RootsTech App 2013 First Impressions

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 21 seconds

RootsTech 2013 is approaching and the app is finally out. The Google Play store says it came out on the 21st, but I didn’t see any mention online until the 26th.

Once again, the app comes to us from Core-apps, a developer of conference apps. The app was pretty glitchy last year, so I was hoping it would be improved this year; they’ve had at least a year more to learn to program it. So far, it’s doing better.

Main Screen. Do you love the "screen captured" message that shows up *during* the screen capture?

The bulk of this article was written last night, but some things changed overnight.

There were eleven icons on the main screen last night, but this morning, there are twelve. And I’m pretty sure the background color changed.

Exhibitors

The exhibitors seemed empty at first. Under the categories, there was only one: movie theatre. Only when someone online mentioned checking on the exhibitors in the app did I realize that no one was categorized and they were all in there. Several are listed twice. Each can be bookmarked and marked as visited. There is also a space for notes, with an option to email those notes. I’m not sure about the schedule option. Can I schedule through the app to visit with the vendors? Title is required. Title of what? That part, I don’t get it.

I didn’t check all of them, but my favorite exhibitor listing right now is MyHeritage: their phone number is 9.73E+11. Yeah, try to figure that out. I guess the app is US-only and not adaptable.



Maps

The map for the Salt Palace is typically confusing, as it always is. The downtown SLC map looks familiar. Did they really have to include the QR code in the scanned version? Is someone going to look at the map on their device and use another device to scan the code or something? Things like this are the reason why some people write articles saying that QR codes are dead — because they’re used in dumb ways.

Thursday Schedule. What am I doing sometime after 4pm?

Events

This is the place to find the schedule. I don’t see the keynotes or any special events. Are there special events this year? I can’t even remember hearing about anything.

The events take some time to get through, especially when you want to bookmark overlapping events. You get a pop-up warning that you’ve scheduled multiple things, and you get a separate one for each, so you can’t see anything behind it while that’s cycling through each time. I don’t need a warning when I can clearly see on my calendar that I have multiple things marked.

There are a lot of typos in the schedule. I haven’t checked the RootsTech web site lately, but some seem familiar, like they were also on the site. A simple spell check would probably fix half of them.

There are an awful lot of sessions without a speaker listed. That’s a really bad omission. It’s common to find multiple sessions of interest at the same time and sometimes the tie breaker is the speaker.

 

Friday Schedule. Does that come with lunch and dinner breaks?

My Schedule

This is a very useful part of the app, as long as it works.

There was an issue last year where I was adding an unconferencing event by hand and the white board showed the wrong date, so I added it on the wrong date. An update that came too late showed those sessions and would have added it into the schedule for me, hopefully on the correct date, so I wouldn’t have missed it. I hope that information also ends up in the app again with a more timely update than last year. Obviously, that can’t be in here yet since those are set up after the conference begins.

After going through the schedule and marking some of the sessions, I have four time slots marked with sessions on Thursday (image above). One has six sessions, so the ones I marked are: Conte, Curati, Findin, Mappi, Next, and Beyo. No, that doesn’t help me much to see what I’ve selected and I have to tap through to each one just to see the title. There probably isn’t any better solution to programming this, other than giving me more information to narrow down my choices.

Friday gets much more interesting, with sessions running from 9:45 AM to 10:45 PM — three of them. Is there a lunch break?

After going through all three days, I noticed that some sessions repeat. Having this somewhere in the description would be helpful. Maybe I have more time to attend on the other day. Or I might mark it for both days and not realize I’m repeating a session, since there are several similar sessions. Maybe telling me the speaker will help me choose which I want to attend?

After setting up the schedule on my other Android to take a proper screen capture, those pop-up warnings went on for about a minute, even after I closed the app. I don’t need warnings that I’ve set sessions at the same time. I can clearly see it when I go to the schedule.

Twitter, Facebook

Twitter is already pulling up the hashtagged posts, Facebook apparently goes to the mobile version of the Facebook page. My Android browser is not logged in to Facebook. (I’m not sure the app is either, since I don’t really use it on the go.)

News

News looks like an RSS reader of selected blogs — not all official bloggers, at least not all of the official bloggers. The problem is that tapping on an article opens up a web browser. Not only that, but I tapped on the first article on About.com and the browser went to an article on The Ancestry Insider. I tried tapping on the article it actually brought me to and nothing happened. Trying several others at random mostly did nothing, so this part of the app, which should be pretty simple, is really bad.

Photo Gallery, Videos

Photo gallery is empty for now. Videos was added overnight and is already populated with videos from 2012.

Friends, Attendees

I’m pretty sure that last year’s app had these features, but didn’t run them very well. It used the app Bump to add people in proximity, but the app wasn’t working well for me. (It could have been the non-phone Android I was using.) There were also randomly-generated six digit codes to add your friends, but when people posted their codes to Facebook or Twitter, they would quickly expire and you’d have to post them again. That was not good.

Error. "Yes", there was an error. No, I can't do screen captures from this Android. Yes, it was 2:25AM.

This year, the attendees can add themselves to an app directory, listed by name. You can then add them to contacts or add them as friends. Dear Myrtle was the first person to show up twice. Having installed the app on two Androids, I thought that I should be listed twice as well, but maybe I’m not seeing myself listed, so I only see myself on the other Android.

I had some trouble adding a friend, or rather, a friend adding me. Jill Ball was, well, on the ball, and quickly sent a friend request, which when I tried to accept, I just got an error. However, this morning, trying it again, it did add her as my friend, and a couple more who had added me since.

The problem is that there is no connection between my two Androids in this app. It doesn’t even recognize that I have identical contact information between them, so the friends I have in one app do not show up in the other. The same goes for the schedule and all the marks I have made. I think this was mentioned by others last year and I think there was eventually a solution that allowed syncing somehow, but it doesn’t seem to exist now. Will they add it before the conference?

Settings

This is not a main icon but an option from the top of the screen. The menu button should take you to this, but the developers have ignored the Android buttons. Within the settings, you can edit your profile and send emails — either inviting friends to download the app or email all of your notes. I haven’t added notes to try this, so I’m going to imagine that it works.

Conclusion

The glitches of last year’s app seem to have gone away. I can’t remember specifically what they all were, and don’t want to reinstall it just to find out again, but this one works much smoother, save for the adding a friend that didn’t work last night, but does now.

The problem with the typos in the schedule is a serious problem. Some, if not all, of those typos have been around for months. Are they going to fix them before the conference if they haven’t already?

Not syncing between devices is also a problem. I am not the only person with multiple devices. Lots of people have a smartphone and a tablet these days. The app needs a way to either sync online or import/export the data between devices. I certainly don’t want to edit my schedule on two devices constantly, or add everyone as a friend twice. And what if I decide to put this on my tablets?

That’s about all I’ve got to say about the app for now, but that last paragraph didn’t seem a suitable ending to this article. I look forward to seeing my genea-friends next month at RootsTech.

The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2013/02/27/rootstech-app-2013/.

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