LDSTech Conference Stats and Analysis Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Thursday, 05 May 2011

Update on LDSTechLast month we held the second annual LDSTech Conference. Here are a few facts and statistics about the conference.

  • Number of attendees: 286
  • Peak connections to the keynote stream: 85
  • Total participants (attendees + stream): 371
  • US states attendees: Utah, Montana, Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Texas, Arizona, Nebraska, and more
  • International attendees: Canada, Australia, Mexico, England, and more
  • Number of projects: 26 plus a few ad hoc efforts

These numbers are all up from last year. During the past year, we had only 10 community projects and 200 attendees. (We could have expanded the conference with more attendees, but we hit full capacity for the year early on in the registration.)

As general feedback from the conference, individuals reported the following:

  • They were able to do more work this year than last.
  • The conference had improved from last year.
  • More events like these would be more beneficial (rather than just once a year).

Based on this feedback, we have started a monthly LDSTech Service day. Thank you to everyone who participated in the conference. We captured a few informal video interviews with various participants. We’ll be posting a few of these videos every day during the coming weeks.

 
New Features on LDSTech: Send E-mails to Entire Team; Select Your E-mail Address Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Wednesday, 04 May 2011

LDSTech has several new features for community projects. Project managers can now send e-mail messages to their entire teams with one click. Additionally, you can select the e-mail address used in your LDSTech profile as long as it exists in your LDS Account.

 
Volunteers Needed for Mobile Newsroom Project Print E-mail
Written by Jason Mortensen   
Friday, 29 April 2011

Jason MortensenThe Public Affairs Department would like to have a mobile version of the current Newsroom site to allow users to access major features of the Newsroom site from a mobile device. Currently, a user can access Newsroom from a mobile device by going to the regular Newsroom site at newsroom.lds.org; however, this site isn’t optimized for mobile devices. This project will improve the Newsroom user’s experience.

This is an excellent opportunity to help the Public Affairs Department make it easier for users to get information on a mobile device through a rich web application. The same publishing tool that the current Newsroom site uses will drive the images and content of Mobile Newsroom once the front end coding is complete.

The requirements for this project have already been gathered and the designs are complete. Now we need to develop a site based on those designs. We are looking for developers who have advanced experience coding with HTML 5, CSS, and JavaScript. This version of Mobile Newsroom will target the iOS and Android platforms; therefore, experience developing on these specific platforms is preferred. We are also looking for anyone who can help test the web application to ensure that the product we deliver will function as designed.

The Public Affairs Department has been asking about Mobile Newsroom for some time, and we are eager to deliver this great product to them. We look forward to working with members of the community to make this project come to life.

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If you would like to get involved in the Mobile Newsroom project, sign in with your LDS Account in the sidebar, and then click Projects at the top. From the Projects subtab, scroll down and click Mobile Newsroom in the left column. Then click Join.

 
The Gospel Library and LDS Tools for Android Projects Print E-mail
Written by Jason Hyer   
Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Jason HyerI receive a lot of e-mail messages asking about the Gospel Library and LDS Tools for the Android phones. A main concern found in many e-mails is why the Church favors the iOS products (Apple) over the Android system.

I chuckle each time I read this question because I know there is no preference for a given platform. The difference is that the iOS applications started development before the Android applications, and they have a very dedicated core of developers constantly trying to improve the apps.

What can you tell us about the development of the Gospel Library for the Android?

To enable us to quickly put an official Church app on the Android Market, we started with static content. This made the content available but prevented the user from managing or adding new content; it also limited our ability to add new content and features.

Last fall a group of developers started rebuilding the app to allow users to manage the content. Now a user can browse through the content library and choose what they want to download. If users don’t want an item, they can uninstall it later. Though the content has been uninstalled, it is available in the content catalogue and can be reinstalled.

The library is extensive and includes the official version of the scriptures, more than 20 years of general conference reports, more than 30 years of Church magazines, manuals for Sunday School, Priesthood and Relief Society, the Hymn book, the Children’s Songbook, and other Church publications. The library is also available in Spanish and German with other languages being added.

