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December 11, 2011

What do RootsTech and Books Have in Common?

Question: What do Rootstech and books have in common?

Answer: Not much apparently.

Rootstech 2012 is less than two months away. I'm excited about going and being an official blogger again. But recent events have dismayed many in the genealogical community. Since I believe that my role as an official blogger is to report the news about Rootstech, here's my take on recent happenings.

Rootstech Email to Book Publishers

Leland Meitzler, a book publisher wrote  on his Genealogy Blog about not being allowed to have a booth this year. He quoted from a message he received from the Exhibit Hall Co-ordinator:

RootsTech exhibit hall is for technically related products and services. We are purposefully not accepting applications from genealogical studies, book publishers, book resellers or arts and crafts dealers.
Genealogy Community Reacts

My first reaction was disbelief. Rootstech is a genealogy-technology conference. In my mind it's about the marriage of the two, not the exclusion of one in favour of the other. 

Reaction from the genealogy community was swift. And heated. Speaking for myself I felt that some went overboard with a very hasty knee-jerk reaction. I heard cries of "boycott Rootstech!" and "what is this, 1984 and George Orwell?"

Even though I don't agree with the decision made by Rootstech organizers, let's be fair about this. Rootstech is not about banning books. They made a decision (however wrong we may think it is) to keep the exhibit hall strictly technical. That doesn't mean they are against books nor does it mean they are up to no good!

As for calls to  boycott Rootstech, that's akin to grabbing the tar and feathers without allowing the "accused" to respond.  It's the weekend. Rootstech folks work Monday to Friday. So how about waiting until they've had a chance to respond to the outcries? Let's hear what they have to say.

Rootstech Responds

In fact there has now been a response of sorts on the Rootstech Facebook page. It says, in part:

Thanks for all of your comments and concerns related to book vendors being present at RootsTech. We are listening and are going to revisit this issue. It's easy to see that a number of people don't think that excluding print products from the exhibit hall experience is the right way for RootsTech to demonstrate a focus on technology or to distinguish itself from other conferences (which I believe was the reasoning behind the decision).
Exclusion or Unity?

I think in that meeting they missed the point entirely - that Rootstech is a marriage or union of the two fields - genealogy and technology.  It's not about exclusion. It's about unity.

The response though shows me that the organizers are listening, and it explains why they made the decision to not allow book publishers in the hall. I'm glad they are going to take a closer look at that decision and I hope they will retract it.

Use the Official Bloggers as a Sounding Board

I wish they had thought to use the Rootstech official bloggers as a sounding board before going public with this decision. What a great resource they are missing out on - we bloggers in the genealogical community! Presumably we have a pretty good understanding of the wants and needs of the community.

I think they also overlooked the fact that most genealogists attending a conference expect and WANT to find books that will help them, either in their personal research or in understanding the emerging technologies!

So yes, I think Rootstech staff goofed. They also sent out their email to book publishers on a Friday and therefore weren't around to see the enfolding genealogy storm and respond to it quickly. But they sure got to see the power of social media in action! While some of the calls to action from the community were a bit over-the-top for my liking, I'm glad to see the community rally behind the book publishers and vendors.

Should the Genealogical Community Respond?

Yes. Make your opinions known. But please - let's not yell at them and call them names or make threats. Rootstech 2011 was an amazing conference. I learned a lot and I am still excited to go in 2012. My grandmother used to say "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater" - an old expression but it fits. Make your views known in a polite and concise way to Rootstech organizers. They need to know how this affects us.

But then wait for a response and try to remember that we're all human and they simply made a mistake.

And remember too that they may not reverse the original decision.  I hope they will. However even if they don't, I'm not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I'm still attending and looking forward to learning a ton of new stuff, meeting other genealogists and  having a fun and educational time.


Amy Coffin, MLIS said...

Very well said. I wish the RootsTech folks had reached out to the official bloggers as well. Our collective feedback would have been helpful.

It sounds like RootsTech would like to distinguish itself from other genealogy conferences. I support that attempt and would be happy to offer my observations and suggestions if asked.

Becky Jamison said...

Excellent post, Lorine. I'm with you...hoping they'll reconsider and allow book, craft, genealogy vendors, and not just tech vendors. But I'm looking forward to learning in the wonderful classes that will be offered and am looking forward to the conference. We're staying with relatives, got in on the initial registration discounts, and driving to Salt Lake City, so will certainly get more than our money's worth.

Linda Robbins said...

I appreciate your level headed response. I hope you will post this on the RootsTech Facebook page. How can you be sure that someone on their staff will read your blog post even if you are an official RootsTech blooger? From their RootsTech Facebook page, someone has only publically replied to Elyse Doerflinger. Yes, it is their decision to keep the vendor floor purely technologically bent. The weekend flub is unfortunate. Hopefully RootsTech will listen to all of us. Most of us as serious genealogists, whether famous or not, or whether we join a discussion at different levels of enthusiasm, deserve the respect of each other as genealogists and human beings to express our opinions as we see fit. No one wants their thoughts to be "gaggled".

Audrey Collins said...

Well said, Lorine. According to Thomas Mc Entee there is no conference chair this year, which would explain the apparent lack of direction. They've dropped a clanger, but there is still time to fix it.
Looking forward to meeting you again at Rootstech anyway.

Celia said...

although the decision itself was rather short-sighted... the biggest problem is the incredibly late reversal of their earlier decision to INCLUDE various publishers/vendors. The late reversal of direction cost vendors and publishers etc. a great deal of time/energy/money - not a small thing at all. So, your level-headed response is excellent to a point, but the late reversal of their decision indicates an unusual and unfortunate decision-making process. Huge goof.

Genealogy Blogger said...

Amy, I think you've hit on an idea - we official bloggers might want to approach Rootstech organizers and say we're available for more than just writing blog posts!

Genealogy Blogger said...

Becky - absolutely! There is so much to learn, see and do at Rootstech. Yes I hope the book sellers can have booths but if they cannot, it doesn't mean the entire Conference is worthless. Not at all

Genealogy Blogger said...

Linda - I did put the link for my blog post on Rootstech Facebook page :-) I hope they read it, and the posts by other bloggers too!

Genealogy Blogger said...

Audrey - thanks for the additional info. I wasn't aware there was no conference chair. Seems to me planning would flow better with one? I look forward to meeting up with you too!

Genealogy Blogger said...

Celia - I am reluctant to weigh in on the late response topic since I have no personal firsthand knowledge of EXACTLY what "promises" may have been made to vendors.

IF hints or promises were made by Rootstech, then yes the last minute denial seems a poor choice by Rootstech.

BUT if no promises were ever made, and vendors simply assumed they'd have a booth because they had one in the previous year, then I see no blame attached to Rootstech for waiting til December to make their decision.

Kerry Scott said...

I completely agree...and I hear they reversed their decision at 7:30 local time this morning.

The Grandmother Here said...

I went to RootsTech last year just to see the vendors and was disappointed that there were so few for a non-techie like me.

The Grandmother Here said...

Have you seen this?

books said...

Another project that has led to a great source to read books online is Project Gutenberg, an effort by many volunteers to digitize and distribute books and other types of content online.