12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Hang in there…

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Hey, it has been a phenominally full week.  It has been a good one, but more than I could get to and blog.

Next week looks better and I will give you a few thoughts about the Missional and Institutional Church.  Some things have gelled for me and I have come to some resolution now about where we are as a church and where we need to be.  Perhaps it will be helpful to you.

Mac in Black|Phriday foto 07-04-08

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Sorry, no patriotic pictures of flags, kids or picnics.  Not even fireworks.

Some of you have noted that I was having trouble with my laptop over the last couple of weeks.  Turns out, the motherboard fried.  I took it in to a local Nerd Herd to confirm the suspicions and found out that, as expected, all was without hope.

I had backed up my information on an external hard drive I had purchased for our home, so there was no loss of data.  Just the grind of having to restore everything from a backup.

With the added pain of a whole new system.  :)

Yep.  I’ve done it.  I went over to the “dark side.”

Glowing AppleYours truly is now sporting a brand new Macbook Black.  No, not the Pro Series laptops, but I’m happy with the one I have.  I know some are getting those high end laptops, but I have no idea how they have the money for it.  Here’s a picture of the glowing white Apple on the back in the darkness of my home office as I take a break from working on my sermon.

I haven’t completely grasped the organizational structure, but they tell me it makes more sense when you do “get it.”  I pray I “get it” soon.

I will say, though, that it is fast.  Much faster than my old XP machine and light years ahead of my wife’s Vista machine.  Yikes.  That looks like a complete waste of money now.  She waits and waits for it to do ANYTHING, but this Macbook just flies through whatever you tell it to do.

Also, shutting down and booting up is AWESOME.  It’s almost NO TIME!

I still have to convert my iPod over to mac sync now.  I have no idea how well that will go, but I hope it goes as easily and quickly as importing all of my music from the external hard drive into iTunes.  Drag, drop and wait 20 mins to convert tons of audio, video and everything else.  Done.

Oh.  And it is light.  It’s not the “Macbook Air,” but it is probably half the weight of my former laptop.

Finally, thanks to the advice of David Phillips, we got the extended warranty, which takes the 1 yr hardware and 90 phone support to 3 years each.  David said that you should always do this with a laptop, because the manufacturers don’t allow you to simply buy and replace broken parts.  If you break something, particularly something important, you have to send it in.  Pretty soon, it is cheaper to simply buy a new computer.

Of course, that is how we got to where we are now, so we learned our lesson.

I’ve set up Firefox already and imported all my bookmarks with the Foxmarks Add-On.  It syncs your bookmarks, personal structure and all, to the net and allows you to log on and bring them to another computer using Firefox.

Final thing:  The whole “it just works” thing that mac users always throw around to pc users when their stuff is grinding and glitching…  they don’t seem to be lying.

There you have it, boys and girls.  Another one goes over…

As for the foto, I know it’s not much, but it is my first effort with the mac and using iPhoto with my Canon DSLR.  I like the program.  It looks promising.  I’ll reserve judgement to see if it is as good as Adobe Lightroom, which is what I have been using.

You can check out my pre-Mac pics at the ol’ photoblog.

Better Blogging: NextGen Picture Gallery

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This is a post of a few more artistic images that I took at Bonnie’s Graduation, but it is using the the NextGen Gallery plugin, with which I am experimenting. It is highly rated, but this is my first time using it, so I’ll have to write again later to let you know how it is.

Also, it came with slideshow and gallery link widgets to put in the sidebars, but I’ve opted not to include them in order to keep the load time down.

‘Nuff talk. Here’s the gallery:

[update]

Well, I couldn’t resist the slideshow widget, which is not a very big load and doesn’t slow the rest of the site down. I really like the plugin. It is highly configurable and works tons better than the gallery that comes with WordPress 2.5. The slideshow will continue to pick up all photos I put up from now on. 5 Stars.

Better Blogging: The Theme or Template

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blogIf you are picking this post up in your rss feedreader, then you might consider popping by the main blogsite at twelvewitnesses.com. The template here has changed significantly for the first time since the original inception back in September of 2005. Oh, we’ve had a name change and the template has been tweaked from time to time, but it has always been black background/white writing and the orange links and accents have been around for almost two years.

So, aside from just changing to change, why do such a dramatic revolution? There is nothing happening here that hasn’t been happening on most other blogs/themes. No video boxes in the sidebar and even the lens flare outer space graphic header has been exchanged for simple title graphics. What’s the benefit?

Actually, there’s a lot of benefit, and it all rotates around the idea of simplicity, which translates to streamlined for search engines, browsers and actual people.

This blog is not graphics intensive, which simplifies the load process on any browser. I just loaded it in Explorer (with nothing cached) and it loaded in .389 seconds. This is mainly for people who drop by. People who have to wait for a page to load, don’t like to visit it. That simple. It is something that will never change. In fact, because the internet is so much faster now, waiting is more aggravating than ever.

