Connecting the church around their personal passions

Connecting the church around their personal passions


Where are we going?

We at Common Nonsense have been working for a while on a couple of larger projects. However the end is getting in sight for these projects and there is a question of where we can go next and what do we want to do? There are loads of avenues that could probably be met with commercial success and more clients. This is quite cool but there is a second question we need to answer before we go ahead with it. Why are we doing this? What is the point? More money? More developers? More Clients? To what end? Ultimately our goal was broadly to use technology to help the church. So the question is for us, what is our vision for the church and how could we help it get there? There are two things that come to mind. One is practically something that is exciting for the near future and so I will try and write this one up in a little more detail. I’d love to see if there are people wanting to help out with this. The other is probably something that is more interesting in the longer term and I’ll just set the stage. The first is about connecting people across websites around their passions. The second is about connecting the church to those within the persecuted church.

What it is we do now.

For those of you who don’t know me that well, at the heart of what we have been doing technically is the Party module with Drupal. Drupal is a popular content management system but it is also a framework with which people can build websites. 2.1% of the web is powered by Drupal. It provides tools to make it easy to build web pages built around realistic data structures. If I am building a website that is reviewing theatre productions, I can do more then just categorise and tag the reviews. I can add what Drupal calls “Fields” such as a Date Field that says when the play took place. Another date range Field that tells you until when you’ll be able to see the play and other kinds of fields such as the directors, actors or writers. It then provides tools to lay this data out in lists or web pages.

Our Party module takes Drupal and turns it into something called a “CRM” system. This is like a glorified address book that collects information about people. Usually businesses use this kind of software to keep information about their customers and then use this information to market to a subset of their customers, etc. As organisations are predominantly about their people, whether its staff, stakeholders, customers or just people know about the organisation and make the brand happen, this kind of data is incredibly important. Drupal’s tools for building web pages suddenly become incredibly useful for building databases of users. The UI for adding fields to a review can be used to instead add other information about the people in your system such as their date of birth or gender. The tools for laying out pages and making lists can be used for reports on the people you work with or making workflows for managing those people. Drupal’s tools enable us to very quickly build workflows and user interfaces that show only the information the staff need to see whilst saving them time and being a joy to use (in theory!)

Because all these tools are open source software, as we develop our toolset it is going to be incredibly easy to scale this. We can use the same tools to help many different organisations. This can include Christian church networks or event organisation companies or individual churches or other forms of Christian ministries. We’ll be able to quickly provide many of these organisations tools to manage all the data on the people they interact with and save them time and money. The more organisations that sit on our platform the stronger it can become as other developers contribute both code and interesting ideas of how to use those tools.

This stuff is ok. Its the stuff of a commercial success. Saving people time and money means they will give us money. Us having money means we can pay more developers and expand faster making more money or better websites and tools which in turn make more money. But this isn’t really cool yet. It gives our business a means to exist but not a reason.

Connecting passionate people around the things they are passionate about.

Imagine a Facebook for the church.

Imagine all the things the people in the church might like. All the different groups or events that could spring out about it. I might be really excited by speaking to homeless people in manchester. Or really into youth work and online gaming or maybe I just want to battle out the theological questions of Calvinism verses Arminianism again in light of more philosophical developments. Maybe I really love apologetics and I have this cool new argument I want to try out and figure out if its any good or if its been done before. Maybe I hate apologetics and want to just go around the clubs in the cities handing out cheap flipflops to girls who have spent all night dancing in high heels and are now in a lot of pain. I could be someone who is passionate about evangelising to people walking in the park, or maybe praying for healing, or maybe prophetic. Maybe I really love the flower arrangement of the church and need to figure out how I can make them healthy without spending as much time watering them. I love working with kids but my tiny rural church really can’t fit the children that are signed up here or the youth in my youth group are from difficult backgrounds and are being quite disruptive  I want to give them a place to hang out and show them some of Jesus’ love but I can’t keep having things smashed up in my church.

Whatever you’re passionate about in the church, whatever problems you face or things you want to do about it. They all are vastly helped by being connected to the people who are similarly passionate about it. Those people may have already gone ahead and can give you support and advice or maybe they are in a similar position to you and would want to help you.

