Last week Stanczyk attended Roots Tech 2012. The Roots Tech conference was started in 2011 and was attended by 3,000 people. Their concept was to mash-up genealogy Users & Developers in one conference and see what would happen — a grand experiment. I missed the first one so I cannot compare 2012 with 2011, except to note that there was 40% increase in attendance — since 2012 had roughly 4,200 registered attendees.
Now I have been to genealogy conferences before. Most are smaller, much smaller and not held in Convention Centers. This conference was also higher energy/excitement. So what were the highlights from this year’s mash-up ?
Vision / Keynotes
Jay Verkler delivered the day 1 keynote and as I have written before he was the most effective speaker and laid out the vision for our hobby (uh industry) in a highly charged and entertaining fashion. A genealogical visionary — he should work for Apple.
Josh Coates was another impressive keynoter, who delivered the day 2 talk. His theme was Big Space and talked about Exabyte monsters. It was funny and erudite. It reminded me very much of Isaac Asimov’s essays collected into his book, “Assimov on Numbers” and in particular his essay on large numbers, entitled “T-Formation“. Josh’s only failure was to tailor his talk to the genealogical audience and topics. He was a very humorous speaker and his intelligence is unimpeachable.
There was a third day’s keynote from Ancestry.com but I did not like form nor the function of their address, although they did have some nice technology to demo. Perhaps they should stick to demoing what is new or coming. The talking panel format (for a keynote ??) is dead [date of death: 4-Feb-2012, place of death: Salt Lake City, UT].
- Google, their concept of the future and their yet to be released widget Microcode (a Chrome browser plug-in)
- Steve Morse and his tried and true presentations. I was able to glean some more knowledge from this genius.
- Dallan Quass was a surprise. His efforts to deliver an open source parser for GEDCOM files was impressive.
- The RootsTech 2012 smart phone App (liked my Apple iPhone version) – awesome, groundbreaking
- FamilySearch and their Cross Platform talk on developing for iOS / Android platforms and for demoing their mobile indexing app built from that tool — impressive
- Brooke Ganz and her LeafSeek concept of using Apache Solr / Solarium to deliver home grown databases. She was one of the Developer Challenge winners and demonstrated how Fold3 or FamilySearch deliver their magic for searching within a result set. Very similar to how Data Marts slice/dice data and result sets.
- The End Users who were really great Tech Warriors loaded down with tablets, smart phones, and laptops amongst an array of other technologies. Apple & Google should be proud at their market penetration in the Genealogy world. Samsung too had some space claiming the middle ground between tablet and tiny smart phones.
- The Many presenters who provided at least one piece of the tech puzzle or genealogical puzzle or publishing puzzle for your family history to an audience eager to go home and try some things
Lowlights (not many, nor greatly diminishing)
- No Apple as a sponsor or innovator in this space which seems to have a great many Apple customers. Uh, Tim Cook you should know that Google, Microsoft & Dell were at RootsTech. Someone forward Mr Cook the memo please.
- The Roots Tech App – not having the syllabuses/papers for the presentations available through the app. The abstract was not enough to decide what session to see.
- Surprisingly some presenters did not provide even an abstract. They should not be allowed to present if they do not provide an abstract/syllabus/paper available for prior dissemination to attendees.
- Salt Palace WiFi – great when up, frustrating when down — makes using tablets a problem
- The Developer Challenge Winners should have had their winning Apps demonstrated in Expo Hall and promoted in the Roots Tech App (after the awards were given). Roots Tech Planning Committee take note.
- Developer presenters who did not explain their acronyms / terms in case the audience was trying to learn the technology or concepts of the session.
I was pleasantly surprised that Roots Tech streamed some sessions. That was a positive thing to encourage future participation. I was also surprised that there were ASL signers for the deaf at some sessions — nice outreach. I hope they keep the Late Night At The Library going — some stayed until midnight (this jester wilted about 9:45).