Finding your column ain’t easy

“Symeon selected a three-metre-high column in the Syrian desert near Antioch, and there he stood day in, day out, eventually attracting such a crowd that the noise caused him to build his column higher, bringing him closer to God and 16 metres off the ground. Symeon managed to live like this for 30 years, and many other monks began to follow his example so that a whole stylite movement developed which was still going strong in the 11th century CE.”

via Byzantine Monasticism – Ancient.eu

Grain counting technologies

“The truth, Scott proposes, may be the opposite. What if early civilization was not a boon to humankind but a disaster: for health and safety, for freedom, and for the natural world? What if the first cities were, above all, vast technologies of exploitation by a small and rapacious elite? If that is where we come from, who are we now? What possibilities might we discover by tracing our origins to a different kind of ancestor?”

via “What made prehistoric hunter-gatherers give up freedom for civilization?” by Jedediah Purdy in New Republic

Good advice

I recommend this whole post for people starting out in a creative venture or pursuing a lifelong passion as a vocation or for profit:

Be humble, but always try to exceed expectations. When you accept an invitation to do a talk, or do a work for a commission, do something that’s a stretch, and then do it so well that it looks like it was easy. This can mean doing way more work in a small amount of time than people think should be possible, or learning a whole new technology to do a crazy idea.

via Too much advice – Zach Gage – Medium

Bringing It All Back Home 2018 Edition

Robert Rauschenberg, Mother of God, ca. 1950

I’ve made a series of “Bringing It All Back Home” posts here over the last decade charting my attempts to reign in some of the content I so freely pour out all over the social web. Some of those attempts have been successful and some less so (looking at you, Twitter). However, I enter 2018 with a renewed sense of purpose and direction for how I see this space and site changing with me as I continue to evolve.

Similarly, the web continues to evolve. There is now less of a need for flashy graphics or fonts or layouts and more of a need for real and authentic dialogue and expression. I recognize my place of privilege saying that, but I do think the sooner we unmoor ourselves from our socially constructed social media profiles and find spaces of genuine room for translation and interpolation, the better we’ll be.

Plus, I have years of Analytics data to show that no one is looking at my “Services” page and I get much more interaction, engagement, and yes… clients from my actual posts here than some elaborately designed page touting my consultation pedigree and skills. Those are here if you seek them out, but I doubt you will.

Having a web space in 2018 means much more about discovery and freedom of expression outside the walled gardens of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Those places still serve their purpose, but the type of expression and sharing and learning I’m looking to do more of in 2018 both personally and professionally will be the theme of this space as we move forward. The marketing and consulting clients will come if I do a good job of that exploration and communication of what I find out about the world, tech, religion, strategic planning, and …well… myself.

For the first time in three years, I’ve fired up a brand new dedicated server and put this site there (previously it was on WordPress.com as I worked up the courage to make this leap). Everything from email to my calendar to to-do apps and items etc will be located on the server as I want to be more intentional about the services I use and recommend but also find more of that self-reliance and independence I’ve always aspired towards (both personally and with my clients). I’ve even been able to bring in my old Tumblr posts from 2007-2009 as a part of scooping up all of my old posts going back to 2006.  In the hours I’ve spent setting up the server as well as this site and learning to love PHP and curl commands again, I already feel that the attempt has paid dividends. I can’t wait to see what else I learn (or re-learn) as I move along.

So forgive me if I do a lot more sharing here than before… some of it will make it over to Twitter and perhaps Facebook. However, I’ll try to keep the stream manageable as more of my content originates here as the hub and flows out to those spaces. Those spaces are great for sharing and hearing echoes of your own views and feelings and expectations. A space like this in 2018 holds a promise of the type of exploration that encourages me to learn more and therefore be a more creative and talented person as well as a better consultant for my clients.

Here’s to 2018.

Practice resurrection.

WordPress Plugin Supply Chain Attacks

These are pretty popular plugins in the SEO world… I imagine lots more of these “supply chain attacks” exist due to older but still popular plugins being sold or leased:

If you have any of these plugins running on your site, we recommend that you remove them immediately and that you make sure that SEO spam hasn’t been injected into your site. Even though one of them, WP No External Links, has been updated to remove the backdoor, it has been closed, so it will never be updated again in the future.

via Three Plugins Backdoored in Supply Chain Attack

Churches and nonprofits must explore income alternatives in 2018 and beyond.

American churches and nonprofits are in for an even louder wake-up call in 2018 and beyond. It’s definitely time to start planning for the near future to keep your church or nonprofit solvent, especially if you are smaller in size and rely on donors who make less than $75,000 yearly.