Now imagine why there isn’t a Facebook for church.

People wouldn’t gather around and do cool things together. They would fight! The Calvinists would continue to rip into the Arminians. The conservative evangelical christians would attack the  mainstream evangelical Christians on their approach to women in leadership who would attack the liberals who agree on that but disagree on the authority of the scripture who would then attack the Anglo-catholics on their attitude toward women in leadership who are in turn attacking the conservative evangelical Christians for their attitude towards Mary!

I could say that when 2 or more are gathered in Jesus’ name… there will be arguments but really even if a Church only contained one person you’d find that person bickering with themselves!

Distributed Social Networking

Our software is free open source software. As we expand our company more people will use it and then other companies may start using it for their projects. Everyone will have a similar platform. However they don’t have to agree on women on leadership to both use the same tools that help them quickly search through their database. Now, remember the Drupal fields? It becomes trivially easy with Drupal to add the field “What are you passionate about?” There could be an infinite number of things people might put as their thing as New Frontier’s found out. Suddenly every single church, Christian ministry or network could easily ask what the people they work with care about. That’s quite cool, that will probably be useful to them.

However imagine now you’re the individual who really cares about the homeless in Manchester. You might put that down in your church profile but maybe your church is quite small and whilst there are people who would be willing to help you if you badgered them enough, they aren’t passionate about it like you are. You find it frustrating because every time you read the bible you see God’s heart crying out for the poor but never see that in the Christians around you. The chances are you’d be willing to work with people who aren’t in your church. You probably don’t care about your colleague’s attitude towards predestination!

In fact I think I’ll assert this. The boundaries that the larger ministries and that the church leaders care about are rarely the same boundaries that an individual in the church cares about. This means that whilst the churches will probably not want to come together into one massive Facebook for churches the individuals within the church may want to connect with others around the things they are passionate about.

Enter Distributed Social Networking.

The Internet is really great at connecting information but computers are dumb. See if I go and look at a book on Amazon,  I am clever. I can know that the front page image is the front page of an actual book in real life that has the title as its book title and the name next to “author” as the book’s author. In fact it doesn’t take much thought to realise that a name is actually a name. For a computer this is really difficult. A computer just sees a bunch of arbitrary text and random images. There is no way a computer can know easily that those bits of data are related. RDF and the Semantic Web aim to change that. It provides little tags that tells computers what the data it is looking at is (a name) and how it relates to other bits of data (it’s the author of that book).

Combine RDF with a whole collection of organisations that store information about people’s passions and you have a potential distributed social network. See, as this information is (by choice) available to everyone on the Internet it means it is available to computers on the Internet. If its available to computers on the Internet a website could potentially collect all this information into one place. Bare with me!

Imagine an organisation that has a website including information about people. We’ll call this a node. Another website could read all this information and store it somewhere. It could read this information across multiple websites (Nodes) and aggregate them into one place. This one place could be a searchable website. We’ll call this website a Network. This Network could be a website that aggregates all people who are interested in homeless people across all the churches in the UK for example. It could aggregate every speaker who is interested in politics across all Christian events. It could aggregate every sermon preached on Romans 2 and spoken in Arabic.

The Networks don’t need to ask for permission to do this any more then a human needs permission to manually go to every website, write this information down in a notebook and then publish the notebook online. The website that has sermons on Romans 2 in Arabic could have sermons from Anglo-catholic churches and conservative evangelical churches even if those two churches wouldn’t naturally come together.

This is starting to get cool.

What it takes

Its hard getting lots of churches, organisations and ministries storing their data in a format where this would be even possible. That’s what we’re doing and we could do this anyway. Having their data on one common platform makes things cheaper for them. The second part, connecting this becomes much easier and this is what I’d like to put to anyone reading this blog. There are things that need to be done and so I’ll just list them.

