RootsTech 2011: Day 1

Yes­ter­day was the first day of Root­sTech, a new con­fer­ence on geneal­ogy and tech­nol­ogy held in Salt Lake City and spon­sored by Fam­il­y­Search Inter­na­tional, the geneal­ogy infor­ma­tion arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The con­fer­ence started with a lit­tle bit of con­fu­sion: It seemed that there was a rush to the reg­is­tra­tion table just prior to the keynote address. This kind of thing can be min­i­mized, of course, by open­ing reg­is­tra­tion the day before, or by send­ing all the light­weight items (tick­ets to lunches and events, lan­yard and badge) ahead of time, and then sim­ply exchang­ing one of those tick­ets for a stan­dard back­pack or lap­top case and any other schwag and late-breaking news.

In any case, the orga­niz­ers offered to let peo­ple reg­is­ter later; they were not going to check badges for the first event. This was some­thing I def­i­nitely took advan­tage of, since I didn’t want to miss the talk by Shane R. Robi­son (Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent and Chief Strat­egy and Tech­nol­ogy Offi­cer, Hewlett Packard) A World of Infor­ma­tion and Jay Verkler (CEO, Fam­il­y­Search Inter­na­tional) Turn­ing Roots, Branches, Trees into Nodes, Links, Graphs.

I am not sure what the more genealog­i­cally and less tech­no­log­i­cally minded atten­dees thought of Shane’s speech. It was a well-delivered dis­cus­sion of the future of cloud com­put­ing and glob­al­iza­tion. I found it fas­ci­nat­ing. Of course, with so much of the world so pop­u­lated, and with these other pop­u­la­tion cen­ters (China, India, Brazil) poised to dra­mat­i­cally move into more of a middle-class exis­tence, there are seri­ous chal­lenges for global sus­tain­abil­ity. I was glad to see that Mr. Robi­son had sus­tain­abil­ity in the cen­ter of his group of pri­or­i­ties for Hewlett Packard.

Mr. Verkler got up and tied this all back into geneal­ogy, point­ing out that cloud com­put­ing is hap­pen­ing in a big way already in the geneal­ogy space: All of the new Fam­il­y­Search web­site is hosted on Ama­zon EC2 servers in the cloud, not on servers Fam­il­y­Search owns itself.

Later in the day, I spent some time man­ning the NGS booth, looked around at the exhibit hall, and attended some talks. IBM has a space in the exhibit hall with games: non-virtual (pool, air hockey, chess) and vir­tual (Microsoft Kinect). They were also giv­ing away mas­sages. I also attended jQuery and Web Ser­vices, a talk by Logan Allred. He was cogent and clear. Over lunch, I heard Chris van der Kuyl of bright­solid dis­cuss Fam­ily His­tory in the Age of the Cloud. He didn’t really talk about the cloud much, but it was an inter­est­ing romp through the inter­sec­tion of tech­nol­ogy and geneal­ogy, and a good intro­duc­tion to bright­solid as a company.

Jimmy Zimmerman’s Ruby Library for Fam­il­y­Search API was also a great talk, so full of details, it was prac­ti­cally a code review. I regret to say that Barry Ewell’s talk, Dig­i­tally Pre­serv­ing Your Fam­ily Her­itage, did not impress me. He’s very knowl­edge­able about the topic, but his speak­ing style grated on me. He would start a sen­tence, stop in the mid­dle, say a cou­ple of sen­tences that were rel­e­vant to him, then fin­ish the orig­i­nal sen­tence. Maybe he was hav­ing an off day, or was a lit­tle ner­vous in the lights, but it didn’t make for a good pre­sen­ta­tion in my opin­ion. Michael Buck’s Top Ten Web Appli­ca­tions Secu­rity Risks (based on OWASP rec­om­men­da­tion) was clear, well thought out, and easy to follow.

At the end of the day, bright­solid spon­sored a Night at the Plan­e­tar­ium. There were nachos, sand­wiches, and pop­corn, but also IMAX films, as well as all the plan­e­tar­ium exhibits. A great end to the day … except that I also headed to the Fam­ily His­tory Library, which was open until 11.

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