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Mormon Channel iPhone App Now Available Print E-mail
Written by Cassie McDaniel   
Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Mormon Channel iPhone App is now available for free in the iTunes store. This is the first LDSTech community collaboration project to be released.

Community collaboration is ongoing at the LDSTech Wiki. The purpose of the wiki is for Church employees and community members to collaborate on various documents and technology projects sponsored by the Church. We invite all to participate. New users, please review the Requirements for Participation and wiki Guidelines pages.

We can still improve the Mormon Channel iPhone Application. There is immediate need for quality assurance to find and fix bugs. You can suggest new features and report bugs in Jira.

To learn more about helping out with community collaboration projects on the LDSTech wiki, read about getting started.

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Finding Creative Inspiration from the Creation Print E-mail
Written by Richard Moore   
Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Looking to the work of the Master can help enhance our own creativity.

Everything Was Created Spiritually Before It Was Created Physically

    And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word. (Moses 3:7)

There are many scriptural sources of the initial spiritual creation of all things. The importance of a plan is apparent in this fact. Nothing was thrown together haphazardly. Every blade of grass, every insect, every tree and flower, and every one of us were fully realized first in spirit and then in flesh.

In our own creative works, taking the time to plan allows us to test ideas, work out the kinks, and define the best solution before we begin the actual creation. We save time, energy, and money—and end up with a better product. Planning allows us to make mistakes without fear and to refine the best ideas while letting the weak ones fade away.

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Working in a Small Church IT Shop Print E-mail
Written by Hyrum Haynes   
Thursday, 18 June 2009

When someone thinks of IT and the Church, they probably think of the large, complex environment at the Church’s downtown SLC campus, with a staff of dedicated IT professionals in many different specialties. Or perhaps they would think of the more modest technical needs of local units, area and mission offices, seminaries and institutes, MTCs, or temples. Indeed, the Church has technical needs wherever it has a presence. Those needs vary according to the function and size of the particular location.

I am privileged to have worked at LDS Philanthropies (formerly LDS Foundation) for the last 18 years, first as a Technical Service Representative (TSR) and now as a software engineer. I have seen this department grow in size and change in technology. LDS Philanthropies (LDSP) is a department of the Office of the Presiding Bishopric and is responsible for philanthropic donations to the Church and its affiliated charities, including the Church’s educational institutions. We maintain the donor records for these charities, as well as the alumni databases (but not educational records) of BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, and LDS Business College. The database resides on an IBM System i (AS/400) located in the BYU Data Center. The AS/400, along with the Ascend database, was chosen in 1990 because it was the best system then available to support the needs of LDS Foundation.

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Test Automation Print E-mail
Written by Brandon Nicholls   
Tuesday, 16 June 2009

When I was a kid, I watched a cartoon called The Jetsons. The futuristic family had a robotic maid named Rosie who took care of the household chores. To make things interesting, she was given a personality, and occasionally she demonstrated emotions. After watching this show, I would think about the future and imagine robots doing the majority of our work for us while we sat back and did more important things. Although many of these imaginings have not materialized, I often think of this when I am writing test automation as a QA engineer for the Church.

Even a simple application can have a large number of test cases that need to be verified. Let’s pretend we have an application with 100 test cases. The sooner we realize a given test case is failing, the better off we will be. Accordingly, we would want to test after each successful build. Let’s suppose that ten new builds are created each day. If we tested all of this functionality with each new build, we would be testing 1,000 (100 X 10) cases day in and day out. Umm . . . I think we need a Rosie!

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The Cost of Bugs Print E-mail
Written by Christian Hargraves   
Thursday, 11 June 2009

Two things contribute to unhappy customers: bugs and late delivery. A bug is generally referred to as a feature in the application that does not work according to the customer’s expectations. This can be due to an unspecified or misunderstood requirement or just a mistake in the development of the software. Either way, bugs not only frustrate the customer, they considerably expand the project’s cost and timeline.

Making an effort to catch bugs at the earliest point in the life cycle will result in a higher return on investment (ROI). The cost of fixing a bug differs depending on the stage of development it is caught in.

  • Requirements Stage: Bugs caught in the requirements writing stage simply cost the time to rewrite the requirement. Time spent in this stage is usually constant.
  • Coding Stage: Bugs caught here require developer hours. Time varies but is considerably less than fixing a bug found by someone else. When a bug is found during this stage, the developer discovers it, already understands the problem, and often knows how to fix it.
  • Integration Stage: Bugs caught here require developer and other system engineer hours. Time is usually at least twice as much, since the problem occurs at a higher level and there is a need to figure out which exact code or configuration is wrong. 
  • Testing Stage: Bugs caught here require developer, system engineer, PM, and QA hours. The process is much larger than before. Now things need to be tracked and prioritized. This now requires finding reproduction steps, submitting a bug, prioritizing the bug, meeting with developers, fixing the bug, pushing the fix to the test environment, verifying the fix, and tracking the changes of the bug in the system.
  • Production Stage: Bugs caught here require developer, support, system engineer, PM, customer, and QA hours. This process always involves all of the roles. It requires more planning and more prioritizing than in the testing stage. Usually a phone call comes to support, and they decide if it's a bug or if it’s working as designed. The customer is notified, the PM is contacted, and then the process in the testing stage is followed. 

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Working with Names from Around the World Print E-mail
Written by Cindy Conlin   
Tuesday, 09 June 2009

One of the first steps in building global software is to recognize that many assumptions Americans often hold about how people’s names work are not universally true. Much of the software used by the Church use people’s names, and we’ve found an amazing amount of diversity in the name-related traditions of different cultures. Can you distinguish fact from fiction in the name myths?

