We live in a great high-tech world! It is now possible for experts to give presentations to remote groups without traveling. Newsletter reader Dick Cleaveland recently did just that: he gave a presentation to a genealogy group that was located many miles away. He used a combination of Skype and LogMeIn.
The readers of your newsletter might be interested to know that I recently gave a presentation to a meeting of the Roots Users Group of Arlington, VA. Given that I have been an active member for several years, that, in itself, is not particularly surprising. The punch line is that I gave it from my summer home on the shores of the Atlantic, many miles away from the meeting place.
Presentations at the RUG meetings are normally given with a computer-projector setup for illustrations. In this case I logged on to the computer from my laptop at the beach and took over its control, using a remote operation program called LogMeIn. This was accompanied by voice transmitted between the computers using Skype, an internet telephone system that has computer-to-computer capabilities. Both of these services are completely free (although there are some costs for added capabilities that we didn't need).
I had full control of the computer; I could bring up illustrations, read email, search the web and so forth. On my machine at the beach, I saw a complete copy of the RUG computer's screen. The only hitch was that my copy of the screen lagged the other by about a second if there was a change to a significant part of the screen, such as when a new program was brought up. The subject at hand was how to find sources of information about The Master Genealogist (TMG). I demonstrated how to sign up for and read RootsWeb mailing list messages as well as how to search the mailing list database; how to access the Wholly Genes website forum; how to find and use the two major TMG tips web sites (run by Lee Hoffman and Terry Reigel); and illustrated the features of the RUG web site. As an added bonus I called up the podcast of your interview with Bob Velke and let it run for a few minutes. I could get questions from the floor over the Skype connection. For the first minute or so of introduction, we used webcams at both ends so that they could see me and I could see the audience, but since that hook-up was incompatible with the remote computer operation, it was only used for a short time.
An added feature is that the sessions can be recorded (voice only at the present) and could be posted on our web site for podcasting. Unfortunately, I forgot to start the recording for this session, so the practicability of this aspect remains to be proven. The recording program is a Skype add-on which does require purchase.
Although in itself it could be viewed as an interesting and successful experiment, the technique opens the door to a great number of possibilities. RUG has well over 500 members world-wide, but our presentations have been limited to the relatively few in the Arlington area. With the remote-control computing we could have presentations done by any of our members, regardless of location.
As a sidelight, it's also worth mentioning that the meetings of our Executive Committee are now held using the conference call capabilities of Skype, allowing the members to remain at home during the meeting, avoiding the need to travel. And I can attend from my residence in Delaware!
Thanks for the report, Dick.
Is this the wave of the future? Given ever-increasing travel expenses and inconveniences, coupled with the ever-decreasing costs of technology, will we see more and more "virtual meetings?" In fact, we now can hold meetings and seminars in a manner not possible only a few years ago. Dick Cleaveland and the Roots Users Group of Arlington did so by using all free software with no toll calls involved.
If you want to read more about Skype, you can read my earlier articles at http://tinyurl.com/3yn9bq. I plan to write about LogMeIn and other remote access programs in the near future.