API for Directory Web App

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carlsonjf
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API for Directory Web App

Postby carlsonjf » Mon Jan 04, 2016 3:13 pm

Looking for an API for our Directory. It's fine to use my credentials. I want a way to programmatically update the list of (for example) all of the YM leaders across the stake.

This is extremely tedious to do with the current Directory web application and with our units changing fairly regularly all of the stake leadership would like to get this information on a regular basis. Its not that it is not available - we can get to the same information from the Directory web application, it's just so painful to get a list of all the RS presidencies, etc. I know we can generate reports via the stake clerks - but thats missing the point of the question and the need. We have access to the information already - we just want a way to get the information across units in a much easier way. It took me more time to update the list of Bishops, Exec secretaries, YM presidencies from each unit for my contact lists than it would have taken to write the program to get the same data from a secure API.

So, here's hoping that there is such a thing and someone out there will send me to the developer docs.

Thanks,
Jeff Carlson

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aebrown
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Re: API for Directory Web App

Postby aebrown » Mon Jan 04, 2016 3:28 pm

carlsonjf wrote:Looking for an API for our Directory. It's fine to use my credentials. I want a way to programmatically update the list of (for example) all of the YM leaders across the stake.

The APIs used by the Directory web app are not available to the public; they can only be used within official apps created by the Church.

I'm certainly sympathetic to your request; I've wanted such information on more than one occasion. But I've seen no indication that the Church has any plans to open up these APIs beyond official applications. On balance, I'm more sympathetic to the Church's position on this -- supporting an API for unofficial developers is a distraction from the important work that the Church's limited development teams need to be doing.

carlsonjf wrote:I know we can generate reports via the stake clerks - but thats missing the point of the question and the need.

Given the above, your best option is still to work through the stake clerks. They have the ability and responsibility to supply such information to ward and stake leaders (as authorized by the stake president, of course). Or you can use the Directory to go through each ward and gather the information yourself as you have been doing; that's admittedly quite tedious, but is certainly something you can do yourself if you would prefer not to involve the stake clerks.

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johnshaw
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Re: API for Directory Web App

Postby johnshaw » Mon Jan 04, 2016 3:45 pm

From the online LCR tool, FAQ:

Stake auxiliary leaders and high councilors are primarily responsible to instruct and support ward auxiliary and Melchizedek Priesthood leaders. They orient newly called ward auxiliary and Melchizedek Priesthood leaders and provide encouragement, support, and instruction. They are not responsible for individual ward members. It is the ward clerk’s responsibility to train ward auxiliary and Melchizedek Priesthood leaders on record-keeping tools and responsibilities. If stake auxiliary leaders and high councilors need a list of members for planning purposes, they should request this information through the ward or stake clerk.


That statement resulted from the continuous requests from stake leaders and we are assured is the desire of the General Authorities who have stewardship over these tools. I'm not as sympathetic as others on the board. In my time as a Stake Clerk, I saw more lists of minors with birthdays and full addresses/phone numbers cast aside or left in public areas than I'd like, it was more than once or even 10 times. The rules of availability of this information should be strict, kept confidential and limited in distribution. The online and mobile tools are how the church is responding to this issue and access is granted based on role or calling.

I am well aware that there are still many useful tools that church should be developing or providing, it seems we reduce functionality before we provide a replacement... I wish I had an event management solution that could use the directory information to help organize Conferences, treks, and other multi-ward or stake-wide conferences.
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”
― Thomas Paine, Common Sense

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Re: API for Directory Web App

Postby sbradshaw » Mon Jan 04, 2016 4:22 pm

It would be nice if LDS Tools had a "smart lists" option to make a list of everyone who has a certain calling, for example. I imagine something like this could happen.
Samuel Bradshaw • Interested in church apps and sites, creative recordkeeping, clerk support, YSA wards and stakes, LDS music, Vineyard at BYU, and online service.

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Re: API for Directory Web App

Postby russellhltn » Mon Jan 04, 2016 4:27 pm

johnshaw wrote:From the online LCR tool, FAQ:


Note that OP is asking for a list of YM leaders, not of the YM themselves. Being able to email all the ward YM leaders would appear to me to be within the stewardship of a stake YM leader.
Have you searched the Wiki?
Try using a Google search by adding "site:tech.lds.org/wiki" to the search criteria.

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Re: API for Directory Web App

Postby scgallafent » Mon Jan 04, 2016 4:34 pm

carlsonjf wrote:This is extremely tedious to do with the current Directory web application and with our units changing fairly regularly all of the stake leadership would like to get this information on a regular basis.

