MicroExplosion Year In Review

It's been a great year getting MicroExplosion going and I've enjoyed it immensely. With 122 posts since June 13, here a few of the MicroExplosion highlights for 2006:


New look for the new year

I've been waiting to transfer MicroExplosion over to the new Blogger template system for a while now and finally started playing around with it the other day. Aside from losing my stat tools in the switch, everything transferred nicely. The new customization system Blogger built is pretty handy. I used to have to get into the HTML code to make customizations but now they've created some very easy tools to keep me from doing that.

I've come to like Blogger and even though I've considered switching in the past I think I'm going to stay with it for a while. My biggest beef with Blogger is that it doesn't take full advantage of being owned by Google. There are so many great Google tools available, it's a shame they're not more fully implemented into Blogger. If I could change three things about Blogger's it would be:

  • The ability to remove the Blogger toolbar at the top of the blog. I know many people who specifically don't use Blogger for this reason. More than anything their concern is that when someone comes to their blog and hits the "next blog" link you never know where they're going to end up. I think most people are smart enough to understand that a blogger has no control over where that link will take you, but it's enough of a concern to some people I know that they chose Wordpress or Typepad instead.
  • Custom header. Blogger's taken customization to a new level for them with their new template features but the one thing they're missing is the ability to let a user create a custom header image. Right now the only header customization you get is in the form of the text changes. I know Wordpress, for instance, has an easy header image customization tool. I hope Blogger's working on making this change. Heck, they could even tie it into Blogger's Picasa software to pull the image. Picasa's already got a Blogger tie-in anyway, so why not?
  • Stats. Blogger still doesn't have its own stat tracking built in. I hope it won't be long before they build Google Analytics into the system. It would really strengthen Blogger as a whole.
By and large the blogging community seems to view Blogger as an entry level blog tool which is kind of ironic if you think about it because Google's such a respected entity by the blog community as a whole, yet their blog tool seems to be looked upon as inferior to "serious blog tools." If Blogger could begin to roll in more Google applications it could really become a contender among the other free tools available today.


Four tips for good podcasts from a listeners perspective

Though I've been familiar with podcasts and podcasting for quite a while I have to admit it wasn't until recently that I really immersed myself in them to see what's out there. What I discovered is that when podcasts are good, they can be really good. On the flip side, when they're bad, they can be quite awful. Below are four things I discovered that the good ones seem to be doing:

1. Attention to pace:
The good podcasts feel like they move quickly. Whether it was the pace of the people talking or the momentum they would carry from one story to the next, the really good ones keep it moving forward. Not all podcasts move at the same pace however. Some seem like a steady jog while others move like a brisk run, but in the end they all know they have a pace to maintain and do it well to keep the show moving forward.

2. Sound quality:
I didn't think poor sound quality would be as annoying as it was. After all, we're dealing with amateurs here right? Yes, partly, but the difference is that the line between pro and amateur is very blurry now so it's all about good quality. Whether you're a solitary guy in garage or a team in a studio, the playing field is level and the listeners can't help but desire good sound quality. The good news is that the solitary guy in a garage can actually sound like a pro in the studio with fairly basic equipment. The rule seems to be that if it doesn't sound as good as the radio, it's not going to be good enough.

3. Set the hook early:
The most distinct thing I heard between the good podcasts and the bad ones was that the good ones recognized that I may very well be a first time listener and therefore not familiar with the personalities, the format, the content, the tone, etc. In every case they set it up as if they know some percentage of their listeners are first timers. If you think about it, that's how talk radio is...at any point in time a radio personality knows people are coming and going and although that wouldn't be necessary to incorporate through an entire show, that mindset seems vital within the first two minutes of the podcast. I was most turned off with one particular podcast where it seemed like the guys were trying to figure out if they were even ready to begin. The dialogue went something like this (names made up for example purposes):
Tim: "So Joe, how's it going?"
Joe: "Pretty good."
Tim: "Whatcha been up to?"
Joe: "Not much."
Tim: "Jeff, how are you doing?"
Jeff: "Good."
Tim: "Whatcha been up to?"
Jeff: "Not a whole lot."
After this they traded a few inside jokes and sort of talked about what the show was going to cover that day but at this point I went to the next podcast. They lost me. The thing is the preceding dialogue followed a pretty decent prerecorded intro and a "Welcome to the podcast" intro by the host. The point here is that you can't forget how easy it is for people to move on. They don't know you. They don't know how smart you are or how inspired and compelling your message is. If you don't get them hooked early they probably won't take the time to find out.

4. Content quality:
In the same way that the lines are blurry between pro and amateur on the sound quality side, they are equally blurry when it comes to good content. The fact of the matter is that good content is what will keep people over the long term. Everything above is to get them to pay attention to you the first time or two. Giving attention to quality content will keep them their for the long term.

Bonus 1: Episode numbers
Aside from the above items I discovered that everyone tells me what episode number that particular podcast is. I don't get that. Why do I need to know what number episode they're broadcasting? Maybe if you're just starting out it buys you a little bit of grace but on the other hand it could work against you because a listener could assume you don't have your act together since you're brand new.

Bonus 2: Browseable podcasts
Also, I read a post from Seth Godin back in May, 2005 when he noted that one of the downsides to podcasts is that they can't be browsed. That sentiment didn't resonate with me until listening to a bunch of different podcasts more recently. I can't help but wonder what it would do for a listener if the podcast posted a timestamp listing of all the topics covered in each podcast...meaning if you have a 30 minute show that covers blogging, a new book, and an interview you note that at 1:13 of the show you talk about blogging, at 8:47 you begin talking about the book and at 14:09 you begin the interview. Seems to me that would be a step toward browseable podcasts.


Wii got a good laugh at this

I'm not a video game guy (meaning I don't own any video game systems) but I'm fascinated by the capabilities of the new systems that have come out. I've been especially interested in Nintendo's new Wii (pronounced "we") and the fact that Nintendo's not trying compete with the Xbox and PS3 on the hardcore gaming market. It's a compelling strategy that very well may pay off if the line at my local Target last weekend was any indication. That being said, Nintendo sure did pick a funny name...and this comic pointed that out about as good as anything I've seen.

I Really Wanna Wii, Please


U.S. ranks sixth among global blog readers

There was an interesting post on Micro Persuasion today about the percentages of people from North America and Western Europe who read blogs. The post references the actual study done by comScore.

