Why fi?

I've been giving a lot of thought recently to the emergence of Wi-fi...wireless broadband Internet access. It seems like every week I hear about a new device being Wi-fi enabled (like the new Microsoft Zune...iPod killer? We'll see.) or a new business providing free Wi-fi (someday Starbucks will get on board with this and quit charging for it).

A week ago I met with some potential clients and suggested they incorporate Wi-fi in an upcoming project. They were interested in the idea but I was most amused by the "we never thought of that" looks followed by the "we really should have thought of that" looks they all had. I was glad to help but it verified for me that Wi-fi has a long way to go before it's top-of-mind technology.

From a business school 101 perspective you can break it down like this: Wi-fi has a high perceived value and low actual cost. Can you beat a deal like that? The actual cost for Wi-fi is $50 or so a month for a high speed connection and a $50 wireless router. Depending on the broadcast range you're trying to cover the cost could be incrementally higher, but still, the mere presence of Wi-fi these days communicates the message, "I get it."

So what do you get if you "get it"? Buzz for one. If your location has Wi-fi it won't take long before people know about it. Don't ever forget that the very people interested in Wi-fi are also the ones who will tell others interested in Wi-fi (and might even do it while they're online in your location). It's like telling other thirsty people in the desert where to find the water.

You'll also get people. It's about as close to "if you build it they will come" as you can get...particularly when Wi-fi is scarce in your community. For instance, I have a mental list of every known location in my home and work communities with free Wi-fi. Just today I discovered that Corky's BBQ in Brentwood now has free Wi-fi. Quite honestly I was surprised to see it...but I know I'll be back there with a laptop one day...it's now inevitable.

So what does this have to do with church? I'll have more on that in the next day or two. I've got some specific ideas for Wi-fi in church. In the meantime, if you've got a business location...particularly a retail or restaurant location...get Wi-fi asap!


Blogger Creates Microsoft Word Plug-in

Blogger has recently released a new plug-in for Microsoft Word that allows you to create and publish your posts within your Word program. I have just downloaded it for the first time to create this post. I’m curious to see if the settings within my blog template will be automatically adopted or if my Word default font (Time New Roman) will show up within the blog. Guess I’ll find out in a moment. I’ll provide an update down the road with my thoughts on this.


Study: Corporate blogs boost traffic, attention

A new study by Porter Novelli shows that corporations have been feeling the need to jump into the blogoshpere recently and for those who are doing so, are seeing positive results. According to the study, 76% of the respondents indicated they have seen an increase in media attention and/or Web site traffic as a result of their blogs. Also, 42% indicated there has been at least one specific post that has affected the company or brand and in the vast majority of cases it has had a positive affect.

So what does this mean? For one, technology is still newsworthy. I think it's interesting that media attention was included with the boost in website traffic. The fact of the matter is that this is still new enough, particularly from the corporate world's adoption of new technology, that it's a story in itself.

I was talking to a friend at a PR firm here in Nashville this week and mentioned the same thing to him. I suggested one of their new clients incorporate a new technology into their plan and that the very use of it would be a newsworthy item in addition to the benefits the actual technolgy brings. He and the client caught the vision and look to implement this soon. I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out...but I think it will be great.

A few years from now we won't care that
Dell managers just started blogging in the last few weeks or that the guys at Microsoft have seen huge benefits from blogging (see Robert Scoble's book, Naked Conversations) but for now, blogging is beneficial both for your website traffic and the media attention you can generate by its usage.


Second Life population boom?

I wrote recently about the Second Life phenomenon and the opportunities for ministry within it and saw this article today. If the existing growth trend continues they'll have 3.2 million Second Life residents within a year. Worse case scenario there will be a million total residents in a year. More than likely it will land somewhere in the middle but I don't need any more confirmation that there's something big going on here.


Napster grows up

Remember Napster? It was the first peer-to-peer file sharing system that took off across college campuses all over the country a few years ago. It's also the infamous site that was sued and consequently shut down for copyright infringement. Now, like many of the students who used the first Napster, it's all grown up and more importantly...legal.

If you haven't heard about the rebirth of Napster it's certainly worth your time to register on the site and check it out. Napster's back to letting people listen to music for free, but this time you don't get to download the music without paying for it. The catch is that you get to listen to any song five times before you're blocked out from that particular song. This has been a great tool for me as I check out new music especially when the 30 second snippet from iTunes just won't do.

The new Napster is a great tool (although I don't know if it's being used this way) for bloggers to suggest songs and legally allow anyone to check out the song for free. So if I want you to check out the classic jazz song "Autumn in New York" I would send you here. Or maybe I just want to let you know my favorite Switchfoot song. Either way, it's another free tool now at your disposal.


StumbleUpon.com - Channel surfing the web

Let's face it, sometimes you channel surf trying to find something good on TV. On a good day you'll come across something entertaining you've seen before. On a great day you'll discover something entertaining you've never seen before. Now you can do this online (sort of) and much more effectively.

StumbleUpon.com allows you to jump from one website to another through a plugin or extension in your browser. It started out available only to Firefox users and now is available to Internet Explorer users as well. Once on a site you can rate it (like or dislike) and leave comments.

