Monday, March 25, 2013

Post-RootsTech 2013 Musings

What an information and fun-filled three days of the RootsTech 2013 conference.  Here are some semi-random thoughts as I recall the week:

1)  Hats off to FamilySearch for organizing this conference and making it run smoothly.  With over 6,700 registrants, over 250 learning sessions, and over 100 exhibitors, this is a yearlong endeavor.  Thank you to Dennis Brimhall and his team for outstanding Keynote speakers, and a positive presentation of genealogy, family history and technology.  The emphasis on Stories and Photos was very evident in the FamilySearch exhibit and presentations, and there were many exhibitors that promoted combining stories and photos or video.

2)  My thanks to Paul Nauta of FamilySearch, and his team, for treating the Official Bloggers well - the Blogger Dinner, the special tour at the Mormon Tabernacle, the Media Hub food (fruit, nuts, water), electrics (wifi, Ethernet cables), video and audio booths.  Excellent work!

3)  I enjoyed meeting at least 60 GeneaBloggers (I didn't write them all down and I'm not sure I can match faces with names), and some of them I had not met before (Alona Tester, Helen Smith, Rosemary Morgan, Michael Hait, Lynn Broderick, Ginny Sommarstrom, Denise Olson, M. Diane Rogers, Amy Crow, Laila Christensen, Michael Maglio, LisaM from Billion Graves, GeneDocs Wetpaint (Eric Jelle), and many more!).  This group is friendly, fun and energetic - it's like we're instant cousins when we meet.

4)  In addition to the "official" events, there were many fun times over breakfast, at dinner, and in the Radisson bar with genealogists - stories, laughs, etc.  Then there was Thomas MacEntee's birthday party - see all of the pictures on Facebook!  I think there were more spouses/partners at RootsTech this year, and Linda and I had fun sharing with them.

5)  The Keynote talks every day were great - excellent variety and messages.  I loved Syd Lieverman, Jyl Pattee and David Pogue - the "non-genealogy" folks - if you missed those on the streaming video, I encourage you to go back and watch them at your leisure.  The information about FamilySearch, FindMyPast, Ancestry and MyHeritage broke some news and put these four major genealogy players in the forefront.  I thought that James Tanner did an excellent job as a last-minute replacement for Gilad Japhet in the MyHeritage keynote talk - that's difficult to do and he succeeded.

6)  I wandered around the Expo Hall quite a bit, seeking and finding familiar faces and new faces and products.  The Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, Story@Home and Mocavo displays seemed to be well staffed and always busy.  Some smaller companies had only one person to staff the booths, and some did not have handouts to take away and read.  I was surprised that 23andMe did not have an exhibit, but FamilyTreeDNA and AncestryDNA did.

7)  Guess how many presentations I attended other than the Keynote talks?  One!  I went to the FHISO panel discussion and was disappointed by the information provided there.  I figured that I could see the Hall 1 talks on video after the conference, and that I can read the syllabus material for many of the presentations I am interested in.  That's not the same as being there, of course.  Due to the high number of attendees, and the limited room sizes available for many talks, the rooms were jam packed.  Access to many of the rooms was hampered by the crowds and the stairs and the single working elevator at times.

8)  I did go to the poster session of the Family History Technology workshop, and met Ben Baker and Randy Wilson who had interesting white papers and posters.  I discussed their concepts with each of them, and appreciate seeing relatively young minds working on future concepts.

9)  I watched as DearMYRTLE, Jill Ball, Lisa Louise Cooke, James Tanner and several other Official Bloggers made video interviews in the Media Hub of the Keynote speakers and other important people in genealogy throughout the days.  These interviews were recorded, and many should be available on YouTube or on the interviewer's blog in the near future.  Jill asked to interview me, but we got bumped at the appointed time.

10)  Thank you to all of my readers that came by to say hello and discuss the events of the day with me at the Media Hub and on the Expo Hall floor.  

