HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

So you have the BIG idea that the Church or community needs to develop. Discuss that idea here. Maybe you just want to make a suggestion on a new forum topic. Let us know.
russellhltn
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Re: HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

Postby russellhltn » Sat Jun 08, 2013 6:32 pm

jdkinkle wrote:
The Brethren who make that decision do not visit here and have not communicated any reason.


Well why would we have an Ideas & Suggestions forum if no one who actually makes decisions reads the forum?

An excellent question.


jdkinkle wrote:
I can point out that developing a church hymn app is far simpler.


I doubt you actually know this. Were you on the developing team that made this app? Are you a software developer?

To answer the questions, no and yes. Hymns are comparatively static content. It is the same for everyone who uses the same language. The only policy decision that has to be made is to clear it with the copyright folks. All other decisions can be made at a lower level.

With HT/VT, the content is at minimum to the ward level. If teachers are to be allowed to enter their report, then access needs to be sliced even smaller. There are likely a number of questions that have to be run by both legal and the Brethren.


jdkinkle wrote:You mentioned MLS being the hold up. Why does Home Teaching need to be done through MLS? I have never heard the general church offices using home teaching statistics or assignments. It can be done through a separate database. One that is accessible only to the appropriate leaders.

It's possible, but I think the few times they've done that, they've regretted it. Other apps have started with syncing to MLS - such as callings and releases.


jdkinkle wrote:The most frustrating thing about this whole thing is the naysayers(russelhtn mostly) come on after almost every idea and are somewhat critical.

I'm sorry it comes off that way. I'm trying to explain the reasons things are as they are, but end up being the messenger of news that people don't want to hear.
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Re: HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

Postby jdkinkle » Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:13 pm

It seems I received a lot of feedback. Please allow me to go through the points made and explain the ones I disagree with or clarify what I was trying to say.

Please don't take my comments as intending to dissuade, discourage, or contend against any ideas, suggestions, or comments. My comments are intended to inform.


My comments as well. My comments are just form the point of view of an Elder's Quorum President suggesting what would make him more effective in his calling.

As a comparative between developing a church hymn app and a HT/VT app, we do know this. The added difficulty for a HT/VT app lies in the need to develop the infrastructure to get HT/VT data from the local MLS to back-end data hosting. Hosting HT/VT data on a back-end while at the same time maintaining it on local MLS is necessary to accommodate all Church units and all Church members needing access to HT/VT data. Not all Church users and Church units have access to the Internet. Accommodating HT/VT on both the Internet and in local MLS is more complex than the more simple app development for church hymns.


I don't think you are listening. I am talking about dropping MLS completely within the realms of home teaching. I don't see a reason why it's needs to be on MLS. Doing a simple back-end website with a nice front end it what I am suggesting. That is not to hard to implement.

The ability to do, calling and releases, Custom reports, record ordinances, finances, just to name a few. This would decrease the time clerks have to spend at the church working as well as ensure a much more accurate data base.


I am afraid that is somewhat vague. What do you mean the ability to do callings and releases? Or custom reports? I hate to say, but the last few items are things I think MLS actually does do well and is relatively simple inside of MLS.

What matters is what can help the clerks the most in their calling as they are the ones who use the system the most.


If you are referring only to MLS than yes. But I don't think the ideas and suggestions forum is for MLS suggestions alone. And if it yes, it should probably be more clear. I don't think it's only about the clerks here.

If the HP Group Leaders and Elders Quorum presidents learn to use their secretaries more efficient they would have much more time to minister because the secretary and ward clerks would do all the administering.


I feel like you may be suggesting that I am not using my secretary efficiently. You may not understand what I am suggesting at all. I am suggesting a drag and drop type program to organize home teaching(see discussion title). I think it would be great to bring reporting into that. But as far as organizing that is NOT the secretary's job.

Having use many data bases over they years of desk top computers coming into reality MLS is a very good program in comparison.

MLS is not just a database. I am saying the front-end(client-side, UI or user experience or what have you) is the part that needs to be improved.

The purpose of these forms the way I understand it is to help clerks and other members in working through problems they may have with the church technologies. Its not a place for making technological suggestions or feed back. At least that's my understanding.


I guess I am confused about the board entitled "Ideas and Suggestions" then.

With HT/VT, the content is at minimum to the ward level. If teachers are to be allowed to enter their report, then access needs to be sliced even smaller. There are likely a number of questions that have to be run by both legal and the Brethren.


All you have to do is set up different roles within the system.

