LDSTech
The Who, What, and How of Area Technical Senior Missionaries PDF Print E-mail
Written by Barbara Gardner   
Thursday, 15 August 2013

Howes sitting in front of Computers

After working for 13 years with the Church's Information and Communication Services (ICS) department, Ralph Howes was looking forward to turning the free time of retirement into full-time service. It wasn’t long before he began filling out papers for a full-time mission. At the same time the Africa Southeast Area Office in Johannesburg was asking for a replacement for their ICS technology specialist missionary. Because his skills were just what Johannesburg needed, a match was made. The Howes entered the MTC in August and were welcomed in Johannesburg by the beginning of September.

Elder Howes found himself in the middle of many ongoing projects including Internet connectivity in meetinghouses, rolling out opportunities to use webcasting, and identifying and supporting Stake Technology Specialists. But in Africa many areas are still too remote to connect to the Internet, and some members were too economically challenged to travel to a central location. Finding solutions to these needs required both high- and low-tech components and ingenuity.

First, media players were installed in remote locations. General conference sessions and other broadcasts were then recorded, downloaded onto thumb drives, copied, and distributed to meetinghouses on foot via “sneaker net” to the entire stake, allowing everyone to hear the voice of prophets and leaders.

Elder Howes helped in a pilot project to make computers more accessible to members in South Africa, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With training, members are now able to prepare lessons, do schoolwork, perform research, do temple and family history work, and search out employment. These computers also help overcome the challenge faced by many African families who have a missionary in the field. With no reliable postal service, weekly letters home are unheard of, but with meetinghouse computers and a few lessons on email, families are staying connected!

After eighteen months in Africa, Elder Howes is currently serving as a Church-service missionary in the Church’s Temple Department. Does he enjoy using his technical training in the service of the Lord? Yes. He is in the process of filling out papers looking for another full-time missionary opportunity.

For Africa to request an ICS missionary replacement at the exact same time that a 13-year information technology veteran is filling out mission papers can only testify of matches being made in heaven. To ensure that this process can happen again and again, Anna Butler, Field Communications Analyst in the ICS department, is willing to be another hand in the Lord’s work.

“Full-time senior missionaries serving technical missions is fairly new,” Sister Butler said. On the same day that Elder Howes was filling out paperwork for a new mission, Sister Butler was participating in a bi-monthly phone conference with the 14 worldwide area offices, requesting each office to define which ICS needs could be fulfilled by senior missionaries. These area offices are located in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, South Africa, Russia, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Japan.

Clarifying the role of full-time senior technical missionaries, Sister Butler said, “These missionaries will focus on serving as technology specialists. Just as any area in need uses welfare or family history missionaries, these areas will utilize the technology experience of retired professionals.”

It is one thing to have Church-wide technology needs identified and defined, and a totally separate thing to find qualified professionals to fill those needs as full-time missionaries. Brother Gary and Sister Marilyn Peterson are committed to fulfilling this effort. Having already served full-time missions in Denmark and Nauvoo, the Petersons were excited by the unique opportunity to be pioneers in the technology world of the Church.

Petersons standing side by side in front of their global map for senior missionaries

One of the first obstacles they addressed was a training program specific to each worldwide area office. Their solution involves a technical training that lasts between three and five days in addition to the traditional training the missionaries receive at the MTC in Provo. “We hope this specific training will help them feel confident as they do the work the Lord needs them to do,” Sister Peterson explained.

The Petersons will be instrumental in helping recruit missionaries. One effort to get the word out was during this summer’s Education Week on the BYU Provo Campus. As attendees discovered what full-time opportunities are available, Elder and Sister Peterson answered questions. Dozens of potential missionaries passed their contact information to the Petersons, and now the process begins for matching the right missionaries to the right corner of the vineyard!

The worldwide technology needs of the Church are varied and suggest exciting opportunities for couple missionaries. While Sister Butler gathers information on the "where" and "what" that needs to be done, and as the Petersons search out "who" is willing to do it, it is hundreds of "Elder Howes" that the Lord needs now.

Stay tuned for more information about these technical opportunities and more for senior missionaries.

LDSTech Missionary Form

 
Updated Gospel Library app for iOS: Behind the Scenes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Emily Fairchild   
Wednesday, 28 August 2013

When the iOS Gospel Library team received the request for an upgraded app for iOS devices, they were eager to complete the task. It was time to do it. And it was time to develop and design it differently than it had been done before.

