Participate in Community Development

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McDanielCA
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Participate in Community Development

Postby McDanielCA » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:28 am

Participate in Community Development was originally posted on the main page of LDSTech. It was written by Nathan Dickamore.

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I recently attended a keynote presentation given by Michael Tiemann, Red Hat’s Vice President of Open Source Affairs (listen to Michael Tiemann’s presentation here). Michael's talk focuses on "exonovation" (a word he made up), or innovation from an open community, and how it can make a product even better than a closed, controlled, proprietary effort. Exonovation involves creating a more open, positive, and productive environment, leveraging the innovation of people external to your organization and is a common practice used in the open source development community.

Listening to this presentation as a software engineer for the LDS Church, I could see how exonovation and the community could really benefit the work here at the Church. We have found that as an organization we have many software dependencies, yet we do not have the funds or resources necessary to meet all of these dependencies. Exonovation provides a way for us to extend our resource cap to a possibly unlimited amount.

There are many individuals willing to work towards better Church software. I have heard many people comment on how they would like to be involved in designing or writing software for the Church, and many of these people have written custom software applications for their local ward or stake.

With this knowledge, the Church started down the path of allowing members to contribute to projects. That contribution is now known as community development. We have been working to get all of the necessary components set up for community members to contribute. Information on getting started is available on LDS Tech. Community Services are available to allow developers access to fake membership data. A source code repository and other resources have been provided, and we continue to look for things that can be done to assist the community.

There are many ways that individuals can help, regardless of whether or not they have development skills. A project’s development process requires many different individuals who can work as project managers, designers, database engineers, software developers, testers, technical writers, translators, and more. Not only do we have community members of different nationalities, we also have members of different occupations, lifestyles, talents, interests, etc. From a development standpoint you want this diversity on a project. Each individual can fill a different role and will bring a different perspective.

We need individuals who can do the following:

  • Monitor wiki documentation and update formatting, grammar, spelling, etc.
  • Come up with project ideas, document project requirements, and manage project resources and status.
  • Design the application's flow and layout.
  • Develop the application (using the Java architecture provided, or on a new architecture).
  • Test the application through manual testing, in which an individual clicks through the application, or automation testing, in which scripts click through the application.
  • Record application issues that need to be resolved in our issue tracking system.
Please take a few moments and check out the LDSTech Wiki. We have taken several large steps to make things available for community members to be productive, and we continue to fine tune these things.

Nathan Dickamore is a senior software engineer for the Church.

jeromatron-p40
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LDS Open Source Development

Postby jeromatron-p40 » Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:08 pm

I know it's kind of a nit-picky thing, but I'm not sure if the development talked about is true open source development as the OSI would define it. I'm excited about the direction the Church is going with opening up development for certain things to allow for developers anywhere to contribute, but just know that many developers, especially those involved in the open source world, are kind of particular about terminology. I think Tom V. described it as open development in his SORT presentation, which sounded accurate.

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Postby mkmurray » Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:46 pm

jeromatron wrote:I know it's kind of a nit-picky thing, but I'm not sure if the development talked about is true open source development as the OSI would define it. I'm excited about the direction the Church is going with opening up development for certain things to allow for developers anywhere to contribute, but just know that many developers, especially those involved in the open source world, are kind of particular about terminology. I think Tom V. described it as open development in his SORT presentation, which sounded accurate.

I think Church employees have tried to keep accurate terminology as much as possible. I have yet to see mention of the term "open-source project" in the last year from a Church employee when talking about the projects where LDSTech Community members are involved. The terms I have seen most common are "Community projects" or "Community-developed projects", and just now in this article "community development."
Many questions are already answered on the LDSTech wiki. Check it out!

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Postby rmrichesjr » Wed Jul 01, 2009 3:52 pm

mkmurray wrote:I think Church employees have tried to keep accurate terminology as much as possible. I have yet to see mention of the term "open-source project" in the last year from a Church employee when talking about the projects where LDSTech Community members are involved. The terms I have seen most common are "Community projects" or "Community-developed projects", and just now in this article "community development."


I realize I'm stating the obvious, but the words "open" and "source" appear in that order with no intervening words in the titles of this thread and the headline article on which it is based:

McDanielCA wrote:Participate in Open Source Development was originally posted on the main page of LDSTech. It was written by Nathan Dickamore.
...


The article does talk a little about open source development outside the Church, but the main point of the article appeared to me to be contributing to Church projects.

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Postby mkmurray » Wed Jul 01, 2009 4:18 pm

rmrichesjr wrote:I realize I'm stating the obvious, but the words "open" and "source" appear in that order with no intervening words in the titles of this thread and the headline article on which it is based...