Bishop(can view home teaching assignments for entire ward),
Elder Quorum President(can view and edit home teaching assignment for entire quorum)
District Leader(can view assignments for his district only)
Home Teacher(Can view his assignments ONLY).

Having worked on web sites that are very role-dependent, I can say, I don't think it's that hard.

Overall the basics vibe I gotten from your responses has been this:
1) This forum is made primarily for Ward Clerks.

I sure hope people with other callings are welcome to participate here too.

2) The Ideas and Suggestions is more of, "wouldn't it be nice if" forum.

I made the mistake of thinking that actually software developers and managers for the church view these forums and make priorities bases on those suggestions. Perhaps it should be clear that even though this is a church sanctioned forum(meaning it's on tech.lds.org)-it's not by the portion that makes the decisions.

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Re: HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

Postby Gary_Miller » Sat Jun 08, 2013 10:44 pm

jdkinkle wrote:I don't think you are listening. I am talking about dropping MLS completely within the realms of home teaching. I don't see a reason why it's needs to be on MLS. Doing a simple back-end website with a nice front end it what I am suggesting. That is not to hard to implement.

Where would you gather your data from in order to maintain the such an app? Where are you going to save the data?

Currently the HT/VT data is tied to the membership information in MLS. Which allows for the Bishop to have the information on who is visiting who, who is being visited and who is not being visited. The unit quarterly report also pulls the numbers directly from the MLS data base.

jdkinkle wrote:
Gary_Miller wrote:The ability to do, calling and releases, Custom reports, record ordinances, finances, just to name a few. This would decrease the time clerks have to spend at the church working as well as ensure a much more accurate data base.


I am afraid that is somewhat vague. What do you mean the ability to do callings and releases? Or custom reports? I hate to say, but the last few items are things I think MLS actually does do well and is relatively simple inside of MLS.

I'm speaking of the transition from MLS to LDS.Org, Leader and Clerk Resources which allows the ward leader and clerks to conduct much of what they do on MLS from their home PC through the internet. While there are currently many things a clerk can currently do there is still more that is needed to complete the whole transition. Which is where I as a clerk want the developers to concentrating their efforts. I also believe this will lead to the HT/VT capabilities your asking for.

jdkinkle wrote:
Gary_Miller wrote:What matters is what can help the clerks the most in their calling as they are the ones who use the system the most.


If you are referring only to MLS than yes. But I don't think the ideas and suggestions forum is for MLS suggestions alone. And if it yes, it should probably be more clear. I don't think it's only about the clerks here.

You are right in that this form is not all about the clerks. However, in my opinion the clerks have the most to gain with the transition from MLS desktop to Leader/Clerk resources within LDS.Org.

jdkinkle wrote:
Gary_Miller wrote:If the HP Group Leaders and Elders Quorum presidents learn to use their secretaries more efficient they would have much more time to minister because the secretary and ward clerks would do all the administering.


I feel like you may be suggesting that I am not using my secretary efficiently. You may not understand what I am suggesting at all. I am suggesting a drag and drop type program to organize home teaching(see discussion title). I think it would be great to bring reporting into that. But as far as organizing that is NOT the secretary's job.

That is exactly what I'm suggesting. In my experience as a clerk I have found that many Presidents of Quorums and Organizations under utilize their secretary. And while its not the secretaries job to organize routes they can be involved in the administration side of inputting routes, printing off and handing out assignments, and inputting visits. There could also be other quorum members assigned to do this work as well, their called HT/VT District Supervisors. Thus freeing Presidents up to better utilize their time ministering to quorum and organization members.

jdkinkle wrote:MLS is not just a database.

Sure it is. Data is input into a system by why of a program written for a specific purpose where it is future use. At which time the data can be extracted by the users in the form of reports.

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Re: HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

Postby eblood66 » Sat Jun 08, 2013 10:52 pm

jdkinkle wrote:I don't think you are listening. I am talking about dropping MLS completely within the realms of home teaching. I don't see a reason why it's needs to be on MLS. Doing a simple back-end website with a nice front end it what I am suggesting. That is not to hard to implement.


jdkinkle wrote:All you have to do is set up different roles within the system.

Bishop(can view home teaching assignments for entire ward),
Elder Quorum President(can view and edit home teaching assignment for entire quorum)
District Leader(can view assignments for his district only)
Home Teacher(Can view his assignments ONLY).

Having worked on web sites that are very role-dependent, I can say, I don't think it's that hard.

Back in about 2008 the church initiated an LDSTech project (actually I believe it was the first LDSTech project) to implement an HT/VT application pretty much exactly along the lines you're talking about. At the time I was quite heavily involved in the project as a volunteer LDSTech community member. I was then a recently released EQ secretary so I was well aware of the kinds of things you're talking that would be useful. I had even written my own Access app to manage it.