  • Make it so that each node can output the data in a machine readable format (Trivially easy)
  • Make it so that each node speaks the same language! This involves creating what is called an RDFa schema. In the Amazon example we have the “author” of a book. There needs to be a common language for what the author is. I could potentially use the word “Writer” on one website and “Author” on another. A Network trying to collect this information wouldn’t know that Author’s and Writer’s are the same thing unless they both use the same language or someone tells them they are the same. This is interesting when dealing with books of the bible for example. Are Song of Songs and Songs of Solomon the same book for example? It doesn’t really matter which one you use, the only thing that matters is that everyone uses the same one..
  • We need easy to install packages for the nodes. A church website distribution on Drupal for example so that lots of organisations can easily install a similar package.
  • We also need some code for the network website. It needs to be easy to set up a website that pulls all this information and aggregates it but this has its own problems.
    • How will a network know which nodes to pull data from
    • How will it actually pull the data
    • How will it store and cache the data (if that is what it should do) and how does it know when to index the information? Will it just index the web like google does?
  • Currently I have talked about Networks as mere “Aggregators” but really we want to connect people. This presents more interesting uses of Distributed Social networking which is probably beyond RDF.
    • Can I have a discussion that is actually located on lots of sites? This conversation about Calvinism, can it be across lots of blogs that are talking about it? Something like Disquss but even more open then that. If someone comments on a post on the network (Such as the sermon on Romans 2 in Arabic). Is that comment stored on the Network? Or can a node pull that comment back from the network? Is the discussion some how spread across all these websites?
    • How about organising events across multiple churches? Maybe all the churches in New Malden can organise an event together? But then you need authentication and permissions to edit this event and there is the question of where the event exists? Which version of the event is the true event and which ones are copies?
  • An investigation into the inevitable privacy issues. How can you make it so that individuals have complete control over their own data whilst enabling all this cool sharing. How can you make sure that a 70 year old in the church may not accidently post something confidential that goes out to everyone?

Diaspora has tried distributed social networking. I don’t think its worked out well because Facebook is so much easier and people will always take the path of least resistance  This is why the Party module is so important. If churches are using the platform anyway for other things that make their life easier, they would become far more likely to opt into the cooler aspects of what we’re talking about here.

Conclusion

There is something really exciting about the Internet’s ability to connect people. There is something exciting about connecting the right people around the thing they are passionate about. There is a tremendous opportunity for this to happen if organisations are all already using the same platform to store data about people. This is hard though. Most websites that connect people do it by making sure everything is in one walled garden (Facebook, Twitter, Discussion Forums etc) and this is something that simply won’t work with the Church. I’ve outlined a technical way using RDFa and aggregators that could potentially connect people but we’re REALLY in the early stages of this! Currently we’re just focusing on building the tools to solve our client’s needs as they exist now. I’m really interested to see what others might think of these ideas and where they could go.

This is only starting to get cool. How can we make this really cool?

What I’m excited about.

I’m typing this in a different colour as this post is long and you can ignore it. I really like connecting people in the church for the sake of connecting people in the church. My boss is more interested in connecting people so that they can do something together to achieve something for the Kingdom. The focus is on people eventually doing something. What I’ve posted here is more along the lines of my boss’ interest. However my passion has always been about connecting people as the end not the means. This includes watching online communitites and MMORPGs and connecting people in the church across age groups, etc.

I have always had a real passion for reading about and praying for the persecuted church. I have done a few mission trips. A lot of the time the whole reason why that mission happens is just to show solidarity. Its really easy when you’re under persecution to feel alone in all this. Recently I read a book by Brother Andrew called Secret Believers. In it there was a letter from the Church of Afghanistan to the President of the US. They told of what it is like for them and asked for help from the Christian west. There was something so exciting by reading a letter penned by real Christians in that country.

Imagine if we built software that could connect the church and then if this software got into the hands of people who are under persecution. Imagine if I could talk to and pray with people in that church in a way that was completely safe and secure in a manner that things like the TOR network are trying to enable. Even in that book, one of the converts from Islam, who had to leave due to all his friends getting killed, ended up in a safe environment but still desperately wanted to connect with other converts from Islam. He did it through chatting on the Internet.

The technology is there to make this possible. It just requires buy in from the church. However, this is in my opinion, where we go from cool to awesome :)!

