Open Business, Open Booth

Wow! Has it actually been almost a full year since we headed off to take Pentandra and Geungle to our first conference? Incredible! The conference in Cincinnati last year for NGS (National Genealogical Society) inspired us and uplifted us—both personally and as a company. Learning from incredibly talented people and making some wonderful friends built us up. Plus, we got to try our hand at stepping to the other side of the exhibit hall isle. We got to take on the role of “vendors” for the very first time. (That was an interesting experience in and of itself, but perhaps best left to another post another day.)

Open Business

We have decided to do something we wanted to do last year, but were perhaps a bit too chicken to try the very first year in our new “vendor” role. Well, this year, we are ready. We are opening our booth! To understand what that means, I need to back up a bit. For those that have not made it that far through our company website, we are an Open Business. To give a taste of what that means to us, here is a quote from our Open page:

We are in business to help make research easier. We figure if we are not doing that, we are doing something wrong. It is more likely that we will get it right if we learn from the principles of open research and open source and involve the community in our business development. Many in the community may have more experience or different perspectives than we do. It would be foolish to ignore this wealth of knowledge, ideas, and experience as we try to meet the needs of that community. Just like no man is an island, a business that isolates itself from its customers can’t effectively give them what they need or want.

This open-ness is a two way street. We intend to be open about what we are doing and why we choose to do it this way or that. We see no need to leave you wondering what our ulterior motives are. I would rather just tell you. That way you can know what our ACTUAL ulterior motives are, rather than some other bag of imagined motivations. Plus, I would rather have you hear it from me than from someone else. That is one way we work to be open.

As for the other side of that two way street, we genuinely want to get to know the people in the community we are writing software for. (For Geungle, that is easy to enjoy because we are genealogists at heart and in action. Heck, that’s what started this whole thing really.) We want to understand the coolest and latest-greatest tricks and tips for doing great research. We want to learn from others about what to do as well as what not to do. We want to get to know how the community works, how they do what they do, and why it matters to them. Not only that, but we genuinely care about advancing good research, both within ourselves and for others as well. For that matter, our entire mission is about improving research.

Open Booth

We have the most comfy seats in the exhibit hall (blatantly biased opinion of course), or at least the brightest red ones (unless someone else has decided to follow our comfy and flashy example). There are only five of these sweet chairs, which makes them absolutely perfect for a great small group discussion. Each conference we have been to lately has had unconferencing sessions to open an opportunity to cover even more topics than can be covered by even the richest of conference programs. I love that idea! Now we want to take that idea and partner it with our desire to support good research.

That is where opening our booth comes in!

We are offering our booth as a place of learning and developing research skills and understanding. We want to create an opportunity for people with great thoughts about research to have a comfortable (think of those sweet chairs!), welcoming, and more intimate place to create a discussion. In a way, this post could be considered “a call for topics.” But these presentations will be more like well-led roundtable discussions on a variety of research subjects.

The cozy chairs in our booth
Our cozy chairs.

I have seen hangouts, Q&A sessions, chats, webinars, and video conferences happening online more and more. Think of this as an opportunity to switch to a live and in person version of such a gathering. Many incredibly gifted people will present lectures in the various sessions of the conference, but there are many others who either do not want the pressure of a perfectly polished presentation, that prefer leading discussions rather than presenting lectures, or that have simply never had the opportunity to share in that kind of an environment and need somewhere to start. There are also many acclaimed lecturers, that present regularly, but who would love the opportunity to lead a small and intimate discussion on a topic they are passionate about, but just can’t get a discussion up in a huge lecture hall like you can sitting in a circle of friends and colleagues. If you relate to any of those situations, or likely countless others that I didn’t mention, then perhaps you are a perfect fit to come and teach and train and lift and lead others in our Open Booth.

What Kind of Discussions?

OK, so what if you fit the description of someone that could benefit from this opportunity, but you are not sure the topic you would love to discuss would really be a good fit? Let me try to break down the kinds of topics that would be a good fit with two questions and their answers.

