Wednesday, March 11, 2009

FamilySearch Developers Conference kickoff address

First, some random thoughts.
  • At the start of the keynote I was concerned that I'd not seen ANYONE from Ancestry.com. But fifteen minutes in, I saw someone arrive. At lunch I saw a couple more. Their numbers were down from a dozen or so last year. Of course, I was one of those and this year I was with FamilySearch. Actually, I paid my own way last year and Ancestry.com gave me time off to attend.
  • The slides on the CD are sure different than what some presenters showed. It's amazing how much things can change between the CD deadline and the conference. Some presenters announced decisions made just in the last two weeks.
  • The software used to record the sessions for use by later developers was a real pain. I don't think there was a single presenter that wasn't affected by it. Some started late while equipment was set up. Some had slides that were affected. Others were not able to demonstrate their APIs on the machines provided for presenters.

Gordon Clarke, product manager for the FamilySearch web platform and 3rd party development organized the conference and gave a kickoff presentation following the keynote. He reported that there are 481 developers signed up for the program. Of those, 211 have received API reference system accounts. Of those, 48 projects are in some stage of development. Of those, 22 have become affiliates and are working towards certification. Of those, 9 products have received certification! What a long way we have come!

Clarke grew up watching X-15 tests over Edwards Air Force Base during recess at a nearby kindergarten. He showed a clip of milestones in the space race. I couldn't find it online, but it is similar in tone to this one, except for the NASA promotion. Then he challenged us to a "family race" in place of the "space race" to create a genealogical ecosystem where no single entity dominates and all win by embracing Windley's vision of Open Data.

Clarke closed by announcing the conference's 3 tracks: FamilySearch APIs, 3rd party libraries (computer code for connecting programs with the FamilySearch APIs) and Emerging Technologies, and then dismissed us to go to class.

OK. I lied. Before dismissing us, Clarke announced the public release of the FamilySearch Wiki API. This API is available today. It is available to everyone. It is even available to the Wasatch Front. And it is available to all, members of the Church or not.

When they say everyone, I guess they meant it.

To learn more about the API and to start using it (if you are of the programming variety), go to

https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/api.php

This is also the web service endpoint. Available services include categories, links, images, open search and end-user watch lists.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have time to share some insights from the tracks, and maybe I'll be too busy reporting on tomorrow's conference. Either way, expect the complete list of award winners at 9:00am MDT.

P.S. I might try total flow of consciousness reporting using Twitter at tomorrow's conference. Then I won't have to edit my notes for intelligent posting later. What a scary thought. If it happens, it'll be at http://twitter.com/AncestryInsider . Stay tuned...

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