Why I’m excited by Drupal and the Church


This is another e-mail that I thought could become a blog post

Drupal and the Church in the UK

Looking at Drupal specifically many UK christian organisations are standardising around Drupal. HTB use it and employ Drupal developers, Spring Harvest use it, CCK (Church of Christ the King, big New Frontiers church in Brighton) are using Drupal more and more now. Meanwhile we’re working with New Wine and Soul Survivor (Disclaimer: whilst we are a Drupal shop, just because we’re working with them, it doesn’t mean they will use Drupal for everything . What Standardising on one technology enables churches to do is share their innovative ideas. Sharing ideas means that technology can become inter operable and achieve a greater reach and scale.

Sharing innovations on one platform

Trying to convince people to work on one platform is difficult. But that is already happening. Also everything we build we open source. Now we’re snowed under with our work on New Wine at the moment so I don’t know what the future holds for us. But hopefully when we’re less snowed under we can put effort into marketing the open source stuff we’ve done. This means the other organisations that are just using Drupal already could potentially just “slot it in” to their website.

For now we’re dealing with stuff that will probably only help larger organisations. We have a piece of work coming up to build a site that helps Sutton pray more (an area outside of London). It’s for a group that are working on increasing prayer in Sutton (linking lots of organisations and churches in that area) but the website will include a public prayer wall and a “adopt a street”. (like this http://prayadoptastreet.net/).

Now this stuff already exists but by using Drupal’s modular nature any other website that uses Drupal can just put it on their website with almost no hassle. Currently it requires a developer with a bit of Javascript and Google Maps API knowledge to do. This is exciting because by putting these tools in the hands of non-techy people they can do things we couldn’t imagine. Long term with Drupal 8 we can have better cross-site communication. So Churches could have their own “adopt a street” working alongside other church websites.

This is really small but lots of small things like this has a huge potential (methinks).

Prophecy, God and technology

The thing my boss is really excited about investigating as well is combining IT with the prophetic. We haven’t really figured out how to communicate this because its not something you can say, its more something you demonstrate. I mean, you can say it, but its so easy to say “I’m a christian company making money from christian organisations and I want God intimately involved in our work”. If you say that to christians and they believe you, you’ll make money out of it which instantly means saying it means less.

However, there is something exciting behind it. I’ve heard from both my dad and boss how they have had times when they have tried to solve a bug in their code. They had spent ages sorting through it but finally they decided to do a quick nehemiah style “arrow prayer” and after praying almost instantly found the answer.

Also technology is kinda like a language. A chunk of code is one way that ideas can be communicated between people and organisations. Prophets aren’t about control and telling people what to do because God said so. They just need to tell people and let the church choose whether it listens or not. Technology has something that is analogous.

For example we could tell a church “You should give away all your sermons for free”.

Or we could work with a bunch of churches that went to sell sermons. We could build resource and sermon libraries that you can use that allow you to categories  find and share all your resources. We can build it as a shop with a private area, subscriptions or pay per sermon and because its Drupal any church website already using Drupal can just use it.

But with the press of a button in configuration those churches can go from charging to using it all for free.

In the olden days where making more tapes or CDs cost money it was easy for churches to justify making a little bit of money on the side. When it costs them no extra to give away their talks to more people for free it changes the question from “Why do I have to give everything away for free” to “Why shouldn’t I give it all away for free?”

At no point are we dictating to churches how they should act. That church that wants to sell anything is welcomed to do so. If they use our software or pay us to do it, we would only be building the things they want. We wouldn’t use their time and money to make it easy to give things away from free. But because this is open source software we don’t have to. The functionality just has to exist out in the community (either built by us or someone else in their spare time or paid for by another church) for this to be true.

