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29 April 2007

Are You Mis-leading?

I have heard about, and read a lot on the topic of leadership since joining the granger team. Its part of the DNA of the church and you won't hear me complain. I've seen these principles lived out in our team and in the lives of volunteers that offer their time and talents to the church. And it has created an environment of trust and growth that I love being part of.

But allow me to talk for a minute about mis-leadership.

Long story short...

We recently decided to upgrade our camera (Canon Powershot A85). It was a gift, and it not only served us well for years, but was also the perfect introduction to the age of digital photography.

So I did my research and asked questions in order to make a well informed purchase. A friend at the church suggested I stay away from online stores that claimed to have low prices. He even gave me a online site that offered everything your heart could want - but at prices that were similar to your local camera store.

In my search I found this to be true. One site offered the camera body with two lenses for the same price as the body alone at most stores. After calling and inquiring about the Nikon lenses in the ad - I learned that they weren't really Nikon lenses at all. They were Sigma lenses made for Nikon cameras...

But then came my big break! I found an online store that offered the Nikon D40x with a genuine Nikon 18-55mm AF-S Nikkor lens for $175.00 less than everywhere else. What I bargain I thought - so I pulled the trigger.

A few days went by and I got a phone call from this online retailer (I'll graciously allow them to remain nameless...). The guy on the phone started by verifying my order and making sure my address and billing information were correct. Good so far.

But then he said, "So I see you chose not to get the accessories that come with most cameras - you must have a Nikon camera already."

Come to find out, the "package deal" I purchased included the body of the camera, the genuine Nikon lens, a myriad of trinkets (cheap flash, full size tripod, camera bag, display covers, cleaning kit, etc.) just not the "unimportant accessories" like the battery, charging cord, data cable for transferring images to the computer, software, etc.

[Note to self] There may be photography professionals reading this right now - laughing hysterically...

I don't know if this is typical of camera sales, but it felt a lot like ordering a car online and having the sales guy say, "I see you ordered the vehicle without seats, seat belts and a gas tank - would you like me to add those for a small price?"


The good thing is that I wasn't taken for more than the camera was worth. In fact I even saved a few dollars - just not the $175.00 I was expecting...

Turns out I basically paid the same amount I would have paid at the store my friend suggested and just a bit less than walking down the street and buying it at a retail store.

Life Lesson

Are you leading well? As a web professional, am I leading the audience or mis-leading them? And then comes the big question. If you are mis-leading people - is it by accident or on purpose?

Do we promote our "product" with integrity? Or do we "forget" to give people all the details? Do we exaggerate things or shade the truth to make it more palatable?

These are questions I'm wrestling with this week...

(I'll let you know how things turn out with the camera later this year...)

Adobe CS3 | Web Premium has arrived. Adobe Creative Suite 3 (web premium version) came on Friday and I've been loading it up and giving it the once-over this weekend. Obviously I can't give you a detailed product review since I haven't even used it yet in the line of duty...

I am officially over the bitterness and resentment I felt when Adobe and Macromedia joined forces. For years I was a loyal user/advocate of Macromedia products only to see them join the competition and eventually even give up the Macromedia name. It just doesn't seem right to offer the "Adobe Flash Player" download on the Adobe home page.

But no one can argue that these products are the best around. And I'm hopeful. Hopeful that the best of each was preserved and that they will work even better in concert.

I'm looking forward to testing the integration between things like Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia (I mean Adobe) Flash. Can I design a layered image in Photoshop and pull it directly into Flash as layers in the timeline to bring a static graphic to life?

We shall see - all in good time. I'll give it a few months and then get back with you for a more detailed review of CS3.

26 April 2007

The Office is Quiet

...except for the little hamster in the cubicle at the end of the hall...

A chunk of our team is out of the office this week putting on Regional Workshops for - so things have been quiet. Except for the fact that things still need to get done - even with people gone! Which just reinforces the fact that each spoke in the wheel is important - or the wheel stops spinning...

I thought I would take this opportunity to brag on our Communications Specialist - Lisa DeSelm. In her absence I have learned all over again just how important it is to have someone like her on your team. She juggles a myriad of tasks weekly with a speed and accuracy that boggles the mind. She is fluent in a variety of software programs, admin panels and online aps in order to oversee web maintenance, maintain products in the online store, produce our two weekly enewsletters, do graphic/print design and a variety of other (not-so-desirable) tasks.

