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25 September 2006

ICC | Blogging Breakout

Online Resources

For those of you that attended the Blogging Breakout on Friday, September 23, 2006 - check out the outline posted by Tony and a few other resources posted by Kem.

Blog on!


I didn't post earlier due to all the activity surrounding the Innovative Church Conference, but I think it's time to talk about the Nip/Tuck to website ( Of course the cat's already out of the bag (see what Tony and Kem have to say about the updated look).

Aspire!One comes through again. Last Wednesday evening the new look went live. The image to the left is a small illustration showing the softer/rounded feel. It also shows the main page link to one of our newer features - the message in streaming video (available for one week). This image has a flash overlay with moving objects to catch the eye.

The Media Player has also been completely redesigned with enhanced functionality, a new look to resemble the website and the ability to save playlists and email links to friends (just to mention a few cool upgrades).

Stop by and check things out next time you're in the neighborhood!

24 September 2006

ICC | Web Strategy Breakout

Online Resources

For those of you that attended the Web Strategy Breakout on Thursday, September 22, 2006 - here is the list of resources we talked about (with some extras):



Blogs / RSS Feeds:


Hope this simple list is helpful. Feel free to add comments regarding the pros/cons of the listed resources and/or list alternatives that have been useful in your experience.

Web 2.N0?

(Click image to magnify)
(FoxTrot by Bill Amend)

Thought this was funny - not because I'm anti-Web 2.0, but because I resonate with the concept of moderation (in most things). When I made the switch from volunteer to full time ministry I quickly realized that I had more time to research and incorporate the latest technology into my design work. Web 2.0 concepts, AJAX, increased use of javascript and searching for cool (usable) open source aps rank high on my "2 Do" list but I'm also trying to keep it simple and stick to what works well.

It's a fun ride and I'm looking forward to the wealth of knowledge that is just around the corner.

Open mouth insert fire hose...

22 September 2006

ICC (Day 2)

Mark Waltz & Butch Whitmire (The GCC Experience: by design)

Managing the process of creating ideas and avoiding burnout. Discussed the series planning process (Excel spreadsheet/flowchart) and how GCC works from brainstorm to final series title with specific messages and arts elements. Good discussion on how or if to use the various elements based on the climate or specific orientation of the church.

(Arts elements: (too numerous to post all of them) but here are a few: ViewMaster, Letter From God, The Cleavers, More Than a Number, Everybody's Fool, etc.)

Mark Batterson (We're not alone)

Mark talked about the struggles and successes of his church ministry in Washington D.C. (National Community Church).

One of the sites (multi-site church) is in a coffee house built by the church off the premise that Jesus hung out by wells to talk to people since wells were where people met, drank and shared conversation.

Spoke on the power of technology and its use at NCC.

  1. Podcasting ("supplement" versus "substitute" to ministry)
  2. Blogging (getting information out at the speed of the blogosphere)

5 Final Thoughts (based on the NCC journey)

  1. Enjoy the journey - Don't get lost in expectation, but enjoy the process
  2. Be yourself - Don't try to be all things to all people or measure up to other peoples expectations
  3. Stop criticizing - Be known for what you're for rather than what you're against
  4. Offend pharisees - Choose to offend the "traditional" establishment or religiosity rather than the Holy Spirit
  5. Make mistakes - They can be learned from and often are the moments you look back on and smile/laugh

Perry Noble (We're not alone)

Perry is the senior pastor at NewSpring Church and presented on the problem with inaction. He encouraged pastors to be proactive and take action so disengaged people will be reached.

4 Strategies (based on the NewSpring Church journey)

  1. Engage - Church has been boring for far too long - why perpetuate the problem? Church should be the most engaging place on the planet because Christians have the most engaging story there is
  2. Enlarge - Grow the kingdom and count the numbers! Focus on "felt need" rather than the stuff the "steeple people" demand. If you go after the type of people that nobody else wants - you won't be able to stop the growth that occurs
  3. Endure - Teach people in the church how to minister to each other and the church won't fall apart when the pastor isn't there
  4. Enable - See people discover their potential in Christ through the process of volunteer ministry

[time of worship - awesome]

(Other arts elements thrown in: We Are Family, King Without a Crown)

Mark Beeson (Are we up to the challenge?)

