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jgraham

ReturnAndReport.org - My full review

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I've been asked by several members of this community to give you my experience with the ReturnAndReport.org tool.

Setup

Our group found it very easy to set everything up. I simply went the the returnandreport.org site, clicked on the "Sign Up Now" link and filled out the form. The site Emailed me a temporary password that I used to login. The hardest part was getting the assignments files correct to upload to the site. I used the HT Helper application (available for Windows, OSX, or Linux) to generate my assignments files. Then, I uploaded the assignments files to the returnandreport site. Next, I simply entered my teacher's Email addresses. Since then, the site has been completely automatic. I login when I want to view reports or manually change results. It is as simple as that.

Functionality

Reporting

This tool automatically Emails my teachers and requests that they report their results. The cool thing is that teachers to not need a username and password to login and report. They just need to enter the first part of their Email address after clicking on an encrypted link. After they do this, our Presidency simply needs to fill in the blanks. The teachers also have the ability to enter a comment for us (the presidency) and we receive it in our email. This has drastically increased the communication between the Presidency and our EQ members. The difference we have seen is absolutely miraculous. Our Presidency does a better job of working together to gather the statistics as well as identifying those families who have needs that need to be accomodated.

Phone, Maps, and Addresses

While editing Home Teaching results, there is a phone icon and a globe icon. Hovering over the phone icon allows you to quickly view a teacher or "being taught's" phone number. Hovering over the globe displays the "being taught's" address. The best part is that clicking on the globe displays a map utilizing Microsoft Bing maps.

Custom Contact Types

This tool allows us to customize the contact types. So when teachers report, they have the ability to select Visited / Not Visited in addition to "Family Moved" and "Need Presidency Visit." Everything is nicely charted on a pie chart to help us to understand the needs of the families in our ward.

Event Scheduler

Since we started using the returnandreport site, many great features have been added to it. We now use it for scheduling all our EQ assignments and activities. All I have to do is create an event and then add time slots to that event. I can even specify how many group members are needed for each time slot. Then I can blast an Email to everyone notifying them of the event by clicking a button. The members of my EQ can sign up for the event by clicking on a link and I know instantly how many teachers will be in attendance. It will also automatically email me when someone signs up for an event and it will email all the event attendees when I change an event. This feature is fantastic!

File Storage

We used to use Google to store files that I want to share with my EQ. Now, we use returnandreport. I can upload files and my teachers can download them when they login to report.

Cost

The cost is $20 per year, which I think is totally reasonable. I pay for the site personally because the money is not supposed to be taken from any church budget. Trust me... the $20 per year is well worth the convenience and overall benefit that this tool provides to our EQ.

Visiting Teaching

Yes, the tool also supports Visiting Teaching. In fact, my ward's relief society has gained an even greater advantage in using this tool than our EQ or HP Group have. They love it!

Support

The site operator is an active Church member and is EXTREMELY dedicated to supporting this tool. In fact, there are several features that I have requested and found that they were added within weeks!! I have the utmost confidence is the intentions and dedication of the site operator.

If anyone has any further questions about what ReturnAndReport.org is all about, I'd be happy to help answer them.

JG

Edited by jgraham

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Is it based on open standards / open-source software? If not, what are some exit plans / alternatives to using it, in case they get bought or development ceases? Can your data be exported easily, or is it locked into their service forever?

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Exit plans? Why would an exit plan be necessary? If the site went away, we would be forced to go back to the old way of doing things. I pray that this never happens though because it would be tough to go back.

Using the ReturnAndReport.org site does not change any Church-imposed procedures. You still enter the data into MLS at the end of the month as you always have.

I have spoken to the site operator at great lengths, and he has no plans to discontinue the site until the Church has a comparable tool.

JG

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All very good points! Do forgive me -- I've been using computers a very long time, so I kind of take a very long-term (years/decades) view of things. I keep getting stuck with programs and platforms that aren't supported anymore, for one reason or another, and I have to abandon everything on them when I switch to the Hot New Thing.

The best insurance I know of to keep something working indefinitely is to have it be open-source -- like WordPress, LiveJournal, and Firefox. Open-source, or "organic" software (as the Firefox people call it), is sort of a community thing ... if returnandreport.org was open-source, we'd all be able to help improve it, like by localizing it for the saints in different countries. International saints could even host their own copies of it on their servers, and all the improvements they made to it we could use as well.

It'd be great for his business because it means he'd get lots of people helping to debug and improve his site, and it'd be great for us too because if he ever got tired of it or lost his job or something we could pick up where he left off. Maybe we should suggest it to him?

Anyway, if it's not like that we will be back to square one if he gets hit by a bus, and that's a bad thing. But if it ever becomes open-source we all benefit. So that's kind of what I was saying there. >.>b

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All very good points! Do forgive me -- I've been using computers a very long time, so I kind of take a very long-term (years/decades) view of things. I keep getting stuck with programs and platforms that aren't supported anymore, for one reason or another, and I have to abandon everything on them when I switch to the Hot New Thing.

