Return to Blog Home Page

30 July 2007

We All Love the Video...

In the past few years granger has really begun to excel in the area of media creation. These videos are shown during weekend and midweek services and usually wind up in the Media Player on

The cool news is that many of these are being made available on as DVD Resources.

When you order one of these DVDs (with the exception of some of the older ones) you get two things:

  • The DVD itself can be played in your typical DVD player.
  • The data file: typically an H.264 compressed QuickTime Movie (.mov). Simply put the DVD into your computer and on the "My Computer" screen right-click on the DVD link and select "explore." This allows you to look at the files on the DVD. There will be two folders that make up the DVD itself (one for audio and one for video) and then should be a folder for the original data file.

I love the fact that these are now available because, "We all love the video..."

These are my favorites so far:

I Gave at The Office

MyOfficeSecrets.comI recently came to the realization that the tension I feel over blogging is due to the fact that I'm often unable to blog about the stuff I'm the most passionate about.

Allow me to explain: Being a web director, I'm often working on projects that are under wraps, not yet live and therefore not "bloggable." The stuff I'm researching and working on are often "confidential" until they are made public, so my blogging about them would simply ruin the surprise.

The workaround: I do get to describe the project the minute it goes live. I get to talk about the work/rationale behind the project and answer questions that people are asking. So even though there is tension - I'm trying to make the most of it.

The Office Series Project

For the past week or so I have "gone dark" (to use a Jack Bauer term) in order to finish up the website for this upcoming series before I go on vacation early next month.

The plan: Think outside the box (again) in order to create buzz surrounding a felt need series targeting peoples unfulfilling work lives.

The Execution: In order to create this buzz we initiated the following:

  • Billboards: obtain eight billboards in the community and advertise the series with witty sayings and display web address of site below.
  • Website: created a separate site for this series (purchased domain name and forwarded it to and masked as for those interested).
  • Office Secrets: created a place where people could (anonymously) tell their secret office stories.
  • Wallpapers: created desktop wallpapers from billboards.
  • More Fun: Offer ways for people to interact. Page created so people can email pictures of their messy desks and have them displayed on the page. Page created so people can upload videos of their "crazy office games" to YouTube and have their link added to the page on our site.
  • linked back to the series page on

Sidenote: Twice in the past month we have made an intentional decision to use YouTube rather than having people send in videos on DVD and encoding them for use in house. The quality is poor but this is the tradeoff: social acceptance is high, there is high potential for buzz and there are helpful features like YouTube providing the link to the video and the code for embedding the video into your site/blog.

Another fun project completed.

Go document your office secret now >>

25 July 2007

How is Your Arc and Throw?

I've been working on our sprinkler system for the past week after realizing that you must calibrate each sprinkler head if you want them to cover the entire lawn correctly. I assumed the previous owner already did this, and wouldn't have noticed since we run them so early in the morning.

However, this summer has seen near drought conditions and the lawn is rebelling.

So I downloaded the manuals and figured out how to change two important settings:

  • The "arc:" How far the sprinkler head turns from left to right (capable of any arc from 1 to 360 degrees).
  • The "throw:" How far the water is thrown from the sprinkler head (the radius).

As I tweaked each head I quickly realized the previous configuration was causing sections of the lawn to be missed, sections to be over watered and weeds watered in sections where there is no lawn.

So what does this have to do with the web driven church?

Glad you asked.

As I finished up with the sprinklers I was amazed at how precise I could get them. Every inch was getting water, there was no stray streams and all the heads were working together to cover the entire lawn. When it comes to web design we have to think the same way:

  • The "arc:" If we view our ministries as circles (made up of 360 degrees) we must make decisions on the arc that gets pushed to our websites. Do we expose everything from all-church content to a small group gathering for volunteers in the decorating ministry? Or do we refine the arc to include just those things that the majority of viewers want and need to see? At Granger we take the less is more approach and don't attempt to have a page for everything that goes on at the church.
  • The "throw:" Another thing to think about is the effective range of your website. Are you designing for your congregation? Your region? The world? Or all of the above? At Granger we started out focused on a fairly short throw for It serves regular attendees by offering online services like event registration and online giving. Those in the community that do not attend church will quickly see what the church is about and whether or not it's the right place for them. All viewers should immediately be able to identify a "spiritual" next step upon entering the site. Over time we have begun to see that our throw is lengthening. With the addition of the media player and streaming services the site has become much more visible. Other churches are using the site as a case study and the stats from our streaming partners show that people around the globe are watching the weekend message online.

