Thursday, August 28, 2008

LDS Online Tech Talk

The Church held it's first online tech talk tonight. The Church's CIO (Joel Dehlin) conducted the meeting. He started with a description of some of the ways the Church is currently using technology such as:

  • Stake presidents may request that broadband internet be available in the stake's meetinghouses. The Church provides a small network appliance which provides a firewall, router and internet filtering software so that the meetinghouse internet connections can be relatively free from undesirable content.
  • Audio conferencing facilities for bishops and stake presidents to facilitate meetings over large geographic areas
  • Video conferencing facilities for stakes so that stake meetings can be broadcast to other meetinghouses
  • A new website for stake and ward clerks that provides useful training and troubleshooting info
Facilitating members who would like to volunteer their technology talents to the Church was a main theme of the talk. The Church has established various resources such as a wiki and online forums to facilitate communication among the tech-savvy members.

The most exciting announcement to me was that the Church has a subversion repository set up to host the Church's open source code. To access the repository, you have to create an LDS Account. The link given in the webinar slides seems to have been incorrect (or not active yet), but visiting LDS Account should get you there. I just signed up for my account and it looks like the account information hasn't yet propagated to the svn server. I'm still getting a "403 Forbidden" message. I'll keep trying. Now the race begins: who can set up a Git mirror of that repository first?

Joel suggested that members will most likely be encouraged to work on administrative software such as that used by the wards, stakes and members. I'm waiting for the day that the MLS source code is made available. Just last night, the Bishop and I discovered a quirky behavior when reconciling the unit financial statement. It would have been nice to go home and verify our suspicions against the source ... and then send in a patch to fix it.

The final segment of the broadcast was a question and answer session. Here are some questions and answers that I found interesting:

  • What are the plans for the local unit websites? They current only serve the United States, but they will eventually be available worldwide. In answer to another question, Joel indicated that will be expanded (perhaps integrated with ward websites) so that users could see a map of all the members in their ward. He said that the map might also show the ward boundaries.
  • Is the Church migrating from Java to .NET? No. Java is still the internal standard. That's what most of the infrastructure is built to support. .NET is used when it suits the problem at hand, but there are no plans for it to replace Java.
  • I forget the question, but Joel said that the Church is developing secure web services so that developers can create their own applications that interface with these services.
  • New software was recently released to help the worldwide mission offices. It helps track and pay the rent on missionaries apartments. It also has a system to help mission presidents during transfers. It provides a graphical way to track which missionaries are serving in which areas and with which companions.
Overall, I found the first online tech talk very informative. I'm excited to take a look at some of this new infrastructure.

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