Online Community
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Online Community

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  Sunday, June 08, 2003

The Pentecost Solution

Community is not entirely physical.  Everyone knows that,  but there is still a lot of protest from traditional Chuyrch circles about how "Virtual Faith" cannot replace the physical gathering.  And I say,  over and over,  its not about REPLACEMENT,  it's about AUGMENTATION.  It's about providign another channel into encouraging of story.  It's about "hearing the voices" of the People of God,  and even as I write this on this "Pentecost morning",  I have the feleing that very few of the people I know are even reading it,  even though I know I keep this weblog,  and update it often,  and often write about things I care deeply about. 

I also know there are people "out there" whom I've nver met face-to-face,  who DO read and who DO write me with encouragement,  and who DO understand some of my frustrations with the very things about the Church that keep me from having a paying job in the Church this very minute.  If the Church cared enough to explore every avenue into people's hearts,  and into their souls,  there are fewer avenues than that of Weblogs,  where thousands are using the avenue of writing to express their deepest angusih,  and their deepest hopes, and articulate enduring dreams that won't go away.

So maybe that's another thing that "compelled me" to SIT and put on a cup of coffee and stay home today.  A sense that I want to celebrate with the people (many of whom are probably at a physical Church meeting right now -- which is great--- I don't discourage that at all) who can understand how I could even think that there could be any portion of that Pentecost Spirit that traverses the ether.  I would say that it can and does exist in direct reverse proportion to the amount of opportunities given in the ftf world to "tell our stories" (meaning,  the fewer and more rare the ftf opportunities,  the more fervent and powerful the online exodus and celebration will be). 

But I proclaim today that this is not a "Solution",  but a resource.  The "Solution" is a community that thrives in every way,  who meet together because the people are complelled to come and be with those with whom they are on a journey.  The online resources avaliable to us toward that end numerous and the possibilities for our community to appropriate them in new and valuable ways are endless. 

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11:12:42 AM    

  Thursday, June 05, 2003

Smart Mobs: Games straddling online and physical spaces

Smart Mobs has this entry on games that "use" the online world and the physical world,  suggesting to me that there may well be some interesting Online Community implications,  and also perhaps for Online Education,  as ftf classrooms and online classrooms meet

Virtual World, Street, Mix It Up In Mobile Game. Uncle Roy All Around You sets online players alongside players on the streets of London.

Street Players search for Uncle Roy through the back streets, the tourist traps and the leafy boulevards of Westminster with a handheld computer.

Online Players cruise through a virtual model of the same area, searching for the Street Players and looking for leads that will help them find Uncle Roy.

Using web cams, audio and text messages players must work together.

They have 60 minutes and the clock is ticking... [Smart Mobs]

Webcams,  hooked up via WiFi,  live from classrooms?  "Blogging" class notes, class discussions,  etc.  The possibilities "stream" in. 


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10:52:02 AM    

  Saturday, April 19, 2003

An update to my Ecunet meeting - Community on the Net

It's been a while for me here, what with looking for a job, haviong another prostate biopsy (checked out OK for the second time....the first was sept.2001). I have been hammering away at some .net stuff (Pronounced "DotNet") that provides some pretty good starting framework for some "portal" type applications, which I am using for 2 purposes:

1. To have a prototype system to present to some folks at the CBF Resource Cneter in Atlanta to help them publish an e-zine and better connect them with each other and with their audience. I am also working some Weblog tools into the mix. I have just installed MOvable Type on my new Webhost who charge only 9.95 a month for .Net, ASP classic, SQL server, MYSQL, Perl, and more. The only catch is that I had to pay a year up front, but at 9.95, even paying for that on my home equity line of credit and today's crazy-low interest rates is a drop in the bucket.

2. To use this same framework to begin building "Church Website frameworks" that provide for remote administration and editing, which allows Church office staff and assigned laity to do updates and add new content, as well as provide discussion boards and , with my Weblog integration, allow for staff and members to write and maintain weblogs. The weblog tool I've been using since June 2002 , Radio Userland, is the source of most of my blogging so far ( My Movable Type version has started at, but iit has none of the content except for about 3 entries. I tried out a "Cross posting" tool thatis supposed to allow me to have posts from one tool get posted to both Weblog locations, so that a post to my home page (Main Category) will show up at both URLs given above.

Maybe a third purpose for this .Net toolset is for me to extend on all the ideas I have been throwing around in my head (and publicly in places like Ecunet for the past 10 years), and tie all these evolutionary concepts together in a Portal/Forum/Weblog site that presents my concepts in an incarnational way (ie. Talking about my visions and doing so via the use of the tools I am suggesting)

It's a bit satisfying to realize that this .Net stuff I'm using was the issue that finally brought all the problems to a head with me and my previous job -- .Net was in the process of becoming the "platform" that the company was using to begin to tie together various applications with in the enterprise, and allow a broader range of interoperability. They were distributing Visual Studio.Net to all the developers in the company, even to those who have yet to open their software package (since they don't really have much to do with the actual building of applications.) I was in the midst of an online training series in which I was taking some introductory courses in .Net. When the course was about to begin that covered Visual Studio.Net, I asked for a copy of it to be distributed to me (it cost the company about $80 for a Professional Version). I was told that it was not relevant to my responsibilities. I was also told that I would be "distracted" from my responsibilities. It didn't seem to sink in that a LARGE portion of those responsibilitie involved connecting to the company Web user database to authenticate users logging in to a Website our department had built (I was the lone developer, and also had been a developer in the use of the original LDAP system with other websites in our department).

