CHURCH.IO

a community of people building open source church software

Lessons, A Niche, and Our Dev Community

...and, we're back.

I feel bad that I started this blog, got people excited, then fizzled out for nearly two months. I'm sorry; I got a new day time job, and it took me a while to settle into a groove.

That, and I had some decisions to make with regards to my other software project. OneBody is my five-year-old Ruby on Rails app and commercial SaaS that attempted to solve all the wrong problems. Well, not really all wrong, but probably mostly wrong (more about that in a bit).

I built OneBody as a social network, perceived by many as a church-flavored Facebook competitor. Then, in ignorance, I started to morph OneBody into a sort of Church Management System. And by the time I had written thousands upon thousands of lines of code, I realized (a little too late) I was writing software no one needed and no one knew exactly how to use.

I'm not beating myself up too much here -- I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I've learned about how to (and how not to) manage an open source project and how to run a business.

But the biggest lessons I'm still trying to put into words, and that's probably where Church.IO comes into play the most.

Lessons

You see, in this blog, I speak as an addict. I am indeed one of the engineers/product designers of whom I have spoken most in my previous two posts. My hints at Software Predetermination are based completely in my own experience.

Perhaps it isn't fair to project my experience onto other projects I know little about. Kingsley Allen commented on my last post, saying:

You describe a from-scratch ChMS creation process that I hope does not happen often in the real world today. A contemporary, mature software creation process is not bottom-up. You start with the problem you are trying to solve, design the solution to the problem and the experience (UX), and the rest falls into place to support it. The database is not the starting point, it is shaped by the solution.

Fair enough. I hope that's right.

Still yet, I want to explore the limitations imposed by building software on top of a relational database and what kind of (different) types of software one can build on a NoSQL or Document Database. What sorts of issues, if any, does such a foundation eliminate, and what problems does it create?

And, with that, I need to come full circle, back to my project OneBody. For all intents and purposes, I have shut the project down in order to focus on the sorts of software I've talked about in this blog. Sort of...

A Niche

I've realized also that there is a small part of OneBody that I don't want to completely throw away and may actually be useful to thousands of churches across the world -- an online directory. Not a replacement for Facebook, but something to work alongside it and provide an umbrella for any church or close-knit community to search and connect with one another outside of the noisy and busy world of Facebook.

So, I've created Church.IO Profiles in order to preserve that one good part of OneBody. This new project aims to be a very small Rails 3 app that uses Facebook for login and allows fellow church members to see and connect with one another easily.

Profiles may not be necessary at all if Facebook just had better and easier-to-use Groups functionality. Until it does, I hope to fill that niche with a church bent.

Our Dev Community

Further, I feel like the OneBody project had a community of developers who wanted to jump in and make the software better, but couldn't figure out where to start. Profiles is a continuation of this community, with fresh code.

I want to nurture this community. Down the road, I'm hoping this same community, bigger and stronger, can help build the engagement software I really want us to build.

...

So, that's it for now. My plan is to continue to discuss church software here while promoting community around Church.IO projects, namely Profiles at the moment.

As always, your thoughts are welcome here, and on Twitter @seven1m. I've also created an IRC chat room on freenode called #church.io (webchat here). I should be there most days if you want to chat.

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