Embeddable Distributed Content from Mormon.org

I was checking out the impressive new www.mormon.org website, with its streaming videos and live missionary chat, and had an idea for some new technological directions for church web content.

The “user created content” aspect of web 2.0 has received a lot of attention among modern web companies. YouTube, Digg, and Blogs are all poster children of this new era. The first official public web forum of the LDS church is a great example of how the church is experimenting with tapping into that resource.

But because it is the Church of Jesus Christ, directed through priesthood authority and revelation and not a democratic worldly institution, the role of user generated content in the church’s official websites will always have limited application.

There is another part of web 2.0, however, that is equally important and can be leveraged by the church to a much greater extent: distributed content and viral marketing. There are many, many members of the church active on the web with blogs and personal websites. They represent a great opportunity for the church to leverage this web presence as a viral distribution channel for church produced content.

The new videos that are viewable on mormon.org are a good example. I think they are great. But they are only going to be seen by visitors to the mormon.org website. In other words, only those who have already been drawn to the website by other means will see them. However, if mormon.org would provide code next to them that viewers could copy and paste into their own blogs and webpages to embed the videos in their own websites, much like youtube and google videos can be, they suddenly become distributable. The church takes care of the bandwidth for the streaming video, but the videos are now available for viewing by visitors to a large number of personal websites of members—visitors who may never have come to mormon.org otherwise.

As they now stand, the videos can already be embedded into blogs and websites using the code below:

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The first drawback of embedding the videos like this is that they provide no built in mechanism for directing viewers to mormon.org or sharing the videos with others. I could embed the video in the sidebar of my blog and provide a link back to the mormon.org website like this:

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Code:

Ideally, though, the videos themselves should have a built in mechanism for redirecting viewers back to the website to learn more or share the video with a friend, similar to embedded videos from YouTube. At the same time, including an html link in the embed code in addition to the flash would probably be a good idea so that embedded videos would be picked up by search engines with a link back to mormon.org.

The other big problem with embedding the videos as they currently work is that they play automatically on pageload. If they are embedded in a blog post or a website sidebar, the visitors to that webpage should have to click on them to play them, otherwise they could quickly become annoying.

Eventually, code might be provided that would randomly choose one of the available videos and embed it on a webpage so that each time the page is viewed a different video is available.

Of course, videos are just one kind of distributable content. Ultimately, I envision a new section of Mormon.org where people can go to get HTML and JavaScript snippets that can be simply copied and pasted into their blogs and websites that will display widgets of distributed content from the church ranging from video, to church press releases, to inspirational quotes from modern prophets, or randomly rotating excepts from the Book of Mormon and New Testament, all with links back to the mormon.org website where people can chat live with missionaries or share the content with their own friends and family via email or embedding it on their own websites.

By building this kind of distributed content portal, the Church will be able to display and update its content on thousands of websites each with their own audiences and each showing up in Google searches in which Mormon.org would never show up. Simulataneously, members of the church will have new, easy-to-use tools for sharing the gospel on the web.

What do you think? Would you embed mormon.org videos or other content on your blog or website?

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13 Responses to Embeddable Distributed Content from Mormon.org

  1. This is a great idea. It would be great to be able to use my website to help distribute content produced by the church.

  2. YES! This is a great idea. I’d definitely use it. Good thinking. Someone needs point Larry R at this…

  3. I would love such functionality. What a missionary tool!

  4. Thanks, David, Naiah, and Alison for your enthusiastic feedback. I submitted the idea to the church technology forum and have been told that it has been forwarded on to the team in charge of mormon.org development, and that similar ideas were being discussed internally. It will be very exciting to see the role that technology will play in spreading the gospel. Do any of you have ideas for other kinds of embeddable widgets that the church could provide to members through mormon.org?

  5. m&m

    I would definitely embed videos or other content. (I have to admit, though, that there is something about mormon.org right now that doesn’t gel with me….)

  6. Another potential problem for the church is lack of control over context. Unscrupulous or antagonistic site owners could do damage with this kind of access: – a parody plays after the real deal – an anti-mormon site plays a video out of context, then rips it up. – General copyright concerns. Can the church maintain copyright of the material without having to constantly police to be sure that credit is give, copyright displayed, etc. This is not that important to a lot of those sharing videos right now, but I think it would be important to the Church. – etc.

