Ward directory generator

Discussions about the Directory Tool on lds.org. Questions about the Directory on the classic site should be posted in the LUWS forum.
russross
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Postby russross » Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:02 pm

aebrown wrote:There are no "directories printed from MLS for ward distribution." There are directories that can be printed from MLS, but nothing in MLS says that they are for distribution. Thus the "For Church use only" warning that is printed from MLS is adequate. But in Handbook 2, Section 21.1.15, we read that an additional disclaimer is required on ""published" directories: "The beginning of each directory should include a statement that it is to be used only for Church purposes and should not be copied without permission of the bishop or stake president." (emphasis added). The directory printed from LDS.org follows that directive, and all directories distributed by the ward or stake should do so as well.


Thanks for pointing that out. I have added the "should not be copied" statement in the footer on each page.

russross
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Postby russross » Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:20 pm

johnsonth wrote:Can you help me understand why you just wouldn't use the Print feature within Directory to print out a directory of members?


Sure, I'll be happy to try. When I was called as clerk a few years ago, our ward had a directory of a type that seems to be common in our area. It was a booklet prepared by one of the young women for her YW project (YW recognition? I'm not too familiar with the YW program).

I was asked to update it. The old on had been prepared from scratch in a word processor. The young women diligently copied all of the data over from a printed copy she received from the clerk of the time. Needless to say, it was full of errors, and much of the data was out of date by the time it was published.

This was my starting point. I started by re-creating her work (since that was my initial assignment) by automatically extracting the data from the CSV export in MLS, generating LaTeX output, and producing a similar booklet. Actually publishing it would require a lot of work each time it was updated. The booklets would need to printed, covers prepared, and each one manually folded and stapled.

Someone suggested adopting a more compact format, so I wrote code to fit everything in a more compact form, with font sizes chosen automatically to fit onto a single sheet of paper. To make the font clear and readable, this required abbreviating some of the information. All but two households are in the same town with the same zip code, so it made sense to remove that part, leaving it only for the two exceptions. Similarly, our home phone numbers all share the 435- prefix, so removing that (but leaving it for non-435- numbers) reduced the clutter further. I also show last names for individuals only when they differ from the household surname, and show individual phone and email addresses only when they differ from the household data. By using the lds.org directory CSV data, I also made it so that it did not require special privileges and did not use data that was not already approved for directory publication.

All of these tweaks add up, in our case pushing the font size from a miserly 8.5 points or so up to a more generous 10 points. The result is a directory with all of the pertinent information, with privacy requests honored (since the data comes from lds.org), in a simple, compact format. Publishing an updated list is simple, since it is all automated, and printing it can be done easily in the library. No additional preparation is necessary to hand it out.

Most of this I did before the printable directory from lds.org was available (or at least before I knew about it). I have experimented with it, but the results undo most of the improvements in presentation that I made. My directory follows basic typographical conventions like using a serif font for printed work, and a typewriter font for email addresses. It does optimal line breaking and optimal column breaking. It also allows last-minute corrections. My brother prepares a directory for his ward (he is not a clerk), and his clerk is unresponsive to requests for corrections. Being able to fix errors before distributing the printed directory is therefore helpful.

I don't suggest that everyone abandon the lds.org directory, but rather I wanted to share my work with others who might have similar tastes. My intention was not to ruffle anyone's feathers, nor to create a controversy, but rather to share my efforts and hope that they would prove useful to others. I've been a little surprised by the cynical response I've received, but then I'm new to this forum and am not familiar with the general tone of conversation.

Thanks again for the helpful suggestions that many of you have offered, and for pointing out issues that I had not considered.

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nbflint
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Postby nbflint » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:57 pm

I've been a little surprised by the cynical response I've received, but then I'm new to this forum and am not familiar with the general tone of conversation.
\

The forum has hashed over the church's policy that we are not to upload data exported from MLS to third party servers. I'm not sure if this policy has been extended to data exported from lds.org. The cynicism you detect is due to the long standing nature of the church's policy and the frequency with which it is discussed on the forum.

That said, if you were to package your app into a system such as XAMPP (effectively packaging it as a local desktop app) it should then comply with current church policy as I understand it.


danpass
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Postby danpass » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:11 pm

russross wrote:I don't suggest that everyone abandon the lds.org directory, but rather I wanted to share my work with others who might have similar tastes. My intention was not to ruffle anyone's feathers, nor to create a controversy, but rather to share my efforts and hope that they would prove useful to others. I've been a little surprised by the cynical response I've received, but then I'm new to this forum and am not familiar with the general tone of conversation.

Thanks again for the helpful suggestions that many of you have offered, and for pointing out issues that I had not considered.


Thanks for sharing! I've tested your generator and I see value in being able to create a ward list with this much information in such a compact format. What technologies are you using on the back end, if you don't mind sharing that information?

russross
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Postby russross » Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:34 pm

danpass wrote:Thanks for sharing! I've tested your generator and I see value in being able create a ward list with this much information in such a compact format. What technologies are you using on the back end, if you don't mind sharing that information?


