Seesmic for Facebook Review

Seesmic has created a twhirl-like client (twhirl is a Twitter client) for Facebook (innovatively titled Seesmic for Facebook). It basically allows you to update your Facebook status in the same way that you Twitter on twhirl (or any other half-way decent Twitter client), as well as read your friends’ status updates.

How well does it work? Well, I seem to be able to get my friends’ updates, but I’m having trouble getting it to update my status. For me this doesn’t really matter because I have Twitter update my Facebook status anyway. Right now it’s a pretty stripped down program. There are no URL shortners, no in window profile lookups, no search, no way to post photos, etc. It’s just a list of friends’ status updates and a way to update your own status (if you can get that part to work).

Of course, this is a beta version, and integration with twhirl (i.e. Facebook and Twitter updates in the same window) are coming soon, so that may bring some additional functionality along. I would especially recommend this program for those who use Facebook but not Twitter.

The really interesting part of the discussion is whether new Facebook interfaces like this will have an effect on Twitter’s popularity. If Facebook added Twitter-like functionality to its platform, it would pose a significant threat as Facebook already has a much larger user base.

Win an iPod Shuffle

So, here’s your chance to win an iPod Shuffle (2nd Gen). All you need to do is follow ObamaNews on Twitter. If the account reaches 70,000 followers by 12:00 PM EST on Thursday, March 19, one lucky follower will be selected (using TwitRand) to receive an iPod shuffle.

You do have to be a real person to win (i.e. not Starbucks or some other corporation), and you’ve got to reside in the U.S. Sorry, I don’t want to run afoul of any international laws! You’ll also be responsible for any taxes or fees or whatever.

If you win and you’re willing to let me use a picture of you with the Shuffle, you can get some free publicity on my blog and my personal Twitter account, which has around 2,000 followers.

Good Luck!

Hulu and boxee

If you don’t know what Hulu or boxee are, you can either stop reading now or go here and here to find out.

Hulu recently cut off Boxee from its content after Hulu’s content providers asked them to. (See Hulu and boxee‘s blogs for details.) There was little explanation given beyond this, but I believe that the content providers did not want to cannibalize their regular television viewership.

While one can certainly hook up a computer to a television, browse to Hulu, and begin viewing, Boxee makes this viewing online content on your television easy (or so I understand from reading, never actually used it). I’m guessing that content providers still make significantly more from television commercials than online commercials, so while they may provide content online, they don’t really want online content viewing to replace your regular television viewing.

P.S. I realize this post won’t make a great deal of sense to those who aren’t on the inside of this discussion.

Does Design Affect Community Engagement?

Had an interesting thought/conversation/question yesterday. Does designing a blog to look different than most blogs affect the level of engagement (i.e. number and quality of comments) on that blog? I’m not talking about the quality of a site’s design but more it’s similarity to other blog designs.

Blogs tend to look and feel a certain way. They have a post section on the left and a sidebar or two on the right. They look a lot like this blog. When you’re on a blog, you typically know it.

To restate: Does designing a blog that doesn’t look like a blog affect, either negatively or positively, the reader’s propensity to comment? For example, if a blog looks like this:

ncc-website

Is the reader more, less, or equally likely to comment as he or she would be were the same comment to be on a blog that looked more like a standard blog (i.e. my blog)?

I’d love to hear opinions from social media experts as well as personal thoughts/feelings from blog readers.

The Cons of Social Networking?

Earlier today Ed Stetzer, the President of Lifeway Research, wrote a blog post entitled “The Pros and Cons of Social Networking.” While I agree with his pros (and would probably add in a few of my own), many of his cons strike me the wrong way. I’ll dive right in. (Bolded and italicized content is Ed’s, emphasis mine.)

  • When Twitter friends ask me to promote their product on my blog or Twitter.
    Stop it.

