God’s Way Information Technology Programme involves using computer systems and technology to optimise the production, storage and sharing of information relating to God’s Truth. This post will describe some activities of the Information Technology Programme, and God’s Loving Principles behind them.
The foundations for this programme have been developed by AJ Miller (Jesus) over the course of many years, and implemented within the Divine Truth organisation. Jesus previously operated a business within the Information Technology (IT) industry, and he has a vast and broad knowledge of all aspects of IT, including computer hardware, electronics, networking, programming, database, various operating systems, server administration, security, file system management, analysis, design, technical documentation and user training. The expertise, knowledge and skills that Jesus freely provides to the Divine Truth and God’s Way organisations is invaluable.
Kate Eckersall started volunteering for Divine Truth Pty Ltd in September 2016 and began working on the development of projects which had already been planned for by Jesus, but had not yet been undertaken due to the limits of his time and lack of available volunteers with the required technical skills. Kate’s background is in computer programming for software applications, databases and websites. Jesus now manages and oversees the projects, analyses organisational workflows and develops long term plans, while Kate assists in realising the plans through developing computer systems and applications (also called apps or programs) under his supervision and direction.
God’s Way Ltd now has the opportunity to apply and benefit from systems which have been developed, tested and refined within the Divine Truth organisation.
God’s Way will own the intellectual property relating to existing systems as well as future developments, so that the systems can freely be shared worldwide with other individuals and organisations who would benefit from them.
Productivity Technology Project
The aim of the Productivity Technology Project is to support the God’s Way team by automating repetitive computer based work, allowing members and volunteers to focus their time and energy on core activities and tasks requiring special skills that cannot be automated.
This involves using technology and developing computer programs to automate tasks that would otherwise be time and labour intensive to perform.
An example of a process within the Divine Truth organisation which has benefited from automation is the process of clipping a full length video presentation into a series of short clips on more specific topics. Presentations are of 1-4 hours in length on average, and cover a more general topic, where a clip will be a shorter in length and focused on a specific topic. The benefit of being able to view clips as well as extended presentations is that clips can provide more immediate answers on a specific topic, and being shorter to view, can be a more practical way of receiving information.
In the past, the process of video clipping was performed by a volunteer, who would review footage of the full length presentation, decide where to create cuts and come up with an appropriate title for each clip. As this work was somewhat subjective, the clips would then have to be reviewed and checked by another volunteer. Specialised video software was required to perform video clipping. Taking into account all steps, this process took around 4 hours per clip produced, and this time and effort quickly compounded, as each 1-2 hours of extended presentation can be broken into around 10 clips at minimum.
Under the redesigned process, Jesus & Mary do the work upfront to create a thorough and well planned Outline document, prior to a discussion or presentation being given and recorded. An automated process transforms the Outline into a format which can be loaded into an iPad app, and during live filming, Production Team volunteers use this app to tag the times at which discussion of each topic in the Outline begins. After filming has taken place and video editing is complete, time codes which link topics in the original Outline document to the video footage are imported back into the Outline via another automated process.
You can click the image below to view a time coded Divine Truth Outline.
From here, all the details required for cutting a full length presentation into a series of shorter clips are available. Headings within the document become titles for clips, heading indentation levels allow the creation of clips and sub-clips which are increasingly specific in topic, and time codes determine the start and end times for each clip and points at which cuts need to be made in the full length source video. A computer script for cutting the full length video into a series of clips can now be generated from the Outline document. Free, open-source software called FFmpeg is used to automate the task of clipping, and as the work has been done during the presentation planning and production stages, the clipping process now requires very little human input. It takes less than 1 minute to generate the series of commands required for the FFmpeg program from a completed Outline document, and using this script, each clip takes approximately 2 seconds to be cut from a full length video and saved as a separate video file. A volunteer just needs to generate and start the script on a computer or server, and does not need to be present while it runs.
Some more examples of computer programs which have been developed within to automate various tasks include:
- Reverse engineering of a presentation outline document from chapter markers and notes which are created during filming of the presentation
- Production of low and high resolution audio MP3 files from a presentation video
- Upload of videos and associated details to YouTube
- Generation of video subtitles from a presentation transcript document
- Reformatting of a presentation transcript into new formats suitable for printing as a booklet, or viewing on an eBook reader device
In addition, standards and conventions have been established within the Divine Truth organisation for:
- Fast creation and consistency of commonly used documents through the use of standardised templates
- Structuring and naming of a file system for ease of searching, sorting and organisation of files
God’s Way activities will produce similar forms of media as those generated by Divine Truth, including video, audio and documentation, and so will easily be able to make use of the relevant existing programs.
A computer program is a set of rules used to perform a task. The rules or laws encoded into the program allow decisions to be made automatically and determine how to handle information without a person having to command each individual action.
For example, when you save a file you have created on your computer, the program you are using checks whether a file of the same name already exists in the location you are saving to, and if so, gives you the option to overwrite the existing file or save the file under a unique name. The program also verifies that there is space on the disk you are saving to that allows for this file to be written. When these conditions are met, the program writes the data to the disk in a format which can be read again, the next time you open the file using the program.
Jesus once said that computer programming is like creating laws. In fact computer programming is a powerful tool that can be used in harmony with God’s Principles of Economy & Function.
The equal value of resources (time, matter and energy)
The economical use of resources to create function
The automation of laws and creations (no external maintenance)
Economy is incorporated within creation and law
For example, using a document processing program like Microsoft Word allows documentation to be created, edited and produced into a final product much more quickly and easily than if the document was written and modified using pen and paper.
