There is no doubt that RootsTech will be an amazing conference. There are over one hundred sessions and exhibitors. This will be my first RootsTech and my initial assumption was that there would be an abundance of Tech. Looking at the syllabus, I’m not sure that will be the case.
I have to admit that I have some biases. I’m a techhead. When I think of technology, I think of science fiction. What does the future have in store for genealogy? If you say that all the records are now digital, I might yawn and ask – what took so long. While being digital is an aspect of technology, it is old news.
If we look at the 60 sessions scheduled for Thursday, by my count there appears to be a 50-50 split between Roots and Tech. Of that Tech, more than half is old tech. Tools that have been around for a decade are finally becoming popular in genealogy. Variations on the theme – digitize, digitize, digitize.
What does new technology look like? Websites that act like applications and allow you to do all your genealogy on the internet (in the cloud). This is a form of Web 2.0 that has been talked about for a decade. Ancestry.com is an excellent example. The problem is that by the time all the web gets to a 2.0 quality it will be too late, that ship will have sailed. The new best place to be is in mobile apps. Mobile devices will outsell all other types of computers.
Social genealogy is already getting long in the tooth. The time is ripe for collaborative genealogy. We are really one big family. There only needs to be one big family tree that we should all work on together. Geni.com and FamilySearch.org are both in the business of creating a single tree. By collaborating, we can build the tree faster and more accurately. Collaborative genealogy actually hurts many business models – especially subscription or license based companies. Expect some push back there.
There are some great DNA companies in the marketplace and they are making huge advances in the tests and results. What is lacking is the analysis of those results. The best DNA tech is coming from those folk on the fringes creating technology that may be incorporated by the big DNA companies someday. DNA test results analysis is not represented at RootsTech.
If I were a baby-boomer just starting genealogy, these sessions will feel futuristic. If I were part of the next generation there is an expectation that everything is an app and social and collaborative.
Having implemented new technology my entire career, I know that we have to tread carefully. Technology can make some people feel redundant and at the same time make others feel empowered. This upcoming first day of RootsTech 2013 brings a fine balance of technology for the majority. Folks like me may not get their tech fix, but perhaps I will be surprised.
Stay tuned as I give you RootsTech from a techhead point of view.