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16 December 2009

I've Got Your Back

I've been in a number of meetings with my boss Kem Meyer over the past few weeks and for some reason we keep coming back to this concept:

Do we have each others backs?
I love the word picture created when you think of it in terms of an older brother sticking up for his little sister, or a wingman protecting the lead jet. In both scenarios the one being protected is weak in some way. The little sister just because of her age and size and the lead jet because of blind spots and limited firepower.

Similarly, we all have weaknesses and blind spots. If you question this, your blind spot is most likely pride and arrogance.

This is why "team" is so powerful. At Granger, we often hear the phrase:
The team outperforms the individual every time.
Ask yourself these questions:
  • Do we "have the backs" of those on our immediate teams? For me that's the Communications and Tech Ops teams.
  • Do we "have the backs" of those on the greater team? For me this would include the staff members from every department at the church.
  • Do we "have the backs" of those serving along side us? For me this refers to volunteers on our teams and those serving in every other area of the church.
Big questions. But necessary for growth, progress and success.



Top 10 Web Innovations

Mashable recently posted on the Top 10 Web Innovations That Have Improved Our Lives.

I love posts like this - not because there provide HUGE revelations to astound us, but because they are simple reminders just how lucky we are to live in a time and age where communication is global, immediate, collaborative and synergistic.

I figured I would just list them here. You can get the specifics about each of them on the Mashable site.

  1. Web Browsers
  2. Search Engines
  3. VoIP
  4. RSS
  5. Real-Time Stream
  6. Peer-to-Peer
  7. AJAX
  8. Software as a Service (SaaS)
  9. eCommerce
  10. Wi-fi
I love the inclusive nature of the list and the power that exists in 10 simple bullet points. It's a great time to be alive (and into technology...).

Are you taking advantage of these 10 things in your life or on the websites you manage?



06 December 2009

Social Web by the Numbers

Social networking on the web is THE big thing right now. Don't believe me? Just look at every corporate site you visit these days. Somewhere you will see the words, "Follow us on Twitter" or "Join us on Facebook."

The truth hurts - static websites are simply NOT going to get it done today. Sure you need static content for those that need it, but it's only a small piece of the puzzle now. People want to interact and contribute to the content that's out there.

Enter Global Web Index - a company that seeks to understand the web and its trends - thereby being able to suggest what a successful web strategy might look like.

Global Web Index recently put out a visual piece that is just downright fun to look at. Ever wonder who does what on the web? If so, look no further: Browse the Map of Social Web to see what social web elements we use compared to those in other countries.

One fun fact: Check out how many people in China blog compared to us in the USA! (12.8% in the USA compared to 46% in China).

The rest you'll have to check out for yourself :)



02 December 2009

Copyright Giveaway / Webinar

One of the most frequent questions I receive is about how we address copyright issues at Granger.

Here is my summary: Read answer #4

But for more specific answers you should really check out this Webinar being offered by Church Copyright Solutions. They are able to explain it all in plain English.

Date & Time: December 3, from 2-3 p.m. CST.

And the sweet part of it is that you could WIN ONE FREE YEAR of the WorshipCast License for you, your church or organization!

If you've been meaning to look into copyright stuff - there is no better time than tomorrow.



18 November 2009

Online Church Anyone?

It may appear that I've dropped off the face of the planet, but it's only so I could focus on some cool projects - one of which just launched this past weekend.

The Online Campus is now available at gccwired.com!

Specifics:

  • you can get to it a few ways: idochurchonline.com / live.gccwired.com or by simply going to gccwired.com and clicking on the countdown clock at the top of the page.
  • Enter as a visitor (anonymous for the most part) or create an account for a full service experience including the ability to give online and register for things offered on the site.
  • Lobby gives interesting information regarding the current series and links to the Online Campus Blog so people can stay connected during the week.
  • Once inside the auditorium, you find the service agenda on the left sidebar and next step opportunities on the right sidebar.
  • Real time chat (including private chat) on the starting tab.
  • Granger notes: you can follow along or take notes of your own. Print them off or email them to a friend.
  • Audience view: See a visual representation of who is in the service (individuals and groups).
  • Who's Here tab: Find a person and connect with them via Facebook, Twitter or an email.
  • Map: See where in the world people are participating in the online experience.
  • Write on your Facebook wall or Tweet directly from the auditorium. Default message is to invite someone to the experience.

Of course I can't talk about the Online Campus without giving a shout out to our creative strategists and partner in all things web - AspireOne.

AspireOne worked with us for months to brainstorm, dream, create and develop this online experience. It was more than a project that just needed to get done. It was the birth of an idea to expand the realm of online church possibilities. Our intent is to take the social networking tools embedded in the site and allow the vision of our Online Campus Director (Mark Meyer) to explode in the virtual world.

We're at the start of an incredible journey. If you get time, stop by the campus (currently offered twice on Sunday evenings) and check things out.

I'd love to hear feedback on your experience so give me a shout if you have ideas. Email: dmcmullen@gccwired.com



02 November 2009

Death is Beautiful

I had an interesting conversation with John MacMurray after he spoke at the Story09 conference last week.

With him being a nature photographer and theologian I thought I'd ask him his take on the death of nature, and why we still seem to find it beautiful on some level.

My personal belief is that there was no death in the Garden of Eden. It was perfect in every way. Animals didn't eat each other, plants didn't die and there were no seasons with temperatures making it difficult for humans to survive.

Mr. MacMurray doesn't necessarily share this belief, but was kind enough to engage me in the conversation about the death of natural elements like trees, and how we can still find beauty in them since they are inherently beautiful works or art from a loving Creator.

I enjoyed the conversation. Over the next few days I had time to ponder the fact that it's typically nature that remains beautiful in death and not things we make ourselves.

Case-in-point: Websites.

I love looking at photographs of snow, dead trees lying in forests, moss and algae eating away at things and the lines left in rock from the eroding effects of water. But there is NOTHING beautiful about a bad website.

Why? According to John, it wasn't inherently beautiful to begin with.

Don't get me wrong, humans can create beautiful works of art. But everything man creates is not beautiful just for the sake of it's creation.

I guess that's why our website is a constant work in progress...



29 October 2009

Story09: Day 2

Day 2 of the Story Conference has definitely been more workshop than conference.

More intentional in offering presentations focused on a specific aspect of our "stories" and how they fit into the greater "Story."