Churches must begin to explore income alternatives with an expected decline in individual giving in 2018 from the pending tax reform plan, along with year-over-year declining church attendance in all mainline Protestant denominations and increasing numbers of individuals with no reported religious affiliation.

via Tax reform plan reinforces the need for churches to seek alternative income methods | Religion News Service

The source of concern is how the tax bill is expected to sharply reduce the number of taxpayers who qualify for the charitable tax deduction — a big driver of gifts to nonprofits. One study predicts that donations will fall by at least $13 billion, about 4.5 percent, next year. That decline is expected to be concentrated among gifts from the middle of the income scale. The richest Americans will mostly keep their ability to take the tax break.

via Charities fear tax bill could turn philanthropy into a pursuit only for the rich | Washington Post

The tax reform legislation that was just passed by Congress and signed into law by the President will present an unprecedented challenge to churches and nonprofits in light of charitable tax exemptions. In short, because of changes to the standard deductions, far fewer taxpayers and households (particularly those making less than $75,000) will itemize. That’s now the only way to take advantage of the charitable contributions deduction.

So unless your church or nonprofit relies heavily on donors in the top tax brackets, you need to diversify income sources.

If you rely on a large number of smaller donations from members or patrons who are in “the middle class,” you need to diversify income sources.

From CNBC:

“To use your charitable contributions against your taxes, you must itemize your deductions. This means for it to make financial sense, the combined value of all your deductions would need to exceed the standard deductions for 2017: $12,700 for married couples, $9,350 for heads of households and $6,350 for single filers and married couples filing separately.”

We work with churches and nonprofits to help identify and engage with alternative income sources. Get in touch if you need help.

Googling Inside Your Church

Fascinating piece on Google Maps history and possible directions…

So Google likely knows what’s inside all of the buildings it has extracted. And as Google gets closer and closer to capturing every building in the world, it’s likely that Google will start highlighting / lighting up buildings related to queries and search results.

This will be really cool when Google’s/Waymo’s self-driving cars have AR displays. One can imagine pointing out the window at a building and being able to see what’s inside.

via Google Maps’s Moat

I’m excited about Magic Leap’s Lightwear

We’ve been working on this tech since the 1830’s and we’re almost to the point of mass adoption and use cases…

Magic Leap today revealed a mixed reality headset that it believes reinvents the way people will interact with computers and reality. Unlike the opaque diver’s masks of virtual reality, which replace the real world with a virtual one, Magic Leap’s device, called Lightwear, resembles goggles, which you can see through as if wearing a special pair of glasses. The goggles are tethered to a powerful pocket-sized computer, called the Lightpack, and can inject life-like moving and reactive people, robots, spaceships, anything, into a person’s view of the real world.

via Lightwear: Introducing Magic Leap’s Mixed Reality Goggles – Rolling Stone

Building a website is cheap, but not protecting it is costly.

massive-brute-force-attack-dec18

We use Wordfence as a default on all new WordPress client sites that we create for good reason. Here’s a scary reminder that while building a website has become quick, easy, and relatively cheap your company / nonprofit / church / community group should not take WordPress security for granted with cheap hosting and no one overseeing these sorts of things:

This is the highest volume brute force attack we have seen to date. It may also be using the fresh credentials that were provided in the database released on December 5th, so it may achieve a higher than normal success rate. Please spread the word among the WordPress community to create awareness of this new threat.

via Breaking: Aggressive WordPress Brute Force Attack Campaign Started Today, 3am UTC

Nonprofits, the smartphone, Facebook, and Google

Interesting thoughts here from the NY Times CEO on how they are shifting focus in relationship to Facebook and Google due to the smartphone revolution … much of this applies to how nonprofits and churches can do better marketing as well:

It’s about how you think about the product and what you’re trying to do and what is the value you’re giving to users. The areas of weakness in the publishing industry have been not having an audience strategy or sufficient brain space to think about how you serve your audience. It’s very easy to get tracked into assumptions about who your audience is. In legacy media, journalistic parameters were set by the geographical limitations. [The smartphone] changes everything. You need to reinvent journalism from the ground up with this device in mind, and then try and figure out what you’re going to do on a laptop and the physical newspaper.

via ‘Facebook is not transparent:’ NY Times CEO Mark Thompson says the platform’s role needs to be clearer – Digiday

It’s a 3 Screen Kind of Monday

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-25,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-ve

Working from home with our son this week. He likes to contribute to my setup with various design inspirations.

Left to Right: Google Pixelbook, iPad Pro, Samsung Chromebook Pro

Why two Chromebooks? I’m using Chrome Remote Desktop on the Pixelbook to run Adobe Illustrator via the Windows desktop in my office and keeping notes on the Samsung. The iPad is there for renderings in Pixelmator and for Trello.

