From 2014-2015, I worked with the Boston-based Buddhist community Pointing Out the Great Way to design and develop a new web-based platform to meet the unique needs of their community.
Over the course of almost a year, I organized all their existing material in the form of a new public facing website, and then designed a system using AngularJS and Firebase to offer permissioned access to lectures, recordings, and texts to community administrators and students alike.
Additionally, working with a talented development partner I designed an AngularJS and Firebase based system for administrators to update both the public site and the library of content for students.
Buddhism is a 2500 year old tradition whose methods are increasingy being adopted by secular individuals and scientists. Dr. Brown embodies this unique combination of Western medical professional as well as Eastern expert on meditation, and we strove to illustrate this in the public presentation on the web site.
How does one present a 2500 year old Eastern spiritual tradition in the information age? We attempted to find a balance by clearly defining meditation, the spiritual tradition, and the teacher — as well as an immediate call to action to listen to a guided introductory meditation.
Just a click away from the more secular homepage is a page filled with videos of Dr. Brown’s many trips to Tibet that offer a glimpse into the history of the land where these teachings and methods originate.
The site also offers weekly video streaming sessions that are accessible through membership or a one-time payment. We used Paypal’s Merchant API to implement a one-time payment gateway and Ustream Pro to embed live video into the site.
Pointing Out Way teachers travel worldwide to share meditation instructions and Buddist philosophy with their students. Information for these retreats is managed and published through the site in the Calendar section.
In addition to clarifying the public web presence, the foundation had two major goals: offer access to archives of Buddhist teachings to students, and generate a recurring revenue stream to support the foundation. The Student section of the site accomplishes these goals while addressing unique organizational requirements.
Pointing Out Way students are able to register on the site to access live streaming, lecture archives, Buddhist texts, as well as calendars to schedule time to speak with individual teachers.
The library includes audio, video, texts of philosophy and guided meditation from years of retreats lead by Dr. Brown and a variet of teachers in the Pointing Out Way community.
The Library section offers basic search and filtering functionality, as well as the ability for users to save specific files and add notes to specific times during lengthy audio and video lectures (a la SoundCloud.)
The bookshelf is a section for material that is saved (“bookmarked”) by a student or recommended by his teacher. It additionally includes material from any retreats the student has attended, recordings from the weekly livestreaming sessions, as well as material relevant to any Book Group sessions.
Video and audio recordings stream straight from the Library and can be saved for later viewing with the click of a button.
Three levels of membership are offered which include free public materials, paid access to the library archives and live streaming, as well as a an invitation-only option for students with strong practices and engagement with their teachers.
At the Root Level of the administrative section, admin users can see all the data in the site and the application.
When editing an object (a set of numbers, strings, text, etc.) the application automatically presents the appropriate type of input in the interface – a large text box for a text field, a date picker for a date, and links to edit associated data: here labeled as Collection Links.
We defined a special type of array as a “Collection,” to store the vast majority of data on the application. Retreats, Users, Media, Teachers, etc. Collections operate like a standard array — here showing standard sorting, searching, and editing functions — but can be easily linked to other Collections through the Admin interface.
Collection Links are an user-friendly abstraction of the common data type known as an associative array, which allows individual objects from Collections to be quickly connected with other Collections, making functions like adding a Teacher to a Retreat a snap.
It was a joy to work with a client whose contemplative practice included the philosphical elements that would later come to be a foundational part of my work approach.
Additionally, the project was an excellent test of skills and our clients ambitions. Thanks to the talents of my development partner, we were able to handle numerous specification updates, design revisions, on a relatively short timeline and successfully launch the site in 2015.
Since its launch the Pointing Out Way site has continued to function as designed with only minor updates. Dr. Brown and his associates continue to offer meditation teachings worldwide and weekly livestreaming through the site.Visit PointingOutWay.org