Quick Summaries:

  • Skye Jethani: Summarized the difference between teaching and preaching - suggested that it may be more appropriate to preach on the vision of Christianity vs. all the practical life application stuff - which tends to reinforce the understanding that God is the way to fix everything about your life here and now.
  • Thomas Fluharty: AMAZING story from an illustrator that draws/paints for top magazines in the country. He shared his salvation story - very encouraging.
  • John MacMurray: Nature photographer/theologian that helped paint the picture of the Trinity and how nature is the "natural" overflow of the beauty that exists in heaven. Interesting thought that nature is the one thing that people understand to be beautiful no matter what their background.
  • Tony Morgan: Stepped in as a guest speaker since the speaker in his slot was unable to make it to the conference. LOVED hearing from my boss (from a few years ago) about leadership principles to keep us from Killing Cockroaches instead of doing what God designed us to do.
  • Ron Martoia: Transformational architect - painted the picture that the Bible has been inaccurately called our "owners manual" when it might be better viewed as a: Classic, Score or Script. Suggested that the stories of the Bible may be better suited for round table conversations with a wiki approach to understanding the cultural relevance. Radical and interesting but the potential for misuse is definitely there (my thoughts).
  • Phil Cooke & Dawn Baldwin: Interesting discussion on branding in the church world. Presenters had thoughts - but also took numerous questions from the audience on branding dilemmas currently being experienced. Good discussion as to why the cross is used as an iconic symbol for the Christian faith.
  • Brad Abare & Michael Buckingham: 8 Lessons in NOT sucking:
    1. Find your soul: Hershey PA example. Know your internal DNA and allow it to guide you as you interact with your community.
    2. Connect the dots: Work on your flow, and connect it for people so the experience matches the promotion.
    3. Stop dwelling in what doesn't exist: Tell people what has been done and what you are doing - not what's coming up.
    4. Don't just say "NO!": Bad ideas are often springboards to good ideas. Ask questions and talk through it. You may find something amazing in the thing you were going to toss out.
    5. Your vision shouldn't need glasses or contacts: Vision is key to the to the inner workings of any organization. No vision leads to stumbling and bumbling.
    6. Just bringing the "pretty" is not enough: Don't elevate "art" over the story. Use words AND imagery to tell a compelling story.
    7. Don't get too familiar with the story: Familiarity decreases passion. How do we stay "in love" with Jesus and the Story?
    8. Don't discount yourself or people's abilities: We were created to be creative. Creativity is in everyone - just in different ways.
It has been a great three days of teaching, preaching, and the arts. Now to head home and rest.



Story09: Day 1

My thoughts on Day 1 of the Story Conference in Aurora, IL will look vastly different than those from Cultivate the other day.

The main difference is that Story was for me experiential more so than instructive.

From the arts to the media to sessions filled with passion and encouragement - I was only able to sit and soak it all in.

From the antics of Ed Young to the pure transparency of Donald Miller I simply sat in awe and wonder.

Such diverse backgrounds with unique stories, ministries and passions.

I loved every minute of it. And I'm tired. But there is one more day to go.



27 October 2009

Cultivate09

I have so many things going on right now I can't see straight. I guess that just means I need to pull back for a few days and regenerate.

And there's no better way than going on a road trip with the Communications team.

First stop: Cultivate09

Here are my notes, chicken scratches and takeaways from the day. Overall a great conference. Met some new people and definitely left with stuff to chew on.


Phil Cooke
Creating compelling content in a media-driven world

2 Things are happening:

  1. Our content has become shorter
  2. We spend more time communicating + less time creating each message = Time Suck
Four questions to ponder:
  1. What are you really trying to do? "Remove obstacles/barriers (smooth the path) for people taking their next steps on the web.
  2. How do you deal with ambiguity? NOT providing the perfect answer to difficult questions when there really is NO perfect answer.
  3. Are you asking the right questions? Jesus is God - but so what? How does that impact my life?
  4. Stop focusing on: How much will it cost? And: When will it be ready?

Developing a web strategy
Drew Goodmanson (cobblestone software) & Gabe Taviano (Digital Disciples)

SEO (importance of - added numerous visitors/members the weeks following the optimization)

Online evangelism as a strategy is 1% or less successful. + side is that church members forming relationships in the community use the website as a connection point to get people into church.

Theological issues exist in the understanding of online church and if it's even possible for people to connect that way.

Must be PASSIONATE and PROFESSIONAL in order to be successful online.

Use of website for visitors: Visitors can send message online letting people know they are coming to church so you can meet them and welcome them at the kiosk.


iCampuses
Tony Steward (Lifechurch.tv Digerati) & Rhett Smith (counselor)

How does your pastoral responsibilities translate to the web?

How much are you responsible for? Do you have to answer every inquiry? Do you have to provide all services to all people?

So many books out there to grow social media - but are there resources to shrink and better manage your use of social media?

"Batch" your online usage. Check email/Twitter every hour or so rather than the minute it comes in.

Boundaries are huge when faced with the new onslaught of online communication. AND it's not really up to the leadership to set boundaries (work schedule and time nanagement) when they are God's boundaries from the beginning (Sabbath).

Matching space for space (people on computers are rarely standing) (Book: 4 hour work week)
Native to the environment (making the experience feel native to the user - what they would expect and want to see/feel)


Clint! Runge
Archrival Creative in Lincoln, NE

Differences between Gen X and Gen Y
  • Xers ask how can I be different. Yers ask how can we be different
  • Xers = exclusion. Yers = inclusion
Generation Y
  • Attitudes: "we" (as in Wikipedia).
  • Peer to peer approval most important thing. Branded to death so they tend to trust peers more than advertising.
  • Success = good life, good job with purpose and meaning.
  • Huge belief in causes: Environment (easy and no one is really against it), economy and education.
  • No Brand Loyalty.
Mobile devices are the "First screen"

Future of social media: 15 minutes of fame is an expectation rather than an aspiration.
  • First screen - "Social mobilization" GPS socialization.
  • Creation of smaller social networks based on interests and not the global collective.
  • Virtual world - Second Life.
Let people in on your "secret" and who cares what everyone else things. Marketing plan similar to that used by Red Bull, "We just want the 14-20 somethings drinking our drink so we'll cater to them in marketing - who cares what everyone else thinks..."

What's the next generation going to be known for? Those born in 2001 or later - Gen Y x50 or something to that effect. Born with the thought that they have all the answers and want
family cohesion.

Trends seen recently
  • New politics: Skepticism. People want change but not sure that change will occur. "Apple will have more impact on them than the government will."
  • The modern guy: What does it mean to be a guy these days? Free to explore things they are interested in. Things like dance, creativity, arts, starting different businesses, etc.
  • Life tracking: adding content to social media and even medical outlets so that it can be tracked and the collective data used for personal development.
  • Do the right thing: Too many ethical dilemmas. This generation gets very worked up over this stuff and there is a sense of relief when their decisions are seen as right or ethical.

Small Explosions
Bobby Gruenewald & Terry Storch (Digerati - Lifechurch.tv)

Creating small but sustained explosions that can stand the test of time rather than huge explosions that make a big impact that then fizzles out quickly.

Digerati Team: In the development of something like Youversion you start with the big picture in mind. But in that you must also check in each week to ensure the right steps are in place in order to move on to the next week's tasks. In these meetings you may only look a couple week's down the road rather than revisiting the big picture.

New York Cab Driver example: Keep moving forward and don't look back or to the side. Everyone knows his or her role and as long as the meeting up front does well at setting the expectations and framing the roles then everything works.


The 3 T's: Text, Twitter and Thumbs.

Tim Schraeder & Michael Forsberg

Park Community Church uses Jarbyco during all services to elicit feedback from participants on the messages and what they think. Also used interactive polling during a service to help drive the service.

