Because sharing is good for everyone.

  • Migration to Jekyll and GitHub Pages from Drupal site

    Jekyll and GitHub Pages

    After almost eight years with Open Source Catholic as a Drupal 7 website hosted on infrastructure generously provided by Midwestern Mac, I migrated all the Drupal site content into a static Jekyll-powered site hosted on GitHub Pages (thanks to a suggestion from Michael Bianco).

    To maintain consistency we migrated everything, including comments and forum topics (we’re now using Disqus for commenting), and made sure all the old link paths were redirected to the new Jekyll structure.

    Please let us know if you find any problems on this new version of the site by adding an issue to the Open Source Catholic website repository on GitHub.

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  • Open Source Catholic - moving towards a more open site

    I just wanted to post an update at the end of 2015; as stated in The Future of Open Source Catholic, I wanted to find a way to move this site forward, being honest that I probably won’t have a lot of time to do much myself.

    My main goals in doing so are to ensure Catholic developers and companies who are interested in OSS and an ‘open’ philosophy in their technological development have a central resource to learn and share ideas and software.

    Some of the earliest suggestions have always been to make everything a blog post, and to that end, I’m going to work on a migration from the current site (which is built on Drupal 7 and integrates with Apache Solr search) to a static Jekyll site hosted on GitHub pages.

    I’ve already set up the Open Source Catholic organization on GitHub, inside which the new site content will reside (in a public/open repository, which anyone can fork and contribute to), and I hope that with a little time and some assistance, we can get everything, including hopefully all the helpful comments and forum posts, migrated into a new static site.

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  • Open source is 'only reliable way' to preserve human history, argues Vatican

    From The Inquirer:

    "The main question at the start of our project was which format to save the texts. We needed to make sure [people] could still read the digital files in 50 years' time." Ammenti explained that, in order for the manuscripts to be readable, the Vatican Library opted for open source tools that do not require proprietary platforms, such as Microsoft Office, to be read.

    Ammenti goes on to explain that the Vatican has chosen to use the FITS image format in order to preserve digitized scans of manuscripts and other works for decades, hopefully centuries, into the future.

    See past post on OSC: Vatican Secret Archive is Digitizing to Open FITS Format.

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  • 5 Things Every Parish Website Should Have in 2015

    Every year it’s important to assess your website to understand things that work and don’t work. With Easter season’s arrival, now is the perfect time to renew your website for some “spring cleaning.”

    In this article, we will go over 5 things every parish website should have this year in 2015. We’ve prepared this as a checklist that includes a combination of website tools, content suggestions, and general functions. Before we begin, it’s important for you to treat this guide as a way to enhance a well-founded Catholic church website. If your parish has a website that looks like it’s from the 90’s, this guide won’t help as there’s no substitute for sub-par quality.

    And so we begin!

    1. Mass Times

    Some people might find this obvious, but we’ve personally experienced and went through too many Catholic websites that fail to easily and accurately provide the #1 most sought-after information: mass times.

    The bottom line is that the most popular reason someone visits a Catholic church website is to find out what time mass is provided at your parish. So why make that an obstacle for your website visitors? Having correct mass times and other service times listed visibly on the homepage can be one of the most effective thing you can do to improve the usability of your church website. Give the people what they want!

    One good example of a parish website doing this right is the Church of the Good Shepherd in Los Angeles. When you arrive on their homepage, you can clearly find their mass times listed under the “Join Us This Weekend” box to the right, along with a link underneath to their full schedule of services. It’s a simple thing to feature on your church website that often gets overlooked.

    2. Mobile-Friendly

    Did you know that about 51% of the world’s population uses a mobile device? If half the people nowadays are checking websites from their phone or tablet, it’s a necessity to make your website mobile-friendly. In addition, this year Google announced they will incorporate mobile-friendliness into their algorithms. If you’re website isn’t mobile-friendly by April 21, chances are your website won’t even show up in the search results for someone using a mobile device. That leaves your parish website in the dust.

    If you want to check if your website is mobile-friendly, click here to use a tool created by Google.

    Show some personality! With websites trending to be more visual and less wordy, maintaining an updated image gallery will significantly enhance the browsing experience. It also gives a nice inside look to the type of community involved at your church. This is important for building your parish “brand,” showing the great people of your congregation, and attaching a “face” to your mission.

    A church is like a home, and anyone searching for a new home would want to see how it looks before buying. Having photos of the chapel, recreation centers, ministry leaders, youth activities, church-wide functions, and special events are just some of the many areas you can showcase for your parish.

