December 31, 2005

Should a young person consider going into IT?

Today I had an IM exchange with a friend whose son is in college. We were talking about his major and his interests. When the conversation ended I said, "I should blog this!" So here it is ...

Clif says:
Your son knows a lot about computers. After an ugly couple of years the IT labor market is coming back strong. So it would be a good option for him if he's interested.

My friend says:
That is interesting... he has asked me what I thought of the market in IT and I have hedged. Do you think the improved conditions have any staying power?

Clif says:
In short: yes. Here's my high-level view ...

1. The market overheated with Dot Com and Y2K. There was a labor shortage. Compensation rose in response, attracting career-changers and causing a boom in the IT training industry and the IT consulting industry. (1998-2000)

2. The bubble burst. The NASDAQ collapsed. The macro economy went into recession. 9/11 happened. (2000-2001)

3. Business people were tired from the boom 90s. The IT innovation curve flattened. Businesses took the opportunity to consolidate and reap the productivity gains of the previous investment cycle. (2002-2004)

4. There were lots of initial experiments in off shore outsourcing. Some successful. Some not. (2002-2004)

5. The entire labor market adjusted to a new lower demand level combined with a new source of cheap supply overseas. The career-changer folks lost their jobs, many leaving the industry and not returning. The IT training industry collapsed. The IT consulting industry collapsed. Many people lost jobs and consulting assignments with inflated compensation and eventually found new jobs at more reasonable compensation. (2002-2004)

6. Now the economy is growing robustly (GDP growth in the range of 3% to 4.5%). The labor market has adjusted to the overseas supply. Business managers have determined what they can and can't outsource off shore. IT training is back to a more normal level, with no new career-changers. IT consulting has returned, but at a much reduced level. (2003-2005)

7. We're seeing a dramatic increase in the IT innovation curve that will continue for the next three years, at least. This innovation curve is driven by: RSS, AJAX, web services, multi-core processors, Windows Vista, Office 12, and wireless. (2005-?)

So ... in summary, IT is a good field again. Not overheated, but not depressed. Healthy sources of innovation that will drive growth in demand, coupled with stabilized labor supply. [See also my previous post on the economy, IT innovation, and the IT labor market.]

My friend says:
I am less exposed than you are to much of this but I agree with what you are saying. The question in my mind is which jobs are the most secure. (most difficult to commoditize and outsource)

Clif says:
Well, that question (at least for now) has been answered.

The very high-tech stuff is still done here: chip design, compiler design, etc. But there are very few folks who do that work.

Work in large organizations that is highly repetitive and relatively low value is done off shore: call centers, big software development sweat shops, etc.

The biggest demand for people here is in the middle: project managers, people who understand technology and can apply it, system architects, etc. Also, nearly all small-to-medium businesses use local labor because it's too difficult to establish off-shore relationships, find good people, and manage them. Only the largest companies can really do that. (And they're finding that the cost advantages are more modest than they expected in the beginning.)

Bottom line: off-shore is now a permanent part of the labor market. But it doesn't threaten anything that your son would really want to do with his life.

December 23, 2005

Doesn't like Christianity

Dave Winer: "I don't like Christmas, maybe that has something to do with not particularly liking Christians. Let me explain. It's not the people I don't like, it's the Christianity of the people. "

Something for all of us to chew on during our Christmas break.

December 22, 2005


Dave Ferguson: "policy is what happens when we can’t get people to do what we want them to do or when people are not championing a clear cause. Policy occurs when the ethos of a church culture is weak and the cause is not compelling."

Wow. Maybe there's a good reason I don't like to think or speak in terms of "policies"?

Road Runner e-mail

Did I mention how cranky I am with Road Runner right now? It gets worse.

Our master e-mail list has around 9,000 subscribers. All of a sudden, the number of subscribers dropped significantly yesterday. Upon investigation, 1,400 of our 1,700 Road Runner subscribers are bounced.

Road Runner tech support is clueless - we might as well be talking to a wall. Our IP addresses aren't getting blocked. We aren't on any blacklists that we can determine. We are having a temporary problem with our DNS service that messed up our SPF record, but that doesn't explain the issue. Is it related to the issue we had last week? Who knows?

Our e-mail service is Intellicontact. They are nice and helpful, but they haven't been able to figure it out either. The problem is, they send huge numbers of e-mails for thousands of clients, so figuring out why one ISP is bouncing the e-mails from one client is a needle-in-a-haystack problem for them. According to Intellicontact, they are on the Road Runner whitelist. If so, it isn't helping us. Their web interface shows the number of times bounced for each subscriber, but it doesn't show the last date/time bounced or the bounce reason - both of these pieces of information are critical to figuring out why Road Runner is bouncing us. So Intellicontact is investigating.

