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Beta test period for Catechism API - 25 keys available

A year ago, I registered the domain after my previous web site suffered a meltdown. This domain became the new home of my Catechism search engine (among other things).

Today, I am announcing the release of a Catechism API (still in beta).  There is no documentation written for it yet, although the field names (and their values) are pretty straight-forward.

This API allows you to request information about the sections of the Catechism and to search the text of the Catechism by word or Scripture reference.  In the near future, there will be both documentation and a sample display of how to render the JSON results in HTML.

There are 25 beta accounts available... probably highly optimistic on my part.

USCCB Announces 'Browser-Based eBook' Catechism

This morning, the USCCB announced the release of a new Catechism of the Catholic Church as an eBook. My hopes that this was finally true were dashed when I found two problems:

  1. The "Browser-Based eBook" is not an eBook—it's the same thing that's been available on the Vatican website for years, just with a search bar at the top and without a parchment background.
  2. The actual ePub Catechism is still $10.

The ePub file costs very little (in terms of infrastructure) to download—probably a penny or less per download. The hard-copy book costs $16... but some of that cost (if not all) is justified by the fact that a printing press, paper and distribution/warehousing are involved. So I'm wondering what the USCCB does with money from ePub sales. Would it not be better to get the text into the hands of anyone who wants it—Catholic or not—for free, or for a much more reasonable cost? After all, people can find a thousand protestant Bibles, atheist texts, etc., all free on the Kindle store or in iBooks. And it's easier for people to get the content from the major ebook stores as well.

Additionally, the USCCB claims the browser-based ebook is helpful for smartphone users. from the press release:

Site Reorganization, #oscatholic IRC channel decommissioned

A few quick updates on Open Source Catholic:

IRC Channel

(What is IRC?) I've unregistered #oscatholic from the Freenode IRC server, and have redirected the IRC page/instructions to the pre-existing ##catholic channel. There was never a whole lot of traffic to #oscatholic, and perhaps we may use ##catholic a little more from time to time. (It's not like there are a lot of Catholics on IRC anyways, at least not that I've found... but I still like IRC!).

Site Reorganization, Cleanup

In preparation for some discussion and work at this year's CNMC (see earlier post on CNMC), I've been moving around a few parts of the site, deleting less-frequented forums, changing a couple small things here and there, etc. Notably, I've deleted a few forums (Traditional Media and Projects), moving relevant discussions elsewhere. I've also worked a little bit on the Projects section of the site (though not too much yet), as I'll be using that section of the site to highlight some of the OSS work I'm doing, and would invite others to do the same.

I'm working on upgrading the site to Drupal 7 at some point as well, and I've already upgraded the theme (Airy Blue) to Drupal 7, and most everything else that's part of this site has been upgraded to Drupal 7.

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 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).


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