Facebook, Twitter and Texting each hit a niche area and can be used in different ways. Nothing wrong with using all three.


Jon Acuff
Author of the Blog: Stuff Christians Like

"Booty. God. Booty." Description of being all about God only on Sunday mornings...

"Satire: Humor with a purpose."

The Devil tries to destroy your story and get you to discount your story.
Our response: Give your story to God. Don't forget why you tell your story.



06 October 2009

Would I Leave Palm?

I spent hours researching the Palm Pre and counted the days until it came out. So am I happy with my decision?

Well...sort of.

I mean it is definitely one of the top devices available in the country right now - and with the addition of flash support via Flash Player 10.1 (coming soon) it might even move up in the ranks from there.

But I'm still disappointed with a number of things like no video, no inline word hints or word lists to choose from when you start typing and clunky copy/paste. All things that will reportedly be released in future OTA rollouts. But I'm impatient. I want a device that does it all - right now. I look at it like this:

If you want to run with the big boys, you have to implement the technology that's available. Not some of the technology, ALL of the technology!
So at this point in time it makes sense to use OLED screens for battery life, wifi, a camera that takes pictures and video, flash support, intuitive copy/paste, incredible device/email/online search capabilities, tight integration with social networking solutions like Twitter and Facebook and the ability to connect to media services like iTunes or Zune Marketplace for their music, TV and movie needs, etc.

Again, I think Palm is headed in the right direction, just not sure how fast they are going to get there.

Because of this I am always on the lookout for the next big thing - the phone that has it all.

I recently purchased the Zune HD and love it. Aside from the slow and cheesy browser I think it has the potential to make a great phone someday. Looks like it's on the radar - just no timeline as of yet. Maybe in a year or two when I'm up for a new phone?



05 October 2009

It's Coming!

Flash support via Flash Player 10.1.

It's one of the reasons I purchased the Palm Pre in the first place. I knew that flash support was to be added by the end of the year.

This is HUGE for me because I don't like mobile websites - I want access to the full version of the website on my phone.

Today I finally saw some articles come through about flash on the Pre. This post on PreCentral even has a video demo showing flash in action on the phone. Another article here on Mashable.

Looks like hte countdown has begun. Can't wait!



30 September 2009

Innovate09: Lasting Impressions

Innovate09 came and went, but left a lasting impression on me.

I'm going to divide this post into two sections: My Role and My Experience.

My Role
This year I was part of a few teams looking into and implementing the following:

1. Live streaming: A first for Innovate. It went off without a hitch and was definitely a big hit. We partnered with LightCast to provide the stream. Setup was a snap and the stream was steady and consistent. People were able to watch all main sessions along with the Innovate Film Festival. We averaged 260 viewers over the 6 sessions.

2. Twitter Feed: We used ParaTweet to pull a feed from the hash tag #innovate09 and presented it on the big screens during breaks and as sessions began and ended. Simple web interface for account creation and tweet moderation along with an Adobe AIR application for presenting on the screens. Worked like a charm.

3. Text Voting: During the Innovate Film Festival we partnered with Jarbyco to offer text in voting for the films (medias) entered in the festival. Worked like a charm as well. People are getting more used to texting every day so the number of people participating was even more significant than it was last year.

A special thanks to those that worked on these projects with me and helped make them a success during the conference. You know who you are :)

My Experience
The great thing is that even though I was nervous and "on call" throughout the conference related to the three projects above, I was also able to fully engage and enjoy the conference as it unfolded.

This year took me places I didn't think I'd go. Collaboration was the name of the game. Never before has there been such synergy between our teams and those attending the conference. The Arts Mashup and the Storyteller sessions brought an exciting new flair to the conference and infused it with the blood, sweat and tears of other churches.

I left feeling part of something bigger - a brotherhood of churches all pulling hard for the Kingdom.

There is definitely momentum building behind this type of collaboration and I can't wait to see where it takes the church.

It was good seeing all of you at Innovate09 - we should do this again sometime...

Don't forget to check out the main sessions on the Innovate09 site if you missed the conference or even if you just want to relive the experience!



23 September 2009

I Don't Love Sports Like I Used To

Growing up I remember being obsessed with sports. I had trading cards, memorized players and their profiles and watched it on television as if it missing it meant certain death.

Over the years I recall players like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Andre Agassi, John Elway, Ozzie Smith, Michael Jordan and the list goes on...

But why was I so excited about it?

I still watch sports, but have an entirely different take on them. I get bored easily, I try to understand why they do it, I ask myself, "What's it all for and is there a point?"

At times it just seems so meaningless...

Right? It's not like war, where the winning "team" gets territory or freedom. It's simply to say, "I'm better than you" at something like hitting a rubber disc into a designated enclosure...

At this point in my life the only sporting events that get me excited are things like the Olympic games (for their attempt at unity and humanitarianism). And I still enjoy watching two teams play who have been rivals for life. Or when a team is this close to becoming a dynasty after sustained success.

But the day-in and day-out games that make up seasons...not so much.

Find the Meaning Behind the Scenes
Maybe it's the same for our church websites. People have grown bored of our run-of-the-mill Web sites. We don't capture their interest like we used to. Everyone is doing it these days so what makes us so special?

Well, like my continued interest in the Olympics, rivalries and dynasties, maybe we have to find the meaning behind the game (or Web site as the case may be).

What is the meaning behind what we do? Is the site just a pretty facade with nothing inside, or do we offer people the "meaning" behind the site?

Do we just have Web sites because all the leading churches do? Or are we leveraging the technology to fulfill the mission of the church?

The BIG Question
Will someone find our site and be able to make the jump from missing-in-action to found-for-the-kingdom?

After all - isn't that the real question - the reason we're really doing all of this in the first place?



Protect Your Gadgets

In the past I've never had a reason to protect the screens on my gadgets. I would simply purchase cases or sleeves that protected the entire thing.

But my last two purchases have been gadgets with touch screens - making it important to find something capable of preventing scratches and fingerprints from mucking things up.

I purchased an Invisible Shield from Zagg for my Palm Pre and BodyGuardz for my Zune HD. I only purchased the front pieces as the backs of both gadgets are more rugged and are protected in other ways.

Both products felt similar and installed the same way. The plastic is bizarre in it's strength and ability to remain free of scratches, cuts and imperfections.

I love both but definitely love the one for the Zune HD the best because there are no rounded corners to mess with and it simply becomes another skin over the screen. On my Pre I noticed the shield actually makes the screen more sensitive to the touch.

The plastic doesn't scratch and doesn't hold fingerprints the way the stock gadget screens do.

I plan on purchasing these for every gadget I buy in the future. Great product!



15 September 2009

Put Your Back Into It

I've had the unfortunate privilege of developing lower back problems over the past 2-3 years.

I've thrown it out completely two times, had an MRI and I'm on my second round of physical therapy.

Official diagnosis: Protruding disc (which sounds very close to a Herniated Disc).

