November 27, 2007

The Golden Compass

I'm assuming most of you have heard of movie 'The Golden Compass' by now, since it has made the morning news, at least here in Kansas City. My thanks go to Phillip Pullman for giving me something to blog about. :)

I first heard about this movie through a chain e-mail referencing Earlier this week my wife saw the trailer on television and said, "Ooo. We have to go see that!" I messed up and in a knee jerk reaction said, "No, we're not." Doh! Yeah ... that doesn't work with my wife. So I get the look, we "discuss," and I try to explain how the writer is a devoted atheist who purportedly targets children in attempt to "kill God" in their minds. She argued that it was just a fantasy movie, and no worse than The Devinci Code, which we did watch. It's just a movie. Hmm. I still disagree on some levels, but she has a point in whether or not we go watch the movie.

So after this morning's newscast mentioning it, I was pushed to learn why an Archbishop would support the movie, which has been touted as "anti-Catholic." Williams even goes so far as to say the book should be taught in schools! I found this online article. Wow. What a world we live in where educators are trying to throw religion out of schools, and Archbishops are trying to get atheism in them.

Now, little of this seems to be hearsay, if you believe the sources and the source's sources. So why on earth would you condone and support a movie "watered down ... so as not to offend faithful moviegoers in the United Kingdom and United States" thats center is in an anti-religious theme written by a professed atheist whos purpose in life is to convince children that God is false?!?!? All for the sake of keeping an open mind? Wha ... bu ... huh?

Ultimately, no one is going to affect whether or not people go see the movie. For the first time though, I find myself with pretty strong convictions to boycott this movie. It is just a movie, but I can't rationalize away the guilt I'd feel by supporting it.

November 22, 2007

Why it's difficult for IT to love Apple

I've posted before regarding the difficulty we've faced when needing service, tech support, or parts for our Macs. With time and experience I think we're learning to cope better, but Apple's service still isn't remotely comparable to Dell's. We pay hundreds for AppleCare, yet it doesn't include on-site service like we get bundled at no extra charge with our Dells. This is definitely a reason it's hard for us to love Apple, but I think it's not the biggest reason.

Given that Apple is such a strong company in design, engineering, and innovation, why are my main emotions toward them disappointment, irritation, and frustration?

Earlier this week Robert Scoble gave a great answer to this question: Apple over-promises and under-delivers. In reality, I think Apple probably delivers as well or nearly as well as any top-tier computer company. The problem is that it promises so much more. The arrogance is what sticks in my craw. If they were to compete humbly, recognizing their shortcomings and working hard to overcome them, they would earn my respect and I'd be likely to cut them some slack. As it is, every time we have a Mac issue, I'm freshly irritated by Apple's consistent, brazen promise that their stuff never breaks. Thank you Scoble for articulating so well this nagging sense I've had for a long time. Now I know I'm not alone in that.

November 19, 2007

Why Church Tech Matters

Flash back to last Wednesday. I'm working on my workshop proposal for MinistryTECH and I think of a related blog conversation earlier this year. Jim Walton's blog, Church Tech Matters, was at the heart of that conversation (posts, comments, and links to other blogs). So I go to Church Tech Matters to refresh myself on the conversation and I find nothing but an error message where Jim's blog ought to be. No posts, no comments, no blog at all. Oh no! So I wait and keep hitting F5 on my browser hoping to see it all return so I can finish my little project. The error messages keep changing, which tells me that Jim must be aware of the issue and working to resolve it. Then I start seeing posts from Jim about what happened and what he and Mary are doing to restore everything. I feel bad for Jim, but mainly I just want the blog to be back! (How selfish is that?)

I couldn't finish my workshop proposal for Terrell because Jim's blog was down. Is this not a weird world in which we live? Thankfully, Jim and Mary have fully restored everything now so I can get back to my proposal and Terrell won't have to wait much longer. Thanks Jim for your tireless efforts to restore it because Church Tech Matters really does matter!

November 10, 2007

Why most conferences suck and why the CITRT doesn't

Dave Winer:  "... the problem with most conferences is that except for the people putting it on, we don't have enough to do."

Dave's job for the next conference he attends:  "My job is to help get a flow of interesting pictures from the community to appear on the big screen on stage ..."

