RootsTech 2013

2013-04-15 12.10.40 pmIt has been about a month since I attended RootsTech. I wanted to let the dust settle a bit before I wrote about it. It was an enjoyable trip. As a mom of two kids, ages 10 and 12, it was a nice break from reality. Grandpa came and took care of the kids so my husband and I could attend. The best part was not having to worry if everyone had eaten or had their homework done.

The second best part was when we checked in at the conference hotel, we were told that the organizers of RootsTech had arranged for free self-parking and a free breakfast buffet every morning! That alone saved my husband and I around $200. What a deal! We also frequented a  restaurant that was new to us, the Blue Lemon. It had healthy food with gluten-free options that were reasonably priced and not at all far away from the conference center and library.

The conference itself was full of energy. If you’ve read anything about RootsTech (everyone else has already blogged about it by now) I’m sure you know that it was the biggest one yet with over 6,700 attendees! There were people I knew there that I never saw! It was very exciting and full of great ideas, forward thinkers and new products. I am going to highlight a few of my favorite programs or products beyond the big sponsors and obvious happenings of the conference, which have already been written about:

  • D. Joshua Taylor gave a very interesting program on “Gaming and Virtual Realities: Attracting the Next Generation of Genealogists” which highlighted some very intriguing comparisons between gamers and genealogists, probably most profound is that each group can sit at a screen and “waste” hours of time every day, yet neither feels like it is a waste of time. Also, each group, when they get really into it, keep amazing records. I know gamers who will keep detailed notes about how to solve the games or strategies that have worked, etc. Doesn’t that sound like a genealogist’s research log?
  • Evidentia was there showcasing their exciting new software that guides your research through the genealogical proof standard. You can download a free 30-day trial (for MAC or PC) at: http://ed4becky.com/products/evidentia/
  • Kin2 is still in Beta but it has some great potential to be a fun website. It uses Facebook connections and a large celebrity database to find out who you are related to and how. Currently there’s no gedcom upload possibilities yet, but when I spoke with the representative at the booth, he said that was one of the first things they would be implementing. Also, this site has some very cool pedigree charts, very modern looking and not at all like your basic pedigree chart.
  • Another new product that is “coming summer 2013” is HalfTale.com. It is sort of a collaborative blogging, family history, oral history tool. It is hard to describe, however the tour I was given had me very excited. Often I will email a relative and ask them a simple question “Do you know what happened to grandpa’s military uniform and medals?” to which I will get a several paragraph reply with all kinds of memories about that question and others. This site will be a way to collaboratively answer those questions and create “walls” or “pages” on various ancestors that many family members can contribute to. It’s not available yet, but you can sign up for a beta test account.

The worst part: the internet was either incredibly slow or at capacity and you couldn’t get on at all. For being a “tech” conference, you’d think they would plan on a lot of internet-ready gadgets. I like to look at the websites the speakers are showing, while they are talking, and was completely unable to. In addition, the hotel internet was very, very slow. So connectivity was limited for the week. Another aspect that was something of a let down for us, most of the sessions we attended seemed to be a bit basic for the level we are at. My husband, who is a developer, felt like many of the sessions he attended did not go into the depth he expected or would have liked to have attended. Personally, I attended several that were marked with “I” for intermediate in the program and felt that they were more like beginner level sessions. I struggled to find sessions that challenged me and brought me completely new ideas.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience. I enjoyed the exhibit hall the most, learning about new products, services, and learning opportunities as well as talking to other genealogists, developers, speakers and other collaborators. Next year, Rootstech will take place on February 6-8, 2014 again in the Salt Palace. I am looking forward to hopefully attending again with my hubby! We had a great time.

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