Below is the chart with the breakdown, but it's interesting to see that over half the online population in both Canada and Spain are blog readers. What surprised me most was that the U.S. was so far down the list coming in sixth behind the previously mentioned Canada and Spain as well as France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. I'm not entirely sure what the full missions implications are here, but it seems like an opportunity for America's churches taking mission trips to any of these countries to begin with a blog now...and this study even tells you the blogging platform you should use depending on the country.

My only other question now is how do some of the South American countries rank? I hear blogging is big in Brazil.


Study: Email is old school for teens

My friend Nathan recently sent me a link to an article from PC Magazine that says less than one-fifth of teenagers (13-17 year olds) use email to communicate with friends whereas 40% of adults ages 25-54 use email to communicate to friends. The preferred method of communication for a third of the teenagers studied was instant messaging. Only 11% of adults use instant messaging though.

Although this study isn't surprising, it was fascinating to see more numbers about the use and adoption of instant messaging over email for the teens. We heard some big numbers about IM back in the summer from Rick Klau when he spoke about web 2.0 at a convention in August.


Just another PS3 enjoying the holiday season

I've always thought my friend Chris was creative. Not in an artsy kind of way but more in an "everybody does it like this so let's do it like that" fashion. He just recently put up an eBay auction for a new PS3 for a friend of his...and true to form, he did it a little different than the average eBay seller. Rather than the standard four or five photos and description, Chris put the PS3 in a number of different holiday scenarios like sipping hot cocoa with a female companion and lighting some Christmas candles. You can check out the auction here. His account of this venture can be found on his blog PourOut.com.

Here are a few pictures for your viewing enjoyment. Be sure to click on the images to read the captions...


Interview with creator of Christian vs Christ-follower videos

Last week I was looking through Gizmodo and came across a post about a "Christian version" of the Apple computer "Get a Mac" ads. Being that Gizmodo is about gadgets I was obviously curious to see what this was about. From there I was directed to ThinkChristian.net where they had three of the four videos posted. The videos on Think Christian were attributed to Community Christian Church in Chicago. Over the course of the next several days I had several friends send me links to these videos. My friend Ray told me that a guy we used to work with was actually behind these videos so I emailed Tom Greever, my former coworker and the current Media Arts Director at Community Christian Church. He agreed to an interview and I've posted it in full below.

With all the comments I've read and due to the now controversial nature of these videos it seemed important to hear what the church's original intent for these videos were. Tom addressed my questions with a level of openness I wasn't expecting and I appreciated that. He also provided some context for the videos and provided a link to the actual sermons that supported each of these videos.

I've also been fascinated by the viral effect of these videos. A coworker commented to me that he thinks these videos may be the first Christian viral videos in the online video era we're now in. He might be right. The first video has almost 132,000 views as of tonight. It's an interesting thing to see play out and I think it's going to cause churches to consider a broader perspective when they post videos online. According to Tom, that's actually one of the things he's learned from this.

Here's the full interview:

What's your role at the church and what level of responsibility did you have with the Christian vs. Christ follower video?
I am the Media Arts Director, which means I’m the primary video guy. Basically, anything that shows up on a projector screen at our (currently) eight Chicagoland locations I am in some way responsible for.

As for these videos, our Creative Arts Team came up with the idea together. We meet every week to plan our services about 8 weeks before they run, so this idea was just one of many we had for consideration. Because of the cultural impact the Mac/PC commercials has had, we thought this was the best framework to communicate our message.

I shot and edited them start to finish. Elic (the Christ-follower character) did most of the writing with his brother Eric (the Christian character). My friend Mark assisted me on the shoot and recorded the song. But ultimately, the whole process is collaborative.

What was the original intent of the videos?
To understand our intent, you have to understand our audience and the context in which the videos were originally shown. Our services are geared mostly to newcomers: people who have never been to church or who have not been in a long time. That’s who we have in mind when we plan our services. That’s not to say believers don’t have a place, that’s another conversation altogether. But when we plan our services, we are constantly asking, “If someone is here for the first time, are they going to get it? How do we reach the person that may know nothing about ‘doing church’?”

As for the context, each video was a ‘sermon roll-in’ for our “Christian No More” series. That is, they introduced the teaching pastor. So the content of each video connects directly to the teaching for that particular week. The “Christian No More” series was our attempt to open the discussion on what it means to be a Christian: let’s get the stereotypes out on the table and separate what Jesus calls us to do from our own misguided intentions.

That said, our intent with the videos was to play on extreme stereotypes of Christians and compare them to a ‘Christ-follower’ who doesn’t fit in the mold of those stereotypes. Our audiences could immediately identify with the Mac/PC commercials and it is a great platform for comparing two similar (but different) things. The very fact that they mimic the Mac/PC commercials alone is funny and a lot of other people are doing the same thing on the web.

Did you expect they could be so viral?
Yes and no. We hoped that eventually something we did would make a splash. Eric created his YouTube account (bramsvan) after seeing YouTube really take off this past year. And like any artist, we’re proud of our work and like showing it. But of course, we had no way of predicting that this would be the one to cause such a stir. We have other great videos we’re making and a lot that we haven’t posted yet, so I hope the buzz that’s been generated from these videos will expand our web audience.

What kind of feedback are you getting from people seeing them?
There’s no doubt the response has been mixed. I’ll quote Eric from his blog, “Christians are mad, Christians are sad, Christians are happy, Christians are laughing. And don't get me started on the Christ-followers!”

There are so many people talking about it that it’s impossible to keep tally. But from what I’ve seen, Jews and Atheists really seem to like them… Christians are more divided. A lot of people like them and some are offended. But I think most of the negative responses boil down to misunderstanding, incorrect assumptions, or just being uncomfortable with a conversation about what we Christians look like to the rest of the world. But honestly, if Jews and Atheists like them, then I think we hit the mark… We’re not trying to reach Christians. We want to start a conversation with people that don’t have a relationship with Jesus. And if these videos make them stop and think, or blog, or attend church for the first time then we’ve done what we intended to do. Everyone carries their own baggage into the scenario when they watch these videos. It just so happens that the same baggage that would cause an atheist to say, “Wow, finally a church that realizes how I see them.” causes a Christian to knee-jerk with “Those guys are just being mean…”

What's been the biggest surprise with all of the discussion these videos have generated?
I’m surprised at how many Christians have made assumptions about what we were trying to do, and in effect, assuming the worst about our intentions. People assume that this is an ad for our church, or that we’re creating an ‘us vs. them’ scenario where our church is better than yours. Even the assumption that we (as in, Community Christian Church) represent the Christ-follower is wrong. But without a doubt the silliest assumption I’ve seen is that we are actually attempting to remove the word Christian from our vocabulary or somehow create a new ‘sect’ called Christ-follower. The name of our church is Community Christian Church! Gimme a break.

