I’m excited to talk about innovation again as a RootsTech ambassador! This article is about some of my favorite innovations that I learned about at RootsTech and also about the changes coming for RootsTech 2018.
With the announcement from RootsTech that they are moving away from the Innovator Showdown to the all new “Innovator Showcase” at the 2018 conference, I’ve been thinking about my favorite family history innovations that I learned about at RootsTech. Here’s my list:
- JRNL – I learned about JRNL at RootsTech 2016. Their online platform for keeping a journal is just what I needed to keep up with journaling. I am an email person. When I get an email, I don’t archive it until I do the task associated with it. The email reminder feature from JRNL is just what I needed! I just click “respond” and then I type in my journal entry. I just ordered my first hard bound copy of my journal after 1.5 years. It’s over 100 pages. I’m excited to see it.
- Little Family Tree App – I learned about this app at RootsTech 2016 also. My children (three kids under 7) love to play with it and sing the family tree song. They also like doing the ancestor photo watercolor painting! There are so many games to choose from. It works so well with FamilySearch. If you have photos of your relatives there, your Little Family Tree will import them into the matching games and other games.
- Kindex – This tool allows you to create searchable archives. We are using Kindex to do a family indexing project for our ancestor’s diary. We are transcribing each page. It’s really neat!
- Twile – This timeline tool is absolutely amazing! I loved using it to wrap up all my research about my Confederate soldier, C.B. Royston. I wrote about it here.
- Old News USA mobile app – I learned about this at RootsTech 2017 and I love the concept. The app help you search in the Chronicling America newspaper collection. I haven’t been doing much newspaper research lately but I’m working on a project right now that I will need to begin researching in newspapers again. I’m excited to use the tools in this app again, especially with finding all the relevant search terms on the page!
Which products from the showdown do you use and love? Here are some lists of the submissions and finalists from previous years –
2017 Innovator Showdown Submissions – my summaries
2016 Innovator Showdown Finalists via FamilySearch Blog
2015 Innovator Showdown Finalists via GeneaMusings
I’ll admit, I’m a little sad to say goodbye to the Innovator Showdown. It was just such an exciting part of RootsTech. Watching entrepreneurs introduce their products to a group of judges is such a rush. They have to be bold, courageous, vulnerable and confident. The showdown was fashioned after the popular television show “Shark Tank” – no wonder I loved it, Shark Tank is one of my favorite shows!
Despite the high excitement level during the showdown, many innovations were not included in the entrepreneur-focused competition. At RootsTech 2018, the showdown will be replaced with the new “Innovation Showcase.”
New! Innovation Showcase at RootsTech 2018
At the 2018 RootsTech Conference will be a new event called the “Innovation Showcase.” From the RootsTech 2018 Innovation web page:
Following Steve Rockwood’s general keynote address will be the all-new Innovation Showcase. You won’t want to miss this exciting event that will feature innovative technologies and products from around the world. Come see who will be named to the list of “Top Family History Innovations of 2018.”
Have a new technology tool or feature that you can’t do genealogy without? Nominate it for the Showcase. Or Tweet us your favorite innovation using #RootsTechInnovation.
I spoke with Tyler Stahle, marketing and communications manager at RootsTech, to learn more about the change from the showdown to the Innovation Showcase. He said that a major reason they are moving away from the showdown is to include more kinds of innovation in the industry. “The Showdown was designed more for small startups or individual entrepreneurs who had built a cool app,” Tyler wrote.
“While [entrepreneurs] can certainly still be a part of the Showcase, we’re hoping that this change expands the qualifications for who and what type of product can be nominated. For instance, if Ancestry or MyHeritage has developed some new tool or innovation, they could be a part of the Showcase. Ultimately, we are looking for the very best, new tech that is impacting the genealogy industry as a whole.”
I was having a hard time coming up with new technology to nominate, but after hearing Tyler’s response, I expanded my concept of innovation. I was reminded of the concepts taught at the 2017 RootsTech Innovator Summit last year. I wrote about these ideas here: 5 Ideas For Family History Innovators. Here is the list:
- Consider the impact your innovation could have on the industry
- Don’t make your customers work – how can your technology make their lives easier?
- Think outside the product – innovation comes in many forms, not just products. Processes, distribution channels, customer engagement, brand, etc.
- Explore unencumbered – entrepreneurs are able to explore new ideas easier without worrying so much about how it will affect their customer base
- Pitch, refine, repeat – it’s important for entrepreneurs to tell the story of their innovation in a clear, concise manner
After reviewing these notes, I had more ideas of innovations that are changing the industry. I asked Tyler if I could nominate large companies like Epson and Google. I love the Google Photos system with the facial recognition software, instant upload to the cloud and ability to create photo books all within their web app. Also the Epson FastFoto scanner – a scanner that digitizes both sides of photos quickly. I talked to one of Epson’s reps and they said they were at RootsTech last year demonstrating their product. I didn’t get a chance to see it because I was busy in the media center and didn’t walk around the whole expo hall. How disappointing! I actually found the FastFoto scanner on my own a couple months ago, searching for a solution to the three boxes of photos we brought home from my parents in law.
With the Innovation Showcase, we will see the top innovations in the industry on the RootsTech stage. It will be great to see the big movers and shakers along with the startups who are all working to improve the family history industry.
Tyler told me a little bit more about the process for the Innovation Showcase. He said, “We’re hoping that people nominate tools or products or features that are useful to them. The selection committee will review all the nominations and will narrow the list down to 5 or 7 finalists. These finalists will be invited to participate in the Showcase at RootsTech where they will demonstrate their products and talk about them on the main stage, as part of the general session Wednesday night. During that time, there will also be a “People’s Choice” award so that audience and viewers can vote for their favorite.”
So what innovations – whether a startup, new product, creative process, or new feature of a big company – are changing the family history industry? What innovations have helped you? Share on your blog or social media with #RootsTechInnovation. And don’t forget to nominate them for the 2018 showcase by October 15!
Diana and I are delighted to be RootsTech ambassadors again this year. We’ll both be giving away a 4-day RootsTech pass soon so watch for that. You’ll see one post from both Diana and I each month leading up to RootsTech as part of our ambassador responsibilities. In exchange, we receive free admission to the conference.
Is there anything you’d like to know about RootsTech? What should we write about? Let us know in the comments. We are also both speaking at RootsTech, which is really exciting for us. See you there!