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27 February 2010

I'm Looking For Someone

Leave it to Google to take their incredible search capabilities and put it to good use.

When the earthquake occurred in Chile, Google leveraged the capabilities they have in order to provide a platform to find people and make sure people who are OK could let people know that they are alive.

This is why technology exists. Or at least I hope it is why...

26 February 2010

State of the Internet

Thank you to Jesse Thomas for this amazing media reviewing the State of the Internet. It might just knock your socks off!

25 February 2010

March Workshops | Not Too Late!

One-day workshops: Friday, March 19
Register your team now at

First Impressions Workshop
Presenter: Mark Waltz, Granger’s Pastor of Connections

Learn how to make great first impressions that last. Discover ways to:

  • Keep things like announcements, communion and the offering from distracting your guests or making them feel like outsiders.
  • Determine the “rules” your church has, even if you don’t know them yet.
  • Experience hands-on training that will empower your volunteers.
Less Clutter. Less Noise. Workshop
Presenter: Kem Meyer, Granger’s Communications Director

This workshop is for pastors, creative professionals, ministry leaders or volunteers who want to find out:
  • New ways to encourage collaboration among ministry areas and minimize competitiveness.
  • How to find out what guests need and want—and then craft communications to meet those felt needs.
  • How to organize information effectively through bulletins, brochures, Web sites and other avenues that keep the end-user’s time, tastes and habits in mind.
Early Bird Rate: $99/person
After March 1: $119/person
Group Discount: $20 off each registration for groups of six or more

Workshops are held at Granger Community Church, 90 miles east of Chicago. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Friday, March 19.

The workshop price includes your materials and lunch.

We're Not as Fast as We Think We Are

Comcast pokes fun at those who still have dial-up connections and has even created a website dedicated to The Slowskys (those famous turtles that love the slow pace of their lives and Internet speed).

We joke about those who just haven't "graduated" yet, but do we really understand just how many there are out there?

Crunch Gear reports the following based various recent studies:
According to the FCC, about 93 million Americans don’t use fast, broadband Internet, citing cost and complexity as a factor in their refusal to enter the 20th century.
Are you kidding me? That's nearly one third of all Internet users!

I live in a world where television shows and movies can be streamed in high definition to your television! On dial-up you're lucky to bring up most modern websites in under 5 minutes.

With this gap between serving the dial-up community and making use of today's technology ever widening, what are we to do?

At Granger, we chose to push the envelope with our website. Those on dial-up will probably be disappointed if they visit and definitely won't be able to access the media player, on demand services and things like that.

We based our decision on evidence that broadband use in our area is a lot higher than the studies suggest. But when your influence spreads and you become available to the world (via Online Church), it makes you think a bit more about it. And 1/3 of all Internet users is a big number...

At this point I don't have an answer, but I do pray that someday soon hi-speed Internet will be cheap enough and available to everyone. If not by cable - through upcoming technologies like Wi|Max.

23 February 2010

I'm Definitely Surprised With JS-Kit Plugin

I'm typically NOT a fan of third party plugins that are pasted directly into your website with little customization. But this week we installed one that has changed my mind and made me reconsider my position.

The Need
A way for parents to exchange ideas and information on parenting. We thought through the use of Facebook, Forums and other online message boards, but decided against it for a variety of reasons.

The next thought was to generate a commenting component from scratch on our website (time intensive and never looks as good as what people are used to using).

So we landed on trying to find a plugin that would do comments well. And we did (hat tip to Keith at

The Solution
We embedded the code for Echo Commenting by and were impressed with how easy and professional it is.

Here is the page we installed it on: GCC Parent Exchange

The perks: Integrates social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Has an easy to use online comment moderation area. Filters for inappropriate language. Pagination. Etc.

Pretty sweet if you ask me.

I guess my thoughts have changed a bit on plug and play...

