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26 September 2007

Web Tool Archive

For those of you that attended the WEB Workshop the day before Innovate 2007, here is the list of resources we talked about along with some vendors:

Our Vendors:


Blogs / RSS Feeds:

Hope this simple list is helpful.

WEB (Innovate07: Pre-Conference Workshop)

Today we held the second WEB workshop as a pre-conference workshop before Innovate07. Kem Meyer (Communications Director at Granger) again pulled together a captivating experience dedicated to excellent web strategy and taking a proactive approach to building your website.

"You need a paper site before you create your online site."

In other words, you need to be solid in the area of your communication/web strategy for your church or organization long before you begin working with the HTML. Get a handle on your information architecture and have a strategy for content management and the website will be the natural flow out of that. In essence it will take care of itself as long as the foundation is built correctly.

Last time I spoke during the final session on how I went from volunteer to paid staff and the various changes the website underwent along that journey. But this time we changed things up a bit. During the final session we broke it out - allowing people to choose more web strategy or a chance to get more technical. I took the techies and went to a different room for some "geek speak." We had a great time. I had no agenda other than this simple diagram but we probably could have gone on for another half hour at least. Next time I think I'll arrange the chairs in a circle rather than in rows with me at the front...

23 September 2007

HDTV Arrives | Part 2

The Samsung (specifics here) is officially hanging on the wall now with all cables routed through the wall. It has been there for a few weeks now so I thought I'd take a stab at a preliminary review for those who care:

  • Awesome - Once you've experienced HDTV there is no going back
  • 720p - I'm sure some day I'll want 1080p but for now there isn't a reason. I don't typically do the gaming thing and with how good an upconverted DVD looks I'm assuming a Blu-ray or HD DVD would blow me away even at 720p
  • Inputs - More than enough. HDMI x3 and a PC input that allows for second monitor functionality from my laptop
  • Look/design - I think the piano black finish looks great in our living room and the little blue power light is pretty sweet too. Presents well with low profile wall mount
  • Remote - Some lag in response after hitting buttons - though typically not used. You'll end up using the remote that comes with your DVR anyway
  • Picture settings - Nice and easy options for dynamic, standard and movie presentation modes along with 16:9, 4:3, wide x2 and "just scan" aspect ratio settings
  • Screen refresh rate - Standard 60Hz refresh rate which is great 75% of the time. But what I wouldn't give for the 120Hz for the other 25%. If there is a lot of movement on the screen (some sports and some transitions on regular HD channels) you get pixelation

Overall I'd give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Statistically Speaking

If you're like me the word "stats" is enough to make you sweat. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard, high humidity or having to eat something served on Fear Factor. I never liked the class and probably didn't do very well either.

There are people hardwired to crunch numbers (we have a couple on our team that I'm sure God sent us...), but I have never been one of them. I had the class in college and even had advanced stats classes in grad school so you'd think I'd have warmed up to it sooner than this.

Nope. Not until recently that is...

I know stats are important. In the mental health field if you couldn't show you were making a difference, people stopped paying you. And I'm sure it works that way in many occupations. So it shouldn't have been a surprise that those in leadership at the church want to know how the websites are doing.

Here's a tip: "It's going great!" is not the answer they are looking for...

They want to know if the money they budgeted for the site(s) was worth the investment. They want to know if people are actually using the site. The want to know if certain parts of the site are adding value or were just fun to put into place.

So how do you give them the answers? Well, you keep stats of course...

At Granger we use the following:

Google Analytics: Google Analytics is the main application we use to get stats on web traffic and a host of other things related to our sites. It's free, easy to set up and powerful. You can use it out of the box or get in and tweak away to get specific reports run and even emailed to you. We have one account with multiple URL's that are being watched.

StatCounter: Also a free stats package. Easy to set up and good for a variety of reasons. Google Analytics probably makes it unnecessary to continue using something like StatCounter but it was one we used prior to Google Analytics and it's still watching for us.

Various: Statistics pulled from other applications like our online streaming service (LightCastMedia), eNewsletter service (Constant Contact) and our Media Player (stats pulled from our CMS behind the scenes).

I'm currently working with our database guru on a solution for consolidating these stats into one usable report that can be shared with those needing to see it. The obvious choice is dumping the stats into an Excel spreadsheet but I'm still looking just to make sure there isn't something better out there.

I can't say I've become a statistician, but I actually find myself enjoying the process. You can't beat the feeling when you are able to show consistent web traffic to a page that you recently added, or when you can remove pages on the site after the stats show that one person has been there in the last three months...

I don't think I'm ready to say "stats are my friend" but it may not be long...

