7 Tips for launching a successful blog

My friend Ray sent me a link to the blog, the evangelical outpost, where there is a series on launching successful blogs. There's a lot of information there and the parts I reviewed seem very strong. Here are the main topics covered:

PS - Ray just got mentioned by Seth Godin today. Congratulations Ray!! It's truly a thrill when Seth gives you a little publicity.


Vimeo Makes Video Integration on Blogs a Snap

A friend asked me today to recommend a video hosting website to him to use for a family blog he keeps. The first one I suggested was Vimeo.com because I've heard some good things about it. He reported that it was easy to load the video onto Vimeo but wasn't sure how to get the video onto his Blogger blog. Vimeo provided him with a video embed link and he sent it to me to get onto his blog. At first I wasn't sure how difficult this was going to be because I had a terrible time getting a You Tube video to work for me a few months ago. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the link Vimeo provided just had to be plugged into Blogger's new post field and it published to the blog without a hitch or glitch. I spent at least 30 minutes the day I tried to get You Tube video on this blog so the 30 seconds it took to get the Vimeo video on my friend's site today was a breeze. I know where I'll go when I have a choice for video from now on. Also, if I ever start a video blog, Vimeo will be my first option to host the video...it was just that easy!


MySpace Users Older Than You Might Think

Saw a fascinating post on Church Marketing Sucks.com about the age of MySpace users. It turns out that a little more than half the people on MySpace are over 35 years old...or at least a Fortune Magazine article says so.


Will "Pod" Become A Bad Word?

I saw on Micro Persuasion that Apple is beginning to take legal action against organizations, websites and products that use the word "pod" in regard to podcasting. It appears that Apple wants to reign in the podcasting name and any unsanctioned use of "pod" that could be related to iPods or podcasting.

I must say I don't really get this and am disappointed in Apple. Isn't it the goal of any company to get their brand to a point that it is so ingrained into the culture that its product name becomes synonymous with the use of the product? Look at Xerox, Frisbee and Kleenex. For many people xerox is a verb for making copies, a frisbee is any recreational flying disc, and a kleenex is your best friend during cold and flu season. These brand names have transcended the actual products they originally represented and as such own the mindshare of their respective markets. We already know iPods are the leading MP3 players. In fact the word iPod has even begun to represent all MP3 players...and how could Apple not be pleased with that?

So let's say Apple sufficiently cracks down on all this pod-speak. That means everyone will have to use another term to discuss the technology formerly known as podcasting except in the actual cases when you're referring to the Apple products/technology. As this new word emerges it will undoubtedly push the "pod" to the background and the "casting" to the foreground. I don't see how that helps Apple at all. They already have the "pod" product with the family of iPods, so by default they win every time someone uses the word "podcast" whether it's intended to represent something specifically for iPods or not. In fact, this depodification may only clarify for some people that podcasting is not exclusive to iPods. While that's a nice clarification for the uninitiated consumer, it doesn't help Apple extend the reach of their brand.

In the end I think Apple may regret this course of action because it's going to muddy the waters that they have clearly owned up to this point. It's also going to be a PR problem because they have been the anti-corporation for so long and this is very corporate...it's fearful and controlling and just very un-Apple of them.


Another Good Web 2.0 Podcast

Jon Haarstad sent me a link to check out a podcast giving further explanation about web 2.0 on Business Week's website. The guy interviewed on this podcast (Tim O'Reilly) was one of the people who had a hand in coining the term "web 2.0" so he's certainly got a good perspective on it and provides some valuable insight.

If you're still trying to figure out what this is (and like I was asked again yesterday when a church pastor said, "so what the heck is web 2.0 anyway") this is worth a listen. So is this.


Friends Don't Let Friends Place Banner Ads

I had a tough conversation recently. It was tough because I had to let a client make the wrong decision. In fact, I told them it was the wrong decision, and I was tactful, but they got the message. After my gentle protest and suggestion for taking another approach I was met with a resounding gong of silence (insert cricket sounds here) and it was then that I knew they were going to do it anyway. What is it? IT was banner ads.