11)  I need to spend more time at the Family History Library in order to get my To-Do list done before I am too old.  A research trip to SLC with SDGS or another group may be the answer.  I tried going paperless this time, and found that I need a paper To-Do list, and more complete information on the To-Do list.  For some records sought, I had to use the Ancestry app on my iPhone to get a date or place for a specific record.

12)  The weather report before the conference week said it would be high temperatures in the 50s and lows in the 30s with just a little rain.  It was colder than that - high's in the 30s and lows in the 20s, with three days of snow flurries on the morning walk to the Salt Palace.  Linda was in the pool one day, saw the snow, and went out to catch snowflakes in her bathing suit and coverup.  We ventured out thrice in the evening for dinner - and these West Coast kids were not prepared for the cold wind.

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Drew Smith said...

Randy, what were you hoping for in the way of information from the FHISO panel?

GeniAus said...

Randy, You'll Be First On My interview List If I Get To Rootstech Again.

Michael Dorsey Iams said...

I also attended the FHISO panel meeting and I think there was much frustration in the room regarding the lack of a plan of action. While there is consensus that GEDCOM 5.5 is insufficient for today's needs, there seemed to be no sense of urgency among any of the panel members toward resolving the situation. The words from RootsMagic, BrightSolid, & Ancestry were that they don't have any particular agenda, but would like a seat at the table. Understandable, but that does not sound like any of them are looking to take a leadership role, or at least do it publicly in front of the small number of people in attendance.

What I take from the FHISO tagline "It begins here, it begins with you" is the goal of FHISO is to only facilitate the creation of the standards, and maintain neutrality, to the point of passivity. Is it not possible for a standards organization to set a goal of defining a standard by a set time? The hope seems that coalitions will coalesce out of the "Call for Papers" and drive the process forward. Given the minimal of progress over the last several years, more concrete plans are desired.

What I wanted to see from the meeting was a statement of goals for the organization and a presentation of the strategy to get there over the next year. I don't believe any goals or commitments were made at the meeting. Although I would prefer goals for creation of a successor GEDCOM standard, I would settle for goals regarding the organization itself and building the necessary capabilities. What sort of budget and membership is required? What marketing will be done to get the word out? What skill sets are needed in the organization to make this happen? And most importantly, how are we going to get there?

Alex said...

I went to the FHISO panel discussion and was disappointed by the information provided there.

What were you disappointed by? Was there anything encouraging? What about a write up?

Cousin Russ said...


I wasn't going to jump in on this topic, but I find that I must.

There are two words that WE, the end users, need to understand. "International" and "Standard". Short translation, "VERY SLOW".

The current leaders of FHISO are ALL volunteers, NO corporation is provided the resources to "produce" something. As I listened to the community gathered, I came away with that community was expecting a product, or something, or progress from RootsTech2012. The FHISO volunteers meet weekly, from around the world. I don't attend them, but are attempting to pull the right folks (People and companies) to get a new standard started.

I have been involved with Standards before. I helped fund several people to write Papers, as in Call for Papers. Taking those papers to an end product, took far too long, but the end product, when the Working Groups took those working papers and created a standard, was something that the everyone can use.

"Upgrading" / Updating the current GEDCOM has been discussed since the Better GEDCOM days, but to me that is creating limitations on the standard, based on the change in the technologies that we have today.

Michael Dorsey asked about funding. I am not sure that the Organisation can determine that, as it is not clear to me just how big this project is. The call for papers, I think, will help the companies involved, determine the funding level within those companies.

My take on this presentation was positive. What I saw was some of the right groups at the table at the front of the room. Software companies, genealogist, and end users.

What I didn't hear, and would have like to have heard, was What does a Call for Papers mean to End Users and companies who FHISO needs to sign up for this project. How can an End User participate directly with FHISO. To me, the End User can be involved in TWO ways. Part of FHISO and to be talking with my software vendor, encouraging them to be part of FHISO.

My two cents on this topic.