Response to “America’s Empty-Church Problem”

Maybe it’s the values of hierarchy, authority, and tradition that churches instill. Maybe religion builds habits and networks that help people better weather national traumas, and thus retain their faith that the system works. For whatever reason, secularization isn’t easing political conflict. It’s making American politics even more convulsive and zero-sum.

Source: America’s Empty-Church Problem – The Atlantic

This piece does a good job in summarizing the overall tilt towards secularism in America and its effects across the political spectrum. I agree with the above sentiment that the decline in church membership is helping to steer our country towards an atmosphere of conflict and zero-sum games.

However, there’s a good deal to unpack here. For one, there are all sorts of overlooked privileges incorporated with projecting that “things were better when we all went to church.” Second, conflating complicated movements like Trumpism, Bernieism, and Black Lives Matter into causations based on church attendance is problematic at best. Third, we can’t overlook the very real damage that many churches and associated hierarchies have done to children and adults over the last century, from misogyny to blatant racism and sexism to sexual abuse of children and young people.

My main pushback, however, would be the first sentence in the snippet above. Hierarchy, authority, and tradition are certainly values that some churches instill in their congregants. But, as someone from the Baptist tradition, I bristle at such overarching statements about what values churches instill. Our tradition emphasizes religious freedom over hierarchy, soul competency of each believer over authority, and congregational determinism over tradition. Of course, that has led to a whole host of problems for us in Baptist life, but it’s a reality that doesn’t get expressed when all of American Christendom is pitched into one descriptive bucket.

I would have ended this piece in a way that framed church as an opportunity to experience a different reality (I’m coming at this from someone who is ordained in a faith tradition, of course) and how it’s good for each of us to hear that we aren’t the center of the universe, we should be kind to each other no matter what, we should consider the lilies more often, and the ability to love others as themselves is the ultimate measure of a person. Those are things we Americans need to hear more often.

Oh, and wear a good suit at least once a week.

 

Grammarly finally coming to Google Docs!

I can’t tell you how reliant I am on Grammarly for writing everything from memos to strategic reports to blog posts to emails. It’s a fantastic platform that works well with GMail, Outlook, Microsoft Office, MailChimp etc. The one place it didn’t work was Google Docs… that’s changed now and I’m very glad I won’t be doing any more copy/pasting to double check my words and grammar:

We’re thrilled to tell you that we’ve begun beta testing one of our top-requested features: Grammarly in Google Docs! And it’s now available for all Grammarly Premium users.

Just make sure you have Grammarly for Chrome installed. Then, open up a Google Doc and take it for a spin. Enjoy!

Source: Grammarly for Chrome – Chrome Web Store

The reason Twitter will ultimately fail

I still firmly believe we’ll see a reckoning of sorts for social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter (and even Instagram and its lovely filters) where the network effect takes a backseat to quality interactions and we move away from hegemonic one-size-fits-all walled gardens towards decentralized and specified communities based on our preferences. Reddit is already pointing the way on this (partly):

The internet of old — composed largely of thousands of scattered communities populated by people who shared interests, identities, causes or hatreds — has been mostly paved over by the social-media giants. In this new landscape, basic intelligible concepts of community become alien: The member becomes the user; the peer becomes the follower; and the ban becomes not exile, but death. It is not surprising that the angriest spirits of the old web occasionally manifest in the new one. But what’s striking is how effectively they can haunt it, and how ill-equipped it is to deal with them.

Source: Twitter’s Misguided Quest to Become a Forum for Everything – The New York Times

Go Start Your Blog and Find a Newsreader

I’ve been using RSS as my primary way to read news, blogs, thoughts, and ideas since 2005 or so (I currently use a mix of Feedly and NewsBlur as my RSS readers, and both are excellent in their own ways).

There’s a growing rumbling going on in the tech-thinkers space I follow (mostly through my RSS readers). Twitter is great for quick fleeting thoughts that you write on the back of a leaf and watch float away down the river. Facebook is great for sharing pictures and updates with those who you are close with in real life. RSS and feed readers serve a much different purpose and I have no doubt they’ll be back in the mainstream soon enough given the current tensions around walled gardens, security, and advertising…

Now fight against the machine and go start your blog. You’ll be glad you did.

The tension between walled gardens (or lock-in, or whatever you want to call it) and a decentralized web will likely never end. But, it feels like we are in for another significant turn of the crank on how all of this works, and that means lots of innovation is coming.

— Read on www.feld.com/archives/2018/08/rss-the-persistent-protocol.html

Should social media be regulated?

Interesting numbers From the Knight Foundation and Gallup that, if enacted, would have huge ramifications for the advertising and marketing industries (especially for nonprofits)…

A new survey says yes — almost eight in 10 Americans agree that these companies should be subject to the same rules and regulations as newspapers and television networks that are responsible for the content they publish. The survey is part of a series of reports released by Knight Foundation and Gallup over the course of the year exploring American perceptions of trust, media and democracy.

— Read on medium.com/trust-media-and-democracy/should-platforms-be-regulated-a-new-survey-says-yes-2f3f4d0d1f00

Twitter Changes Dramatically For Me on August 16

I use Twitter heavily for work and personal reasons. It’s been a service I turn to for news, socializing, brainstorming, and promoting services (including mine). That all will change on Thursday.

One of the changes being pushed through is the removal of the “streaming API.” Most Twitter users don’t use 3rd party apps and stick to the default apps. One of the greatest features of 3rd party apps like Tweetbot and Twitterific is streaming timeline.

It’s been in place for years and allowed Tweetbot etc to cater to “power users” like me who use something like an iPad to watch Twitter stream by in real time. There is no streaming in the default app, so you have to constantly refresh your timeline. That’s fine if you’re just dipping in or looking for something specific (or the Moments feature that Twitter is always pushing on me), but I think of Twitter as a river that is constantly flowing.

I enjoy seeing the nonstop flow over on the side of the screen on my iPad and it’s something I’ve done for years. As I’ve said before, Twitter has paid our mortgage a number of times over the years because I caught a tweet out of the corner of my eye and made a quick action on it. Don’t @ me about being a distracted ADHD-riddled Gen Xer. I know. But it works for me.

There is still Tweetdeck that will offer streaming tweets (for now) but that doesn’t work on iPads or iPhones or Android devices. Before I became so iPad centric, I used Tweetdeck for years on its own monitor. Yes, I’m that guy. But again, it worked for me.

I’ve been following the developer discussions closely over the last few months, and I’m incredibly sad that it’s come to this point and not quite sure why Twitter continues to tighten the noose around developers and its most devoted users that it could easily tap into if it cared about things like, oh… say, monetizing beyond advertising.

So starting on Thursday I guess I’ll be using the default Twitter app on my iPad a great deal more. That means I’ll definitely be using the service less. Thanks, Twitter.

Core functionality like access to your timeline and the ability to post tweets will remain, but several basic features will be limited or removed. Alerts for mentions and direct messages in third-party apps are expected to be delayed, and timeline streaming which populates your timeline with new tweets in real time is expected to go away.

Source: Twitter API change strikes next week, Tweetbot and Twitterrific affected | 9to5Mac