Although you see this as fairly straightforward, I'll tell you that many of the community members involved felt very strongly that certain things should be different. Some, for instance, didn't feel like it would be useful at all to have a web-only solution. They felt that if the information didn't flow to MLS so that it could be included with other information for MLS reports then the system would not be useful. Personally I felt differently but the main point is that what seemed simple to each person was not simple when their opinions were combined. There as a lot of discussion and a fair amount of disagreement.

Before too long the church reconsidered how these projects would be run and backed off the project. Eventually it (and all the lds.org projects) became internal-only projects. I think (this is personal conjecture) that they decided they needed to reconsider whether this app should be stand-alone (as was being considered then) or whether it needed to be integrated with the rest of the member management system (what has now become the online MLS system or Clerk and Leader Resources). I believe (and this is again just conjecture) that they decided that integration is necessary. I could guess at some of the reasons but I don't know for certain and we've never been told (and probably won't be told).

But in summary, I can tell you that what you're suggesting has been thought of, has been considered and (based on what's happened since) was rejected in favor of a different path. I think we just have to accept that and accept that we're not told the reasons. We don't have the overall view of church administration that they do and it's their stewardship and they have rights to inspiration regarding what should be done (in regards to church software development) and we don't.

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Re: HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

Postby jdlessley » Sat Jun 08, 2013 10:55 pm

jdkinkle wrote:I don't think you are listening. I am talking about dropping MLS completely within the realms of home teaching. I don't see a reason why it's needs to be on MLS. Doing a simple back-end website with a nice front end it what I am suggesting. That is not to hard to implement.

I am sorry you think I am not listening. I assure you I completely understand your proposal. We have to work within the framework that any proposal has to be a viable solution for every unit in the Church. What do we do with those units that do not have Internet access? This does not mean just the administrative computer in the meeting house having Internet access but all those members called to positions who have to deal with some portion of home teaching need to have Internet access. How does the Church support their need to manage home teaching?

We all probably agree implementation, in terms of programming a separate disconnected from MLS online HT/VT application, is not hard. That has already been done by third party developers. Then why has such an application not been approved or adapted by the Church? And why have some of those third parties been asked to remove those applications or eliminate certain functions? There are most likely policy decisions, privacy laws and maybe other legal issues that needed resolution.

However, there is more to consider and deal with for this proposal other than what appears to be just programming an online application. I mentioned some of those other implementation factors in my previous post.

We cannot assume there is no additional cost to this implementation. These costs compete with other Church needs for financial resources. As with any organization with limited financial resources, the Church has to not only prioritize these competing financial resource demands but also evaluate the cost benefit.

We have been told that MLS will be around for many more years and will continue to be the primary record keeping program.The migration of MLS capabilities to the Internet is yet in the early stages. Completely migrating an MLS record keeping capability such as HT/VT without first demonstrating a viable capability for every unit in the Church would exclude some units from having that record keeping capability. The strategy to first demonstrate an online capability before completely eleminating an existing and viable capability is good management.

I have only touched on probably of few of the issues with which decision makers must contend and assess. I am whole heartedly in favor of making HT/VT management easier and more convenient. I would love to see an application that would do just that. Please do not take my efforts to point out other factors that we know to affect the outcome of what on the surface appears to be a simple solution to be a position of opposition.
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Re: HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

Postby jdkinkle » Sun Jun 09, 2013 3:01 pm

Where would you gather your data from in order to maintain the such an app? Where are you going to save the data?


It could be very well is stores the data the same place MLS stores the data. I am just saying the interface for that could be different. Many details would have to be flushed out. Interestingly enough, after talking to my stake president today, he gave us permission to stop using MLS all together. As long as we get the unit quarterly reports in the ward as well as monthly reports to the stake he said we could do what we choose. I think you have the impression that the home teaching assignments and MLS have to be connected. I don't think they have to be.

Which is where I as a clerk want the developers to concentrating their efforts.


Well it appears both have us a have 'horse in the race'. Because you are a clerk you see the needs the clerk has. Because I have served as Elder's Quorum President, I see the need they have for it. I don't think either of us is wrong. We just have different priorities.


Gary_Miller wrote:
jdkinkle wrote:
I feel like you may be suggesting that I am not using my secretary efficiently.

That is exactly what I'm suggesting. In my experience as a clerk I have found that many Presidents of Quorums and Organizations under utilize their secretary.