    Of course these are also issues with text, but video costs more to produce, can have a bigger impact, and might feel more authoritative (whether in context or out). So… I think the risk is bigger. Still-it’s an interesting idea.

  7. You are right, TedB, that is a concern. And while I think it needs to be taken into consideration, I don’t think they should be overly concerned about it. I don’t think it would be too difficult to mitigate the problems you cite.

    First of all, the embeddable content would have to be a little different than what is currently available on mormon.org. The videos, or other distributable objects, would have to be self-contained presentations, rather than page-context dependent. As such, each would provide context as well as contain its own copyright notice and attribution (with a link back to mormon.org).

    Secondly, while the context in which they are embedded is outside of the church’s control, the content of the embeddable objects is still being served from the church’s mormon.org server. That means the church maintains control of the content that is actually delivered to the user’s browser for the embedded portion of the page, including copyright displays and attribution.

    The church might also consider releasing the objects under a Creative Commons license, probably an Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

    With those considerations, I don’t think that copyright will be much of a problem.

    While I agree that we should be concerned about misuse by antagonistic websites, I don’t think that providing embeddable content makes the kinds of misuse you cite much more likely than they already are.

    Take for instance your example of a parody that plays side-by-side with an embedded video. Any website owner who wants to do this can already do so by using an iframe tag with the src attribute pointed to the original video on the mormon.org, or they can do as I have done in my example above and use the view source function of their browser on the mormon.org website, and with only minor modification to add http://www.mormon.org/ to the beginning of the filenames, copy and paste the embedded the video directly into their website. Even if they aren’t that savvy, the can simply post their parody on their website with a link back to the original on mormon.org and achieve for all intents and purposes the same effect. So providing embeddable objects really doesn’t increase the chances of this kind of antagonism any more than having the videos on the web in the first place already does.

    As for your second example of a video taken out of context and then attacked as a strawman by an antagonistic website, the same is true as with the parody. They can already do this if they want to. Providing embeddable objects that are self-contained presentations, as discussed earlier would actually provide improved protection against this kind of abuse. Currently if I copy and paste the embedded video from mormon.org, as in the examples in my post, the video has no context and so it is easier to abuse in this way than an embeddable object would be.

    The church would probably want to include a disclaimer on its embeddable content portal something like this: Websites featuring embedded content from Mormon.org in no way represent the church in any official capacity neither does embedded content from mormon.org that appears on third party sites imply church endorsement or approval of those sites or any of their other content.

    If I am right about this, then embeddable content from mormon.org would provide great benefits without appreciably increasing the chances for misuse.

  8. Now you can tell us how you create the animated favicon. Never seen one before. Cool!

  9. [Off Topic]

    🙂 The animated favicon only works in Firefox, I think. It is just a standard animated .gif that I created using the free Persistence of Vision ray tracer. The animated gif is here . In order to make it my favicon I just add the following line to my HTML header:

    <link rel=”shortcut icon” href=”/images/favicon.gif” type=”image/x-icon” />

    Firefox then uses the animated gif as the favicon for my blog.

  10. JMax, that favicon is very cool. I used to want to do an animated .gif favicon but when I tried it, it didn’t work. Something has changed since then, I think.

  11. Jon in Austin

    Jmax,

    Love the links and info. A couple brief comments about your blog:

    The background makes reading anything here pain.

    Tab order is messed in that tabbing from Name to Email to Website to Comment jumps to the top of the page on tabbing from Website to Comment. That is all, have a superior day.

  12. John

    What I would like is a snazzy way to drive people to mormon.org from my blog. An example is this js banner provided by one.org. Easily done. Do you know of such a banner?

    http://action.one.org

  13. Definitely! I’ve already posted this video on my family website (I’d post the url but it isn’t accessible without a login). I was looking for the exact same thing, a special section of lds.org with javascript and widgets. That’s how I found your website, I was searching for lds.org widgets. Imagine the implications for sharing the gospel!

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