The goal this client came to us with was to drive more traffic to their website but they already had decided they wanted to try to accomplish this with banner ads on a particular website they selected. After a few minutes of listening to them I just had to tell them that it isn't generally a good idea and that there are better (and much cheaper) ways to go about it. As I mentioned above they wanted to do it anyway...and so they are...but here's where we're really going to test this...

In addition to the banner ads we're going to put some video for this company's same product on YouTube. We'll be able to track the number of views and links from both areas and see what happens. I don't quite know what they're going to pay for a month of banner ads...but I know what they're going to pay for the YouTube video...$0.00. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I'll admit, I've got an issue with banner ads. I rank them right up there with the people who sell email lists that are usually just spam. Banner ads are the very reason I was interested in switching from Hotmail to Gmail a year or so ago (Gmail only has text ads). Banner ads just don't work most of the time. They're not a wise expense. An effective banner ad would have to be highly targeted on a very specific kind of site to even have a chance. For instance if Apple had a banner ad for an iPod accessory they're going to have a good chance of getting some attention for the ad, but even then most people still ignore them. By and large banner ads are ignored and with all the effective (and free) web 2.0 options today like blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, video blogs, Wikipedia, etc. there are much better ways to go. Needless to say I'm excited to see how this little experiment turns out! In the end I expect the score to be: Banner ads - 0, Web - 2.0.


MicroExplosion on RealVerse!!

Just saw that an interview I did with RealVerse a few weeks ago is now live. Check it out here.

We talked about a lot of different things during the interview and this segment was just introductory...but it was great to hook up with the RealVerse team. Thanks guys!


Music Videos 2.0

I saw on Voxacious today that the band, The Shins, just did a novel thing over the weekend for the creation of an upcoming music video. Basically the idea is that people who were at the show could film it and then upload the video according to some instructions posted on MySpace and the band was going to use the fan-generated film to create music videos for their upcoming album.

This is a great example of user-generated content in an offline kind of way. Kudos to the band or whoever thought this up. Not only will they get the raw footage for their own videos but this same film will soon find its way on YouTube, MySpace, and numerous other social media and social networking sites to spread it even further.


Robert Scoble (King of Blogging) Speaks on Blogging

Check out a good little podcast (only 15 minutes or so) with Robert Scoble talking about why organizations should blog and the benefits they can expect to enjoy if they do it. You can find the podcast at PodTech.net. He talks about the correlation between blogs and Google rankings and tells why it's important to keep your ranking up for whatever you do. One interesting statement was, "if you're not on that first page of Google results, you do not exist in business. He also discusses the benefits any blogging organization could experience by providing blogs as an interaction tool.


New iPod Nano = Podcasting Made Easy?

I saw an article on iLounge.com about the new iPod Nano's little known capability...it can record audio. Apparently the iPods will ship with recording software built in. You can read the full iLounge coverage here. They also review some microphones that can be attached to the iPods.

This might be just the hook to get your church or ministry to start podcasting...or maybe it's just the excuse you were needing to justify a new iPod.


Church Blog Guidelines: Two Examples

My post a few days ago asked the question: Can blogging be a bad thing in ministry? The answer was, "yes, if used incorrectly." It is always my hope that any church or ministry will not let the bad overshadow the good. The "bad" would be to let a fear of blogging (or some unknown consequence) prevent a church from ever diving into the blogosphere. The good is obviously to use blogs as a great communication tool to reach more people more quickly. Tonight I found a couple of churches who have put together some staff blogging guidelines that seem to be the perfect mix of blogging freedom, awareness, and parameters.