And honestly, I thought stuff like having to wear a suit to church or Jesus bumper stickers was so 1990s that the sheer ridiculousness of the character would be almost unreachable in today’s culture. It’s like those Geico commercials where the caveman is offended, but they didn’t mean anything by it because they didn’t even realize that cavemen still existed. We figured it was an old conversation and therefore ‘safe’ to poke at. But even if it is an old conversation, people that haven’t been to church in 20 years don’t realize how churches have changed. For most of our attenders, not being expected to wear a suit or only listen to Christian music is a breath of fresh air.

The other thing that surprised me was the people that came to our defense. We have largely avoided the conversation on the web because there was no need for us to get involved. Our opinions are biased. So it was a strange thing to throw this benign video out into the world and let it grow up all on its own. We didn’t have to say a word. Other people stepped in and said everything we would have said.

Will you create videos with a viral intent in the future?
Not really, and we didn’t create these videos with viral intent. We create videos that communicate a message to our particular audience in our particular cultural context. And then we share them because we think they’re fun. If some of our future videos become popular on YouTube, that’s great… but they will never be written or shot or edited with viral video in mind.

The challenge for people who intend to make viral video is you can’t assume to know what’s going to be popular on the web. I’ll be surprised if more than a handful of people are able to pull it off. Videos don’t become viral because they’re advertisements, they become advertisements because they’re viral and I don’t think you can reverse engineer that. Setting out to create viral video is almost the antithesis of what the ‘viral video’ movement is: regular people having fun and sharing their stuff and who knows who might become a new internet star.

At the same time, I can’t help but be influenced by what has become our ‘new audience’ on the web. The truth is that we shot all four of them back-to-back one Wednesday morning in about 3 hours. We didn’t pour over the scripts with a theological fine-toothed comb and I spent maybe 8 hours editing them. Had I known ‘this would be the one’ I might have put a little more into it. It forces me to be a better artist if my work is under a microscope by a larger audience.

What have you learned from all of this?
I’ve learned that people really care about how Christians are perceived, which is funny since some people on the web have said that (assuming CCC represents the Christ-follower) we care too much about how the world perceives us. Yet, their very defense of themselves or our videos and the passion with which blog tells me that this is really something to wrestle with. Perhaps we should make more. Perhaps we should push the envelope even further.

An experience like this makes me stop and re-think what we actually intended to communicate. There’s a fair amount of questioning that goes on even in my head about what we did. Someone will post a comment and I’ll question myself, “Did we really say that?” But that’s what makes this art: it’s never finished, the message is never fully decided on. Personally, I love it. I’ve loved the discussion and I’m proud to be have been a part of it.


Tech Review: LoopNote - Churches in the loop?

I discovered a new website today via TechCrunch. It's called LoopNote and looks very interesting...particularly for churches.

LoopNote is essentially a group notification system that allows anyone to create a "loop" to which people can join (and thus are in that particular loop). The "loop" can be about anything. It could be for a band that wants to notify people about upcoming shows or a community sports team that wants to give updates on games or rain outs.

What will make LoopNote work is that it allows you to choose your method of notification. If you want email notifications, you'll get an email. If you would prefer a text message on your cell phone, you'll get it that way. If you use instant messaging a lot, you can get it that way. Or maybe you just want to get it through an RSS feed...and that's available too. With so many options to get the message it seems like a handy way to reach more people effectively.

Though this technology is nothing new to people familiar with similar features on social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace, the unique thing that LoopNote presents is this technology without the need to be a part of one of those networks.

Churches in the Loop?
Here's where I think churches could find a benefit with LoopNote...churches are:
A) organizations that require regular communication to people about a variety of topics
B) notorious for not communicating well
That being said LoopNote seems like it would have a variety of uses in most churches. Here are a few examples:

  • Small Group notifier - whatever type of small group/Sunday school method your church may take, this could be a great way to communicate with the people in the groups
  • Worship Service announcements - recap Sunday's announcements on Monday with a loop reminder
  • Weekly message announcement - at the end of each week the church could send a message to the loop with the coming Sunday's message title and a brief statement about what you could hope to learn or some questions for consideration leading up to Sunday.
  • Playdates - I know my church has groups of moms who designate different days to get their kids together to play. With the text message feature, this loop would get the word out about last minute changes more effectively.
  • Staff communications - in larger churches things change really fast and staff are not all in the same offices together. The staff could set up a private loop to be notified of everything from urgent needs to staff meeting changes.
On a side note, I don't know that the creators of LoopNote intend for the system to be a content distribution mechanism, but it certainly could be. For instance a church could use LoopNote to send out daily or weekly devotionals.

LoopNote looks like it's got some significant promise. It's early on (they just launched for the public) and the adoption level will make or break it, but the idea seems solid and looks like it could really meet a need.


There's Just Something About Viral Video - Elf Yourself

It's fair to say that the crowning achievement for any new media marketer is a video that people will talk about and pass along. Even better (and falling even more in line with web 2.0) is anything that engages the audience and spurs them to interaction. That's where OfficeMax seems to have gotten it right with their new "Elf Yourself" site. Tonight I pulled a picture of my good friend Chris to give you a look at what OfficeMax is doing with their Christmas viral campaign. Check it out here. I'm pretty sure Chris will forgive me.


Sending Large Files Made Easy

Last month I talked about backing up your blog and mentioned the free online data storage site Box.net. I like Box.net because it's an easy way to store files online (and did I mention it's free up to 1 GB?) and it is also a quick and easy way to get files to other people without the need for FTP.

This afternoon I got a link from my friend Steve H. to check out YouSendIt.com. YouSendIt is a free file transfer site that looks easy to use and has an extremely straightforward interface. According to Steve it's very easy to use. The site lets you send files up to 100MB for free and for a monthly fee of $5 you can send files as large as 2GB.

If you need serious data storage and file transfer Box.net looks like the way to go since it has the larger capacities including 5GB for $5/month or 15GB for $10/month. If you need a quick way to transfer a file it looks like YouSendIt may be your best option.


So Churches Are Telemarketing Now?

Tonight around 6:30 I was sitting at the kitchen table with my daughter and the phone rang. It was an automated telemarketing call and since we get those from time to time I was about hang up but the voice asked the question, "If you're interested in finding out about a local church press '1'." Since I'm in church marketing and this was my first church telemarketing call I had to see where it took me. The automated voice told me that "New Church (name changed to protect the guilty) is an exciting place for families with contemporary worship, a great children's ministry, Bible based teaching and it's in your local area."

