Wednesday, June 3, 2009

ChMS - Day Two of the Arena Developer Roundtable

We started day two by hearing about some of the things that Willow Creek had added to Arena in their implementations of events as well as a few other areas. They built some very nice items that we will pickup and utilize in the next couple of months. It was good to hear from them, and the stuff they built will help us immensely.

After Willow Creek, we had an open "show and tell" in which we presented a web services api we've been working on. We used an iphone app as an example of how this API could be used, but that is only one small use of the tool. There were lots of questions and this is definitely something that we will try to finish up and get out for people to work with asap. We also showed some of the smaller custom modules we've been working on, but you can read about those on the custom modules wiki on the Arena community if you are really interested.

We concluded the conference with some very good discussion with Arena about update strategies, more frequent bug fix releases, better compatibility with webkit browsers (well, any non-IE browsers really), moving away from apps for things like check-in, and how they present data on their issue tracker. By far the longest and most animated discussion was about Arena's proposed development timeline and some of the issues with how they are proposing to spend their time. This lead into a discussion about better documentation of the development API, something that was received well.

Overall this was a really valuable couple of days. More importantly, I was quite impressed by Arena's transparency and their willingness to listen to their developer churches. There are exciting times ahead.


Monday, June 1, 2009

ChMS - Day One of the Arena Developer Roundtable

Daniel and I are in Texas for the Arena Developer Roundtable. This annual event gives us the opportunity to meet with the majority of the Arena team as well as the other churches in the Arena Developer Program. Our conference started when we met Jon, David, Jeremy and Austin at airport.

We had a great time getting to know these guys on the way to dinner. And what a dinner it was. We ate at Texas de Brazil, an awesome Churrascaria near the hotel. As great as the food was, it was a great start to the conference as we talked through a ton of Arena stuff and church IT in general.

The conference officially started today at 9am with Steve Pruitt, the director of Technology Development for Arena. Steve announced some good stuff about Arena, most importantly the fact that Mark White has been promoted to the position of Arena Project Manager. Mark is well respected and known by most of the Arena churches, and should do quite well in this role.

We moved into looking at new features coming up in Arena, including the members portal. There was good discussion about facebook integration, and I think we might have hit upon some very solid ways that we can combine the two.

David Turner spent a good amount of time sharing with us about workflows, which is an extension of assignments, and he and Jon also talked about other things that CCV is working on. Finally, we spent quite a bit of time in open discussion.

Although the Arena guys got an earful on some issues from us, the conversation was good. It was great to hear from all the different churches and their perspectives on the issues at hand. The most important thing we heard today is that PayPal is no longer a second class citizen, unsupported by Arena. They will begin officially supporting our online giving solution very soon. Likewise, they have committed to no more contract lock-ins like the one that created the problem (only supporting one rather unpopular vendor) in the first place.

On the whole I am most impressed by Arena's willingness to listen to the developer churches and to involve us in the discussion of upcoming features etc. Tomorrow we see what everyone else is up to as well as sharing what we are working on.