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The Importance of Mobile for the Church

Vatican Website on the iPhoneBy 2015 (probably sooner), more people in the world will be accessing Church websites with mobile devices than traditional desktop computers (source).

Most Catholic websites (including this one, currently) are designed only for traditional desktop computer displays, and look either atrocious or (at best) hard to read on mobile devices.

This is a major problem.

It's not good enough to simply be present on the web anymore; the Catholic Church—once a leader in the arts, science and technology research, etc.—has fallen far behind on the Internet. The Vatican's website, once one of the only public websites on the Internet, is now a relic of the past, being difficult to navigate and read not only on mobile devices, but even on desktop computers.

Catholic Tech Summit at CNMC 2012, Aug 29

CNMC 2012 Banner

Just wanted to post information about the Tech Summit that will be held on August 29 at the 2012 Catholic New Media Celebration. The CNMC will be held in Dallas/Fort Worth, and I'll be there along with a bunch of other Catholic web and app developers, talking about new apps and development, API integration, and the future of tech in the Church.

I'm hoping you'll come too!

All the pertinent info about the Tech Summit can be found here, and you can register for the conference today! Come and contribute to our discussions about things like the open-source Catholic Diocese app, next-generation Catholic APIs and data sharing, and how we can work together to advance the Church's use of technology, most especially on the web and on mobile devices.

Open Access to the Catholic Bible and Catechism (NAB/NABRE and CCC)

Holy Bible - NAB Revised Edition - Leather boundAfter seeing about 50 responses on Twitter to a casual comment about the USCCB not being able/willing to allow open access to the Bible (NAB or NABRE translation) or Catechism of the Catholic Church to developers like me (and many others), I thought I'd simply post here all the information I have about the current situation, and what might be able to be done to remedy this situation...

[I set up this little petition just to allow people to voice support. Petitions don't help change things in the Church, but it's good to see what kind of things people would like to see happen!]

Website Minimalism

Before I get started, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am in no way ripping on Catholic Hot Dish.com in this post—I simply wanted an example for illustration, and this is one site that follows a design pattern I've seen on many Catholic sites. I enjoy Catholic Hot Dish, and am saying nothing of the blog or it's content—simply it's design choices...

Catholic Hot Dish Share LinksNow that that's out of the way, I wanted to point out an alarming trend I've seen on many new Catholic websites, parish websites, diocesan websites, and blogs: the tendency to pollute the entire design with too much 'stuff' that distracts from the website's actual content (what readers want to see).

Since I often read things in my RSS reader or Instapaper, it's not a huge deal to me—I click one button and the overpowering design of a site vanishes—but it is a problem for many of your site's readers, who aren't tech savvy enough to use such services. It's especially troublesome if you don't have a mobile-optimized design (or if your mobile-optimized design doesn't actually provide the bits of information that are actually important and present in your 'full' design).

The Catholic Developer and Blogger Christmas Wish List - 2011

In Luke 12, Jesus teaches us to guard against greed: "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions." However, it is a longstanding tradition for Catholics and non-Catholics alike to give and be given simple gifts.

While not espousing the vice of greed, I'd like to offer some gift ideas for Catholic techies, bloggers, and podcasters. All the items are things that I have found help me in my ability to spread the Gospel through the technologies I interact with every day.

Preventing Form Spam on Your Website

As more Catholic websites are adding comment forms and feedback forms, the problem of form spam (where you get submissions that are either obviously not written by humans, or submissions that are simply opportunities for people to link back to their own websites) increases.

I wrote a post on user-friendly spam prevention techniques that I employ on my websites over on Life is a Prayer.com, and in that post, I talk about the importance of making your spam prevention user-friendly. I specifically write about how detrimental CAPTCHAs are to usability and user happiness.

After you read the article, do you have any other ideas or techniques that you use to stop spam and make your users and commenters happy?

Private Social Networks for Parishes

I read a good post on the idea of parish online communities yesterday, over on Catholic Tech Talk (great site!), titled: Parish Online Communities: Private vs. Public. In it, Ryan Foley speaks about the value of parishes having private communities incorporated with their websites and parish member management systems.

I wrote, in response:

Coming from the perspective of having worked on a similar kind of project diocesan-wide (for priests), I have to say that creating an insular (parish-level, or even diocese-level) social networks is a serious undertaking.

We've tried twice to create online spaces (private social networks) for a particular population of the diocese, but both times, after an initial push by a few people that were forced into being leaders, the experiment failed. The reasons were many, but mostly boiled down to:

  1. Not enough buy-in to make it worthwhile (the people who were most active were those who were already using other communications channels to keep in touch anyways).
  2. Not enough 'space' (a few people posted a lot, causing many of the priests who would've otherwise been interested to stay out of the discussion).
  3. The 'just another network' syndrome; for many of the people who seemed they would be the target demographic, they quickly responded with complaints that we were simply asking them to manage yet another profile/persona, and one which didn't really provide them added value (compared to the small communities they were already in on Facebook, Twitter, and in real life).

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