Archives For Technology

I’m teaching a seminar for KINDLE’s Recent Grads event this September around this theme. How do we stay socially healthy in a Google World. The target audience is young church workers graduated in the last 1-3 years.

It’s been an interesting project working on the handout I’ll use for the class. I now have a general framework in place for the two hour session. I’m looking for advice from you, the wonderful blog reader (this is really an effort to figure out who that one reader is…).

What advice would you give to this person:

  • 22-25 years old
  • Took a job working for a church in a new part of the country
  • Didn’t know anyone in the new town before moving there

How might this person go about developing friendships with people both inside and outside the church? One of the unique challenges for a church worker is they’re always “on” at church, so there’s often a sense of “working”, even when out with people from church on a strictly fun basis.

Thoughts? Leave ‘em in the comments.

TweetDeck: My Wish List

October 1, 2009

It seems like there hasn’t been enough “nerd” around these parts lately, so…

For the past week or so, I’ve been playing with TweetDeck, a Twitter (As an aside, if you aren’t sure what Twitter is, check out this great video that explains Twitter in Plain English) client available both for the desktop and for the iPhone. I’ve been using Twitteriffic for a while now, but I decided to give this a shot. I’ve always heard great things about it, but never got into it.

Overall, I like it. Some of my favorite features:

  • Organize those you follow into groups. Then you can swipe from side to side to switch groups. My current groups are “Usual Suspects” (people I read all the time), “Sports” (news and info about my favorite sports), and “The Others” (the people who don’t fit in groups one and two).
  • Groups are then synced between your desktop install and your phone. I don’t find it incredibly useful, except for setting up new groups, which is much faster on the desktop.
  • It looks clean and feels fast. Important in a Twitter client.
  • You can tweet to multiple accounts with a single post. Great for those times when you want to push information out on your own account and a group account (@JasonTheDCE and @FirstTrinity in my case).

Of course, as with anything, there are a few issues I’d like to see resolved:

  • Scroll down to the first unread tweet on the iPhone. The desktop client can clear all seen tweets, making it easy to find where you left off.
  • Sync the read/unread status for tweets between the desktop and iPhone. It’s a pain to “catch up” when I get to the office or go mobile.
  • Make hash tags clickable so they lead to a search for that hash tag.

Googling First Trinity

June 11, 2009

I’m a compulsive Google user.  I might even have a Google addiction.  But they are so stinking cool I can’t resist.  A few months ago, I found a website that suggested you should list your business in the Google Local Business Center. Theoretically, it helps people find your business.

So I added First Trinity.  Check out our listing.  Tonight I got an email telling me that I can now log in and see stats about how people find us and what they do with our listing once there.  Here are some interesting statistics about how people Googled us in the last 30 days:

  • Our listing showed up 633 times.
  • There were 65 actions taken:
    • 10 Clicks for more info on Google Maps.
    • 27 Clicks for driving directions.
    • 28 Clicks to our website.
  • Top Search Queries (impressions):
    • First Trinity Lutheran Church (56)
    • Churches (45)
    • Preschool (45)
    • Church (32)
    • Daycare (26)
    • Trinity Lutheran Church (22)
    • Preschools (21)
    • Child Care (19)
    • Lutheran Churches (19)
    • Christian Schools (16)
  • Where the driving directions requests came from (requests):
    • Buffalo 14202 (7)
    • Buffalo 14224 (6)
    • Hamburg 14075 (4)
    • Amherst 14068 (3)
    • Buffalo 14228 (3)
    • Angola 14006, Buffalo 14217, Lockport 14094, Summersville 26651 (1 each) [Note: Summersville is where we’re looking at staying on our way home from the Workcamp. That may have been me looking]
  • Our listing went live on May 1, 2009.  We were averaging 15 impressions/day through May 25. Our average from May 26 through June 11 is 31.7.

So I was inspired to go ahead and connect our profile with some videos and added some office hours and worship times.  We’ll see if it increases traffic.

EDIT: We get 10 pictures to place in our profile.  One is a picture of our facility so people will recognize it.  The remaining 9 are to be decided.  Help us choose!  Check out the following places for your favorite pictures of First Trinity:

Try to find pictures that match these simple statements:

  • Where People Matter
  • Rooted and Relevant
  • Celebrating Life Together

Happy hunting!

New and Shiny

June 10, 2009

I like things that are new and shiny.  You might also.  For me, it’s always been about computers and gadgets.  Sure, a shiny new car would be nice, but I can live with my old car.  But the latest computer hardware or home theater setup or tech gadget… Now that’s interesting to me.

I’ve noticed, however, less of a desire lately to chase those new shinies, mostly because of our financial journey.  Ironically, I now have the savings to buy a new television to replace the 20” loaner I’m using because ours broke, but I’m not really dying for it.  It would be nice, but it’s not essential.

There’s something that happens when we get control of our financial situation: We want material things less.  Sue says it’s because we focus on our blessings more than our wantings. I tend to agree with her.

