Greetings Friends --

We've had considerable interest on our NPYM (North Pacific Yearly Meeting) discussion listserv regarding matters IT (Information Technology).  npym-it-discuss was created for that purpose, as a Google Group.

We have 2.5 working LAMP stack applications, hosted by a plain vanilla ISP (1and1.com):
(A) PHP + MySQL:  Annual Session registration application

(B) Drupal:  NPYM.org website itself, keeping us up to date who who's doing what at the NPYM level, plus pointing to our individual meetings and/or churches (or temples if we have any), alerting Friends to upcoming events and so on.

(C) the remaining .5 is another PHP + MySQL application designed to (i) role model a Monthly Meeting website and directory service (ii) serve in this same capacity at the NPYM level.

What makes (C) so especially difficult is we're an Experimental sect and each Monthly Meeting is evolving its own way of Doing Business. 

As NPYM's Technology Clerk (IT Committee) I don't necessarily see that as a problem. 

On the other hand, getting disparate Monthly Meetings, each with its own solution, to work together on producing our Regional Directory is turning out to be quite the chore.

My own recommendation has been to streamline (C) to just make it a plain listing on the web, sorted by Meeting, of whomever chooses to be listed. 

Here's a screen shot of the RESTful API, which I prototyped using mock data in a Django + Heroku application:

https://flic.kr/p/suJ47U

(I teach Python full time as a day job, though I'm not especially expert at Django by trade -- one of many web frameworks, and most successful to date by many measures, written in the Python language).

In having one's name, perhaps email address, perhaps phone number, perhaps website, even street address listed, one is saying to the world, in a world-readable form:  "I am an NPYM Friend or an affiliate thereof".

In making our Directory a 24/7 web API, I'm proposing a means to both network with others, and to make a declaration about one's own identity, in itself powerful.

We don't know the consequences of opting in for such a listing, nor are we guaranteeing said info will not be used to send junk mail (maybe the email address you display is customized for this purpose). 

One is taking a risk in announcing ones loyalties to the world in many contexts.  However Quakerism was never about "playing it safe" as a primary goal in life, judging by the lives of its most prominent adherents.  It's a basket worth putting eggs in precisely because it's a difficult practice that is also rewarding.

Shifting gears a bit:  I too have seen what appears to be a retreat from the Yearly Meeting as an important entity.  Nominating is having a heck of a job finding Friends willing to serve at this level.  Why is that? 

I see this very topic being discussed elsewhere, including in other threads on this website, and so am inviting those joining this discussion to feel comfortable sharing nuts and bolts IT without angsting about whether the Yearly Meeting itself is going away in the near term. 

For the sake of argument and establishing a shared context for discussion, lets say that it isn't i.e. NPYM et al are here to stay -- though nothing lasts for ever, so true.  As I always say, The best religions are yet to come.

A lot of the challenges these days are technical, not necessarily indicative of a crisis in Spirit nor any weakening in Resolve.  I still encounter many Convinced Friends in the course of a business day, many of whom are up to engaging with these challenges.

I do think we need to explore the relationship between Quakerism and Open Source a lot more.  There's a lot of "values and ethics" type thinking going into the Open Source subcultures, many of which mirror Quaker values. 

I'd be up for drawing these parallels more consciously and converging Quakerism with Open Source / IT more successfully. 

I know Western Friend has a similar interest, as WF is reinventing itself as much more than just a monthly magazine (formerly known as Friends Bulletin).

What are other Yearly Meetings doing? 

FGC is a player in all this, offering its own solutions and Cloud Services.  At least one of our Monthly Meetings has opted to experiment with the FGC web site solution, but that has not solved all of that meeting's IT needs (nor was it intended to).

Comments?  Thoughts?

Kirby Urner
Portland, Oregon
Technology Clerk / IT Committee / North Pacific Yearly Meeting

For those unfamiliar with some of the jargon:

L - Linux operating system, initiated and shepherded by Linus Torvalds, resident of my home town, which GNU-powered kernel / core pretty much powers the back ends of most websites, with Ubuntu from Canonical at about 70% of rack server share.

A - Interactivity with the outer world, one could say, Apache being the paramount web server (free, like Linux) but now Apache Foundation looks after many essential tools at the Cloud layer, such as Spark and Tomcat.  As PayPal puts it:  Apache Inside is the path to InnerSource. :-D

http://radar.oreilly.com/2014/07/transparency-and-transformation-at...

