Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Town Hall Meeting at #RootsTech – LDS Edition

(L to r) Shon Watkins, Stephen Valentine, Rod DeGiulio, and Craig Miller prepare for FamilySearch town hallThis is the third in a series of articles about FamilySearch executives’ town hall meeting during RootsTech 2017. The first of the series was about Records and Partners The second was about Family Tree. Today I am publishing all the questions and articles of interest primarily to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints..

As I warned before, I didn’t always capture correctly everything that was said. 

Q: With the change in calling names of family history consultants, what happens to family history center directors and family history centers?

A: First, we don’t plan on doing away with family history centers. The FHC is still a place to come and get 1 on 1 help. The title of “stake family history center director” is now “stake temple and family history consultant,” but a stake temple and family history consultant can still receive an additional assignment as a family history center director or stake indexing leader. All the callings have the same calling name, but can have additional assignments.

Note that none of you family history center directors were released.

Q: I am worried that with the name change, there will be too much emphasis on finding names. Does it overshadow doing all the family history part of our calling over the temple part of our calling?

A: With the name change, it focuses us with the end in mind, which is the temple. We are the seed of Abraham and we gather our families on both sides of the veil. How do temple and family history consultants help you gather your family on this and the other side of the veil? They do that by, not just finding a name. They think about what family member on this side of the veil can be helped. And now we have wonderful resources, like the consultant planner.

Q: Why do you not market free access to partner sites to LDS members?

A: In the person detail page, in the right panel you can search some partners. There are other partners that would like to be in that space as well. We need to do a better job of making you aware of the app gallery. We are going to do a number of campaigns this year. The partner access page is still there. Geneanet has been added.

Q: When are we going to see the bandwidth increases we were promised last year?

A: I sympathize. It is the church’s IT group that provides the ward and stake networks. I will tell you, you are the problem. When you walk into the chapel at 9:00 your phone detects the open network. All of a sudden your apps start updating. Every app you’ve allowed. That’s the first problem. Then at 11:00 the next ward comes in and now you have 600 people on a tiny network, just as the family history class starts in Sunday school. If you want to mitigate it immediately, turn off your apps or use your own data. That being said, the Church’s IT organization has bought new routers to be installed throughout the world over the next six months with the capability to white list or black list apps depending on the stake president in your stake. He will determine what method they will use to inhibit you from using your cell phone’s apps. Then you will get your bandwidth back to do family history. That is what is going on. It costs a lot of money to stop Facebook and iTunes and just updating the operating system on your phone, especially if they do it over a weekend. That is really problematic for the Church.

The church increases the bandwidth in buildings, but even though that happens, because of the adoption of more devices you still have the problems. So I would suggest there are a couple of good workarounds. First, lets have priesthood leaders work with the members, to say, “we have a few needs for that bandwidth, so let’s use it for those needs, and not personal needs of everyone.” Secondly, if you look at what was announced with temple and family history consultants, its all bout 1 on 1 personal assistance. If I were a temple and family history consultant, I would look at a class with just 1 on 1 people—a ratio of one helper for one patron. I can get through that class, a hundred people in a year’s time, but do it in a small class of one or two or three people or families at a time. At the end of the day, you will have given better service to more families without running into bandwidth problems the way we have today.

We’re dealing with a first world problem [literally]. Over the last couple of years as I have traveled around in Latin America, Africa, and other parts of the world, they would be very grateful for the bandwidth available to us. And this will be a huge expense for the church going forward to make the bandwidth available in some cases where the technology hasn’t matured enough yet. I’m thrilled that progress is being made here in North America. But please consider and pray for your brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who would be so grateful to have even what you have.

Q: What will this do for the apps, Family Tree and the Memories app?

A: We’re not going to turn off all apps, just Facebook and other problem apps. FamilySearch apps will still work.

Q: Are those routers going to family history centers that are separate from chapels?

A: They will go worldwide in all the facilities, including family history centers.

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