I ran across an interesting story about research about how digital devices deprive the brain of needed downtime. An excerpt:
At the University of Michigan, a study found that people learned significantly better after a walk in nature than after a walk in a dense urban environment, suggesting that processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued.
Even though people feel entertained, even relaxed, when they multitask while exercising, or pass a moment at the bus stop by catching a quick video clip, they might be taxing their brains, scientists say.
I figured this might be useful when talking with those young church workers I mentioned last week.
Of course, we should take the research with a grain of salt… After all, Michigan contributed to it…
It seems like there hasn’t been enough “nerd” around these parts lately, so…
For the past week or so, I’ve been playing with TweetDeck, a Twitter (As an aside, if you aren’t sure what Twitter is, check out this great video that explains Twitter in Plain English) client available both for the desktop and for the iPhone. I’ve been using Twitteriffic for a while now, but I decided to give this a shot. I’ve always heard great things about it, but never got into it.
Overall, I like it. Some of my favorite features:
- Organize those you follow into groups. Then you can swipe from side to side to switch groups. My current groups are “Usual Suspects” (people I read all the time), “Sports” (news and info about my favorite sports), and “The Others” (the people who don’t fit in groups one and two).
- Groups are then synced between your desktop install and your phone. I don’t find it incredibly useful, except for setting up new groups, which is much faster on the desktop.
- It looks clean and feels fast. Important in a Twitter client.
- You can tweet to multiple accounts with a single post. Great for those times when you want to push information out on your own account and a group account (@JasonTheDCE and @FirstTrinity in my case).
Of course, as with anything, there are a few issues I’d like to see resolved:
- Scroll down to the first unread tweet on the iPhone. The desktop client can clear all seen tweets, making it easy to find where you left off.
- Sync the read/unread status for tweets between the desktop and iPhone. It’s a pain to “catch up” when I get to the office or go mobile.
- Make hash tags clickable so they lead to a search for that hash tag.
I’m a compulsive Google user. I might even have a Google addiction. But they are so stinking cool I can’t resist. A few months ago, I found a website that suggested you should list your business in the Google Local Business Center. Theoretically, it helps people find your business.
So I added First Trinity. Check out our listing. Tonight I got an email telling me that I can now log in and see stats about how people find us and what they do with our listing once there. Here are some interesting statistics about how people Googled us in the last 30 days:
- Our listing showed up 633 times.
- There were 65 actions taken:
- 10 Clicks for more info on Google Maps.
- 27 Clicks for driving directions.
- 28 Clicks to our website.
- Top Search Queries (impressions):
- First Trinity Lutheran Church (56)
- Churches (45)
- Preschool (45)
- Church (32)
- Daycare (26)
- Trinity Lutheran Church (22)
- Preschools (21)
- Child Care (19)
- Lutheran Churches (19)
- Christian Schools (16)
- Where the driving directions requests came from (requests):
- Buffalo 14202 (7)
- Buffalo 14224 (6)
- Hamburg 14075 (4)
- Amherst 14068 (3)
- Buffalo 14228 (3)
- Angola 14006, Buffalo 14217, Lockport 14094, Summersville 26651 (1 each) [Note: Summersville is where we’re looking at staying on our way home from the Workcamp. That may have been me looking]
- Our listing went live on May 1, 2009. We were averaging 15 impressions/day through May 25. Our average from May 26 through June 11 is 31.7.
So I was inspired to go ahead and connect our profile with some videos and added some office hours and worship times. We’ll see if it increases traffic.
EDIT: We get 10 pictures to place in our profile. One is a picture of our facility so people will recognize it. The remaining 9 are to be decided. Help us choose! Check out the following places for your favorite pictures of First Trinity:
Try to find pictures that match these simple statements:
- Where People Matter
- Rooted and Relevant
- Celebrating Life Together
I like things that are new and shiny. You might also. For me, it’s always been about computers and gadgets. Sure, a shiny new car would be nice, but I can live with my old car. But the latest computer hardware or home theater setup or tech gadget… Now that’s interesting to me.
I’ve noticed, however, less of a desire lately to chase those new shinies, mostly because of our financial journey. Ironically, I now have the savings to buy a new television to replace the 20” loaner I’m using because ours broke, but I’m not really dying for it. It would be nice, but it’s not essential.
There’s something that happens when we get control of our financial situation: We want material things less. Sue says it’s because we focus on our blessings more than our wantings. I tend to agree with her.