Finished up the day discussing the delivery of the arts as a challenge we must accept. But to be sure we understand that the church itself is NOT theatre - where everyone plays along as if the storyline is fake or made up. People matter! Arts are leveraged for the purpose of helping people understand the human condition - not live in denial when it comes to real life problems, hurts and needs.

What GCC learned in the last year:

(Arts element: Fix You)

21 September 2006

ICC (Day 1)

Mark Beeson (Just who do you think you're talking to?)

Session 1 opened with the Senior Pastor of Granger Community Church discussing the topic of relevance and the population we serve in our immediate communities. Music, drama and media were used to show examples of the modalities used at the church to reach the community with the love of Christ.

(Arts elements: Move Along and iDate)

Tim Stevens (What's buzz? What's worthy? What's buzz-worthy?)

Session 2 included Tim Stevens discussion on buzz and buzz-worthiness. The idea that buzz can be created and yet can also happen at times without determined effort. Buzz takes on a life of its own and can be leveraged in the cause of Christ.

Pop culture said to be the language of our day and if this "filter" is used, our impact on the culture can be more profound than if pop culture is viewed as evil or bad. You can Ignore, separate, Condemn, Embrace or Leverage the culture. It's up to us.

(Arts elements: PureSex ad campaign used to show the life of "buzz." The Date and Dirty Little Secret used from PureSex series)

Rob Wegner (Is anybody listening?)

Rob spoke on the influence of marketing and "noise" on everyone in today's culture. And how you never know the influence you can have on someone - the idea that every time we step up to the plate (do a service) there will be someone in the audience at the end of his or her rope.

Because of this our interactions must be intentional - abstract rather than a linear evolution of steps and preconceived ideas. What if we programmed our services this way?

Communication works best (lives get changed) when the following three elements/stories overlap:

  • My Story (use vulnerability and humor)
  • Their Story (taper the story to the focus audience and allow your people to tell their stories)
  • God's Story (offer the historical dimension and the story dimension but don't end the story - allow the person to finish the story by asking follow up questions)

(Arts elements: Shane & Shane opened with worship. Numerous clips of GCC teaching pastors.)

20 September 2006

IT Round Table

I was able to pop in on the IT Roundtable ( Workshop) led by our very own Jason Powell and hear great conversation about a variety of IT issues. The discussions went from the use of volunteers to permissions to streaming and the use of inkjet versus network printers. The topics were often out of my realm of expertise, but interesting nonetheless.

It was great to see people from a number of churches working together to define best practices and share information that the typical business would lock down in hopes of securing their share of the market.

Also had some interesting conversations on upcoming technology and software like Windows Vista.

Oh, and there were more laptops in the room than people I think...

18 September 2006

ICC On the Way

ICC is coming quickly! This is my first experience with ICC (both attending and presenting.) I have been in a volunteer role at the church for over two years but was never able to join in the fun - until now.

The past few weeks have been all about ICC from the promotional side of things, the registration, the materials, the "being ready" for over 600 people and preparing for your little piece of the puzzle.

I get to attend some great sessions over the next few days, including those from Perry Noble and Mark Batterson. I will also be part of the following breakout sessions:

Stay tuned for updates!

13 September 2006

Definitive Definition

Over the past few weeks I've had opportunity to be in conversation with people on staff and in other organizations who are actively pursuing excellence in media presentation. For the purpose of WDC we'll keep our discussion to best practices in presenting media on the web.

Now I know the term "media" can refer to all sorts of things, but what I'm really talking about is video. With the availability of hi-speed internet connections, we are quickly moving away from simple HTML pages sprinkled with graphics and the occasional audio clip to rich media sites with intense flash interactivity and (up to) High Definition video.

Just look at the Apple website and their use of media (video) for movie trailers. These video clips are offered in a variety of formats so the user can get the best experience based on their connection speed and willingness to wait:

  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large
  • HD 480p
  • HD 720p
  • HD 1080p

When deciding how you want to display media on your website, consider the following things:

There are a variety of formats available for displaying video on the web. The big players have always been Real video, Windows Media and QuickTime formats. But more recently flash jumped into the game by developing the Flash Video format.