I achieved this three ways. First, there are no complex graphics, like the former header. Second, the graphics that are here are simplified and compressed so they are small. Very little load on the system. Finally, only the top article is featured on the main page. This means that I can use graphics on every post, but the person visiting the home site only has to download the graphics of the top post. it makes for a very speedy site.

The next thing I did was to make it a little more readable. This is a four column blog, rather than a two column blog, so the content on the main page does not take time to scan. Very few people have small screens anymore and most have wide screens. This blog LOVES the wide screen. But even if you don’t have that, the column widths are fluid, which means that they adjust to your screen. If it is wide, then they all spread out. If it is narrow, then they compress and make the page a little longer. Also, the far left sidebar (in the middle of the blog) drops out when you click on an article, so the article can spread out even more.

In order to create a little more readership, I placed a very large rss icon in the top right corner of the blog. It drives me nuts to look for rss links on blogs that I discover and then I can’t find the feed link anywhere. I’ve actually had to go to bloglines and have it search for a feed because none was there. Don’t do that to people. Most aren’t as determined or even proficient as I am. Make it very easy to catch what you are throwing. That’s the point, right?

Finally, I put the content on the left side of the blog where people and search engine bots can pick it up quickly. It makes it much easier to be found by search engines and people like it, too.

Oh, and the archives at 2.5 years now don’t stretch down the page. There is a page for them now, and I love the way it lays out. It gives the title of every post in chronological order. David Phillips turned me onto this with a plugin called kgarchives. You’ll need to create an Archives page and with the html editor (not the visual editor) put in this tag: <kgarchives />

That’s it.

Hope you are digging it. I did keep a little of the old site around with the orange, gray and black, but just a hint of what has gone before.

Blogging Update

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Just to let you know, I have been blogging, but you haven’t seen it yet.  I have been working on a massive overhaul of my template that will have very few references to the current template.  I plan on rolling it out overnight tonight, if I am able to carve out the time.

Anyway, accompanying it will be a “Better Blogging” post on your template and what effect your template can have on increasing your readership.  I hope it helps you.  For that matter, I hope it helps me.

If all goes as planned, check in tomorrow to see the changes and why they were made.

10 things we don’t mention …

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10 things we don’t mention in worship songs, but that I’m happy God saved me from. « 22 Words

Abraham Piper has a great list of 10 things he is grateful God saved him from, but that we don’t sing about in worship songs. I wonder why…

So, here is my list:

  1. The wrong girl.
  2. The wrong church.
  3. Being an Architect.
  4. Prison.
  5. Drowning.
  6. Being stuck in the 80′s.
  7. Drugs.
  8. An early death.
  9. Bachelorhood.
  10. Childlessness.

Yours?

Twitteranting

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TwitterOk, if you’ve not heard of twitter, you need to, because it seems to be the new fad in online communication. Apparently it is streamlined blogging with one sentence updates of what you are doing throughout the day.

Now, before I rant, I usually like to clarify what I’m about to say by telling you what I am not saying, so that people don’t misunderstand. I am not about to say that twitter is evil or that people are foolish for using it. I am not about to say that it is not the future of blogging because it may very well be just that. I am not saying that my friends who twitter are no longer my friends or that they are inferior in anyway.

Having said all of that, let me tell you that if you are my friend and you twitter, I AM TALKING TO YOU!

Stop putting your twitter updates in your blog or rss feed to which I subscribe. If you want to tell the world that you are constipated or that you are having a bad hair day…week…life then fine. Frankly, I am skeptical that people want to know this about you, but… Who knows? There might be stalkers out there who have targeted you and you may very well enjoy helping them to plan their assault on you.

That is irrelevant to me. I care not one whit. I will gladly attend your funeral and will mourn appropriately and will be outraged at your untimely and gruesome death at the exactly appropriate level. I may even offer to adopt your children as a way to minister to your family.

I might just do ANYTHING in an attempt to dissuade you from telling me the minutiae of your existence in a constant flow of information.

I am interested in your thoughts on deeper things, so I put your blog in my feedreader, but to my surprise, I began to find the rudimentary goings on in the lives of people I once thought fascinating and it came in buckets of crushing and yet uninteresting information.

Let me simply say that I love you, but not that much.

My wife doesn’t even want to know that much of my life, and I am pretty confident that I don’t need to know that she put on lipstick at 9:14 am before a meeting. And we love each other a lot.

Now that I’ve said that, let me encourage you to twitter all you want, but if you don’t take those blasted updates out of your rss feed, I’ll take your rss feed out of my feedreader. I will still love you. In fact, maybe I’ll love you more from a distance. But I’ll know much less of what you think about real things and I will actually be the lesser for it.

So for the betterment of me, please, if you love me back, stop rss-ing your twitter. Or at least do it separately so that those who do like to stalk you can do it without my knowing as much as they do.

Have a good day.