I wanted to test the Google App Engine backend for the Go language. Go doesn't currently have any PDF libraries, so I ended up implementing everything from scratch (starting with Adobe's PDF spec). I also re-implemented some classic layout algorithms from TeX. The code is commented, but other than that documentation is limited. The full source is available online:

http://github.com/russross/warddirectory/

I hope to write more about how it works in the future (I am a college professor, and I enjoy teaching how things work almost as much as I enjoy making things), but for now the source code is all there is telling the story. I'm happy to answer any questions about it, though this may not be the appropriate forum for it. You can contact me through github, or my email address is on the directory website.

jdlessley
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Postby jdlessley » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:55 pm

russross wrote:I've been a little surprised by the cynical response I've received, but then I'm new to this forum and am not familiar with the general tone of conversation.
I'm sorry you feel some of the responses appear to be cynical. The questions and statements are in the interest of protecting the Church and leaders who have the responsibility for the sensitive data in their charge. We have discussed and seen discussed many times desires by well intentioned members to use or publish sensitive data by means in which the Church can lose control of that data.

Making available membership data to leaders and members who need that data to perform callings or for other authorized purposes while at the same time protecting that data from unauthorized use or disclosure is difficult at best. Those of us who have been through the cycle many times are only trying to ensure that the need to have the data and the need to protect the data are both met.

The new directory takes into consideration many of the discussions that have occurred concerning display and printing of membership data. The desire is to reduce the need for home grown applications while providing leader and member needs for the information is continually addressed.

Once the data is out of the control of the Church then chances for compromise of privacy information or sensitive data becomes an issue. We want to make sure everyone is aware of every aspect of handling Church membership data.

There is one slight adjustment I want to note about nbflint's statement.
nbflint wrote:The forum has hashed over the church's policy that we are not to upload data exported from MLS to third party servers. I'm not sure if this policy has been extended to data exported from lds.org.
MLS membership data and the LDS.ORG directory data are for the most part one in the same. The Church policy is in regard to the membership data it has collected and in which it has the responsibility to protect and abide by the privacy desires of its members. Both MLS and the LDS.ORG directory contain data for which the Church has a legal obligation to protect.
JD Lessley
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russross
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Postby russross » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:18 am

jdlessley wrote:The new directory takes into consideration many of the discussions that have occurred concerning display and printing of membership data. The desire is to reduce the need for home grown applications while providing leader and member needs for the information is continually addressed.


I've been very pleased to see the progress in recent years on lds.org and with MLS. I certainly hope that we get to the point where home grown solutions are no longer called for. I don't think we are there yet.

jdlessley
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Postby jdlessley » Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:30 pm

I finally got an MLS export to be formatted the same as the LDS.ORG directory export so I could see the end result of your application using MLS test data. There are a few things that immediately caught my attention.

The first is that the font size was quite small to display all the data on a two sided single sheet. Whenever the font is smaller that 10 points those with vision issues may not be able to see the text. I believe my test data was printed in something close to 7 points or even smaller. I know that reducing the font is necessary to get all the data onto a single two-sided sheet. But I think this need unnecessarily restricts the output to an unreasonably small font. Large wards are going to have extremely small font sizes that even those with good vision are going to have difficulty using.

When going through the steps on the web site to generate an output, the customizing information came after the generation of the page. There was no mention that customization would even be necessary. It became obvious after the first run that some customization was necessary. But what exactly was the minimum customization needed for an acceptable output was not obvious. I would expect a page setup default that would permit generation of the directory without any customization.

My first generated directory had placeholder data. The most obvious was the display of "Your Ward Name Goes Here". Some instruction regarding customization needs to be included in the process description ahead of the generation button if there is not going to be a usable default without placeholders. People will be come frustrated if they have to make multiple tries to get what they thought they were going to get on the first try.

We have already addressed the disclaimer in previous posts. I would prefer the disclaimer to have the minimum as a default and not editable by the user - at least not allow removing the minimum as provided on the LDS.ORG directory printout. Having that much print in the header is clumsy. I would prefer the disclaimer to be in the footer similar to how it is done in the LDS.ORG printout.

As you can tell from my post in post #3 there is confusion just as to what will be saved when the "Save" button is clicked. An explanation as to what will be saved is needed.
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danpass
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Postby danpass » Wed Mar 28, 2012 2:16 pm

jdlessley wrote:The first is that the font size was quite small to display all the data on a two sided single sheet. Whenever the font is smaller that 10 points those with vision issues may not be able to see the text. I believe my test data was printed in something close to 7 points or even smaller. I know that reducing the font is necessary to get all the data onto a single two-sided sheet. But I think this need unnecessarily restricts the output to an unreasonably small font. Large wards are going to have extremely small font sizes that even those with good vision are going to have difficulty using.


I had similar thoughts regarding the font size. Perhaps, Russ, you could provide an option to spread the generated directory to two pages (4 sides).

russross
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Postby russross » Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:46 pm

danpass wrote:I had similar thoughts regarding the font size. Perhaps, Russ, you could provide an option to spread the generated directory to two pages (4 sides).


That option does exist. It's under the "Page layout" section. You can also change the columns per page.


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