17 February 2010

Windows Phone 7 Looking Good So Far

I'm currently sporting the Palm Pre - and believe me, I obsessed about it for months before it's release. But that doesn't mean I'm a fanboy that will keep buying Palm products. I'm definitely not brand-centric when it comes to phones. I simply want the best possible mobile experience I can have no matter what platform. I'd even buy the iPhone if it wasn't through AT&T and if Apple didn't require you to use them for support and repairs...

So I was definitely interested when I saw that Windows Phone 7 (Engadget writeup here) was on the way.

Based on the Zune HD user interface, Windows Phone 7 will hopefully be a far cry from Windows Mobile 6.0 (the last version I was familiar with since it came on my Motorola Q9c).

I currently own a Zune HD, so when they talk about the interface and the new, innovative navigation, I'm chomping at the bit to see it in action.

Looks like we won't see it on phones until later in the year, and who knows what carriers will pick them up. But hopefully Sprint will be on the top of the list...

My 3 big concerns so far:

  • Hardware: Who's going to make the darn things? I want a solid phone that doesn't feel like plastic. Can you deal with that?
  • Multiple Applications: So far it doesn't look good - but maybe by December they'll reconsider and reconfigure.
  • Flash Support: I should be getting flash support on my Pre this month. To go backwards would not be fun... And for the record Microsoft - Silverlight is NOT a viable alternative to flash! I don't care that the phone has Silverlight on it. I want flash! How many streaming videos have you watched in Silverlight? How many have you watched in flash? Enough said...

I hope this year goes fast!

12 February 2010

I Love the Help

If you're like me - you love the fact that you can learn just about anything online.

With tutorials, editorials, tips and tricks, plugins, extensions, code libraries, etc. There is just no limit to what you can do in the world of web design/development.

Here are just a few of the great resources I use: 11 Outstanding Web Resources Online

08 February 2010

Do You Wireframe?

Anyone out there use wireframing consistently in the design process?

I don't - probably because my side jobs have been pretty small and possibly because I do what could be considered verbal wireframing with the client as we discuss what the site needs to do and how it could be laid out.

I typically sketch out my ideas as we talk and then use those sketches as I translate the ideas into mockups.

However, I love the concept of wireframing for a number of reasons:
  • It allows you to see structure without the design cluttering things up.
  • It keeps everyone on the same page.
  • It can save time because the client won't be surprised as often by designs that seem opposite of their expectations.
  • It helps you have the difficult conversations about information architecture and scaling back on content.
I might just look into this for future projects. But for those of you that are wireframing and looking for better resources, look no further.

Ubuntu: Welcome Home

Earlier this year I pre-ordered Windows 7 for a fairly good deal ($49.00). I installed it on my wife's laptop and then on the desktop the kids use to play games online.

See where this is going?

Sure enough - a few weeks later I get the message on the desktop that the product key is invalid (since it was on my wife's laptop first) and that I had 28 days to purchase a new key (for the low low price of $119.00 of course).

Needless to say, I was a bit irritated, but I got out the Win XP Pro disk and started a fresh install of that - only to remember the painful process it is to install XP and then have to hunt down drivers, Comcast Internet information and all that jazz...

So I threw up my hands and prayed for a way out of the mess. And when I opened my eyes my browser had changed to the Ubuntu website (no, not really...). But Ubuntu did pop into my head. So I got my friend Matt Metzger on the line and he walked me through the setup process.

I stand amazed at the fact that something can be so easy to install, so easy to use and free all at the same time. No 3 hour install process like Windows products. No searching for drivers. No nothing but load it up and go.

Now I know there are limitations to Ubuntu, but for the kids at home to jump on the Internet and play a few games it made all the sense in the world. And it looks incredible. The UI and menu structure are clean, well designed and straightforward.

Welcome home Ubuntu...

05 February 2010

What Were They Thinking #5: TypePad Survey

The Problem: I recently received an email from The TypePad Team asking me to fill out a survey. Here is what it said exactly:


Yesterday you should have a received an email from me telling you about an upcoming survey for TypePad. This is your official invitation to participate in this survey.

