RootsTech: Technology Finds a Niche in Genealogy


  1. Mariann Regan
    Mariann Regan March 22, 2013 at 8:30 pm .

    Thank you for all the thought and care that went into this post! All those intersecting apps that you describe (or perhaps one large App) sound very exciting. It would be so cool to factor in all those bits of data and metadata at once. I like that vision.

    But the following sentence I can’t really agree with: “Who’s going to start writing the applications that generate the stories directly from the records or present the data in a mystery solving interface?”

    Apps can only generate canned sentences, or formulaic plots. That one little gal or one little guy — that’s who has to create the story, in the end. Good storytelling takes imagination, one’s own life experience, the ability to craft a good sentence, make believable dialogue, search for the surprising but true metaphor . . . and that’s just for a start. A friend of mine just published a family history from University of Nebraska press, and she calls her work a “non-fiction novel.” Take a look on amazon if you want — Opa Nobody, by Sonya Huber.

    Writing stories is making meaning, and I believe that only people can turn facts into meaning. Not that I want to start an argument with you, heaven knows! I’m just “another country heard from,” as Joseph Heller might say. : ))

    1. caelm
      caelm March 22, 2013 at 9:27 pm .

      Never underestimate the power of what a computer can do in the future. These applications exist today. How good are they? I don’t know. But I’m not talking about fiction. I believe that an app could present a interesting account of a persons life – it depends on the expert behind the software and their ability to convert storytelling to program code. It doesn’t even have to be perfect. The next generation is used to ‘good enough’.

      My point in the article is that the next generation wants to engage with family history via the story. We, the older generation, can write the stories, but we would taking away an element of discovery. The story has to unfold as the next generation digs deeper. The interface needs to craft the story based on the direction of the users interest. It needs to be dynamic.

      You won’t get an argument from me. I love to write. I would hate to be displaced by software, but it happens. Technology will at some point impact every profession.

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