SALT LAKE CITY—If you missed the popular inaugural RootsTech 2011 conference, you can now at least get a sampling of what all the excitement was about. The wildly popular new technology and family history conference held last month in Salt Lake City, Utah, made its keynote addresses and a few other popular presentations available online today free of charge. The six free presentations can be viewed at RootsTech.org.
“The scope of the RootsTech conference was unique. We wanted to try to fulfill a need to bring technology users (family history buffs and anyone interested in genealogy) and technology creators (developers, programmers, engineers) together in a unique, fun environment to collaborate and move the genealogy industry forward through technology,” said Anne Roach, RootsTech conference chair. And bring them together it did.
The inaugural conference, hosted by FamilySearch, was a runaway success. With over 3,000 in-person attendees and another 4,500 attending remotely over the Internet, it was arguably one of the largest genealogy-related conferences ever held in the country. In-person attendees hailed from 42 states and 15 countries. Some came from as far away as China, New Zealand, Australia, Namibia, and Israel.
Paul Nauta, RootsTech public relations chair, reported that there were over 40 bloggers in attendance. “Between online articles, blog posts, and nonstop tweets, the online community was buzzing 24 hours a day during the conference and for weeks following—and amazingly, articles and tweets are still going strong,” noted Nauta.
The new conference was pulled together quickly by industry standards—in about 6 months. “The fact that we were able to attract as many conference goers as we did in such a short amount of time testifies to the interest there is in technology and family history,” said Roach. “And we’ve put the videos of the keynotes and other presentations online for free to give others a chance to share in the RootsTech experience; to give them a taste of what they can expect for 2012,” added Roach.
A highlight of the conference was the extensive community networking—community zone (exhibit hall), collaboration stations, and unconferencing sessions. These integrated features produced an open conference atmosphere that seemed to be ideal to introduce technology creators to genealogy technology users and to foster discussions, learning, collaboration, and future industry developments.
Unconferencing sessions—impromptu, participant-driven discussion forums that promote brainstorming, the sharing of ideas, and innovation—were totally new to genealogy attendees, but were more familiar to the technologists. Attendees took advantage of unconferencing sessions to discuss user needs with technology developers and to brainstorm new ideas and solutions. “People emerged from these [unconferencing sessions] with eyes sparkling, and I overheard several people describing conversations between developers and genealogists that left both feeling validated and motivated,” said Polly FitzGerald Kimitt, an attendee and author of Pollyblog.
The RootsTech 2012 conference is scheduled for February 2–4 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In addition to the six video presentations mentioned above, video interviews of other conference speakers and developers can be watched at Genealogy Gems YouTube.
(With thanks to Paul Nauta)
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