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Written by Tom Johnson   
Tuesday, 02 August 2011

The LDSTech community consists of hundreds of Church employees, members, and volunteers that come together to discuss, learn about, or work on Church technology. The LDSTech site has several components — a blog, a discussion forum, a wiki, and a projects section. Each is used for a different purpose:

  • Blog: Informs members about the latest Church technology news and projects.
  • Forum: Allows members to ask questions and exchange ideas about technology. 
  • Wiki: Hosts instructional articles and other technical information.
  • Projects: Allows community members to work together in teams to build software applications and other solutions.

Despite the different uses, the common theme of the LDSTech site is Church technology.

How LDSTech Began

LDSTech was launched in February 2007. The goal of the site was to leverage volunteer efforts for the technical needs of the Church. However, security concerns and other constraints, such as source code that resided only in internal networks, prevented ICS from making any projects available to volunteers.

Even though ICS had to wait to implement its initial vision for LDSTech, it launched a peer-to-peer forum  where clerks and other members could help each other. The forum quickly became a popular resource, with hundreds of posts and dedicated community moderators. As of August 2011, the forum has 63,454 posts, with 16,633 total members and 868 active members (active members have participated in the forum in the last 30 days). The forum remains the most widely used part of the site.

A year and a half later, a wiki was added. Whereas the forum provides mostly question-and-answer threads, the wiki provides a knowledge base of content that the community can continually edit and shape. Much of the wiki content addresses clerk and meetinghouse technology needs. As of August, the wiki has 975 content pages, with 14,197 registered users and 30 active users (active users have edited a page on the wiki within the last 7 days).*

From Forums and Wikis to Projects

In 2009, a number of official projects became available to the LDSTech community. A Java-Integrated Development Environment (IDE) was made available to community developers, as well as a Java Stack library that includes code snippets that can be used to build applications. A bug-tracking tool (JIRA), a source code repository (SVN), and a project management framework were also added to LDSTech.

The Projects toolbar on LDSTech

The Projects section allows community members to browse and join projects.

Today there are 53 projects available for community volunteers to join. Most of the projects have an average of about 35 volunteers each, some on multiple projects. Not accounting for members on multiple projects, there are more than 1,800 volunteers spread across the LDSTech community projects (as of August 2011).

Some of the recently completed projects include Recreation Properties, Clean Water Application, Gospel Library for Windows, Child Protection Services Act application, and Bishops Storehouse Inventory and Reporting.

The following is a brief video showing scenes and interviews from recent LDSTech community development conferences and service days.

Community Project Challenges

Despite the many volunteers working on projects, project managers (who are often ICS employees) face unique challenges in orchestrating community efforts. Project managers have to account for a variety of skill levels, different motivations, fluctuating schedules, smaller time commitments, and unfamiliarity with Church resources.

Another challenge is working collaboratively in remote locations. The following maps show the diversity of volunteer locations.

Volunteers in Utah

Inside of Utah, LDSTech community project members are distributed in the cities shown on this map. Click the map to view more detail. (Note: The map includes only general cities, not actual addresses. Also, the map includes only those volunteers who have completed their profiles.)

Volunteers outside of Utah

This map excludes the community project members located in Utah and shows volunteers spread across the world. Click the map to view more detail. (Note: The map includes only general cities, not actual addresses. Also, the map includes only those volunteers who have completed their profiles.)

The most popular projects have been in mobile development, with apps such as Mormon Channel, Gospel Library, and LDSTools. For example, the Gospel Library Android project has 140 volunteers.

These mobile projects have the momentum of full-time developers who move the community forward. The project managers engage their community members through regular communication and weekly meetings. They also focus community efforts on smaller tasks, such as testing, support, and bug fixes, which are often more feasible given the time constraints of volunteers.

* For the latest forum statistics, see the "LDSTech Technology Forums Statistics" section at the bottom of the Forum. For the latest wiki statistics, see the wiki's Statistics page.



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