Wednesday, 1 February 2012
Rootstech minus one - the calm before the storm
This is the last day before Rootstech, and I am not the only one trying to get some research done in the Family History Library before it all kicks off tomorrow, in my case starting with a breakfast meeting at 7:15 - if I tell myself it's really 2:15pm (GMT) it's not so bad. It will be good training for the 7:30 breakfast on Friday! I weakened this morning and had one of the hot cinnamon rolls in JB's, that I have managed to resist for the last week. Just in case there isn't enough fat and sugar in it for you, they serve it with a big ball of butter (no, I didn't, since you ask). I'll be out of temptation's way for the next few days as I'm moving hotels, to the Hampton, where they don't do don't serve them.
On Friday we (Jill Ball, Amy Coffin and me) present our panel discussion on Web 2.0 and social networking in genealogy. I have to report that it has already been very much in evidence these last few days, principally in facilitating genealogists' dinner arrangements. I had intended to have a quiet night in last night, planning today's research, when I saw on Facebook that there was a big table with some empty spaces at the Copper Canyon girl in the Radisson, anyone want to come over? I was there in 5 minutes. I had a very pleasant dinner with, among others, arch-Geneablogger Thomas McEntee who apparently has a hot-tub. The things you learn over dinner!
Seriously, sites like Twitter and Facebook are an ideal way for people to keep in touch and find each other when there are literally thousands of us spread between several hotels, the Family History Library, the Salt Palace Convention Center and (be honest) the Gateway shopping mall. Most of these places have free wi-fi. Phones are all very well, but trying to contact groups by text or voice messages would be much more time-consuming. And it's not ALL about dinner arrangements, there will be un-conferencing sessions again at Rootstech, and social media are ideal for spreading the word instantly when someone comes up with a really good idea.
With the fantastic speed of technological change in the last decade or two, it strikes me that genealogists are doing what they used to do, but the opposite way round. We used to go to meetings, in venues of lvarying quality, and then make contact by phone or letter with people at a distance who shared our interests. Then some adventurous societies took advantage of new technology to set up websites, newsgroups and the like. Now an online community of some kind is where many genealogists meet for the first time, making contact on the basis of shared interests rather than shared geography. But the virtual world on its own is not enough, and 'virtual' friends are eager to arrange 'tweet-ups' when they are all headed for a single location, be it Rootstech, WDYTYA Live or some other gathering. I have genuinely lost count of the number of people I already knew quite well online before I met them face to face. And I have some 'geni-mates' to coin Jill Ball's wonderful phrase, where I can't remember how we first met, online or in person. It's all getting to be quite seamless, and I think that's a good thing.