Symptoms: Basically, my back always feels weak. I have a hard time sitting, standing and walking for long periods of time. One leg goes numb or tingles while the other can have pain going from back to my calf. Then there is the possibility of throwing my back out by simply bending over to pick something up...

Treatment: A Physical Therapy regimen of bending and stretching to keep the protruding part of the disc from being irritated and allow it to move back into place. Supposedly in time the disc will shrink and normal activity will be possible without any pain or discomfort in the back.

When the World Gives You Lemons...
One positive about the whole thing is I'm finally learning just how inappropriate my posture was. Everything from the way I sat, to the way I stood to the way I picked things up. Hopefully in time I'll be able to avoid this behavior without even thinking.

It also made me think about our websites and if there are stupid things we do on a regular basis without thinking about the long term damage. Things like making our visitors jump through hoops, making things difficult to find and throwing too much content at them.

But what if there was someone (like my physical therapist) that could point these things out and get us back on the right track? Someone who may have already made some of those mistakes and learned from them.

Well maybe there is. Join us for the Untangling the WEB Workshop in November. Kem Meyer helps us identify some of those damaging things and correct them on our websites.

If you're serious about doing Web sites right, put your back into it this November.



12 September 2009

Online Giving Redux

This morning the new Online Giving page officially went live.



Before

After


It may seem like a fairly straightforward upgrade, but online giving is a difficult thing to conceptualize, organize and implement.

You start with a ton of information that needs to fit in a limited area. You have so much you need to say and yet you want it to be the most streamlined and simple process for your guests.

So what you try to do is boil it all down to simple copy, an easy flow of information and a straightforward interface that gets people from Point A to Point B.

Here are a few of the biggest changes to the Online Giving page:
  • Reduced the copy people read on the main page.
  • Made PayPal an option for giving. Even though FellowshipOne is the preferred giving portal, we want to make it easy for people.
  • An accordion page element is used to give people the option for more information without cluttering up the page or taking them away from the main giving page.
Every element of your (our) website needs this type of upgrade every now and then. Doesn't it feel good to roll out the next big thing?



08 September 2009

Hierarchy of Digital Distraction

This is truly right up my alley. As a psychotherapist for years I was well versed in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. So when I saw that someone had reinterpreted it as the Hierarchy of Digital Distraction I felt right at home.

We definitely live in the digital age, and while there are some pretty sweet advantages, there are also some negatives that are sure to follow.

This graphic displays the fundamental truths about us and our time spent with our digital "vices."

Amazingly accurate and telling.

Just look at it for a while and ponder the reality of it all.



Are You a Flight Risk?

I've attempted on a few occasions to move from Blogger to WordPress without success.

I'm not sure why - maybe the timing wasn't right or maybe I just didn't have the patience to learn a new system with everything going on at the time.

At any rate, in the past month we've seen a flood of Granger staffers making the switch to WordPress. In some cases it just means they want our advice, but in other cases it means I get to actually help implement a new theme for the blog. This obviously requires me to learn the system and quickly at that.

I'm a few hours into the process and other than a few glitches I'm liking the flexibility. There isn't a huge need to move my blog from Blogger since I manage a full blown website with the blog being a small part of it. But if all I had was the blog - I'd be making the switch.

After years of refining and innovating WordPress has definitely reached a good place and is only getting better. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Free
  • Open source
  • Numerous free and purchased templates available
  • Fairly simple and straightforward css file for customization
  • Easy to manage templates (themes) by simply activating and disabling
  • Wide range of looks and layouts available
  • Easy to give the appearance that your blog is part of a website rather than just a blog
  • Can be hosted online or on a server of your choice
I'm thinking this could be the most versatile and forward thinking free blog/CMS tool out there.

I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you the people moving to WordPress are people that for years have been duped into using TypePad. They are fed up with the pricing and the fact that even though they are paying, the tool isn't getting better. It continues to frustrate and makes total customization a pain in the...you know.

If you're a flight risk - I'd make the move today...



01 September 2009

I've Been Busy

Over the past few weeks I've been bit by the online sales bug. The majority of my friends have been selling books on Amazon so after our summer garage sale I decided to start getting rid of some the stuff that didn't go.

Turns out that means close to 100 books, a snowboard, electronic equipment, a laser printer, etc.

On the one had it amazes me the ease at which you can buy/sell on the Internet. Just another awesome thing about living in the land of the free market. I've sold 5 books already - some of which were close to $20 each - fun stuff!

But on the other hand, the Internet is a big bad place full of people that are up to no good.

Take it from me - there are those that don't want to do business with you - they simply want to take your money or goods without a fair trade.

It Happened to Me
Luckily we listened to that gut feeling and were able to see through the scam. But it was definitely slick.

Here's how it went down:

  • Put $1500 electronic device on craigslist.com
  • Received an email from someone that was interested (rickwill.fride4@gmail.com) who reported that he was living in California but was not there currently. He wanted to purchase the items and have them sent to his son (living in Nigeria) for his birthday. He then listed the sons address and offered to pay $1700 to cover the shipping
  • Went back and forth about PayPal, shipping specifics and the process that needed to occur in order to ship the items
  • Did a "request for payment" through PayPal to the email address provided
  • Received the following email describing that PayPal had approved the $1700 payment and would transfer the funds once the items had been shipped and the tracking number supplied to the purchaser (See email here)
  • I immediately questioned the validity of the email so I chatted with our Tech Ops team at Granger and they confirmed some things that I was feeling
  • Needless to say, we didn't ship the items...
Just thought I'd share so those of you in a similar situation will trust the gut before taking a leap of faith.

In case you were wondering, I sent him a kind email and thought I'd share it with you as well:
To Whom it May Concern,

First off, allow me to thank you for the time and energy you put into this scam. We gave you the benefit of the doubt at the beginning, but it became blatantly obvious that you are not who you say you are. Because of this there will be no transaction.

This is why we explained that the payment would be made through PayPal and we would transfer money into our checking account long before we shipped the item. It's our guarantee that the buyer is sincere.

As a Christian, I simply wish you the best in life. I hope that you come to your senses and realize the life you are living is SO far from the plan God has for you. Each of us is granted talents and abilities that we can choose to use for good or evil. Unfortunately you have chosen the dark path and are working against the good that God planned for you.

It just so happens that I work in the technology field. So to make things interesting I have turned all your information (email address, IP addresses, address in Nigeria, etc.) over to the FBI Internet Fraud Division (http://www.fbi.gov/majcases/fraud/internetschemes.htm) and Filed an official complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx).

I look forward to turning over all information to them and helping them in any way to stop your illegal activities.

If I were you, I’d seriously rethink the type of work you are doing.

Daryl McMullen



23 August 2009

Navigation Architecture Matters

I was playing with my kids today - building things out of Lego blocks, when I realized something. Each child has a different level of tolerance for the way we store our blocks (all thrown into one large bin).

My oldest is able to look for blocks on her own. My middle child asks me to help her find what she's looking for. And the youngest asks me to find every block for him.

But the one thing they all had in common is the search - sometimes a 5-10 minute search for the piece they needed.