The voice never told me where in my local area this church is located but informed me that if I wanted more information about the church I could leave my name and mailing address at the conclusion of the message to receive further information by mail. The voice also told me that the information I would receive would guide me to the website where I could find out more about the church but it never told me what the actual URL for the church is (in case I was actually interested in finding out more about it now).

So here's my question...what were the leaders at this church thinking when they chose telemarketing as their method of solicitation? Of anything they could have done they opted for one of the most notoriously disruptive devices known to mankind. People dislike this form of solicitation so much that there's a National Do Not Call Registry. Is this a sign that we have officially reached the end of the road when it comes to good ideas on ways churches can promote themselves in their communities?

The fact of the matter is that people are so accustomed to the daily barrage of marketing messages that their filters are turned on almost all the time. Also, there are certain marketing methods that are simply viewed as obtrusive (like telemarketing calls and pop-up ads). With both of these things in mind it's important for churches to be even more aware and strategic with their marketing methods. If anything, churches should aspire to be the most attentive toward people's preferred methods of communication because the message of the church is so important that we should want to create as few secondary obstacles for people to overcome as possible. If someone is going to have an issue with a church (and we know there will be plenty) it shouldn't be with their marketing. Let an unbeliever's issues with a church be related to something of substance that can start them down a road toward a life changing decision.

I'm all for good church marketing. I do it every day with my job. Tonight, however, I was both challenged and disappointed. I was disappointed with this very bad church marketing idea and I was challenged to consider what constitutes good church marketing and what responsibilities a church may have with any promotional effort it makes.

I'm encouraged too. I'm encouraged by where I see things going. The new media (web 2.0) tools facilitate relationship building and allow churches who use them to engage people and establish connections through interactions. These new tools are some the best things permission marketing has to offer and I believe they will be responsible for some of the greatest strides churches can make to connect with people...especially people who don't want telemarketing calls.


MyChurch.org - New Look, New Features

The good people behind MyChurch.org have been making some changes to the website. They announced a few upgrades today:

  • Church disk space has increased to 100MB.
  • U.S. active churches are now browsable with Google Church Map. Over 1000 churches are listed.
  • A new front page features blogs and sermons.
  • The site is now available to churches outside the USA.

The new front page looks very sharp and certainly engages users more than the old version. From the looks of it, MyChurch seems to be taking some steady strides forward. Personally, it's allowed me to connect with at least one person here locally, so keep up the good work guys.


Digging Into Digg.com

My friend Ray sent me a link to a great resource for anyone who wants to get more familiar with Digg.com. The post provides a great overview of what Digg is (resource for interesting user-provided news items) and how to use it.


Web 2.0 Design Elements Dissected

One thing I really like about connecting with people through blogging is that you build relationships that are mutually beneficial. One such relationship for me is with Jon Haarstad. Though we've never met and live thousands of miles away (he's in Portland, Oregon while I'm in Nashville) we've traded numerous emails and exchanged a lot of ideas.

He recently sent me a link to a Pixel Acres blog post that dissects the visual elements of web 2.0 design. I recognized some of these elements in a previous post but didn't go to the sheer depth or show examples like the Pixel Acres post. It's certainly worth a look for anyone trying to understand web 2.0 better and for the experienced person it will just solidify a lot of things you've already observed. If you want to go all out on web 2.0 just do everything they outline here and you'll be set for your beta launch in no time.


Churches + Technology = News

When I was in graduate school the public relations tract (which I was on) fell under the College of Journalism. At the time I didn't really like that because I wanted more business experience and I knew some other schools linked their PR programs close to their MBA programs. I later got (and am still getting) that business experience but have looked back in appreciation for being around the journalists for those two years. One thing I learned from them is that the media, any media, has a hole to fill...they called it the "news hole."

Journalists obviously want to find something interesting to fill the news hole so they look to things that will provide the most interest to the widest number of people like a local connection to a big story or a scandal or something with high drama. When there's not something like that to be found the next best thing is to look at the broad categories of things that interest people like personal relationships, celebrities, pop culture, and so on. Two categories that are going to be high on most journalist's lists are "religion" and "technology" so you can imagine the sheer joy a journalist will have when he or she can find a story that covers both of these categories.

It is with that in mind that I've felt for quite some time there are many opportunities for churches to boost the buzz about themselves in their communities if they are willing to begin using some of the new technology (specifically web 2.0 tools) available to them. I've seen numerous articles about churches who started blogs, podcasts, etc. for outreach purposes and they became local (and sometimes national) news stories. It's a formula that seems too easy to be true yet I'm seeing too many cases to dissuade me of this assumption. A few days ago I came across another article (via Church Marketing Sucks) that affirmed this to me.

Community Bible Church (CBC) in San Antonio has been doing a series about protecting your space, called it "My Space" and used a lot of discussion about MySpace.com. You can read the full story here. At last count I saw where five different bloggers had picked up on the story which only spread it that much further. In fact, two of the blogs receive significant traffic and likely hit an audience more interested in the story than the San Antonio paper did.

In the interest of full disclosure, CBC is a client of my employer and I was visiting them a month ago as they were about to begin this sermon series. After having talked to a staff member today I can affirm that they were not seeking this press coverage but have seen a significant interest in the series as evidenced in the number of people corresponding with the pastor on his MySpace page. Incidentally, I was also told that the pastor is actively talking to people on MySpace daily. Way to go Pastor Robert!!

Ok, back to the topic at hand...the point here is that the "churches + technology = news" equation isn't a magic formula, it's simply meeting a need that journalists have by providing a single story with two engaging hooks. If you're trying to generate some buzz in the community about your church consider this equation. If you're using a lot of new technology already, you might be missing out on an opportunity. Why not place a call to the local newspaper or TV station? After all, they have a news hole to fill...why not give them something to fill it with? If get even a handful of curious visitors come to your church wasn't it worth it implementing some technology you should be using anyway?


Purpose Driven closing down

Purpose Driven, the organization started by Rick Warren, has announced that it will be closing down its operations. According to Jon Walker their pastor of strategic communications (and a former Nashville local I used to see at Panera Bread near my house all the time), "Purpose Driven as an organization, in a sense, really doesn't exist anymore." You can read to full story on Christianity Today.


Micro Hiatus

I am proud to announce the birth of our daughter Audrey Hope on Tuesday the 21st. Mother and daughter are doing great and we're glad to be back home.

If you've ever had a new baby you know it takes a while for life to feel normal so MicroExplosion will be slim for a bit but will be back soon.