This Church system I am begining to build will be a vindication of the "skills development track" I had set forth in my "performance Goals" I had been forwarding, but had been basically ignored.

The best answer to that is to succeeed in building something that succeeds in helping Churches realize the efficiencies and communication revolutions that a fully integrated and ever-present Website can provide, and lift up the "Cluetrain Manifesto" approach that holds highest the value of conversation, and encouraging people to exploit their deepest passions and connect to others who share that passion. It seems that in the Church, this should be a no-brainer, but I see VERY LITTLE of that realization as I look at Church Websites, Church Denominational websites, and Church Communication agencies websites.

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11:30:37 AM    

  Saturday, April 12, 2003

A Vision Being Smashed to Bits

I'm reading an article in the May Issue of WIRED about MIT's Media Lab,  and how,  like many of the Tech-related companies, find themselves in relatively dire straights (relative to the "Mecca" they represented to investors during the Tech boom),  and putting off construction of their used-to-be-thought-inevitable" future home.

It causes me to think about how the Church needs an MIT.  Of course,  the Church finds itself in dire straits due to the trickle down effect.  Less consumer confidence and economic health translates to lower support from sources of funding like members and oter donors.  But,  as an article in FastCompany (or was it Business 2.0?) points out,  the biggest winners were the companies that created something new during hard times,  and saw their new thing grow into business behemoths as the inevitable market recoveries happened,  perhaps being aided in that growth by just those daring but still alive-and-kicking companies who didn't bury their brains and hide and shrink during tough times.  With the Church,  this is a vitally important insight and perspective.  R&D into what makes the human and its societies tick is so important,  especially during "upheavals" like we are facing on economic, political,  and global scales today. Read more in An MIT for the Church

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9:22:28 AM    

  Saturday, March 22, 2003

Web development contributes to Church Mission
If I can make a go of an upcoming Web project,  and renew some efforts to add new features to a Church Web for which I have found little time to go beyond mere "updates",  there may be a "synergy" that can happen by applying some of the "code" used for one business Web project to enhance the features of the Church Web that is in need of a redesign and upgrade of features.  User/member customizations are important to building Church INTRAnets,  where members are given tools to extend their involvement in the ongoing dialogue around what it means to be "Church" at this moment in our corporate journey.
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10:24:32 AM    
A renewed thesis: Opportunities for the Church in Online Community
I have been thinking about the Doctorate of Ministry (aka DMin) program that started me on this "Church and the Web" vocational journey.  I had completed all the steps save the final project back in the Spring of 1997,  just prior to my moving to Nashville to work fulltime.  I regret having abandoned that program,  but I was consumed in rapidly acquiring every Web development skill I could in order to "keep up" and stay abreast of needed Web development skills.  Perhaps it's not a dead issue.  Many of those original convictions expressed in those papers written between 1993 and 1997 are still valid, but in need of update as new Web technologies have come and gone.  The options for providing community tools and "places" as a ministry of the Church,  have grown dramatically.  Would there be a DMin program that could help me complete or "re-engage" with those directions?   (The papers I had thus far submitted can be seen here)
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10:19:01 AM    

  Saturday, March 01, 2003

INTRAnets feeding INTERnets

IntraNets that connect the internal membership or employees is so crucial to any kind of organization.  Next in line is the amount of what goes on with INTRAnets that would be beneficial for the public to know.  It depends on the product or service being offered.  The Church's product is "contributing participants" (and "contributing" is not just referring to monetary contribution,  but to personal and spiritual contribution).

Churches have a natural link between "internal matters" that are hosted on an IntraNet,  and content that would be of help to the public.  The stories which would contribute to the voice of a Church's public internet are highlighted from their origins in the INTRAnet.  The content of the testimonies, descriptions of ministries, hosted discussions,  are all things upon which the Public Internet Church site can draw.

For organizations where their concerns and internal workings are less benefical to a public Internet site,  the communal tools are more exclusively internal,  but should not be negelected just becuase they don't "increrase sales".  As a matter of fact,  an argument can be made that they indirectly affect production by the value they bring to the internal communications,  and the sense of activity and excitement of the process of developing new strategies and improving and building on existing ones.

more in Pushing Out the Journey Inward

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1:21:41 PM    

  Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Webs are worth investment of Communication Staff Time

Another in a plethora of good tips and insights from an article written almost 3 years ago, Creating A Congregational Web Site

Congregations choosing to develop web sites should make at least the same level of human resource commitment to it that they do to the Sunday bulletin or monthly newsletter.

