Wednesday, February 16, 2011

RootsTech 2011: My report to management

When asked to give feedback to the organizers of RootsTech 2011, Ol' Myrt here has decided to post the info here for my DearREADERS to gain a better understanding about how RootsTech worked. I'll then just send the link to officials at

With a seven month lead time, a new concept in a technology / genealogy conference actually came to fruition. The conference was a big hit with attendees. We are all planning to come back next year. Thanks to the virtual presentations, others caught the vision of what RootsTech is all about. Many have expressed their plans to attend next year.

These are the feedback questions I was to consider:
At the conference:
1. What went well in 2011? Include how you observed others respond and identify what contributed to the overall success of the event.
2. What are opportunities for improvement?
3. What lessons did you learn that should be considered in next year's planning?
4. Were the needs of the conference attendees met? If not, how?
5. What content was missing from this year's program that would have improved the attendee's experience (technology creator or technology user content)

Overall considerations:
6. Whether you plan on being involved in RootsTech next year or not, please propose at least two names of individuals who you feel would best fill a critical need or role (people included on this e-mail may also be candidates).
7. If you were involved in RootsTech 2012, what would you like your responsibilities to include? What would you need to help you be successful? (include timelines, number of committee members, etc., as it is appropriate for/relevant to your response)
8. Write a brief description of how you would successfully accomplish the role mentioned in the question above.
9. Finally, what do you envision your involvement level (if any) for RootsTech 2012?

The following are my candid thoughts, and include some input from other conference attendees.

RootsTech is an essential component of genealogical conference-going.
  • Providing a keynote each day, with virtual broadcasts was a big hit. Add more virtual broadcasts next year.
  • Though wi-fi wasn't available in the exhibit hall, the internet cafe and FamilySearch workstations provided some relief.
  • Placing bloggers in the center position of the exhibit hall made it easier for us to keep up, and for vendors to spot when we were available for impromptu interviews.
  • NGS and FGS ought to combine, and not replicate each other's classes and presenters. Meet in the late summer, then have RootsTech be the "other" conference each year for great diversity in presentations.
  • It was unclear from the schedule which classes were strictly "how-to" for end-users. (Who reads those descriptive paragraphs on the back pages of the program on the fly when another session is full?)
  • Not enough hands-on workshops. 
  • Make sure that hands-on workshops have limits, so those who registered online won't be disappointed when they get to the room and there is standing room only.
  • How about having us print our own attendance badges much as we do with airplane tickets?
  • Use bar codes readers at special sessions like those hands-on workshops requiring preregistration.
From a presenters point of view, interface with RootsTech organizers could be improved.
  • Placing computer technology gurus like Stephen Morse, the father of the 8086 processor, during the last hour in a day, and shortening his sessions to a hour each painfully pointed out how the "Utah genealogy think tank" is either unaware of or does not honor outside talent over its own as it should.
  • The online schedule was disastrous, with double-booking, and the big miss-match to the "inside" schedule facing someone who went a step farther and actually registered. Consequently, speakers and attendees didn't know until we arrived and had the printed program in hand exactly what our schedule for the conference would be.
  • Requiring presenters to use the limited capability laptops at the podiums wasn't reasonable. Change-outs to our own computers proved problematic when the recording folks weren't immediately available to every session.
  • Contracts for presenters should provide for a greater than 5-7 day turn-around for submitting handouts.
  • Require that bio and photos are returned with the contract and permission to record , to eliminate a flurry of email. Provide space for your presenters to upload directly. 
  • Please don't send email to us on Saturdays, when we're typically presenting, with a deadline of Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week.
  • A private wiki for presenters & conference planners would be more useful than relying on email communications.
  • The audio and video interview recording booths with registration for use worked well. 
  • The video recording of my interview with Brester Kahle hasn't been given to me yet. There is no information about how to obtain that copy on the website. The policy should be listed on the RootsTech website.
  • The archive of the RootsTech 2011 virtual presentations isn't available, and should be 3 business days after the close of the event. Capturing the interest is a matter of time. Let's get going on this.
  • RootsTech 2011 is still on the website, and should be replaced with 2012 info, even if it is only a "TBA" page holder.

So, do I recommend going forward with RootsTech on an annual basis? YES. An emphatic YES.

I decline to provide a time line or make recommendations. The folks I know best are not in the business of creating conferences. Conference planning and conference presenting are two distinct talents.

I am still considering how I wish to participate in RootsTech  2-4 Feb 2012. The focus of my DearMYRTLE blog is to assist beginning genealogists with their research; embracing technology is an important component. However, the more techie side of Ol' Myrt wishes to participate in discussions about how programmers define a "person," how data is shared end-user to end-user, and what new tools are available to help researchers get the word out about their ancestors. So I am perplexed.

I would like to spend more time in un-conferencing sessions and not present five times as I did this year. Tweeting, blogging and video interviewing as I did was just about right. However, I didn't go to the Night at the Planetarium because I was simply too exhausted - happily exhausted - and very anxious to prepare for the next day's events. Keep raising the bar, RootsTech. You guys rock!

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. I didn't attend this year, but sure plan to next year--with my husband. I've followed it very blog pots, followed the tweets, watched interviews, enjoyed the photos and all the recaps. And I certainly agree with your directive to post the online presentations within 3 days after the close of RootsTech. I'm still waiting because I've recommended them to many others! Stay on them, DearMYRT! You did some great interviews. Thank you so much!

  2. Attending next year is a goal for me, but realistically it's more likely to not happen than to happen.

    However, I would be very interested in paying to see presentation streamed to me via the internet. This year's streams were an eye opener on several levels - the content, and the technology - eg knowing that I was watching at the same time as others, and following along with the Twitter and facebook added to the experience.

    Payment for streaming could be on a per seminar basis, but probably more ideally on a per session basis - $2 or $5 or perhaps even $10 per session would be doable at my side, and with potentially thousands of virtual attendees, ought to make it more than doable on the Seminar side. Have a few free ones and charge for some of the other ones.

  3. I agree with Kiwi. I would love to see more online streaming next year...just in case I can't make it. Thank you for providing your feedback directly to your readers. That's one of the big reasons I am a fan, you are always thinking of us first.

  4. Thanks for sharing "your report". All that I have read makes me sad I did not attend. I was unable to attend any of the virtual presentations on the days they were given and I am anxious to see them online.
    Keep up your great work. I feel blessed to be part of the genealogical community because there are no better people in the whole world!!