    Fortunately, it’s easy to install an image gallery into your website. There are tons of image gallery platforms that you can use to integrate into your website. With a platform like Instagram, it’s a dual benefit because it allows you to build an image gallery while also gaining the benefits of social media. If you have a website built on a CMS (Content Management System) such as Wordpress, it’s as easy as installing a plugin like “Instagram Feed.”

    4. Easy Donations

    Let’s face it, when it comes to asking for donations it’s often met with resistance, inconvenience, and neglect. But it’s a necessary aspect of our Catholic Church as we are built on people’s charity. So imagine trying to get someone to make a donation to your church using a complicated system that is neither intuitive nor user-friendly.

    Having an easy-to-use donation platform will take away one less barrier from receiving donations. To recommend some tools, here are a few that we came across:

    • PayPal Donations: A well-known platform used by many churches around the world, PayPal has a trusting company image that won’t scare away your potential donors. It’s also very easy-to-use and donors don’t have to register for an account to send money.
    • Google Checkout: Through a program called Google Grant, nonprofits can use the Google Checkout system entirely for free since all fees are waived. Yup, that means you pay absolutely nothing to accept donations. The only drawback is that donors must be registered with a Google account to send money.
    • Network for Good: They offer a more robust platform specifically designed for nonprofits. You can create event pages, integrate different payment methods, organize online fundraisers, and even manage monthly recurring donations. With no set-up costs or monthly fees, they are also very affordable as you pay just the transaction price.

    5. Social Media Integration

    Social media has become a huge aspect of our lives today, especially if you own a mobile device. As the smartphone becomes better, social media becomes more accessible.

    Good communication is key to building good relationships. When you have social media integrated into your website, it shows that your church is serious about expanding in the digital medium. More importantly, social media integration shows that you care about maintaining open dialogue with your parishioners outside the church every day of the week.

    Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the most popular platforms used today. If you don’t have accounts created for your parish already, it’s time to get started now. Once you have your social media profiles setup, the most basic integration you can do is placing the profile links on your website. This will eventually lead your users to following your respective pages, and then joining the conversation. Social media can be used as an important part of online evangelization when used correctly. It has the power to reach an audience that we’ve never thought imaginable. Now that the future is here, we shouldn’t fall behind.

    We understand that it can be difficult to make any improvements to your website with the lack of manpower—that’s why we’re here to help. If you need help getting any of the above-mentioned features onto your website, click here to use our contact form to send us a message at any time and we’ll respond within a day. We will provide you with a free consultation, review, and recommendation on how to improve your parish website.

    So how ready is your Catholic church website for 2015? Let us know in the comments below. How many things can you check off?

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  • The Future of Open Source Catholic

    When I started Open Source Catholic in 2009, I was hoping to create a centralized resource for Catholics who were involved in OSS, sharing of ideas, tips and techniques for technology and web use for Catholic organizations, and a forum for Catholic software and app developers.

    I was also employed by the Church at the time, and spent a good deal of time working on the problem of the Catholic Church being far behind tech trends in the wider tech world.

    Times have changed, this site has basically been on mothballs for a couple years, and besides keeping the site patched for security updates, I haven’t really had any incentive/plans to keep the site or the community going.

    If someone else in the OSC community would like to take the reins, host the site, etc., I’d be happy to turn this over to them. Otherwise, my plan at this point is to turn the site into a static site, put it on mothballs permanently, and close out the social media accounts.

    Are there any objections? Any feedback on this plan? I’ve been putting off this decision for some time, but it seems the time has come to do something about it, as crawlers (which aren’t respecting robots.txt, and which I don’t want to spend time fighting) have begun to practically DoS the server this site is on from time to time, and activity throughout the OSC realm has dropped to basically nil.

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  • OneBody directory and social networking software

    While browsing Hacker News today, I noticed a neat project by Tim Morgan, OneBody. It is described as a “private member portal for churches” that offers “church directory and social networking” for your Church.

    Church.IO Directory Screenshot

    There’s a great discussion in the Hacker News thread (Show HN: OneBody Church Directory software I’ve been hacking on for 7 years), and you can get involved with the project (or just download the software) from Church.IO.

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  • MapTiming - a web app that adds time to maps


    it’s a pity that this forum attracts so little attention, because opportunities for leveraging web technologies in the church are plenty…

    Here’s an announcement of a new app -under development- that may be useful for churches. It’s called MapTiming and the idea is to create a web app where you store information about upcoming events or schedules. You store location information as well as calendar date and time. The events are displayed on a map, and can be filtered based on a selected timeframe. MapTiming shows in a glance what’s going on, where and when.

    You can follow up on the development on the blog and this article tells exactly why churches can benefit:

    Best regards, Vic

    (cross posted on!forum/tech-support-for-churches)

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