The Crazy Train

It's that time of the year again. Innovate is next week! And things are firing on all cylinders. There are more meetings, more deadlines and more deliverables - all on top of the normal stuff.

But you gotta love it!

I can't wait to see how things turn out. For me there isn't a lot of speaking. I help out with the Web Workshop on Wednesday and a Blogging Breakout during the conference. But for the most part I get to sit back and soak it all in.

I'm looking forward to Guy Kawasaki (of course) and I can't wait to hear Scott Hodge tell his story. And don't forget to attend the Granger Film Festival after New Community on Thursday night for some innovative stuff on the big screen...

I hope to see you all there.

Brain Food (Caution: addictive)

Before I sat down to get some work done this evening I pulled some ice cream out of the freezer for a quick energy boost and quickly realized the product I was indulging in failed to advertise an important product fact: The probability that one will become addicted to the product after trying it for the first time...

I have always loved Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream (typically the chocolate type with mint) but I forgot just how good it really is.

I ate a centimeter off the top and put it away...before losing control and eating the entire thing.

Now I'm ready to work...

15 September 2007

MinistryCOM | Day 2

Yesterday we finished up at MinistryCOM and said our goodbyes to those we met and were able to hang out with during the conference. Here is the simple wrap up from Day 2:

Shawn Wood (main session): Awesome. I've been able to rub shoulders with Shawn from time to time at conferences but never knew he had the gift of communication until today. He is world class. A few simple take aways:

Three W's to focus on: Weekend, Web and Word of Mouth

Characteristics of an experience: Distinctiveness, Relevance, Memorable and Effective

Ashley Schuermann (breakout session): Ashley spoke on trends in graphic design, handling the stress that comes with design work in a multi-site environment with tons of "stuff" on her plate and tips for designing based on your environment/culture.

Kem Meyer (main session): Awesome as well. Kem rounded out the conference with a talk on why it seems other departments "hate" us. She used well placed media elements to keep people on the edge of their seats and offered the following tips:

  1. Get an image consultant who can advocate for you and hold you accountable.
  2. Check your ego to make sure you are doing things for the right reasons.
  3. Find common ground by taking the time to meet and hang out with those you serve.
Dinner: Guido's New York Pizzas (sorry about the website...)

13 September 2007

MinistryCOM | Day 1

Yesterday we left Indiana and headed for MinistryCOM in Nashville, TN. The five of us "grangerites" get to spend some quality time team building and learning more about the doing communications for a higher purpose. The conference was hosted at The Peoples Church and here is a simple wrap up from Day 1:

Terry Storch (main session): Good as always. Discussed the history of communication from printing press through radio through TV and finally to the Internet. He spoke about our "responsibility" to reach others with the technological tools we have and that with the exponential growth in population there is no better time to take the gospel to the entire world.

Curt Cavnar (breakout: video boot camp): Great summary of techniques, tools and basic composition layout for digital photographers and videographers. I can't wait to get home and try some of the stuff out on our Nikon D40x...

Karen Smith (breakout: project management): Great summary on the use of project management skills in a communications department. Very practical. Good delivery with humorous yet pointed information. She definitely knows her stuff.

Brad Abare (main session): Good way to wrap up the day. Brad questioned what we would do if technology were to disappear. He challenged us to be salty, be transparent, be local and to live with less. Always good to hear.

Dinner: Genghis Grill (when are they coming to the Michiana area?)

Can't wait for tomorrow. Shawn and Kem are up on the main stage and there are three more breakouts. I'll let you know how it turns out...

06 September 2007

HDTV Arrives

Well, it finally happened. Last week we made the jump to an HDTV after our 36" CRT had an untimely meltdown. We had planned on keeping it until 2009 when analog goes bye bye, and HD content is more readily available, but the crisis pushed us into the HD market early.

However, my wife will tell you I wasn't heartbroken over the prospect of being able to watch LOST in HD.

Here is what I'm looking forward to:

  • Standard (widescreen) DVDs played through an upconvert DVD player: I'll tell you right now 300 and the Lord of the Rings series look incredible
  • Local stations in HD: Yes that means LOST, 24 and possibly the Bionic Woman this year...
  • Sports: I want to see a football and a puck in HD!
  • DiscoveryHD: I would watch the mating habits of the African Tree Frog on DiscoveryHD...
  • Last Week's Service: The TV has a PC input so I will be able to connect the laptop and watch last weeks message on the big screen

It feels a little like the "bleeding edge of technology" when you watch the standard definition channels on an HDTV but I just have to tell myself that more good stuff is on the way...

Now I just need an HD video camera so I can capture and watch the kids doing kid stuff in HD. Anyone want to donate one?