This means the things we choose to build and release could potentially impact the church. This means that every piece of code we write needs to be treated with utmost respect in terms of listening to what God wants us to do. Whether I’m running a prayer meeting for the city or writing a payment processing module for Drupal, they both have the ability to impact the church positively and both need God involved in it…

Anyways…

This is a work in progress. I’m guessing most of what I’ve said is complete rubbish and I’ll have to think about it a bit more and see where I’m wrong. Also I’m not trying to convince you of anything! But thought it might be a fun rant to read if you have a bit of a computer science background.(Disclaimer: I’m not very good with the prophetic stuff. I do what I can to listen to God but I couldn’t pin point what ideas in my head belong to me or belong to God or whether that distinction is even helpful for me. So this is another area where this rant might be wrong as I probably need to explore these ideas more)

What I am to! [update] and church website hosting


Things have totally changed again. I have now applied to do a Masters of Enterprise in Business at the Manchester school of business. The online material is not that great at describing it. It is a research Masters where Masters of Enterprise is the prefix, MEnt (similar to Mphys or Bsc). The degree itself is a generic business degree so the core modules will help me learn things such as marketing, setting up a business and dealing with finance. I then get to pick courses in my “Subject Area” which will be something vaguely IT based that I pick. I have to produce 2 dissertations, one of them focuses on the business side of my idea and the other on the subject side of my idea. I don’t exactly know what this means! However I think it will be something like a report on the marketability of the idea whilst the subject dissertation outlines some area of research into the idea itself.

The hope is then once I have finished this degree I’ll be able to bring back the knowledge into The Tribes Online. We’re working on things to some degree this year but it means when Rob is out of university we can start building things properly! Also I hope to meet lots of interesting people on this course to help me get connected to Entrepreneurs in Manchester. Unfortunately this also means I’m dropping back to work at Heidmar throughout the holidays.

Aegir and our hosting plans

We’ve been playing around with a development server in my house. For the less technically minded readers you may not find this interesting but I think its well cool! I’ve spent about 6 months getting this set up (and failing) due to my lack of understanding how linux works but we’ve finally set up a box with Aegir installed. It is an incredibly cool piece of software that allows us to host loads of drupal sites using one interface. If I want to set up a new church website, instead of going through all the normal drupal settings I just click “create new site” enter a few settings and everything is set up automatically. So here are some things I’m excited about:

  • Our business model will require us to have a huge number of customers (over 300) before we make enough money to sustain us at all, let alone grow. Therefore we need to make sure all our variable costs are as low as possible. We need to make sure that the process of Church is interest => Church site set up and money paid is as small as possible. This will allow us to divert our resources into building the fantastic fixed cost that is the free product.
  • Drupal Gardens is an awesome example of a company doing what we want to do for churches. (However, the creator of Drupal works for this company so its not something we’ll be able to do easily alone! They are giving away free sites during beta so you can get a free one now and try it out. Its very easy).
  • Drush – Aegir works with drush. This allows us to administer drupal sites through a Command Line Interface (CLI). Hopefully it means we won’t need to administer any ftp accounts. All modules and install profiles can be downloaded using drush and using SSH to remotely access the command line.
  • Drupal Projects- If we sign up for a Drupal project on drupal.org we’ll be able to do pretty much all of our development on that website. They offer everything we need, issue queues, groups to discuss ideas, a file repository so people can work on things remotely and submit patches. This means our development process will probably be able to happen entirely online. As a company we’ll discuss most our things on the issue queue and all the code will be submitted to a repository, and then automatically pulled from the repository to our server where our customers will benefit from it.

Why is this cool?

This means we can work with an entirely open development workflow. Yes, we will be a software company aiming to make money but even the bleeding edge stuff we’ll be working on will be downloadable. All our servers that make us money will use that code using tools that are available to everyone, we are literally just pulling an install profile from an online server. Anyone could do this. This means it will be almost as easy for another church to get involved in the development of our software as it is for us to get involved! (also it will be easy to steal everything we do :P).

What is stopping us?

In order for this to work, me andrew and rob need to stop using our mouths. Unfortunately the voice and the brain is a very inefficient collaboration tool. Every conversation I memorise is locked in the minds of the original people who had it and cannot easily be shared. Every time we meet up, skype or talk over the phone we are dis-empowering future collaborators. The thing is, we like talking, its really fun. Recently I found out that Andrew was sad because his olives went mouldy. Things like that are what bring people together and we as a company need also be friends for it to work. But things that make us friends hurt us as a open-source company because they make it harder for others to get involved.