Myth 1:

The concepts “first name” and “last name” are consistent across cultures. 

False. In America, we use the Western name order, and so Americans instinctively know that the last name in George Timothy Clooney is also the family name. By contrast, several other cultures place names in the Eastern order, always listing the family name first. For example, the Chinese will always use Jacki Chan’s Chinese name in the order “Chan Kong Sang”, and they know that the first name “Chan” is the family name.

As a result, if you label name fields in your global software with the position-based terms FirstName and LastName, you may not get what you expect.

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What Does Quality Feel Like Online? Print E-mail
Written by Chris Mayfield   
Thursday, 04 June 2009

When you shut the door of a new BMW, you hear a gratifyingly solid-sounding thump. It feels good to pick up a small, unassuming digital camera, only to find that it is surprisingly sturdy and heavy. Many companies who make physical objects use fine materials and many other techniques to give their products a sense of quality and craftsmanship.

In a world of cheap plastic and sloppy details, I’ve noticed that the feel of a nicely handcrafted object brings me much gratification—and sometimes even endears an object to me. This realization has made me wonder, “What is the Web equivalent?”

The Web’s expansion has exploded. In fact, over the last ten years, the number of Web sites has grown from a few million to somewhere around 150 million. With so many new Web sites being created daily, it becomes difficult for people who are involved in creating Web sites to find and identify a quality Web experience. It’s easy for our Web experience expectations to become low.

Even though a Web site isn’t something you can pick up and feel, there are many effective ways you can create the feeling of quality. The following attributes are just a few of the tips and tricks that I have found that work together to give a Web site that feeling of quality.

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Spotlight: Amy Quintanal Print E-mail
Written by Cassie McDaniel   
Tuesday, 02 June 2009

QuestionAmy Quintanal

What do you do at the Church?


I am the portfolio analyst for the Human Resource and other operations portfolios within the Information and Communications Systems Department.


What role do you think program management plays in the Church organization?


Program management acts as a liaison between ICS and other Church departments. We are able to build relationships with our customers to understand their needs and provide solutions to help them achieve their goals.

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Extensible Markup Language (XML) Print E-mail
Written by Travis Foxley   
Thursday, 28 May 2009

Over the past decade, search has been revolutionized by companies like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Today, it is uncommon to go to a Web site that does not contain a search box. Search efficiency and accuracy greatly affect the user’s experience. The Church has a lot of wonderful content that we want the public to have easy access to.

On a few of our recent projects, we have leveraged new tools that are proving to be very beneficial to our content-driven Web sites. With the large amounts of content that are created and stored on Church Web sites, it has become apparent that using proprietary content management not only restricts us from having free access to our content, but also wastes time and money.

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The Mormon Messages Channel on YouTube Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Tuesday, 26 May 2009

You may have seen a few Church videos on YouTube, but did you know the Church has an official channel on YouTube called Mormon Messages? The Mormon Messages Channel features regular, fresh videos produced by the Church’s Audiovisual (AV) Department, posted each Friday. Each video lasts about three minutes and focuses on a single message communicated in an engaging way.

The small AV team that creates these videos puts them together without much time—usually in few days with a crew of only two or three people. They often have to shoot new video to match the message they want to convey. For example, for the Easter video of Elder Holland, two members of the AV crew went to Utah Lake to capture video of a shoreline for a scene depicting the Sea of Galilee.

Most videos receive about twenty thousand hits, but the Elder Holland video had nearly 500,000 hits. The video was promoted on and sent out to Church employees, who were encouraged to view and share it. As the views of the video increased, the video’s popularity rating increased as well, making it the number one viral video on the Internet for 48 hours.

More popular videos rise to the top of searches and related videos lists, as well as trends lists and other rankings, leading to more views. In this way, the views and popularity feed on themselves—the more views a video gets, the more popular it becomes. And the more popular it becomes, the more views it gets.

Jonathan Nelson, manager of the AV team that creates these videos, says they try to make the videos engaging for a YouTube audience. To do so, they focus on a single message to keep it brief, and pull together the right audio and video content to match the speaker’s message. The result can be a powerful, mesmerizing experience that motivates viewers to keep watching.

The Mormon Messages Channel does have challenges because of the way YouTube currently works. When you watch a video today, you’re presented with videos that have similar themes. This Related Videos section poses challenges because some listed videos contain anti-Mormon or inappropriate content, but they are pulled in because of keyword matches with the video’s meta tags.

Jonathan says the number of these unwanted Related Videos will decrease over time as the Church pushes out more videos on YouTube. Right now the Mormon Messages Channel site has about 25 videos (since its start in late January 2009). But already many of the videos that appear in the Related Videos section are Church-produced videos.

Besides influencing the Related Videos list, one of Jonathan’s goals is to increase coordination with other groups, such as the Missionary and Curriculum Departments, to ensure they target the right message at the right time without overlapping or duplicating efforts. The various departments can build on similar themes to share resources and information for their individual purposes and campaigns.

Because YouTube makes it easy to embed and share videos across a variety of platforms, these videos put powerful missionary tools in the hands of Church members across the world, allowing them to embed the videos on their blogs and link to them on Twitter or Facebook.

In a sense, these videos are an electronic form of pass-along cards, geared toward a video-driven audience and perfect for social media sharing. Additionally, members and non-members can engage in discussions through comment threads directly below each video.

More than just missionary tools, though, the Mormon Messages Channel provides an engaging media outlet for the Brethren to send a message in a powerful, inspiring way, reaching Church members across the world.

To view the latest videos on the Mormon Messages Channel, go to

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