It surprised me that you said this. You are not familiar at all with me or my secretary. You have no idea what I do or don't delegate. Like I said before- I do have my secretary do the reporting. But the presidency as a whole does the organizing. I can not delegate that nor should I.

MLS is not just a database.
Sure it is. Data is input into a system by why of a program written for a specific purpose where it is future use. At which time the data can be extracted by the users in the form of reports.


No, it's not just a database. Part of a MLS is the actual software program that the clerks use on the computer. It interacts with a database which is also part of MLS. I am saying that program is what needs to be updated. Not necessarily the database portion of it.

Thanks jdlessley and eblood66 for your responses. I must say these 2 responses have helped me understand more than all the others combined as why this hasn't happened yet. Perhaps it's not the time to have the application I dream of. But if the church asked me tomorrow to implement it, I would leave my job to do so. If they announced it tomorrow being done by someone else, I would also be thrilled. I imagine it might be done someday and I hope if it is it will be a great help to Elder Quorums around the world. Until then I may be one of those people trying to offer up a secure 3rd party solution.

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Re: HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

Postby russellhltn » Sun Jun 09, 2013 3:20 pm

If it's any consolation, there's been a few threads on why there are no Windows 8 applications for Tablets and Windows phones. Those threads had a very similar tone as far as "why isn't there one", "is anybody working on it", or even "I have the skills, where do I help". There was absolutely no sign that anything was being done.

Then magically, a Windows 8 app from the church appeared in the App Store.

The bottom line is that a HT/VT web app will appear when the leaders say it's time. They do not owe us an explanation, and I don't expect it get one. It will just appear. We need to be patient and wait for that day.
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Re: HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

Postby russellhltn » Sun Jun 09, 2013 3:28 pm

jdkinkle wrote:Until then I may be one of those people trying to offer up a secure 3rd party solution.

Please be aware that we've been counseled not to upload church data to 3rd party sites. That may not affect your plans to help your ward/stake, but you may find other units less willing to participate since they may not be able to verify what you intend to do with the data or your standing in the church.

I realize that's yet more negativity from me, but I think you're better off knowing that upfront instead of after considerable time spent making it work.
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Re: HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

Postby jdkinkle » Sun Jun 09, 2013 3:42 pm

Please be aware that we've been counseled not to upload church data to 3rd party sites. That may not affect your plans to help your ward/stake, but you may find other units less willing to participate since they may not be able to verify what you intend to do with the data or your standing in the church.


Yes, you have made it clear and I do understand 3rd party websites should not hold have member data. I am curious though what you think about using Google Docs.
As of right now we use Google Docs to store the assignments and allow district leaders to fill in reports for their districts. But the only data saved is names and assignments(no phone numbers). I can understand how adding phone numbers, child names makes people uneasy.

Google Docs is very secure though and it is easy to protect sensitive information.

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Re: HomeTeaching Organizer App Beta Version

Postby Gary_Miller » Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:25 pm

jdkinkle wrote: Many details would have to be flushed out. Interestingly enough, after talking to my stake president today, he gave us permission to stop using MLS all together.

What a mistake MLS is such and easy program to use and the HT/VT portion of the program ties directly to the member data base where reports can be run by the bishop that shows him the stautus of HT/VT in his ward. And where one can use a third party program or even implement one of their own it would require one to have to input membership data and takes away the ability of the bishop and clerks to run reports that would give bishops the instant information they may need.

How is this going to easy the administrative burden you spoke about earlier in order to give you time to minister to the members of the ward that your quorum is responsible for?

jdkinkle wrote:As long as we get the unit quarterly reports in the ward as well as monthly reports to the stake he said we could do what we choose.

Which now will have to be calculated using another program and the data hand inserted into the report instead the program compiling the numbers and inserting them automatically.


jdkinkle wrote:I think you have the impression that the home teaching assignments and MLS have to be connected. I don't think they have to be.

They don't have to be connected but they are which allows for instant reports to be ran and data collected for statistical reports.

jdkinkle wrote:Well it appears both have us a have 'horse in the race'. Because you are a clerk you see the needs the clerk has. Because I have served as Elder's Quorum President, I see the need they have for it. I don't think either of us is wrong. We just have different priorities.

Actually as a clerk I'm able to see the needs of everyone who is using MLS. I can see and understand that somethings could be better and that the capabilities to do things using an app or online program like clerk resources would greatly help in enabling one to fulfill their call in a more convenient manner. I just feel somethings are need sooner than others and that those who use MLS the most should have their needs taken care of sooner than others.

jdkinkle wrote:I am saying that program is what needs to be updated. Not necessarily the database portion of it.

And that is what is currently happening.


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