Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pray with Friends status update and questions

PwF is coming along nicely.  I've discussed it with a few people.  I know a few people who are worried about my progress, so here's a status update for you.  And I have a few design questions that I would like some feedback on.

PwF has three main pages:
  • Journal
  • Pray
  • Messages
Each person will log their prayer requests and praises on the Journal page.  Then they will click through to the Pray page, where they will be prompted to pray for a few of their own praises and requests, and many of their friends' requests and praises.  Then after they finish praying they will click through to a page where they can easily send messages (public or private) to the friends that they prayed for.

There is also a Settings area that will probably be just an expand-collapse box on the Journal page.  And there might be a Donations and/or Membership page--that's a significant part of my questions, below.

All of this has to be coded in several different languages/technologies:

  • HTML
  • CSS 
  • FBML
  • Javascript
  • PHP
  • Ajax (using either XML or JSON)
  • MySQL 

I know HTML and CSS pretty well.  I understand how Javascript works, and I can get along very well just by searching through various web help sites.

FBML is Facebook's propietary version of HTML/CSS, and I've heard it is easy (I've ordered a book on it, but it hasn't arrived yet.)

I've picked up a lot of PHP in the last week or so.  I succeeded in writing some relatively complex PHP functions late last week.

I won't have to do a whole lot of direct MySQL programming, and there are lots of good books and websites that can give me what I need.

The last technology left is Ajax.  Yesterday I picked up a book on using Ajax and PHP together.  I worked through the first tutorials and read the heavy theory sections, and I get it.  I have some working sample code to adapt, and I'm quite confident that I can work out the rest.

The three main pages of PwF each use a different technologies:

  • Journal - Lots of Ajax and FBML, with some simple MySQL

  • Pray - PHP, with a little bit of complex MySQL

  • Messages - Almost exclusively FBML

  • I have a working prototype of the Pray page.  It is wicked fast and very clean.  I'm using some simple MySQL in the prototype, because I haven't designed the final database table structure yet.  I need to build the Journal page before I finalize that.  But the MySQL is modularized and will be easy to update.

    I'm working on the Journal page now.  I have it laid out in my head.  I know how I want it to work.  Now I just have to find the right Ajax code to build my first prototype.  I'm going to start that after I finish this blog post.

    I have employed Christy to do some of the non-technical writing for me.  She is looking up verses that praise God, and verses that reference common sins.  These will be semi-randomized and included in the prayer.  She's doing a good job of getting that stuff together.

    I have reached out to a couple of artists and asked them if they would be willing to draw a logo and some little images for me.  They have been busy, and I need to follow up with them on that.

    The basic application could be ready for me to start integrating into Facebook (writing the FBML and running in a sandbox on Facebook's servers) and starting testing on in 2-3 weeks.  There is only one significant issue that I don't have resolved: the revenue model.

    All of these questions are assuming that you would be interested in keeping a prayer journal in Facebook, praying for your friends and having them pray for you, and sending them appropriate messages of encouragement or offers of assistance after you pray.....
    1. The application has to have some way to cover costs to pay for the web hosting and other expenses (and, yes, I would like to make some money, too.)  I have thought of four different ways that people could help fund this application.  Which would you prefer, if you were using this application?:

    A. A 'Donation' page.  Some kind of reminder would probably appear on the Journal page asking you to donate.  The donation would probably be through a PayPal 'Donate' button (because I already have a PayPal 'Donate' button that I could easily slap in there in 2 minutes.)

    B. Buy little images to go with the messages you send after you pray.  I'm not sure how much the images would cost, but somewhere in between 5 cents and 25 cents each.  You wouldn't have to buy an image every time, or at all, even.  This would work like the birthday greetings images and songs that everyone sees but almost never sends...  Except these would be more inspirational looking original artworks.

    C. An annual membership fee.  Probably you would get to use the application for free for some period of time, and then you would get prompted to pay.  I really don't like making this mandatory, but if it were mandatory I would keep it very low.  Like $5 per year.

    D. A combination of images and a membership fee.  So the images would be there and the membership fee would be optional.  You could choose to buy the images one at a time.  Or you could pay the annual membership and get to use any of the images for free.  In this case the membership fee would have to be more, to cover for the many people who don't pay.  Maybe $12 per year.

    2. If you prayed for Johnny's hip replacement on Monday, how important would it be for you to follow Johnny's progress next week?  Can I expect you to just click over to Johnny's profile page in Facebook to see how he is doing?  Or do I need to somehow make sure that you get updates from Johnny about his hip?  Would you want the updates on some items but not others?

    3. Only people who are friends of yours and who have the application installed will see your prayer requests and praises.  But that list will probably include some close friends and some not-so-close friends.  You won't want your mother reading about your boyfriend getting arrested.  You won't want a co-worker reading about your upcoming job interview.

    I have thought of two ways to deal with this issue.  Can you think of any others?  Or which of these would you feel comfortable with?  Which option would not be more work than it was worth?

    A. Every prayer request or praise item in your list has a Public Description and a Private Description.  Everyone (your Facebook friends who also use the application) would see only the Public Descriptions.  The Private Descriptions would be private.  You could choose how much information to share in the Public Descriptions.  You could leave a Public Description blank, and it would only show up for everyone else as a "private concern."  Or you could leave the Private Description blank if you said it all in the Public Description.

    B. Or I could code a way for you to identify which of your Facebook friends could see all of your praises and prayer requests.  So you could create little prayer groups that included only some of your Facebook friends.

    C. Or I could code a way for you to form multiple prayer groups to join.  Everyone in all of your prayer groups would see all of your requests.

    D. Or I could code a way for you to form multiple prayer groups to join, and then let you specify for each prayer request or praise which prayer group could see it.  Or maybe even joining this idea with the Public and Private Descriptions idea, let you pick which prayer groups see the Public, which see the Private, and which see nothing at all.

    4. How often would you want to pray like this (assuming that it was well-written and easy to follow)?

    5. How long would you want to spend in prayer each time you prayed?

    6. How many different prayer request items would you keep on your list?

    7. Would you need some way to signify which prayer requests were urgent, to get them prayed for more often?

    And, finally....

    8. Would you like to use an application like this?

    Please feel free to comment in the comments here, or message me on Facebook, or send me an email to william.randy.miller (at) gmail.com.


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