RootsTech – Genealogy Bloggers Come of Age

RootsTech 2011

[Editor's Note: This is another in a series of posts about RootsTech 2011 which took place in Salt Lake City, February 10-12, 2011 and its impact on the genealogy community. See yesterday's The RootsTech Revolution - Woodstock or Waterloo? for the first in this series of posts.]

Ever since my return from RootsTech, besides the day-to-day duties of running my own genealogy business, I’ve been fielding emails and phone calls from many of the vendors I met and contacts made at RootsTech. Most of these are on behalf of GeneaBloggers and the genealogy blogging community.

As I spoke about RootsTech and the role the genealogy bloggers both in attendance and those  participating online via social media were playing, I quickly realized something: we’d grown up.  Or at least grown up to the point where we now had credibility and were taken seriously.

Crawling

When I started to get involved with the genealogy and family history blogging community about four years ago, bloggers were often treated as the ugly red-headed step-child of the genealogy community. An oddity. A form of side-show entertainment. We were just missing a tent and a few elephants.

Remember those conferences (I won’t list them by name or organization) where bloggers using social media would be glared at, laughed at when a “no Twitter” policy was announced and sometimes even harassed during conference sessions?

Credit goes not only to those bloggers who persevered and tried to educate the mockers about the importance of blogging and social media, but also to vendors such as Family History Expos who embraced the bloggers when others would not.  Holly Hansen could see the value that this group of writers and journalists (that is, in fact, what many of us are) could bring not only to a genealogy conference experience but also to help publicize an event and a company.

Standing

As the years progressed, bloggers also created their own “campgrounds” at events such as SCGS Jamboree when space was not explicitly allocated for our use. We also began to assert ourselves at conferences – standing tall – and let it be known that mocking the use of social media or belittling the role of technology would not make it go away.

Now, in a post-Rootstech world, those who ignored technology or even had outright disdain for social media, are having to make a 180-degree turn. As I said yesterday, there is a strong fear of not being seen as relevant by not keeping up with the role of technology in genealogy. Now these same folks who snickered, sneered and snapped at us need our assistance to bring them up to speed. And, because in essence we’ve always known we’ve been part of a genealogical community known for its ability to help each other, we’ll gladly do so. Helping others over those hurdles makes us all better in this race.

Walking

The use of the Media Hub at RootsTech was my sign of “we’ve made it.” Bloggers were finally being treated as legitimate journalists. We had media badges. We had credentials. We could schedule a video or audio interview with folks like Jay Verkler or Brewster Kahle. We were practically front and center in the middle of the Exhibit Hall.  People stopped by to ask who we were and what we were doing. We walked around the event and attendees knew who we were or wanted to know who we were.

Also, perhaps because of the higher technology quotient of the participants, attendees understood what we did as bloggers.  Many people handed me cards asking to list their blog on GeneaBloggers. Some wanted advice on either starting a blog or improving an existing one. Other journalists actually wanted to interview us and did (an example can be found here).

Running

And now what does the future hold for genealogy bloggers and their role at conferences and in the genealogy industry?

Just as RoosTech brought about a realization that genealogy vendors and organizations/societies must begin paying more attention to the technology consumers within the genealogy industry, here is what you’ll most likely see over the next few months and years in regards to genealogy bloggers:

  • More sections of exhibit halls will be set aside strictly for bloggers. This is already happening – look for some changes at this year’s SCGS Jamboree in Burbank.
  • More involvement of the blogging community to publicize events and product launches. Bloggers are now a legitimate media channel.  Well, we’ve always been “legitimate” but now look for our skills to be better leveraged as a group by vendors and organizations.
  • More access to “sneak peaks” and beta testing  for products and services from genealogy vendors.
  • More visibility at events including the use of bloggers as presenters, lecturers and educators for technology and social media.

Conclusion

Besides being seen and treated like “grown ups,” we’ve also done some growing up ourselves. We now create our own solutions such as GeneaPress and GeneaWebinars so we can better serve our readers and the genealogy community.  We create partnerships with genealogy vendors and organizations. We write about issues that are not just personally important to us but to the entire genealogy community. And we understand the responsibility of reporting fairly on such issues. We’ve embraced transparency through the use of disclosure statements. We comment on other blog posts to offer a different view and we engage in conversations with our readers through comments on our own posts.

I believe that as a group we had already come of age a few months ago.  RootsTech was just a confirmation and a celebration of that rite of passage.

* * *

Disclosure statement: I am a member of the Southern California Genealogical Society, a compensated speaker at their upcoming 42nd Annual Jamboree in June 2010, and I am presenting the inaugural webinar in the Jamboree Extension Series on Saturday, March 5, 2011 for which I will be compensated. In addition, I have been a speaker at various Family History Expos events and have received compensation in the form of complimentary registration and conference swag (t-shirts, CDs, DVDs, etc.). To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors and organizations, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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