I hear from many people involved in Diocesan and organizational work that they are interested in "doing more things online" and "connecting with their members online." it's great to wish for these things, and even better to try to achieve them. But wouldn't it be nice to actually achieve these goals?

It's not the hardest thing to do. And it's not like technology is standing in the way and is extrememly hard to use... But time and time again, I see things done that hinder the Church's ability to truly communicate and connect with it's members online in the best way possible. One such incidence was the start of a new "blog" by Archbishop Timothy Dolan on the Archdiocese of New York's website.

The reason I put "blog" in parentheses is that this so-called blog could be compared to an eight cylinder engine firing on only four pistons; there are many things missing:

  • There in no RSS or Atom feed to allow people to subscribe and receive automated updates of new blog posts (though there is a feed for each posts' comments... but seriously, which is more important???).
    • As an aside, once you have a feed, you also need to make sure you integrate it properly so there's not only an easily visible link or button for it on the web page, but it's also appearing in the site's meta tags so people using modern web browsers can subscribe easily in the standard way.
  • In the absence of a feed, there is no email list or any other method with which the diocese could "push" updates to the faithful.
  • The main page of the blog doesn't even show the content!
  • There's no way to promote, rate, or otherwise interact with the content - not even a "post to Twitter" link (though there are comments, so that's a plus).

One positive aspect is that the 'blog' is incorporated into the rest of the Archdiocese of New York's website, so all the Google link power of the archny.org domain exists within the blog posts, something that doesn't happen for many groups who choose to host their blogs elsewhere (the highest profile blog I know of like this is the USCCB Media Blog, hosted on Blogger). Another positive aspect is the fact that the blog pages are well-formatted in terms of their html - using H2, <p>, etc. correctly :-)

I'm guessing, and I'm pretty sure I'm right, that the blog is set up the way it is due to limitations imposed by whatever software suite (looks like ColdFusion) the Archdiocese of New York has running their website. If they were using a more easily extensible system, perhaps they would be able to do everything (including setting up specialized feeds besides simply a 'blog' feed) out-of-the-box.

That's why this website exists. I want everyone to know that producing a top-tier, beautiful, functional, fast, and user-friendly website is not only easy—it's necessary for the promotion of the faith! There is no excuse, in my mind, for the Church to drag her feet in this area anymore. Heck, even Pope Benedict has said the same. We need to start doing things right, and do things right from the start!

Please help me in educating your (Arch)dioceses, being a good example of a Catholic who evangelizes and shares the faith both online and offline, and generously sharing your talents to the extent you're possible so our Church is not seen as being 'closed' 'guarded' and 'secretive.' It's usually not the Church's intention to be so, it's just a side effect of a lack of online savvy. Get your organization/Archdiocese to give some RSS feeds, if nothing else, so I can aggregate them on Catholic News Live ;-)