Using Free Mapping API's for Meetinghouse Locator

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CuriousGIS-p40
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Value of GIS - Source at CHQ - GIS options

#41

Post by CuriousGIS-p40 »

Being able to use GIS to both map out a stakes boundaries and its members is indispensible while doing a reorganization of units/stakes. We recently went through several ward reorganizations and prepared for a stake reorganization. Being able to visually see where members lived in relation to the proposed boundaries helped the decision makers come to a decision they could pray about. Several times the stake presidency met and viewed the changed on a GIS and we were able to change boundaries on the fly and see how that affected the demographics of the proposed units. According to those that have gone through this same process without a GIS said that by using a GIS much of the guesswork was taken out of the process and they could go over more options. Besides using a GIS to map out members and boundaries we also used the GIS to perform density analysis of membership to help justify construction to either expand current building or build new buildings.

When we were finished with our organization instead of sending up maps with the boundaries marked on them we sent shapefiles in the specified coordinate system and appropriate metadata. However when we contacted the church GIS Department (just call church HQ and ask for the GIS dept) they said they could not release the shapefiles as per the brethren's directions. However they could send a picture of the boundaries, but only to the stake president. Nothing official, ie a memo, was passed down just the CHQ GIS dept telling us that the brethren did not allow it as this time. I do not know which "brethren" oversee the GIS dept but it may be worth finding out. It may also be worth calling CHQ and asking for the GIS dept and finding out more specifics.

Also note, from what I understand the church uses the ArcGIS suite of products. If your stake is willing they may be able to purchase ArcView at a slightly reduced price through the CHQ customer profile. Though I am not sure it would be worth it, since even at 10% off ArcView you are looking at over $1,300. It has been suggested we may qualify for a grant from ESRI to get it free but I have not gone down that path. However, there are quite a few free and low cost GIS software packages out there that could be used instead of the ArcGIS suite. Google Earth is also an option that we have used on occasion.
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#42

Post by RossEvans »

CuriousGIS wrote:When we were finished with our organization instead of sending up maps with the boundaries marked on them we sent shapefiles in the specified coordinate system and appropriate metadata. However when we contacted the church GIS Department (just call church HQ and ask for the GIS dept) they said they could not release the shapefiles as per the brethren's directions. However they could send a picture of the boundaries, but only to the stake president. Nothing official, ie a memo, was passed down just the CHQ GIS dept telling us that the brethren did not allow it as this time. I do not know which "brethren" oversee the GIS dept but it may be worth finding out. It may also be worth calling CHQ and asking for the GIS dept and finding out more specifics.

Thanks for the explanation. It seems obvious that, at least as of this time, the church GIS department will not publish shapefiles. SInce I created my own GIS boundary file -- something anyone can do with the right tools and skills -- I don't need the church IT department to release anything.

My concern is the dark implication that if I share my own precise boundary file with ward members I would somehow be violating ecclesiastical instructions from the "brethren." (So far I have only shared it with ward leadership, all of whom are privy to the .pdf file of ward boundaries sent by the church directly to the ward clerk for the asking.) It had never even occurred to me that this might be a problem until I read your post above.

If the "brethren" make such blanket declarations, they typically do so in the Handbook, a letter, or something else definitive and in writing-- none of which seems to exists. So in the absence of such policy directives, I will just follow instructions from my local priesthood leaders.
lajackson
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#43

Post by lajackson »

boomerbubba wrote:... the church GIS department will not publish shapefiles. SInce I created my own GIS boundary file -- something anyone can do with the right tools and skills -- ...

My concern is the dark implication that ... I would somehow be violating ecclesiastical instructions ...
I do not recall any such instructions. I would imagine that it might be more along the lines that the software license the Church uses does not allow them to do more than send out the overall maps, printed or otherwise, as they do now.
RossEvans
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#44

Post by RossEvans »

lajackson wrote:II would imagine that it might be more along the lines that the software license the Church uses does not allow them to do more than send out the overall maps, printed or otherwise, as they do now.

I doubt that. Licensiing terms of GIS sofware such as ArcGIS typically place no restriction on boundary files, etc., created by the licensee-user (in this case the church GIS department.) I am confident these files would be the work product of the church, which could do anything it chose with them -- publish them, copyright them, license them. or whatever. At this point, for whatever reason, the church has chosen to retain that work product at CHQ.

(That is not the same thing as declaring that the content is secret, either as a matter of law or priesthood policy. In fact, the content is distributed in several forms -- written descriptions, printed maps, .pdf files, etc. I used such sources to create my own GIS boundary file, and anyone else with the right tools can do the same. It gets easier all the time.)