Mali, Africa Gets Wi-Fi

I saw on Geekcorps (think Peace Corps for the uber tech savvy crowd) that they had a team in Mali build some WiFi enabled TV receivers for the people in a village. Here's the story. Aside from the interesting technology that was used here to pull this off in quite a MacGyverish fashion, it made me wonder if there are any churches outside of Mali that could begin to broadcast back to the people in this village in their native language. This was just another great reminder that we can reach the world from wherever we are through online broadcast...even in the most remote places in the world.


Music By The Mood

I found a very cool site today thanks to Lifehacker. It's a music website called Musicovery that let's you discover and listen to music (like a radio) based on the style of music you're looking for and the general mood you're in. You can also choose the era of music you want...so if you want to get really specific you can choose calm, jazz music from the 60s and you get a great Stan Getz recording of Night and Day.

Overall this concept is very interesting and applicable to people like me who have times when you're looking for a specific feel of music but don't have an artist or song in mind. Also, the design of the site is very compelling as it maps out the song selections. On the downside, it looks like the actual library of music is fairly limited, but to the average music lover it will more than suffice as a handy resource when you're in the mood for something new.


Play Station 3 Mania - Video Interviews

My friend Chris has officially stepped into the world of video blogging at PourOut.com. Today he and some friends went to a local Best Buy to interview people waiting for the PS3 to go on sale first thing tomorrow morning. It's pretty nuts really. Here's the video:

I'm not a gamer but I always find the hype around these kinds of things very interesting. If anything this affirms to me what I hear about the rising number of options from the traditional media. It also says a lot about the increasing number of distractions we have available to us today. If you're with a church or ministry the PS3 is just one more thing competing for the attention of some of the people you're trying to reach. So is there an opportunity here? I think so...

Think about this, with the growing numbers of distractions there are just as many opportunities to reach those people with a niche missions approach. This is nothing new to churches. Look at all sports, art, music, and hobby groups that churches create or participate in. With every emerging diversion the church has the opportunity to reach out to the unchurched people engaged in those activities.

On a random side note that's slightly related, have you heard of machinima? It's essentially small videos and/or short films made using preexisting video from something like a video game. If you ever played Contra (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, START) with the sound off and had some friends make up their own dialogue for the game you kind of get the idea of what machinima would be. I know it doesn't sound too interesting but it's actually quite popular now. I've just recently watched a few episodes of one of the more popular machinima series, Red vs Blue, and it's actually funny. There's something to this, I just don't quite know what yet.


Sonic on Blogging?

...it's actually pretty funny and scary how close it hits home to the heart of a blogger...


TiVo To Incorporate Online Video

Last month I had two blog posts on TiVo...one about why it could be dying and another about how it can survive through the influx on online video. Today I saw an article from The New York Times that gives us a glimpse of TiVo's determination to stay in the game. Here are a few interesting excerpts...

  • TiVo plans to introduce features that will allow people to use its digital video recorders to watch some video programming from the Internet on their televisions.
  • Until now, TiVo has not been able to tap into the explosion of Web video — clips uploaded by amateurs and, increasingly, professional segments made for the Internet. The new features, which are set to be announced today and introduced early next year, are intended to change that.
  • TiVo also said it would introduce a service that will allow users to upload their own home movies and have them sent to the TiVo recorders of friends and relatives. Users who want to send will need to sign up for a $4-a-month service offered by One True Media. Receiving the videos is free."

So what does this mean to you? Well, if you've got an interest in video blogging, online video as a distribution method, or just a desire for creating content online then it looks like there's a possible outlet emerging for your content down the road where people won't have to watch it on computer screens anymore. Sounds promising to me.


If you thought banner ads were bad three years ago...

A while back I said that friends don't let friends post banner ads. I've also discussed that banner ads are a bad idea...so if you weren't clear as to my general thoughts on them...I not exactly a fan. Last week a friend sent me a link to a study that was taken nearly three years ago that gauges people's perspectives of various Internet advertising formats. What is most interesting is that despite all my disdain for banner ads...they're actually the most favorable form of ads on the entire list. The most obtrusive ads, like pop ups, are ranked the lowest. Here's the link if you missed it.

Two things came to mind when I saw this:

  • With the way technology has changed and the influx of text ads since this study was taken, I cannot believe that the numbers would be any better now. Three years ago people wouldn't have been as familiar with text ads (and therefore not known there was a better, less annoying way to do online advertising).
  • Let's say these numbers are still valid...look at the percentage of people who are not "very positive" about the selected ad methods. In every single case you are more likely to get a negative response than a positive response...so why would you do it?
I talk about all of this to say that if you're considering spending money on Internet advertising, particularly the forms mentioned in this study, there are better things you can do like blogging which won't cost you anything but will take some time to develop...and therein lies the problem.

Many organizations and marketing departments actually have more money than time. Yes, they'll say they don't have any money but what they have even less of is time. They have deadlines, timelines, and deliverables that they're trying to manage and all the while they can say (quite honestly) that they don't have time to set up blogs for the very products or services they're spending all this time on. The downside to blogs is that they aren't usually quick impact promotion elements, which are what many marketing people need...after all, it's in their timeline. So when they choose these methods, are they really saying that they prefer to annoy a segment of customers with minimal opportunities for return on their investments in order to fulfill their well prepared (though ill conceived) plans? Possibly.

The impact of blogs for promotion will rarely be immediate but you won't be frustrating people either. In the long run you'll connect to more people for longer through the blogs but you have to be in it for the long run.


Understanding Web 2.0 - Six Categories

There are a lot of new MicroExplosion readers now from a few months ago so this post is a recap of something that has become a cornerstone of sorts for this blog. Back in August I posted the six categories of web 2.o. With my attention and focus on web 2.0 and subsequent attempts to explain it to people who are unfamiliar, I've come to realize that these six categories are about as good as anything out there (that I'm aware of) for getting a quick snapshot of what web 2.0 is (and isn't).

