Thursday, February 17, 2011

Open Thread Thursday - Rootstech

Unlike 3000 lucky individuals, I did not get to attend Rootstech 2011.  As an IT professional, I would really have enjoyed the intersection of my profession and one of my main hobbies.  I did participate via Twitter and the live sessions online, and I thank the Rootstech organizers for arranging those! 

Many are the comments about the music and rock-star trappings of Rootstech.  Actually, this is much more common in technology conferences, and has been for some time.  It's nice to see the tech side waking up the genealogy side.  I think this plays into the other comments I've seen about genealogists' use of technology, and I think you'll see a rapid adoption of technological solutions by genealogists who have previously not paid much attention to it.  I  also think you'll see some folks left behind as they refuse to move into the 21st century.  Hopefully someone will rescue their data!

The live online programming went hand-in-hand with the Twitter feed, as dozens of people tweeted their reactions to the speakers in real-time.  It appeared to me that most of those folks were getting the same message as I was, kudos to the speakers for getting their points clearly across.  I did note some commentary about Curt Wichter's previous statements about a "Digital Dark Age", and many people seemed to think that he meant technology was failing and we wouldn't have it.  On the contrary, he was talking about the fragility of digital storage, whether it be obsolete formats for which we no longer have hardware to read the data (which has happened, to NASA!) or the breakdown of the media (CD-ROMs are failing to live up to original manufacturers' claims).  He was saying we need to be aware of this, and frequently update our data to newer media and formats to ensure we can continue to read it.  In any case, his talk at Rootstech was very well received, and it's obvious he's quite passionate about genealogy.

One of the more important things discussed at Rootstech is the GEDCOM standard and what to do about its obsolescence.  Randy Seaver has been testing and demonstrating how poorly GEDCOM serves when transferring data between different genealogy software over at his Genea-Musings blog.  The BetterGEDCOM group is discussing ways to improve GEDCOM or create a newer standard that can be maintained.  FamilySearch itself has now revealed they are looking at moving forward with some improvement.  Hopefully the community and vendors can come to an agreement that will let all software function with all other software to make our data easily transferable between products.

Twitter was clearly, in my opinion, the technology of the conference.  In fact, well before, and long after the conference, the Twitter stream continued to buzz with comments tagged by the #Rootstech flag.  I think I added about 20 followers during the conference, and I know a good dozen or so also added me to their stream.  So, even though I didn't get there in person, I still got to meet a few of you!