Category Archives: technology

A Facebook Prediction – “Timeline Intersect”

With Facebook going public (IPO), there will be a massive influx of cash into the extremely popular social media giant.  This same phenomena occurred a few years ago with Google’s IPO and it will, inevitably, happen with Facebook.  How does a social media company spend money?  Development, lots and lots of development.

Facebook will now develop products at an accelerated pace (just as Google did with their IPO).  I believe, along with TV, News, Email, Web Searching, etc, one of these products/advancements will be a relational Timeline – I would call it “Timeline Intersect” (Zuckerberg can pay me later).

Just as Facebook recently released its individualized Timeline (replacing the old profile page), I believe there will be a future relationally connected Timeline.  Let me explain…

The Timeline is Facebook’s response to its customers demand (subconscious as it may be) to narrate their lives in a storyboard/timeline type fashion.  This allows you, the user, to see a timeline of your life, viewing how activities, events and statuses (what Ricoeur would call “emplotments”) fit together to tell your personal narrative.  I predict that this process will continue to evolve and this evolution will eventually lead to the option of viewing your timeline within relationship (connected/intersected) of other individuals’ (your Facebook friends) Timelines.  For example, you would see how your life (your “emplotments”) intersects with others.  These intersections will tell the relational narrative of your life, helping to create meaning and relational context to your individual “emplotments.”  This will allow others to see your Timeline of “emplotments” in the context of their “emplotments” and ultimately, potentially, in the larger human story within the Global Village (think of this as a giant social media version of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game).

“Timeline Intersect” is coming, whatever Facebook ultimately names it.

Social Media has just begun its emergence into our culture.  It is amazing to think that just eight years ago Facebook did not exist (Facebook turns 8 this month).

Monetizing Authenticity & Relational Connections

As part of my doctoral program at George Fox Seminary and my dissertation topic studying the effects of social media on preaching, I had the great opportunity to attend the largest industry blogging and social media conference in North America.

One of the many things I gleaned from the conference was the economic potential that exists in the area of blogging and social media.  This economic potential is being rapidly and increasingly democratized and monetized.  It is democratized in that anyone can jump into the blogging and social media world and, with enough social networking, media creation and media curation, you can create “clout” (interestingly: the company scores clout).  This clout can then be monetized.  The increasingly inherent challenge is that the monetization of clout carries with it a major temptation – the temptation to sacrifice authenticity on the altar of economic opportunity.

Let me explain:
First, clout (or influencer) is an industry word that simply refers to the influence you have online.  Basically, the more hits you receive on your blog and the more social connections you have with social media (FaceBook friends, Twitter fans, etc.), the greater your “influence.”
Second, as your clout and influence grows, so does your potential environment for advertising and product endorsement.  These fertile environments are bursting with ecological potential for financial benefit.  Allow me to explain through a hypothetical example: Jim Bob is marketing his new Whatyamacallits and he knows that he can use traditional advertising to reach a large group of people but by doing this he also knows that the audience will interpret the advertisement message as the Whatyamacallit Company talking about Whatyamacallits.  Thus, people will be, inevitably, skeptical of the claims the manufacturer is making about the product they manufacture.  The audience knows that the manufacturer is not neutral.  However, if the Whatyamacallit Company can get seemingly neutral Jane Doe to blog and/or Tweet about their product to her large social following for either a sample of Whatyamacallits and/or other financial or promotional incentives, people will pay attention because they will assume that this third person is an impartial product reviewer.  This neutrality becomes assumed and perceived authenticity.
Third, the other revenue stream exists through advertising. This revenue stream can produce substantial income to the blogger.  Custom advertising by an ad service can provide significant income, but it also comes at a relational price.  Ad services work by using information provided by the content of the blog and any information it can glean from the blog visitor, customizing the ads for greatest impact.  In essence, the person blogging submits part of their online presence and the information of their visitors for financial gain.
I have no problem with any of this IF it is clearly understood and disclosed upfront by the blogger/social media user.  The problem is that this level of authenticity rarely happens and if it does, is often hidden or subtlety communicated.
As we look ahead to the future of social media and blogging, this practice will only increase (industry experts and their budget allocations affirm that this will only intensify in usage).  The challenge is that our culture highly values authenticity and relationships (part of why using it for marketing is brilliant and effective).  This is the very reason that blogging and social media have economic value.   In addition, people are also increasingly skeptical and as people become more aware of what is happening (recognizing that people are monetizing their authenticity and relationships), skepticism will only increase, inevitably decreasing the economic value of influencer clout and destroying the presumed relationships that once existed.
Once again, I have no issue with people who use their clout/influencer ability to promote products, services or earn money through advertising, as long as they are honest and upfront about this.  If they are not, they are, to use a shockingly pejorative term, prostituting their authenticity and relationship connections for financial gain.  This, of course, will eventually hurt one’s credibility and in a culture that highly values authenticity and relationship will not have sustainability.
The future of social media and blogging is exponentially growing and as it does, we need to increasingly be aware of the effects it is having on us and how it is being used and abused and/or using and abusing us.  As Marshall McLuhen brilliantly said: “All media works us over completely.”


