Last week, 7-10 May, was the annual National Genealogical Society [NGS] Conference, held in Richmond, Virginia. The 2014 Conference, entitled Virginia: The First Frontier, offered over 175 lectures during the four day conference.
Genealogical conferences, whether national, state, or local, are a wonderful means to learn and network. I enjoy attending them as often as I can, if they are within reasonable driving distance, which for me is no more than five to six hours travel time. It would have been about a nine hour drive to this year’s conference. Plus it just did not fit into my schedule this year. So I did not attend the 2014 NGS Conference.
Although I was not there in person, I was able to see a few of the sessions. Live. Right here at home, in my office, on my PC.
That’s right. This year NGS offered something new, something for those of us that could not attend the conference for one reason or another. For the first time NGS offered “live streaming” of certain sessions, making those sessions available to persons with an Internet connection anywhere. I was able to watch and listen to the sessions live, at the same time they were being presented. Or I can watch them later if I was busy when they were shown live. Roots Tech, a conference that focuses on genealogy and technology, has offered live streaming the past couple of years.
NGS offered ten sessions for live streaming, in two tracks that consisted of five sessions each. They chose lectures on popular topics presented by nationally known speakers. You could chose to view either or both tracks, at a cost of $65/track or $115 for both, for NGS members. Non-members could also sign up for the live stream, at $80/track or $145 for both. Membership has its advantages.
Track one was Records and Research Techniques and track two was Virginia Resources and Migration Patterns.
I chose to watch track one, which consisted of two lectures on Thursday afternoon and three on Friday morning. Sessions were: “Using Evidence Creatively, Spotting Clues in Run-of-the-Mill Records,” Elizabeth Shown Mills; “Can a Complex Research Problem Be Solved Solely Online?” Thomas W. Jones; “Using NARA’s Finding Aids and Website,” Pamela Boyer Sayer; “Disputes and Unhappy Differences…Surprises in Land Records,” Sharon Tate Moody; and “A Sound Mind and Body, Using Probate Records in Your Research,” Michael Hait.
I watched Elizabeth Shown Mills and Tom Jones present their sessions live on Friday. Then on Saturday I watched Sharon Tate’s presentation a few hours after its completion. I will watch the other two sessions some time in the future.
The nice thing is that I can watch the lectures as often as I want, whenever I want, for ninety days after the end of the conference. NGS On Demand Online Access was to be available within 24 hours of the recording, but it was actually available sooner than that. I watched one of Saturday’s sessions a few hours after the session had ended.
Live stream registrants also received a digital version of the conference syllabus, all 628 pages in PDF format. The syllabus includes the handout material for each session, which is usually four pages per session. The syllabus itself is a great source of information and interesting to look through.
NGS selected Playback Now to broadcast sessions live and show the recordings after that. The live stream was simple enough to set up. I simply went to the conference live streaming website and logged in with my password. It worked extremely well. The video and audio were excellent. The video was a good mix as it went back and forth between the speaker and their Power Point slides.
There were a coupe disadvantages to the live stream for me:
- It used a lot of data. I use my tablet as a hot spot for my Internet connection and I found that two sessions use about 1 GB of data.
- There was a limited number of sessions for live streaming.
- I did not get to chose the sessions I wanted to view. They were already chosen.
It appears the 2014 NGS Conference live stream was a success. I received an e-mail from NGS yesterday announcing that they were taking registrations until 31 May for post-conference viewing of the ten sessions mentioned above. Before the conference over 400 signed up for the live stream, but others learned about it after the conference and want the opportunity to view the sessions, too. Post-conference registrants will be allowed to view sessions in track one, track two, or both tracks for the next three months, at the pre-conference price. The digital syllabus is also included.
I also have another option to hear the lectures I missed. I can purchase an audio recording from JAMB Tapes, Inc. They offer recordings of most conference sessions on audio CD for $12 each. The 2014 conference CDs will be available soon. And I can follow right along with my syllabus.
I still enjoy attending conferences in person to learn, to network with other genealogists, to see old friends and meet new ones, to shop in the exhibit hall, and to see the various conference venues, but I cannot attend every year. Live streaming was a nice opportunity to see some presentations this year.
It is almost the next best thing to being there.