Directory is not intended for this purpose. Your stake clerks can generate a list of ward leadership very quickly using LCR. From the menu, choose Organizations > Ward Leadership. Generating a list of all bishoprics in the stake takes three mouse clicks after you are logged in. Yes, it requires the assistance of a stake clerk or assistant clerk.

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carlsonjf
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Re: API for Directory Web App

Postby carlsonjf » Mon Jan 04, 2016 6:46 pm

Thank you for the replies. Here is the scenario. I am in the Stake YM presidency. When I communicate with our ward leaders we have found it most effective to email the following groups on one email:
1) The Ward YM Presidency (President, 1st and 2nd counselor and Secretary) for each unit
2) The Bishops and Executive Secretary for each unit on cc:

This means every time I send an email, I need to check 60 entries in Directory web application. Again, its not data that I don't access to. Its just incredibly tedious to get the lists verified for each email I send.

I regularly pull data to build lists like this for work and with an available API this task would take about 45 minutes to write and test the script and 2 minutes each time to run. Instead of the 1-2 hours I am spending today to validate and update the list manually when changes to presidencies and bishoprics have occurred.

As an organization do we think it makes sense for every stake person who sending email to the unit leaders to get an updated list from the stake clerk before every email we send? This does not seem effective either. This is not an information protection issue in any way - I can get every piece of information I need via the web app. In 1-2 hours. It is merely a very poor access issue when you need to communicate across the stake to different organizations at the same time. Surely, anyone with any stake calling that needed to communicate with their units has had this kind of issue.

I suppose that if there is no available API I could write a screen scraper. I cannot think that would be what the Church would recommend but it looks like my only option at this point. The current manual solution is non-tenable and asking the Stake Clerk for an updated list before each email we send is equally non-tenable.

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aebrown
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Re: API for Directory Web App

Postby aebrown » Mon Jan 04, 2016 8:50 pm

carlsonjf wrote:This means every time I send an email, I need to check 60 entries in Directory web application. Again, its not data that I don't access to. Its just incredibly tedious to get the lists verified for each email I send.

I can't imagine that you really need to verify all those entries for every email you send, because callings don't change all that often. I would think that a new bishop would be mentioned in your stake council meetings, so you would hear of those. And your ward YM presidents should be instructed to inform you when their counselors or secretaries change. And even if you don't hear about changes, what's the worst that happens? Your email gets sent to someone who just barely got released. Whenever I've gotten an email sent to me after I've been released, I've replied to the sender that I have been released and who replaced me. Although not everyone will extend that courtesy, most will.

I appreciate your desire for accuracy, but it seems to me that you could verify your lists every 3 months or so and be pretty accurate, without having to spend 1-2 hours for every email you send out. But of course it's your choice.

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johnshaw
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Re: API for Directory Web App

Postby johnshaw » Thu Jan 21, 2016 9:13 am

As a Ward Clerk and Stake Clerk, I proactively created lists like this for leaders, it takes little to no time. I don't understand why that wouldn't work in this scenario. I realize it's not what you WANT to do, but there's all sorts of stuff I'd like to do for my calling but can't.

Think about this... It took the Church 5 years between allowing Bishoprics and Stake Presidencies to see data in LCR and rolling it out to other Ward/Stake Council members. This is not an Agile environment, it is slow and steady, and then only after a few years of studying the right thing. If you're interested, take a look at the LDS Tech Conference KeyNote for 2015 - Some very interesting into the process the church uses to do new things with technology.
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”

― Thomas Paine, Common Sense

dwagstaff1
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Re: API for Directory Web App

Postby dwagstaff1 » Sun Jul 10, 2016 9:36 am

The responses are less than satisfactory. I read these meta-messages.
  • You don't know what you're doing.
  • You don't need to do that.
  • You shouldn't do that.
  • Use this workaround.
  • Be grateful for what you got.
  • The Church knows what it's doing.
All the respondents cared enough to provide a thoughtful response, many giving sympathy. Nonetheless, the ultimate message is
Nope, not going to support public API. Go away.
"
The most disturbing message is by implication.
Supporting an API for unofficial developers is a distraction from the important work that the Church's limited development teams need to be doing.

As an unofficial developer I'm a distraction, and making efficient the work I do for the Church is not important.

As carlsonjf noted, I guess I'll have to screen scrape.


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