Saturday, February 12, 2011

RootsTech 2011: The Future of Genealogy Looks Bright

Day Two of the RootsTech conference was equally packed with informative sessions, catering to both the technologists and genealogists in attendance. In the past, FamilySearch has hosted annual developers' conferences, but as isolated events. Bringing these two groups together not only encourages the sharing of information between programmer and end-user, but it should highlight for genealogists that there are a significant number of technologies and technological initiatives that will make online research more productive, while allowing more collaboration and communication.

One of the aspects I am enjoying about the RootsTech sessions is that they offer both guidance (for now) and vision (for later). Kory Meyerink from ProGenealogists/Ancestry.com gave a session on Effective Database Search Tactics (today), while Ian Tester from BrightSolid/FindMyPast.com reviewed some of the shortcomings of present day genealogy search tools and a more appropriate mindset developers should be using while the next generation tools are built in his session called Future Directions in the Search for Family History.

Likewise, this dual approach to a genealogy conference offers both groups (genealogists and technologists) an opportunity to learn about the challenges they are each facing. At the past developers' conferences, all of the sessions were focused (as you would expect) on developer issues, and most genealogy conferences cater to the needs of the genealogist. RootsTech lets the two catch of glimpse of the present day struggles and what the future might hold.

Being able to sit in a session such as Anne Roach's Letting Technology Work for You, not only gave me an excellent update on recent improvements in both text-to-speach and voice recognition technology, but based on the audience (primarily genealogists) reactions and questions, helps me validate the value of implementing some of these tools as part of my own existing and future projects. Simple things that will involve minimal costs, might make some of the content I publish regularly more accessible for some genealogists.

As the conference is quickly unfolding, the vibe created by the RootsTech opening session is clearly being carried throughout the session rooms and exhibit hall. Genealogists and technologists are learning about existing solutions and future technology, but more importantly, the two groups are learning about the challenges and successes each other face.

I'm excited not only to see what topics and issues Day Three will address, but how quickly we will be able to see some of the initiatives discussed here at RootsTech implemented after we all head back to our homes. If you weren't sure what RootsTech was going to offer and decided not to attend, take another look at the web site, and consider joining us in 2012 (RootsTech is scheduled for February 2-4, 2012 here in Salt Lake City).

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