I’m currently on the other side of the world in Salt Lake City, Utah, attending the Roots Tech 2012 conference. There are nearly 4,000 delegates gathered together in one place to hear the leading experts in genealogy and technology unite to explain the latest developments that will shape the way we participate in family history online, both in the ways we access data and also the tools we’ll have at our disposal to organise the material we find. This is my first experience of Roots Tech, and it is hugely impressive….
I will put together a short blog summarising the key sessions I’ve attended, as well as news and views from other delegates.
First, a massive vote of thanks to Mike Hall, who met me at the airport with a bag of home-made cookies and has looked after me ever since. After a 19 hour journey, I dropped straight into the end of a presentation dinner announcing the collaborative project to digitise and crowd-source transcribe the 1940 US census, with Bright Solid – owners of Find My Past – taking a full partnership roll alongside archives.com and Familysearch. Bright Solid also announced their soft launch of their US census site censusrecords.com and, later this year, the full launch of findmypast.com – direct entry into the US market.
Today saw the official start of the conference, and a keynote speech by Jay Verkler who outlined his vision of the future for family history technology; it is very exciting, if it can be delivered, and is based around co-operative ventures between rival commercial companies, online file-share platforms and volunteer groups. His emphasis – which is music to my ears – is for open source software and collaboration, with standardisation in data capture, operability and descriptions. He concluded by suggesting that genealogy would be a mainstream education activity if the platforms can deliver the tools and data to inspire people to become involved.
There are multi-stream sessions taking place throughout the day, and so far I’ve been to ones featuring e-learning tools, lessons learned from the 1911 census, the future of scanning technology, new gedcom files and digital preservation communities. For light relief, there was a presentation lunch hosted by Find My Past explaining their strategy for the US.
Much of the content is heavily weighted towards the technological, and much relates to work in progress or wish-list planning; however, it is possible to perceive the ways that this will impact upon our work as genealogists and the recurring themes coming across are collaboration, volunteer-led transcription projects and technology that’s more focused on helping us organise, share and tell stories as much as acquiring more data.
For those who follow us on Twitter, I’ve been posting regular tweets from the Roots Tech conference in Salt Lake City during each session so you can keep up with events as they happen.
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