Cautionary Tale of Patheos and Having Your Own Blog

Wow, this is quite something and a good example of why you should always run your own blog instead of relying on a blog network. Same with podcasting.

What a strange turn of events. Patheos was at the center of the Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia stories and now they host Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan. All of the those Patheos links about Mars Hill and GFA are now erased. The content is here and archived elsewhere but admittedly, it will be harder to find.

— Read on www.wthrockmorton.com/2018/05/22/the-blog-at-patheos-is-410-gone/

Ultimate guide to SEO for small businesses (and nonprofits)

There’s some really helpful advice here for small businesses, nonprofits, and / or churches looking to get a start on SEO basics. You can take a course on Lynda.com or watch some YouTube videos to learn more about what SEO can mean for your group, but the fundamentals here are pretty spot on:

SEO isn’t just for big business. As a small company or a local business, there is actually a lot you can do yourself to get good results from search. This ultimate guide for local and small business SEO will help you get the most out of search by finding your niche, optimizing your pages and using social media.

— Read on yoast.com/ultimate-guide-to-small-business-seo/

Siri and Incarnation

The theological lens through which we might view these questions is incarnation. In an age of increased engagement with disembodied digital assistants, what might it mean for the church to counterweight this with insisting on and facilitating in-person fellowship? In an era of disembodied conversation, my prayer is that the church might be a contrast society to model a more excellent way of fully-embodied community and in-person presence.

Source: Thanks for your help, Siri. But what about that human connection? – Baptist News Global

I fundamentally disagree with John Chandler here regarding the notion that smart assistants (such as Siri or Alexa or Google Assistant or Cortana or Bixby or M or… well, there are many more) lead to more antisocial behavior or the dangers of people not interacting with other people.

Chandler also invokes the (in)famous Nicholas Carr article Is Google Making Us Stupid? from 2008. One of my favorite rebukes to that article comes from a review of Carr’s subsequent book on the topic, The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read, and Remember:

Perhaps what he needs are better strategies of self-control. Has he considered disconnecting his modem and Fedexing it to himself overnight, as some digital addicts say they have done? After all, as Steven Pinker noted a few months ago in the New York Times, ‘distraction is not a new phenomenon.’ Pinker scorns the notion that digital technologies pose a hazard to our intelligence or wellbeing. Aren’t the sciences doing well in the digital age, he asks? Aren’t philosophy, history and cultural criticism flourishing too? There is a reason the new media have caught on, Pinker observes: ‘Knowledge is increasing exponentially; human brainpower and waking hours are not.’ Without the internet, how can we possibly keep up with humanity’s ballooning intellectual output?

Socrates feared the same fears of antisocial behavior and intellectual laziness that we project onto television, music, and now the internet in regards to books and admonished Plato to stop writing them.

Smart assistants such as Siri or Alexa do pose a whole new world of possibilities for developers and companies and groups to interact with the connected world. In just a few short years, many of us (our household included) now use these assistants to do everything from schedule events on our cloud-based calendars to turn the lights off before bed. I also stream music, play audio books, ask questions, and crack riddles with Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant on a daily basis.

While we fear the inevitability of a bleak future as depicted in the movie Her from 2013 in which human beings are completely subsumed into relationships and reality driven by their own personal digital assistants and rarely interact with others, I don’t think that’s the reality we’ll see. There’s a simple reason for that… antisocial behavior is a part of our own internal psychologies and neuropathies. Projecting these fears onto tools such as Siri is misplaced. I’d argue that positioning the church to be anti-tool to encourage incarnational relationships is misplaced as well.

This isn’t the same as arguing that “Guns don’t kill people; People kill people” although that’s an easy leap to make. But no, what I’m arguing here has to do with coming to terms with the ongoing revelation we are making and receiving about the very nature of human thought and how our brain and nervous systems work in tandem with our concept of consciousness. Understanding that newspapers, books, radio, TV, internet, and now Siri don’t make us any more or less lazy or antisocial is an important step in understanding that the core issue of incarnation relies on relationality between humans and the universe.

I do agree with Chandler that the church should be anti-cultural in the sense that it provides a way for exploration into the concept of incarnation. But positing that experience as anti-tool or anti-specific-technology seems to undercut the very notion of the incarnation’s theological and ongoing event in history (call that the kerygma or the Christ event or God Consciousness etc).