Before you think I'm developing a green thumb let me assure you there are still a few glitches in the sprinkling system, but after a few simple tweaks things are looking better than ever...

Is "Disposable" a Good Thing?

I'm finding that there are more and more products on the market that cost a significant amount of money, but appear to be disposable. Here are some products I expect to be disposable:

  • Diapers
  • Pencils & pens
  • Wet wipes
  • Pregnancy tests
  • You get the picture...

But here are two products we recently purchased that also appear to be disposable:

HP Photosmart Printer
I have owned at least one other inkjet printer in my lifetime and you would think that I would have learned my lesson the first time. But of course I trusted technology and assumed that they had figured out how to keep the ink from drying out and gunking up the print heads.

We've had the printer since the beginning of the year and for all practical purposes it has become a paper weight. We've printed a total of 5-10 pictures worthy of showing friends - the other 50 were so bad we threw them away. We've changed the ink out, cleaned the print heads two to three times before printing and they still come out as bad as ever. Very reminiscent of my last HP inkjet and comments my friends make about their photosmart printers...

But hey! At least I got one with a scanner! That's still working (I'll keep my fingers crossed).

INTEX Swimming Pool
My wife just had to have it. And I understand - the kids need something to do in the summer to keep them from being bored. After all, it's not like they don't have a thousand toys in the basement...

So last year we took it down, let it dry out and stored it for this year - only to find out that over the winter it developed at least 4 holes out of which all the newly introduced water wanted to escape...

So what do you do with that? Well we bought another one and also purchased the warranty so when this happens again we will get a new one for free! So if we keep this up, here's how it will work: Instead of paying full price for the product, we will pay full price for two pools. We basically pay half price each year and we get a new pool each year.

Get to the Point
Fine. My point is that it feels strange to spend over $100.00 and then figure out that the product is "disposable." But I'm starting to think that many products are designed with this in mind. For example, many consumer electronic devices (DVD players, cellphones, MP3 players, etc.) appear to be designed with the thought, "We just have to make it last for a year or two because they will want the latest thing available then anyway..."

So is that a good thing? Is this just the way its going to be? Maybe so...

Let me know what expensive "disposable" products you have purchased recently.

20 July 2007

How Do You Learn?

Most of us have heard news stories about the breakthrough research studies that seem to show people learn in different ways. And while I know this isn't the "official list" I thought I'd just share mine with you. (If you want the standard ones you can go here.)

  • Listen: Are you able to listen to someone else explain something and then turn around and do it yourself?
  • Watch: Do you need to watch someone else do something before you are able to do it yourself?
  • Read: Are you the king or queen of the 500 page manual? Can you read how to do something and then do it yourself?
  • Try: Are you a hands-on learner? Do you need to actually try something and make mistakes in order to do it well yourself?
Like I said, fairly simple and to the point. But do you know which of these learning styles works for you? If you needed to learn something quickly - what would you do?

Ask for help? Buy a manual? Watch an online tutorial?

And another important question: Do you know how the people you supervise learn? Have you figured it out by watching them? Or better yet, have you asked them?

I'd have to say that I'm somewhere between "watch" and "try" based on the way I have picked up web design (html, xml, css, flash, javascript, etc.). It really helped to watch friends do web design, but then when I bought the software myself and took hands-on tutorials and created test sites - it all came together.

I've never been able to read an entire manual or listen to a podcast and translate that into a skill. But I have friends that can...

How about you?

12 July 2007

Ever Have One of Those Days?

Spilt CoffeeMy morning was so strange I literally couldn't stop laughing on the way into the building.

Ever have one of those days where everything seems to go wrong? Not one or two things, but so many that you just know there is a curse on you?

Well this morning was that for me. I headed to Sbux as usual and that is where it started. The barista handed me my debit card and coffee, chatted a bit and then made me wait while he looked for my card and coffee...

Next, I pulled out and stopped at the light. But then started to go on the green arrow rather than the green light. Luckily for me it was a fast stop and back up a foot or so but the dirty looks came anyway.

I pulled up at the church and realized my coffee had spilled into the cup holder (probably from my jarring stop when I realized I was driving into oncoming traffic) so I set my coffee on the center console and cleaned up the mess in the cup holder.

As I was cleaning I somehow knocked the coffee over with my elbow and didn't get it picked up until more coffee had spilled into the back seat and all over the console.

And finally when I had everything cleaned up I backed out of the car and bumped the horn (apparently everyone in the parking lot needed to know what type or morning I was having...)

Just thought I'd share...

