Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Day One at RootsTech 2016

My Day One at the RootsTech 2016 Conference was hectic, but I survived with the help of a nap.

1)  Up early to have breakfast at the Radisson, then off at 7:15 a.m. to obtain my registration packet at the far end of the Salt Palace Convention Center.  It snowed just a bit overnight and was about 12F, so I gingerly hiked down the driveway and across the 3 feet of packed snow to the walkway, then entered the SPCC via the north entrance, and walked the last quarter mile in relative warmth. There were plenty of geneabloggers hanging out there and we hugged and took photos and talked a bit.

2)  The doors to Ballroom B opened just before 9 a.m. and about 500 folks or more filed in and sat down for the Innovator Summit keynote talks.  Steve Rockwood, the CEO of FamilySearch talked about his entrepreneurial days and then noted that there are five types of family history experiences - discovery of family relationships, building a family tree, searching for and finding records, capturing and sharing memories, and using contextual help to learn more about history, geography, relatives, and more.

*  Ken Krogue was the second speaker, he was the founder of  He provided his own experiences in building sales and markets, and advice on how to do it.  I didn't make notes on this...probably should have but read email and blogs instead.  You can watch this talk on YouTube - see

3)  At 10:15 a.m., I attended the session on the BYU Family History Technology with speakers Bill Barrett and Daniel Zappala.  Their talk focused on three things - Success stories, Current work, and Grand challenges in the BYU technology lab.  This lab is the incubator for some of the FamilySearch partner apps and programs.

The Success Stories they described include a 20 minute Genealogy Project to visualize information in a family tree.  By color coding ancestor information, and using a fan chart, a user can see where quality information is lacking in their tree.  This project turned into Kinpoint.  Other success stories turned into Relative Finder, handwriting recognition and the digital microfilm project used by FamilySearch.

The Current Work projects include AncestorCloud, Goze to record memories, Pass it Down (a storytelling app), and Wiithu (a private family network), Kid Chatteroo (recording your children), and Studio by Legacy Republic.  Other projects include evaluating tree quality, visualizing historical maps, automatic indexing of obituaries, semi-automated transcription, and binarization of historical documents.
The Grand Challenges mentioned included Finding research opportunities, maintaining research logs, using collaborative tools and exploring analytics.

4)  At 11:30 a.m.  I attended the "DNA Panel on How is it Redefining our Industry?" with Scott Fisher, Diahan Southard and Judy Russell.  The moderator asked questions about data matches, ethical issues, cloud systems, legal impediments, sharing DNA data, the loss of the SMGF test results, competitiveness in the field, and big developments in the next five years.

5)  At 12 noon, I grabbed my box lunch (roast beef sandwich, chips, cookie, M&Ms), and found a seat in the hall for the Innovator Showdown where the semi-finalists each had about four minutes to describe their project and answer questions from five judges onstage.  The 12 semi-finalists were:

*  FamiCity - interactive timeline program.
*  GenSoup - a tree program to research and document family history.
*  JRNL - a journaling app.
*  Kindex - indexing software for family papers and artifacts.
*  TapGenes - a family health tree app.
*  The History Project - "Memories come to life."
*  AncestorCloud - marketplace for family discoveries
*  Legacyscribes - a journaling app in the cloud.
*  Scribbitt - expansive journaling.
*  Legacy Republic - scanning photo albums with an album scanner.
*  Family History Guide - a FamilySearch and genealogy learning and training site.
*  Twile - interactive timeline of family history.

6)  The Innovator Showdown ended at about 1:30 p.m., and I had nothing on my schedule for the next hour, so I hung out with geneabloggers and finally went back to the hotel room to do some blogging (I got the compendium started) and took a nap.

7)  At 5:30 p.m., Linda and I went to the Registration desk and got her badge, then we went to the Media Dinner at 6 p.m.  There were at least 100 in attendance.  It was a nice chicken dinner, with salad and dessert, and we had a good discussion with Judy Russell and Steve Anderson, and several other FamilySearch folks.  Steve Rockwood talked about creating and disseminating new family history technology, discussed the RootsTech attendance (about 25,000 total, including about 4,000 youth), plus the 125,000 viewing the livestreaming classes and 250,000 expected to see classes on Family Discover Days around the world.  He also highlighted the coming Keynote speakers.

The six Innovator Showdown finalists were announced as:

*  Ancestor Cloud
*  Studio by Legacy Republic
*  TapGenes
*  The History Project
*  Twile

They also announced a #RootsTechforever contest sponsored by Forever, Inc. to use the gifted selfie sticks to take selfie photographs and enter them into the contest.

8)  At 8:30 p.m. we headed back to the hotel room.  I wrote this post, and will work a bit more tonight.

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Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver

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