The equal value of outcomes (results, beauty, and the use of resources of time, matter and energy)
Each law and creation has multiple functions that are automatically fulfilled
The economical use of resources to create multi-functionality
The automation of function and outcome
Creation itself instinctively “desires” to fulfil all outcomes
A document processing program like Microsoft Word is also an example of how computer software can be used in line with Function principles. The program can be used to save time, effort and physical materials like paper when producing documentation, and can also create documents that are clear, attractive and visually appealing in presentation. Microsoft Word provides features like built-in spell checking and can be used to create multiple different types of outcomes including written text, images & diagrams, documents that can be used and shared digitally as well as printed to paper. The program is flexible enough to be useful in a wide range of individual, organisational and business uses.
God’s Way Productivity Technology Projects have been designed to be as flexible as possible so that other organisations may be able to use them in future too. This is in line with the Function Principle of multi-functionality, and reflects good programming technique of writing computer code that is generic in concept and can be reused in different scenarios.
Examples of Programming
Here is an example of a simple snippet of program code which can be used to round a decimal number to the nearest whole number. The programming language which has been used is Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).
Here is another piece of code that checks whether a folder or file exists on the file system.
The code base that has been developed so far is made up of thousands of lines of code like these!
There is a visual side to programming too, which involves designing the screens and interfaces that users will use to run programs. This is an example of a custom built toolbar in Microsoft Word that is used by the current volunteers and members of the Divine Truth and God’s Way organisations. Users can initiate the organisation’s custom programs from the buttons and menus in this toolbar.
You can learn some programming basics and give coding a go yourself on a website like Codecademy. Their tutorials fun and simple to use. You can access a lot of training for free (creation of an account is required) and for a reasonable monthly fee you can gain full access to all resources on their site.
Data Consistency Standards
As consistency, thoroughness and accuracy of data enables computer programs to operate successfully and improves the quality of materials produced, the Information Technology Programme also involves the development of standards for the information being produced within God’s Way Ltd.
To explain the importance of data consistency, thoroughness and accuracy, using a computer program could be compared to preparing a meal from a recipe. A recipe is similar to a computer program in that it is a series of instructions followed in sequence. A recipe and a computer program both have inputs: ingredients in the case of the recipe and data in the case of the program. There are also outcomes from following the process of a recipe or running a computer program: a meal from the recipe and output information in the case of the program.
In both cases, the recipe and computer program transform source materials into a different format. The quality of the outcome produced by both is very dependent upon the quality of the source materials that are input into the process.
You could not expect to have a tasty and nourishing meal result from using ingredients where some have gone off, some were not meant for this recipe at all (for example, soy sauce was substituted for chocolate sauce due to the similarity in colour!) while others were missing entirely, and care was not taken to measure ingredients with some consistency. In the same way, the quality of the outcomes of a computer program cannot exceed the quality of the data which is input into the process. The automatic conversion of source data into information of a different format will fail or result in a poor quality outcome if the source data is inconsistent, incomplete or inaccurate – no matter how good the program is!
For this reason, there is a saying within the IT industry, “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. This means that if the data input into the computer process lacks quality, the output produced by the process will be useless rubbish!
In the example of automated clipping of Divine Truth presentations, if source data (a time coded Outline document) was not consistent, complete and accurate (for example, some time codes were recorded in a format missing the seconds component, inaccurate time codes were recorded and some time codes were missing altogether), the outcome of running the clipping program would be the production of video clips which were not cut to start and finish at the correct times, and therefore did not include the information relevant to the title of the clip. In addition, some clips would not be created by this program at all, due to time codes being missing in the source data.
Work that is consistent, complete and accurate creates loving conditions for all who use it, whether that be another person working within the same team, a person receiving the finished product and even the creator themselves. Data consistency creates predictability and certainty, in line with God’s Principles of Permanence.
Laws are unchangeable, consistent, permanent, and self-enforcing
Laws are structured, verifiable and mathematical
Laws are measurable, quantifiable and observable
Creation has safety and predictability in the universe
For example, you may have downloaded Outline or Transcript documents from the Divine Truth Downloads page. You will notice that the information within these documents is presented in a consistent format, so you get used to this structure and don’t need to go through a new learning curve every time you wish to read or find important information in another document.
Data consistency is achieved by establishing standards within an organisation or team. Standards need to be designed, agreed upon, communicated to and followed by a group working together. In the case of the Divine Truth Outlines and Transcripts, the presentation, style and formatting of these documents has been designed by Jesus and he has trained volunteers within the organisation so that those involved now understand how to produce documents which are consistent, every time.
Personal Reflections from Kate
I love the logic, challenge and creativity of computer programming, and the benefits that come from implementing standards for data consistency. I love to create systems which streamline and automate processes, add value, increase productivity, save time and reduce repetitive labour. I really enjoy the visual (user interface) part of programming too! I like to plan how to lay out buttons, input fields and screens in a way that is clear, intuitive, easy to use and visually appealing.
It is a pleasure to be involved with this work, to assist Jesus in implementing his designs, improve process economy for volunteers and members and support the Divine Truth and God’s Way organisation objectives.
Stay tuned for future blog posts that will share more details about Information Technology Programme Projects, and introduce training materials for learning HTML.
God’s Way Visionary & Founding Member
Divine Truth Pty Ltd Founder
Information Sharing Auditor & Editor
Branch Auditor: AJ Miller (Jesus)
Branch Manager: Mary Luck (Mary Magdelene)
Programme: Information Technology
Project: Productivity Technology
Location: Wilkesdale, Queensland, Australia