Monday, February 14, 2011

RootsTech 2011: Was it a Smashing Success?

While everyone who attended came with their own expectations, and success can easily be measured as to whether RootsTech met or exceeded them, overall success should be measured in two ways -- how long the buzz lasts and what tangible projects/services launch (and/or are significantly enhanced) as a result.

First, RootsTech has clearly created a buzz in the genealogy industry. On Sunday, I googled "rootstech" and there were 29,600 hits. This morning, I repeated the search and there were 35,400 hits. Right now (3:00 PM EST), there are 37,700 hits. And the amount of chatter on Facebook and Twitter is also remarkable. For RootsTech to be considered a "success", this needs to last for more than a week or so. Most genealogy conference attendees return to their homes with a heightened enthusiasm for researching their family history, but (often) upon returning to reality, life resumes interrupting their genealogy and the buzz fades.

Second, throughout the sessions, and in all corners of the Salt Palace convention center, discussions (some planned, many spontaneous) took place where genealogists and technologists shared ideas and brainstormed on how to resolve problems. A good measure of the impact RootsTech has had on the genealogy industry will be the number of ideas that are implemented and released within the next twelve months. This may include new products/services, enhancements to existing ones and/or partnerships that create synergies that benefit genealogists.

Here are some of the ideas and the resulting enhancements planned for Genealogy Today (in no particular order):

1. "Weekly Buzz" feature for The Genealogy News. Between now and RootsTech 2012, we'll feature one of the top 50 genealogy web sites with a short review each week. Inspired by Kory Meyerink's session.

2. Re-evaluate/Simplify database search forms. Inspired by Ian Tester's session "Future Directions in the Search for Family History."

3. Provide Audio Versions of articles. Inspired by Anne Roach's session "Letting Technology Work for You," where it was mentioned that the current versions of text-2-speech software applications can actually perform text-2-mp3 files!

4. Integration of OneGreatFamily API into Live Roots. The Live Roots search engine also powers the surname & resource searches at Genealogy Today. Inspired by conversation with Rob Armstrong.

5. Integration of NewspaperArchive.com API into Live Roots. Inspired by conversation with Christopher and Debora Gill.

6. Expand Free Data Archive at Genealogy Today. Hosting of small collections was consolidated and redesigned in 2010 (check out free genealogy data). Inspired by conversation with Brewster Kahle (The Internet Archive).

7. Implement use of RDF tags throughout Genealogy Today. Inspired by Christopher Starr's session "Semantic Web Meets the Family Social Graph."

8. Minify all Javascript files, and conduct performance review. Inspired by Aaron Barker's session "Creating Faster Websites."

9.  Explore outsourcing document imaging. Inspired by conversation with ReadyMicro Inc.

10. Add QR Codes to business cards & exhibit booth materials. Inspired by conversation with Thomas MacEntee.

11. Evaluate potential sources for addition to The Genealogy News. Inspired by multiple conversations and suggestions.

12. Develop a training course for the Subscription Data area of Genealogy Today. Inspired by conversation with Louise St Denis (The National Institute for Genealogical Studies).

In addition, I've compiled an internal list of objectives to improve how Genealogy Today is marketed, both online and to libraries & societies.

I'd like to challenge everyone who attended RootsTech 2011 to make a list of the ideas generated by your attendance at the conference and/or whenever you release a new feature/product/service in the next twelve months, be sure to mention that it resulted from a conversation(s) held at the show.

It would be interesting if someone at FamilySearch was charged with the task of tracking every new blog (as announced by Thomas MacEntee on Geneabloggers) to see if the blog creator had attended RootsTech 2011. The result would be a very tangible indicator of RootsTech's influence on the blogging sector.

And, finally, an easy measure of the success of RootsTech will be the attendance at the 2012 conference (scheduled for February 2-4 in Salt Lake City). Will you be there?

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