So what's this all good for?

  • Discovery - I've found some interesting sites through StumbleUpon that I wouldn't have found otherwise. Here are a few sites I discovered through the "Christianity" category: Biiible.com, The Bible Site, and Sermon Audio.
  • Feedback - Ever wonder what other people say about your website? Put your site in StumbleUpon and you'll get some very candid (and hopefully helpful) feedback. NOTE: Be prepared for anything here.
  • Promotion - Register your site so others can stumble upon it and return regularly...but that part's up to you and your website.


5 Things All Bloggers Should Do

Now that I've been blogging steadily for just over a month I've discovered five things that I think are vital to a blogger. This list is based both on my own experiences and implementation of the listed items as well as numerous conversations with new and experienced bloggers.

1. Photograph Yourself - I've been surprised at the number of visits I've received through Blogger's profiles. If you take a look at the profiles, the majority of them do not have a picture of the blog's author. Putting a picture on my profile seems to have at least made me stand out among other profiles on n0n-photos and has certainly sent several people my way. Whether they were interested in what they saw when they got here I don't know...but they found their way to this blog nevertheless. I think the photo of the blog's author also helps people connect with your blog because they can't help but be assured there's a real person behind the blog...not that anyone doubts that, but it's good to humanize the information as much as possible.

2. Get an RSS feed - I'm a huge fan of RSS and without a doubt it is the easiest way to get information online when you've discovered a website and/or blog you're interested in. It's so common, in fact, you're missing out if you don't have it on your blog and you're limiting your readership tremendously. Most blogs come with it built in and you just have to activate it, so do a little searching through your administration panel and get it turned on today!

3. Check your Stats - Most bloggers want to know that at least someone is reading their posts. Getting comments from people on your blog is a great (and preferred) way to not only be assured that your blog is being read but obtain some valuable feedback along the way. Unfortunatley most people don't leave comments so the other way to know if anyone is reading your blog is to check your stats. Some blog tools have built in stat tools...which is great. I know Typepad and WordPress both do. Blogger (which I use) doesn't...which stinks...but there are some free applications you can use. I use MyBlogLog and it works enough for me to get the basic information I'm looking for. It took a little trial and error but wasn't too hard to set up.

4. Ping yourself - Each time you create a new post you want to let the world know you did it. You can either sit and wait for people to come across your site (bad idea) or ping yourself to let the blog search engines (and some other search engines) know you're out there (good idea). Some blog tools have this built in but I suggest you go to Ping-O-Matic and ping yourself anyway. Do it at least daily for good coverage...and if you're checking your stats (see number three above if you don't have these) you should see a traffic increase within the first week. Scot over at The Virtual CFO recently confirmed this for me after I suggested he begin to ping his blog. It's very easy to do and will take about 30 seconds to set up the first time and 5 seconds a ping thereafter...hardly a price to pay for something so valuable.

5. Claim your blog on Technorati.com - The leading blog search engine is Technorati and you want to be found as much as possible within it. First, register ("claim" in Technorati speak) your blog on Technorati. In time your claim and regular pinging should find your blog pop up with searches both for yourself and for people, places or things you talk about. For instance, if you search for the video blog realVerse on Technorati you'll find a few of my posts about them. Likewise if you search for MicroExplosion in Technorati you'll find my posts and some other people who have linked to me in their blogs.


mySpace becomes most visited website

According to Reuters (via CNN.com), mySpace.com is now the most visited website in the United States...a spot that Yahoo! Mail previously held. About a month ago I wrote about the opportunities for mySpace among churches and ministries and the general impressions that seem to be forming (many of which are unfounded I believe) about the website. This new information simply shows that the traffic at mySpace is still growing...and therefore the opportunity to use it for strategic ministry is growing as well.


Podcasts vs. Blogs

You know the company that does the ratings for TV shows? Yeah, the Neilson ratings...well, they just put out some interesting information about podcasting. According to their recent study podcasts are more popular than blogs.

I'm sure you've heard of podcasts by now. They've been quite the phenomenon since they launched in 2005 and essentially serve as the audio or video versions of the typed blog. Churches, ministries, and Christian businesses are increasingly getting on the podcast boat. Pastors have seen it's a great way to redistribute their weekly messages. I recently discovered a company that's geared specifically for helping churches and ministries set up and run their own podcasts. They seem to have an intuitive product that takes some of the headache out of the process...check them out at PodPoint.net.

If you're a church thinking about starting a podcast, consider using it for more than sermon distribution. In fact, you could have a couple podcasts a week...one for the previous week's message, one from the pastor talking about what he's learning, living, loving, etc., and one about general church news or announcements. If you want to test it for a while, encourage the youth director to start podcasting...afterall, he's going to have the highest percentage of wired, web saavy people in the whole church. The question is really not if you should begin podcasting. The question is when will you begin podcasting? I'll help you with the "what" and the "why" and folks like PodPoint can help you with the "how".


Church pastors are blogging

The New York Times had an article on Sunday about church pastors who blog. It's an interesting story and shows the increased awareness and use of blogs in all realms of life. Be sure to note the stat that says there are an average of 75,000 new blogs created everyday around the world. That's a lot of blogging going on!