    Sometimes people ask you to do something for them on Twitter. You’re free to take a look at the product/service and accept or deny their request. You can also ignore all of these entirely. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. If all someone ever does is self-promotion, that’s pretty frustrating, but if someone asks for something once (or every once in a while), I don’t have a problem with that, especially if it’s someone who dialogues with me regularly on other issues. In fact, Guy Kawasaki just wrote a post on using Twitter as a promotional tool, and he says the exact opposite:

    Ask for help. Don’t be shy about asking people on Twitter to spread the word for you. If they like what you do, they will. If they don’t, they won’t. It’s as simple and transparent as that. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for some of us), most people don’t have the chutzpah to ask for help.

  • When conferences ask me to promote their conference on my blog.
    Stop it.

    See Above

  • When people want to argue with me through Twitter.
    Here’s how it goes down: “Do you really think it is right for LifeWay to not sell this or that product?” Yes, let me think, could I have the privilege of debating you about this while 2000 people watch and we put our thoughts into 140 character Tweets? Genius.

    I realize that Twitter is not always the best forum for debate, and that some issues are best not discussed quite this publicly, especially in a format that removes a great deal of nuance. I think I know the issue Ed has in mind (although I obviously could be wrong about that), and it is a sensitive one.

    I do need to mention that before publishing this post I got in touch with Ed. I always want to be careful when being critical. He happily gave me the go ahead to post this criticism, so it would certainly be unfair to say that he’s unwilling to deal with criticism, but rather that he particularly dislikes Twitter for this type of dialogue. When I initially read this point, it seemed to be a repudiation of all public criticism or questioning online.

    That said, I think we can only expect that just as our Twitter followers will say things like “Hey great decision!” or “Loved your blog post on missions!”, they will also actively disagree with and question us as well. We’re free not to engage them if we so choose, but just like in the real world, people are going to express their opinions on social networks.

  • When people do drive by questions.
    For example, I tweet, “Going to be in Chicago for a week teaching at TEDS.” My next tweet is, “Just landed in snowy Chicago.” Then, I get two replies, “Ed, how long will you be in Chicago?” Three words people: READ THE FEED. It’s not as violent as a drive-by shooting, but it’s just as impolite.

    I’m not sure about comparing a drive-by tweeting to a drive-by shooting, but regardless, it’s tough to follow everyone’s complete twitter feed. While I don’t follow as many people as Ed, I do have a few hundred, far too many for me to read every update or visit every profile. Yes, I usually visit the profile before asking this type of question, but if you tweeted about going to Chicago two hours ago, and I sign into Twitter just in time for your “Just landed in snowy Chicago” tweet, then I might ask what you’re doing there. It’s fine if you don’t want to answer. (Although continually ignoring people’s questions on Twitter is rude. Note that I’m not saying Ed does this. He responded to my inquiry.)

  • When people try to discuss blog posts via direct message on Twitter.
    Look, if I wanted to have a private chat about it I would not have posted it on the blog.

    I’m not a big fan of DMs either, but it’s not that big of a deal. (Yes this is serving as notice to my Twitter followers that I prefer to discuss things in the open unless they really are private. Had a lengthy conversation [for Twitter] last night, parts of which were better left for DM.)

  • When people ask me random questions via Twitter.
    “Ed, we have 300 people in our church. How many students should we have in our youth group?” My name is Ed, not “google.” And, that has a lot to do with your community, by the way.

    People are following you and interacting with you because they value your opinion. If they wanted random information on youth groups, they would Google it. They’re asking Ed Stetzer because they want Ed Stetzer’s opinion. If you’ve already answered that question somewhere online or in a book, you can kindly refer them there or simply tell them to search for that content.

    Although, Ed is right that certain questions can’t be answered without context, his youth group example being one. My church of ~1250 as a youth group of around 6. Then again, the average age is something like 27, and I’m glad most people in our congregation didn’t have kids at 15! So I agree, think before asking.

  • When Facebook friends ask me my email address.
    Look– if we are friends, it is right there. This is almost like someone calling me up on my cellphone to ask what my area code is. *sigh*

    Okay, this one I completely agree with. If my e-mail address is on my Info page, then you don’t need to ask me for it. Don’t be lazy.