The best insurance I know of to keep something working indefinitely is to have it be open-source -- like WordPress, LiveJournal, and Firefox. Open-source, or "organic" software (as the Firefox people call it), is sort of a community thing ... if returnandreport.org was open-source, we'd all be able to help improve it, like by localizing it for the saints in different countries. International saints could even host their own copies of it on their servers, and all the improvements they made to it we could use as well.

It'd be great for his business because it means he'd get lots of people helping to debug and improve his site, and it'd be great for us too because if he ever got tired of it or lost his job or something we could pick up where he left off. Maybe we should suggest it to him?

Anyway, if it's not like that we will be back to square one if he gets hit by a bus, and that's a bad thing. But if it ever becomes open-source we all benefit. So that's kind of what I was saying there. >.>b

I've talked to him about that. The problem is that the data needs to be secured. Even though the site only accepts public record information, someone responsible who understands data security needs to maintain the site. If the application were allowed to just be installed anywhere, there would be no control over the security of the data. You might have peope doing things like bringing up the site without SSL or not doing backups, etc... This way, there is a centralized solution that can be managed securely and reliably.

By the way, I talked with him about globalization, too. RAR is already globalized... they are just looking for people who will volunteer to do the translations.

JG

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I've talked to him about that. The problem is that the data needs to be secured. Even though the site only accepts public record information, someone responsible who understands data security needs to maintain the site. If the application were allowed to just be installed anywhere, there would be no control over the security of the data. You might have peope doing things like bringing up the site without SSL or not doing backups, etc... This way, there is a centralized solution that can be managed securely and reliably.

By the way, I talked with him about globalization, too. RAR is already globalized... they are just looking for people who will volunteer to do the translations.

JG

Technically speaking, if we can't have anyone examine the code we don't know how secure or reliable it actually is. And there would be control over the security of the data on third-party installations. It'd just be in the hands of people other than him. Although instructions and timely update packages are certainly ways he could help.

I wish him luck, at any rate, and hope things go well.

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Technically speaking, if we can't have anyone examine the code we don't know how secure or reliable it actually is. And there would be control over the security of the data on third-party installations. It'd just be in the hands of people other than him. Although instructions and timely update packages are certainly ways he could help.

I wish him luck, at any rate, and hope things go well.

It's a good point, but I do understand the reasoning for not making it open source. If anyone was allowed to install and implement it, at some point someone is going to try and install it when they have absolutely no idea what they are doing and mistakes will be made. This means all data for that ward is vulnerable to theft, and no doubt the author of the software wil be blamed, even though it isn't technically his fault. Then he gets a bad reputation (talk among church leaders), and the usage of the software declines.

I'm surprised actually that the church would endorse having data kept on any servers other than their own. They are just asking for a law suit if anything happens to that data.

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I'm surprised actually that the church would endorse having data kept on any servers other than their own. They are just asking for a law suit if anything happens to that data.

The Church reviewed Return and Report and determined that it does fit within the policies of the use of Church data.

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The Church reviewed Return and Report and determined that it does fit within the policies of the use of Church data.

I know, hence my comment on that. I'm very surprised they endorse data being on any servers other than their own where they can keep a close eye on it. Personally, my concern would be that while it may meet their policies for use of the data, is it secured and will it remain secured? The data is accessible externally, which means there is more potential for unauthorised people to gain access to it. Servers are hacked all the time. If this third party server gets hacked, and data gets stolen; when it gets out that the church authorised the data to be placed on that third party server, they will be in a lot of trouble. If I were the church, I would prefer that data was kept on the churches own servers, so I could ensure it remained secure.

Edited by Mahone

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I know, hence my comment on that. I'm very surprised they endorse data being on any servers other than their own where they can keep a close eye on it. Personally, my concern would be that while it may meet their policies for use of the data, is it secured and will it remain secured? The data is accessible externally, which means there is more potential for unauthorised people to gain access to it. Servers are hacked all the time. If this third party server gets hacked, and data gets stolen; when it gets out that the church authorised the data to be placed on that third party server, they will be in a lot of trouble. If I were the church, I would prefer that data was kept on the churches own servers, so I could ensure it remained secure.

ReturnAndReport.org does not store any official Church data. Nor does it enocurage or require that data from Church systems be stored within the ReturnAndReport.org system.

JG

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I'm intrigued by this discussion-- if you're still using ReturnAndReport, do you still like it? Any bumps or hiccups with it? I'd like to see if I can get our EQ to start making use of it, because we could sure use the increased efficiency :)

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I'm intrigued by this discussion-- if you're still using ReturnAndReport, do you still like it? Any bumps or hiccups with it? I'd like to see if I can get our EQ to start making use of it, because we could sure use the increased efficiency :)

Yes, we are still using ReturnAndReport.org and it continues to be an absolute life-saver. I cannot imagine going back to the old way of collecting home/visiting teaching data.

The system requires the person's name and Email address. The rest of the requested information is completely optional (phone numbers, addresses, etc).

I would highly recommend ReturnAndReport.org to anyone.

John

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