Redistributing the GIS layers for roads, creeks, etc. that may have shipped along with the software and have been used to help create the overall maps could be restricted by the vendor. But that is not what CuriousGIS is referring to. He is talking about the ward/stake boundaries themselves.
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aebrown
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#45

Post by aebrown »

CuriousGIS wrote:... when we contacted the church GIS Department (just call church HQ and ask for the GIS dept) they said ... they could send a picture of the boundaries, but only to the stake president. Nothing official, ie a memo, was passed down just the CHQ GIS dept telling us that the brethren did not allow it as this time.
Two years ago I contacted a department at CHQ described as the "Maps and Boundaries Department"; I assume this is the same group referred to above. I indicated that we wanted a map of the stake to include in our stake directory. I had identified myself only as an assistant stake clerk. They e-mailed me a PDF of the stake map, and expressed no objection to the stated purpose of publishing it in a stake directory.

We have continued to include the map (complete with stake and ward boundaries) in our stake directory. The directory includes the required admonition that the information be used only for Church purposes. Personally I see nothing wrong with including the map, and whoever sent the map to me didn't treat it in the highly restricted way described above.

We live in a rather compact stake in Utah, and I'd bet that dozens of stake members know fairly accurately what the ward and stake boundaries are. It's just not that big of a secret, and I don't understand why anyone thinks it should be treated as such. In the absence of any Church directive on the topic, I will continue to follow the direction of my stake president, who encourages the inclusion of the map as a helpful resource for stake members.
russellhltn
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#46

Post by russellhltn »

boomerbubba wrote:Redistributing the GIS layers for roads, creeks, etc. that may have shipped along with the software and have been used to help create the overall maps could be restricted by the vendor. But that is not what CuriousGIS is referring to. He is talking about the ward/stake boundaries themselves.
I wouldn't rule out the possibility that the person(s) he was talking to didn't understand that distinction.

On another track, could the GIS information also contain some confidential information that is restricted? If the file is anything like Microsoft Office, if you're not careful, it's possible to use "undo" and version to discover information that wasn't intended to be disseminated.

I've also obtained maps and seen them posted in clerks offices. At this point it seems safe to believe that the issue is with the GIS file itself, not the boundaries.
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greenwoodkl
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#47

Post by greenwoodkl »

See the new [thread=1489]New Meetinghouse Locator on LDS.org - Beta Release[/thread] thread - cool new tool! :)
RossEvans
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#48

Post by RossEvans »

kgthunder wrote:See the new [thread=1489]New Meetinghouse Locator on LDS.org - Beta Release[/thread] thread - cool new tool! :)

Having browsed the beta release of this application, I am impressed. It is an excellent tool for a specific purpose: enabling members, investigators, travelers and other visitors to find a meetinghouse. It also will show the right assigned ward (both ordinary and dedicated wards for singles and languages) for a given address.

I note that several commenters have remarked that site omits display of ward boundaries. If I were the user, I would want see them for more generalized uses. But I understand that perhaps those uses would be best served in the LUWS pages: I know my own ward. I would like to see a map showing its boundaries, its meetinghouse, and its members. Basically, display my ward family on a map.

Putting that functionality in LUWS would have the merit of restricting is use to authorized members, with the warning that it is for church use only like the membership directory. I think this should satisfy vague concerns about publishing ward boundaries. The LUWS could not only display the boundaries, but allow download of a files in KML and/or other standard map formats.

The technology is so accessible now that some rank-and-file members are going to produce their own map files anyway, with varying levels of quality. (Just search threads here to see the variety of such homegrown examples.) If church authorities don't want this to occur, they should state this as a formal policy. Otherwise, the optimal place to disseminate accurate files is on the church site.
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mkmurray
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#49

Post by mkmurray »

boomerbubba wrote:I note that several commenters have remarked that site omits display of ward boundaries. If I were the user, I would want see them for more generalized uses. But I understand that perhaps those uses would be best served in the LUWS pages: I know my own ward. I would like to see a map showing its boundaries, its meetinghouse, and its members. Basically, display my ward family on a map.

Putting that functionality in LUWS would have the merit of restricting is use to authorized members, with the warning that it is for church use only like the membership directory. I think this should satisfy vague concerns about publishing ward boundaries. The LUWS could not only display the boundaries, but allow download of a files in KML and/or other standard map formats.
This goes back to our other discussion where I believe this is what the Church could already be doing as we speak.
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kd7mha
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#50

Post by kd7mha »

as a stake assist. clerk I can see all of the unit boundaries (not just my stake) and all households in my stake
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