  • When Facebook friends invite me to an “event” they should know I cannot attend.
    If it’s not a real event, I don’t want to “attend.” If it is a real event and it’s out of state– it’s irrelevant to me.

    When it comes to non-real events, people may not know that you don’t want to “attend.” It’s easy enough to ignore these or simply decline. Yes, if I obviously can’t be there (and it’s not a significant enough event that people would travel for it), then don’t invite me.

  • When people invite me to join their “cause.”
    I am not joining your crusade for or against the “new facebook,” the “reason for the season,” or anything else. You aren’t going to change hearts and minds and overcome the evil one with what amounts to an electronic petition that no one cares about.

    Fair enough, you don’t like it, some do.

  • When people invite me to play some kind of a Facebook game.
    Look– you may enjoy Dungeons and Dragons but I don’t want to play it with you at this stage in my life. I’m not networking here to see your magic castle, become your squire, or fight your mob war. Just sayin’

    Once again, a personal preference (one that I share). I recommend the “Block” feature for most Facebook apps. That way you won’t get that one again. A side note, if you want to play Scrabble or Boggle with me, I might be up for that! But I’m not going to zombie bite anyone.

Ed obviously has a bigger influence than I do online and a MUCH bigger influence offline. I’m sure he is bombarded with far more questions and requests than I am. On the other hand, it seems unreasonable to expect people to only interact with you on your terms.

I suppose the tone of this post is more what I take issue with. It doesn’t seem to be just a listing of things that are/could be frustrating about social networks. It’s not a kind ask for people to stop doing these things. It seems to be a series of complaints about people not acting the way you want them to, and most of the things listed aren’t inherently rude. I don’t always like the way people interact with me online, but that doesn’t make them wrong.

I don’t mind if people ask me to help them promote something. If I like it, I will; if not, I won’t. If you want to ask me my opinion, go ahead. I may or may not have a good answer. Don’t ask me a factual question that Google answers in the first result, but if you want my take on something, go for it. Social networks are communities. Communities are full of people. People dialogue with other people. People ask people questions.

I hope that I have not been overly critical in this post. I suppose that I am not giving Mr. Stetzer the benefit of the doubt at most points, but the way his post is written it doesn’t seem that he is giving his online community that either. Perhaps I misunderstood and there was more humor intended in his post than I give him credit for.

What are your thoughts about social networking etiquette?

Online Community, A Case Study: WithoutWax.tv

A few weeks ago I came across a blog called Without Wax. While Without Wax is written by a pastor, Pete Wilson of of Cross Point Church in Tennessee, I think that all Internet marketers, social media gurus, etc. could learn a lesson from Pete.

The thing that’s so amazing about Without Wax are its comments. It’s updated an average of once per day and has 585 subscribers in Google Reader (GR).

By contrast FireDogLake, a liberal political blog with 1,449 GR subscribers (2.5x as many) and a significantly higher Alexa ranking, receives roughly the same number of comments as Without Wax.

Here’s another comparison point. Matt Cutts’ personal blog has 14,887 GR subscribers and has an Alexa ranking between FireDogLake and Without Wax. He posts 2.8 times per week and actually gets fewer comments than Pete does. While the following information isn’t super-helpful for comparison purposes because we don’t have it for any other blogs listed here, I can tell you that during 2007, Matt had 2.27 million visits and 31,373 RSS subscribers.

We can also look at another blog in the same genre as Pete’s. Evotional is written by Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church (where I attend/work). Mark has 1,114 GR subscribers, posts at a similar rate as Pete does (10x per week), and has a similar Alexa ranking. He receives far fewer comments than Pete.

What’s my point? Well, Pete Wilson, author of Without Wax, has the highest level of community engagement that I’ve ever seen on a blog. Sure, some blogs get more comments, but they’re huge. The mighty TechCrunch with its nearly 1 million RSS subscribers and 3 million daily visits doesn’t get that many more comments. The number of comments on Pete’s blog simply blows me away.