Question 1:

Does what you want to present help increase or improve research in some way?

Answer 1:

If the answer is yes, then it’s likely a perfect fit!

Question 2:

But what if my topic has nothing to do with Geungle or Pentandra?

Answer 2:

If we wanted all the talk in our booth to be about our company or about Geungle, then why would we open our booth? I suppose I just answered a question with a question, but we REALLY do want simply to invite discussions or presentations into our booth that will edify this amazing research community! We would LOVE to have our Open Booth be about more than US! Quality genealogical research is much more important to us than Geungle is. Really. Doing and learning how to do genealogy well might be assisted by having a really good program (at least we hope so—that’s why we started Geungle). But we are keenly aware that we still have lots of room to learn a whole lot more from other genealogists and so do most people doing genealogy. I’m talking about training that no computer can replace. On top of that, Pentandra is all about research. Software is our tool to allow us to try to help improve research. But the research is the point, not us and our ideas.

So, if you have an idea to share that will also help improve research, please come and share it with others! Now I will fill you in on one of my ulterior motives…When you present in our booth, then Chris or I get the outstanding opportunity to eavesdrop on what you are teaching your small group and we just might be lucky enough to learn something wonderful as well! I can’t wait!

How will it Work?

Alright, let me attempt to break this down into some straightforward particulars.

  1. You let us know that you would like to present or lead a discussion on [your topic of choice] and any timing considerations that you might have. (Obviously it would be silly to set you up with a time to lead a discussion in the Open Booth while you are in the middle of giving a lecture in another part of the conference center or while you are staffing your local society’s booth on the other side of the exhibit hall.)

  2. We set up a time for you on our schedule of Open Booth Chats. (Ooo, I just made up that name for what to call these, I think I like it!)

  3. We get the word out about your topic and the time of your Open Booth Chat in one of three ways. You just let me know which one you prefer and we go with that.

    1. You tell those people you specifically want to have join in your discussion about your topic and time and invite them to come. Your Open Booth Chat will be listed on our website, but we will not actively advertise it. Essentially, we just stay out of the way, so that you have the people that YOU want there.

    2. We list your Chat on our site, and then we go let all of our genealogy friends know about it, with a broad and open invitation to anyone that wants to come. This may lead to interesting numbers in either direction. If you have a tiny group, then Chris and I will actually pull up a chair ourselves and join in too! (You might not think that deserves an exclamation point mark, but trust me, I would be excited to join in like that.) The opposite issue could also arise. If your group outgrows our five chairs, we will have a couple of folding chairs for back-up. And then there is always the option for standing room right?

    3. You invite who you would like and we throw out a broad invitation as well. You know, we sort of combine efforts.

  4. At the conference, you come to our booth a couple minutes before your scheduled time so we can say hi and meet you face to face in case we have only met online before (another great perk for us).

  5. The other participants will come and take a seat in one of our sweet chairs.

  6. You can use our white board or simply sit in the group and present your thoughts. If you have never presented before and would like to record it to submit with a future lecture proposal, you are welcome to have someone come along to record it.

  7. When you are finished, everyone goes on their way, hopefully with some new ideas, tools, skills, or insights!

  8. Oh, and we provide the treats for while you are presenting. (I am fairly convinced that there are few things to talk about that don’t get better with a bowl of candy to enhance the experience. Right?)

That’s it. Simple.

Like so many things we do, or have done, or hope to do in the future, this is an experiment. We have no idea how well it will be received, but for the sake of offering one more chance to learn from each other, we are willing to give it a try. So, if you have a great idea you would like to share or discuss, please let us know.

If you would like to find out what topics will be covered in our Open Booth, then please check out our Conferences page through the week of NGS in Las Vegas. If you have any other ideas that you think we should be thinking about, please drop us a note or drop by our booth to chat. Really—please do.