A phenomenon is defined as something (such as an interesting fact or event) that can be observed and studied and that typically is unusual or difficult to understand or explain fully. The plural of phenomenon is phenomena. The RootsTech Conference is a phenomenon. It brings together different disciplines that normally would not talk to each other and creates an atmosphere where some limited communication has become possible. Each of the diverse participating entities and individuals have never previously had a forum where they could talk and meet For example, I am a blogger. Under ordinary circumstances, it is unlikely, no, practically impossible that I would ever have contact directly with any of the large commercial genealogy companies. Before RootsTech, there was simply no mechanism that would have put me in contact with any of them. Likewise, contact with genealogical computer software developers, other bloggers from around the world, and other such diverse entities, groups and individuals would be almost out of the question.
Think about it. In the past, I had little or no motivation to attend a large genealogy conference. Why was that? Because I had never had that experience. It was not part of what I was doing in genealogy. I was interested in the technical aspects of what I was doing. I was interested in the new developments in technology that were changing the face of genealogy. I did not see the traditional conference as being relevant to my interests and by the way, most of them are still not relevant. Would I have spent the time and money to go to RootsTech the first time had I not been invited? That is a good question. It is possible, because I have family in the area, I might have gone.
But when I went to that first RootsTech Conference, I realized that this was exactly what I needed. I was finally talking to real people about the real basic issues of technology and genealogy and they weren't in two separate camps on opposite side of the world. It may seem trite, but the only way to explain part of the phenomenon was that the Conference created a synergy that had not been offered or duplicated previously.
When I discussed this issue with my wife, she asked if I wasn't interested in learning about research and genealogy? Of course I am. But I also realized long ago that I could take correspondence courses from Brigham Young University about genealogy that were much more intense than any one hour class and with the rise of the Web-based classes, I have access to thousands of classes online that are often taught by those same people who teach at the national conferences.
The effect of RootsTech was more extensive than just opening a door to communication with a large variety of people interested in genealogy. The Conference changed my mind about attending other conferences and also about sharing what I knew as a presenter. I realized that could teach classes of five to twenty-five people forever at the Mesa FamilySearch Library, but that by participating in conferences I could address a much larger audience. I finally understood that going to conferences was like blogging; it multiplied the effort. I also realized that there were many aspects to genealogy and going to a conference was like a refresher course in genealogy basics.
In addition, intense involvement in genealogy is a solitary occupation. I have been used to working in an office with many people and dealing with clients, courts and other issues. Now, I sit alone in front of a computer all of most days. Teaching, both at the Mesa FamilySearch Center and in conferences has become a necessity to keep my whole life from getting ingrown. So now, I am anxious to go to a conference, as a presenter or as an attendee. I look forward to the opportunity of being taught as well as teaching. My biggest limitations now are time constraints. All this happened, in large part, because of the invitation I had to attend RootsTech. That Conference was the prime cause of jump-starting my more intense involvement in the genealogical community.
As I said at the beginning of this post, RootsTech is a phenomenon. It is an event that is unusual and cannot be fully explained. So, once again, I am looking forward to RootsTech 2014 and already planning for RootsTech 2015 and beyond.