While I’m not sure exactly why Pete gets so many comments, here’s my thought. He writes relatively short posts, not Mark Batterson short but still short, and at the end of many of them he asks readers a question that they can answer in the comments. This question is written in red to make it stand out.

Maybe we can get Pete to drop by and give us some more insight. You can always ask him on Twitter. UPDATE: Pete said he’d drop by and comment later, so no need to bug him on Twitter, although feel free to follow him!

Do you have any insight into this?

Youngest Twitterer Ever?

My friends Chris and Lora Jarrell had a baby just under a month ago (30 days to be exact), and today they started a Twitter account for him. He’s @TorinJarrell. It’s locked, as well it should be, seeing as he’s not yet a month old, but I wonder if this doesn’t make him the youngest Twitterer ever.

Perhaps more interesting are the sociological and developmental ramifications. Whereas I started using Twitter as an adult, Torin will never know life without Twitter. I assume that when he’s old enough, whatever age that may be, Chris and Lora will turn his account over to him. This also means that depending on how long Twitter keeps their records, Torin could very well have a chronicle of his life story from infancy. That could be a very cool thing.

Embeddable Widescreen YouTube Player

UPDATE: YouTube has now officially released their new widescreen player, and the method I describe in the original post is obsolete, albeit still functional.

However, the embed code that YouTube provides doesn’t actually account for the fact that your video is widescreen. In other words, unless you change the height of the player that you embed in your website/blog, you will still get the black bars at the top and bottom of your video.

To fix this, you will need to change the height of your video in both the embed and object tags. While the dimensions of your video may vary, I’ve found that a 260 pixel height is the magic number for a standard widescreen video.

You can also embed higher quality videos by adding either “&fmt=18” (for good quality) or “&fmt=22” (for HD quality) to the end of the URL.

For example:
<object width="425" height="290"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/P3PDLsJQcGI&hl=en&fs=1&fmt=22"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/P3PDLsJQcGI&hl=en&fs=1&fmt=22" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="290"></embed></object>

Of course, when you embed the higher quality videos, you can make the player you embed larger without artifacting. Be warned, however, that the HD quality videos don’t necessarily download very quickly. Your viewers may get frustrated while waiting for YouTube to buffer the video.

Screenshot of YouTube Widescreen PlayerYou may have noticed a link reading “Try the New YouTube Player Beta!” under videos on YouTube. The new player is pretty sharp looking. Moreover, it has a sweet widescreen version. Unfortunately, YouTube provides no instructions on embedding the new player on your blog/website. I searched Google and didn’t find any instructions anywhere, so after I figured it out, I thought I should share with the world.

To embed a regular 4:3 video, use the following code.
<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/swf/watch.swf?video_id=YOUR-VIDEO-ID-HERE"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/swf/watch.swf?video_id=YOUR-VIDEO-ID-HERE" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

There is one caveat when using the new player: the videos start automatically whether you want them to or not. I’m sure this is something YouTube will deal with once the player comes out of beta, but for now, we’re stuck with it how it is. At least, I think so. I couldn’t find any way to stop it, although I didn’t try using the API. If you know how to stop it from auto-playing, let me know in the comments.

To embed a widescreen video you must add &vq=2&fmt_map=6/720000/7/0/0 to the end of the URL (shown in the following code box). However, there is an additional caveat when using the widescreen player. Most videos, even widescreen videos, will not work with it. If you get a message saying, “This video is no longer available,” and you’re sure you copied the code correctly, it means that the video will not work with the widescreen player. If you’re having trouble, you can test your code with the video id X13o3efXTmk , which is the video I have embedded below. If it still doesn’t work, your code may be slightly off. Unfortunately, it’s very finicky and breaks at the drop of a hat.

I can’t promise this is repeatable, but I did upload one video that worked with the widescreen player. It had a 1.8:1 ratio (864×480) letterboxed into a 640×480 Quicktime video. I’m sure other ratios/sizes would work as well. The video below has an even wider radio, but 1.8:1 and 640×480 worked for me.