M - The persistence layer where all the data is kept.  M is for MySQL but that's just a placeholder for all the SQL + noSQL engines that participate at this level, including graph databases such as Neo4j.

P - named that originally because of the predominance of computer languages beginning with P at this level, namely PHP, Perl and Python.  That was the status quo in the 1990s at least, but since then many languages have joined the P layer as controllers on the server, in charge of all that data, including JavaScript, which used to live only in the browser, pretty much.

https://flic.kr/p/pMCRFq

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Continuing to ruminate on our cyber-structure...

The prospect of using the Google Classroom infrastructure is exciting to some of us.  I've proposed a Quakers and Slavery classroom, with its own set of readings.  These would be not so much a "courses" as Interest Groups per Faith & Practice. 

NPYM could offer them year-round. 

An inter-generational First Day School at the Monthly Meeting level might also create a Google Classroom, providing said meeting has official non-profit status as a 501(c)(3) or the equivalent status in other jurisdictions.

One is taking a risk in announcing ones loyalties to the world in many contexts.

I see no risk in announcing that one is Quaker.

I see MASSIVE risk in the form of stalkers and predators in having phone numbers and addresses in a publicly accessible place. For that matter, even password-protected individual Meeting directories are a problem on that front. I recently heard of an instance (not recent, as far as I know) where a Meeting had a child sex offender as a member. When a parent objected to his not-quite-following "be chaperoned at all times in the meetinghouse" (going to the bathroom alone, for instance), he pointed out he had the family's home address and children's names and ages, all thanks to the handy Meeting directory. And of course, there are certain to be predators among us who do not aim exclusively for children (so "don't list the kids" doesn't really solve that either).

My recommendation for the on-line listing was (a) it's optional and (b) the Friend in question has some control over what fields are displayed.  Just phone number?  Just email address?  That'd be OK.

If one is anxious about predators and stalkers, this should not hamper other Friends from putting their information out there, including minors.  Given how super easy it is to track down individuals using public sources over the Internet, I do not want Quaker meetings to falsely advertise that they're somehow a shield in some special sense for those hiding from others.  That only misrepresents Quakerism as some sort of witness protection program.

Getting one's name out there in a world-readable format identifying / affiliating with a Yearly Meeting is in an important step for some people.  People with security concerns are not obligated to take this step in the model I've proposed, which is strictly Opt In, not Opt Out, i.e. the default is no public sharing of information.

I don't mean that the Meeting would act as or pretend to be a shield, just that I wouldn't want to see any sort of pressure to "now remember to get yourself listed in the directory!" and that it's important for the risks of being listed to be noted.

Kirby Urner said:

My recommendation for the on-line listing was (a) it's optional and (b) the Friend in question has some control over what fields are displayed.  Just phone number?  Just email address?  That'd be OK.

If one is anxious about predators and stalkers, this should not hamper other Friends from putting their information out there, including minors.  Given how super easy it is to track down individuals using public sources over the Internet, I do not want Quaker meetings to falsely advertise that they're somehow a shield in some special sense for those hiding from others.  That only misrepresents Quakerism as some sort of witness protection program.

Getting one's name out there in a world-readable format identifying / affiliating with a Yearly Meeting is in an important step for some people.  People with security concerns are not obligated to take this step in the model I've proposed, which is strictly Opt In, not Opt Out, i.e. the default is no public sharing of information.

Right.  No pressure.  I operate at the Yearly Meeting level (in my current role as IT clerk) and am suggesting Monthly Meetings do all the filtering, making the risks clear and leaving it to individuals to opt in. 

I've also suggested a "flush and fill" workflow such that when Bellingham (for example) sends as their listing, we delete everything currently from Bellingham and replace with the new listing, rather than having the Secretary track down minute changes on any record-by-record basis. 

That way if someone sees their name at npym.org/bhm or whatever, they can have it removed from the source listing that comes to us.

Meetings differ as to their internal demographics.  Some have few if any children.  Some may be more welcoming with respect to those with criminal records, or those considered "undocumented" for legal purposes. 

Some Monthly Meetings do criminal background checks on any adult proposing to work with minors.  This mirrors the policies of many NGOs (e.g. I've been fingerprinted and background checked in order to teach computer skills via SaturdayAcademy.org).  Sometimes there's an insurance policy in the background making these stipulations in exchange for lowered premiums.


Mackenzie said:

I don't mean that the Meeting would act as or pretend to be a shield, just that I wouldn't want to see any sort of pressure to "now remember to get yourself listed in the directory!" and that it's important for the risks of being listed to be noted.

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