13 February 2014

RootsTech Friday

Friday opened with Judy Russell! If you don't know who she is then you need to. She is The Legal Genealogist and she keeps everyone involved with family history and genealogy OUT OF TROUBLE! No kidding, just follow her blog, on Facebook, or Google+ or any other way you can.

Did you realize that in just three generations your family history can be lost forever? It is vitally important to do reasonably exhaustive searching for your ancestors and document with complete source citations. You analyze your data for accuracy and resolve conflicts; then create sound written conclusions. This is just the basics of proven standards of research. She used a great example of a single document noting a brother that had been killed in 1776. That is the ONLY record of this brother. You pretty much know about your grandparents, but does your grandchild? Only you can take the facts and add your recollections to let your children and grandchildren know firsthand what you experienced.

Sad to say, but I was not familiar with Dr. Spencer Wells (nee, Rush Spencer Wells IV and that was a funny story, too.) from the National Geographic's Genographic Project. A geneticist, author, and documentary film maker, he captivated me! With the Genographic Project, he and other scientists around the world are working to capture a genetic snapshot of humanity. Not that I fully understood his research but his presentation is worth re-watching. His research will only get better with the exponential increase in DNA testing, but already has helped to understand the role of YDNA and it's ability to trace ancestral human migration. By the way, according to DNA research the majority of us came from Africa!

As the day progressed, many rushed from class to class picking up new ideas and getting a refresher on others. Mostly, because there was so much going on in the Expo Hall, I talked to people about their experience at RootsTech and I interviewed vendors. I found very, very few non-positive comments from attendees except finding an occasional class they attended that just wasn't for them, but not much else except for tired feet! (mine included) Those new to RootsTech were having a fantastic time and those returning remarked about how much better the whole conference was -- easy registration, classrooms that had seats, plenty of room in the Expo Hall to move around, over 50% new vendors, better classes, access to wi-fi, and NO STAIRS to contend with. Room temperatures seemed to be better, also. A few warm people and a few cold, but overall just right. That's BIG for a conference hall.

Mobile APP
The only thing I think that was not quite as good as last year was the mobile app. If you sent a message to someone from the 'connect' tab, there was no notification for the recipient unless they went to the page as if they were going to send a message. That was frustrating and rather useless. This year we could NOT SEE who was attending. You had to know or remember the exact spelling of someone's name or how they entered it at registration to even find their listing.

The other big thing to me on the app was the loss of being able to enter more than one class into a time slot. If you went to a class and realized that this just wasn't what you could benefit from and wanted to go to another class you didn't readily have a second choice already in your schedule. You had to go back to the sessions and read what other classes were going on and then locate that class. This was a real time waster.

If you went to the exhibitor page and then tried to look at the map from there the popup didn't line up with the map. So until you realized that, you were always looking for that vendor in the same place -- the center of the Expo Hall.

I did like the ability to sort the sessions by Track, Level, Category an Day. That was a good thing, especially for newbies. I found that some newbies to RootsTech knew more than they thought they did and were able to bump up to higher level classes. Hopefully, next year, the app will include the best of both the 2013 and the 2014 apps.

Expo Hall
There was so much for people to do in the Expo Hall without even attending specific classes. The Demo Theater had classes all day long about every 15 minutes or so. That was a real treat for someone who doesn't like to sit for an  hour. And the seats were great! Before and after...

I can't say enough good about many of the vendors, especially since half of them were new to RootsTech this year. So many of them were prepared, actively engaging attendees and providing excellent knowledge of their products. They were able to show people why they couldn't live without their product. On the other hand, many were willing to say "this really isn't going to give you what you need." I wish they were all like that. The worst thing a vendor can do is sit behind their table and wait for someone to ask a question.

Christa Cowan from Ancestry.com teaching from the heart and making people smile!

If you want to review the taped sessions from Friday's activities click here.