Aspect Ratio
The most common aspect ratios for video are 4:3 (standard television) and 16:9 (widescreen). With the push toward High Definition (HD) most televisions are being built with a 16:9 screen and some of the new video cameras are capable of shooting video in the 16:9 aspect ratio.

File Size
When displaying video on the web, you must be aware of the effect it will have on the end user. Keep in mind there are still people using dial-up. But even broadband users can't view video in full HD format yet without a long wait. For example: Trailers for most official movie websites range from 3-5MB for the small clip to 100MB for the HD 1080p format.

Display Format
Another thing that might come up is the way the video is displayed. Here are the most popular ways to present video on the web:
  • Embedded in a traditional web page on your site
  • Popped up in a new window
  • Popped up in the respective player (QuickTime Player, Windows Media Player, Flash Player, etc.)
  • Managed through a Media Player designed to organize, display and play video clips as part of a media library

Our Solution
At granger we have chosen to convert all video into flash video (.flv) and present it in a Media Player. Our file sizes vary but are usually 15-25MB for a 3-5 minute clip. We have employed a variable aspect ratio presentation format due to our current video library. The player is in the 4:3 format, but can play the 16:9 clips in the typical letterbox format. Using Sorenson Squeeze we convert large QuickTime files (.mov) into the flash video format (.flv) using the setting for a 768K to 1Mbps stream at 360x270. This provides for excellent quality in this size and decent quality when viewed at 200% of the original. The majority of our clips are still in the 4:3 aspect ratio, but we have determined that all future media will be produced at 16:9 when possible.

As far as HD goes we're getting there. But the cost of cameras, hardware and software can get in the way. Also, it takes an incredible amount of server space to record an entire service in HD.

But! Where there's a will, there's a way.

For now we'll work on getting our video in the 16:9 aspect ratio and who knows - someday we may offer all video in 480p, 720p or 1080p!

08 September 2006

Getting Closer!

I posted about the launch of IE 7 Beta 2 a while ago, but never offered a follow up post on some of the issues I began to have. The main one was a glitch (or at least I think it was a glitch) where I would lose all my ftp connection settings in Dreamweaver when I closed the program. Each time I opened Dreamweaver it would say "Not able to connect to remote host" and when I would get into the site properties there would be no user/password info there. It started the minute I began using the beta version of IE7 and ended the minute I uninstalled it. My wife also noticed some issues on her Dell Inspiron E1505 that went away when IE7 was uninstalled.

So I just resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to wait until the official release in order to use IE7. But this week I checked out the site again and saw that they are in the final stages and are offering the IE7 RC1 (Release Candidate 1). I jumped back in and I'm glad to say I have not had the same Dreamweaver glitch with this release.

I'm not saying I won't experience some problems in the future, but right now I'm really loving the new look and the tabbed browsing. RSS feature is cool, but it's hard to compete with something as functional as Bloglines.

From a development standpoint, I'm also looking forward to the day when all browsers play nice and agree on the same web standards (mainly where css properties are concerned) - hopefully this is a step in the right direction...

The First 10 Days

Call it what you will, but it's my little slice of heaven. I am currently sitting in a cubicle next to the other brilliant people in the communications department (aka: "the fun hallway") and its already beginning to feel like home. Soon I'll have a docking station with peripherals that can be left plugged in - making for quick in/out trips with the notebook.

Speaking of notebook - I've spent the past week putting it back together (thanks JP!). Our IT Guru did his job in getting me hooked up to the network with synchronized folders and all, but it created a new profile which has made things interesting. Complete overhaul on the file structure (moving and categorizing files/folders), re-customizing the look/feel of the desktop and applied aps and finally, going through the startup process with each application as if it were the first time I'd ever used it!

This process took some time, but like spring cleaning I was able to get rid of some cobwebs and reach a new level of organization that should keep me going for a while...

As for the job description, its a lot of the same stuff I've been doing as a volunteer with a few new projects thrown in. Some cross-training on backend/interface solutions and jumping into a few big projects that should hit the public between the end of this month and early next year (no details available...)

I'm loving every minute of it!