But in the meantime, we can't send e-mail to 1,400 people - 16% of our entire list. Christmas Eve is 36 hours away and we can't communicate with 16% of the congregation. I've spent a full day on this and I don't feel any closer to resolution. Road Runner, your spam Nazis are making it impossible for us to communicate with 16% of our congregation. Would it get your attention if they started switching to other providers?

December 20, 2005

Check out the Google zeitgeist for 2005

Here are the most popular searches this year on Google. ("Zeitgeist" means "spirit of the times".)

Tactical IT execution and strategic IT leadership

While you're on Tony Dye's blog, also check out his post on Choices for the CMS we want and the comments that follow. This post sparked a lengthy conversation between myself and Brian Slezak, my fellow Appian Way blogger who works with me in the IT Department at Resurrection. Particularly, we discussed the comment by Carl Wilhelm. I guessed that Carl's comment was referencing Barna's new book Revolution that I posted about previously. (I haven't read it yet because our bookstore hasn't been able to get a copy - apparently there have been some delays in printing and distribution - but I know enough about the subject matter of the book to surmise that Carl was referring to it.)

Our conversation was around the differences between tactical IT execution and strategic IT leadership. This is a subject that deserves a long post of its own, or perhaps several posts. In very brief summary, we have found smooth sailing when we're responding effectively to an IT need identified by a ministry leader. These are generally situations where there's an opportunity to improve efficiency (and thereby reduce costs) by automating an existing process that has gotten to a large enough scale that automation is appropriate. On the other hand, when we begin to think bigger, more strategically, about social and technical trends and how that may impact ministry in the future, then we are sailing on much more difficult and choppy waters. The risks are much higher because our role as servants of the other ministries of the church puts us in a great position to respond to their needs, but a bad position to lead technical change.

Speaking only for myself, I have been an IT executive for a number of years. As such I have been accustomed to being on the executive team in the secular, for-profit world and sitting in all of the executive meetings where strategy is being discussed and the technical implications of each strategic option are thoroughly explored. At Resurrection, I'm not on the executive team. My boss is, but he's the CFO and is not a technical person. So I'm not able to influence church strategy from a technical standpoint. I know from talking with a number of my peers at very large churches that this is the case in most of their churches as well. Few churches have an IT expert on their executive team, unless the senior pastor happens to be a person who thinks strategically about IT and drives it.

This becomes very important when you start considering questions like those raised by Carl Wilhelm. Even though I have the background and skills to determine technology strategy and to make a plan that directly responds to Carl's questions, I'm not in a position to influence the decision-makers to make it happen. Is it just a simple as me learning how to "lead up"?

Tony Dye's class on syndication and blogging

A few weeks ago Tony Dye posted the PowerPoint he used in a "lunch & learn" session on syndication and blogging. Thanks Tony for this great resource. I know I need to offer similar training to our staff at Resurrection.

December 19, 2005

December 18, 2005

Ariel Sharon Yassir Arafat goof

This just goes to prove that no matter how sophisticated the technology, when the content goes bad it can go really really bad. Ariel Sharon had a small stroke today. Our CBS news affiliate in Nashville reported it but something is strangely wrong.....enough so that seeing it might give cause for Ariel have to return to the hospital..., lets hope he doesnt watch the Nasvhille local News.

Texting in ministry

Effective Web Ministry Notes comments on an article in the Orlando Sentinel regarding how college coaches are sending text messages to recruits' phones as a tool in their recruiting efforts. We need to figure out how to use texting in our student ministry strategy.

December 17, 2005

Narnia, Middle Earth, Good, and Evil

Im sitting here trying to think about how to put into words what I am feeling. I just saw the Chronicles of Narnia and Ive been watching the weeks news and these two things have seemed to collide for me. You may wonder what the failure to renew the Patriot Act and Narnia have in common....Im going to try and connect the dots.

Just a few minutes into Narnia I realized something profound, well I thought it profound you might thing it obvious. I realized that both Tolkein and Lewis lived through the Nazi bombardment of Great Brittan, and quickly thereafter I realized that both of their books were about the profound battle between Good and Evil. It is of course the greatest sin of our society to believe in such a thing, that there actually are good guys (That wear the white hats) and bad guys (That wear the black hats) and yet there is something profound in our collective conscience that drives millions of dollars in movie sales when anyone dares to make a movie that revives this "old" way of thinking. I think its because, deep down, despite the attempts of the philosiphers of pluralism and the modern media's attempt to make all ideas equally acceptable, we all know the truth. There is Good, and there is Evil and we know it when we see it.

