Upon Capturing a Moment

It's a hard decision, to decide to pull yourself out of a moment to capture it. Those brief seconds where you reach into your pocket, turn the phone on and then take a picture means that for those brief few seconds - or more if the phone decides to go wonky - you are an observer of the scene, not fully engaged in the play. Sure, you can jump back in and hopefully catch up... but for a moment you were no longer a part of it.

Sometimes, though, its worth it. You capture a memory, you capture a moment that will last with you forever.

In Aaron's office: 7/23/2014

In Aaron's office: 7/23/2014

Yesterday, I captured a moment.

Ashley and my son had come to visit and do lunch. We decided to eat in my office so Xavi could play instead of being tied down to a chair, unable to be his normal inspector-self. Amidst all the toys in my office, he managed to find two of my Halo toys. Of course, he handed me the Banshee and we played and played and played.

I stepped out of the moment and took a picture.

Now, that picture carries more weight and meaning than I could have ever imagined at the time. It tells the story of the most important thing I can do during this season of my life - playing with my son. It cements the memories of my wife reading Bible Study Magazine in my comfy office chair. It shows the window through which I smiled and waved at so many people. That captured moment tells so many stories, so many more than a thousand words could contain.

We need more stories. We need more moments to cherish. We need to play more and stress less.

The most important news in my life yesterday is that I got to spend time with my bride and my son. We got to play and were given opportunities to love one another. We've had so many people rally around us during this season that it is humbling and awe-inspiring.

You see a picture of my son playing on a red couch. I see a story of love, a story of friends who invest in my family, of lives being readjusted and sheltered by the grace of God.

Such a beautiful moment.

Proclaim 1.23 Update: New Media Browser

This week we launched Proclaim version 1.23. And I am legit super excited.

In October of 2013, we moved from Nashville, TN to Bellingham, WA to begin working with the team here at Logos. One aspect of my new responsibilities includes being the Program Manager for our Proclaim Church Presentation software. In other words, a childhood dream come true.

I was that geeky, techie kid at the church who preferred hanging out in the sound booth than anywhere else. My home church had me up in the sound booth at... I don't know... 11? 12? This, of course, led to me running production at my university's BSU and then to my first job at LifeWay, being in charge of live production for Centrifuge and the student events department.

And now, after years of striving to create the best possible presentations with software that didn't quite cut it... now, I get to serve the Church by making Proclaim an amazing, robust tool for worship. And it is so humbling to get to be a part of this team.

This update is important to me because it introduces a new media browser view. In this new view we've taken all the free media and Pro Media from Proclaim and organized it in a dynamic browser. It's not hyperbole to say that this is the kind of tool I've always dreamed of having while preparing for Sunday morning.

When building an order of service, the media minister is usually going for a tone or style that matches the songs to be played and the theme of the sermon. But - and I know this from personal experience - we end up getting stuck in a cycle of using the same motion backgrounds or stills over and over again. Why? Because we forget what else we have!

A normal file browser experience just does not work for an artist. There's no flavor, there's no discovery, there's no sense of theme connecting filename.jpg to anotherfilename.jpg. It just doesn't work.

The new Proclaim media browser  

The new Proclaim media browser

 

Since we started building this feature a few weeks ago, every now and then I will load up the app and just look. Just skim through the amazing art that our team has prepared for Sunday morning. Knowing that we get to take a small part in setting the one for worship across the country... it's crazy. It's humbling and honoring and exciting all at the same time.

For those of you who use Proclaim, thanks for letting us be a part of your service each week. And if you don't currently use Proclaim, connect with me and let me know what you need in a presentation tool - I always love hearing how we can serve the Church better. Thanks, and enjoy the newest update to Proclaim, available now.

S.H. Figuarats Super Mario Unboxing and Review

What can I say? When I got my newest toy in the mail, I just had to open it. On camera. Because that's what good geeks do - they share the joy!

This is my first S.H. Figuarts toy and MAN is it awesome. All kinds of articulation, all kinds of accessories... it kinda completely redefines the concept of what a toy could be. This is LEAGUES above what you'll find in the Target aisle. I seriously can't believe that none of the big toy stores here in the states carry these figures. They would make bank, just importing the ones we US folk would recognize.

You can order Super Mario from Amazon for about $20. So, so worth your monies.


Bellingham, WA

On September 30th, 2013, Ashley, Xavier and I moved to become citizens of Washington.