11 July 2007

Streaming in the Media Player

GCCwired Media PlayerThe media player is a big part of the site because it's a visual representation of what takes place at the church on any given weekend. To give you an idea how often it is used I looked at the total number of videos watched since July 3, 2007 and here is what I found:

Over the last 8 days there have been 4,230 videos started in the media player - an average of over 400 views per day. I'm pretty sure we're not going to touch YouTube, but it seems like a pretty big number to me.

For those interested:

The player was designed to play flash video clips 5-10 minutes in length (360x270) in the progressive download format. But recently our web developers added the ability to do streaming video through the player as well which is huge! Now we are able to stream video clips of any length and at twice the size (640x360) of the progressive download clips.

The other cool feature with the streaming video is that it can be viewed in three formats:

  • 1x (which is actually 50% for our streaming video)
  • 2x (which is actually 100% for our streaming video)
  • Full screen (only available with streaming video)

So how do I know what type of video I'm watching?

Interface for progressive downloads

This is the interface you see for traditional progressive download videos.

Interface for streaming video

This is the interface you see for streaming videos.

Look around and see if you can find a video that is being streamed. Then check out the full screen (FS) option and see if it doesn't rock your world. We tried it last night on a large flat panel LCD TV and from across the room it looked almost as good as HD television.

[If you're having a hard time finding one just go here]

Isn't technology wonderful?

10 July 2007

What Does Lawn Care Have to Do With Web Design?

Recently Edged LawnWe recently broke down and purchased an edger for the lawn since we have been in the house for over a year without attempting it. And within minutes I realized that it probably hadn't been done by the previous owners either. In spots I was cutting back almost three inches of lawn! It took quite a while so I had plenty of time to think and find similarities between edging the lawn and my day job (maintaining websites).

Here's what I observed:

  • Your website can get overgrown: A great website has all the essentials and doesn't try be all things to all people. However, over time it can slowly adopt pages, elements, pictures, etc. that cause drift from its otherwise laser-focus. Take time to "edge" your site once and a while to bring it back in alignment. Once these edges are trimmed back it's amazing how much better it looks.
  • Static websites won't look good for long: Your site probably looked incredible the day it hit the big time. But within months the luster fades. This could be due to user-familiarity, dated graphics, old copy and/or changes in technology. Because of this we need to be constantly updating the copy, tweaking images/graphics and using the emerging technology to keep the site "fresh."
  • Failure to maintain can do damage: You may not realize it, but allowing your site to become overgrown can actually harm your audience and your brand. Notice (see picture above) the black stains where the overgrown grass used to be. I'm not sure if these stains will go away or if I'm stuck with them. Similarly an overgrown website can harm the user by giving faulty information, giving a bad impression and making it hard for them to find what they are looking for. Your brand can also be tarnished if your site doesn't express the level of excellence your church maintains in other areas.

Next time you do a "5000 Foot" analysis of your website, allow your lawn to guide you...

02 July 2007

Buzzing in DC

This past weekend my wife and I were able to attend the Buzz Conference at National Community Church in Washington DC. We (along with a team from Granger) experienced two days of leadership training, cutting edge information from progressive church leaders and encouragement to take steps toward guarding that area in your life that could be exploited – eventually causing your downfall. Here are simple summaries:
Mark BattersonNational Community Church ("I Spy"): From Joshua & Caleb to Maxwell Smart to 007, Mark shared the top ten spy tactics that keep leaders on the right track. To get these go here.
Tim StevensGranger Community Church ("Buzz"): How do we leverage the culture to bring the Truth to those around us? Tim talked about the buzz generated during the puresex series at Granger and gave other examples of ways to harness pop culture effectively (not for entertainment – but as a hook to get people open to the Truth presented during your messages).
Craig ("Innovate & It"): Craig spoke twice at the conference. The first message encouraged leaders to remember that Truth and the Bible are the real hooks – the things the Holy Spirit uses to capture our hearts. He said that he used to err on the side of cultural relevance but in the recent past has chosen to err on the side of the Truth – at times even choosing to drop media from a service and allow the Bible to capture the hearts of those in attendance. His second session titled “Confessions of a Pastor” challenged leaders to find that one thing that could snag them and make sure there were things in place to keep this from happening. He talked about “practical atheism” and the way it could creep into your ministry – very powerful.
Tony MorganNewspring Church ("Blogging"): Tony offered his top ten reasons to stop blogging at the Ebenezer Coffee House Friday morning. Funny as always and again I learned that I blog too infrequently and at times my posts are too long…
All-in-all a great conference, good team time and an excellent time away with my wife.