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Web Site Feedback Management Print E-mail
Written by Karl Naegle   
Thursday, 18 December 2008
“If you want to make a correct decision or solve a problem, large groups of people are smarter than a few experts.” —James Surowiecki

A Problem for Consideration

The goal of increased efficiency and lower costs is nothing new in the tech industry. At the Church, those pressures are acutely felt, along with the moral obligation to wisely spend the widow’s mite. I’d like your help and suggestions on the best approach to solving a problem.

The Church sponsors and supports multiple outward-facing Web sites, such as LDS.org, Mormon.org, Provident Living.org, and stake and ward Web sites, to name a few. Most of these sites provide a way for site visitors to offer feedback. We need the capability to uniformly and consistently track, route, and reply to feedback from member and nonmember visitors to the various LDS sites we now support.

The problem is this: the existing process for screening, routing, and responding to submitted feedback is slow and labor-intensive, will not scale to the future needs of the Church, and is incapable of supporting multiple languages.

Please consider the following questions:

  • What options should the technical staff here at the Church consider in the next version of this service?
  • Are there credible existing commercial solutions?
  • Is a custom application the best alternative?
  • Is a mix of custom code and existing commercial applications an appropriate approach?
  • How would you solve the problem?
 
The Challenges of Internationalization Print E-mail
Written by Nancy Carter   
Tuesday, 27 January 2009

“As a Church, we believe there is value in teaching the gospel in the languages of the earth, because your mother tongue is the language of your heart.” – Elder John H. Groberg

Not only must the Church teach in all the languages of the earth, it must also build software for use by local leaders and members in all the languages. Building global software that adapts to various cultures and languages adds many challenges to the work. One of the most important and challenging parts is handling the names of members in a culturally appropriate way. For example, when you receive e-mail with your name incorrectly displayed, the tendency is to discount it as spam. If your product hard-codes American name customs, which are not appropriate in other cultures, it may be discounted, laughed at, or even be offensive. In one extreme case, it could have been harmful to a member. In a country with civil unrest, the member’s name had been written with characters from a different ethnic group. The membership record was sent back with a note explaining that this would identify him with the wrong ethnic group and his life would be in danger.

Handling names and dates correctly are two of the major issues that must be addressed when building global software. Externalizing strings, data corruption or characters not displaying properly in displayed strings are additional issues that must be overcome. While working on MLS for the last five years, I have come across these issues as well as others.

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Internet Mission Office System Update Print E-mail
Written by Aaron Chomjak   
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Development continues on the Internet Mission Office System (iMOS), a new Web application that allows mission office staff to manage their organization and perform financial tasks. Project 2 has ended, and Project 3, which will complete the main finance features and enhance existing finance and mission organization sections of the application, is in progress.

Currently, about 30 missions are using the system’s mission organization functionality in a beta testing stage of the application rollout. Three of these missions are using the finance features. The Missionary Department expects to add more missions to the beta testing group soon and will begin a general rollout in January 2009.

 

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Content is Really King Print E-mail
Written by Greg McMurdie   
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Is content really king in search engine optimization? Find out why.

Is Content King?

Today my colleague Jimmy Smith pointed me to an absolutely fascinating blog. Once I started reading it, I became enthralled and kept reading one page to the next. By the time I got done, I had spent a good 30 to 45 minutes reading some of the posts on this blog. When I finally got to a point where I could actually pull myself away from the LCD and regain my composure, I started doing e-mail again.

That’s when I came across the e-mail request to write a post for LDS Tech. “Oops, better save that one,” I thought. I received a call from Cassie a few weeks earlier, but since it was a month or more away before she needed my article, I just left the e-mail request in my inbox. So after making a mental note to write an article, I went back to doing more e-mail cleanup.

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LDS Account Print E-mail
Written by Ben Hutchins   
Thursday, 08 January 2009

LDS Account is a single user name and password for any person who interacts with online LDS Church resources. LDS Account will become the primary account authentication credentials for most Church sites and applications. This will reduce development costs that would be incurred as the user interfaces change, or as upgrades to security and the registration process are required. Unlike today’s authentication, which requires our customers to memorize many user names and passwords, the goal of LDS Account is to become a branded single sign-on solution that is centrally managed.

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The Cost of Community Development Print E-mail
Written by Tom Valletta   
Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Church has done a little open source development in the past, but has not offered a simple way for technologists to contribute. Though we feel that everyone who wants to work on Church technology projects should be able to do so, the Church has not had the infrastructure to support technical contributions from world-wide audiences.

To encourage higher levels of participation the Church could support as many technologies as possible, including Java, .NET, Ruby, Python, C, PHP, Perl, Scala, Delphi, and JavaScript. However, as the cost of supporting multiple technologies is hardly justifiable, narrowing our focus to a few technologies is a better option. We are beginning by supporting Java open source, given that the servers and infrastructure are in place already.

Having settled on a technology, such as Java, we can begin writing code. For example, we can write an application that prints the stake directory. To build a foundation, we are working on Web services to securely share this data with those who would like to contribute. Other foundational needs include a source code repository, an issue tracking tool, and a place to collaborate. A Subversion repository has been set up, an issue tracking tool will soon be available, and the LDS Tech Wiki and forums are great for collaboration. These are vital tools for a Church-wide technology effort of any size.

Supporting more technologies incurs associated costs, and each new technology will require similar infrastructure. Currently, we are able to work with only the Java developers, which make up about 25 percent of the technologists who wish to contribute. With time, support will be available for many other platforms as well.

Spencer W. Kimball reminded members in 1969 that “God has endowed us with talents and time, with latent abilities and with opportunities to use and develop them in his service. He therefore expects much of us; his privileged children” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 100). The statement is still true today.

Please visit LDSTech regularly to see where your talents can be used.

Tom Valletta is a principal engineer for the Church.

 
How to Run a Project Retrospective Print E-mail
Written by StacyAnn Allen   
Thursday, 15 January 2009

A project retrospective is a way to look back at events that have already taken place and help managers increase the effectiveness of their teams. Regularly held retrospectives break the repetition of ineffective program and project management practices, give the opportunity to solve immediate problems through rapid application of key learning, and increase the probability of affecting behavioral changes.

Retrospectives should not be a one-time event that happens at the end of a program or project. Team members should meet at strategic points during the project life cycles to discuss what is working and what needs to be improved. Retrospectives explore what is working well on a project and ensure that good practices are reinforced and repeated.

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