There are good ideas....Like the idea that sacrifice and love of neighbor are what hold societies together, and bad ideas....dare I say evil.... like the idea that murdering people in the name of God is ever justified (Regardless of whether it is Osama or Paul Hill). I think its time for us a Christians to re assert this grand Idea, that the Creator of the universe has given us some rules, some of them dont seem very modern....we would rather God not care about our sexual morality for example, but see thats the point of Narnia and Middle Earth....There is a "deeper magic", a guiding truth that is biger than all of us, and we are not in control.

But we moderns dont like to think that some ideas and, in fact, some people are evil (or at least controled by it). We like to say things like "one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter" We judge not based on some transcendent notion of the Good, but on the basis of sincerity of belief. Our primary virtue is to be tolerence, by which we mean being friendly to any way of thinking that does not posit that there is such a thing as Good and Evil. And so now your asking what does this have to do with the Patriot Act well, here goes.

This week the Senate decided not to renew the Patriot Act, this "contraversial" bill was overwhelmingly passed in the days and weeks after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. But we modern Americans have short memories, we forget that there are good forces in the world today....Democracy being one, and Evil forces in the world today...Islamic Extreemism being one, and that these two grand ideas for they are both grand, are in fundamental conflict. The failure to renew the patriot act, and our growing softness when it comes to fighting evil around the world remind me that the most dangerous idea in the world might just be the idea that there is no such thing as Good and Evil. Its what Nevil Chamberlin thought, its what the French leadership thought in the 1930's, its what the German people thought during the rise of the Third Reich, and unfortunately more and more its what we think.

What scares me most about the breakdown in our society, and its intolerance of any thinking that posits a true Good and a certain Evil, is that every society that has gone such a rout in its Intellectual life, has ultimately succumed to some great Evil.

So thats what Im thinking....Technology bringing Narnia and Middle Earth to life on the big screen....thats technology in ministry: Here is to hoping it can revive our beliefe in the Good Guys and the Deeper Magic.

December 16, 2005

Road Runner is causing me pain

One of our senior ministry leaders is replying to e-mails from a hundred or so people who e-mailed her. Many of these people are on Road Runner e-mail addresses. (Road Runner is the Internet service from Time Warner Cable.) She started getting bounce-backs from Road Runner that look like this:

The e-mail system was unable to deliver the message, but did not report a specific reason. Check the address and try again. If it still fails, contact your system administrator. #4.0.0 smtp;452 Too many recipients received this hour. Please see our rate limit policy at

So I clicked the link and read about Road Runner's rate limit policy. Turns out that we didn't have forward DNS for our mail server,, which caused us to fall under the category of "Systems With Incorrectly Configured DNS Entries". Accordingly, we are limited to sending e-mails to 10 Road Runner customers per hour. Since we have literally thousands of people in our congregation with Road Runner addresses, this is a problem.

Needless to say, we corrected the DNS issue right away, but how long will it be before Road Runner's system checks again and realizes we fixed it?

Later in the same Road Runner page about their rate limit policy we read:

The SenderBase Reputation Score that Road Runner uses as part of its inbound email rate limiting decision cannot be looked up on the SenderBase site as a direct query.

Woo hoo. So Road Runner is going to base its rate limitation partly on the SenderBase Reputation Score, but there's no obvious way for me to find out our score. Road Runner, this is not serving your customers well. How are we supposed to explain to our congregants that we can't get e-mail through to them due to a policy of their ISP that's so complicated, even us IT guys can't figure it out or do anything about it?

December 10, 2005

Skipping Christmas Part II

Clif Pointed to Perry Nobles post so I just wanted to make some comments about his comments.

First this is a silly controversy at some level. God will not ask us about our decisions to open on one particular Sunday before allowing entrance into the eternal Kingdom, and so as such who really cares. What it points to, however, are deeper issues of ecclesiology that have, in my mind, done damage to the way we think about church in general.

Perry's points were:

1. there is not a biblical mandate to open church on Christmas day when it’s on a Sunday.
2. We are worshiping on the 23rd and 24th and that’s enough.
3. People have a life outside the church

Ok here goes, first the idea that we need a biblical mandate to do those things that the church has deemed important to do for 2000 years is ridiculous. There is no biblical mandate to baptize infants but we have been doing it for 2,000 years (I hear my Baptists brethren wailing and that’s the point) There is no biblical mandate to have church on Sunday at all, yet it is the consensus day of worship for 2,000 years, There are hundreds of things that we do as Christians that are not biblically mandated. This is of course where some strains of Protestantism have become so iconoclastic that they have forgotten the importance of church tradition. I would think you would be hard pressed to find a Catholic Church that has ever failed to celebrate mass on any Sunday Especially Christmas Day.

