Four whirlwind days at #RootsTech. Overall it was what I hoped for and what I expected based on my experiences from 2012. The larger half of the Salt Palace Convention Center gave us enough space to mill around. The exhibition hall was almost too large with so many vendors, it was almost impossible to do them all proper justice.
I attended the Innovator Summit day, which was the Wednesday, the day prior to the official start of RootsTech. Thursday was a full intensive day. Friday was starting to feel like the roller coaster had just crossed over the top. In advance I wasn’t expecting much on Saturday, and I knew I’d be leaving at 1 to catch my plane.
As a genealogy software developer and geneablogger, I had certain goals this year for RootsTech:
- To meet up with the other developers who I communicate with regularly and share ideas.
- To meet up with the other geneabloggers who I follow and follow me and share ideas.
- To learn where the new ideas/innovations for genealogy software are going and to determine whether my Behold road map needs to be adjusted.
Great success on all three fronts.
1. Other Developers
11 of us, mostly developers who are sharing ideas at RootsDev got together at Blue Lemon Wednesday morning prior to the Wednesday keynote. Jimmy Zimmerman tweeted that this was the favorite part of his day and I agree it was a great meet up.
Others developers who I made a point of talking to during the conference included Dovy Paukstys and Earl Mott (Real-Time Collaboration), Ryan Heaton (FamilySearch / Gedcom X), Luc Comeau.(Legacy), Gaylon Findlay (Ancestral Quest) and many of the one or two person companies including Rich Thomas (Clooz) and Darrin Lythgoe (The Next Generation). I always enjoy talking to John Ralls who helps with Gramps because we often get technical. I also talked to people with new startups like Shonda Schallenberger (FileGrove). I didn’t get an opportunity to talk to Bruce Buzbee (RootsMagic) this year as he was always too busy talking to his users whenever I came around. I was very pleased to have several excellent talks with Bill Harten who is sometimes referred to as the “Father of GEDCOM” and is still working on genealogy solutions with puzzilla.org
2. Other GeneaBloggers
The starter of it all: Tom McEntee (Geneabloggers) did not come this year as he is on the 4th Unlock the Past Genealogy Cruise in Australia. But I had a wonderful time talking to Randy Seaver (Geneamusings), Pat Richley-Erickson (Dear Myrtle), Lisa Louise Cooke (Genealogy Gems), the Sistas in Zion, and Drew Smith (The Genealogy Guys), among others. In Drew’s case, he spoke to me very honestly when I asked him what happening (or better: not happening) with FHISO. He told me they really need someone to be a the Co-coordinator of their Technical Standing Committee and don’t have anyone for that. We talked over a few ideas to get someone, and I hope Drew will attempt something in the next little while.
But this was where it all payed off. The message I got was to gear for the next generation of young users. They want everything simple, quick and mobile. It’s got to just work, connect and do it. Barbara Lawrence’s talk on Industry Gaps was what set me going. She told us what her company’s research was saying. She talked about innovation and pointed to a Linkedin group call Roots Innovators that will keep the twitter hashtag of #RootsInnovator going well after Roots Tech 2014 is over.
There were also a couple of unconferencing sessions led by Gordon Clarke that got me thinking, again about the young people and social media.
Luther Tychonievich gave great ideas in his Building Data Models for the Research Process talk.
But the number one takeaway from the whole conference was from Uri Gonen’s talk about the Family Graph API. I was firstly impressed by the simplicity of the API (Application Programming Interface) and the thoughtfulness that went into it. I was secondly impressed on how MyHeritage is going out of their way to work with developers. I could have got an API key that very second and Uri would have been happy to work with me to ensure I had all the resources I needed.
MyHeritage further impressed me. Mark Olson, their Business Development Manager remembered me immediately from 2 years ago at RootsTech 2012. When I went to the MyHeritage booth for one of the free 6-month Premium Plus packages that they were offering to the first 500 people after the Friday keynote, Mark said to me “You don’t need one of these. I’ll set you up.” Talking to Mark, he is extremely happy working for MyHeritage. He says they are a great company to work for. And it’s true. You can see this in all the MyHeritage people. I only said hi and didn’t really talk to Daniel Horowitz this year, as he was the Eveready bunny never stopping but always talking to everyone.
Top this off by the excellent ratings on GenSoftReviews that MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder program has been getting lately. Look closely and you’ll see that a lot of the reviews are complimenting MyHeritage on their customer service – which is a very impressive thing to be doing correctly. See also James Tanner’s post from earlier today about his impression of MyHeritage titled: My Heritage - Vision to Become the Leading Genealogy Company.
Behold isn’t quite ready to include data transfer from and to the big databases via their APIs. But on the basis of my experiences at RootsTech 2014, I’m going to make this an important new goal in my roadmap for Behold. When I get to implementing this, it will definitely be the linkage to MyHeritage that I will work with first.