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10:21:34 AM    
Searching for Compatibility

I've got to try and find this guy (Thomas Walker,  who wrote this article Creating A Congregational Web Site).  Did he ever get a Church to join him in this vision?  He states it so clearly and so well. 

Internet technology can play an important role as evangelism teams search the Web for compatible congregations in regions where new friends live.

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9:32:51 AM    
Online freedom from Face-to-face barriers

More great stuff from the article Creating A Congregational Web Site

It is important to remember that online community is different from the physical community of a congregation. Face-to-face community is often held together by charismatic, articulate leadership that has roots in the physical presence of individuals. Online community actually favors those who write well, are thoughtful, and are kind. On the Internet, shyness is less of a barrier and can actually enable empathetic caring and witness. Age, gender, race, physical impairment, etc., are not nearly the barriers to online community that they are in the average local congregation. A faithful venture in witness through the Internet may be able to draw on a congregation's untapped resources and release new power for mission.

Amen.  There is freedom experienced in many ways, and this freedom brings together people from both groups.  People who may well NOT be writers can still read in most cases,  and can "catch on" to the stories and personalities of people who have yet to emerge from their social shell.  Being affirmed in ftf settings by "readers" has a way of instilling additional confidence in our traditional settings personas.  Online community enhances the chances.  The chances of "finding comon ground" and "sharing our journeys.

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9:22:35 AM    
Congregational Website Insights

However, the web site must bear witness to faith and directly share community. Faith stories shared by real people through text, audio, and/or video show the congregation’s commitment to its belief. These stories with pictures of people sharing community together help the visitor to hear the witness, while the gentleness of the Web’s passivity enables them to explore the beginning of their faith at their own pace. A site must be rich with good quality material attractively arranged and clearly organized. Religious language must be minimized or very carefully defined. Every effort must be made to engage the visitor through an exploration of faith in daily life, not just pious meandering.

In many important ways a well-managed congregational web site will gently integrate congregational communication into the everyday lives of members.

In the future, as congregations develop web sites to facilitate their work, it will become increasingly possible to search the Web for exciting initiatives being reported in other churches’ web sites. The Web will become a primary way that church leaders share ideas with each other and begin to communicate about more effective ways to develop congregational mission.

Pictures and write-ups from past events can be linked into the calendar following the event to create a kind of multimedia history of the life of the congregation, which can share valuable insights for newcomers and long-time members alike.

It is important to remember that online community is different from the physical community of a congregation. Face-to-face community is often held together by charismatic, articulate leadership that has roots in the physical presence of individuals. Online community actually favors those who write well, are thoughtful, and are kind. On the Internet, shyness is less of a barrier and can actually enable empathetic caring and witness. Age, gender, race, physical impairment, etc., are not nearly the barriers to online community that they are in the average local congregation. A faithful venture in witness through the Internet may be able to draw on a congregation's untapped resources and release new power for mission.

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9:19:32 AM    
Creating A Congregational Web Site

In many important ways a well-managed congregational web site will gently integrate congregational communication into the everyday lives of members.

This article (from where the above quote comes) from Fuller Seminary and Thomas Walker has the kind of flavor with which I can resonate.  It emphasizes the importance of a Church's Website as a way of "telling a story" and seeking to find ways to "integrate the life of the user with the life of the Church;  or for those to whom this has already happened (and hopefully there is a few of those),  to help them extend their connections with others,  their "schedule" and their connection to News in the world which is of concern to them in their daily living out of their faith (which hopefully will cover a lot of the news in the world today -- ie the consideration and deliberations toward war,   and other concerns like those I have with the many areas of potential harm that can be inflicted by the Bush administration across the board: environment, economy, social justice,  and on and on and on.  There are people in the Churches that I have been involved with in these past 6 years who need something like these kinds of Church Webs to "keep their spirtual juices" going even when they are not "gathered together".  I feel so "drawn" to the communty of faith at moments when I long to be "present in the flesh",  and so online discussions,  email,  Web site news, Weblogs of others and writing my own,  searching for OTHERS who are writing about similar thngs and similar concerns--- all of these are precious ----or like the mastercard commerical says: Priceless. 

People of theological communities;  people of the Church,  sit up and take notice.  "Get a Clue".  Tell our story,  and start by telling yours,  and encourage others to do the same.  We can do this.  Many people have.  Let's put some investment into increasing the value of the network by bringing our faith to bear on it.  Lets "be present".  That takes more than putting our bulletins and calendars and directions to the Church,  and even our sermons on a web page. We need pictures, people,  their stories, and the chronicles of our journey with a God who calls us to penetrate at all levels of society.  Let's not be "strangers" in the culture that is cyberspace.

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9:00:04 AM    

  Sunday, February 09, 2003

Daily Times - Cyber city in Mauritius

Cyber city in Mauritius| via Daily Times Monitor

Mauritius, the paradise island of golden sand and five-star hotels in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is plunging head first into the high-tech world of information technology, reports BBC. The volcanic rock, famous for the extinct dodo that once naively welcomed foreign visitors and paid the price, is now using its foreign contacts to build on two decades of development and wants to become a "cyber island"

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11:10:50 PM    

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