So… jet lag is real. I’ve not yet managed to get any decent sleep since I left the UK on Wednesday morning, having got up ridiculously early. This poses its own problems in terms of attention span and capacity to comprehend complicated papers; I’ve just struggled through a seminar on cloud databases by two highly intelligent and articulate presenters from Savvis, a company that has produced a nifty system for safe and licence-free cloud database storage called Symphony. Unfortunately, the jargon was so intense that I rather lost the thread of why it was so nifty; the graphics looked good though. It is further evidence, to my mind, that I fundamentally need my IT manager.

In contrast, the morning started with a convivial networking breakfast – a stimulating conversation with the great and the good in the North American genealogy world, speaking pretty much the same language. It was quickly followed by a simply brilliant presentation by Josh Coates, talking about the evolution of social networks and the potential expansion of data storage from terabytes to petabytes, and then eventually exabytes – the equivalent number of pages required to duplicate the same data in books would require 30 billion trees. Josh wandered on barefoot and delivered his technology information with consummate ease, interspersed with accessible and humorous examples – such as what happens when the democratic power of social networks is unleashed upon unsuspecting and innocent campaigns to name a whale to be tracked by the scientific community which thereafter was referred to as Mr Splashy Pants.

family search
by pandrcutts under CC BY  with wpseopix.com

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I had some very interesting meetings with members of Family Search, following on from yesterday’s keynote speech by Jay Verkler and his calls for greater collaboration within the sector. Thereafter I went to see the British Research floor of the Family History Library, and was delighted to be invited to give an impromptu talk to the staff there. I was privileged to meet John Kitzmiller, author of the invaluable military guide ‘In Search of the Forlorn Hope’ who gifted me a copy, including the third volume – which I’m not sure how many people were aware existed!

During the afternoon, I attended a session presented by Dallan Quass on his new open source project to provide far better accuracy rates when conducting name-match searches. Having created a new computer algorithm to combine elements of existing tools, he’s produced a new model via his site www.werelate.com that’s 28% more accurate than Soundex – and encourages users to make the system even more effective by helping fine tune the existing list of possible matches.

An added benefit is that the first episode of season 3 of the US version of Who Do You Think You Are has just aired –Martin Sheen is the celebrity – and I won’t spoil the surprises for those who haven’t seen it yet…

More tomorrow,

Cheers
Nick

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