  • Granger Community Church has a list of blogging suggestions for their staff. I really like the tone and entire approach they took with this. It communicates that the church trusts their staff but also wants them to be aware of a few things too.
  • Fellowship Church takes a little more time to discuss the potential repercussions for a blog gone wild but their guidelines also clearly communicate the church's official position on blogs without limiting a blogging staff member's freedom. They extend this same policy to personal staff websites.


eBible launches to public

A little over a month ago I saw the eBible.com site in beta and I remember thinking it looked exactly like what I thought a web 2.0 version of a Bible reference tool should look like. A few days ago it opened publicly and yesterday it was causing quite a stir over on Digg among the community of Diggers. Take a look at the comments within Digg...it's very interesting to read the reactions to eBible as a Christian. If anything, it provides good insight into the misconceptions and false ideas about the Bible, but onto the eBible launch...

eBible is truly a web 2.0 version of the Bible complete with tags for different topics, internal bookmarks, and its very own Firefox plugin. The eBible bookshelf has a full list of free reference resources and Bible translations as well as some additional resources you can purchase if you're so inclined. It has some very cool features like a quick scroll tool within the window and a right-click instant commentary reference feature. The site design is very clean and intuitive...just as a web 2.0 version of this should be. I think in time eBible will become one of the top Bible reference tools online.


History of Online Video Courtesy of Reel Pop

Two weeks ago a new blog called Reel Pop started to "focus on how online video is changing the content creation, marketing and distribution process" of video as we know it. Last month I posted what I call the six categories for web 2.0 and online video was one of those six...so I'm very excited to see what will come from Reel Pop as they focus exclusively on this topic.

One thing that is particularly interesting on Reel Pop is the "Brief History of Online Video (in Pictures)" post that seems to have a very thorough overview of online video growth in the last year. It astounds me how much growth with we've seen with this medium in just the last 12 months. Look at the time line closer...it was just a year ago that there were less than 25,000 online video page views a day. Now, there are over 750,000 online video page views a day. This trend compels me to continue encouraging people to work toward understanding and making good use of online video since viewers are increasingly interested and accustomed to finding content there.


Can blogging be a bad thing in ministry?

I recently had a conversation with a friend who surprised me a bit with his perspective on blogging. He is very knowledgeable of technology in general and web 2.0 specifically so I expected he was well on board the blogging bandwagon. As we talked I discovered he was actually quite cautious about the use of blogs in ministry, particularly churches. In no way did he think blogs were inherently bad but he raised some interesting points that got me thinking.

Can blogging be a bad thing in ministry? Prior to the conversation with my friend I would have answered “no” to that question and never given it a second thought. Now my answer is “yes, if not used correctly.” Below are three reasons why I've changed my perspective.

  • Breach of confidential information – In every church there are situations and circumstances that are highly confidential. Whether the church staff are dealing with a couple going through a marital struggle, a suicidal person, or simply a disagreement between members, there must be a level of confidentiality in working through each of these issues. If a pastor or other staff member blogs about a situation that names, infers, or implicates a particular person or people the confidence in the church staff as a whole will have been compromised. The rule of thumb here should be to communicate clearly without giving away any information that will directly or indirectly breach confidence.
  • Compromise the church's views or mission – If a church or staff member posts something contrary to the church's known views or mission the unity within the staff will have been damaged. Let's say, for instance, a pastor has been teaching about the priority of tithing and a staff member writes a post on his blog that tithing is really not a big deal and that if you have personal debts it's better to take care of those before you give to the church. I can only imagine what the church members would think with the mixed messages, not to mention the rift between the pastor and staff member. The issue here is not just the disagreement on the topic but the new divide between staff. This creates an instant line that will separate people within the church because some will be on one side and some may be on the other. Churches have enough to worry about already. An internal conflict because of one staff person's blog would be a terrible distraction from the church's mission and purpose.
  • Priority with other responsibilities – This was actually one of the concerns my friend brought up and it makes sense. I don't know of many churches where the pastor or staff are lacking for things to do. I'm a huge advocate for making blogs one of those “things to do” to communicate, but I can see where it would be possible that anyone could become sidetracked with their blog posting and begin to neglect their other responsibilities. This is both a time management and priority issue and one that should be considered and thought through as anyone begins to blog. If you're going to do it (and again, I think a church should) how are you going to shift existing responsibilities or adjust priorities that the blogging staff member(s) have?

So where does all of this leave a church that wants to blog? I'm still as committed to the idea that blogs are a great communication tool as ever. The additional perspective I have now is just that a church, ministry, or any other organization should enter into blogging with a keen awareness of the full scope and impact that it can have on an organization...both good and bad.