At one point I recalled how my brother and I used to sort every Lego block into categories, shapes and colors for just this reason.

Why Am I Telling You This?
Our websites are just like Lego blocks. People are looking through them to find something, or to complete tasks. And if we just "dump" all the blocks out there and make them hunt for things, the less tolerant will simply leave.

Why? Because Navigation Architecture Matters!

If you've never sat down and restructured your site for usability, now is the perfect time.

Strip away all the glut, put first things first and get people where they need to go in two clicks or less if at all possible.

Believe me, they'll thank you for it.



11 August 2009

Is Your Team On The Same Page?

This past weekend we spent a few days at the lake. When we returned home, we were greeted with something out of the ordinary - our neighbor's lawn looked like it had been scalped and there were piles of grass clippings all over the place.

This may mean nothing to you, but to us it meant something was terribly wrong with the world. You see our neighbor is militant about the status of his lawn. He edges regularly, keeps it trimmed nicely and always sweeps up the clippings when done.

Come to find out they were on vacation and a distant relative was helping them out by doing the lawn care. If you can call it that...

You see it is painfully obvious to us that our neighbor and his cousin are NOT on the same page. The cousin thinks it is okay to burn the lawn by cutting it too low and that clippings all over the place apparently spruce up the neighborhood.

Bring It Back To Your Team
Seems like something we should be aware of in our teams and departments. Are we operating on the same page? Do we all aspire to the same level of excellence and defend that standard?

Our team has evolved into this reality. In the past we dealt with issues related to the harmony of the team, but recently things have started to click along pretty well. Everyone is pulling hard in the same direction. We all understand the value of excellence and strive to maintain it.

Of course we don't always hit the mark but at least we're aiming for it and helping each other when we're a little off target.

I love the team I do life with at Granger!



10 August 2009

It's Permanent. Before You Hit Submit!

During a weekend message our Senior Pastor, Mark Beeson, explained that information on the web is Instant, Global and Permanent.

In this case, he is referring to the things you publish, post, submit, tweet, upload, etc.

But did you know that people could be watching you even before you make it public?

I found a good example of this today when working with a couple of our IT gurus - Jason Powell and Matt Metzger.

Jason sent us a link to userfly.com - a new tool that allows you to capture visitors movements on your site.

Matt plugged it into his blog to test it out and sure enough a person lands on the site, userfly memorizes their every movement up until they exit the site. From the userfly console you can watch a screencast of the person's screen, mouse movements and clicks.

Amazing!

But This Scenario Got Me Thinking
A user goes to your blog, and decides to leave a comment. As they are typing and revising the comment so it's appropriate, userfly is capturing the entire thing. When the user hits "publish," the final, polished comment is there for the world. But in fact, I could go back and see exactly what the user was about to say... :)

Scared yet? Should be. Chances are most website owners and bloggers are not monitoring their websites with this level of detail. But it should scare you just to know that the technology is available. Who knows what is being recorded on the web. Just like the millions of video cameras in the world today capturing things we're unaware of, so too on the web, the cameras are rolling.

Listen up Kiddo's, we aren't in Kansas anymore...



The Sole of Innovation

I have a soft spot in my heart for a few things. Watches, Sports gear (of any kind), The North Face, and shoes.

Keen has won me over when it comes to the everyday. But Vibram just pushed the envelope wide open with their Five Fingers line of shoes.

I've always wondered what it would be like to wear a pair of shoes that made you check frequently to see if they were actually on your feet.

Back in high school I wanted wrestling shoes. Not because I was a wrestler - but because they had such thin soles.

Now I can't officially recommend these shoes because I haven't even held a pair.

But you better believe I'm going to look for them and give them a shot.



06 August 2009

Rough Around the Edges

I was sitting on the porcelain throne the other day (sorry for the disturbing image that creates in your mind) when I noticed something about the pants I was wearing.

Instead of the rough, unfinished edges inside the pants, there were wrapped and finished edges. Even though it is never seen by anyone but the person wearing them.

I made sure the brand name was showing because I wanted to give props to a company that is apparently interested in excellence. Good job Union Bay.

Illustrates Excellence
This is a no-brainer for me. I can't help but look at illustrations like this and retrofit them to make sense to web design and web strategy.

In this case my question should be obvious:

Are our websites rough around the edges? Or do we take the time to 'wrap' and 'finish' the edges of our sites for our visitors?
There are many parts of our websites that visitors won't see - unless we don't take the time to develop these site components with excellence. Here are just a few of those "unseen" areas:
  • Are images optimized correctly for fast download speeds?
  • Are forms created well so people aren't filling out information we don't need?
  • Can visitors get to (almost) every page on the our websites in two clicks or less?
  • Is the site search intuitive so that it won't bring back numerous inconsequential pages?
  • Is the content "web happy" so people aren't reading through chapters of information to find what they are looking for?
  • Does the site flow well? Is there a logical and practical navigation strategy so people always feel like they are in control and not the website?
  • Are the basics in the footer? People typically look for things like address, contact info and quick links in the footers of our websites.
  • Many more...
That was a short list, but always be on the lookout for ways to keep our websites from becoming rough around the edges...



04 August 2009

What Were They Thinking #4: Zune Marketplace


The Problem: The Zune Marketplace is quickly gaining popularity due to it's subscription based service for music. Download as much music as you like for $14.99/month and keep ten of these songs (DRM free) each month as well.

I love my subscription. I can download as much or as little as I want every month. I don't have to wonder if I'll like the music, I simply download the entire album and if I don't like certain songs I just delete them.

But it's the podcast section that I just can't figure out. I mean they have podcasts, you can subscribe to them. And you can even search for them fairly easily. They have categories and the sync process is as seamless as any iTunes functionality.

But when it comes to submitting one, you better be prepared to get frustrated. Here's why:

  • When you enter the rss feed link it simply tells you it was submitted
  • You get no confirmation email or message in your "social" Inbox
  • You get no updates as to when the podcast might be accepted and included in the Marketplace
  • You get no notification when it has been added to the Marketplace
Lack of Excellence: If you're going to keep up with your competition, you need to do it at least as well as they are doing it - and preferably better!

There is no reason why the "system" can't send out email notifications along the way. Implement an eCommerce solution if you have to, that tracks the submission as if it were a product sold for free. But at least make an attempt. We shouldn't have to do all the leg work to find out if our podcast has been accepted or not.

People like to be in the know. If you keep them in the dark throughout the entire process they'll get tired, irritated and begin asking, "What were they thinking?"



03 August 2009

Right Choices Don't Always Yield Right Results

I was thinking the other day that life is often less fair than we hope or think it should be.

Similar to the incongruency that leads people to ask the following questions:

"Why do bad things happen to good people?"
"Why do good things happen to bad people?"

Here are the two opposing circumstances I was pondering the other day:

Right Choices Often Yield Wrong Results
Some of you probably know that I have back problems. I've been through the physical therapy, the drugs, the MRI etc. And for a while now I've been making right choices like drinking a lot of water, staying away from coffee, exercising 2-3 times per week, strengthening my core and trying to sit and stand more straight.