We want to make TypePad better by understanding more about you, what you blog about, and your experience with TypePad. The survey should take about 5 minutes to complete and your answers will be treated with the utmost confidence.

I realize your time is valuable and your participation and feedback is extremely important to helping us improve TypePad. If you could complete the survey by Wednesday, February 10th, we would greatly appreciate it.

To take the survey, please click here: (I won't put you through the pain)

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly at: (not necessary)


The TypePad Team

Lack of Excellence: My problem with this was two-fold.

First, the survey itself is NOT a five minute survey. I thought I'd be nice, so I decided to fill it out (even though I'm not really using TypePad any more). But 8-10 minutes in I was so frustrated that I dropped out and never finished the survey. I suppose if you checked boxes wildly you could be done in 5 minutes, but I was trying to check the correct boxes and give explanations that would add value.

Second, (and maybe this was at the end) there was no real assessment of the negatives. Questions were more along the lines of, "How would you rate this totally excellent and awesome feature in TypePad?" instead of, "Do you feel TypePad does a good job by offering this feature?" or "Do you feel TypePad offers the right features?"

I've never been a big fan of TypePad in general and I'm in the process of moving at least three long time staff bloggers from TypePad to WordPress. But that doesn't mean I wish TypePad ill will. I simply don't understand the philosophy they operate under and hope that they course correct quickly for the sake of those that are still using their platform. I think they truly believe they have one of the best platforms out there - when from everything I've experienced, they charge a lot of money for something that is behind the times, poorly themed, and locked down so tight you'd have to move a mountain to try and customize it. All making me ask, What were they thinking?

04 February 2010

A Google Revolution

I'll be honest, aside from using Blogger for blogging and Google as my search engine, I typically overlooked Google as it grew - writing them off as a bunch of web junkies having fun cloning stuff that already existed in the marketplace.

But each year they grow, and add new SaaS (Software as a Service) offerings for people to use - most of which are free. And in the past six months I've really started paying attention. Here's why:

  • Google Apps: My hosting company is directly connected to Google Apps - making it simple to set up corporate email for clients using Gmail as the engine. More on the power of Google Apps here (specifically how churches can leverage Google Apps).
  • Google Voice: I recently added Google Voice to my life so I could manage voicemail visually on my Palm Pre.
  • Google Chrome: I recently switched over to Google Chrome as my default browser. Screaming fast and very light. It still have some glitches when it comes to functionality and extensions working like they did in Firefox but it can only get better.
  • Android / Nexus One: Are you kidding me? A mobile operating system and their own phone? Android came in like a lamb but is already roaring like a lion. I can't believe I'm actually looking forward to the Nexus One coming to Sprint. It could quite possibly replace my Palm Pre - which I AM happy with at the moment.
  • Google OS: I guess this was a no-brainer. If you offer a myriad of Saas tools online - why not make an OS that seamlessly integrates those on your computer and mobile devices?

I don't know exactly when the switch went off in my brain, but I'm suddenly a big Google advocate, and I watch my tech blogs closely to see what they'll think up next.

How about you? Anyone moved to Google for everything? Given up MS Exchange for Google Apps? Switched to an Android phone with success?

I'd love to hear stories.

02 February 2010

Browser Wars Continue

I must say, I never saw this coming...but Mashable reports the war between the standard browsers and the new guy is heating up.

In my head it was Firefox all the way. But then Chrome came out and is blazing a trail to the front quickly. With its speed and minimalist design - people have found that smaller is better and bloated means frustration.

Of course the other browsers are trying to get faster and Chrome is beginning to add features like bookmark sync and extension support so who knows what will happen in the future.

But there is also bad news. IE6 still carries 20% of the browser usage. Astounding considering IE is free and we're already up to IE8. Get with the program!