RootsTech Conference: Convergence brings new technological uses
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If you use your cell phone to take pictures, surf the Internet, send text and video messages to friends, and, perhaps, do genealogy you have been affected by convergence.
Convergence, said Jim Ericson, a product marketing manager for FamilySearch, is a phenomenon in which previously separate technologies now share resources and interact with one another.
"The whole idea ... is the innovation that comes when we create synergy, when we bring elements together that weren't together before," said Brother Ericson in a presentation to bloggers and other media representatives attending the RootsTech Conference Feb. 10. "It also changes the way we relate, consume, learn and interact with each other."
The cell phone is a good example, he said, asking the family history enthusiasts in his audience how many of them were using a cell phone to do genealogy 10 years ago. Yet with the capabilities of today's "smartphones," a researcher is far more likely to use such a pocket device for such tasks as taking still and video pictures and preserving family memories on the spur of the moment, capturing research notes, storing and sharing one's family tree, getting answers to genealogy questions via the Internet, and capturing images of documents.
"Not that a cell phone camera would provide adequate resolution," Brother Ericson said, "but it shows that as technology improves and this convergence takes place — camera phones now go up to 4 megapixels — it won't be too long before that will be adequate for some genealogical purposes with images."
For FamilySearch, the family history service established and run by the Church and the largest genealogical organization in the world, 2010 was a landmark year of convergence, Brother Ericson said. He cited these facts:
Users of the FamilySearch.org website now have a better search experience with combined availability of records.
There is greater access through the website to community tools, including blogs, a Wiki knowledge database, and FamilySearch centers, all from a single interface.
"We now have nearly 50,000 Wiki articles," he noted. "That started from a seed content 2 ½ years ago of 800 articles."
A closer relationship has been fostered between FamilySearch and genealogical societies and archives.
FamilySearch has a larger presence as a company than ever before, with more companies approaching it and wanting to work with it, more Internet users linking to its website.
Through digitization of records, indexing efforts (203 million names published last year) and users sharing their genealogy, FamilySearch now has some 2 billion ancestral names online. About two-thirds of that increased content has come within the past year, Brother Ericson said.
In 2011, FamilySearch plans to continue the momentum with family tree databses, digital books and forums more readily accessible from FamilySearch.org, he said. And the "FamilyTree" feature — already accessible to Church members as new.familysearch.org, is already being rolled out to the general public on an invitation basis; that will be extended as the year goes on.
A new initiative, he said, is "FamilyTech," a new set of on-line articles to inform beginners how they can use technology to enhance their family history research. It is accessible at familytech.familysearch.org.