Needless to say I don't feel that much better. I feel 10 years younger due to the exercise but my back feels like it belongs to an 80 year old man.

Wrong Choices Often Yield Right Results
The unfortunate opposite is that when people do things that are wrong, or for the wrong reasons they often succeed in life. Here are two examples (keep in mind I worked in the mental health field for years):

  • I saw a report on TV the other night that a small town close to us is doing very well economically. They have jobs, the local establishments (gas stations, restaurants, etc.) are doing well and everything seems to be on the up and up. Why you ask? Because there is a large casino there. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not condemning gambling. But I find it fascinating that something that causes so much pain and heartache in so many peoples lives (those addicted and those who lose everything when lured by the desire to better themselves) is actually making their community a better place economically...
  • Bars and liquor stores often wind up in the poorest neighborhoods and are frequented a lot when times are hard. I find it sad that something like alcohol (which can't make your life better in any way, can't fix relationships and can't help you find a job) should do so well in the community.
Again, not condemning these two practices which many responsible people do in moderation. But I just found it odd as I was whining about my back and how even with the good choices I'm making, I'm not seeing results.

I guess I just have to remember that things on earth are rarely as they should be. I'll have to wait for heaven to experience that...



DON'T Simply Mind Your Own Business

Follow up post to It Must be People AND Process.

To summarize: Tammy's computer had been slow for months. I could set her laptop right next to mine, enter a web address neither computer had been to before and hit enter. My laptop would bring it up immediately and hers would lag or even fail to load the page (even on a completely new install of Windows 7!).

Dell walked me through numerous phone calls, troubleshooting diagnostics and eventually sent a guy to replace my mother board and memory. Nothing worked. In fact the courtesy call from Dell after the replacement suggested that if I was still having problems I should call Comcast, because it was most definitely NOT an issue with the computer...

Because of this I began a process of testing in different locations. I took both laptops to the church - no noticeable difference in speed. I then connected to a neighbors wireless with no noticeable difference in speed. And yet in our house her computer dragged like crazy.

Eventually I unplugged the brand new D-Link Wireless N router and hooked up my old D-Link Wireless G router. Amazingly both computers seem to be running smoothly.

My Dilemma
There is part of me that feels like I need to call the people at Dell back and apologize for some heated conversations I had with the tech department. But then there is the other side of me that is just as upset with Dell.

After all, looking back at my explanation of the problem, why did no one ask about my wireless setup?

I can only assume it was because they were "minding their own business." After all, It isn't Dell's job to make sure people have their wireless routers set up correctly - right?

I never thought to check settings on the router, because every other computer in the house was running well. How could one computer not like the router? (This is still something I'm having to look into...will probably require a support call with D-Link...)

In Conclusion
In this situation I'm thinking Dell lost out big time. A few simple questions about my network and the wireless settings I was using could have saved them a house call, a mother board and new memory.

If you're in the service delivery field, try thinking bigger picture next time. It may not be your product to support, but if it saves you time and money in the long run, maybe it's worth the time and effort. DON'T simply mind your own business...



Innovate09 Getting Closer

Our annual conference at Granger Community Church is fast approaching.

Each year we look forward to meeting with hundreds of churches and over a thousand leaders in the church world to share innovative new ways to reach people for Christ.

This has been a hard year for everyone. Because of this, "Exposed" is the backdrop in front of which we'll discuss the failing economy and how it has impacted us at Granger.

Enjoy great teaching and incredible arts along with targeted Breakout Sessions and Casual Q&A sessions where you can sit down with Granger staffers and ask your questions.

If you're as excited as I am you'll want to keep up with the buzz by subscribing to the Countdown2Innovate Video Podcast. Tim Stevens and Kem Meyer will keep you in the loop and will keep you rolling at the same time with their short video interviews about the conference.

Other fun stuff: Visit the Who's In? page to see churches that have already signed up. Grab badges to put on your site or blog. And find the links to our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

See you all there!



29 July 2009

Meeting Me to Death

Isn't it funny how HUGE a role communication plays in your workplace?

If it's missing we say, "There was a breakdown in communication."

If there is too much communication we say, "There are too many cooks in the kitchen."

So how do you deal with communication in your workplace? Meetings, phone calls, texts, IM, Twitter, hallway conversations, etc. How do you manage all that and still stay productive?

At Granger, we've shifted our focus quite a bit. When I first started working at the church it wasn't unheard of to have multiple meetings per day - every day. After all, you need to meet in order to get stuff done, right? Well, as it turns out, you can meet so much that nothing gets done. You come up with all sorts of good ideas that never get realized.

The Issue with Meetings
Here's what it all boils down to. In every company, business, department or church there are three types of people:

  1. The Dreamers: Those that cast vision, see the big picture and have the next big idea. Highly capable of dreaming and speaking but rarely part of the day to day.
  2. The Middlemen: Those who have the ability to add value to the vision and fine tune the big picture while at the same time playing an active role in the follow through. Able to troubleshoot and complete tasks.
  3. The Front Liners: Those that are getting it done. They flesh out the vision that has been passed down in the form of task lists and project scopes. Able to get numerous things done each day but typically stay out of the big picture stuff.
Sound familiar? Can you lump your people into these three categories?

What we did at the beginning was grab everyone on the team for every single meeting. Problem is, the Front Liners were getting stressed out. Not only were they being pulled off the assembly line for large amounts of time, but in the meetings they got to watch their task lists grow!

The Solution?
The Dreamers now have more high level meetings with other Dreamers. When they are ready to flesh out their ideas they meet with some of the Middlemen (this includes women of course...). And finally, when it's time to implement, there is either a short meeting where the Front Liners attend, or the Middlemen simply pull the Front Liners aside during the day and walk through the new project, task or process.

The cool thing is that this issue break down when it comes to other forms of communication. Our entire team is connected at any given time via email, text, IM and Twitter (notice I did NOT say by phone). This works well because it only interrupts the work flow if you allow it to. This way you can keep ideas flowing without interrupting the assembly line.

How about you? Feeling "meetinged to death"? Give this new strategy a try and see if it helps.



27 July 2009

It Must Be People AND Process

I purchased a Dell Studio 15 laptop (yes...pink) for my wife back in January. But over time it began to slow down and have issues that no 4 month old computer should have. Outlook wasn't happy, the fan ran constantly, IE8 would take WAY too long to load average web sites, etc.

So last week I began the troubleshooting process.

I started at home by re-installing Windows Vista 64bit OS with no success. Still slow.

I then worked with our IT guys here at Granger to install the free version of Windows 7 to see if that helped. However, it did not. Because of this the IT guys suggested I call Dell as it was most likely a hardware issue.

And so began my 3-day ordeal with Dell.