When you move your family across the country, what do you write about? How can you begin to explain the conflicting emotions of leaving behind treasured friends and relationships with the excitement of discovering new stories and faces? How do you properly bring to close chapters or life while holding on to others, desperately hoping that texting and Facebook will be enough to keep you in each others lives?

When Ashley and I got married, it was always with the intention of being able to serve God with our lives, to support each other in the tasks the He lies before us. And this new task was so clearly ordained by God. Amidst the heartache of leaving, that has been so much excitement for what will be.

For two month now, I have been serving as the Director of Church Products at Logos Bible Software. Simply put, it's amazing. The owner, Bob Prichett, is a genius and with every meeting and email I see more and more how Logos has been able to grow to serve the church year over year over year. The company as a whole has a passion for doing things to innovate and empower pastors, worship leaders, and small group teachers to better disciple and train up the church. There is something freeing and invigorating about writing code that matters. The devs I am getting to work with here are simply best-in-class.

There is something happening at Logos, I have no doubt. There are times in life when you just get that feeling that the Lord is putting something together that is beyond expectations, beyond our comprehension. When 300+ people are driven to change the world for Christ through the means of the day - in this case, technology - there is an opportunity for greatness for the Kingdom.

I go into work every day, excited by what might happen tomorrow, next year, and in a decade. I know that we are making the lives of ministers not only easier, but more exciting as we help them find and research new connections and deeper understanding of the Word. I hear words of thanks as our tools make Sunday Morning worship easier for everyone. And everyone sees the potential for building more Christ-focused, discipleship oriented relationships through Faithlife.

What do you write about when you move your family across the country? You write about the hopes, the dreams, the reason you uprooted years of relationships and careers. You write about the call from God and the excitement of feeling like your life has been handcrafted for such a time as this. You write about being willing to submit to God's plan for your family, and the incredible joy that comes alongside the pain of leaving so many amazing people and beautiful memories in Nashville, TN.

And then you click save & publish.

Xavi's First Manuscript

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On the 8th Year

Everything changes when you have a child. Everything.

Suddenly, there is this third person in the house who is always there. They watch your every movement, they let you know when it's time to wake up, and they don't have any clue that  you wanted to read that magazine before they ripped it up. But oh, how they smiled and giggled and your heart melts when they ripped it up.

The woman you are married to is now a mother. And oh, my God, how things change.

There are so many ways this can go. Every parent is different, every child has different needs. But, most importantly, God prepares the situation and every waking - and barely sleeping - moment is an opportunity to pour out love to the new expanded family unit.

When I first met Ashley, it was at a LifeWay camp called Centrifuge.  That week she came to my hermeneutics class, quoted Shakespeare to me, and was the most beautiful woman I had met. I called home that very week to tell my parents I found the woman I wanted to marry.

But... that's just part of the story.

The truth is, even in that first week, I knew she was the kind of woman I would want to raise a family with. I knew that she would love and care for her child, because I saw the way she loved and cared for the youth group she had brought. I knew she would seek to raise a child in the ways of the Lord because I could so easily see how she loved our God.

Today is our anniversary of 8 years of marriage, and we now have a wonderful son who is 10 months old. My God, I thank you so very much for granting me a life with this beautiful, loving, self-sacrificing woman who has become such an amazing mom. Things have changed so much...  they have changed for so much good.

It has been a complete and utter joy to watch my wife grow into an amazing mom who loves her husband and son so much. She has sacrificed so much the past few months in order to nourish our son and support me through a very hard year; no words I could write would do justice to how amazing she has been. All the while not having a decent night's sleep.

Seeing her care for our son, hold him while he plays piano, reading him books and rushing to him when he falls... it is all so beautiful and amazing. 

I could never tell her enough how cherished she is. The adventure of life is discovering who someone is through whatever each day brings us; I am so glad that God brought us together for this adventure. I am so blessed to discover that Ashley is the kind of mother I dreamed about my children having. I am humbled that each and every day she chooses to love me.

Happy anniversary, Ashley. Thank you for being so lovely and wonderful and all the other words that might express how I love you. I love you. 

 

the sun was jealous of the moon

If you were to have walked up behind him, quietly, he wouldn’t have noticed you.  He was lost in his writing, scribbling down the last words of humankind.  His journal was the sides and corners of some operating manual he had found – it was the only paper around.  The zigzag of words and idea flowed over, above and around the preprinted text, making these final, sacred words a jumble of memories and inked, mechanical instructions.

