Each year in California a conference is held where the world’s greatest thinkers and doers present “ideas worth spreading.” The conference is called TED which stands for technology, entertainment, and design. What started in 1984 as a gathering place to explore these three converging fields has expanded its content to include science, business, the arts, and the global issues facing our world. Over four days, each of the 50 presenters gets 18 minutes to give the talk or performance of their lives. The results are fascinating, inspirational, ingenious, or just plain beautiful. Many of these talks are made available for free online at www.ted.com.
Does genealogy have anything like a TED conference?
From a small gathering in 1991 of 6 genealogy and genealogy software group leaders came the non-profit organization called GENTECH that hosted local and then national conferences to attract genealogists to computers and computer users to genealogy. Or more simply put, it merged genealogy and technology (see http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=8480). In 2002, GENTECH became a division of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and can still be seen in GENTECH tracks at the annual NGS conference. Most of these sessions focus on new genealogy software and internet sites, how to use technology for genealogy, and occasionally a glimpse of the future. Another conference that focuses on family history and technology has been held at Brigham Young University (BYU) since 2001 and is called the Family History Technology Workshop. In 2008, this workshop had about 100 attendees – most of them software developers with just a hand full of attendees that used (but did not create) genealogy software. An interesting part of this conference is that it is open to computer science students to present projects they have been working on as well as professionals in the genealogy software community. Some of these 20 minute presentations dealt with the human interface and design while others were much more technical. The area of genealogy continues to advance technologically and more focus is starting to be placed on the design of the user experience of software.
What if there were a TED-like conference to spread the best ideas about technology, entertainment, and design in genealogy and family history? There are so many fascinating things happening with technology in genealogy that could be distilled at a level all could understand or at least leave us awe struck. Not enough is currently being done in the area of design in genealogy, but with raised awareness of such a forum many would likely rise to the occasion. The genealogy community could only be bettered by the results. We all have families and ancestors, but not everyone is interested in genealogy. Entertainment is mostly untapped when it comes to genealogy. It has the potential of interesting millions in their ancestry at a level and to a degree that is comfortable to them. One example of the blend of genealogy and entertainment is from the music group, Venice, and their song “Family Tree.” Imagine an annual conference where genealogy’s greatest thinkers and doers present their ideas worth spreading to the world. Imagine a venue where passion can be seen in presentation and performance that inspires, is fascinating, or is just plain beautiful.
If genealogy had a TED-like conference, what topics would you like to see presented in the areas of technology, entertainment, and design?