  1. I talked with laptop support who ran an hour long test. Test failed because I had deleted a "diagnostic partition" when re-installing the OS.
  2. When they learned this was an issue they transferred me to the software department. The software department ran me through a number of procedures like starting in safe mode and reverting all settings to default. Still no joy. So they transferred me back to the hardware department.
  3. I was accidentally transferred to desktop hardware support and spent 20 minutes describing the problem to the wrong person who then transferred me to laptop hardware support.
  4. Now I've come full circle and I'm worried that they will recognize me and send me back to software support. But this time it is something else. Since I installed Windows 7 they cannot help me. I need to put Vista 64 bit back on the machine before they can help me further.
  5. I spend the rest of the day loading Vista 64 bit back on the computer.
  6. This morning I call back laptop hardware support and say, "I'm good to go - have Vista 64 bit installed."
  7. They walk me through a battery of tests and hardware checks (including taking the back off the laptop and removing and replacing memory cards in random variations.)
  8. Interesting side note - the machine ran faster with one memory card (2GB) than with both installed (4GB)...
  9. We then upgraded the BIOS to the most recent version. Still no changes in speed.
So we've now put over three days and countless hours into the machine and the final result:

Dell has decided to send someone to my house to replace the mother board, both memory cards and the hard drive...

Wow! What a process.

In Summary
I didn't have one person treat me poorly. They were all professional, took their time and went by the book to fix the problem. They called me "Sir" and said "please" and "thank you" a lot. They apologized for the time I was putting in and always asked if there was anything else they could do for me.

So why did I feel so drained? Because it was the Process that was faulty...not the People.

How often do we put on a big smile and be as nice as possible but never attempt to make the process more enjoyable for people?

Are we providing technical support for a website that drains the life out of people? If so, we need to make some changes quickly.

Maybe we should make this our goal:
Design a web experience that will ensure people are happy with the process. Then when they encounter the people they will be wowed and not just satisfied with the outcome.



14 July 2009

Introducing Tammy

Tammy McMullenI know I've mentioned Tammy before, probably in passing on a post about family or something to that end. But have I officially introduced you to her?

She's not only my wife and the mother of our three kids, but she's an amazing woman in her own right.

God TOTALLY knew what he was doing when He interrupted my long string of superficial relationships and asked me to grow up long enough to recognize what true love is all about.

It's not even our anniversary. But maybe that's the point. You're supposed to say nice things about each other on days like that. But how about July 14 at 4:56 in the afternoon? Shouldn't you feel the same way then?

Tammy is so many things to me. Trying to summarize them all would be less than accurate, so let me list just a few of the things I've seen recently that take my breath away:

  • She does more in a day than I do in a week. Seriously...a full time job, three kids, a home, bills, a grumpy husband, and the list goes on...
  • She is the glue in our relational world. Time and time again she keeps us connected to family and friends in ways I don't even dream about.
  • She goes above and beyond for the kids. If it were up to me we'd stay at home 80% of the time. But Tammy sets up activities for the kids so we don't fall into that rut. This summer it was everything from Spring Hill Camps to soccer, swimming lessons and VBS.
  • She supports me. Even when I get a bit off center and want to buy thousands of dollars worth of SCUBA equipment, she allows me the freedom to check off "bucket list" items with the boys.
  • She still finds the time to sell jewelry through Lia Sophia and hold garage sales that take weeks to prepare for.
  • And finally, she went camping this summer. Yes, she stepped WAY out of her comfort zone in upper Wisconsin and did amazingly well considering mother nature was a complete &*%$! and sent us rainy cold weather for the entire trip.
Those are just a few of the many reasons. I thank God every day for bringing her into my life.

Those of you that know Tammy will agree with me. Those of you that don't, should really get to know her.

Follow Tammy on Twitter or Connect with her on Facebook.



13 July 2009

Content Management Systems (CMS) 101

I'm definitely NOT an expert on CMS.

However, I still get asked the question a lot - typically by people that read my blog or attend our workshops - typically from smaller churches or organizations that aren't ready to shell out big bucks for complete web design/development/CMS packages.

Luckily there is a middle road between a blog and full blown web development.

These robust online CMS options give you the ability to develop websites with typical html pages, blogs, photo galleries, eCommerce and more. This along with simple administration behind the scenes and you have a cheap alternative that looks fairly professional.

Obviously you don't have 100% control over the look/feel of the sites created by these CMS engines but it's a lot closer than trying to redesign a template on Blogger or TypePad.

For an excellent read on CMS: 10 Simple Rules for Choosing the Perfect CMS + Excellent Options.

Enjoy!

For those of you wondering:

  • gccwired.com is completely designed from the ground up (including CMS) by our partners at aspireone.com (great team to work with).
  • wiredchurches.com was just redone on the Drupal platform with Ubercart eCommerce running the store. We worked with Commerce Guys on this project and had a blast. Check them out if you're in the market for a good eCommerce solution.



KNOW1NG Is Half the Battle

I rented the movie Know1ng last night and was surprised a bit by the impact it had on me.

I just told you I love movies that answer The Big Three questions (see recent post) but I also love movies that are eschatological in nature. So I'll typically see them in the theater or as soon as the come out on video.

In this case I just missed it in the theater so when I saw it on On Demand I was quick to check it out.

Again, not a movie that accurately explains what happens at the end of time. But I don't mind. I'm solid in my end time beliefs so it fascinates me to see what people come up with when they have no guidance (like we do with the Bible).

Some takeaways (without ruining the plot of the film):

  • Typical tension between those with religious views and those with scientific minds.
  • Interesting take on the final event that extinguishes the human race.
  • Interesting take on those NOT from this world and how they interact with the humans.
  • Interesting take on the cyclical nature of humanity and the influence/guidance by those NOT of this world.
  • Interesting take on the way the way those NOT of this world communicate and guide those on earth.
I loved the "M. Night Shyamalan" feel of the film - thriller and horror mix that really worked.

Made you think about the relationship between parent and child along with reminding you just how fragile life on earth really is.

I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to stay fired up about the end of time.

Luckily films like this come along and remind you just how relevant it really is.



Coleman: Social Network Guru's?

I've gotta say, I'm a bit perplexed. When I think of social networking, I don't think of Coleman.

I mean I understand their slant on it. Just by using the words "social networking" they appear relevant and current.

Social networking today implies Internet connectedness so the thought of it meaning relationship building around a campsite is an interesting twist.

Can't say I'm impressed or irritated. Just saw the new campaign and thought it was worth mentioning...



Finally! The Day Has Come!

Last year I bought a Sony HD Camcorder that records in AVCHD. It came with a program called Picture Motion Browser which is a complete joke. So for the past year I've been looking for a free AVCHD player so I can at least watch my archive without plugging my camcorder into the HDTV.

Of course it's my fault. As an early adopter you run into things like this. The hardware is available but your computer (software) can't handle it.

I tried numerous recommended options but each either didn't work or required hoop jumping in terms of downloading external codecs that didn't seem to help either.

The closest I came was the Oxygen Player by Mirillis. But just as I began testing it they had to pull it from the market due to some legal dispute over the technology used to create it.

And that's where I was stuck until last night.

I decided to check out Mirillis again and what do you know they're back! The new product is called Splash HD and it works like a charm. Great picture with clear and concise playback.