“My name is Carlos, and I am the last living human,” he had written not long ago.  He read those words to himself again, agonizing over whether they told the depth of his pain and loneliness.  It seemed to him like there should be some kind of adjective or modifier that should accompany such a dramatic statement.  He wasn’t much of a writer, really.  It was a bit of a shame that he should be chosen to write the final words of mankind.  His name, Carlos, suddenly seemed silly to him.  From Adam to Carlos.  Some name beginning with “Z” would have been more catchy.

“I had a beautifully horrific view of the destruction.  The Sun set out a solar flare that was immense, like a whip trailing across our little Universe.  When the flare made contact with Earth, it was with such precision one might have thought the Sun was jealous of the moon’s eternal dance with our world.  The flare cracked upon the Earth, destroying it.  I saw it all happen; I watched the destruction of my homeworld happen in a flash, before humanity had a chance to say a prayer.”

He was proud of his words there.  He liked that thought… that the Sun was jealous of the moon.  It gave him something to believe in.  He thought that maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t the only sentient being still alive.  Earth was destroyed.  His friends, his family, his crew were dead.   Maybe, he hoped, there was something else still out there.

Carlos stood up, walking on the soft dust of the moon, towards his lunar base.  His team had been the living on the moon for only a month when the disaster happened.  They were the first of such teams to be sent to the moon; NASA had finally gotten its act together and planned to develop a way of life on the moon.  The plan was to build a small, sustainable city there or no more than 1,000 people.  Progress on Earth due to the EPA requiring alternative fuels and sustainable products had finally made it feasible to live off of our home planet.  It was made financially possible by the networks; they had broadcast rights to life in space.  The science made it feasible… the entertainment value made it profitable.

Carlos stood with one of the camcorders in his hand.  He was just supposed to be a stagehand.  He knew camcorders inside and out… he wasn’t creative enough to be a director but he had a keen eye for the angles and a soft focus.  It was time for another burial.

Carlos took his time setting the camera on its tripod, trying to catch the right light from the sun.  He would always have the lunar base in the background to give the burial some sort of perspective.  He hated how people thought the first man-on-the-moon was from a soundstage.  He hit the record button, and began digging.

“I’m digging this grave for Nathan Ellis.  Captain Ellis was good man, the last of the crew to give up.  I think he wanted to be the last of us all.  He would have made a better last human than me.  He would have honored us all with better words and a better dream.

I didn’t mean to kill him.  He just wouldn’t stop breathing.  We chose to keep our mics always on so we could hear each other in case of emergency.  He would breathe so heavily.  I tried to turn him down but it got louder and louder in my head.  He wouldn’t listen to me and just shut up.

I’m using his oxygen tank now, in honor of his death.”

 

It had been a week since the Sun’s destruction of the Earth.  When the flare struck the Earth it wasn’t what they might show in the movies.  There wasn’t some massive explosion, sending rocks every which way.  It was more like a boiled egg cracking, then falling into pieces.  It might have even been possible that some people might have found a way to live on these large chunks separated planet, but Carlos didn’t allow himself that hope.  Slowly, over the week, the chunks were getting further and further apart, each with their own gravity field.

Carlos had stopped looking towards the Earth in several days, so he hadn’t noticed anything unusual.  It wasn’t until a human body, disfigured but clearly in civilian clothes (possibly shorts?  A tank top?) landed on the ground in front of the camera.

“No,” was all he could mutter.

Carlos saw a piece of the Earth slowly drifting towards the moon, pulled in by its gravity.  The smaller chunks of the Earth had been drawn to the moon.  He guessed that maybe 100 miles away from his base, an Earth comet was about to crash into the moon.  In the comet’s orbit, he saw hundreds – maybe thousands – of human bodies.

Carlos was paralyzed.  Human bodies were landing on the moon’s surface all around him.  He began digging deeper.  They would all need graves, he thought.

A redheaded woman landed near him… or at least that’s what he thought it was.  It was hard to tell if she really was even a human, but in Carlos’ mind he saw her.  His daughter was a redheaded beauty of seven years old.

 

He patted Molly on the head.  She was a beautiful sprite of a child, her poise full of grace and her hair full of mud.  A tomboy, for sure, she took after her father.  Carlos had loved Molly like a precious jewel.  He understood the world that lived and breathed around him and new that once she was old enough there would be enough pain and anguish for her deal with on her own… he wanted to be sure that her childhood would be filled with all the care and affection he could give.

