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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.



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 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
  • Received an email from someone that was interested ( 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 ( and Filed an official complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (

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