RootsTech observations from a Home Viewer

It seems that the whole genealogy community is buzzing about the recent RootsTech conference – and with good reason! I was one of the unfortunate many who could not attend the conference live, but was able to catch a bit of the excitement by watching several of the presentations that were streamed live on the internet. So here goes with some general observations.

Cloud computing was a huge topic in the sessions that I saw online. This included using the cloud for backups, synchronization, collaboration and storage of family trees. I’ve always been a little distrustful of “the cloud,” but I was convinced to take a few more steps in that direction – or at least check it out in more detail. As an example, I know that a lot of people use dropbox for their genealogy data, but I’ve been hesitant. Hearing all the conference talk, however, prompted me to do a google search which showed a product called SecretSync that encrypts files prior to uploading to dropbox. This gets around some of the concerns people are expressing with the dropbox privacy policy. It probably isn’t necessary to SecretSync every file before adding it to drop box, but I will probably do this for any information I consider personal or sensitive. On the other hand, I didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling about Geni. I still plan to keep my primary genealogy database on my PC and upload a subset to the various tree sites.

In viewing the presentations, I also realized that I’m under-utilizing some important resources – especially maps. LegacyFamilyTree has built-in mapping based on Bing. But I have been unable to get it to work on my relatively new Windows 7 computer. The LegacyFamilyTree website says that their mapping requires IE7. I don’t use IE, but have version 8 installed on my computer. I am reluctant to go back to version 7. After seeing some of the RootsTech presentations, I’m going to look into using GoogleEarth tours and possibly some basic mapping with GoogleMaps. It won’t be integrated with Legacy, but I guess you can’t have everything. :(

While I enjoyed each and every presentation that I saw, the topic that got me most excited was the Google presentation segment on Historical-data.org. In a nutshell, this is a way to add semantic information to a web page in order for the search engines to better assess it’s relevance to a “genealogy search.” I even went so far as to start to update one of my obituary web pages by defining my ancestor Augustus Bechtel as an HistoricalPerson. I did this after the Historical-data.org schema definitions were touched upon in the Day 1 keynote address. I wasn’t sure how to define the HistoricalDates and felt vindicated when watching the Google presentation on Day 2, when the speaker said even the large companies they were working with struggled with this. They  (Google, et al) are promising to add examples to the Historical-data.org blog, and you can just bet that I am now subscribed and waiting for that post! I even put in a product enhancement suggestion for LegacyFamilyTree to add this to the webpages that Legacy generates. (Crossing fingers that they at least consider.)

That’s about it for now. As I try out some of the software and concepts, I may post follow-ups!

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4 responses to “RootsTech observations from a Home Viewer

  1. Why did you not have a warm fuzzy feeling about Geni? Asking because I am new to the cloud idea as well (understand it well just not very trusting!) and wonder about ownership issues with the trees online. Thoughts? What were you impressed with if you watched more of the presentations?

    • There were a couple of things with Geni. First, privacy. If I understood correctly, Geni will only require private profiles in the case of children under 13 – and, of course, you need to enter a birth date so that Geni can recognize which people fit that criteria. If a person is over 13, public or private is up to the person doing the entering. I think anyone who is living should be private – unless they personally opt to have a public profile. In other words, I should not be able to enter my mother (who is alive) and make her profile public. Likewise, I don’t want a distant (or not so distant) cousin entering my profile and making it public.

      The other thing that really bothers me is the flippant attitude toward sources. When the question was asked, the presenter’s response was that no sources are available in many areas of the world. Personally, I think that’s a cop out. There has to be a source of some sort – even if it’s verbal family history. How else are we going to be able to evaluate what we see on the “world tree?” Do we just assume that because someone put it in Geni it’s correct? You know what they say about garbage in, garbage out…

      Just before the Geni presentation, there was a session on new Family Search and the collaborative tree they are working on. They have great ideas for both capturing sources and making collaboration work.

  2. Just wanted to note that I use Legacy and have absolutely no problems with the mapping feature. I have IE9 installed on a Win7 laptop but use Google Chrome as my browser of choice. My understanding is that IE7 or newer has to be installed on your computer but you do not have to actually use IE. You might want to check with Legacy to see if they can work out your problem.

    • Thanks Linda! That’s good to know. I did submit a problem report to Legacy, but didn’t follow up after I saw this on their website:
      “If Mapping used to work, but now doesn’t, please make sure that you did not upgrade to Internet Explorer 8. To uninstall Internet Explorer 8 and re-install Internet Explorer 7, please do the following: ….”
      My configuration is similar to yours (Laptop with Windows7, Chrome as the default browser), so if it’s working for you with IE9, I may give that a try. I’d rather upgrade than downgrade to an older version. :) Curiously enough, I tried to bring up a map in Bing directly in IE8 and that worked?!

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