Lisa Louise Cooke. Hopefully, if you’re coming to RootsTech, you’ll come to my talk.I think you’ll enjoy it and learn some interesting things. Maybe you’ll even change your phone afterwards.

If there’s any Behold users coming to the conference, why not come see me at my talk. Stick around at the end of it and we can go for lunch together.

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.: 18 sessions to choose from. Ron Tanner, FamilySearch Product Manager is always fun to hear with news about FamilySearch FamilyTree. Pierre Clouthier, the President of Progeny Genealogy, will be talking about their 3D Family Tree program. But this slot, for my own interest, I might go to hear what Pamela Weisberger has to say about Exploring and Researching Your Jewish Roots Online.

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.: Yet another 17 sessions. Can only pick one. Online Trees: The Root of All Evil? by Jen Baldwin sounds really interesting. And Pat Richley-Erickson (Dear Myrtle) and her cousin Russ Worthington and others will be doing a Google+ Hangout session as a lab, but I think I’ll go to the Developer’s session with Jill Crandell (ResearchTies), Bill Harten, Charles Knutson (BYU Associate Professor) and Justin York on tools for simplifying research. which should get me thinking again about Behold.

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.: And 18 more sessions. I do want to meet up with Dovy Paukstys again, who is in the Unconferencing room doing Social Apps.Daniel Horowitz is talking about MyHeritage. Lisa Cooke is talking about FlipBoard. James Tanner on Creating a Family History Blog. D. Joshua Taylor on Gaming and Genealogy. I may also go to Ask the Experts: Genetic Genealogy in 2014 with Tim Janzen and CeCe Moore to discuss the latest advancements in Genetic Genealogy – but if that is one of the ones being live streamed and recorded (likely it is), I may do the Unconferencing and watch this session later.


Friday February 7 is sponsored by MyHeritage.

10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.: 17 sessions. Curt Witcher is speaking in Room 251D on Obituaries and also is listed as speaking in Ballroom B on PERSI 3.0, both in the same time slot. I know he’s a talented speaker, but doing two at once will be a feat! For a change of pace and what sounds really interesting to me is the Panel Discussion on Genealogy Tech Organization, by Lisa Cooke (Genealogy Gems), Allison Dolan (Family Tree Magazine) and Denise Levenick (The Family Curator), who claim (in the title of the talk) to be self-professed uber-organized freaks.

1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.: Wow, 20 sessions in this time slot. Many interesting talks to pick from The most unique sounding topic is “Begging for Spit” by Blaine Bettinger on how to ask family members and non-genealogists to undergo DNA testing. Likely I’ll go to the Development track session by someone who is still to be announced from FamilySearch, who will be presenting “Industry Solutions Gaps” based on “unpublished, 3rd-party research”. The write-up also says: “You won’t want to miss this.” So I’d better not.

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.: Thinking of the future of Behold, I’m sure I’ll one day want it to access FamilySearch Family Tree, Ancestry.com and MyHeritage. So maybe I’ll listen in on Uri Gonen of MyHeritage talking about the Family Graph Application Program Interface, since I know very little about it currently.

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.: If I still have any energy left, maybe I’ll listen to D. Joshua Taylor (findmypast) or Tammy Hepps (Treelines). Both are talking about preserving your stories.


Saturday February 8 is Family Discovery Day and is sponsored by Ancestry.com. I’ll be tired. I’ve done my time, and I’m scheduled for an afternoon flight home back to the frigid north. I’ll be able to hear the keynotes, make one last pass through the Expo Hall, and maybe still have time to catch a 10:30 to 11:30 morning session or have some last chats with people I know.

I always find it sad when a Conference ends. The extra day at the beginning with the Innovator’s Summit has prompted me to try to get out a bit early. So this time I’ll be leaving just before its over, and it shouldn’t be quite as sad that way.

Unfortunately, I will likely miss Dick Eastman’s dinner. He usually has one with his blog subscribers the night a conference is over. I went to Dick’s dinner at RootsTech 2012 and it was great fun.

One other disappointment. I see that Drew Smith is making 3 talks. However none are about FHISO or what’s going on with it. Nothing seems to have happened with FHISO since Drew was named chair of it over the summer. I would have expected that RootsTech would have been the perfect opportunity to get FHISO going, but it is non-existent on the RootsTech program. Maybe there will be an Unconferencing session about it. If I see any FHISO or former BetterGEDCOM members, I’ll corner them and find out what’s going on.


My apologies to all the speakers I did not mention. No intention to slight you. But unfortunately it’s impossible to mention everyone.

If there’s a session you know of that I didn’t mention and really shouldn’t miss, please let me know about it. The above list isn’t final. It’s my initial plan of what I think I should see, and plans are made to be changed.

Now it’s your turn. Go to the RootsTech Session Viewer, and pick the sessions you’d like to go to. Maybe I’ll see you there. It’s just two months away.

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