Monday, 14 February 2011

Rootstech seen distantly via tweets

The Rootstech conference in Salt Lake City is over. Participants are dispersing. All I'm seeing is favourable comments, people committing to return, and folks who didn't go saying they intend to next year.

I've been casually following the event on Twitter, a few blog posts, and watched one webinar that fit into my schedule.

I doubt that I was able to read about more than a fraction of the many technological goodies on display and the announcements. One that did especially catch my attention, through tweets from Audrey Collins , was a session on "Digitizing the British Newspaper archives" given by Chris van der Kuyl who is CEO of Brightsolid. 

Paraphrasing Audrey's tweets, in a project the company sees as high risk it will be digitizing material from the British Library newspaper repository for pre-1902 regional and specialist newspapers.  Five specialist scanners will digest a page in 16 seconds, up to size A0, 24-bit colour, 400dpi, 8k pages a day, 1.6 TB a day total. They are seeking feedback from the genealogy community.

Hopefully Audrey will eventually have more detail on her blog The Family Recorder

It's passing strange that the information conveyed from one Brit to another in Salt Lake City.

There were a number of tweets along the lines of "technology will kill off societies", "with more of these types of conferences and virtual access, genealogy societies are becoming extinct", "if your society is producing a print publication, you are delivering an inferior, outdated product". and "Get on the bus or be left in the dust."

There's a kind of group-think that takes hold when self-selected enthusiasts gather. They're inclined to see the world the same way, and hearing interesting ideas eloquently expressed leads the group further along the selected pathway.

Let's not forget that there are many members of local family history societies who are not technology mavens and don't want to be. Even more are interested in technology as a tool to use in pursuing their family history passion, not as a passion in and of itself. Family history societies that go overboard on the technology part of IT and lose sight of the fact that it's the genealogy part most of us are interested in, risk seeing a substantial reduction in membership as people are turned off.  

For the time being providing hard copy print publications are essential, not an "inferior outdated product." The joy of today's technology is that there's no reason why societies can't provide a choice between electronic and hard copy publication versions.

For another distant view of Rootstech, one with a more analytical view, see Randy Seaver's article here.


Amy Coffin, MLIS said...

The opinions I expressed are my own. I did not "self-select" to participate in group think.

Do what works for you. I had the opportunity to attend the RootsTech unconference on societies and technology, and it was clear that many expressed that their numbers were declining as they struggled to get the word out about their events. If you don't have a web site, and email address, or other online avenues, how do you get the word out?

You say technology may turn some potential members away from joining societies. Perhaps some are turned off because of a lack of technology use as well. That was also brought up in the unconference.

Randy Seaver said...

Hi John,

I'm on both sides in this one. Because the non-techies will eventually die off, and societies will have to do more to attract the techies in order to survive. The time to start working that is now, but the payoff is out quite a few years, I think.

My guess of 85/14/1 for breakdown in the three genie worlds may look like 50/45/5 in 20 years and 20/60/20 in 40 years. Your guess is as good as mine! Still a good chunk of folks there for traditional research.

The key for societies will be, I think, to try to attract both ends to the other view, and offer something for everybody. It may be one "traditional" meeting and one "technology" meeting each month, or a number of special interest groups.

Cheers -- Randy