I’m saying blogging is better.

Amen (emphasis mine):

“With social media, be it Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, I’m always aware of the audience. I have a general idea of who is following or friending or, most especially, favoriting. And so I’m tempted to write for that audience. Its not so much that I write for the likes —though they have their intoxicating qualities. Its that I start to write based on who I perceive that audience is. I start to mutter about what I think they will be interested in, rather than what I’m interested in.

There is an anonymity of audience when it comes to blogging. It’s like being on stage with the spotlights blinding you from anything beyond the first few rows. You’re up there putting it out there. Those friendly and familiar faces in the front row can be encouraging, for sure, but who knows who, if anyone, is in the rows beyond.”

Source: I’m Not Saying Blogging is Better – by John Chandler

Why does South Carolina remain one of 4 states without equal-pay laws?

Disgusting that we need to have such protections. Even more disgusting that our white, male, heterosexual lawmakers refuse to believe this is worth their approval at the behest of the fears of leadership and / or disappointing their chamber of commerce donors…

“Seven years after President Barack Obama signed legislation that makes it easier for women to challenge discriminatory pay in court, South Carolina remains one of only four states in the country without equal pay protections.”

Source: Why does South Carolina remain one of 4 states without equal-pay laws? | McClatchy DC

Change and the Real World

More churches, small businesses, and barely surviving companies need to heed this advice…

“Those who want things always to stay the same are not living in the real world,” Ms. Wintour said in a recent interview at her office overlooking the Hudson River at Condé Nast’s new headquarters, One World Trade Center. “It’s like perfection. Doesn’t exist.”

Source: Condé Nast Adapts to New Forces, Unsettling Some Inside

“Heroes”

“‘Mic number one was a valve U47, and with the other two on gates I made sure that number two, an 87 placed about 15 feet away from him, would go on at a certain level, while the third mic, another 87 that was all the way at the other end of the room, didn’t open up until he really sang loud. That reverb on his voice is therefore the room itself, none of it is artificial, and it’s his voice triggering the gates. What is really great is that the sound of the opening two verses is really intimate. It doesn’t sound like a big room yet, it sounds like somebody just singing about a foot away from your ear. The whole idea worked, and what you hear on the record is probably take three. We wouldn’t go beyond that. He was really worked up by then and I can tell you he was feeling it. It was quite an emotional song for him to sing, he deliberated long and hard over these lyrics, and he was ready to go, there was no holding him back'”

Source: CLASSIC TRACKS: Heroes

This Isn’t What Jesus Had In Mind, Guys

“Chelsea and her husband Clint, who asked that I use only their first names, belong to a small subculture of religious couples who practice “Christian Domestic Discipline,” a lifestyle that calls for a wife to be completely submissive to her husband. Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it’s nothing but domestic abuse by another name.”

Source: Spanking for Jesus: Inside the Unholy World of ‘Christian Domestic Discipline’ – The Daily Beast

Gross.

Don’t Buy Into the Myth of Human Progress

Integral calculus, like theology, are areas we imagine we have forward progress as humans… not always the case.

“What is perhaps more surprising is the sophistication with which they tracked the planet, judging from inscriptions on a small clay tablet dating to between 350 B.C. and 50 B.C. The tablet, a couple of inches wide and a couple of inches tall, reveals that the Babylonian astronomers employed a sort of precalculus in describing Jupiter’s motion across the night sky relative to the distant background stars. Until now, credit for this kind of mathematical technique had gone to Europeans who lived some 15 centuries later.”

Source: Signs of Modern Astronomy Seen in Ancient Babylon – The New York Times

 

Facebook’s New Reactions Are Going to Be Interesting to Watch

“Changing the button is like Coca-Cola messing with its secret recipe. Cox had tried to battle the like button a few times before, but no idea was good enough to qualify for public testing. “This was a feature that was right in the heart of the way you use Facebook, so it needed to be executed really well in order to not detract and clutter up the experience,” he says. “All of the other attempts had failed.” The obvious alternative, a “dislike” button, had been rejected on the grounds that it would sow too much negativity.”

Source: Inside Facebook’s Decision to Blow Up the Like Button

This is a huge change for the network, and will elicit a number of (fascinating) response types from love to hate judging from previous changes Facebook has made to its privacy policies and Newsfeed over the years… it’ll sort itself out after a few months but expect to see and hear lots in the media about this change!

Similarly, there was a loud outcry when Twitter switched from “stars” to “hearts” to symbolize “favoriting” tweets on its network back in November. Even the ease of “liking” something on Instagram has been a major cause of its success (especially with younger demographics).

