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.
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.