When Carlos was approached to work on the lunar base project, he did so with two caveats.  The first was that he would be allowed to use the video equipment to send personal videos back to his family.  The second was that Molly and his wife, Mary, would be in the first group of civilians to make the transition to living on the moon.

Carlos only took the job knowing that he was building a better future for Molly.  Being away from his family was going to be torture, but a man can be brave when he knows that he’s been tasked with making history.   He ruffled Molly’s hair, bent down, and gave her a loving, almost casual, temporary hug goodbye.  He would see her soon, he told her.

 

Carlos scooped up the decayed, charred bag of flesh that had fallen near him.  Had you been there with him, you would have told him that it wasn’t Molly.  There weren’t any distinguishing features.  From your perspective, you wouldn’t have been sure if the charred thing in his arms was Molly or a pet dog.

Carlos wept.

Openly, unashamedly, he wept as he held his beautiful Molly in his arms.  What father is meant to bury his daughter?  What father should know that he could have held on a little longer, could have been a little less brave, should have not done the right thing for his race and instead stayed home, riding a bike with his child and making mudpies?  What father wouldn’t have chosen a few more weeks with his child instead of being the final survivor of the human race?

As he looked up from the charred remains of Molly, Carlos saw his last glimmer of hope walking towards him.  Slowly, as if he was in some slow-motion movie sequence, a woman was walking towards him.

‘Could it be?’ he thought. ‘Someone survived.  Someone else is alive.  I’m not alone.’

“Thank you, God,” he said aloud, though his mic, where it was picked up by the still listening camcorder.

Carlos could feel his energy returning, his blood filled with hope.  He didn’t find it odd that she walking towards him without any protection, no restrictive space suit.  He could see her every curve and brilliant beauty.  It did not surprise him that she was on fire, her hair made of flames and her skin bristling with heat.

“Hello, Carlos.  I’ve come to save you,” she said.

“Save me?”

“I love you, Carlos.  I am the Sun, I am all powerful.  I take what I want.”

“Why… why me?” was all he could stammer out.  He was on his knees now, taken aback by the sheer heat of the Sun.  He was weak.  He was showing his submission to the Sun. 

“There were too many humans, Carlos.  I only ever wanted you.”

“But I’m no one special.  Why am I the last to live?  Why did you spare me?”

“Clearly, you’re a survivor.  You must be special if you’re still alive and everyone else is gone.  Look around you… nothing remains here for you.”  Sharpening her eyes, glaring into weak Carlos’ tortured mind, she said, “Only the Sun remains.  Only I have love for you.  Don’t you love me?”

The heat had dried his memory.  Gone was his concern for the charred remains of some fleshly thing that had fallen near him.  Was he ever married?  He couldn’t remember her name… surely he was married once.  “Love you?” he asked.

“Yes, Carlos – Love me.”  It was more a command than an answer to his question.  “You’re the last human to live.  Surely you know what love is.  Surely you want to love and be loved.  Isn’t that what humanity is all about?”  The Sun smiled a smirk of a smile and turned away.

“Please, don’t let me die alone,” were his last words.

The Sun just walked across the moon’s horizon, into the ball of gas light years away, ever so slightly with a sway of her hips.

Carlos sat there, on his knees, for what must have been hours.  He mind was empty, it seemed.  He slowly stood up, letting the blood return to his tingling calves and cold feet.  He took a few steps backwards, the weight of his steps crumbling the charred remains he so tenderly held only moments (hours?) ago.  He didn’t notice.

He climbed into the lunar base, walking past the camcorder and Captain Ellis’ grave site.  He walked down the echoing halls, past rations and the few remaining oxygen tanks.  He walked past his room and carried off no personal effects.  He walked to the ship’s docking station, climbed into the captain’s chair and initiated the take off sequence.  Carlos set the ship on autopilot and, in moments, his retinas were burned from the light of the sun.

 

If you had been there, you might have picked up his clumsy journal of an operating manual.  If you had been there, you might have finished Captain Ellis’ burial.  If you had been there, you would have watched as Carlos drifted off into space, seeking love one last time.

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2013: the year all our devices started listening

There will be a future time in history that humanity looks back and thinks: "That's it. That's when we started down the path of creating our robot overlords." And that time will be year 2013. The year that our devices started listening to everything.

We've become more and more dependant upon our computers, tablets and - most importantly - our phones. Our primary social interaction is done through Twitter and Facebook. Years of Hollywood movies have been made lame because - why didn't they just text that person to tell them where they were? My son well be growing up with a TV that responds to his gestures and is connected to another screen in his lap.