Thanks Mirillis - you just saved my life...

Now...here are a few quick tweaks that I'm already looking forward to:

  • The ability to see thumbnail images of your clips so you don't have to open the file to see what it is.
  • An upgraded player that allows for insanely quick and easy editing (cropping and stitching) of AVCHD.
If you can make that happen I'll buy you something...or at least buy the product...



11 July 2009

Do We Make Contact?

I found myself watching the movie Contact yet again last night. I love a good movie that seeks to answer one or more of the Big Three Questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? And Where do we go when we die?

The movie is one persons thoughts on our origin, purpose, death and afterlife. And it does a fairly good job of running that view (very scientific) parallel to the opposing religious/spiritual view.

If you haven't seen it yet you should check it out - if for no other reason, to reacquaint yourself with the fact that the scientific community is searching for the same answers we are as Christians.

But that isn't why I'm blogging this. During the movie the characters quote Ockham's Razor:

Taking all things into consideration, the simplest answer is usually correct.
As Christians we believe the Bible includes the answers to our questions. I tend to clump Biblical truth in the following ways:
  1. Absolute Truth: Stuff that is black and white and easily identified as such.
  2. Shielded Truth: Stuff that is symbolic and metaphoric at best (like prophecy). The sort of thing a non-believer wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole but those sold out for Christ can understand with the Spirit's guidance.
  3. Withheld Truth: Stuff that we and our mortal minds wouldn't begin to understand so God is vague or silent (concepts like eternity and the Trinity).
  4. Absent Truth: Stuff that I believe God expects us to understand because it just makes sense. If we were to come to any other conclusion it would likely be due a lack of common sense or an overinflated ego attempting to write it's own reality.
This last area is where I apply the statement by Ockham. I've had conversations with very intelligent people that seem to lose sight if this. Something that makes perfect, logical sense in light of the rest of the Bible is thrown out with statements like, "God is God, therefore He can do whatever He wants." Or, "We're not God, so the simple answers is probably the wrong one."

Are you serious?

Of course my logical thought process is to bring it all back to what I do - communicate via the web to those asking the Big Three Questions.

So are we making Contact? If so, I'm betting it's because we use the right mix of the four things listed above.

Hit hard on what is absolute. Don't force what is shielded (as it will only alienate people). Don't even try to explain what is withheld. And help people see that what is absent is really quite important in light of the rest of the truth in the Bible.

I think if we follow this recipe for communicating we'll do well.



09 July 2009

Simply Smashing

I follow a bunch of tech blogs and Twitter accounts simply to be in the know about the latest stuff out there.

In so doing I get immediate information in the form of content or links info on tech, gadgets or even tutorials on how to get web design/development stuff done.

But out of all those I follow, one seems to rise to the top in terms of helpful and amazing content.

Smashing Magazine has had more articles, freebies, aggregated content lists, and tutorials that fix immediate needs I have than any other source.

I'll give you one example: You looking to become a freelance web designer?

If you haven't checked them out - get on it!



06 July 2009

Technology: Increased Productivity or Increased Laziness?

We just returned from vacationing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin. Quite rural. And I remained unplugged the entire time (except for some Twitter action on the Palm Pre...)

Doing so made me think about the way technology has impacted us - both for better and for worse.

Better
It goes without saying that our lives are easier now than in the past. Just look at the difference between the typewriter and the computer for instance. If you're thinking about writing a book - you're going to LOVE the backspace button and the ability to keep all your work on a SD card the size of a postage stamp.

The automobile gets you from point A to point B in a respectable amount of time. We're talking horsepower rather than a horse...

Airlines give us the ability to see the world in person rather than in a book at the library.

And the list goes on...

Worse
But there are some interesting drawbacks as well. Now we tell people they need to "unplug" in order to relax. We have connectivity that can eat up every waking second of our day. And yes, even though there seems like limitless things to be done in a day, could it be that we're getting lazier despite our increased activity?

Here's where I'm going with this...

Today I'm connected almost 24hrs a day. With the Palm Pre (or iPhone if I'd chosen that path) I'm able to manage email, text, calendar and tasks along with the insane amount of online (cloud) content available at my fingertips via browser and Apps.

But does this make me more or less productive as a worker?

On the one hand I can do my job anywhere at any time. On the other hand I can also do a million other things with the technology. I can Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, etc. at work and at play.

Because of this my life has the ability to become one giant tech trip. An enmeshed mess of work, family, spirituality, entertainment, education and relationship building.

Before the computer we worked hard for 7-9 hours a day to get everything done so it wouldn't be waiting for us the next day. But today we often play at work and leave stuff undone because we can always jump online at home to finish things up.

Summary
I really don't know that I have a good answer to this dilemma. On the one hand I love it. On the other I long for simpler days. Either way, there's no turning back. I don't think the Amish lifestyle is for me so I need to learn balance in this new age of technological enlightenment.

Am I alone in this?



25 June 2009

Playing Catch-up

The past few months have been wild and crazy. But we made it through and now we're getting back to more run-of-the-mill stuff.

So, "What were you up to?" You ask. Well - here are a few of the big ones:


1. WiredChurches.com
For the past year or so we've been working toward a new eCommerce reality for WiredChurches.com. And on Friday, June 12, we flipped the switch. We went from using a HUGE industry standard (Netsuite) to an open source platform with a more simple and straightforward approach to eCommerce (Drupal/Ubercart).

Netsuite was a beast that attempted to be all things to all people while missing the simple things that make the day-to-day bearable. Not to mention that it was expensive...

Ubercart is highly customizable and makes product/event management a breeze.

Added: New look/feel, home page flash that allows video, community section with blog/Twitter integration and streamlined event registration.

It took a lot of work on the front end, but we'll reap the benefits for years to come.

Great job team!



2. InnovateConference.com
The same day innovateconference.com went live to promote our annual conference at Granger Community Church.

Highly driven by the photo shoot for the conference trailer, the site begins with a short video and then allows the user pick from the menu items. Secondary pages are laid out on transparent backgrounds over the backdrop used in the video.

This project stretched my mind which is typically very traditional and symmetrical in design concepts. But I love the new look, the things I learned and the feel of the site in general.

Sign up now. I'm looking forward to seeing all of you in September.

3. Community Center Database
The next one isn't very flashy, but was a huge win for our church and for data integrity in general. We purchased a new FellowshipOne account just for our Community Center.

Here are just a few of the benefits from moving the Community Center data out of our church database and into a new one:

  • Keeps things clean since people attending the Community Center are technically not members of Granger Community Church
  • Allowed volunteers at the Community Center to continue using an application they were trained on and comfortable with
  • Allows for the tracking of food and personal care items during Food Pantry
  • Allows for check-in during events that occur at the Community Center
  • Keeps reporting and queries clean since they are in different databases now
Most excellent - good work on the data clean up Jeanna Miller!

4. Something Coming...
Yes - the last thing is still in production - but very cool and I can't wait to share it. Look for the unveil in August of September.

It's been a great run of ministry. Now for a week or so of rest...