It's getting closer!! Before you know it, we'll be reveling in genealogy tech geekdom! No, I'm not talking about Christmas morning in the 21st century genealogist household....just the most tech-fabulous conference of all: RootsTech 2014!
For those of you who have never attended, I know the hype can be a bit overwhelming when this conference rolls around. Social media is the technological life-blood of this event, and I anticipate that increasing, not decreasing. Even though I have never been linked to this conference in an official capacity, RootsTech and I have a long history together, beginning with the very first year in 2011. From its very inception, we knew it would be different....but we had no idea how far it would reach in terms of influence and industry-wide growth. As we prepare for 2014, here are a few of my own observations and reflections:
From the first year, I was involved pretty closely, as my Pastology business partner, Chris Starr, was invited to give two sessions on applying semantic web principles to online family trees. As an inaugural speaker, we had no idea what to expect. We prepared the presentations, submitted our required content, and flew out to embrace this new conference frontier. From what I remember, the sessions were much smaller, dialogue was flowing from day one, and attendees were sponges! The eagerness to learn and share new ideas was intoxicating and exhilarating. From that first year, everyone knew it was a huge success, and would only get bigger. I can also remember questioning its sustainability in one place (Salt Lake) with the other major conferences each year, and with the economy tanking like it was....but I underestimated the draw of technology in the genealogy field. It may have been slow to start, but once it got a foot-hold, nothing was going to slow the momentum. Here is a link to my first impressions that year:
Ripple effect: I was watching a demonstration recently about the online tree building option from FamilySearch, and the questions/issues raised with this type of interface were shockingly familiar. I remember chewing these questions over with my partner and with FamilySearch developers that first year - and it suddenly hit me - it happened! The semantic web foundations materialized exactly as he had presented that year! Seeing a technology principle applied to a new genealogy product was beyond exciting! It proved very quickly to me that the sessions and developer/user environment fostered at RootsTech is vital to our tech growth in this field. This is only one example among many, I am sure!
Ripple effect: The trend of "official bloggers" has taken a firm hold on almost all genealogy conferences, both large and small. Due to some of the things learned at RootsTech over the years, the other conferences have embraced slightly different approaches: allowing bloggers to sign-up instead of appointing them, calling them ambassadors instead of bloggers, experimenting with Twitter users (as micro-bloggers). I hope RootsTech pays attention to the way other conferences are handling this situation - I think the other conferences have adapted and circumnavigated the troubling aspects much quicker.
Ripple effect: The other major conferences took note, and now, with each conference I attend, Twitter conversation is lively, engaging, and educational! I am even seeing the large TV screens set to run Twitter highlights or feeds, just like RootsTech. A marvelous addition!
4. Un-Conferencing Sessions:
Ripple effect: I have noticed the major conferences trying to implement this feature - but while the opportunity to engage is there, folks have not warmed to this idea outside of the RootsTech arena. I hope people realize its value and participate more, but some things may not convey well outside of RootsTech....or they may just take a little bit more time.
For your reading pleasure - My Journeys Past RootsTech Anthology:
RootsTech 2011: My Take
Distinction of Honor @ RootsTech!
Perspectives: RootsTech 2012
RootsTech Bound Kentuckians?
RootsTech Day 1
RootsTech Virtual Edition
Pandora's Box: Official Bloggers
RootsTech Rowdies in Google+