December 27, 2006

MailFrontier is nearly perfect again

Last week we finally had time to focus on our spam problem. With some assistance from our friendly SonicWall tech support person, we installed a software update and tweaked our configuration. Turns out that at some point we white-listed everything from, no doubt to address a false positive situation, but that was a bad idea - too much spam is spoofed to come from your own domain. With the new software and the tweaks, we're back to nearly perfect, and just in time for the long Christmas-New Year's break when many of our staff take vacation. Almost no spam is getting through to our users' inboxes. Wee hoo!

SonicWall, I owe you an apology. When properly configured, SonicWall Mail Security is every bit as good as the spam filter built-in to Outlook 2003.

December 23, 2006

Guy Kawasaki talks about evangelism - the Christian kind

In case you missed it, I found it very interesting to see Guy Kawasaki reveal a bit of his personal faith in this recent blog post. In the post he includes this link to presentations at a church leadership conference in Hawaii this Fall. I'm glad to know Guy is interested in the original meaning of evangelism and not just his borrowed use of the term.

December 08, 2006

WEC Update

Now that Web Empowered Church (WEC) has been underway for a couple of years, Mark Stephenson has come to the belief that it won’t reach its full potential without Church Management System (ChMS) functionality, or at least deep integration with an existing ChMS. I totally agree with that assessment. So Mark and I thought it would be a great time to get together with Rubin Perry to discuss how ChMS fits with WEC’s vision and strategy. Like my meetings with Fellowship Technologies and Shelby Systems, our conversation was detailed, candid, and thought-provoking. While I’m not free to disclose everything we discussed, I can say that WEC has deep pockets, a passion for helping local churches use the Internet effectively, and a long-term view.

I’ve noted previously that combining content management (CoMS) functionality with ChMS and Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) functionality in a single, integrated system would be ideal. Most forward-thinking church IT leaders I know agree with this. WEC is looking for churches and church IT leaders who will partner with them to build just such a system based on the LAMP stack and TYPO3. As I mentioned, another possibility would be to do a deep integration of a market-leading ChMS with TYPO3. We’re in the process of discerning whether it makes sense for Church of the Resurrection to be one of those partners.

WEC is fully committed to open source software. By that they mean basing the software on the LAMP stack, licensing the software they develop using the GPL, and employing open source development methodologies. The advantages of this include risk reduction, ease of integration, competitive diversity, and distributed innovation. Already WEC is being adopted by churches around the world that have the technical ability to make use of complex technology. Such churches appreciate the fact that open source means WEC doesn’t have the licensing cost barrier associated with commercial software.

For churches that lack technical skills, however, adoption is challenging. TYPO3 is more than powerful enough for even the largest churches, but it is quite complex, it is difficult to learn, and it suffers from poor usability in some areas. Accordingly, addressing these issues represent top priorities for WEC.

1. WEC is actively working with the TYPO3 Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) team to improve usability.
2. WEC is developing TYPO3 training videos.
3. WEC is working on improved processes for providing tech support.

So that's a summary of how WEC fits into our ChMS analysis. I'm praying for clarity.

Ben Hill UMC

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of visiting Ben Hill United Methodist Church, just a few miles from the airport in south Atlanta. The Foundation for Evangelism’s technology leader, Rubin Perry, is a member of that storied church and one of its hardest-working unpaid servants. After 100 years of ministry, Ben Hill is still learning, growing, dreaming, taking risks, and serving. It has purchased the former headquarters site of Delta Airlines, a large acreage with a number of corporate-style buildings that have been sitting vacant for 20+ years. The site, adjacent to the Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta, has huge potential but carries many challenges. With Rubin helping to manage the project, the church is in the process of remodeling and renovating the first building, which will be used as a worship center when completed. The Holy Spirit is moving at Ben Hill and for that I say, “yeah God!”

The Spam Wars – What Does Microsoft know that SonicWALL doesn’t know?

The New York Times confirms that spam is getting worse, due primarily to two factors: 1) spammers are using farms of spambots running on insecure computers, which are abundant in homes with cable modems, making it ineffective to identify spam by originating IP address. Distributed security threats are always more difficult to block than localized threats. 2) A new type of spam with the message in an image that’s changed slightly each time it’s sent, making it impossible to recognize spam by a checksum on the contents.

I mentioned that the effectiveness of our spam filter, SonicWALL Email Security (formerly MailFrontier), is declining. On the other hand, it seems that Outlook 2003’s junk filter is keeping up. Since I began my experiment the week of Thanksgiving, I'm seeing 94-99% daily effectiveness from Outlook 2003 alone (with MailFrontier disabled on my mailbox). Yesterday it was 100% effective. Other staff we put on Outlook 2003 for our test have given similar reports.

What does Microsoft know that SonicWALL doesn't know? Why would we pay SonicWALL thousands of dollars per year for filtering that is LESS effective than the filter built-in to Outlook? Jerry, my SonicWALL reseller, has tried to get their attention. I also e-mailed one of their product managers nearly two weeks ago, with no reply at all so far. Jerry says we should hear something on Monday. Grrr.

Flurry of posts

Look out for a flurry of posts from me. It's amazing how much writing you can do in an airport and on a plane with no Internet. ;-)

Speaking of the airport, this is what greeted me when I tried to check the price to get WiFi today in Atlanta ...

Note: Because you are using an outdated browser, you may only view the raw textual content of this site. In order to view, use, and enjoy this site to the fullest at the maximum security level, please refer to our Browser Upgrade page to view a list of browsers that support web standards.

Let me see if I have this right, Sprint. I’m using an OUTDATED browser (IE 7) that should be UPGRADED to something that supports WEB STANDARDS (such as IE 6)??? You guys have had months to fix this page. Doesn’t anyone at Sprint use Sprint’s WiFi in airports? Haven’t at least some of them upgraded to IE 7? Even if they were asleep, it’s difficult to understand how they could have missed this. (Yes, Sprint is our friendly, neighborhood, telecom company located only two miles from Church of the Resurrection.)

December 06, 2006

Which ring makes the most sense?

Here's how I see the Church Management System (ChMS) marketplace. We're confronting the question of which ring of the market makes the most sense for us.

As you move in toward the center, the functionality is a closer and closer match to our requirements, but fewer and fewer organizations will be running it. On the outer rings, more organizations are innovating and influencing the feature set. On the inner rings, fewer organizations are innovating, but the features are more likely to be directly applicable to us.

December 04, 2006

Atlanta, here I come

This week I'm going to Atlanta to meet with Tony Dye as well as Mark Stephenson and Rubin Perry. Tony has graciously agreed to show me around Perimeter Church, introduce me to his A-team (A is for "awesome"), and talk about Church Management Systems (ChMS). Mark is joining in on the fun. Separately, Mark and I are going to meet with Rubin at Ben Hill United Methodist Church to talk about WEC's fledgling ChMS project.

This is my second trip exploring ChMS options, following my trips in October to Fellowship Technologies and Shelby. I should know by the end of next week whether my budget request to replace Shelby V5 has been approved for 2007.

Point, click, make a product to sell to the world

My friend Jay points us to Amazon's grand new scheme. Now let's see, how do we point, click, and plant a new church? Or, better yet, point, click, and lead people into a deeper relationship with Jesus? Hmmm ...

December 02, 2006

Birthplace of the web

Wired posted some pictures of the new particle accelerator under construction at CERN. At the end is this picture of CERN's "Internet Exchange Point," birthplace of the web. I'm feeling all weepy!