The app would need to be able to add new content, implement changes, and ship upgrades in a new way. Within 48 hours the team had drawn up plans for new development, design, and testing processes for the app’s structure, and came up with ten design principles to improve the app’s user interface.

The team posted a mission statement at their workstations as a reminder. The whole purpose for the Gospel Library app is to “deepen, broaden, and improve gospel learning and teaching by giving members mobile access to all published Church content in an easy and immediate offline experience.”

Most important was the platform redesign. To push out content updates without the app becoming unstable content is now added in a separate process; the user won’t need to install a new version of the app every time new content is published. For example, new issues of the Ensign, any corrections to content, other new additions to the library, etc., will appear the next time the user opens the app. When the next set of features or bug fixes is added, it will happen without interference.

The app’s platform also expands to fit new library content. Engineer David Weiss described how they mapped it all out. “We took actual note cards, one representing every publication the Church has ever produced, and made a place for each one in the system. If the Church were to make all of that material available, we’ve designed the app to fit it.” Mapping things in the real world helped the team create a better user experience.

This potential of the app is what excites developer Stephan Heilner. “When the app shipped,” he said, “my wife asked, ‘Well, now what are you going to work on?’ But we haven’t crossed the finish line. By shipping the app we’ve just crossed the starting line. Now we will keep working to improve the functions and features of the app.”

One of the feature details Heilner was particularly instrumental with was the content highlighting feature. After a concentrated effort on the highlighting feature, the app now highlights with a more realistic display of translucent colors, and the Bezier gradient style gives true scripture-marker authenticity. “It’s details like these that maybe not many users will notice, but they really make a difference.”


Weiss added, “We’ve found that people are annotating a third more than before. The designers on the team selected a more user-friendly typesetting that makes reading easier. They did a great job making the experience more realistic for users to study content.”

Throughout the development process there were over a thousand testers for the app. To help on such projects, volunteers should browse through and join projects on the LDSTech Projects page. When you join projects on LDSTech, you will receive notifications to participate in beta testing and other development. The testers for the iOS Gospel Library provided critical feedback for the app during the creation phase and they will be instrumental as the team keeps working.

Another great place to discuss the app is the LDSTech Forum. It receives almost-daily posts about various aspects of the upgrade and users are invited to go participate and learn from others about the app. To submit feedback for the Gospel Library app, send your comments and details about which device you’re using to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . On the other end of your email are Church-service missionaries Elder and Sister Gunn and Elder and Sister Smith, called to help manage and direct user feedback to all the right people and solutions. You can follow iOS Gospel Library pages on Facebook and Twitter for the latest app information and tips.

 
LDSTech Broadcast: Feedback Improving Meetinghouse Technology PDF Print E-mail
Written by Emily Fairchild   
Friday, 02 August 2013

Date: Friday, August 2, 2013
Time: 12:00 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time
Topic: Feedback Improving Meetinghouse Technology

*Click this button to watch the broadcast live at 12 p.m. MDT on August 2, 2013

Meetinghouse technology has come a long way in the last few years, and we want to continue making it even better. Come learn about what the Church is doing to improve meetinghouse technology and how you can help!

The August LDSTech broadcast focuses on meetinghouse technology feedback, including:

  • How to give feedback
  • What happens with your comments
  • Common requests
  • Status of projects that are improving as a result of common feedback

Whether you attend or watch online, you have the chance to ask questions and give live feedback. The broadcast includes a panel of product managers who will present and speak to some of the solutions they are working on. They will answer questions at the conclusion of the broadcast.

How to Attend the Broadcast

To watch the LDSTech broadcast, click the "Watch it now" link at the time of the broadcast. If you would like to attend the broadcast in person, you may join us in the Riverton Office Building (3740 West Market Center Drive, Riverton, UT, Ground Floor, Zion Room A).

Each broadcast is recorded, so if you miss one, you can re-watch the recording at any time. In fact, if you tune in late to the broadcast, you can rewind the broadcast and play it from the beginning. See the Broadcast Archive to view previous broadcasts.

Live Participation

During the live stream of this broadcast you will have the opportunity to participate in interactive polls designed to gather answers and display the results in real time. At the time of the broadcast, navigate to pollev.com/mhtech on your computer or smart phone to contribute your answers.

Viewers can also ask questions through Twitter during the broadcast. If you don’t already have a Twitter account, you can sign up for one at Twitter.com. When you ask a question, include the hashtag #ldstech in your tweet. For more information, see Twitter and LDSTech.