If you're interested in a lengthy explanation of web 2.0 you can find great information on Wikipedia's entry. My six categories were an attempt to synthesize a broad topic into something that's easy to remember for both explanation and application. In order to remember them I just think of a "massive Volkswagon" for the MASSVW acronym. Here are the categories:

  • Mashups - sites using existing technologies for an entirely new purpose like WikiMapia.org. It takes the functions of a wiki and overlays it with Google Maps for an entirely new kind of map. You can see ProgrammableWeb.com for more mashups.
  • Aggregators - A site or program that gathers data from multiple sources and organizes the information to present in a new, more streamlined or appropriate format. Digg.com is a top aggregator site. So is Slashdot for the more technical people. And of course our dearly beloved, Google (and any other search engine for that matter) are the mothers of all aggregators.
  • Social Networking - Websites focusing on connecting people with other people directly like Facebook and MySpace.
  • Social Media - User-generated content like blogs, Flickr, or Zooomr.
  • Video - Online television such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Revver.
  • Web Applications - online programs that can do virtually everything your existing software programs can do. Zoho for instance can replace your Microsoft Office programs. Google now has multiple applications that also compete with the old Microsoft Office programs including documents and spreadsheets to calendars.
From a marketing and promotion perspective there are three of these areas that will be of particular interest to you...the social networking, social media, and video categories. In fact, I've seen that most of the things I talk about tend to fall into one of those three areas.

In addition to the six categories there are four commonly used and implemented technologies within many of the web 2.o areas:
  • RSS - Real Simple Syndication is a way for a people to essentially bring the content of a website to their browser rather than visiting the site to see that same information. A website or other technology that incorporates RSS creates a “feed” to everyone who has a feed reader on their browser and has accepted the feed.
  • Wiki - A wiki is a website that allows users to easily add, remove,or otherwise edit the information on a common site. This technology is most commonly implemented where groups need a collaboration tool.
  • Tags – A tag is a keyword or descriptive term associated with an item as a means of classification specific to a website. For instance, on the photo sharing site, Flickr.com, users who tag their photos “dogs” will all be grouped together for a search on dogs.
  • AJAX – AJAX is technology incorporated into websites with the intent to make web pages feel more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes, so that the entire web page does not have to be reloaded each time the user makes a change. This is meant to increase the web page's interactivity, speed, and usability.
Well, believe it or not, if you've read this whole thing you have a better understanding of web 2.0 than the average person. The real question now is what are you going to do with this? The good news about many of the things we talked about above is that there is little to no money needed on your part to begin participating and incorporating these tools into whatever you're doing. So you're a real estate agent? Ok, this stuff is for you...especially the social media. Work retail? Why don't you let users begin to tag items on your website in whatever manner they want and also let them provide feedback about the products? You'll learn a lot about their desires and needs through the process...as well as the best future products to offer them. Oh, you're a pastor...ok, get your church on the social networking sites and use social media and video like crazy! You get the picture...whatever you do, there's something in web 2.0 for you.


Insight into Google page ranking

Jon Haarstad had a great post on his blog about the Google page ranking system. The mysterious ways of page ranking are really not that mysterious as you'll see here...the Google geeks have a rational for it all. If you really want to get in depth on this topic, follow the links on Jon's blog and you'll get all kinds of fun calculations, charts, and formulas (and by fun I mean "fun" for the kind of people who know things like the numerical value of Pi beyond the traditional 3.14). If you're not into that just know it all seems to boil down to this...links. When you get linked to your page rank goes up. If you aren't linked to, your page rank will stay down.


The View of a Generation?

If you spend even minimal time on social media or social networking sites you've undoubtedly seen scores of self portraits like the one of me here. Spend about 16.3 seconds on MySpace and you'll find plenty of these.

My wife and I were recently eating dinner at Panera Bread and saw a girl sitting in a booth by herself snapping pictures of herself just like this. Panera has Wi-Fi so it's a natural spot for web saavy people to eat, hang out, and apparently snap pictures of themselves. Just today I was driving through Brentwood and saw some teenagers hanging out the side of a car taking pictures of themselves like this too.

I've come to a conclusion about these images: they are a picture of an entire generation. Think about it...if you've never taken a picture like this (particularly for the purpose of putting it online) you're missing an entire movement in the way people are relating to each other. There's certainly nothing special about the pictures themselves, but if you've got a picture like this it's a symbol that you're "in" on the new wave of relational networking. It's like this self-shot-picture phenomenon is a mark of a generation like poodle skirts and leg warmers.

The point here is simply this...there's a lot of talk about the adoption of technology, but there seems to be less talk about the culture woven throughout the technology. These images merely represent a slice of the culture. To understand the technology thoroughly we have to look to the culture in which it's being adopted. For now, maybe a picture is not worth a thousand words but instead a thousand pictures are a glimpse of an entire generation.


My Election Day Haiku

I voted today and have a little haiku of my observations:

Voting lines were long
Old people can't work machines
Should it be this hard?


Transcript of two bloggers with nothing to blog about

If you've ever wondered what a couple of bloggers talk about via IM when they've got nothing to blog about I'm about to pull back the veil...here's a conversation from a little while ago with my friend Chris. He blogs at PourOut.com. Here's our Google Talk conversation...

