19 December, 2008

Why You Should Be Controversial

I have to tell you a story before any of this makes sense, so bear with me for a minute.

Michael Murray, a good buddy of mine, IMed me today telling me he had been invited to write a blog post for the the main page of tech.lds.org. I was really happy for him; he deserves it as a tribute to his tireless contributions to the LDS tech community.

Unfortunately, for reasons that I can understand, Mike was having a hard time coming up with what to say. I mean, there's tons you could say, but you have to be somewhat careful... after all some may mistake criticism of the software the LDS Church employees write with criticism of the LDS Church period. And then there's also the fact that Mike really cares about the tech.lds community; he's an active moderator in it.

Unfortunately, the tech.lds community suffers from the same problem any extremely homegenous community does: everyone says the same freaking thing all of the freaking time! Everyone talks about how IT is a means to an end; everyone talks about how we, as IT folk, should seek for way to further the Kingdom and be more wise servants. Please don't get me wrong: I know that what the tech.lds community preaches is true, but haven't we heard enough of that already?

Why don't we talk about some of the real issues with IT at the Church?

Here's a few ideas off the top of my head:

  • How come LDS software is not open sourced? I still remember when I helped build my chapel back in Ecuador; truly a memorable experience - it was great to be able to contribute beyond tithing money.
  • How come phone numbers are tied to households in MLS? What's up with that?!? And even more important, how come that wasn't fixed 10 releases ago?
  • How come the IT department used to pay terrible salaries to IT employees? I recognize this is changing, but what kind of people was the IT department expecting to hire?
  • Why did it take 10 years for meetinghouses to get broadband internet access? Did IT managers really just learn of white lists?
  • Why does it take days to transfer membership records into a ward? Isn't it just a simple look up? And if it's not just a simple look up, how come it's not?
  • Why is the Church developing on the Java stack? When was the last time you saw MLS running on a Linux box?
I've been deliberately controversial on this post because I wanted to make point: if you're going to say something, you might as well say something that's worth thinking about. I suspect there are good answers to all of the questions I've listed above; furthermore, I realize in the grand scheme of things I know nothing compared to what the fine folks at the LDS Church do. But at least, you read this far and know you're thinking about software at the Church too.

Disclaimer: I cannot say it more clearly than this: I'm criticizing IT at the LDS Church, I am NOT criticizing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To some extent, I'm not trying to criticize the folks the work in IT at the Church; I realize that were I in charge of IT things would probably be even worse than they're now.


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