Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RootsTech 2011 -- a retrospective

Once and while something happens to redefine the landscape. It could be something as huge as an earthquake in Japan or something as little noticed by the world as a genealogy conference. Which of the two events will have the most impact on the world? I wouldn't venture to guess, but the world has disasters all the time, when was the last time you thought about Hurricane Katrina? Or the Haiti earthquake? Ideas tend to have a greater and longer effect than events. RootsTech 2011 was both an event and an idea.

One of the ideas of RootsTech 2011 was that genealogy was a worldwide main stream activity, not some obscure hobby practiced by shuffleboard dropouts, but a viable and living intellectual and technical pursuit. Quoting from a recent news release from RootsTech sent out by FamilySearch's Paul Nauta:
“The scope of the RootsTech conference was unique. We wanted to try to fulfill a need to bring technology users (family history buffs and anyone interested in genealogy) and technology creators (developers, programmers, engineers) together in a unique, fun environment to collaborate and move the genealogy industry forward through technology,” said Anne Roach, RootsTech conference chair. And bring them together it did.
The inaugural conference, hosted by FamilySearch, was a runaway success. With over 3,000 in-person attendees and another 4,500 attending remotely over the Internet, it was arguably one of the largest genealogy-related conferences ever held in the country. In-person attendees hailed from 42 states and 15 countries. Some came from as far away as China, New Zealand, Australia, Namibia, and Israel.
 There were things that happened at RootsTech 2011 that preview how the genealogy world will function in the future. As Paul Nauta, RootsTech public relations chair, reports there were over 40 bloggers in attendance. “Between online articles, blog posts, and nonstop tweets, the online community was buzzing 24 hours a day during the conference and for weeks following—and amazingly, articles and tweets are still going strong,” noted Nauta.

The technological nature of the Conference was emphasized by the extensive community networking. Again quoting from the news release, "A highlight of the conference was the extensive community networking—community zone (exhibit hall), collaboration stations, and unconferencing sessions. These integrated features produced an open conference atmosphere that seemed to be ideal to introduce technology creators to genealogy technology users and to foster discussions, learning, collaboration, and future industry developments.

All these are big words and somewhat vague terms. What it really means is people found out that genealogy is living and breathing and that genealogists are really involved in high tech. Not just hardware, but all kinds of cutting edge activities.

To get a feel of what the Conference was all about, you can watch six of the main presentations on If you want to see how technology impacts genealogy and how genealogy impacts the technology, watch these presentations.

Personally, I came away from RootsTech with a million thoughts running through my head. Underlying all of the talk and meetings, was the fact that so much of the world's written and printed legacy is being digitized. The world is changing one thought and one digitized document at a time.

Thanks again to all those who worked on bringing us a great Conference and an event that helps to redefine genealogy and thereby will have a lasting effect on the world of ideas.

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