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RootsTech: More Than Just Evolution - Mon, 30 Jan 2012

RootsTech chose the six finalists to their Developer Challenge. Behold was not one of the top six. The email stating the finalists was a private email to the entrants, and since I see that RootsTech has not yet published them, I don’t think I’m entitled to name them here.

I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed because I obviously did not make apparent to the judges what the true innovation in Behold is. I did not make them realize that Behold is more than an evolution of genealogy software. It is a radical step that will change what genealogy programs are, what genealogy data entry will be like, and the way genealogists will work. As Rich Crooks, a Behold user of an early alpha version told me five years ago: “Behold is a paradigm shift in genealogy programs!”

I took a look at the other six programs. Five of them have very good new innovative ideas. I can see why they each are appealing in their own way. One of them I really like in fact, and I’d love to implement its idea into Behold in the future.

But those programs are all single features. They each do just one thing. They do not change the world, but give you a useful tool if you happen to want to do that one thing. And that one thing is not, in any case, something you’ll be doing all the time. Only once in a while.

I guess I didn’t make it clear what a revolution a report-centralized genealogy editor would be. The bonds and limitation of form-based editing are soon to be lifted with Behold. But that is only the beginning. Virtual merging, source-based data entry, and evidence/conclusion support are three more concepts that will equally rock the genealogy world like editing on the Everything Report shall do.

Maybe I should have entered just the Instant Organize function of Behold into the contest. Maybe I should have entered just my implementation of what I call “Extended GEDCOM” with customized support for almost all the junk various programs drop into their GEDCOMs including FTW Text files. I could even have just entered the Smart Sorting that Behold does. In fact the latter probably would have had a good chance and might have made it into the top six.

Maybe the judges didn’t think a desktop software program was innovative. It’s definitely not as sexy as a web application or a mashup. Maybe they didn’t like the fact that Behold’s been in development for many years. Maybe they didn’t think the current version had enough of the promised features (especially the editing) to consider it ready. Maybe they didn’t like the fact that Behold is a commercial program, and didn’t feel they wanted to provide publicity for something that is not free.

Instead, they’ve included in their top six, a program that not only is not innovative (yes, they have a small hook which is nothing much), but is already available by others in at least a dozen places. Not only that, it’s something that just about every single genealogy program and genealogy utility does already. This one stupefies me. I don’t know what’s going on here.

I really did expect that some very innovative program that was going to change the world for genealogists would win. If not Behold, then something like AncestorSync, which has the potential to make a difference. That program could possibly be the solution to seamless data transfer between any desktop and/or online genealogy database and if Real-Time Collaboration could be encouraged and helped to do so, it would ultimately benefit all genealogists forever.

Maybe I’m a bit out of turn here and shouldn’t be in sour grapes mode, but I had to get this off my chest and I feel better. Now I’ll be happy to go to RootsTech with a clear mind and enjoy it fully.

For those who are interested in seeing what the future for genealogy data editing will be like, come to my demo (it didn’t make it into the Conference Guide) at the Demo Theatre in the Exhibit Hall, Saturday at 12:30. It will be right after Lisa Louise Cooke at 12 noon (also didn’t make the Guide) who you’ll want to see.

And if you see me at RootsTech, stop me and say hello.

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