Here’s how I know I’ve changed: There’s a new iPhone coming out in about a month. And I really don’t have a desire to go out and get it. I’m also not feeling bad about getting mine when I did instead of waiting for a new and better model. Because there is always a new and better thing coming.
Gmail Labs rocks. There are lots of cool features in there that I’ve enabled and I love the whole concept of how they happen.
To any Googlers looking for something to spend their 20% time on, here’s an idea:
I’d like to see an option added to the drop down menu for an email (or done some other way!) to create a distribution list from the email addresses in the To/Cc lines. Automatically add those people to my contact list if they don’t exist and then take me to a page to name the group.
I often find myself looking for this feature and Gmail Labs is a great way to get it.
Last time I upgraded phones from a Samsung flip phone to the Treo 700wx, I went through my contacts and manually added everything to the Treo instead of paying the $10 at Verizon to have them do the transfer. Not a big deal.
This time, I’m trying to move my contacts from the Treo to the new iPhone. The iPhone allows me to sync with Google’s contacts (my Gmail contacts, actually). This causes all kinds of problems however:
- My contacts have always been separate from one another. Gmail had all my email addresses, my phone only phone numbers.
- The most direct route of transferring the numbers is to sync them to Outlook, export them to a file, then import them to Gmail.
- Everyone who I have a phone number for is now listed twice in Gmail.
So I’ve spent about 2 hours updating my contacts to get things in some sort of order. I suppose long-term, this will be good for me. However, after working with Gmail’s contacts for a while now, here are some changes to the Google contact manager I’d like to see:
- Google is about search. Can’t it search your contacts and suggest possible duplicates for merging together?
- I’d like to be able to search for contacts that aren’t in a specific group.
- Where is the social media section of the contacts? Why can’t I store people’s MySpace, Facebook, Twitter or personal websites in a specialized field?
- For that matter, why can’t Google suggest possible links by searching for the email address and seeing if it’s linked to a social media site?
- I want to archive email addresses with a contact. This way I can keep a record of all previous email addresses for someone so the “View Recent Conversations” will show all emails from all the addresses associated with the contact. These archived addresses shouldn’t show up as options in the auto-complete suggestions for writing an email, only in the conversation history.
The iPhone and other smart phones in this generation have radically changed the way we use phones. It’s time Contacts caught up.
Whenever someone follows you on Twitter, you can get an email message about it. Here’s what you get:
Hi, Jason Christ (jasonthedce).
Sue Steege (sweetsoup) is now following your updates on Twitter.
Check out Sue Steege’s profile here:
The problem is, lots of people will click to follow me that I don’t want following me. Or I don’t know how in the world they found me. Here’s what I’d like to see added to the emails:
- How they found you. (Unknown, Clicked through @username, Twitter Search, etc.)
- The last 5 tweets by the person who started following you.
- A link to click to follow the person.
- A link to block the person.
One of my favorite Gmail extensions is Xoopit. It sits on top of Gmail and scans for file attachments, then makes them easily searchable at their site or within Gmail. One of my favorite features is the summary email each week. It shows you what you’ve received that week, but it also shows you something from this week a year ago.
Here’s what came to me this week last year, from Darcy:
Made me chuckle.
You’ve probably heard of the cult game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The game is to start with an actor and try to connect them to Kevin Bacon within six steps. For example, Humphrey Bogart can be connected to Kevin Bacon in 2 steps. It’s a fun game to play, especially if you like movies.
I got a call this past Friday from a man who was very concerned that people who visit our church blogs can click through to inappropriate material within just a few clicks. I was getting ready for the Famine, so I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time talking about it with him. My best guess is that he’s talking about clicking off our blogs to another website, on which you click another link and end up at inappropriate material. I’ve often seen this with YouTube, which links to videos at the end of the one you’re watching.
He’s right about this, of course.
In trying to find an example of an actor/actress connected to Kevin Bacon, I couldn’t find one with more than two steps to connect them. The Internet and inappropriate materials are equally connected. I imagine if you tried, you could find inappropriate material within two to three clicks of any website.
So what’s a church to do? I suppose one alternative is to stop using blogs, which seemed to be the implied solution in this phone conversation. We could also stop using the newspaper (which has any number of inappropriate ads), watching television or movies (for obvious reasons), or even talking with people, who may introduce us to someone who uses inappropriate language.