So, social feedback on networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can be seen as a major component of why people use them to post personal thoughts, pictures, or updates. Skinner boxes are alive and well, so we’ll see how Facebook handles the transition in the coming months.

Seriously, go listen to the first few minutes of this This American Life episode if you’re a doubter.

#OMGPRETTY

YouTube Donation Cards for Nonprofits

We recently began rolling out donation cards to US creators, which let your subscribers and viewers donate directly from your videos. Just add a donation card, pick a nonprofit, and start doing good. You can choose any United States, IRS-validated 501(c)3 public nonprofit organization and they receive 100% of the money donated. We’re excited to take this first step and look forward to expanding into other countries so creators across the world can power nonprofits they care about.

Source: YouTube Creator Blog: Transform a view into a donation

I could see this being a nice secondary stream of donations for nonprofits and churches in 2016…

“Art is not like science, it’s not like mathematics…”

 

“Art is not like science, it’s not like mathematics… it doesn’t improve. The work that was done in 2000 B.C. is as relevant as art today. And that’s the fascinating thing about art. That’s a conundrum. There is no new invention…This work is valid.”

Early Bronze Age (Iran or Mesopotamia). Head of a ruler, ca. 2300–2000 B.C. Copper alloy. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1947

Source: Dorothea Rockburne on an ancient Near Eastern head of a ruler | The Artist Project | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Beautiful.

Peak iPhone

Too Many iPhones

From earlier today before Apple’s Q1 Earnings call:

“When CEO Tim Cook reports Tuesday on Apple’s sales for the last three months of 2015, investors will be watching closely for any hints about how Apple’s signature smartphone is faring in the current quarter. Sales usually fall somewhat after the holiday shopping season. But analysts say it appears Apple has cut production orders from key suppliers in recent weeks, suggesting it’s lowered its own forecasts.”

Source: Is Apple Reaching Peak iPhone? | CBS

And from just now after the earnings call regarding the upcoming Q2 2016:

… The company expects to report between $50 and $53 billion in revenue. That would put it below the $58 billion it reported in Q2 2015 and would mark the first year over year decline in revenue for the company in years.The slight decrease can likely be attributed to falling iPhone sales, which have been predicted for some time now. In Q1, Apple reported sales of 74.7 million iPhones, which is just barely better than the 74.5 million it did in the same quarter last year. Apple did not say how many it expects to sell in Q2, but analysts have predicted declines as high as 25 percent.

Source: Have we reached peak iPhone? It’s complicated | The Verge

Apple sold an average of 34,000 phones per hour for 13 consecutive weeks. That’s incredible, but unsustainable, growth. If anything, Wall Street loves growth. With China’s economy on a rapid downturn and the U.S. economy weak due to a number of variables that could lead us into a potentially havoc Spring, Summer, and Fall, Apple is wisely hedging its bets on production. That’s especially wise since carrier subsidies for new devices are now non-existent in the U.S. and each new iteration of the iPhone undergoes a “meh, it’s not that different from my old one” period with potential upgrading users.

If nothing else, we’ve learned today that the media loves using the term “Peak iPhone” (give the term a google if you’d like to see).

The Loss of Solitary Exploration

“This experimental feature helps voters make more informed choices, and levels the playing field for candidates to share ideas and positions on issues they may not have had a chance to address during the debate. By publishing long-form text, photos and videos throughout the debate, campaigns can now give extended responses, answer questions they didn’t get a chance to on stage, and rebut their opponents. As soon as the first debate begins at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, search “Fox News debate” to find campaign responses.”

Source: Official Google Blog: New ways to stay informed about presidential politics

Wait, you mean the debates are scripted?

But seriously, this is interesting… as I’ve been watching the X Files revival this week (also on Fox™), I’ve been thinking more intentionally about the how’s and why’s we consume media in 2016 compared to, say, twenty years ago in 1996 when I was a nerdy teenager madly in love with the show. The X Files were something that I watched, recorded, and watched again most every week in order to parse out a new piece of the show’s ongoing mythology. It was a solitary, but incredibly beneficial, experience. I did the same with Beatles lyrics and Herman Hesse novels around the same time.

However, with this new iteration of the X Files, I’ve noticed that I’m watching my iPad as much as I’m watching the show. The #xfiles stream on Twitter has been an integral part of my viewing of the show. I only realized how much last night as I was watching the stream and realized that I had missed a key plot point that was subtle (I probably would’ve missed it if I had been watching the show intently rather than partitioning my attention, but still…) but was important. A tweet clued me in and I immediately “got it.” Would I have had that experience had I not been following the conversation on Twitter? Maybe. Hopefully in a second or third viewing I would. But I find myself not watching or reading things a second or third time these days because OMG JESSICA JONES is on Netflix and I have to catch up before diving into Making a Murderer before the next season of House of Cards!