What is in the future for the Android Gospel Library?

We have some exciting plans for the Gospel Library. For example, the ability to sync highlighted passages, notes, and bookmarks with the Study Notebook on LDS.org is in the works. This will ensure personalized information will not be lost if a device has to be reset or transferred to a new device. Secondly, it will maximize the study time across multiple platforms. You can study part of a topic at home on your computer and later pick it up while waiting for an appointment or sitting at church.

One other feature we hope to implement later this year is the ability to add personal documents. This could be useful for adding items like patriarchal blessings, study schedules, or other material that can enhance your study. Stay tuned for progress and other future updates.

Are there any plans for the Android tablets?

The other exciting development is compatibility with Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) devices. We have made some initial efforts to maximize the use of the larger screens on devices such as the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the T-Mobile G-Slate. Future enhancements will address other interface and usability features with these larger devices.

How does development for the Android Gospel Library differ from development for iOS?

A big difference between development for Android and iOS is the number of devices used by each operating system. Android has dozens of devices made by numerous manufactures, and our apps have to be stable on all of them. iOS has just two devices, the iPhone and iPad.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced on this project?

Developing an Android app can be difficult, but it is challenging us to develop a more robust app. One of the biggest challenges has been re-engineering the application. It has required very skilled developers to make the changes. Many of the community members joined the project in the hopes of learning more about developing apps for Android, but their skill level wasn’t at the level we needed. As a project team we have recognized this challenge and hope to provide more opportunities for community members to learn about Android development by working in a team-oriented environment.

What are some of the highlight moments for you on this project?

The Gospel Library has been a huge success with over 230,000 downloads and over 210,000 active installations. The app has maintained nearly a five-star rating on the Android Market.

One of the roles I fill as the project manager is answering e-mails that ask for help with an application. At times it can be quite overwhelming. However, occasionally people send an e-mail thanking us for the work we do, and telling us how much of a blessing the Gospel Library is in their lives.

I volunteered for the project manager position when I was out of work and needed something positive to focus on.

What needs does your project have right now?

The project continues to need skilled Android developers. As mentioned above, we have many people that want to participate, but we need people who have solid experience developing apps for Android and are willing to share that experience to help develop others.

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If you would like to get involved in the Android Gospel Library and Android LDS Tools projects, sign in with your LDS Account in the sidebar, and then click Projects at the top. From the Projects subtab, scroll down and click Gospel Library for Android or LDSTools for Android in the left column. Then click Join.

 
Announcing Monthly LDSTech Service Days Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Friday, 22 April 2011

Event: LDSTech Service Day
Date: Friday, May 6, 2011
Time: 9am to 9pm
Location: Riverton Office Building, Riverton, Utah (see map)
Food: Dinner provided free.
More Info: here
Welcome and Project Overview: Stream

We received a lot of feedback after the LDSTech Conference about meeting more regularly during the year. We’re pleased to announce the start of monthly LDSTech Service Days. These Service Days will take place the first Friday of each month on the first floor of the Riverton Office Building.

By the way, we’re not entirely sure what to call these monthly events yet – Service Days, Code Treks, Hackathons, Code Crams, Techathons, Codefests – so we’re starting with the generic “Service Day” name for the first event. If you have feedback about the name, send it to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Service Days allow you to work together on-site in a technical environment with your project team. During the Service Day, you’ll be grouped together for as much time as you need (all day, if you can) to work side by side. Remote team members who can’t join the team physically can connect remotely through Skype, IRC, MeetingPlace, or another remote tool your project uses. Lunch won’t be provided, but there will be a hearty dinner, accompanied by laughing and elbow-rubbing as you code, test, design, and hack.

The first LDSTech Service Day will be held Friday, May 6, from 9am to 9pm. You can show up anytime. Because it’s held on Friday, you’ll have the availability of full-time employees, including the project lead, and access to whatever technical resources you need to accomplish the work.

If you have questions, contact your project lead or Alan Smoot ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) for more information.