Technology in Ministry #3: DropBox

One product that I have found to be indispensable in ministry is called DropBox.  DropBox in an invaluable tool that allows you to keep files on your computer’s harddrive for offline access but also online for back-up and syncing between devices and computers.  Therefore, I can work on a file on my MacBook Air, close my computer and it will download automatically (with changes) to my MacBook Pro (or my wife’s PC – we share a folder on DropBox), all the while allowing to be accessible on my iPad or iPod for viewing or editing.  Then, when I open it again in my MacBook Air, it will automatically download the updated synced version.  It is ingenious and indispensable.  I use the free version that gives you about 2gigs of free space to share between all your devices.  Although you can get larger storage if you need, I don’t use it to store music or video so the 2gigs works great for me.

The other feature about DropBox that I have eluted to already is the fact that you can share folders in DropBox with others.  In my case, I have my private folders, a public folder (share files with anyone – linked via a website, blog or email for example), a folder I share with my wife, a folder I share with extended family and a folder I share with our office staff.  I have full control over who accesses what.

DropBox has apps for PC, MAC and portable devices as well as through their website, which is accessible on any browser.  The following is a video that explains DropBox.

If you decide to use dropbox, follow this link which will give me a little extra free storage: DROPBOX🙂

Technology in Ministry #2 – Evernote

What is Evernote?
I discovered Evernote about 6-8 months ago and it is outstanding!!!  Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about it.  The ability to electronically file everything in one place on all my devices – brillant!  Evernote is a online tool that allows you to post notes (with lots of application possibilities) in a variety of different forms.  Evernote syncs my notes, automatically, between my computers, iPhone, iPad and does it easiely and seemlessly (creating a back-up for all my Evernote files and notes).

Ways I use Evernote?

  • I use it to hold all my business cards.  In fact, when I get a card, I just take a picture with my phone and create a note for it and put it in my notebook called “Business Cards.”  It is now instantly searchable and accessible on all my devices at any time.  A great feature is that it also scans texts from pdfs and photos so they are searchable later.
  • I use it to draft my articles and sermons.  Evernote is where I put my outlines together, thoughts, sermon illustrations and when I am ready to write a sermon or article in Word, I have everything ready to be organized, copied and pasted.
  • I use it for my expenses, taking pictures of my reciepts and keeping track of mileage.  It is easy and once again available on all my devices (constantly syncing between them).
  • I use it for my todo list.  I have tried lots of todo list apps but I keep coming back to Evernote because it is simple and convenient.
  • I use it for storing webpages I need to reference later (book I want to buy, articles I need to read, etc).  I use the Chrome plugin for Evernote that allows me to clip any webpage into Evernote (including text and photos), making it tag-able, searchable and ready when I need it.
  • I use it for keeping, storing and searching pdfs.  I also use the “Good Reader” app for my iPad that allows me to annotate pdfs (underline, make notes, etc.) which is great for meetings or articles I am reading.
  • I use it for scanning paper hand-outs.  Have you ever been at a meeting and gotten a hand-out in paper formate but wanted it digitally?  Just get an app for your smart phone that allows you to take a picture of the file and convert it to pdf.  Many of these app will then allow you to email it to your free Evernote email address, automatically creating a new note and storing it forever in Evernote.  Once again it is then tagable, file-able and searchable.
  • I use it to keep audio notes of things.  I can record these (you can do it with video too but I have yet to use this feature) on any device and come back to it on any of your devices.
  • I use it for research when writing articles or papers.  It is easy to do, allowing you to search and organize later.
  • One of the best features is using it with Kindle Web which stores my highlights and notes from Kindle books I have read.  Once I am finished a book, I simply clip the Kinde Web page (using the Chrome Evernote Clip Add-on) with my highlights and notes into Evernote and they are then searchable, reference-able and copy and paste-able when I need them.
How Much Is Evernote?
You might be asking, how much does Evernote cost…well this is the best part.  It is free for basic use and the premium version is only necessary if you do a lot of things that take large chunks of data to sync (photos for example).  But even if you do, the premium version is still well worth the price.  The premium version is $5.00 per month or $45.00 per year.