Bill: Hey Chris, I'm stuck...what are you posting about tonight
chris: No clue.
Bill: I got nothing
chris: I'm working a great post for tomorrow night, but it's not done yet.
Bill: I don't even have that
I saw on Greg Verdino's blog that he's in the top 100K blogs on Technorati
...so I had to check it out too....
I'm in there also...pretty sweet
chris: but I can't not post anything, right?
Bill: no, you gotta post something
chris: Mine's not. I have a couple of people who have blogrolled me (you and Greg actually) but freaking Technorati's not picking it up!
Bill: the mystery's of Technorati
are wide and varied
chris: I'm pissed at those guys.
Bill: I know
Bill: but you're always pissed at someone...yesterday Verizon...today Technorati
chris: you see this?
Bill: let me check it out
chris: I feel exactly like those guys
17 unique visitors today
Bill: cool
chris: really, really awesome
17 whole people
Bill: yeah, I can see what those guys are saying
pretty funny
chris: 16 of which were probably bots
Bill: you check your feeds?
chris: 7
Bill: I get them at feedburner
chris: awesome
Bill: sweet
chris: yeah, rock on
Bill: you ever check out http://blaugh.com/?
It's a great laugh for bloggers and web 2.0 folks
chris: that's pretty funny actually
i gotta tell you, i wasn't expecting much when i clicked that link
Bill: come on
give me some credit
chris: just the name
Bill: you should get the RSS feed...it's a great way to get them all at once
chris: i read it as "blaaaaaaaahghggggghhhhhhuuutytythhhdhd"
RSS? What's that Bill?
Bill: well Christoper
let me just tell you
Chris Thomas with the assist
chris: http://www.micropersuasion.com/2006/11/bitty_browser_g.html my new favorite bookmark on the blackberry
Bill: I've been reading a lot about that stuff
you like it?
chris: i do
i really do
we need more mobile sites
Bill: "we" as in you?
chris: right
i forgot
you just have an expensive "phone"
Good post about Digg
I found it helpful
Bill: tagged
that's really thorough
chris: on deli.cio.us?
Bill: yeah
chris: I'm really getting into that
Bill: yeah, me too...I signed up months ago but didn't really start using it until recently
I like that I can access the bookmarks anywhere (via the world wide web of course)
chris: What's the world wide web Bill?
Bill: but seriously...I had a few instances of wanting to go back to a site I bookmarked on my laptop while I was at worked
work that is...
and I didn't have it with me
so deli.cio.us is the solution
to the rescue
Recording voicemail to chris@voxacious at 10:03 PM on Monday
Voicemail ended with chris@voxacious at 10:03 PM on Monday
chris: I couldn't agree more
Seems as if I have a Google Talk voicemail from Bill Seaver that's one second long
Bill: yeah, ignor that...I was just messing around a second ago...by they way...on a different topic entirely
do you use an optical mouse?
chris: yes
mighty mouse
worst mouse ever really
Bill: have you ever noticed the cursor just starting to move from time to time?
chris: yes
Bill: I've got two mice here at home (both optical) and that drives me crazy
it's like someone's in control of my computer
chris: actually not on my macs but on my pc's
Bill: you know what....now that I think about it, I've never had that happen with the optical mouse on my iMac at work
chris: send me another voicemail, but longer than one second, i want to check GT out
Bill: I don't have a mi on my computer
I don't think
Recording voicemail to chris@voxacious at 10:06 PM on Monday
chris: ahhhh...
Voicemail ended with chris@voxacious at 10:06 PM on Monday
chris: on a completely unrelated note...
Kim just said that Carrie Underwood won best female artist tonight and that when she was announced the winner Faith Hill looked into the camera and threw her hands up and screamed "WHAT???!!!?!"
Guaranteed YouTube blast tomorrow
Bill: tomorrow?
give it 30 minutes
....and that may bump your blog post you were working on
there's gotta be some comment in there for you
chris: allright, i'm headed to bed.
Bill: ok, see ya
I got something to post tonight!!
chris: and hey
don't forget to vote tomorrow.
Bill: don't worry...I will
chris: you will forget?
or you will vote?
I will vote
now that I go back and read my response I see that it was totally stupid
chris: always the last word...
Bill: bye


Blog Backup/Archive Solutions

I've been blogging steadily now for just over five months and a while back I got to thinking that it would be nice to have a backup for my blog...because you never can tell what might happen. I don't expect Blogger to lose all my posts, but I've wanted some assurance ever since I read a story by well known blogger, Robert Scoble, who talked about one of the first blog systems he was on lost all of his posts from years ago.

I was told last week about a free solution called BlogCollector. BlogCollector is a free download that backs up your blog and even converts the blog over to a PDF file if you want. Unfortunately BlogCollector limits the number of posts that it will download (and it doesn't tell you how many that is). It also doesn't convert the images in your blog over to the PDF. You can get unlimited saved posts if you're willing to pay the $68 fee. Overall this is a good application and was the only one like it I was able to find.

I also discovered ExpressPDF, which is a pretty cool free application that allows you to convert a website, Word document, or Excel document to a PDF. I used ExpressPDF as a backup for my blog as well. It's essentially a screenshot of the blog (or any other website for that matter) but it's a nice way to at least get a copy of your blog in a place you can control. I now have a PDF for each of the last five months and will begin to do this at the end of every month as part of my routine.

If you're interested in just storing your blog data somewhere (aside from your own hard drive), there are many free online storage options available. I've used Box.net and it gives you a free gigabyte of data storage on their servers. I came across this Tech Crunch article from earlier this year that gives a good overview of Box.net and other online storage options.

Backing up your blog may not seem like a big deal...but if you put a lot of time into what you're writing, wouldn't you want to know that you've got your own personal copy of your blog at the end of the day? I do.


3 ways to get bloggers to hate your website

Ok, so let's say you're not interested in bloggers talking about your organization. In fact, you're more than not interested...you don't care if they like you or not so you really don't want to make their lives any easier. If you think bloggers are annoying little wannabe writers with nothing better to do than sit in front of their laptops while sipping double chocolate mocha latte frappuccinos this is the post for you. Here are three ways to get bloggers to hate your website (but what do you care?):

No permanent links: Bloggers love to post a link to the exact part of a website or story they're talking about. If you don't have a way for a blogger to reference it as a permanent link there's no way they can be guaranteed their reference link will still be there a day later...they'll hate that about your site and may purposefully avoid talking about you.

Bad image files: Bloggers love to spruce up their posts with pictures or logos of the people or organizations they're talking about. Most of the time they'll grab the image from the site to post to their blog. You won't want to do that for them...that would make their lives too easy. In fact, if you can prevent them from copying the images at all that would really get them to hate your site.

Don't give personal email addresses: Bloggers are natural connectors and will occasionally want to ask questions or make a one-on-one connection to the people/organizations they're talking about. If they can't find a personal email address on your site (or at the very least something like info@yourwebsite.com...which will annoy them a bit but not get them to hate your site) they'll never be able to connect with you. Undoubtedly bloggers talk about their connections which can only perpetuate the discussion about you and your organization. Since you're not interested in that just give them a generic form to fill out or an 800 number with an automated voice that answers the phone.

If you are interested in bloggers talking about you (and maybe even loving you) do the opposite of everything above.


PodPoint Relaunches Website

PodPoint.net relaunched its website today with a great new look and some cool new functions. It looks like they've retooled their focus a bit to not just help churches and ministries develop and launch their podcasts but also to serve as an aggregator for other Christian podcasts.

It will be interesting to see how PodPoint progresses because it now has an entirely different (and broader) appeal. Not only can a church or ministry get help with the development of their podcast, but now anyone looking for Christian oriented podcasts has a one-stop-shop for the top Christian podcasts available today. I think this was a smart move for PodPoint. Also, while you're there, check out their "learning center" has some good general information about podcasting.


Firefox - Cool As Apple

The culture that surrounds technology is an interesting thing. There are dividing lines between the people who are "in" and everybody else. A little over a year ago I learned that the people who are "in" don't use Microsoft Explorer for their browser...they use Firefox. Firefox introduced (or at least popularized) the tab browsing function which means you don't have to use numerous individual windows running anymore but just his Ctrl+T (Apple+T for the Mac folks) and BOOM...a new window is ready to go in the original window you opened.

The Firefox guys really got it right when they started letting people create add-ons that let you do all kinds of stuff to customize your browser. Its popularity has soared and the Firefox users became evangelists for the browser.