This will just have to be something we work on and try to do well. I do not plan to have this problem solved right away. But in a years time I hope we are part of the way and in 2 years time if we are still deciding software issues over the phone I will have failed.

What I am up to!


So I think as of September 1st my life will officially start. I thought I’d write a post about what I’m up to now and what I’m planning for this year.

So firstly I have a Job working at http://www.heidmar.com. This is a shipping company that is part-owned by Morgan Stanley. I currently have a low-level IT Job in their UK office in London. This includes doing basic stuff such as fixing printers and installing new machines and general office admin but also some more advanced stuff working with Microsoft Sharepoint. Every month I will work for one week (so 5 days) which will be fantastic as most of the stuff I absolutely need to do there is fairly mindless. You need someone with some IT knowledge to, for example, upgrade a computer to Windows 7 but once I’m started I have to pretty much repeat the same stuff over and over. Whilst the stuff that I will end up doing a bit off, (Sharepoint) will be more mentally taxing, this helps me work on what I will be doing for the next 3 weeks a month back in Manchester (So yes I will be commuting!)

The Tribes Online

I will be starting a company that will build a website building package for Churches. Currently most church website are like “Online Brochures”. They tell you largely static simple one-way information such as the service times, the location and who works in a church. They will sometimes be pretty and sometimes look ugly (Which is usually the only measure of a “good” website) in a similar way to brochures. The power of the internet is not in publishing but in communication. E-mail is by far the most successful Internet technology and wikipedia is much more succesful then the old Encyclopaedia Britannica. Wikipedia provides a community that can collaborate to build content, whereas the old Encyclopaedia merely published information. I want to provide churches with the tools to build a website that harnesses the power of the Internet for internal church communication.

Throughout this year I will be learning how dynamic websites are built and laying the foundations of our company for a friend of mine called Robert Mumford to join me next year when he has finished his computer science degree at Manchester.

What will this include?

I will be building up this blurb so this is just my first draft! However we’ll provide many tools to help connect a church internally. Throughout the weeks I will blog about these features in more detail.

  • Website building package:- We won’t build websites for people. We will build a piece of software that allows people to easily set up their own websites without too much technical knowledge. This is similar to wordpress.com and we will be building on top of a package called Drupal. This package is great because it is really easy to build on top of and modify. There are a bunch of well-known websites that use it including bbc, whitehouse.gov and htb.
  • Totally free:- This software is “Free and Open-source Software” (FOSS). This means not only will it cost no money to download and use but users of our software can also see all the code. This means geeky members of churches that know how to program can help get involved by developing the solutions to their church problems themselves and then submit that code back to us so that it becomes part of the package. This means that if our software becomes succesful there is a potential for hundreds of people to be involved in making this great. The rest of the community call this “Free as in Beer and Free as in Speech”. The Google Android phones are based on linux, this is an example of software that is FOSS.
  • Dynamic:- The big issue I have with churches is that the content is one way. We want to build software that allows churches to communicate with each other more effectively. So obvious ideas include allowing people to ask questions and comment on all the sermons that are posted up? Or maybe have online prayer? Or maybe having a youth group where people can all write their own apologetics like with CARM?
  • Communities:- Dynamic websites like Facebook help communities to form. However churches already have a community… it’s the church! This software is aimed at helping connect people already within the church to other people within their own real-life community.
  • Collaborative:- This word is what Microsoft Share point is aiming at. Getting people to work together on things. We want to build tools to help volunteers and staff to work together on projects effectively. This means church members could collaborate and work together creating fantastic youth weekend-aways or we can enable multiple staff members to collaborate easily on one contact database? Or Church-wide calendar that helps all the staff know what is going on?
  • Company:- The software is free. But I think that many churches will not have the time to set up and maintain their own website. They might not have a technically minded congregation member to manage basic things like setting up a webserver, or maybe they do have one but that person just doesn’t want to give up their free time doing what they do throughout the week. For those people (and others) we’ll set up a company where people can host their sites with us or pay for support contracts on maybe a monthly basis. This should fund the development of the product. It is a similar model to that of Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) and Acquia that is behind Drupal.

