RootsTech will be a new, three-day conference designed to bring technologists together with genealogists so they can learn from each other and find ways to work together to develop new genealogy products and services. The conference will be held on February 10 through 12 in Salt Lake City. I listened to a briefing last week by two of the organizers, Anne Roach and Ann Harrison of FamilySearch. They described the plans in some detail. I was already planning to attend this conference; but, after listening to Anne and Ann's presentation, I am even more excited than before. This is shaping up to be a great conference!
This conference will replace the annual BYU Computerized Genealogy Conference normally held in Provo. The RootsTech conference is sponsored by FamilySearch, Brigham Young University, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Ancestry.com, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the National Genealogical Society.
RootsTech will serve two audiences: technology users and technology creators. Quoting from the RootsTech web site:
“When the users and creators of technology come together, innovation occurs,” said Jay Verkler, president and CEO of FamilySearch. “The RootsTech Conference will accelerate that innovation through panels, discussion groups, and interactive demonstrations.”
The RootsTech Conference is designed to foster innovation by bringing technology users and creators together in a meaningful way. Thousands of genealogists who use technology in pursuit of one of the most popular hobbies in the world will discover how new and emerging technologies can improve and simplify their activities. Genealogists will be treated to technology prototype demonstrations, interactive workshops, and opportunities to test innovative new product and service concepts. Technology providers will get the opportunity to demonstrate product concepts face-to-face to their customer—the family history enthusiast—and better understand their needs.
Be a part of the solution!
The term "technology users" can further be divided into three groups: novices, intermediate, and advanced users.
Technology novices certainly are welcome to attend, and a number of sessions will be aimed at novices. Other sessions may appeal only to intermediate or advanced users. The intended audiences for all sessions will be clearly labeled in the conference syllabus.
The sessions will include:
- Interactive presentations
- Panel discussions
- Hands-on workshops
- Research paper presentations
- Exclusive demonstrations of prototypes and new products and services
- Birds-of-a-feather gatherings
My belief is that all well-known genealogy companies will be exhibiting their newest products and services. In addition, a number of companies and individuals that most of us have never heard of will also be demonstrating leading-edge technology products and services; many of them will be beta test or even alpha test products that have never been shown before to the public. Possible topics include:
- Applying social networking techniques and technologies to collaborate as families and societies
- Cameras, scanners, and preservation devices
- How to use cloud computing to deploy highly reliable, scalable systems
- Using standards and authorities to enhance applications and search techniques
- Handwriting recognition and automated transcription
- Search engines and finding tools
- GPS mapping
- Tricks and travails in embedding external components
- Leveraging records digitization and preservation
- Media capture and conversion
- Available APIs and Web services
- Understanding new markets
- Mobile devices and smartphone applications
In short, these will be the kinds of services and products that I like to write about in this newsletter. Now you know why I am so excited about this conference!
FamilySearch will present awards for most innovative presentation and best collaborative solution presented at RootsTech 2011.
The presenters will not be limited to U.S. companies; several overseas companies have already presented lecture proposals and/or have reserved booth spaces in the exhibit hall.
FamilySearch is hosting the conference with all scheduled sessions listed in the conference syllabus, which will be available online when it is ready. (The schedule is still being defined.) However, an unusual feature will also be included, called "unconferencing." Yes, this conference will include unconferencing.
An "unconference" is defined as "a nontraditional business conference, especially an unstructured combination of teach-in, jam session, show-and-tell." (Definition courtesy of Dictionary.com at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/unconference.) In other words, it’s composed of unplanned, pick-up sessions that are added at the last minute as requested by conference attendees. In fact, these will be so "last minute" that they may not be scheduled until after the conference is underway! If conference attendees hear something interesting on the first or second day of the conference and would like to hear and perhaps discuss the topic in further detail, additional sessions may be scheduled on the second or third day of the conference.
Of course, this scheduling will create some publicity challenges. Don't look for these sessions to be listed in the printed syllabus! I am sure they will be well publicized, however, perhaps on handmade signs made during the conference as well as electronic updates on the conference web site and elsewhere.
Speaking of electronic updates, wireless wi-fi connectivity will be available throughout the conference center. Bring your laptops, iPads, smartphones, and whatever other networked devices you have to view the latest information as the conference progresses.
The organizers hope to broadcast a limited number of sessions using live video over the Internet. This will be a "beta test." If successful, the hope is to broadcast ALL the sessions at future RootsTech conferences to those around the world who are unable to attend the conferences in person. You’ve got to love the technology!
There is no promise of future broadcasts, but the FamilySearch organizers certainly hope to do so. The limited test at RootsTech 2011 in February should prove whether or not such a plan is feasible for future conferences.
You will also see a lot of bloggers at RootsTech 2011. Plans are not yet defined (as of last week), but the organizers hope to offer both audio and video production capabilities to bloggers who will write about the things they see and hear at RootsTech 2011.
The RootsTech 2011 Conference will be held in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, a location well-known to attendees of several past genealogy conferences. This modern, state-of-the-art convention center is within walking distance of the Family History Library, the Trax light rail (trolley) system, and the two conference hotels: the Radisson and the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel. Using Trax, several other hotels in downtown Salt Lake City will be within easy access distance. The Temple Square stop on Trax is at the convention center. Details may be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UTA_TRAX
I think this is going to be a dynamite conference and should attract a lot of genealogists of all skill levels. I will be there and will again be hosting the traditional Saturday evening EOGN dinner. I'll write about that dinner in a separate article.
The real question is: "Will you be there?" I would suggest you don't want to miss RootsTech 2011.
You can learn a lot more at the RootsTech 2011 web site at http://rootstech.familysearch.org. This site will change frequently in the next few months as we get closer to the conference start on February 10. That's less than three and a half months from now!