Need a second life?

Let me begin by saying that I'm about to discuss something I only partly understand...and even what I understand still baffles me but it's certainly worth discussing and I doubt you will forget it.

There is a world that exists with close to 200,000 residents who interact, live in communities, engage in commerce, and do just about everything else you and I do. They also do things that you and I don't do like fly around from place to place (literally fly around like you and I walk around...they fly if they want to). This world is Second Life.

If you haven't heard about Second Life it is a virtual world where people do everything I described above but the entire universe lives on computers, servers actually, out in California. Business Week Magazine recently did a story about Second Life and interviewed one of the Second Life residents who's a land developer on/in Second Life. This lady's got $250,000 of real equity in the money she owns in this virtual world (and she could cash it in if she wanted). A little hard to believe but quite interesting nevertheless. Check out the Second Life entry in Wikipedia if you want to know more.

Many corporations are now rushing to Second Life to see if they can either make money or simply use it for exposure and promotional purposes so prepare to hear a lot more about Second Life over the next year. What I haven't been able to find in a short Google search was any information on a Christian perspective of Second Life. In the "anything goes, do whatever you want" world, you can imagine that Second Life has more than it's fair share of adult content. What this also means, however, is that it's a great opportunity for Christians to seize an this new world to reach people you might not reach otherwise. It's going to take a certain kind of missionary or church planter to take this and run with it, but what an opportunity here! Second Life Community Church has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Seems like a nice segue to a getting a real second life.


Bad news for me? Toshiba gets an "F" from the BBB

I saw today on Digg.com that Toshiba gets an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau. I wouldn't have even looked twice at this article except for the fact that I bought a Toshiba laptop about six months ago. So far I haven't had a single problem...and from the looks of this article I'll be just fine as long as things stay that way. Chalk another one up for news via web 2.0. I probably wouldn't have ever seen this otherwise.


Saddleback conference video on YouTube

I’m always fascinated to see when and how churches use technology. I got a link today to a clip from the Purpose Driven Worship Conference at Saddleback where they had an opening video to entertain the crowd. The video itself is quite funny (especially when they go “Old Testament style”) but more interesting is that it’s being hosted on YouTube. Although it does not appear that the video post is directly tied to the church or ministry, someone connected to it appears to have posted the video...but either way, it's great to see this use of ministry and technology.

YouTube, as I discussed previously, is the most used free online video sharing website. For years churches have fretted over putting video online because of bandwidth costs…but these days that isn’t an issue (because YouTube is free). It's great to see this out there...and we'll certainly see more to come. To see a review of YouTube and nine other online video sites check this out.


Blog stats are life support

Apparently the theme for today among my circle of blogging friends was stats...you know, statistics. Turns out all of us have mild addictions to checking our daily (and sometimes hourly) blog stats. Scot over at The Virtual CFO confirmed this to me this morning while Chris and the folks at realVerse have been going through the roof today due to a wave of interest with the Rocketboom news and subsequent musings about filling the void.

Generally the page views and unique visitors are the primary points of interest but the other little gems are discovering how people stumble upon our blogs. All that information is available to the average blogger and is highly enlightening.

The unexpected thing I'm discovering about stats (both in myself and in discussions with others) is that there's actually more to it than seeing whether your numbers are up, down, or about the same as yesterday. They are actually a life support system that serves as motivation to the blogger to keep pressing forward even when it's hard. Stats are an easy way to validate whether people care about what you're doing, and when people care it's easy to remember why you're doing it. The down side of looking at your stats is that when they take a down turn you've got to keep up the same intensity and basically ignore that voice that might be ringing in your ear saying, "nobody's reading this stuff, you really should be doing something else with your time." My suggestion is to welcome the upswings with all the enthusiasm you've got and know the stats may come down...and if they do you'll keep blogging.


Branding with Google Maps

If you haven't visited Google Maps you're totally missing out. Google Maps isn't brand new but it's effect on communications and information is only now beginning to take off. One of the features I personally love on Google Maps is the "hybrid" view that shows the illustrated map with the satellite image overlay. It really lets me see where I'm going before I go there. Very handy!

It's a great tool like so many of Google's tools but here's why you should really like it: it's a great way to stand out in your community with a little paint and time. A Target store made headlines a few months ago for painting its famous red bullseye on its roof and a few others have followed suit. You just can't miss that big red target. Fellowship Church in Dallas did the same thing years ago with their logo. See it here on Google Maps (go to the satellite or hybrid view and zoom in).

Now these stores and church didn't do this for the sake of Google Maps. In fact, the one thing they have in common is their close proximity to an airport. Now, however, everyone lives close to an airport...or the airplane view anyway. So, when you paint your logo on your roof take full advantage of it by linking to Google Maps on your own website so anyone looking for directions will automatically be taken here. You won't only give them a functional and intuitive map but a little surprise with your logo painted on your roof.

One more thing...be patient. Google Maps is using some images that are a year or two old so it's possible your painted roof might not show up for a while...but think about how many more people will be using Google Maps the next time that satellite snaps a picture of your area.


Happy 4th of July

Enjoy the macroexplosions!