Friday, 11 August 2006

Dick Eastman's Maiden Skypecast

I spent an interesting hour last evening sharing an online conference experiment with Dick Eastman, who needs no introduction from me, and 20 some others. It used the Skype system to link us all together. Several of the participants, including Dick, have already blogged about the experience.

Dick had done an admirable job up front in managing participant's expectations. He positioned it as a trial of the technology rather than an exchange of substantive information. That's exactly the way it turned out. I had a bit of trouble finding my way through the technological and administrative maze to get connected. Once I did the connection was solid.

Dick was able to turn individual microphones on and off, or mute everyone except himself. It was a blessing. Many people had background noise which was picked up and shared across the network, so muting their microphones meant much better quality sound.

Megan Smolenyak, who I thank for prodding me to blog this, raised the issue of where we go with this technology. She was too modest to offer a mini-lecture on DNA, although personally I'd welcome such an offer. I'd particularly like to know if she has any updates to her ideas in the What's Next chapter of her Trace Your Roots with DNA book. If that kind of mini-lecture is given it would be nice to also have some visual aids online to browse at the same time.

Another more democratic approach would be to ask participants to come with one or two "this may be news to you" items. There are developments all around the world which may or may not have content of direct relevance to others at the meeting, but which can spark ideas that can be adopted or adapted elsewhere. There was even a little bit of that with a brief exchange on the familysearch.org indexing projects, surely one of the most exciting initiatives in development. In Canada we have already benefited from a similar initiative in that we now have a freely accessible fully indexed census for 1901, and partial indexing for 1906 and 1911. Find these at the Automated Genealogy web site.

Thank you Dick for your initiative. There will be another trial next Thursday at 10pm EDT. See Dick's site for details.

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