Following the X Files last night was the last Democratic Presidential Debate before the Iowa Caucus next week. Again, I spent as much (if not more) time arguing with my friend Thomas Whitley about the merits of Bernie Sanders on Twitter as I did actually watching the debate. I’ve been watching presidential debates since … well, about 1996 when Clinton was at his high point and masterfully debated against a credible threat from Bob Dole. Throughout college and graduate school, I loved watching debates and can remember highlights from ’00 and ’04 as if they were fresh memories. Will I remember the ’16 debates (as remarkable as they are given the current political climate) as fondly or well? I’m not sure. I certainly don’t remember much about the ’12 debates when I was also using Twitter as a side show to further my “engagement with the conversation,” but there are also the variables of age and my diminished attention span to consider.

Perhaps that’s the fulcrum of whatever point I’m trying to make… as we grow older (I’m 37 now), do we intentionally seek out these side reels in order to persuade our minds that things like the X Files or a sporting event or a presidential debate are *really* important? Or do we seek these out as ways to validate our own confirmation bias about a particular football team or candidate (or mythology)?

I’ve noticed that when I read books on my Kindle, I frequently come across highlights that other Kindle users have made. It’s a neat feature for readers, as you get clued into what other readers have considered important or highlight-worthy in the same book you’re reading. It’s a feature that can be turned off, but I haven’t done that yet. I wonder what 17 year old Sam in 1996 would have said or thought of that feature when I was pouring through Siddhartha for the 3rd time? Would I have even made it through that many readings, since I would have had the highlights from other readers?

When I was a middle school teacher (I use that past tense slightly as I’m not sure one can ever divorce oneself from such an absurd calling / profession), I was always an enthusiastic promoter of the “back channel” in the classroom. The back channel, to me, was a space for students to openly raise questions and explore avenues during the course of a class experience. I experimented with various ways to bring about a healthy back channel, but I’m not sure if I ever did (I saw good benefits, but there was no way to quantifiably measure those outside of summative assessments which I also didn’t particularly enjoy). I wonder if I would encourage that back channel presence now, being a little older and with the benefit of hindsight? Did it detract from the class experience in the same way that my watching both the X Files on TV and #xfiles on a screen detracts from my solitary exploration of thoughts and ideas? Or were there tangible benefits in the same way that I realized a plot point I would have probably missed last night?

I miss the days of having to watch a well worn VHS tape recording of a Star Trek TNG episode or The Empire Strikes Back or a Presidential Debate in order to make sure I didn’t miss anything, rather than just googling “last night’s X Files” to find the right subreddit to lose a few hours in. That’s unfair nostalgia (I’m getting old, remember). These tools, these social spaces, we’ve created are doing amazing things for our culture and society. I appreciate how Twitter and Reddit enrich my life.

But sometimes, I want to read Siddhartha again because as a pernicious 17 year old I hated the very idea and existence of Cliff Notes. Now, I can’t seem to experience anything without a cliff note version via 140 characters or a Virgil in the form of a polished Redditor.

Ad Agency Swears Off Crafting Ads That Objectify Women

“I want my life to have a purpose,” said Ms. Badger, who is co-founder and chief creative officer of Badger & Winters. Her agency, which works with advertisers such as Avon, Vera Wang, Diane von Furstenberg and Nordstrom, is pledging that it will not create ads that uses women as props or objectifies them. It is also sworn off airbrushing females in their ads “to the point of perfection.”

Source: Ad Agency Swears Off Crafting Ads That Objectify Women – WSJ

Good initiative.

We need more agencies and creative directors to follow her lead in the marketing world.

Apple’s iOS Home Screen Problem

I flip back-and-forth between iOS and Android, mostly iPhone 6s Plus and a Nexus device, all the time and enjoy both operating systems (though I do enjoy Android more to be honest… much to the chagrin of my family and friends who all use iMessage on iOS and therefore I’m a “green bubble” when on my Nexus device).

However, I’m always curious as to why iOS users who transition or experiment with Android feel the compulsion to stack their home screens full of app icons.

Not that it’s a cumbersome way to navigate your mobile device (I think it is), but it’s a curious hold-over from the vision Steve Jobs and his devs had for the original iPhone in ’07. I’d wager that even he would think it’s time to move past that convention in 2016 (something which you can easily do on Android, but not so much on the aging iOS interface). Maybe Apple in the Cook Era is too deep in the institutional molasses.

