Friday, April 14, 2017
Genealogy One Byte at a Time -- Part Two
The benefits that have accrued to genealogists because of the advances in technology are limited, in some ways, but extremely significant. For example, record hints are a marvelous innovation, but ultimately they rely on the research ability of the user to fully evaluate whether or not they apply to a particular person. Ultimately, the decisions about the applicability and accuracy of the historical records and documents depend on the research abilities of the genealogist. Technology can augment those abilities but not replace them.
The greatest impact from technology comes from the increased availability of records due to digitization. We are in a definite period of transition. Presently, it is still necessary in many many cases to still refer to paper or microfilmed records. In this particular area, the impact of technology will be cumulative over time. Other aspects of technology such as organizational programs, communication programs and other generalized utilities such as translation programs offer the potential of making greater impacts as genealogists began to implement these programs and use them in their particular and personal methodology.
A couple of examples are probably in order at this point. Google Translate is a tremendously valuable program for doing research in languages with which you are not personally familiar. However, in my experience, relatively few genealogists use the program at all. The reason for this is that using any one particular computer program requires that you first learn how to use the program and secondly, can appreciate the features of the program to the extent that you incorporate them in your own research methodology. Over the years, I have probably acquired and used thousands of different computer programs. However, it is only very rarely that any of these thousands of programs are regularly incorporated into my workflow. The reason for this is simple. I have to see an appreciable benefit to incorporating a new program.
I've used this next example previously but it fits here well. There is a bibliography program called Zotero.org. Some years ago, I downloaded the program and played around with it for a short period of time. Later, I felt a need for a program that would help me format citations for original records and books. When I investigated programs that might help, I rediscovered Zotero.org. I realize that I had already looked at the program and registered as a user. But I had not used the program enough to keep using it. Since I now saw a need for the program, I began to incorporate it into my workflow. As a result, I now use the program regularly. This experience, however, is definitely the exception to the rule. Most of the time when I examine a new program, even if the program is attractive in many ways, I may not see any way to implement the program into my then current workflow and therefore see no need to keep working with the program. In fact, I believe that some programs are solutions for problems that do not really exist.
So technology is only useful if you can appreciate the need and see a way to implement the program into your daily lifestyle.
Technological advances fall into two major divisions: those products are advances that are generally enjoyed and applicable in a general way or those advances that apply to a very narrow need. One example of a general technological advance is the innovation that produces large, flat screen TVs. This is a general advance in that having or using a 60 inch TV is not something that particularly advances what I do each day. It certainly does not apply to anything I can particularly think of that applies to genealogy. On the other hand, a general advance such as increased memory storage capabilities at a much-reduced price immediately affects how I implement my backup storage. From the standpoint, there are very few technological advances that have been developed particularly for use by genealogists. That is one reason why I made the earlier observation about the fact that the benefits of technology to genealogists are limited.
I am presently using a threshold major technological advancement in a very particular way for genealogical purposes. This happens because a significant amount the writing that I am doing is being transcribed by voice recognition software running on my computer. Unfortunately, voice recognition software is still in the developmental stage and not as accurate as I would still like it to be. Although voice recognition software is apparently a substitute for using a keyboard, the learning curve to achieve full use of the software is so steep that very few people unless compelled to do so by disability will really use the full potential of these programs.
So let's start with the most fundamental and basic technological skill necessary to implement any of the advanced products or services available. That skill is keyboarding. As is made abundantly apparent by supporting patrons at a major family history library, keyboarding is really the basic key to using the majority of the remaining technological advances that benefit genealogy.There are a few people who are the exception, that is, they have very poor keyboarding skills but still take advantage of most of the other technological advances available. But the general rule is that a lack of keyboarding skills is a barrier to understanding and using most of the advantages that have accrued.
What is tragic is that those who lack keyboarding skills seldom recognized the extent to which that lack is a barrier to their implementing much of the technological advances available that actually benefit genealogical research. If you have difficulty entering logins and passwords you certainly are not going to enjoy learning some of the more complex features of an online genealogy program. Unfortunately, much of what has been acquired in the way of technological advances does not particularly benefit people who are either physically or mentally challenged despite claims of being user-friendly.
There are literally hundreds of programs online both free and fee-based for learning keyboarding skills. All that is really necessary, is for the user/learner to make the effort and spend the time to increase their keyboarding skills.
To get started, simply type the following words into a Google search: learn keyboard typing.
To be continued.