Tuesday, March 4, 2014

#RootsTech 2014 Syllabus Wanting

The Ancestry Insider is an official RootsTech 2014 bloggerThere were 238 sessions at RootsTech. Just 162 of them provided materials for the syllabus. Part of the value you expect from a conference is the syllabus.

  • At the conference when deciding what sessions to attend, I check the syllabus. It’s a better way to judge the contents than the 20 word descriptions in the program.
  • During sessions I pay attention better when there is a good handout. I don’t feel the same pressure to take complete notes.
  • Since I can’t attend every session, I draw additional value from the conference through the handouts of other sessions.
  • After conferences I store the syllabi on my computer. I search across them all to find answers to questions. I check bibliographies to identify good reference texts.

I realize there are challenges for presenters. Syllabus handout deadlines are many months before most conferences. RootsTech is a technology conference and technology changes quickly. Web sites like Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org, can change dramatically during that time.

People pay big money to attend RootsTech. I think RootsTech can be better.


  1. The conference doesn't pay the presenters anything, so it's not surprising that many of them don't put much effort into their syllabus materials.

  2. My guess is that Rick is right on the money with his answer.

  3. I agree about the syllabus. It is how I decided which ones to attend and which were able to be skipped. For the most part I skipped the ones that had a very good syllabus. On the other hand I also attended the sessions with that star quality. I am a genealogy groopy I admit it. I think it would make choosing sessions so much easier if they all had them. Rick has made a valid point and now I am more sympathetic about those who don't provide them as I was before.

  4. Since it is a technology friendly group, couldn't late breaking presentations be posted to an on-line location for download by the attendees?

  5. It would also help if speakers would indicate ON THE SYLLABUS what the purpose of their syllabus material is. Some speakers use their 4 pages as a way to provide background information to bring the less connected up to speed on the topic, but the talk itself covers new material. Other speakers also do not actually talk about what is on their syllabus because their syllabus is just a page or two of URL links and book citations.

  6. Agree that I expect a lot more from what they describe as a 'professional' conference. Time should not be as much of a factor with no printing costs/schedule. I suspect presenters don't want materials distributed to remote-only audiences. Put syllabi for non-streaming sessions behind a login for paid registrations only.

  7. I'm so glad you posted this! It applies to any conference in my eyes, not just genealogical. As an IT pro I also attend techie seminars, and do exactly as you do.

  8. I agree with thoughts posted here. The syllabus very heavily affects which classes I attend, and when there isn't anything for a class it makes me hesitate. I also want to add a personal gripe! Other conferences I have attended have offered the syllabus in one PDF or Word file (or both) that included all of the classes - as if it were a printed volume. One file to download, you have everything and you can keep it for future reference. I really hate having to open each class's syllabus material individually!


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