 
LDSTech 2013 Conference Pre-Registration PDF Print E-mail
Written by Emily Fairchild   
Thursday, 15 August 2013

The LDSTech Conference registration site is currently open for pre-registration for those who plan to attend the conference this October. Only those who will be attending in person are invited to sign up at tech.lds.org/conf. Those unable to attend will be able to watch streaming video online after the event. They should not register for the conference. The schedule of presentations, projects, and speakers will be posted on the Conference Schedule wiki page when available.

To pre-register:

Note: You can change your personal profile or unregister at any time after you register.

You will receive a confirmation email to the address associated with your LDS Account. The Schedule view of the conference page automatically opens on screen. For now on your schedule you will only see the auto-filled lunch session for each day you registered to attend and a session showing a message that you have completed registration.

Because this is a call for pre-registration to attend the event, signing up for sessions and classes to fill your schedule is not yet available. Once the schedule of presentations and projects is available you may return to your conference schedule to sign up. We will announce when the schedule is posted.

The conference will be held all day Thursday and Friday October 17th and 18th. Attendance is free of cost and both breakfast and lunch are provided each day. To learn more about what to bring and how to prepare, visit the LDSTech Conference wiki where more details will be provided as the conference presentations, project sessions, speakers, and other details are finalized.

This year the conference isn't planned to be held at the Riverton Office Building as it has been in past years, but the conference will still be in Salt Lake City. Once finalized, the exact location will be announced on the blog and specifically to all who have registered through the conference web page.

The conference will host many exciting opportunities to meet with your teams and work on projects, share your own ideas and developments, and learn more about mobile applications, LDS.org tools, meetinghouse technology, and much much more. We look forward to seeing you in October!

 
LDSTech Church-Service Missionary Spotlight: Barbara Gardner PDF Print E-mail
Written by Emily Fairchild and Barbara Gardner   
Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Sister Gardner sitting at her home computer

Stumbling Blocks Are Removed

Forty years ago, with a brand new degree in journalism from Iowa State University, Sister Barbara Gardner’s career began at the Des Moines Register. Her first assignment, in addition to being the in-house magazine editor, was to write the training manual for “hot type” operators to become proficient in “cold type” technology. Ten years later she conducted a beta site for WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) typesetting technology and set up the first west coast demand publishing application for provider directories.

“Thirty years have passed," Gardner notes," and today ‘toner’ never meets paper, and the entire world is WYSIWYG! Isn’t technology wonderful?”

In 1991, Sister Gardner and her husband, Miles, became Latter-day Saints, three months after their sixteen year old daughter, Brittany, “wheeled” herself into the kingdom after being friendshipped by the wonderful youth of the Church in their area. Brittany was born with spina bifida and has been confined to a wheelchair all of her life.

Through the years, Sister Gardner and her husband attended many senior missionary homecomings and developed a yearning to serve in the Church full time when they retired.

“We knew that we would never be able to leave home due to our daughter’s disabilities," said Sister Gardner. "While we understood we were needed at home, it made us sad—but it made Brittany even sadder. She felt like she was a stumbling block on our path of service.

“Can you imagine her excitement when I found a missionary opportunity that embraced my love of technology, an opportunity to dust off my journalism degree, and an ability to serve from home? This mission allows me to serve in the technology center of the church, Salt Lake City, Utah, while tapping away on my keyboard in Surprise, Arizona. Isn’t technology wonderful!”

Sister Gardner considers it a huge bonus that she isn’t required to give up any ward or stake callings as a Church-service missionary. “I can still be involved with the Early Morning Seminary program, teach Gospel Doctrine class, and serve in the temple each week.”

With LDSTech, Sister Gardner will be interviewing other Church-service missionaries and writing articles for the blog about the impact CSMs have on Church technology and hastening the work of the Lord. She is enthusiastic to use her talents to spotlight the talents of others and invite more members to consider service missions.

She said, “I am excited to serve as an LDS Tech Church Service Missionary, help with the LDSTech blog, put my writing skills to good use, and continue to embrace the technology that I love.

“It is my testimony that the internet is available to us, by design, as an instrument to bring the gospel to all of God’s children. It is my desire to play a small part in bringing the PLAN OF H_ _ _INESS to all the world.

“Oh, yeah, there’s an APP for that!”


If you're interested to know more about Church-service missions, visit the opportunities page where you can see available options and complete the LDSTech Missionary and Service Opportunities form.

 
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