We're losing people that shouldn't be lost
If you've ever had a leadership calling, you've probably noticed that most members don't have validated phone number or email address on LDS.org and you've probably seen membership records get lost in google spreadsheets as people change callings rather than updating in the official system.
We need to make it easy to do the right thing
As members and leaders, we need tools that are simple enough to use that we aren't tempted to put (potentially confidential or sensitive) data in places where it doesn't belong (like Google Docs).
As developers, we need to build our tools to work with the Church's APIs instead of fragmenting and creating silos of information.
Technology to Hasten the Work
This is the App Marketplace where LDS Church members can discover and use apps.
These apps are created by other members using their LDS Account. The apps receive LDS.org data through LDS I/O securely, directly to the device (browser, phone, tablet, etc).
For example, facecards.org, is downloaded in your browser and runs there. Ward Member never passes through its server.
Latter-Day Developers, including myself, are currently working on other apps for things like:
- home and visit teaching
- new member forms
- analytics for reactivation efforts
- ward history (for yearly accounting of budget expenditures)
Doing the right thing in the right way
In oversimplified but sufficient terms, LDS Connect allows you to export a CSV of ward data and import it to an app that runs on your computer - just like you would with excel.
We've been asked to use our talents
Bloom where you're planted.
Lift where you stand.
it is not meet that I should command in all things... men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness... And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
This is the secure platform for app developers. LDS I/O is necessary because LDS.org doesn't directly exports data in a manner that is suitable for use with 3rd party services and many of the API endpoints don't follow common or consistent conventions, which makes development more difficult.
This tech-side of LDS Connect includes
- the API server
- API Playground
- Libraries in multiple programming languages
- Github project links
- YouTube video links
All data is transferred encrypted via HTTPS (even internally between servers). All apps are given app-scoped ids and sensitive data is stored in a PCI compliant fashion (bank-level security) using AES 256-bit encryption. Furthermore, the decryption keys are never stored on the server.
The balance between ease-of-use and security is a delicate one. I'm doing all within my capacity to ensure that I keep that balance. As a developer all you need to do is make sure that your client never sends member data to your server. Using the provided app-scoped ids you can securely link client-server data.
In most cases, however, you don't need a server at all. In the cases where you do, you'll most often only need to authenticate.
I'm working to provide arbitrary data storage APIs, which will encrypt and manage permissions for you.
Continuing the Work
I need about $2,000 per month to be able to devote significant time to maintaining and improving this project.
To put that in perspective, a senior software developer in Utah will generally make much, much more: $8,100 per month.
Funding estimate to complete the vision: $30,000
$2,000 - 1 Month - Secure SMS, Email, and arbitrary data APIs implemented
$4,000 - 2 Months - App for New Member Forms
$6,000 - 3 Months - App for Broadcasting Announcements to Ward and Stake via SMS / Email
$8,000 - 4 Months - Improve Facecards with a variety of name-learning tools
$10,000 - 5 Months - More Apps, APIs, and Examples, better design
$25,000 - 1 Year - More Apps, APIs, and Examples, better design
$30,000 - The Sweet Spot
If we reach this number, I can probably keep current on my bills, live decently comfortably (no more rice), and accomplish most of my goals for the project in terms of APIs and Apps that I see as needed
$50,000 - Full PCI and HIPPA Compliance review (these are very pricey)
$80,000 - I can hire significant help
$100,000 - Examples in all major programming languages, more APIs, more Apps
$200,000 - I'll find appropriate uses for it that benefit the community. Honestly, I'll also eat out more often and get better health insurance.
If I have the time and resources there are a number of Apps that I would like to create as well as Server Components that I would like to refactor to be more efficient and also open source.
There is no shortage of developers who would love to work on Apps that make their callings easier, it's just a matter of buying their time so that they can afford to do it.
Risks and challenges
I believe that I've got enough of the foundation behind me that I will be able to accomplish the goals that I have in a timely manner, but in software development there are often unforeseen snags that are very costly in terms of time (i.e. a component needs to be completely rewritten due to a serious bug). Regardless, each step in the right direction is a step forward. we'll get there.
A man can only work on a single project for so long before he needs to refresh himself with a different project or a vacation. As a software developer, when burnout hits, I usually give myself a rest for a few weeks and just read books or build stuff outside. A few gardens, rabbit hutches, novel trilogies, or video games later I pull my rejuvenated self back together and get back to work.
Due to the number of church employees and managers I've discussed this with, their positive feedback, and that they know I'm paying close attention to security concerns, I don't foresee this being an issue. However, it is possible that one of the upper-level managers in one of the related church tech portfolios will take issue with the project and ask for it to be shut down.
Also, this is being built on top of the home cloud system that I'm building and using OAuth3, so if worse comes to worst I create an installer and change the OAuth3 target to delegate to the local machine and Bam! It'll still work as a service on a desktop or home cloud.
If you build It... but they don't come
It may be that the few developers that I've already come in contact with are already the majority of developers that will want to build apps with the LDS Connect platform. Seeing as how every time I mention this project to a group of developers I get a few more signups on the mailing list I don't think that's the case. I think there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Latter-Day Developers waiting for this opportunity. However, if I'm wrong, the few of us will press forward and do the best we can with the time we have.
If one of the church tech portfolios wanted to hire me on to assimilate this project, it would suddenly become subject to all of the many approval processes and reviews that other official projects of the church are subject to which, at this early stage, could severely hamper its progress and maturity. I think that's still a ways off.
An Official Competing Project is launched
Hooray! Mission accomplished. It'll take longer to get to production, but a win is a win even if I'm not the one scoring the goal.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)