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Louis Kessler’s Behold Blog

Going Paperless and Laptopless - Sat, 15 Feb 2014

Last week I used #RootsTech to attempt the start of what may become a radical change to the way I work.

It started with an experiment. I had said in an earlier blog post what items I would be carrying with me. At RootsTech 2012 the list included my digital camera, my cellphone, my laptop, a pen, a binder with my notes for the conference, and extra looseleaf in the binder to take notes during the talks. This year, I replaced all that with my Windows Phone. I also debated about the pen, and ended up taking it with the goal of seeing how long I could go without using it.

When I posted on Google plus about doing this, one response was that I was very brave to leave my laptop at home. But since I was giving a talk about Windows Phone for Genealogists, I thought doing this would add to the experiment.

The number one best thing about this experiment was the freedom I found I had. I no longer needed to carry a bag with a binder and/or laptop. Both my hands were always free. I could whip my phone out of my front pocket whenever I needed to take a picture, record some notes, check the schedule, do some live tweeting or check my email or the #Rootstech Twitter feed. As it turned out, I never used my pen, and instead opened OneNote to take down short notes and took a picture for anything more.

During the Conference, the phone was perfect for all my needs. But I do admit there were a few tasks where I missed my laptop. At night, I would go to my hotel’s business center and use their computer to do my blog posts and update my websites. Those tasks are possible on my phone, but the tools aren’t as good, multiple windows can’t be viewed side by side, and my 60 word per minute touch typing speed gets slowed down considerably. Maybe in a few years these problems will be solved and the smartphone can be used for everything.

This may just be the beginning of a bigger experiment - to see if I can start going paperless at home as well. It’s a different way of thinking for a guy who has for years kept shelves of binders and books full of organized written material.

13 Genealogy Programs from RootsTech - Mon, 10 Feb 2014

At #RootsTech there were many vendors in the exhibition hall. I’m not sure what the total number of booths was, but it must have been close to 200. I think it took me over 6 hours to thoroughly go through the hall and talk to quite a few of the vendors.

I’m always interested in any new genealogy software that’s available. Every program has something that’s different and unique, and the types of new programs tell the direction new software is going.

So while wandering the hall, I made a list of the software that didn’t sound familiar, and then I checked them at GenSoftReviews to see which were new and which I had to add.

Here’s the list of programs I thought I hadn’t heard of before:

 


These are New Programs
They weren’t on GenSoftReviews.

1. Just Family – A shared photo library library and family journal. You can access your files from the web or on your iPhone.

2. Legacyshare - An online platform to capture, preserve and share your individual and family history. Currently in beta.

3. Photo FaceMatch - Helps you identify people in old family photographs and manage your photo albums. You can compare photos to determine the likelihood of matches to photos of known relatives. Finished 3rd in the RootsTech 2014 Developer Challenge. It uses the EclipseIR SDK (see below).

4. Halftale - An online site for collecting stories through collaboration of family and friends. It is like a blog that allows story collaboration with text, video, or pictures. This site is in beta.

5. Family.me – A private social network where families build their family tree and share stories.

6. Trunx - Record your life and stash it in private. Trunx lets you capture, organize and store photos and videos privately in the cloud, freeing your device to do all the things it was meant to do. Runs on iOS. An Android app is coming.

Adding those 6 programs to GenSoftReviews brings it now to 777 programs.


These were Already On GenSoftReviews
My brain freeze wouldn’t recall that I had already added them.

7. File Grove - “The Genealogy Digital Filing System” - Digitally preserves, organizes, and shares your family history files, images and documents online.

8. StoryPress - A free mobile application for iOS or Android that helps you make and collect spoken stories. The stories are then uploaded to the StoryPress website where they can saved and shared.

9. Puzzilla Descendants Viewer - Lets researches see descendants from FamilySearch’s FamilyTree using compact symbols that reveal patterns in collateral-line research. This program did not have a booth, but it’s Bill Harten’s baby (who is often called “the father of GEDCOM”) and it was on his card.

10. Saving Memories Forever - An iPhone app that helps you record your family stories with relatives as an MP3 file. The recordings can be stored online, categorized, private, secure, and permission based. This program won the RootsTech 2014 Developer Challenge.


This one was Not Available Yet (i.e. Coming Soon)
The vendors had a booth and were at RootsTech, but their products weren’t.

11. AncestorCloud – It’s going to be a social community for genealogists. They’re launching soon and if you sign up, you can be in their first private beta group.


These are the Ones That Fooled Me.
They’re not software or even online software, but a service:

12. RootsBid – “The Tool You Need to Dig Up Your Roots”. You can go there to hire someone to do some genealogy work for you. You post what you’d like done and optionally the amount you’re willing to pay, and people willing to do the work bid down to do your work.

13. EclipseIR – This is a company that makes identity recognition software. They provide various Software Development Kits for programmers to include in their programs. They do various tasks including intruder detection, facial recognition for photos or videos, search for individuals based on physical characteristics (hair color, height, clothes, etc.) as well as facial recognition on mobile devices.


So how many of these programs have you heard of before?

My Analysis of RootsTech 2014 - Sun, 9 Feb 2014

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:

  1. To meet up with the other developers who I communicate with regularly and share ideas.
  2. To meet up with the other geneabloggers who I follow and follow me and share ideas.
  3. 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.

3. Ideas/Innovations

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.