Or, maybe, just maybe, we don’t work at building a better wall, but equipping people with some better armor. Instead of isolating ourselves, we live in the world, but not be of the world. Instead of abandoning new forms of communication, we can use them to bring light to the world.
So surf responsibly, friends.
Sue’s brother Pete sent me a message on LinkedIn when we connected recently, mentioning that he liked the way I straddle the theological and technological worlds, then presented the two terms above to describe me. I like them both, but I’m not sure which I’d pick to describe me. Which would you pick and why?
Today is Ash Wednesday. We begin the countdown to the celebration of Easter today, but first we reflect on our own sinfulness and our need for a Savior as we approach Good Friday. It’s a great time of the church year, leading to my favorite Sunday of the year, Easter Sunday.
Of course, Easter Sunday will be even more special this year (scroll to the bottom of the post).
Mainstream Technologies (Used by more than 50% of all computer users)
- Boomers and Elders
- Busters (25-41, I think)
- Text Messaging
- Hosting a personal website
- Mosaics (18-24)
- Text Messaging
- Instant Messaging
- Posting comments on other blogs
- Watching videos online
- Downloading music online
Emerging Technologies (Used by 20%-49% of all computer users)
- Purchasing Online (22% Mosaics, 26% Busters, 29% Boomers, 24% Elders)
- Spiritual Content Online (Mosaics/Busters/Boomers accessing church podcasts and websites, Elders not so much)
Check out the full article for some conclusions about the results and a nice colorful chart showing who uses the technologies surveyed.
One conclusion of my own: Posting comments can make you seem young like those crazy Mosaics.
One of the things I love about Gmail is the ability to use keyboard shortcuts. It really speeds up my email reading/responding because I don’t have to deal with grabbing the mouse as I work through the messages. The one major problem with this was the inability to label messages without the mouse.
I just noticed the fun red link at the top of my Gmail account that means a new feature has been added. You can now use the keyboard shortcuts (l) to label a message. Sweet.
May I propose something crazy? Church websites as we know them may be dying. They’ll still be necessary, even useful, but I don’t see them lasting in their current form, at least as they exist for most churches. I’ve been thinking about this since I purchased jasonthedce.com.
What if a church’s website were something like my digital business card? What if it provided only basic information about itself to visitors, but then linked to numerous sites where you can connect with others in the church online? Should the church have a Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, MySpace, Blog or other social networking tool where people can connect with real people from the church? The church is the people after all, is it not? Seems like it might be worthwhile. It might be extremely beneficial for members to connect and grow closer together as well.
It’s not coming tomorrow, but maybe in the next few years as social media penetrates more and more sectors of our life and with the increasing number of truly smart phones that blend the PC and phone experience into one (see Google Android, Apple iPhone and Blackberry Storm for just a few examples).
I found an absurd deal on hosting for my own website. It was such a steal, I couldn’t pass it up. I got a 90% discount on 2 years of hosting, or 2 years for $20. Not bad. I’ve always considered getting a website, but what would I put there? I decided on making it a digital business card.
Here’s what happens with business cards these days. We pay money for them, then they go out of date because we move, change blog services, change emails, stop using this service and start using that one. So instead, why not get business cards printed that point to your personal website and make it a digital business card. Check out my digital business card, at JasonTheDCE.com. It currently has six links out to various services that I use:
- WordPress Blogging
Check it out and let me know what you think!
EDIT: I wrote this post without knowing about Church Crunch’s “Do Bloggers Need Business Cards” blog contest. I’m making this my “entry” in the hopes of winning free cards.
The size of the text in the “My Feeds” section of Feedburner drives me nuts. Why would anyone want it that large? I figured someone else would have had this problem and written a Greasemonkey script to fix it. (For my regular readers, who probably don’t know what in the world I’m talking about, Greasemonkey is an extension for Firefox that allows people to write scripts that change the way a website looks. I love the extension, a must-have in the fox.) I can’t find it if it exists, so I wrote my own. It was my very first foray into the scripting world. Many thanks go out to Dive Into Grease Monkey for the tutorials that made the script possible.
The problem with the font size was that my feed titles would wrap onto a 2nd line. Here’s the before and after pictures:
I recently purchased Adobe Design Standard CS4 from Academic Superstore. I saved $20 or so by not getting a DVD of the software because I was told I could download it all online. I went and did that, installed all the software and then went to activate it with the serial number they gave me. As it turns out, only Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign work that way.