Better Blogging: Update

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I will be posting more posts in the Better Blogging series.  I have at least two more that will seriously help you, but they will take quite a bit of time to finish and I am tired of staying up all night to write.  I’ll try and polish them off as soon as I am able and post them soon.  Hang in there.

In the mean time, I will be setting posts to drop with interesting links or videos.

Oh, and I am still working on some thoughts concerning cooperative mission efforts and what we can actually do to make things work better.

Better Blogging: Hosting Your Own Site

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Fiber OpticI mentioned in Better Blogging: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that Search Engines will evaluate your host server’s ability to handle traffic and will not send you what you can not handle. Nevertheless, having your own site instead of having a .blogspot.com, .wordpress.com, .typepad.com, .squarespace.com or whatever other free blog site you might acquire will cause you to stand out to Search Engines better and is easier for most people to find. Remember, although you are super tech savvy, most of the world is still catching up. The vast majority of the world does not read blogs, but if you want them to find your content, you have to get the Search Engines to rank you high enough that you are found before they get tired of looking through all the links.

There are other reasons. One is financial. Believe it or not, typepad is not free, although your blog will show up as a subdomain on their site. For a couple of dollars more per month, you can have your own .com website. Granted, this is more than the other subdomain sites, which are free, but it is not overly expensive. I bought my server space for two years up front and haven’t had to worry about it since that time. It’s coming up again, and I’ll evaluate as the time draws near, but I use Bluehost and they are pretty good – constantly upgrading, etc.

By the way, I’ve given this before, but I’ll give you another link to “Who is Hosting This?” Go to the site and input the address of the site you wish to know about, and it will return the registered host of the domain in question. Just in case you want to know who your favorite blogger uses as a host.

As I mentioned, performance is an issue. I know that I just said that Bluehost is good with its servers. It is. But. Did you know there is more to server speed that you should consider?

Up until recently, the size, speed, operating system and uptime (time your servers were running properly, which equals the time your site functioned properly as well) were all that you had to consider when it came to choosing a host.

That was all I worried about when I signed on with Bluehost and all that I concerned myself with until I found this out: The scientists that actually invented the internet – no, not Al Gore, but the physicists at Cern – have actually already re-invented the internet.

Here’s the brief sketch and a link to the full story.

They invented the internet to store data that they were collecting as they attempted to record the splitting of atoms in the world’s largest supercollider. Well, the old internet has proven to be insufficient to handle the data, because, no matter how big and fast the computers they attempt to use to record everything, the massive amounts of data that get collected bottles up on phone lines that are not efficient, even for phone service. Thus, they have replaced the phoneline connections with a series of fiber optics called “The Grid.”

The Grid is 10,000 times faster than the typical BROADBAND connection. Think, the fastest connection you can get vs. instant. The only thing slowing you down now is your own computer. What’s this got to do with blogging? As technology advances, prices will come down. This will one day be affordable. Well, first it has to be available, then it will become affordable. It will happen a lot faster than the first internet, though. That’s what I think, anyway.

Finally, Layered Technologies offers a different type of grid. Although out of most people’s price range at $49/mo, LT handles your information by spreading it out over several “nodes” rather than piling all on one machine, which can only give your site so much time if it also happens to host one or more busy sites. Thus, the requests for your info gets shared over a system of servers rather than just one machine. That is also technology that is going to get cheaper as time goes by.

Heck, it’s already cheaper than a tank of gas, though that is not saying much.

Better Blogging: Making the most of your RSS feed

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This post is for everyone who blogs.

First, let me put up a great little video that explains what an rss feed that was made by Common Craft. This is particularly helpful for those who don’t already know and those who might still understand it vaguely.


RSS IconJohn P. recommends that you make the link to your rss feed very easy to find and he has this ENORMOUS button for feeds.

Lorelle Van Fossen recommends an entire page dedicated to specialized feeds, like feeds for different categories, so if someone only wanted to subscribe to tech stuff or Phriday fotos, then they could pick that one. Or, you could even combine a feed with related categories, like tech stuff and blogging or a combo of link loads and the run down. I’m working this out, but I’ve promised David Phillips, my tech support, that I wouldn’t tinker until later this week, when he has more time to help.

The main thing I want to pass on is that you should send YOUR FULL FEED to the feed readers. I thought, at one time, that I would not get people to my site if I gave them the full article in the feed reader, so I would give them a taste and hope they would crave more and come to the site. I don’t know whether that worked for me, but I can guarantee that it doesn’t work on me.

I almost never click on the website if the feed is truncated, so it is counterproductive to those who use that technique, since I neither follow the feed to their site and I also do not read what they have to say.

The point for most people is that they have the their thoughts read. If you are worried about counting readers, insert the Feed Statistics plugin and you can see almost all the same information that you would as if they hit your site, including the links they hit from your feed.

If you don’t know where this setting is, go to the “Settings” link and then the “reading” link in WordPress 2.5. After that, you will find, almost at the bottom of the page, a box that looks like this:

Feed Settings

Click the Full Text option, and you’re set.

Hope that helps you.

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