New Website for Long Hollow Baptist Church

My church just got a new website! No, it's not very web 2.0ish...not yet anyway, but Long Hollow launched it yesterday and I think it's a great improvement over the previous site. I know the team had been working hard for quite a while to get it up and although they are quick to point out changes and modifications they want to make soon, I think it's a great step forward. Hopefully there will be some podcasts, blogs, and video on the site very soon.


Confession 2.0

I found a site tonight via a guest blogger at ChurchMarketingSucks.com that is simply shows everything that's right about churches using technology. LifeChurch.tv has a site called My Secret that serves as an online confessional booth of sorts and from everything I can see has generated a lot of interest.

I like this for two different reasons:

  • It's a great use of technology for significant spiritual impact. It can be easy to get caught up in the technological developments and functionality and neglect the spiritual uses (which is, of course, the important part) and this site uses a well designed website to lay the foundation for life change to take place.
  • Confession is always good and I'm convinced there's not enough of it today. For most mainline protestants (like myself) confession is one of those things that the Catholics do, but it's clearly something for all Christians. It's not just vital for salvation but also for healing...and healing is necessary for us to fully achieve our purpose and destiny in Christ.
I hope this site continues to grow and is used by God to encourage, challenge, prompt, urge, embrace, convince, comfort or anything else people may need to live more fully for Him.


The Google Image Game

Google's in the news again (aren't they always) and this time they need your help. Turns out they've got to put labels on all of these images they have in their ever growing database so they got creative with a solution for it. Rather than paying people to label the images they created a game. To play just visit the Google Image Labeler page and they'll give you a random partner. You and your partner then have 90 seconds to guess names for the images. If you guess the same name you get points.

I played a few rounds and the most points I got was 600 but it was surprisingly fun. This is web 2.0, user-generated content at its best. It's also a great way to tap into people's willingness to donate a few minutes to you when you present them with a low risk opportunity...and that's sheer genius.


Why IT Guys Hate Google and Don't Know It Yet

I recently discovered two corporate websites that have search engine problems...at least I think they have search problems. The issue is simple, I can't find what I'm looking for.

The specific problem I've had is that when I type a word into the search field on the website it displays responses that don't appear to have any relation to my search term. For instance, I was on a publisher's website and searched for the word Bible. Since it's a Christian publishing company it's reasonable to expect to find something quickly for Bibles. Instead I was presented with four t-shirts, a marriage book, and an parenting book (which actually had the word "Bible" in the title). None of these were what I was looking for and then I remembered that I might need to put quotes around the search term. After doing this I was quickly taken to the intended Bible area of the website.

If I hadn't thought to include the quotes I would have left the site in frustration because I was given information that was nowhere close to what I was looking for. With the emergence of Google and other search engines, the use of quotes in the search field are used less often. It wasn't but just a few years ago when you needed to use the words AND, OR, and NOT in your searches but now that's not really common. In fact, if you use the word AND in a Google search you'll see a small notification on the results page letting you know that it wasn't necessary. For specific titles, quotes still apply and Google has a scheme of pluses and minuses that replace some of the old Boolean search methods. You can read more about it at the Google Search Basics page.

Since the new way of searching is now prevalent and the old way is dying off, any website that has a search engine within it must consider incorporating the new rules into their engine if only for the simple fact that it needs to work in the way most people are used to. The IT guys who maintain the sites I've seen recently aren't really going to like that because their search engine works...and we can't deny that. The issue, however, isn't whether or not it works but whether or not it works the way most people will use it. If the current way to search is the Google way (and I contend that it is) then any site which doesn't incorporate the new method runs the risk of becoming a point of frustration rather than a tool to let people quickly find what they're looking for.

I have no idea if this is something IT departments around the world are addressing for their sites. Having worked for a large company with a vast IT department, I can only imagine the moans of disgust when an IT staff is asked to consider this modification. From my observations, there's nothing IT guys hate more than doing something over...particularly something that's technically working. So when and if they are asked to make this change, they will likely discover they hate Google...or at least the change Google's made in the way we search.