<object width="480" height="295"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/swf/watch.swf?video_id=YOUR-VIDEO-ID-HERE&vq=2&fmt_map=6/720000/7/0/0"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/swf/watch.swf?video_id=YOUR-VIDEO-ID-HERE&vq=2&fmt_map=6/720000/7/0/0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="480" height="295"></embed></object>
Read the rest of this entry »

Need Any Design Work Done?

If you need some design work done, drop me an e-mail. I haven’t put together an updated portfolio, but here are a few things I’ve done in the past.

Website: (This one’s not done yet, but I love it and wanted to show it off.)




Logo/Banner:

ZoneGathering Logo


Advertisement:




Logo:




Postcard:




Videos:

Group Life 2008 – Community and Social Media

Pre-Conference Experience

Speakers:

Cynthia Ware: thedigitalsanctuary.org

Heather Zempel: National Community ChurchWineskins for Discipleship

Frank Chiapperino: Christ Church of the Valley

Mac Lake: Seacoast

Mark Howell – smallgroupresources.net

Description: FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter… is it possible to experience “virtual” community without ever meeting face-to-face? (Does iChat count as face-to-face?) Join some of the top bloggers in Group Life for a hearty conversation about technology and community.

Notes:

CW: Technology is not a cure-all, and yet it is a tool. Our perspective on that tool and how we choose to use it is a stewardship tool, in the same way that you can use a knife to hurt or to heal (surgery).

Online technology fosters communication.

I’m not an advocate of forcing technology on people. There’s a lot of hype around new media right now. That will expand even more. We will be video-streaming our lives online, but there is no press on anyone that you have to be involved. There is a difference, especially generational, and we have to be sensitive to that. BUT, if people are migrating online, we can adopt early and become influencers.

HZ: I got on Twitter when I found out I was on this panel. Twitter is a microblog. You’re limited to 140 characters. If you think about Facebook status updates is kinda what it is.

CW: It’s a status update, the idea of text messaging update, but we are unable to keep it in that box. People use it in many different ways. It is a form of social media.

HZ: One way that it worked in my life this week is that Monday my husband and I wanted to go to Cracker Barrel. On Twitter I said, “Ryan and I are going to Cracker Barrel at noon,” friends in the DC area who are also on Twitter joined us.

With Twittering, you have your own status updates, and you have people that follow you and you choose to follow. For example, I am a follower of Cynthia’s Twitter feed, and I found out that she was stuck at the airport.

MH: It’s like a 24/7 confereence call.

I don’t see the updates on my phone but some people do.

I use Twitter when I want to talk about something that I’m doing as opposed to something I would post on. I have it set up so that when I create a blog post, it shows up on Twitter.

FC: It opens you up to a larger audience. People have the opportunity to subscribe for you via invitation or a search, or if you have a blog/webpage, you can link to your Twitter account.

There’s lots of customer service happening on Twitter in the customer service world.

MK: When I posted that I was switching from TypePad to WordPress, someone from TypePad followed me.

FC: Churches using Twitter in worship context. Fed a Twitter conversation to side screens during a worship service so people could interact during service. Google Vertizational blog for more info.

MH: It’s kinda like worship and the Blue Man Group in one.

CW: We don’t need every new-fangled technology. It can be overwhelming and redundant, but Twitter is creating an entirely new way for people to think about conversation. We’ve lost the boundary between the broadcaster and the audience.

You can follow people and not really say anything to figure out what’s going on.

There’s great value in me for being able to see who Heather’s friends are.

People come to church because others invited them.

Audience question: For someone who has had to block people from their e-mail address, this sounds dangerous.

MH: You can block people from your Twitter feed, but understand that the information is out there.

Audience follow-up: More concerned with people joining the conversation that aren’t wanted.

FC: You can choose to ignore something you don’t like.

CW: You can’t control the conversation/information.

I have Facebook friends, and in that I have former employers, etc. I can’t control what they do.

Decentralization: There is not a lot of control. That is what has such a broad appeal: don’t run me through your filter. In broadcast mode, the information is controled by a group of people in a bureaucratic way. Something similar happened with the Gospel historically.