I’ve got the Pixelbook Pen and Apple Pencil for the iPad but still really only use those when I’m in tablet mode and taking notes on a meeting or call in Evernote.

Facebook Cracks Down on Engagement Baiting

What you see on Facebook greatly depends on what Facebook thinks you want to see. It’s a complicated algorithm of past behaviors, your own demographic info as well as what people who you interact with often are liking or sharing. “Likes” and “Shares” on a post can greatly amplify the number of people who see it.

However, you shouldn’t be blatant and ask for likes or shares in a way that can be perceived as annoying or “spammy.” Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google have all been throttling this sort of “engagement behavior” in small ways over the last year or so on their respective platforms. We’ve been encouraging clients to not use those terms regardless of how much goodwill might be behind a post.

But it’s great to see Facebook publicly discouraging people from asking for likes and shares:

Facebook is cracking down on a new type of clickbait: Posts that ask people to Like or share or comment to goose engagement numbers, what Facebook is calling “engagement bait.”

You’ve probably seen posts like this in your feed before. Like if you think cats are best. Share if you think dogs are best. It’s a tactic that publishers will use to game Facebook’s algorithm, which rewards posts that get better engagement and shows them to more people.

via Facebook is clamping down on posts that ask people for Likes or shares – Recode

Tech and Public Policy

Interesting article from NY’s Attorney General directed at the FCC:

In today’s digital age, the rules that govern the operation and delivery of internet service to hundreds of millions of Americans are critical to the economic and social well-being of the nation. Yet the process the FCC has employed to consider potentially sweeping alterations to current net neutrality rules has been corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans’ identities — and the FCC has been unwilling to assist my office in our efforts to investigate this unlawful activity.

If law enforcement can’t investigate and (where appropriate) prosecute when it happens on this scale, the door is open for it to happen again and again

via An Open Letter to the FCC: – Eric Schneiderman – Medium

“What’s a computer?”

There’s this meme that keeps coming back on Twitter. A young person discovers a floppy disk and calls it the save icon. Apple is using the same idea with this ad. When the mum asks her daughter what she is doing on her computer, she answers “what’s a computer?”

via Apple’s new ad shows how iPads are going to replace laptops | TechCrunch

There’s no doubt that “computing” will continue to evolve from the way we interpret that action today (based on conventions that come from machines primarily from the 80’s but also the mainframes and typewriters that preceded them).

I’ve been using a Google Pixelbook for 99% of my “computing” over the last two weeks. I love the integration that this device has with the Android app store and being able to install apps like Microsoft Word or Excel or Powerpoint and use them in full screen as if I was on a Windows laptop. I also love being able to flip this device around into “tablet mode” and play racing games or browse Netflix using what were previously mobile apps. Combined with the Pixel Pen, this device has changed the way I think about my own workflow in a rapid fashion.

The iPad Pro can do that for many people (especially students but also “adults”) as well.

I’m a big fan of the show Westworld. It has incredible visual effects and a captivating story. But the technology used by characters on the show is what really draws me in (I know I know). The handheld “computing” devices they use with foldable screens, touch sensing, AI, and integration of mobile and laptop features is so attractive to me. I hope Apple / Google / Amazon / Microsoft or whatever company that is currently being bootstrapped in a young person’s garage apartment gets us there in the next decade.

We’re almost there with transitional devices like the iPad Pro or the Pixelbook.

 

“a new combination of media company and public utility”

Great point… and it’s unimaginable to me that anyone in government or a high profile position would take their own security and (operational and informational) so lightly…

As we saw this week, when Twitter, Facebook, and Google testified on Capitol Hill about Russias election meddling, “social media companies have failed to come to grips with who they are, and what role they play in society. They imagine themselves as tech companies that just make products, but they’re actually a new combination of media company and public utility,” Singer added.

These companies use of contractors, often part-time workers in internet call centers, to handle abuse and moderation is something else to consider. Twitter, for example, has never provided a breakdown of how much of its workforce is contracted.

via A Former Twitter Employee Told Us How a Contractor Could Take Down Trumps Account – Motherboard

The power of looking ahead

Never get so caught up in the past and present that you fail to see what’s ahead. Vision is a powerfully lucrative skill if you’re crazy enough to think you can change the world.

From 1992…

How rich is this lode? At one end of the spectrum is John Sculley, the chief executive of Apple Computer Inc., who says these personal communicators could be “the mother of all markets.”

At the other end is Andrew Grove, the chairman of the Intel Corporation, the huge chip maker based in Santa Clara, Calif. He says the idea of a wireless personal communicator in every pocket is “a pipe dream driven by greed.”

via The Executive Computer – ‘Mother of All Markets’ or a ‘Pipe Dream Driven by Greed’? – NYTimes.com