Aw, drat, I missed the title. :o

The article itself doesn't actually use those words and from my experience, most Church employees have not and do not currently refer to the Community Projects as "Open Source" development (at least not on purpose). It really is more of a sponsorship at this point.
Many questions are already answered on the LDSTech wiki. Check it out!

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McDanielCA
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Postby McDanielCA » Wed Jul 01, 2009 7:29 pm

I made a change to reflect the terminology being used here and in the article.

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Free Software and Open Source Software foundation needed

Postby alandd-p40 » Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:38 pm

I am consistently surprised that the church does not use more Free Software and Open Source Software for the foundation of it's infrastructure. For example, the newly announced Meetinghouse Webcast beta requires an all closed source platform including a "Microsoft Windows Media Encoder." (http://tech.lds.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=245:invitation-to-participate-in-meetinghouse-webcast-20-software-beta-test&catid=5:announcements) That means the end media file created will also be in a closed format.

I use Linux at home on all my computers. Using church produced software and digital media is a problem because it's based on closed products and formats. If we really want to open up the community, the openness must be throughout the community, including the foundation it's built on. I, as one software engineer, don't want to help perpetuate closed technologies, even when applied to the church.

I also assume that the church would like to bring computer automation and digital distribution to developing countries with growing church membership. So I am baffled why technologies that cost man-months wages in those countries are used as a platform for digital growth.

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Postby kennethjorgensen » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:28 am

alandd wrote:I am consistently surprised that the church does not use more Free Software and Open Source Software for the foundation of it's infrastructure.......

I use Linux at home on all my computers....


If you browse around this forum for previous threads on the subject you should find some answers to this as it is not as easy as it looks like.

Some things might be free to purchase but might have other additional costs/impediments such as retraining, lack of skillset, lack of additional cost-saving software on the same platform.

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Postby alandd-p40 » Thu Jul 09, 2009 7:23 am

dkjorgi wrote:If you browse around this forum for previous threads on the subject you should find some answers to this as it is not as easy as it looks like.


Thanks for the tip. Software on Linux has improved it's ability to support closed formats so I can usually figure it out. But not always and not for the newest formats because reverse engineering without documentation takes time.

Some things might be free to purchase but might have other additional costs/impediments such as retraining, lack of skillset, lack of additional cost-saving software on the same platform.


Yes, for enterprise or large user base targets such as the church is doing, these things are considerations. I would like to see a "white paper" or something that defines the effects of such issues on technology used by the church. Also I'd like to see a road map for technology use in Africa, South America and other areas where technology is not prevalent.

For example, does the church expect a branch in a small, rural town of Brazil to have the funds to purchase the software required by the new "Meetinghouse Webcast" system? Illegal copying of software is rampant in such areas of the world, partly because of the relatively huge cost. How does the church address licensing costs for members in these areas if church software only functions on high cost platforms?

I am ignoring the beautiful meshing of Free Software philosophy with the concepts of provident living and service to your neighbor. It seems a natural fit yet is seemingly not supported by the church.

The church IT/development department does a fabulous job with impressive results and I am thankful for what they produce. I just want to understand more about why closed platforms and formats are supported while open ones are neglected or ignored despite the benefits to be had there.

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Postby MorettiDP » Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:19 am

alandd,

I thought you gave that all the places in Africa and Brazil are extremely poor. First, Brazil is one of the most successful developing countries in the world (BRIC - Brazil, Russia, India and China). Furthermore, we are the third largest country of the Church in number of members and the second (behind USA) in number of units. Much of the spending within the budget of the Church in Brazil comes from donations from Brazilian members (more than one million currently).

I think your explanation is biased because, although there are still poor places in Brazil, all the wards and branches of the Church are filled with enough resources and technologies needed for their correct execution and work. If things happen in the Church in Africa, this does not happen in Brazil, where, for example, 100% of units already have computers for access to MLS and 100% of FHCs are connected to the Internet via broadband.

If Brazilian ICS Office isn't so diverse like in USA or Argentina, this problem is the number of resources available in area level (employees, etc.). Of course, Argentina have, for exemple, better ICS programs because the number of employees is ideal to the number of Church members in the country. We passed a million members, Argentina don't have it.

It isn't apology to proprietary products. But I thing if the Church have a good contract with a company, why don't enjoy this contract? We don't know all the things the Church is doing in technology area (even this site helps us to get an idea about it). Remember too that, in some areas (like Brazil) Linux isn't a reality in the life of computer users. We don't have some distributions of Linux in Portuguese, and we can't find courses of computer skils in Linux in all the places of the country (Microsoft Windows courses countinues to be a majority). This can be a reason to Church's use of proprietary software, for exemple.
MorettiDP
São Carlos Brazil Stake Technology Specialist


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