We have to let down the criteria that we have for communicating.

FC: Let me expand on that a bit. On my personal blog, I recently posted on the political race, which is a bit controversial for a pastor. I don’t control my comments and was attacked by church folk for considering voting for someone who wasn’t pro-life. I might have posted another reply once, but I had people who knew me well coming to my defense. Because you have relationships in the digital arena, your’e going to have people who come to your defense, and a conversation will happen. I’m okay with not having everyone around me like me.

HZ: I had a similar situation on my blog when I posted on women in ministry. Lots of comments, people on lots of different sides interacting with one another.

I have a wide variety of friends on Facebook, not just ministry friends. They have very different religious beliefs. This isn’t about my image. I’m more concerned about reconnecting with these people who now see what sermon I’m preaching on Sunday. If it’s someone who’s intentionally being malicious, I would block those people, but I’m not seeing that.

I think Jesus would have a variety of Facebook programs that people would see as inappropriate.

Audience Question: We started a Google Group for a 30-50 something singles group that grew out of a big mailing list. We ended up migrating to Facebook so that people could see each others pictures, etc. How do we pull all of these people together?

HZ: For that to work, everyone has to have their own profile and join the group. As Cynthia said, you might have people who just aren’t interested in that.

FC: We have about four young adults large groups, a bit more of a younger crowd than you’re talking about. They’re on different social networks. We created a password protected Typepad blog. It helps maintain the privacy of the group. Provides a front page where you can post announcements, blog about events, post pictures of events, and people can comment on things.

HZ: We’ve used the blog format as well. We have zonegathering.com, which is our small group leaders blog. We found it is great for posting information/announcements but not for creating community. That’s where Facebook comes in.

MH: One thing I would add is that not all of us are tech savvy, as Mac confessed this morning, but I promise you that there’s someone in your group who is. You could have a range of solutions: Unifier, livekite.com. You won’t have to go through the same learning curve.

Audience Follow-up: Is there a place we can centralize this? Are there those applications within Facebook or somewhere else that can do that?

FC: If everyone was on Facebook that would work, but you don’t want to push people too hard. However, once you get critical mass, people will want to start joining.

ML: Is anyone using smallgroupfriends.com?

Audience Answer: It does basically what Facebook does.

CW: I encourage you to check out Unifier. It’s a product that you pay for, but don’t let that dissuade you. It 40 cents per month per person, and that’s what you would pay to announce the next baptism.

Every church that has a webpage online is multi-site because your church facility is one place that people equate with defining your church, but we all know your church is not your building, programs, etc. We all know that your church is a set of relationships under leadership. If you have a webpage, you have a place with static information with your street address and service times.

The idea of multi-site is brand new, and many people are evaluating if one of those locations can be online. We’d like our webpage to be a place that people come where we provide services as opposed to a dead-end.

At a church we were at, one of young tech people put a webcam on our site with the surf report. It provided a service that people wanted. Streaming services, pastors, small group leaders blogging. Links to other resources.

ML: We did move to an online campus earlier this year. If you were to come to our services in the building, you would have a couple of songs, teaching, and then response time. During response time people go place something on a cross, go light a candle to pray for someone, have prayer teams for people to be prayed for, and have communion stations for people to take communion.

We’ve been trying to figure out how to do this online. We’ve got candles you can light for prayer. You can pin a sin to a cross. For the announcements, we have an online campus pastor who does video.

Audience Question: What’s your website?

ML: seacoast.org

Audience Question: What’s your demographic, younger?

ML: It is mostly younger, but we’re still figuring it out. Look at lifechurch.tv et al.

CW: Leadership Network has a blog called Digital. It’s designed for ministers, pastors, church staff. In the left sidebar of that site toward the bottom, you will see links to churches with online campuses. I believe there are 15 links. I’ve taken online communion with LifeChurch, led an online prayer session.

Along with the question of who does this appeal to, there’s the question, “Can we forsake not the assembling online?”