But touch screens, biometric sensors, and GPS wasn't enough for us humans. No. We needed our devices to be even more attentive. And so, we have created our devices to listen to us. All. The. Time.

Right now, you can download an app called "Heard" for iOS. The app is always recording everything it hears, buffering it for you in case you want to record it. Heard a funny joke? Pull out your iPhone, hit the button, and it will save up to the last five minutes for you. IT'S ALWAYS LISTENING. But... it's so worth it, right? I mean... that joke might have been REALLY funny.

Today, Google announced the newest phone from Motorola, the Moto X. The new Android device is always listening for a key phrase: "Ok Google Now." The voice response is tied to your voice - and only your voice. You say the phrase three times when you first start the phone and then it knows you. It knows you based off of three words.

This Christmas, Microsoft will release the Xbox One. Every Xbox One comes with a new, HD Kinect. Not only can it completely see you in the dark using Active IR, but it, too, is always listening. Simply say "Xbox On," and the system turns on. The Xbox can filter out your voice from the audio coming through the TV. It has multiple mics in it, so the Kinect knows what direction the audio is coming from. It's always listening, ready to be used by you.

Hearing these things... there is an inital push back. If I know the Moto X is hearing every word I say... maybe I will feel the need to ask a coworker to turn off their phone while talking about sensitive information. The first couple of times, the implication is that the person with the Moto X is invading my privacy. But in two years, when everyone who has upgraded their phone now has that same feature in some form or fashion... suddenly such a request is rude. Archaic. Behind the times. What do you have to hide that we have to turn off our every-day, normal devices that everyone has.

And they are all listening.

If a friend comes over, my Xbox One is on and maybe there's some future app that records audio/video as a security camera (which I would think is a great idea), do I have to give them a warning that by sitting on my couch they are being recorded? Do I have some kind of obligation to unplug my Xbox for the sake of someone else's privacy?

The Moto X, the Xbox One - at least the general public might know that those devices are always listening. But so many people have an iPhone and so few have the Heard app. There would be no way of knowing if someone had that installed. Do I have a right to ask someone if they've downloaded it? Do they have an obligation to tell me?

 

Of course... I'm not worried. I actually look forward to devices that listen. I mean, that's one step closer to having an R2-D2 follow me around, right? Here's the thing... I really don't mind. But it's still weird to fathom a world where devices all around me are listening for random key words or recording everything I say. But that's because I'm always curious to see what such technology will do, what it will bring us. Just because I'm ok with it, though... does that mean other people automatically will be? Should I have a big sign all the time that says "this conversation may be recorded?"

 

We're at a very real tipping point, where privacy is being gleefully sacrificed for the sake of cool, new features. Is it worth it? What's the next step in progress? And then, the scary, controversial realizations kick in... if this listening technology is already making it down to cheap, consumer-grade products... what else is already out there?

Do One Thing to do Everything

I was asked a question today: being a creative, how do you balance all the creative endeavors your want to do?

 

What my friend was asking in long form was this: I want to play music, and code an app, and write a book. But I don't get to really do any of those things and the only this I really finish is yardwork.

In short form: I'm not fully enjoying the things I want to enjoy.


Being ambitious and creative is a dangerous combination for the human psyche if we don't have a good outlet for doing both. I'm blessed: I have a dream job, where I get to use my talents to create amazing tools on a variety of digital platforms, always trying to push what a "digital book" is and can be. My ambition and creativity are fulfilled by my job. But even still, I get stuck in the same trap that my friend gets stuck in:

Being ambition and creative means we want our creativity to be successful. We tie some unreasonable goal to our creative endeavors in order to make our creativity seem worthwhile. If we're going to write music, we want it to sell. If we're going to write a book, we need it to be published.

 

A different friend, Shawn, is an artist through and through. He makes art to make art. He's been a painter, a musician, an author, and a director all in the past 11 years that I've known him. All the while working at his day job to pay the bills. It seems every few years he decides he is going to be something know, and take on some giant creative project. And he succeeds.

We live in a world where, if you started today, you could write a book, release an app, and record an album all in less than ten years even if you have never done any of that before. We live in a society that there are so. many. tools. at our fingertips. All we have to do is use them.

We need to get past the American dream of financial gain and just create. Just commit to doing one thing and get. it. done. Learn by shipping. And if you learn that after you've completed your project it's time for the next one... move on. Do it. And enjoy it.