This reminded me of our blog post aggregator we had running on the big screen at the RoundTable. Any blogger there could post and it would show up on the screen within 5 minutes or so.  We're ahead of everyone on this stuff, even Dave Winer.  Cool!

Personal retreat

I took a 24-hour personal retreat at Tall Oaks on Monday.  While there I read Ephesians and Colossians as part of a study I'm doing on ecclesiology in connection with preliminary work on Resurrection's Internet Campus

I planned the retreat for early November because it's typically near the peak of Fall color here in the Kansas City area.  Sure enough, the trees were spectacular and God provided an equally spectacular day for me to enjoy them.  The day was completely cloudless with temperature in the high 50s.  I shot nearly 90 pictures.  Here are a few of my favorites.

IMG_1293-webIMG_1300-web  IMG_1297-web IMG_1332-web

Andrew Conard also posted about a day he took at Tall Oaks a couple of days before me.  In his post he explains the origin of these one-day personal retreats for staff.

November 08, 2007

It's Arena

This afternoon our executive management unanimously approved my recommendation to go with Shelby Arena as our new church management system. Here are some of the high-level features and benefits that attracted us to Arena as compared to Shelby V5 that we're running now:
  • Web-based – access from anywhere with improved usability
  • Greatly improved management reporting
  • Improved congregant connection and re-connection process
  • Improved management of confidential notes about people
  • Improved management of prayer requests
  • Integrated event registration
  • Integrated small group management
  • Integrated mapping of households
  • On-line giving
At the end of the day, our decision was strongly influenced by Arena's .NET platform, the ability to get the source code and create our own extensions and modifications, and the Arena Community. Though it's still based on commercial, for-profit technology, the Arena Community represents a very promising first step toward the open ChMS marketplace I spoke about last year. Although there are many ways the Community can get off track and ultimately fail to reach its potential, the opportunity to get involved in this is just too compelling to ignore.

Alfred, it's going to be an adventure. Let's hope to have some fun along the way too, if that's not too much to ask. ;-)

ChMS selection coming to a close

This afternoon I meet with Resurrection's executive management team to present my recommendation for our next church management system (ChMS). I've already spoken with the vendors regarding my choice. As soon as it's official this afternoon, I'll post about the decision.

Until then, let me just say that ChMS suppliers truly are our partners in ministry. They care passionately about the local church and its role in the Kingdom of God. We couldn't do ministry without them. At the beginning of this I knew that I would be making one of them happy and disappointing everyone else. To their credit, all of those we didn't pick have been extraordinarily gracious.

The most surprising thing I've learned through this process is how other churches our size, churches that are thriving and making an impact in the community and world, churches that I respect with IT staffs I respect, can use very well planned and well executed selection processes and end up making different choices of ChMS. When we IT directors discuss this subject privately, it seems we all pretty much agree with each other's analysis, yet our conclusions are different. I believe that's partly because we have different selection criteria or place different priorities on the various criteria. For myself, I think this is good news for the ChMS marketplace and for the Kingdom. It's quite valuable for us to have multiple healthy competitors, each with its own strengths.

If you're in the process of selecting a ChMS, don't copy our selection. Rather, I would strongly encourage you to use a very rigorous selection process so that you can proceed confidently with your implementation. If you get the selection process right, then you will make the right decision. Simple as that. If it would help you, we're happy to share documents or any other aspects of our selection process with anyone who requests them.

November 07, 2007

PC shipments are down in Japan

According to MSNBC, PC sales are declining in Japan due to consumers preferring handheld devices and other electronics. If the trend continues and spreads beyond Japan, we will look back on this as a sea change. How well does your church website work on a smartphone/PDA?

Everyone is talking about OpenSocial

I hate being so busy that I don't have time to read everything being said about OpenSocial, much less comment on it. Check out:

Jim Walton - OpenSocial - A Facebook Killer?
Cynthia Ware - OpenSocial Challenges Facebook’s Platform
Joe Suh - More Interoperability in Social Networking
Dave Winer - Why Google launched OpenSocial

All of this relates to my prior comments about interoperability among social networking systems.

If OpenSocial is actually implemented by all of the sites that announced support, it will be a way for churches to reach people through multiple sites in a single application. That would be very significant.