Whenever someone wants to play with one of my Android devices who has previously been an iPhone and iPad only user for the last several years, they almost always respond positively and immediately to the widgets on my home screen.

“I like widgets a lot, and wish iOS had something similar.”

Source: A Week With Android — Medium

I do wonder how the masses will respond when / if Apple ever adopts widgets… the “rows and rows of apps” conventions has been successfully turned into a standard way of interacting with mobile devices here in the US.

However, that’s not the case in the Asian markets where Apple really wants to expand in the coming years as it has reached a relative saturation point in North America with devices. Apple is slowly sneaking widgets in via the Notifications shade, but I’m not sure how many users actually know / use / understand that interface.

Of course, I was totally wrong in 2007 about widgets and the iPhone, so what do I know?

Maybe the fear of being a “green bubble” will be enough to keep users on iOS, at least here in the US.

And don’t get me started on how / why the iPad Pro still uses the same “rows of app icons” convention…

To Post or Not to Post About Your Kid’s Success?

Helicopter-Parenting

On the topic of whether parents should post about their kids’ college acceptance on Facebook, but a good reminder for all of us parents who grew up in a time before social media and are still figuring out its long term impacts on ourselves and our children:

“This isn’t your moment, as much as it may feel that way. Let your kids bask in their own glory. By letting your children tell people about an exciting achievement on their own, you let them practice humility. They can take time to be empathetic and consider what their peers are going through. You’re teaching them to value accomplishment for its own sake, and not for the attention it brings. You’re raising an adult who can connect to other people and make lifelong friends. A wise parent once said, “My main job is to make sure my kid doesn’t become a douche.” We can’t always succeed, but letting them spread the news selectively is a great start.”

Source: To Post or Not to Post? – Free-Times.com

Shaking up Twitter

image

Glad to see Dorsey shaking things up now that he’s back at the helm of Twitter.

Under previous CEO Dick Costolo and his team, Twitter was pivoted towards becoming a media / advertising company starting in 2010. The beloved API that allowed for a blossoming of third party apps and a vibrant ecosystem was turned off and there was a palpable feeling that the service had turned their back on devs and their tech base in favor of Ryan Seacrest.

They’ve never been able to monetize to satisfy investors following those paths and should focus on the real time streams / messaging nature of the service by becoming ubiquitous. That will come by opening up, rather than shutting down, that once vibrant ecosystem of services and apps that used the service as a backbone for a coral reef.

Oh, and bring back Track.

More on bad church marketing due to weather

Friend in Christian ministry who read my earlier post today replied via text:

So, what you’re saying is that churches should treat their members like adults who can decide if they can / cannot make it to services or events because of weather or some other circumstances? I agree. 

I like that summation (asked if I could share and they approved). 

“Our Church Will Be Closed Tomorrow” and Bad Church Marketing

Columbia Snow

 

Let me be clear. I want to say something really dear to my own beliefs. I truly value the church.

Convincing, aren’t I?

The church is valuable to me and my own christology and theology. But that sentence is loaded with performatives. Performativity and performative utterances are ubiquitous in our society from political debates to sporting event announcers. Even though I say that “I truly value the church,” I’m creating another reality with that opening sentence. I’m asserting my authority to do so, and establishing my credibility as an independent and trustworthy source of identity and relevance.

Similarly, churches that use their Facebook pages, “eBlasts” (ok, I’ll stop using that term if you agree to do the same), and tweets to broadcast all the cool meetings and offerings that normally occur on Sunday mornings but are canceled because of a snow shower here in the Carolinas are performing in a way that (consciously or subconsciously) is marketing their services. And doing a poor job of marketing because it’s based in associative grief, something that a Madison Ave marketing agency would seriously warn you against employing in your messages. It’s the same reason you don’t see Apple or Boeing announcing that Monday morning yoga classes have been canceled because the instructor is sick or it’s raining really hard on their Facebook pages and social media accounts (or “eBlasts”).

I follow a number of large churches from all denominational and polity stripes in both the Washington D.C. area as well as New York City on social media. I do that because I’m curious (and remember, I truly value the church). I’ve seen only one social media post by one of those churches to the effect of “we’re canceling this or that service tomorrow because of the incredible amount of snow.” Sure, New Yorkers know how to deal with 24 inches of snow compared to Carolinians who flip their lids with a dusting, but there’s a deeper message there.

 

“Well I won’t argue about the matter. You always want to argue about things.”
“That is exactly what things were originally made for.”