Acrobat, however, has to be installed from a special volume licensing CD. The almost-understandable English speaker that helped me insisted this was the case with all 4 software packages, but it clearly wasn’t as I’ve been using them for weeks now without problem. It’s just Acrobat that had the problem. So Adobe is shipping me a CD to install Acrobat so I can get the full working copy. So bizarre.
I got an offer to write about incorporating new “tools’” in youth ministry. The working title they sent along to me is: Are you Afraid of the iPod?: Learning to Use New Tools. I’m not sure how many items I’ll be focusing on, but one of them will surely be blogs. Any ideas what else would be good to include?
Microsoft released a new version of Live Writer. It’s a tool to make blogging easier. it comes with a host of great new features (check out Digital Inspiration’s take on it), but there are a few that are missing that I’d like to see:
- Sync drafts to the “cloud” for editing on another computer with Live Writer. I found a workaround for this temporarily, but it should be standard.
- Insert Picasa Web Album. I know it’s a Microsoft product, but I’d love to see a way to enter the URL for a PicasaWeb album and it goes to the site, logs in as me and downloads/inserts the code necessary to make the photo album appear in my blog.
- Better Draft Management. How hard would it be to add folders to the draft section? Let me sort my drafts!
- Firefox Integration. While we’re at it, why not an extension for Firefox that allows me to push a button while at a web page and have it copy the current page title/link into a new draft. Bonus points if I can title the draft and mark which folder it should go into.
- A working “Check for Updates” button. The last two versions have not been found by the existing check for updates feature. Make it work like Firefox, where it checks on load, then gives the option to install the new version on load.
In other news, the most useful change out of the gate is addition of the tags field on the same line as the categories and publish date fields. I hated expanding the bottom section to get to tags. Of course, it only appears to be available if you haven’t downloaded your blog template for the editor from WordPress. Irritating that I lost the look of my blog while editing, but worth it for the tags thing. Maybe that will be fixed in the next version.
Now that we have a baby, we’re working on a smaller budget, which means less luxury items around here. Not that we were very “luxurious” before the baby, but now we’re even less so. Funny story about one “luxury” item in particular, a new television:
When Jaime told me she was pregnant, I immediately started thinking about how we’d be able to afford this. My first realization: our new HDTV wasn’t going to happen. The extra funny thing is that we always said we’d get new kitchen cabinets and a big screen TV before having babies. Later it became a treadmill and a TV. We got the treadmill, then she got pregnant, and I never got my TV. Now, when we can’t really afford it, our TV is starting to die and we’ll need to buy a new one soon.
So here’s the deal. I’m going to start looking for “freelance” stuff to raise money for a TV. Specifically, I’m going to advertise some sort of computer services on Craigslist and see what happens. I’m not looking for a ton of stuff to do, and it probably won’t start for a couple months once we’re over the initial learning curve of being a family, but I’m looking for help now about what to advertise.
If you were going to hire me to help with something on your computer, what would it be? Some things I’m thinking about are teaching software skills (Word, Excel, etc.), Spyware/Virus Removal and Antivirus/Antispyware software installed or basic typesetting (like building a resume, portfolio, etc.) I’m not looking for anyone here to hire me, just ideas for what you think others might need help with in the technical realm. Leave your suggestions in the comments or email me directly if you prefer.
You may know this about me already, but I can’t stand voicemail. Part of the problem is that it’s such a pain to access, on just about every type of phone I’ve ever seen. The iPhone is making it a little easier, but I’m not experiencing that quite yet. One day, though… When I don’t like something, I often declare it to be a result of the Fall into Sin. If Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned, there would be no Voicemail. Ok, it’s not really theological, but I enjoy it.
If you could “get rid” of one piece of technology in your life, what would it be and why?
It’s probably not practical, but voicemail would be my choice. Here’s why:
- I prefer email or even a text message. Something written is way better than something vocal for me.
- There’s no easy way to add something from Voicemail into my task management system (Gmail + GTD Inbox) when I’m on the road.
- As mentioned above, there are too many buttons to push to get to it.
Realizing it won’t go away anytime soon, here are some remedies I’d love to see implemented:
- Reliable speech to text transcription, sent to my email inbox with a link to the source audio in MP3 format.
- An app for phones that provides the transcription in a window on the phone (cell or office phone) with a single button to push to hear the audio, minus the timestamp, callback number, etc.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, here are some of the other things on my “result of the Fall” list, in no particular order:
- Lima Beans