This coupled with her infectious smile and great customer service skills makes her indispensable.

Do you have someone like this on your team? If not, don't ask for Lisa - she's ours!

20 April 2007

Class Is In Session

It's that time again. Today I get to step away from the web world and sit in on the Communications Workshop here at the church. Kem Meyer (Communications Director) presents on the communication strategy at Granger, busting the top five communications myths, describes best practices for communications at your church and offers hands-on tips for implementing a strong communications strategy.

The room was filled with pastors, leaders and communications specialists from churches around the country. The entire Communications Department from Granger was there to add support and be available for Q&A afterward.

There was a bit of web strategy thrown in, but much of that content has been transitioned into the full length Web Strategy workshop to be held on May 21. If this is your cup of tea - join us in May and we'll chat.

19 April 2007

The Outlook is Bright

There's just something inspiring about new technology. I mean, the current stuff is good and it works well. But when you get to taste the new stuff - there's no turning back.

This week a few things happened that gave me this experience.

  1. I went out and switched cell phone providers so my wife could have my "old" phone (Motorola i870). She needed a bluetooth enabled phone so the simple (and inexpensive)thing to do was for me to switch to a company that has awesome phones for under $100.00 so she didn't have to spend $300.00 to upgrade hers (those of you that know anything about cellphone companies just figured out which provider she has...). I switched to the Moto Q and so far I love it. Very similar feel to my Dell Axim PPC with Windows Mobile - just without the stylus. I haven't signed up for the data plan but look forward to being connected via the exchange server for email synchronization.
  2. Then I was honored to receive my new desktop - complete with Windows Vista. Again, all you have to do is play with Vista in Best Buy a few times and you'll be hooked. The look and feel is so different than XP. Window movement and basic navigation is refined and typical tasks are much more straight forward with better documentation and hints.

Just two small upgrades in technology, but what a difference it makes. I love getting to experience the cutting edge of technology.

Next up on my gadget list:

Isn't it a great time to be alive?

14 April 2007

As Zune as Possible

I thought it was about time I posted again about the Zune. It has been almost 6 months so I figured it might be a good time to offer a product review and gadget critique.

At this point I'd give it 8 stars (out of a possible 10). And here is why:

On the positive side:

  • I think it looks good
  • Large screen - flips to landscape for video and pictures
  • You can swap out the wallpaper to personalize the player
  • Has an FM tuner with preset functionality
  • Does a good job organizing albums/songs/genres/artists etc.
  • Wireless sharing (which I never use)
  • Genuine Zune accessories match the look and feel of the device
  • Solid buttons that feel like they could take a beating and still function well
  • You can get a Zune Pass for unlimited downloads
  • It is fairly easy to add "non-Zune" files like pictures, music and videos to the device

On the negative side:

  • Wireless is there but I currently have no use for it
  • Had some stability issues until version 1.3 of the firmware was released - now working well
  • The Zune Marketplace is SLOW!
  • I have yet to be able to connect to the Zune Marketplace with anything other than my desktop at home. I have two Dell laptops that have the software installed but will not connect to the online store
  • Poor support on the Zune website for known issues
  • No podcast functionality yet (MP3 podcast files are just viewed as songs)
  • Car FM Tuner accessory doesn't have a strong enough signal
  • Zune Marketplace doesn't have TV shows or movies

So why did I give it 8 stars with all the negatives listed above? Well, it's simple. The majority of the problems are software problems - which can and will get fixed as time goes on. For example, the Zune Marketplace will get better with each upgrade and there will eventually be a podcast feature. But the device itself has amazed me and I see no reason why it shouldn't be a top contender overall in the digital music player lineup.

So what do I use my Zune for? Well, before I bought it I was a bit embarrassed to admit that the purchase was more out of a desire to have such a cool gadget - rather than to fill a need in my life. But since then I have put it to good use. I find myself using it at work a lot! It's a great way to section yourself off (in your cubicle) from the outside world. It keeps me focused and I can really jam on projects (excuse the pun).

I also use the video playback feature by subscribing to video podcasts (vodcasts) of flash and photoshop tutorials. Once on the Zune I have a library of immediate answers on how to leverage these programs on the job.

And with the new Logitech X-240 PC/MP3 Speakers coming out this month it will be all good!

A friend of mine recently said this when they saw my Zune, "People actually buy those?"

I'm proud to say, "Yes - And I don't regret it at all!"