Yes, technology can be addictive or exacerbate issues. But let’s address the fundamental issues of culture and personal psychologies that the church is led to do with a healthy and holy notion of inter-personal and inner-personal relationships.

2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report by Social Media Examiner

“Nearly all marketers (83%+) who’ve been employing social media marketing for 1 year or longer report it generates exposure for their businesses.”

I’m skeptical of these sorts of reports generally, but SME does a good job of presenting digestible data. There are certainly some good takeaways here for businesses of all sizes, nonprofits, and churches looking to do more with their social media profiles.

The PDF download is free.

In our tenth-annual social media study, more than 5,700 marketers reveal where they’ll focus their social media efforts.

Source: 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report : Social Media Examiner

Churches and nonprofits should realize that Facebook privacy issues are just the tip of the iceberg

Way back in 2012, I was featured in a New York Times article titled “How To Muddy Your Tracks on the Internet” and offered up this bit as part of my interview (I was teaching Middle School Science at the time):

“The topic of privacy policies and what lies ahead for our digital footprints is especially fascinating and pertinent for me, since I work with 13- and 14-year-olds who are just beginning to dabble with services such as Gmail and all of Google’s apps, as well as Facebook, Instagram, social gaming,” he said. “I have nothing to hide, but I’m uncomfortable with what we give away.”

It feels like we were so naive then, doesn’t it? Perhaps.

Here’s a segment from a great post by Doc Searls:

Let’s start with Facebook’s Surveillance Machine, by Zeynep Tufekci in last Monday’s New York Times. Among other things (all correct), Zeynep explains that “Facebook makes money, in other words, by profiling us and then selling our attention to advertisers, political actors and others. These are Facebook’s true customers, whom it works hard to please.” Irony Alert: the same is true for the Times, along with every other publication that lives off adtech: tracking-based advertising. These pubs don’t just open the kimonos of their readers. They bring people’s bare digital necks bared to vampires ravenous for the blood of personal data, all for the purpose of “interest-based” advertising.

Source: Doc Searls Weblog · Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica problems are nothing compared to what’s coming for all of online publishing

I have no problem admitting that I’m a fanboy of Doc Searls. Search through the 12 years of archives here and you’ll find me quoting or sourcing him many times in posts regarding advertising throughout the years.

This is one of those seminal posts that I feel like I’ll come back to later and want to reflect upon giving newfound insight or knowledge. That often happens with posts from Searls.

What I’m particularly intrigued about here is the 1) action and 2) reaction notion of “NOW WHAT?”. It’s been no surprise to us that work in the marketing and advertising world what’s happened with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica over the last couple of weeks.

In fact, it’s incredibly easy and almost encouraged to use Facebook data to target people to an alarmingly intimate degree. It’s part of the game. I’ve always felt icky about the situation and I’ve more than once steered clients away from targeting users using FB Ad Manager for campaigns that would otherwise have been fine without that element.

It’s been an uneasy compromise for many of us, knowing what we give away in exchange for the enjoyment of friends and family pictures on Facebook. But this isn’t new. We just waited too long to do anything about it.

So where do we go now? I like Searls’ argument for a reader-first method of distinguishing rights and responsibilities for data on the web. Having worked in AdTech circles for 20 or so years now, I’m dubious about the execution or transformation that it will take to bring about such a revolution though.

Aside from the ethical dimension, there’s also the notion of democratization. Love it or hate it, AdTech and Facebook Ads and Twitter ads and affiliate marketing have leveled the playing field for many small businesses and nonprofits who could never have afforded agency rates as we knew them.

Perhaps that’s the lesson here for us all to learn. There needs to not only be profit involved in algorithmic marketing based on user profiles of demographic data, but also ethics.

We all need to do better with our marketing campaigns. However, the genie is out of the bottle to use another saying. There’s no going back to the quaint world of multi-million dollar Mad Men style creative brand advertisements dominating the industry.

I’d posit that’s a good thing. Meanwhile, online news and publishing and business and church and nonprofit sites should do better about monitoring the type of data they collect and pass on to 3rd parties either knowingly or unknowingly.

Churches and nonprofits especially need to heed this warning. Tracking is built into so many website builders and content management systems and email newsletter systems that they use. However, churches and nonprofits turn a blind eye to the reality that now faces them in an era where people are increasingly already turning away from their outreach.

It’s time to take the web (and those you’re looking to reach) seriously.