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25 March 2006

I'm a Sucker for the New Stuff

I love a new idea, product or version of a product that makes life easier for everyone. So it is no wonder I am constantly on the lookout for the latest and greatest in browser technology.

I am staying away from Netscape for now, but use IE6 and Firefox interchangeably. IE is the standby that never fails, while Firefox offers the cool features and has awesome extensions to personalize and maximize the performance.

But the other day (3/20/06) IE7 Beta 2 was made available and I have been trying it out to see what I think. So far I love it! Reminds me a lot of Firefox with integrated RSS feed management and tabbed browsing. I like the new minimalist approach to the toolbars and the floating favorites menu that can either fly out or be pinned to the sidebar. Also, check out the zoom feature to see the small stuff!

Of course there are drawbacks to any Beta version (I purposefully did NOT try Beta 1 to avoid the initial bugs). Already I see some issues with flash objects (requires you to click on them initially to make them active) but I haven't had it long enough to give a full list of my likes/dislikes. The thing I'm really looking forward to is whether or not microsoft is going to play nice and work toward standardization for cascading style sheet (css) support...

Hopefully after a bit more work, they will release IE7 and the world will be a better place for all of us!

11 March 2006

Blog Software Rocks

I've been using Blogger for quite a while now with no problems and excellent flexibility. Sure there are more robust applications out there (TypePad, WordPress, etc.) but for now I'm happy with the simplicity of Blogger for personal blogging and even for some side projects I have been working on.

For example, I am currently doing a website that will have four sections completely driven by Blogger. The Blogger Admin Panel serves as the Content Management System (CMS) for the pages which allows "less techie" people control over the site in a more dynamic way. The awesome thing is this: the people who will be updating these pages are already bloggers! So there is NO learning curve (how cool is that?)

All the work is in the front end - incorporating the Blogger specific tags into your existing page (similar to html tags but are dynamic to call data from the appropriate places after a post has been published). After that it's a detailed incorporation of your sites stylesheet.css and the styles from the blog template (if you're stripping down an existing one) and that's a wrap.

Blogger allows two publishing formats. The first (and easiest) is to publish all posts/images to the Blogger servers (called "blogspot"). But the second option is the one that rocks! Blogger will publish posts/images directly to your website via ftp or sftp. Simply enter the correct path(s) to the correct directory(ies) and Blogger does the rest...

What was designed for blogging can just as easily be used as a CMS!

Thanks for everything Google!

04 March 2006

Culture of Excellence

One of the best things about doing ministry with the technology and communications team at Granger Community Church is being able to work with top notch professionals. Not just because they are good at what they do, but because they go the extra mile to ensure what they are doing meets a "higher" standard of quality.

I guess you could call it a "culture of excellence." It's an understanding that something should only be done if it's going to be done well. And I've seen it over and over again. We will come up with an idea, develop it, possibly even test it out a bit but then trash it if quality isn't there or if there isn't a support team in place to back it up and ensure longevity.

For years I have worked in the field of mental health and unfortunately strategic planning is often the last thing tried. In fact, what usually happens is the old "knee-jerk" reaction where you experience a problem and quickly slap a bandaid on it. However, this bandaid quickly falls off and the problem is still there. "Plans" are often initiated just to show that something was done to address the problem - regardless if it is a good solution or not.

But with this team, it seems like everything is well thought out. You weigh the pros and cons long before making something policy.

A good example of this is our web strategy which consists of the following:

  • Overall site design (what we call "heavy lifting") will be outsourced. Aspire!One designed our websites, the content management systems behind the scenes and will complete any full-scale site improvements or large upgrade projects.
  • Staff at GCC keep the site running smoothly by adding and removing content on a regular basis.
  • Volunteers add value to the team by helping out with maintenance, developing graphics, adding flash content, doing simple layout/scripting projects, etc.

It's an awesome strategy that has worked well since I've been involved at the church.

I can't wait to see what the next 5 years brings!