 
Bishops Storehouse Web Application Nears Rollout Print E-mail
Written by Kathryn Grant   
Friday, 15 April 2011

Kathryn GrantKathryn Grant is a volunteer on the Bishops Storehouse Inventory and Reporting (BSIR) project -- one of the many community projects that volunteers can work on. In this article, we chat about this BSIR project, its goals, progress, and lessons learned. Kathryn provides some great advice for other volunteers working on community projects.

What is the BSIR project all about?

The Bishops Storehouse Inventory and Reporting system (BSIR) is a web-based application that will track the inventory, orders, and volunteer hours in the various bishops' storehouses. It will be deployed initially and primarily in Central America, South America, and throughout the Caribbean.

What system are they currently using?

Currently, the inventory is tracked in a Microsoft Access application, which itself was a giant step forward from the paper system. However, the time has come to move to the next level.

Is the team almost finished?

The team began work in August 2010, so we've been working on the project for about eight months. We're just nearing the end of beta testing, and the application will be rolling out soon, just in time for the 75th anniversary of Welfare Services.

What advantages does BSIR provide over the previous system?

BSIR provides the following key advantages over the Access application:

  • Users need only a web browser and LDS Account; no special software needs to be installed or maintained.
  • Data files no longer have to be sent between locations.
  • Lists of stakes, wards, and leaders are pulled dynamically from Church systems and have become maintenance-free.
  • Inventory changes are displayed immediately for all users, whether at the storehouse, Area Office, or Church Welfare Headquarters.
  • Likewise, reports show up-to-date statistics at all times for all locations.

What advice would the BSIR team offer to others working on community projects?

Developing BSIR was an exciting adventure, even with the inevitable bumps in the road. Here are a few lessons we've learned:

  • There's a need for volunteers with different skills at different levels. If you'd like to get involved, don't hesitate!
  • Resist the temptation to consider volunteer projects casual. If you commit to a project, stay with it or let the team know if you're unable to continue.
  • Know your users and their processes. If you can't interview users in person, arrange a phone conference.
  • Develop thorough specifications. An oversight in the BSIR specifications required some significant redesign late in the development cycle.
  • Communication is key. Keep each other in the loop, question assumptions, and if you see a problem, speak up!
  • Murphy is a silent team member on all software projects, so build extra time into the timeline to compensate. A worthwhile project doesn't mean the absence of challenges.
  • Focus on priorities, and avoid the temptation to be distracted by items that are easier (or more fun) but less important. Also, under tight deadlines, keep in mind the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"—even if it could be improved.
  • Test, test, test. Find testers other than the developers, who know the product too well. Engage the project sponsors and end users. Sometimes people question the value of testing before the product is "done," but the time to find issues is beforehand.
  • If you need to work with the Translation Department, involve them early and allow additional time.
  • Engage technical writers from the community to write clear and complete help documentation.
  • Don't plan a rollout near General Conference. The Translation Department is booked for several weeks before and after. There are lockdowns on some Church systems. In addition, there are special events such as annual training meetings and the LDSTech Conference which cut into team members' availability.

Finally, enjoy the experience, learn from it, and get others involved! It's a great feeling to work together to help build the kingdom.

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If you would like to get involved in a community project, log in with your LDS Account in the sidebar, and then click Projects at the top. From the Projects tab, you can complete your profile, select your skills, and browse available projects. When you find a project that appeals to you, go to the project's detail page and click Join.

 
The Gospel Library iOS Project Print E-mail
Written by Joshua Howland   
Monday, 11 April 2011

Joshua HowlandJoshua Howland volunteers as a developer on the Gospel Library iOS project. iOS is Apple’s mobile operating system, used on devices such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. In this article, Joshua shares information about the Gospel Library iOS project, its purposes, features, roadmap, and challenges.

What’s the purpose of the Gospel Library iOS project?

There are quite a few scripture apps on the store today. A couple of them are very good, but they are expensive. The Church wants to give all users a chance to use the scriptures across multiple devices. The other scripture apps on the store also don't contain the official scriptures, nor do they include the bookmarks, links, and information that are only available from the Church. Gospel Library for iOS is all about giving users a great experience reading and studying their scriptures on mobile devices.