 

Chances are, you're not going to be the next NYT best seller. You're not going to be on any billboard chart, ever, and your app will never win an Apple design award. But you'll have done it. You'll have done it for you and your family. Your great grandson might read that book. It might change his life.

We get so caught up in success from a worldly perspective that we lose site of just being us. If we are called to create, create. If we are called to be ambition, be ambitious. But don't get so caught up in the false sense of success that you start making what should be creative choices for profit sensibility. That's called business.

Your life is not a business. Your art is not meant to be sold. You are not meant to be a product, you are meant to be you.

 

So do one thing. Commit to it. Do that which is calling to you first... complete it. Then, if you want, move on to the next thing. Who knows what you might discover about yourself. There is time in this life to do everything you want to do. You just have to start today.

Neue Media: Why the Church needs new media (before the edits)

from Neue Quarterly, Vol 1, 2008

Humanity has always engaged in the telling of stories.  They are the hallmarks of civilizations, the retellings of great myths and mores, told for entertainment and enculturation.  Communication, initially, was one to few; a single speaker communicating to an audience.  Then came the mass distribution of media, like the radio and movies, where we could begin to communicate via few to many.  In recent years, however, technology has forever changed the way we communicate and now allows for a new mode of conversation: many to many.  The message sent out by a communicator can easily be directly responded to, rebroadcast, changed and repackaged.  We have entered the age of New Media.

What is the New Media philosophy?

I define new media as the following: content created with the intent to interact.

Creators of new media are not concerned with simply utilizing language to tell a memorable story.  New media architects are about creating content where the engager of the media is encouraged to interact not just with the media itself – whether it be images, words, or something else – but that the creator has a desire for someone to engage with the media and interact with its producer.

With new media, content has become community.  Through digital distribution, mass conglomerates are no longer needed to put media on airwaves and into theatres.  Instead, emails or txts or videos can be sent from person to persons with a few mere clicks of a mouse and the paying of a few internet bandwidth bills.

New media architects aspire for true interactivity.  If an author creates a world, then the engagers populate it with characters and presumptions of their own.  If a designer creates an image, then they want to see that image manipulated, transfigured, and rebroadcast into other’s visions.  If a musician composes a song, then nothing could be more flattering than a remix or mashup to create some kind of new experience.

Why should the Church care about New Media?

God bestowed upon humanity one great gift that we – as a whole – have almost always taken for granted, and often times imply abused.  The Creator allowed us to interact with His creation.  From the beginning, when our language was small and our innovations involved fig leaves, God sought us out to be co-creators of what was truly only his to create.

We named the animals.  We built cities.  We gave birth.  We slaughtered animals for food and brothers for jealousy.  Just as He gave us creation after to creation to call our own children – as if the union of two humans could create a new soul without the blessing of God – He also gave us the freedom to destroy, tear asunder, and make mistakes.

God is the original New Media architect.

God sends us message after messenger, prophecy after prophet, and creation after created.  Since the dawn of humankind, man sought primarily to simply retell messages.  We were proclaiming what we thought we already knew and wanted someone else to know.  New Media – and the constructs and forms thereof – have opened the doors to allow us to create, co-create, and recreate just as God has desired us to do.

Why the Church needs New Media

The gift that God gave His bride was this: the opportunity to be His lover.  The church was meant to create with the Creator; to interact with His creations, to converse with Him, to tell not simply His story, but to tell their story.  What has always separated the Church from secular culture is the blessing of interaction the creator and the engager.

As the lives of mankind and its own media creations become more and more intertwined, there is a mesh happening between the creators of content and its consumers: they are interacting and creating New Media.  The Church now has an opportunity to give the gift it has received from God back to its individual members and those who have yet to engage the Christian faith.  In short, New Media forms and content are opening the door for evangelism to not just be one-on-one conversations, but discussions and forums of many-to-many.

The Church can embrace these conversations and interactions, or we can choose to ignore them.  If we ignore them, then they will still happen.  Narrative will form, fables will be created, and those who are untouched by the Gospel will continue to be untouched by the Gospel.  However, if we choose to utilize this shift to new media, we the created can better share our interaction with Creator to so many others.

The forms of new media are as diverse as the forms of “old” media are.  Just as “old” media may have been birthed out of the printing press and analog media, the introduction of digital connections has allowed the easy creation, distribution and manipulation of content.  The expanse of new media ranges from mashups of songs, interactive fiction and video games, and micromessaging for marketing.  The easiest step, and often first, step into New Media is almost always blogs.

