The African-American History Month presentation of the California Genealogical Society and Library has just concluded minutes ago. The meeting itself was a history maker.
A morning session consisted of a panel of eminent experts from the African-American Genealogical Society of Northern California. These top researchers were Electra Price, Juliet Crutchfield and Jackie Stewart.
Then, in the afternoon, I was set to make two presentations: one on finding African-Americans in the census records prior to 1870; and a second on military research with an emphasis on African-American military members. But, for personal health reasons and logistical challenges too complex to detail here, I was going to be able to make it to Oakland for the program. What to do?
CGS Past President Jane Lindsey Knowles and CGS publicity director Kathryn Doyle quickly came up with the answer: call Thomas MacEntee!
Thomas assessed our situation and the Monarch of Genealogical Technology guided us to a platform called Webex. We spent a couple of hours one day practising and getting familiar with the technology, with Thomas mentoring.
I then spent a few more hours later to get the feel of the platform.
Using Webex, we were able to convene a web-based meeting from my home office in Carmichael, California. I “invited” Jane to participate. She had a computer with projector set up at CGSL about 90 miles away in Oakland. I was able to present a PowerPoint slide show from my computer which was viewable in Oakland. I was able to provide audio as well; and the attendees in Oakland could ask me questions via audio.
There were a few glitches, but they were minor and we got them ironed out relatively easily. For example, at the outset, Jane and I found ourselves in different meetings! I later figured out that I had accidentally scheduled two meeting; Jane was in the correct one.
During the presentation, I was able to switch between sharing my PowrePoint slides and sharing the content of my web browser. The operation is not as smooth as it could be, but it worked for our purposes. At one point, however, I tried to switch back from Ancestry.com to the slides and the Webex application crashed. But not to worry! Webex automatically made Jane the host of the meeting so things kept running while I re-started Webex and rejoined the meeting. Then I took over again as host so that I could change the slides.
For a first time presentation, I’d say it went very well. We may need more experience with the software and the program itself could use some tweaking.
This type of web collaboration has the potential to be a game changer for CGSL and other societies. For example, for space considerations in our location, CGSL has to limit the number of attendees at its programs. With this technology, we could reach a theoretically unlimited audience.
Thanks to Thomas, Jane, Kathryn, Kathy Watson, and others who helped make this unprecedented event occur!
February 20, 2010 Saturday at 3:47 pm