2. Ok Pope John Paul regularly performed mass at midnight on Christmas Eve then got up the next morning and had Christmas Day services....Give me a break we can never worship God enough.

3. And to the point that people have a life outside the Church ah, this is the biggest flaw I see in Perry's reasoning. What is the Chief End of Man...? To Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever, by buying in to the idea of a separation between the sacred and the secular we are intimating that there are more important family...than the worship of the Savior on the day we celebrate his birth. This is one of our two High Holy Days, can you imagine any other faith failing to show up at a place of worship on its most important day.

Bottom line is the 23rd is not Christmas Day; the 24th is not Christmas Day. The CHRIST MASS is to be celebrated on the 25th of December. It’s just the way it is, no biblical mandate, rather the mandate of our ancestors, our forefathers in the faith who would come back and slap us silly for even considering such a thing.

Basically I think the choice to close is mostly about Mega Church arrogance and historical ignorance. Back to the Catholics, one of the things I admire about them is that they would have a priest celebrate the Christmas Mass whether or not a single person showed up because the mass is about more than entertaining the masses.

December 07, 2005

No church on Christmas?

Seems as if this whole "no church on Christmas" thing is generating a lot of discussion. Even national popular press stories are appearing, such as this on one MSNBC.

Chuck Russell, my fellow Appian Way blogger, linked one of his seminary professors, Ben Witherington, who really blasted churches for closing. Ben's post drew a lot of comments.

Another perspective is from Perry Noble who explains why he decided not to have services on Christmas. Perry also takes the opportunity to poke fun at the controversy.

And then there's Rich Tucker who linked a very old story about Resurrection explaining that we've bucked the trend by being traditional in some ways, yet we're still successful. By the way Resurrection is having worship on Christmas Day, and so is my wife's church, Living Water. So hey, if your church is closed, you're always welcome here. ;-)

December 05, 2005

Talking Head Video is Boring

The folks over at the Nielsen Norman Group are doing eye tracking testing on talking head videos and there verdict is that people find them boring. You can watch a clip of a typical session here Here is what N/N had to say.
"It's... interesting to notice how much attention was diverted elsewhere in the image, including the road sign behind the interviewee. There's even a brief glance at an object over his shoulder that looks like a trash can. Most interesting of all is the tremendous attention spent outside the video itself on things such as alternative headlines and video controls. The eyetracking data clearly show that a talking head is boring, even for 24 seconds. On the Web, 24 seconds is a long time -- too long for users to keep their attention on something monotonous."

Skipping Christmas

Seems as though Willow Creeks decision to skip christmas this year has caused some uproar. I tend to agree with the critics...Closing Church on Christmas day is a bit like Closing Fenway or Wrigley on Opening Day. My church is going this route as well and I was a little supprised. I do think reducing the amount of activity is smart, but totally shutting down does seem to be capitulating to the culture. Anyway here is what one of my professors had to say about it.

December 04, 2005

Church marketing report

Kevin D. Hendricks of Church Marketing Sucks points us to a new report on the results of a survey on church marketing of over 500 church leaders across the country. This short report is worth a read.

Kevin says, "It's not Barna material by any means, but it is some interesting stuff."

Church Management System principles

Tony Dye of Perimeter Church just completed a great series of blog posts about what a good Church Management System (CMS) should do and how it should work. This is great reading for any of you who are considering installing a CMS or changing your existing CMS.

I wonder if any of the CMS companies out there are sophisticated enough to be paying attention to this discussion in the blog world. Some of Tony's comments seemed aimed directly at the vendors of popular systems. Are they listening?

December 02, 2005


Six months ago the closest thing to retail at Church of the Resurrection was selling CDs and videos of sermons. Today we have a bookstore (that sells our own CDs, videos, etc. as well as other typical Christian bookstore stuff), a ticketing system for selling reserved seat tickets to events in our main sanctuary, and now a coffee shop. Whew! I've never managed technology in a retail operation before, so it's been a learning experience.

For the bookstore we're using Booklog software and have been happy with it. For ticketing we're using Wintix and Webtix from Center Stage Software. It is functional but unimpressive (ask me for more info, if you're interested). For the coffee shop we're in the process of installing Restaurant Manager. Should have it running by the middle of next week.

In the process of installing all of these retail systems, we have discovered a great Internet vendor called POS Micro that sells all of the required specialty hardware such as cash drawers, barcode readers, keyboards, receipt printers, etc. They have stuff in stock, can ship overnight, can take orders until 8:00 pm Eastern time, and are inexpensive. Highly recommended.