23 March 2009

Free genealogy lectures via Skype

Free? Yes, that's what the man said.

The man is Beau Sharbrough, known to many genealogists and family historians as VP of Content at Footnote, although as of November 2008, he is no longer with that site.

However, he is still posting to his blog - "The Unofficial Footnote Blog: An insider blog about the history website, Footnote.com." Of course, after his departure, it isn't as "inside" as it was, but here's his latest blog post, which should be of great interest to our crowd.

Beau is offering free lectures for your genealogy society, using Skype.

Video conferencing may be the biggest boon to international genealogy, and especially to societies located around the world. We are all aware of exactly how much it costs to fly internationally, to stay at a hotel, to eat and the time component and physical wear-and-tear of flying great distances. If we can bring in top-flight speakers via a computer connection, why not?

Here's what Beau wrote on March 22:

You read that right.

For a limited time, in an effort to debug the technique, Beau Sharbrough will speak to your genealogy society (or your genealogical society, if you prefer), for free.

There is a condition. I don’t intend to actually attend the meeting.

I propose to use free software, such as Skype, to video conference.

Preliminary tests, working with my associate, Dick Eastman, have demonstrated that free programs such as Skype and Yugma enable a person to:

- video conference. You can see the speaker, and hear them. The speaker can see you, and hear you.

- The speaker can display his or her desktop, showing a powerpoint “deck,” or demonstrating a software program, or a website.

There is some setup to be undertaken at the remote end. The goal of this introductory offer is to refine the equipment list, setup procedures, and production capabililities needed to implement distance learning in local genealogy groups.

The preliminary requirements for the venue at your end are:

- An internet connection. The faster the better.
- A computer, either PC or Mac.
- A webcam and microphone. I use a Logitech Pro 9000, which does both.
- Skype, a free program, for video conferencing.
- A skype registration, which is also free, is required.
- Yugma, a free program, for displaying the remote desktop.
- A connection between the computer and whatever public address system you have.
- A preliminary technical test is required before an event can be scheduled. A final test is required prior to the event.

Dick and I tested the basic Skype connection as part of the St George Expo in late February. He was in London, England, and I was in St George UT. I was using the internet connection on my mobile 3G modem, which can be good or bad. On that particular day, it was pretty good. Those present could see and hear Dick just fine, and he was able to hear questions from the audience.

Rather than do this for the glory of high tech, I suggest that we could actually present a program with some information of value to your society.

Lecture topics might include:

- Using Footnote.com
- Online Search Assistants
- Genealogy in 2020
- Restoring Family Photos
- What’s new at Ancestry.com
- Planning your trip to the FHL in Salt Lake
- The Genealogy Technology Hall of Fame

Skype is fast becoming a verb, and is widely used. When I logged in today, it said that 15 million people were online.

Get with it. And imagine what you could be doing in a couple of years. You might have monthly meetings, featuring luminary speakers from around the globe, without any travel expense.

Such a journey must start with a single step. I’m proposing this one.

Send an email to sharbrough@gmail.com, if you are interested in exploring this further. I will do five or ten free ones, and then decide what approach to take after that.

I suggest you contact him immediately if your group would like to schedule one of the slots.

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