Technology in Ministry Part 1 – Hardware

I am often asked what forms of technology (hardware, software, mobile apps, and web apps) I/we use. I thought I would do a number of posts on this topic each addressing a different form of tech for different functionalies.

To start it off, I thought I would begin talking about hardware.  First, it will not be a surprise that I am an Apple fan and, thus, I have a full array of Apple products.  I love Apple because they are sleek, last a long time, the software and hardware are always compatible, and software upgrades are cheap (the latest operating system upgrade was $29.00).

The following is a list of Hardware I use and the benefits of each:

iPod – I have an old school 30gig iPod that I still use for music.  It holds my entire music Library and allowed me to buy the smaller iPhone as a result.  I leave it attached to my home office speakers most of the time.  I have had it for years and it still works brilliantly!

iPhone 4 – I use to have a Blackberry but found it was limited in what it could do.  In comparison, it couldn’t match up to the power and versitility of an iPhone.  The iphone allows me, with the right apps, to take my office with me and have access to my important files, music, video, books, etc.  It also is my GPS which allows me to carry it with me everywhere I go regardless of what vehicle I am in.

iPad 2 – I, honestly and in full disclosure, bought an Ipad because Steve Jobs told me I needed one:)  But after having it, I love it.  I can write blog posts, read and respond to my school Forums, catch up on news, connet via scoial media, use Evernote, play games, watch Netflix, read Kindle books, etc. all at the touch of a screen icon in one easy to hold and carry device.

Kindle 3G – With the amount of reading I do for school I find that prolonged reading on the iPad screen is a little hard on the eyes and the Kindle is a great alternative. The benefits of the Kindle are varied  For one, I use the Kindle App on all my devices and it syncs my notes,  underlines, and last page read between them.  In other words, I can literally read 10 pages on my iPhone, switch to my iPad and then later my Kindle and finish on my computer all synced and working seamless together.  The other advantage of the Kindle, over the other Hardare options, is the Kindle Web feature that stores my notes and underlines which I, after the book is complete, send to Evernote so I can search and reference them later.

17″ MacBook Pro – I bought a MacBook pro three plus years ago and love it.  It is a work horse.  I still use it for video editing and it sits in my home office.

10″ MacBook Air – I bought my MacBook Air a couple months ago and it is faster than my old MacBook pro, lighter and more compact.  With the increasing amount of writing and traveling I am doing, it is nice to have something more portable without losing power or speed.  It also has a flash Harddrive; because the flash harddrive has no moving parts, it doesn’t become a mini-heater like my old MacBook Pro.

My only complant about my Apple products is not that they are more expensive than some of their competitors, you get what you pay for, but that they are not universal in what some of their products can play.  For example, it is frustrating that the iPhone and iPad are not Flash Video compatible.  I understand Apple’s reservation with what they consider their competitor and inferior technology, but as a avid web-user it is frustrating not to have full access to web content because of it.

Coming Soon: Why I use Evernote and the related software that makes it so powerful.