Lesson Learned and Family History Innovation

By etl_user_id_0

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the new and innovative RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City. (Check out my blog about it here.) The wide range of family history and technology developer classes was something we really haven’t seen in mainstream genealogy conferences. And the exhibit hall was hands-down the most exciting high-tech genealogy space (and most expensive!) that family historians have ever seen.

It was quite amazing considering it was a first time event for FamilySearch. As Jay Verkler commented in my interview with him, they fully expected to make a few mistakes here and there, and strive for continuous improvements. The commitment has been made: RootsTech will be an annual event, and it will just get better and better.

While FamilySearch’s RootsTech roared onto the genealogy scene, it was the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event in London (Check out my blog about it here.) that featured a simple and yet very effective technological component: hands-on computer access.

As I scoured the vast aisles of the Olympia Conference Centre, everywhere I looked attendees were not just browsing exhibits, but they were also interacting with them. While there were banks of computers provided by FamilySearch in both the Internet Café area and the Family History Library area of the exhibit hall at RootsTech, a hands on experience was not the norm at most vendor booths. Of course, the challenge for vendors is that power hookup at events like these can be quite costly, and yet exhibit stalls from the largest to the smallest seem to be able to pull it off at Who Do You Think You Are? Live.

Having the ability to put their hands on keyboards, test drive software, search for ancestors kept attendees fully engaged and prolonged their stay at each stall. The level of engagement achieved at WDYTYA? Live is a great role model for future RootsTech conferences. Perhaps FamilySearch can work to negotiate lower fees in exchange for a larger number of power and Internet hookups. As so often happens with technology, it’s the access and hardware that tend to be the biggest hurdles, as there is no lack of interest or innovation!

And speaking of innovation, check out my newest video interview with Mike Dowdle of GenerationStation. Mike is the perfect example of someone who saw a need, had an idea, and succeeded in converging technology and family history into a cool new website tool.

You can view many more videos recorded at the RootsTech 2011 conference at the the Genealogy Gems Podcast Channel at YouTube.