Blogs: the Gateway to New Media

We are living in the “information age” not simply because of the amount of information being discovered every day, but the accessibility of it.  Just as the Gutenberg Press allowed the common person to access the scriptures in their native tongue, Google and Wikipedia have democratized specialized information.  Whereas many pastors may have spent years studying in seminary to have fact and interpretation stored away in their mind, a seventeen year old can access timelines and Greek-word origins even quicker through their mobile.  And so, pastors must be even more relational and give even better due diligence to their preparations.

In the past, if one disagreed with a pastor’s actions or interpretations, their choices may have been limited to “getting over it” or simply leaving the church.  But now, the free tools of new media have opened the doors for a new checks and balance system: blogging.

Any true blogger is not simply writing their ideas on paper; that would just be a digital diary.  A blogger seeks, nay, thrives upon, eyeballs and interaction.  Bloggers want people to visit their site.  They want people to read their thoughts but – perhaps even more important – they want people to comment on their blog and add to their own words.  They want interaction.

Someone who disagrees with a pastor – or agrees, for that matter – now has a digital forum in which to address anyone who stumbles upon their blog.  Any particular phrase or search for a keyword can bring a wandering internet surfer to a blog.  And there, a church member’s frustrations – or joys – can be exposed for the unknown visitor to see.

The church needs to know that this is possible.  A pastor needs to know what his flock is thinking.  A pastor can know the thoughts and concerns of his members just by pulling up a webpage and investing a few moments to comment.  And the honor which a comment bestows upon the blog author!  If a church member is blogging, then to have their pastor stop by their little page on the vast world wide web is just as joyous to them as a house visit (and much less intrusive).  Blogs let new discussions happen, and can give visitors the insight to what the people of Christ truly are like.

Blogs are, perhaps, the most obvious form of new media content.  A blog post is clearly tied to its author’s personal biases and interests.  But a blog inherently is written to entice interaction between the author and the reader.  If you turn off comments on a blog, it’s become just a webpage; it loses its “blogginess.”

Who are the bloggers?

Many of the well-known church leaders in America today are out there blogging regularly.  Leaders like Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, and Ed Young of Fellowship Church are all regular bloggers.  Those are just the well known names; unknown men like Andy Woods at Pleasant View Baptist Church in Kentucky blogs about leading youth ministry in rural areas, while women like Adria Lambert blog about being an American going to seminary in Jerusalem.  The beauty of blogging is that whether you have an audience of thousands or an audience of dozens, we can quickly and easily share the happenings of God, the church, and culture all around us.  Quick looks at links and blogs can lead to wonderful discoveries of talented, wise brothers and sisters.

What Can I Learn from the Bloggers: How to Grow Your Blog and Make Friends

Ed Stetzer is the Director of LifeWay Research.  Stetzer does a number of things that have helped him grow his blog to quickly become a must-have on many people’s feed readers.  First, he has a recurring post called “Friday is for Friends” where, usually on Fridays, he posts links to his friends and the great things they are doing.  This pushes Stetzer’s readers out to blogs on a regular basis, and you know that the content he’s linking to is worthwhile.

One of the criticisms of blogs is that they are often considered to be just repeating the noise around them.  Stetzer continually has new content, as he’s often the first blogger to report on the LifeWay Research findings.  Stetzer is not content to repeat content; he’s giving new opinions and new information.  Of equal importance is that Stetzer has a specific passion: his life is about planting churches.  If you go to his blog, you’ll be able to see his desires for a missional church in nearly every post he makes.

What Can I Learn from the Bloggers: Why Organization is Important

No article on new media in ministries would be complete without referencing LifeChurch.tv.  LifeChurch.tv hosts their offices out of Edmond, OK, but has campuses in six states and online.  Each individual campus has their own blog to meet the needs of the unique communities.  Two of the lead pastors at LifeChurch.tv, Craig Groeschel and Bobby Gruenwald, host a blog at swerve.lifechurch.tv.  Through their blog they are able to disciple hundreds of pastors through their preaching tips and thousands of readers through life lessons posted thoughts.

One of the best lessons to learn about blogging technique from Groeschel and Gruenwald is the importance of properly categorizing and tagging their posts.  The sheer volume of their posts can be broken into digestible topics, so one can find the information most pertaining to them.  By coming from the church’s leaders, the Swerve blog sets the tone for the entire church while making the hearts and interests of its leader transparent.