What are you working on for the next version?

We’re currently working on version 2.1. In this version, you’ll be able to take advantage of the Study Notebook on LDS.org, and with your user account, sync anything you take notes on, highlight, or tag online with your device.

You’ll also be able to back up annotations, notes, and bookmarks so that if you get a new device, you can just sync it up to your account and have all your notes back.

The team is also working on bug fixes. We’re doing a great job testing bugs and putting together a very stable update to ship to users.

What’s on the roadmap after 2.1?

We just started a new section of the app called Gospel Art. We get a lot of requests for artwork to be on the device. Especially with the iPad version of the app, users want to show artwork to their classes when they teach, or to their children when they are studying scriptures as a family.

I think scriptural art makes a big difference in the feel of the scriptures. It gives a sense of warmth. As an added bonus, we will be able to add the maps section of the scriptures.

What are some of the challenges you’re facing with this project?

The biggest issue I face is that I am sitting in the middle of two paradigms. Now that we have a new device, we can display and show digital content however we want. We can use examples like Instagram, or Flickr for our design, and create an entirely new way of navigating and displaying content.

However, there is an existing physical paradigm to consider as well. We have the scriptures with pictures, and gospel art books printed. Following these models, we can display and show the content so that it’s consistent with the way these printed materials display their content. This type of interface design is called skeuomorphic.

A perfect example of apps that use the physical paradigm are the calendar app or contacts app on the iPad. These were made to look and feel like real printed calendars and address books.

The iPhone or iPad photo app, however, feel completely different from a photo library or printed book of images. The team is developing along similar lines to the iBooks app.

This challenge is not unique to my portion of Gospel Library, let alone this app. Choosing whether to create a new design paradigm or attempt to follow after relevant print version is a common issue faced by developers.

Neither paradigm -- design evolution or a skeuomorphic interface -- is wrong or right. It is all about giving the user the best experience possible.

What are some highlight moments for you on this project?

We have a weekly conference call in which we discuss the progress of the project and any major issues. I’ve spent many hours talking to fellow developers over the phone. I had an idea of what they looked like and what their personalities were. But it was completely different when I was able to meet them at the LDS Tech conference. Development can be a lonely task, so meeting the other developers on the project -- David Weiss and Stephan Heilner, for example -- made a big difference in feeling like I was part of a living project.

It is always fun to see your idea drafted on paper move onto a device for the first time. Also, watching someone interact with gospel art on a device is so cool. Like I said, I think art adds a level of warmth to the scriptures.

Does this project have any needs for additional volunteers?

The project (not just my section) really needs testers. Right now most of the developers are working through major steps to prepare the app to be updated on the store. However, when they are done it would be good to have people with iOS devices willing to test the app and look for bugs. It simplifies development if bugs are reported along with a description of how they occurred. Typically we just receive an e-mail from a user saying something is not working.

If you are interested in helping out on the Gospel Library iOS, please browse and sign-up for that or any other project here.

 
LDSTech Conference Keynotes Will Be Streamed, Sessions Will Be Recorded Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Wednesday, 30 March 2011

We are excited to announce that the LDSTech Conference keynotes will be streamed, and the other sessions will be recorded for later viewing. This will allow the many members on the waiting list and at home to participate remotely in the conference. You can view the stream at the following URL: http://stream.lds.org/110330-110401. The following schedule lists the time for each presentation's stream:

 
We’re at Full Capacity for the LDSTech Conference! Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Last year we had about 200 participants at the LDSTech Conference. This year we have 400 registrants, with another 200+ on the waiting list. This means we are at full capacity. The interest and growth in the LDSTech conference this year has been phenomenal. Here are a few last minute notes before the conference.

 
New LDSTech Site Features Integrate with Community Projects Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The LDSTech website now includes more advanced integration with the community projects. If you recall, a few weeks ago we rolled out Talent Profile -- you see the Talent Profile tab when you log in to the site. Now we’ve added several more enhancements.

 
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