Although attending the RootsTech Technology Genealogy Conference was the reason I went to Salt Lake City last week, I found that the event itself was only part of my total conference experience. Some of the most rewarding sessions I attended were casual meetings in the hotel lobby, sharing a meal around a table, or trading ideas in the hallway. I tried to attend several presentations, I really did, but many were "above my pay grade" and a few were even standing-room-only.
RootsTech is billed as a "cutting edge conference" with "something for everyone," and the scope of classes attempted to take in all skill levels of genealogists and tech users. At my house, I am the IT Department. I install and upgrade software, try to fix network glitches, provide instruction, and generally stand between frustrated users and our tech equipment. But, alas, I am not a programmer. I don't speak C+, don't know NoSQL, Neo4J or Graph API. Those words kinda scare me. This made selecting sessions a bit difficult. I figured right off, that if the session title was in a foreign language, I probably should avoid it. Later, I discovered I had missed some good topics that I might have understood. Ratz.
I had also hoped to find someone at RootsTech working on a solution to crowdsource personal transcription projects. Last year I stumbled on an entire movement working to develop software for projects like Transcribe Bentham and Papers of the War Department. I didn't realize that I had been employing crowdsourcing four years ago when I enlisted my high school english students to help transcribe Arline's letters. . . but that is exactly what it was. Each person who indexes items at FamilySearch, annotates a document at Fold3, or adds information at FindAGrave is participating in a crowdsourcing project.
Ben Brumfield is a genealogist who has developed an open-source program that will allow individuals to collaborate on personal transcription projects. It's called From the Page and has tremendous potential for family historians looking to advance a personal archive project. Other crowdsourcing programs like Scripto and T-Pen seem targeted for specific projects such as medieval manuscripts or academic archive transcriptions. Ben has plans to release a version of From the Page tailor-made for projects like mine, and I can't wait to see it live.
Meanwhile, I checked out the RootsTech exhibitors looking for anyone who might have a similar feature to offer, and discovered the new Discovery Stream at Mocavo.com that might work for this use. This is an innovative idea that allows users to easily upload material. What do you say, Developers?
When I wasn't sleuthing in the Exhibit Hall or attending sessions, I was working on a few of my own research problems, namely The Case of the Disappearing Husband and Finding Fanny. I made a bit of progress on both tangles, stay tuned.