Here are some examples of features we might implement.

  • Pretty publishing tools – So people with no IT skills can edit the pages the are responsible for in a similar fashion to Microsoft Word.
  • Online Address Books – Can be built into a tool that will manage the congregation generally.
  • Rota organisation – Band Rotas, Choirs or even Teas and Cofees
  • Event management – Including pretty looking Calendars, both random events and things like Sunday Services.
  • Resource Libraries – Sermons, Videos, Articles or Bible Studies
  • An Internal Church focus- It would be easy to advertise ourselves as “The Facebook for Churches” but really we’re not aiming for that. We’re more the Microsoft Sharepoint for churches, which is much less catchy! Facebook is powerful because everyone is on it. We don’t want to do this nor need to. There already exists mychurch.org or ukchristians.net and online versions of specific features of our future software. For example, you can easily go online and find “Prayer Wall” websites and watch people pray. Our software though is about empowering an individual church. We want to take a community of human beings that already exist and help use technology to build those real-life relationships. Our software will help people already praying with each other to connect more easily, regularly and closely. We will not be satisfied if we just build clever technology, these solutions need to grow the church in real-life. We’re here to supplement and encourage, not replace the church!

How will I go about achieving this?

  • Software  – We’ll be working on Drupal
  • A Wiki / Community – It is easy to get excited by technology that looks good but serves no real purpose. So we want to make sure that our software is built by starting with problems that exist within the church already and trying to solve it with technology. If a paper phone book does the job we don’t want to replace it just for the sake of it but solve internal church problems that have not been currently solved. So to do this I want to create a wiki, this will allow people with no technical skills to be involved in designing and developing the solutions in plain-english, so programmers can turn those ideas into a reality. Then we want to use this wiki to provide documentation so people with very little IT skill will be able to use our software effectively.
  • A Company – The software will be called “The Tribes” and the company will be “TheTribesOnline.com” handling the commercial side of things whilst .org will handle the free side of things.

So back to my life

Sorry if this is a bit of a mess. I’m still working on the best method of communicating these ideas! So I’ll go back to talking about me. The reason why I’m particularly excited by this work set up is because I have enough money to live on provided by my Heidmar Job so I can focus quite heavily on the church stuff for some time to come. However, these jobs also compliment each other fantastically. Whereas Heidmar will exclusively use Microsoft products that churches probably can’t afford and I will be using free opensource software. Many of the concepts that I am trying to get into the church are there in Heidmar. Heidmar will require their websites to look good, be intuitive to use and have good documentation. Heidmar need a website that helps facilitate good collaboration. So although a feature of Sharepoint (such integration with Outlook) will not be ported into my Church work, answers to questions such as “What does a user want to see on their homepage?” are useful to both.

I’ve had my first week of working on this stuff. For now I’m mainly learning lots (including how to programm a little!) but its been fun so far.

Drupal and Vaio P


I think I’m enjoying playing around with the Vaio P. I’ve thought of installing ubuntu and stuff but given up on that. I’m finding firefox with a bunch of plugins to make it look like chrome is working better then chrome.

However unfortunately I’m finding apache can’t quite handle installing drupal on it. I’m using the Acquia Drupal installtion package and then the source code from http://www.usingdrupal.com

I dunno if anyone has some advice on this but my poor vaio is pretty much maxed out at 100% during the install process.

Starting down a new path – Drupal and the church


So, I’m in the middle of doing an essay I really don’t want to do. We’ll see if this is just procrastination talking but I’m starting to feel like doing a Masters is not what I want to be doing. I want get started on the real stuff I always planned to do after the masters, a year earlier.

I really feel there is a gap for good church website building software that is opensource that could compete with the propriety software such as City and churchinsight. I think that software like that is fine and certainly morally defensible from a Christian standpoint. However, Open Source software and the community around drupal is just so much cooler and imo so much powerful in a community like the church.

Once this essay is in I’ll start blogging a bit more with how things are supposed to go.