Every once and while it is a good idea to step back and take stock of where we are and where we are going. This applies to pursuits such as genealogy as much as it does to everything from governments to individuals. So where are we today in our genealogical community?
I have heard some comments lately that raise some important issues. For example, some of the more common comments center around the speed of technological change and the individual's inability to cope with all of the changes. Frequently, I get calls and requests from friends, blog readers, patrons at the Mesa FamilySearch Library and some relatives for help with understanding and using some new technology from genealogy programs to tablets and iPads. I had someone hand me an iPad yesterday and ask for help. Are those of us swimming in the main part of the stream really aware how fast the stream is moving?
Right now, I am facing an upgrade to the Apple operating system. The latest system is called OS X 10.9 Maverick. At least they got away from cats. But the problem is that some of the basic programs I use on my computers have to be upgraded even before I upgrade the system. How are we supposed to know this? Do I just go ahead and upgrade my system software and hope for the best? Yeah. But do I really want to spend almost an entire day doing nothing more than watching the computer load software? I am not getting paid by Apple or Microsoft or Google to watch beach balls. I already sit there and feel frustrated almost every time I shut down my Windows based computer and have to wait for 1 of 23 upgrades before I can shut down and all the time looking at the dire warning from Microsoft that my world, as I know it, will end if I shut down my computer prematurely.
If I am frustrated and challenged by upgrades after the thousands (tens of thousands) of upgrades I have loaded over the years, then how much more challenged are those who don't even understand what is going on and resent the cost and time involved? Think about it, this is only one tiny part of the technology issues we have inherited as genealogists. Remember, I did not have to upgrade my pencil, I just had to sharpen it and replace it from time to time. That was not very frustrating or difficult.
Thinking about that, I haven't used pencils much for a long time. I used to have a rather prominent callus on my finger from using a pencil and I just checked at it is gone. But now my fingerprints are almost worn off from typing.
We were at the Family History Library yesterday and when I entered and went to the elevator, I was confronted by a a virtual army of people in matching shirts who were all apparently technologists. It turned out that there had been one of the "regular" system upgrades to the computers that take place on Sunday and as a result almost all of the computers in the Family History Library were inoperable. Hundreds of people coming into the Library to do research and they can't even access the catalog. Hmm. I don't recall this ever happening with the old card catalog. Anyway, at the end of the day, there were still many of the computers that were inoperable. Whether we like it or not, we are at the mercy of the technologists.
My own challenge in this regard comes from losing WiFi and Internet service as I travel around the country. When I was in Nauvoo, Illinois, it was extremely difficult to find a signal to use my devices. What about the people who live there?
I certainly feel sympathy for all those of us who feel like the cost of access to millions and billions of source documents is very high and causes a great deal of trouble and anxiety.
More later likely.