– Oscar Wilde, Importance of Being Earnest

 

Yes, churches should be concerned about their congregants and visitors getting to church. However, there’s a better way to communicate that.

Church marketing is hard. Churches see how community business groups or community garden clubs or other nonprofits use tools such as social media and want to emulate that “success.” However, church marketing should be counter-cultural. It should be *different* (and I don’t say that just as a millenial, Gen X’er, Gen Y’er or whatever category I’ve been placed into by Madison Ave).

I’ve had similar conversations with schools and education instutitions that were our marketing clients. More often than not (especially with independent schools), school websites would be intranets meant more for the families who were already sending their children to the school rather than the correct intended audience. School, and church, websites should not be public facing intranets filled with drop downs of available forms, opportunities, committee assignments, or inside contact information. School, and church, social media accounts shouldn’t be used for important announcements about changing event times or closings or opportunities for insiders already participating. It’s a common and rookie marketing mistake that groups who try to “in-house” their marketing often make.

Websites, and increasingly social media accounts, are front doors to the public. Make your messages intentional and authentic. But don’t fall into the easy trap of doing unconsciously bad marketing through associative guilt because it’s the perceived “easy route to get the message out about the winter weather.”

I’m not sure if my church is open or closed tomorrow. My pastor hasn’t contact me to post up a Facebook status update, even though I’m on the Outreach committee. But I’ve had fun today with her on our “snow day.” We’ve drunk a lot of coffee and caught up on the new season of Top Chef. We’ll see how she does with getting the word out about tomorrow (or God).

Gender pay gap among clergy worse than national average, and why that infuriates me

 

I won’t lie. It’s difficult to see my wife struggle with her call to ministry in that she has to constantly be juggling her time and serving others while trying to find and clarify her own voice. I struggle against my urge to be a “manly man” and step in and tell her she can be a stay-at-home mom and doesn’t have to deal with all of the daily grind that no one else sees and feels but her. I get glimpses of what she goes through occasionally, and I’m not sure how she balances what are essentially two full time jobs that get labeled as “part-time” (can there ever be a part-time pastor?) along with the demands of our newborn son on top of having to deal with me.

I imagine that’s the same with every pastor and every pastor’s family.

Yes, there is credentialing and educational requirements (undergrad, seminary, internships … and the high rate loans that are associated with them), but it’s no coincidence that pastors are also among the highest professional groups to struggle with depression and high suicide rates.

To compound that with these stats is, well, infuriating and disappointing.

New national data reveals that women clergy earn 76 cents for each dollar earned by male clergy. This is substantially worse than the national pay gap of 83 cents. The clergy pay gap is even more stark when compared to similar occupations…

The gap among clergy is noteworthy because, as an occupation, the clergy has credentialing (ordination) and educational requirements that should encourage similar pay for similar work. Religious organizations often have educational requirements and institutional controls for clergy.

Source: Gender pay gap among clergy worse than national average – A first look at the new national data – Corner of Church and State

As Willie Nelson sang, “these are difficult times” for churches and pastors. We’re seeing cultural and socio-economic shifts that (for better and for worse) are resulting in diminishing church attendance and financial support. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, and it will result in a church that “looks” very different in the coming decades both here in the US and on a global scale as the southern hemisphere begins to assert its growing influence on christendom.

It also means that churches should think about how they “treat” and pay their pastors differently. Whether it’s a 5,000 member congregation or a 50 member country church, the failed policies of the baby boomer generation in regards to running churches-as-a-business have failed. No where is that more apparent than in the relative cultural homogeneity of any particular church (at least here in the American South), and the way we’ve treated female pastors who have unique abilities to salvage their congregations.

Imagine

Imagine, if you will, that everyone who has bought a “powerball” ticket over the past few weeks had given that $2 to a non-profit, temple, homeless shelter, church, humane society, synagogue, food pantry, school PTA, mosque, hunger relief effort, community garden, or women’s shelter.

“It’s all for fun. Don’t be a buzzkill.”

Greed has been sold to us as a golden ticket out of the lower classes and closer to the life we all subscribe to on the Bravo! channel. If we wish / pray / think hard enough about the right things, it’ll happen to us. Knock, and Uncle Moneybags will answer the door.

Lotteries and Powerballs and Pick 5’s are evil and do damage to our society, culture, and communities.

Like it or not, we vote with our money in the United States. Render unto Caesar what you think belongs to Caesar.

Your chances of winning the Powerball jackpot are one in 292 million. Here’s what that looks like…

Source: How tiny are your chances at winning the Powerball jackpot? This tiny. – WSJ.com

I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…