Firefox just recently released version 2.0 and it seems very sweet as usual. Interestingly enough, there's a new Microsoft Explorer now that strangely Firefoxish.

In the tech culture, there are a few products or services that elicit emotional responses from the user base. Apple computers tend to fall in this elite category. So does Firefox. I recommend Firefox because it's a great browser...the coolness is just gravy.


Is Online Video Beginning To Pay?

Looks like the answer to that question is yes. I've seen several stories from the last two days about online video companies beginning to find ways to pay the people using their services.
Google Video's doing it.
So is Metacafe.
Brightcove has joined the fray.
Revver's been doing it for a while.
So here's the big question. Where's YouTube in all of this?

One strategy seems to be paying the top talents on a site (Google's approach). The other is an ad revenue sharing system of some form or fashion (Metacafe and Revver). One thing is clear to me with all of this...2006 will be seen as the year online video really got cranked up. What's your organization doing with it?


Do you know what bloggers are saying about you?

Last week I talked about attack blogs and some ways to survive them. One thing I thought of after writing the post is that there are some proactive measures that can be taken prior to a crisis situation to monitor the blogosphere for both good and bad things that might be said about your organization. Here are a couple of things you should do (and they won't cost you anything):

  • Search for your organization's name in Technorati and Google's Blog search. You want to do blog specific searches rather than just a simple Google search. This will cut out all the miscellaneous references from non-blogs.
  • Set up an RSS feed in Technorati for a search for all of the above. If you don't know what RSS is check out this post. If so, Technorati has a cool feature that lets you retain any search as an RSS feed. If you do this you won't have to keep doing the two bullet points above. You can bring the search results to you as often as you like.
Even if you're not concerned about any type of crisis situation pertaining to blog discussions about your organization, I suggest you monitor this anyway. It will be a great way to learn for yourself what some people are saying about you (if anything) whether good or bad. It will also provide an opportunity to reach out to some like minded individuals.

If you're doing this type of search for a business organization, you might find you've got some big fans of a product or service you provide. You should really try to tap into those people and build a relationship with them. They're obviously natural evangelists. If you represent a church, you may discover some people in your congregation with unique gifts or compelling insight that would be an asset to your ministry. The point is you never really know what you're going to find so keep an eye on it on a regular basis. All it will take is one good find to make it worth while.


Don't want to blog? Then Vox.

I came across a short interview with Mena Trott, the president of Six Apart on Pod Tech last night. Mena was talking about their release of a new product called Vox. Vox sounds pretty interesting. From the sound of it, Vox wants to be a bit more family and friend focused than blogs and is therefore trying to corner the market on that type of blogging...or voxing. One of the key features it has is that it allows you to designate a privacy setting on each individual post. So if you want to make some posts public to the world and others limited to friends and family you can do that easily within the same interface.

It's clear from spending a few minutes within Vox that they have focused on design in all areas. The template choices are much more graphically enhanced than about any other blog templates I've seen. Even the interface to post is highly stylized, which ads up to an inviting and engaging experience. Many of the designs seem to be aimed toward a female audience but I think it will appeal to a wide range of people. It doesn't appear to have RSS feeds built into the posts, so that's one strike against them in my view, but overall Vox makes a great first impression. I've set it up for my family and may start using it when our baby is born (and that may be sooner than we think). I'm looking forward to keeping up with Vox to see how it develops.


Attack Blogs: How To Survive

We are in new age of communication. It's an age where an individual can communicate with the same impact as an organization. In fact, with all the skepticism about the slick and polished communications that come out of organizations, something from an individual may actually carry more weight because it's considered more genuine and authentic.

With that in mind I've come across several situations over the last few months where the dividing line between the people who understand blogs and those who don't has been quite stark. The fact of the matter is we are quickly approaching a time when any organization cannot afford to ignore or placate bloggers. I've always been very positive about blogging but there is a dark side as well. The dark side of blogging is rooted in attack blogs. Attack blogs can greatly disrupt an entire organization and any many cases the organization may never see it coming.

Here's what really got me thinking about this: I know of three churches and a seminary that have been negatively affected by blogs. Two of the churches are in the Memphis area and have had a handful of church members firing away at church leadership for various reasons through their blogs. To this day the blogs have influenced these two particular churches to the point where one of them split and the other has had to hold public meetings to address the issues raised in the blog...and their issues are still not resolved even now.

I believe in both of these cases the churches had no idea what hit them. In fact, at first, an attack blog might not seem like a big deal. After all, it's just one person, right? What can they really do to your organization? These churches could have very well thought that or may have said, "Who really reads this stuff?" or "Nobody will find this and if they do, they won't really believe it."

Most organizations have a communication plan in place if the local TV station shows up with a camera and reporter asking a bunch of questions. At the very least, the organization would feel a sense of pressure to formulate a plan of response to whatever the situation is. Attack blogs should be treated with the same sense of urgency as a TV crew in the front lobby. Both can create a public relations nightmare and both need a response sooner rather than later.

So what's an organization to do if they're not blog ready? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Start your own blog now! - If you start a blog now, before a crisis or attack, you will have more credibility when/if an issue pops up. I personally think it's a good idea to be blogging anyway, but now more than ever I'm convinced that it's necessary for such a case as this. By starting now you'll have an understanding of how the blogosphere works and will be better prepared if you ever need to respond to an attack or address a sensitive public issue.
  • Tell the truth. - Here's the deal about blogging...it's a great medium that facilitates conversation and understanding, but if you're not telling the truth about something, you're going to wish you had never started blogging at all. Whether you get busted in your own blog's comments or on someone else's blog, I can almost guarantee you'll be caught if you lie. If a member of your organization lies (in the blog or outside of the blog) the blog is a great place to address it by admitting it and apologizing quickly. There will be eventual forgiveness for a speedy and heartfelt apology, but there will be blood in the water if you try to cover it up...particularly for those of you in ministry.
  • Everyone reads blogs during a crisis. - Even though the majority of people still don't read blogs daily, when an organization is under attack by a blog, the attack blog WILL be read. It's more accessible than the editorial page in your local newspaper and it will live online forever. Naturally people will be looking to see what the other side has to say which gives you the perfect opportunity to respond appropriately in your own blog.
  • Ask for help. If you don't understand how to get started or how to respond (if you find yourself in a crisis situation) find someone to help you get your hands around it. Even if it's a college student who blogs for fun or someone who blogs about gourmet coffee, they will be better qualified to help you understand the magnitude of what you're facing if you're not a blogger yourself. They'll not just help get you up and going but provide some insight into the culture.