Monday, September 23, 2013

Instant Church Directory - A Rant

Our church is doing a new pictorial directory using this service called Instant Church Directory. The service makes pictures and addresses available through a mobile device app. Using your smart phone, or a tablet, you can scroll through the pictures and find the person you’re looking for. But what it doesn’t allow you to do is to access the information from a website. Okay, that’s not exactly true. What they will allow you to do is download a PDF, which most people will be able to use if they have Acrobat Reader installed.

Okay, it’s great that they implemented it as an app, but what about people who don’t have one of the supported devices? Have we reached the point where those of us who prefer to use a PC are the dinosaurs of the technology world? Is the PC dead?

No, an here’s why. If you do a lot of typing, you’re going to want something more than a phone or a tablet. If you are doing graphics of some kind, you’ll want a larger screen, and maybe two or three. If you are doing processor intensive operations, you’ll want a high powered processor. High power equates to a lot of heat, and that means you need extra room in the case. If you are doing video processing, you’ll want a lot of hard drive space and you’ll want some fast optical drives. When you start talking about that kind of stuff, the desktop is king.

In short, phones and tablets work when mobility is the most important thing. Desktops work best when power is needed. But what does that mean in terms of Instant Church Directory? In my mind, it means Instant Church Directory falls short of what they need to be. It is great that you can pull out your phone and find information about a fellow church member. But as the church webmaster, I want more than that. If I’m working on a page that refers to one of our members, I want easy access to their picture, so I can include it on the web page. Being able to access it via a phone doesn’t allow me to do that. Neither does access to a PDF. Extracting an image from a PDF is problematic because PDFs are optimized for displaying information for the printed page.

Instant Church Directory also falls short in terms of protecting member information. While trying to find more about Instant Church Directory, I find a PDF file posted on another church’s website. I opened the file and found names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. And unscrupulous person could easily send information to all the church members and give the appearance that he is someone they know.

Granted, Instant Church Directory does show some ways to password protect a PDF file, but then there is the question of whether we want only one password that people will pass around freely, or if we want user ids and passwords to discourage the sharing of the password. Presumably, we want user ids and passwords, but then there is the question of providing a secure login. Why couldn’t they have just provided a secure web link to the directory? A website would show the same information an app would, it would work on all web enabled devices, and it would work on a PC.