There are questions that we don’t have answers to.

As we struggle to wrap our minds around this, there were 55 people who accepted Christ online at LifeChurch last week.

There may be resistance to coming into a church service, but people would attend a service online.

MH: A pastor at LifePoint saw someone watching the LifeChurch service online and raise her hand when Craig Groeschel asked people to raise their hand wherevery they are if they want to accept Christ.

Audience Question: Could you talk more about your online leadership development?

ML: We were trying to get people to come on Wednesday night for training. One problem was distance, we’re a multisite church. One problem was time. We’d have trouble with consistency. Also, people would come to me in October in the middle of the class and want to be a leader.

God has given leaders to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Lay leaders, not just pastors.

We’re going to move away from a program oriented approach to a people oriented approach. We’re going to put our leadership classes online.

We would sign up people to do a session online and then have their small group leader get together with them to debrief whenever it works for them. Then, I say, next week in small group, you’re going to lead the prayer and icebreaker. If they’re out of town next week, they can do session 2 the week after. Now, we can do training any time, anyplace, at any place.

We’ve trained around 500 people in the last year, as opposed to around 20/semester before.

We have leaders raise up leaders, coaches raise up coaches, and pastors raise up pastors.

You can’t just go online and do our leadership classes. You have to be referred by someone you have a relationship with.

We use moodle.com, but we hate it. We’ve hired a company to build something for us.

We do text, journaling, videos. It’s very interactive. The videos are short because I can’t sit there and watch something online for a long time.

You can go to mynextsteps.org to see some of the content, but unfortunately, you can’t get into the classes.

Audience Question: You talk about some of the appeals of the online worship service because people are opposed to church. Since the church is supposed to be a place of community and belonging, how do you create that online?

MH: As opposed to watching a service on TV, participating online is participatory. You can click, take actions, etc. At LifeChurch, you can only watch during a service time (Ed. Note: This forces there to be community present when participating).

You would probably find that people would actually rather participate online than in a real service, even if they hadn’t been burned in a church.

HZ: Alan told me a great story about an online small group. They had reached a greater level of community than many traditional small groups. They ended up meeting face-to-face because of the community that had been developed online.

CW: People may be afraid that if online is so great people will only go there, but that’s not the case at all. The idea isn’t to become a giant lake; it’s to become streams in the desert.

I have a friend who led someone to the Lord online through his blog.

FC: It has some interesting impacts in a group and community setting. We have an elderly couple with a modest house on a large plot of land. The township was trying to obtain this land through eminent domain. Some people in the church started a Facebook group to stop it, and a bunch of people showed up at the next town meeting to oppose it. The township changed their vote because of this.

Community online can mobilize a group of people to do something for someone in your church.

Audience Question: Being someone who thrives being with other people, how to balance being with people in real life and online?

MH: It requires your own discipline in how much time you will spend on it and how you will engage. That’s why I don’t have twitter on my phone.

ML: I’m Facebooking because I have to, not because I want to, but it helps me to connect with people.

It’s even helped me connect with my own family.

Audience Question: Recently in our church we had a fairly known person who’s son struggled with leukemia, and you could follow the whole process on Facebook. Plus, the dad was blogging the whole process. The boy died about a month ago. There were people who communicated from around the world through these tools. There were at least 2 or 3 churches that experienced revival around this. 25 people came to know Christ as a result of this process.

CW: We touched upon the dangers of being online, but it may be that the benefits greatly outweigh the dangers.

There’s also an age issue. My 13 year old doesn’t have a Facebook profile.

It used to be that meeting someone online was taboo. That’s no longer the case.

People want to be able to see their kids pictures online. People are participating in their families online. They connect using Skype.

If we are paying attention to the next generation, this is totally normative to them. They’re getting their assignments online. My daughter had to make a 60 second video for a school project. It’s normal to text throughout the day, to have a teacher text you.

Technology isn’t just for young people. It’s advantageous to people who are homebound, to the older generation. I had a couple of older women who e-mailed me every day to tell me they were praying for me.