The decisions made by the RootsTech committee (or whoever) to limit vendors at the upcoming conference is an issue, but it is not the end of the world type issue. Although it is extremely unfortunate for those who were planning on selling at the conference, it does not change the tremendous opportunity for meeting and learning about technology offered at this one Conference. The list of presentations continues to grow, making the decision of which to hear and which to miss even harder to make. When it comes down to it, the conference will be a fabulous opportunity to hear information that is presented in no other forum in such a concentrated form. Those who fail to go to the Conference due to this one issue, will be the losers but I am sure they will have a lot of other opportunities to go to conferences more suited to their interests.
My comments about the decision made to exclude certain vendors are limited to that one issue. As far as the decision goes by RootsTech it is basically an issue of "its my game and I get to say who plays." But it is equally a foolish to fail to participate for that reason alone. What if the Conference planners made the decision to have no vendors at all? Would that make the opportunity to learn any less? Is the RootsTech a vendors' conference? It is true that the vendors provide one type of experience, but maybe there is a reason for limited the type of vendors? It is clear from a review of the proposed presentations that there is decidedly more tech than genealogy.
I recently went to Sea World, a commercial establishment with a capital C. This amusement park is superficially billed as an educational experience. At every turn and in every single activity, there is a commercial sale attached. Exhibits are "sponsored" by airlines and other businesses. Even though the entrance fee was $82 per adult, there were thousands of people there all willing to not only pay the entrance fee but also pay extra for many attractions and a huge premium for drinks and food and be advertised to all day and into the night accompanied by Christmas music. I really enjoyed the day with my grandchildren, but the experience, in light of some of the reactions to the RootsTech issue, raises some other questions.
Why would people be willing to spend hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars to travel to an amusement park where the whole idea is selling and some of those same people feel deprived because they couldn't buy things at a genealogy conference? Is the Conference commercial or educational or part of both? Are we conditioned to associate selling with learning? I must say as an aside, the educational content of Sea World would fit in a 100 page book and I am not sure I see the educational benefit of dancing porpoises. But I didn't take my grandchildren to Sea World to be educated, we got what we paid for.
My point is at RootsTech you will likely get more education than you pay for and you will not have to pay a premium for food and drink. Maybe genealogists need to come out of the 19th Century. Maybe the move by RootsTech is not so much as a commentary on the place of books in our society but a commentary on the emphasis of the Conference itself. Maybe hard copy book publication and sales is in a revolutionary transition and this is only a small indication of what is happening.
Now, that I have said all that, I still think it unfair to those who were led to believe that they were going to participate as vendors were allowed to rely on that belief until only a few short weeks before the Conference, there would be no real harm to RootsTech, but a real harm to the vendors by making that decision. It may be too late to change the decision, but hopefully in future years the rules of the game won't be changed at the last minute. How would the blogger feel, if at the last minute the RootsTech people decided not to have bloggers at the conference?
By the way, you can still buy books and other services from the excluded vendors, please do so.