Here’s how I know I’ve changed: There’s a new iPhone coming out in about a month. And I really don’t have a desire to go out and get it. I’m also not feeling bad about getting mine when I did instead of waiting for a new and better model. Because there is always a new and better thing coming.

Gmail Labs rocks.  There are lots of cool features in there that I’ve enabled and I love the whole concept of how they happen. 

To any Googlers looking for something to spend their 20% time on, here’s an idea:

I’d like to see an option added to the drop down menu for an email (or done some other way!) to create a distribution list from the email addresses in the To/Cc lines.  Automatically add those people to my contact list if they don’t exist and then take me to a page to name the group.

I often find myself looking for this feature and Gmail Labs is a great way to get it.

Last time I upgraded phones from a Samsung flip phone to the Treo 700wx, I went through my contacts and manually added everything to the Treo instead of paying the $10 at Verizon to have them do the transfer.  Not a big deal.

This time, I’m trying to move my contacts from the Treo to the new iPhone.  The iPhone allows me to sync with Google’s contacts (my Gmail contacts, actually).  This causes all kinds of problems however:

  • My contacts have always been separate from one another.  Gmail had all my email addresses, my phone only phone numbers.
  • The most direct route of transferring the numbers is to sync them to Outlook, export them to a file, then import them to Gmail.
  • Everyone who I have a phone number for is now listed twice in Gmail.

So I’ve spent about 2 hours updating my contacts to get things in some sort of order.  I suppose long-term, this will be good for me.  However, after working with Gmail’s contacts for a while now, here are some changes to the Google contact manager I’d like to see:

  • Google is about search.  Can’t it search your contacts and suggest possible duplicates for merging together?
  • I’d like to be able to search for contacts that aren’t in a specific group.
  • Where is the social media section of the contacts?  Why can’t I store people’s MySpace, Facebook, Twitter or personal websites in a specialized field?
  • For that matter, why can’t Google suggest possible links by searching for the email address and seeing if it’s linked to a social media site?
  • I want to archive email addresses with a contact.  This way I can keep a record of all previous email addresses for someone so the “View Recent Conversations” will show all emails from all the addresses associated with the contact.  These archived addresses shouldn’t show up as options in the auto-complete suggestions for writing an email, only in the conversation history.

The iPhone and other smart phones in this generation have radically changed the way we use phones.  It’s time Contacts caught up.

Improving Twitter Emails

March 26, 2009

Whenever someone follows you on Twitter, you can get an email message about it.  Here’s what you get:

Hi, Jason Christ (jasonthedce).

Sue Steege (sweetsoup) is now following your updates on Twitter.

Check out Sue Steege’s profile here:
http://twitter.com/sweetsoup

The problem is, lots of people will click to follow me that I don’t want following me.  Or I don’t know how in the world they found me.  Here’s what I’d like to see added to the emails:

  • How they found you. (Unknown, Clicked through @username, Twitter Search, etc.)
  • The last 5 tweets by the person who started following you.
  • A link to click to follow the person.
  • A link to block the person.

Blast From the Past

March 18, 2009

One of my favorite Gmail extensions is Xoopit.  It sits on top of Gmail and scans for file attachments, then makes them easily searchable at their site or within Gmail.  One of my favorite features is the summary email each week.  It shows you what you’ve received that week, but it also shows you something from this week a year ago.

Here’s what came to me this week last year, from Darcy:

Teen Poster

Made me chuckle.

You’ve probably heard of the cult game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  The game is to start with an actor and try to connect them to Kevin Bacon within six steps.  For example, Humphrey Bogart can be connected to Kevin Bacon in 2 steps.  It’s a fun game to play, especially if you like movies.

I got a call this past Friday from a man who was very concerned that people who visit our church blogs can click through to inappropriate material within just a few clicks.  I was getting ready for the Famine, so I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time talking about it with him.  My best guess is that he’s talking about clicking off our blogs to another website, on which you click another link and end up at inappropriate material.  I’ve often seen this with YouTube, which links to videos at the end of the one you’re watching.

He’s right about this, of course. 

In trying to find an example of an actor/actress connected to Kevin Bacon, I couldn’t find one with more than two steps to connect them.  The Internet and inappropriate materials are equally connected.  I imagine if you tried, you could find inappropriate material within two to three clicks of any website.

So what’s a church to do?  I suppose one alternative is to stop using blogs, which seemed to be the implied solution in this phone conversation.  We could also stop using the newspaper (which has any number of inappropriate ads), watching television or movies (for obvious reasons), or even talking with people, who may introduce us to someone who uses inappropriate language.

Or, maybe, just maybe, we don’t work at building a better wall, but equipping people with some better armor.  Instead of isolating ourselves, we live in the world, but not be of the world.  Instead of abandoning new forms of communication, we can use them to bring light to the world.

So surf responsibly, friends.

Sue’s brother Pete sent me a message on LinkedIn when we connected recently, mentioning that he liked the way I straddle the theological and technological worlds, then presented the two terms above to describe me.  I like them both, but I’m not sure which I’d pick to describe me.  Which would you pick and why?