What Can I Learn from the Bloggers: Engaging the Community

Blogs can also unite beyond the influence of a church or knowledge of a leader, but also to organizations getting out their message.  The sense of community that can develop from blogging can be as strong as friendships made in real life.  This is why well-known secular bloggers like Robert Scoble and Penelope Trunk have such strong followings; they interact with their readers on a regular basis.  As readers read blog posts day after day, the relationship grows.

Compassion International recently developed a program that utilizes bloggers to do what they do best: tell their stories.  Compassion International’s site at compassionbloggers.com is all about bloggers using their site – and, thusly, their life – to tell about the ways Compassion International is helping children in impoverished countries.  Participating in initiatives like expands the Compassion International story into understandable impressions and experiences from people like Anne Jackson at flowerdust.net.  After going on a trip to Uganda with Compassion, Jackson has written story after story about how the trip affected her life.

This is the power of blogs: to share our stories, and have others interact with them.

That’s part of the excitement of blogging and new media.  We freely give away thoughts and – just as freely – receive the thoughts of others.  Pastors and leaders are able to put their thoughts out there and let their friends and church members interact – and challenge, perhaps – what they post.  The reward of conversation and relationship is well worth the risk of exposing ourselves for what we truly believe.

How do I start a blog?

Need to start a blog?  It’s easy!  You can sign up for free public blogs a number of different places:

www.wordpress.com: Wordpress is one of the most popular blog platforms, boasting over 3 million blogs.  Using a site like wordpress is great for ease of use and is a leader in setting blog standards.  Aaron’s blog is hosted on wordpress.

www.blogger.com: it’s owned by Google, so you know it’s good (and free).  Being a hosted site, like Wordpress, they’re constantly making improvements.

www.tumblr.com: this is for the media-savvy user.  Tumblr integrates easily with flickr accounts, vimeo videos, and whatever media you can think of.  This is for the more experimental set.

Of course, once you set it up, you need that hook, that first post that introduces yourself to the blogging world.  If you’re nervous, here’s the perfect first post title: Hello World, This is Me.  And then tell the world who you are.

Ideas and Best Practices for Your Blog

Create a reoccurring feature for your blog.  Decide on a specific day that each week you’re going to post on a certain topic; perhaps it’s links to friends like Ed Stetzer or the YouTube videos you watched that week like my friend Ariah Fine.  Perhaps it’s an analysis of what you read in the Bible this week, or a commitment to read (and review) a book every other week for the winter.

Every pastor tells stories in their sermons.  They’re always abbreviated and never fully mined for all of the life and spiritual lessons they could provide.  Great content for a blog would be to expand on your sermons or lessons each week.  On Monday, repost the sermon outline or content so your church members can better remember what you spoke about.  I often recreate my small group lessons as blog posts for the people that might miss that week.[1]  Midweek, expand upon one of the personal stories you told in the sermon so they can get the “rest of the story.”  Blogs can also create buzz for the upcoming week’s sermon; on Friday give a glimpse into what you’re going to be preaching on – a teaser, of sorts.

Make sure you put your posts into categories.  You’ll discover over time the things that you consistently write about.  Link to other posts you deem interesting, but don’t just repeat the noise; add to the conversation and feel free to give our opinion.  If there’s a topic you’re passionate about, be passionate!  It is, after all, your blog. 

Interactive Metanarrative: telling the story together

In 1980, one of the first digital narratives was released: the text-adventure game, Zork.  Since then, digital interactive narratives have grown from simple words on a screen to flowing graphical adventures on home video game consoles and computers.  Many video games could easily be considered new media simply by the fact that you interact with the story; however, it wasn’t until recently that they allowed you to create the story.

In games like EverQuest and World of Warcraft, the programmers and publishing studies develop a world that simply exists; by adding your own character and personality, by interacting with the other online players, and by making your own decisions, the story is told as a truly interactive narrative.  In engaging the created content, the engager takes part in the creation of the larger story.

The idea of an interactive metanarrative is the audience, or engager, gets to help craft the story.  Instead of being merely an observer, the engager gets to be a creator in the story.  The story pieces itself together through out various media channels and builds upon the interactions between the storyteller and the participants.  Instead of just passively hearing a story, the audience/engagers/participants get deeply hooked into the happening.

Interactive Metafiction Success

One of the most engaging triumphs of new media narrative is the YouTube sensation, lonelygirl15.  In this online, video-blog-formatted series, a web of mystery and intrigue was created though interaction and personal development.

The series featured a young girl, Bree – whose screenname was lonelygirl15 – who, as strange things were happening in her life, was recording a video blog through her webcam.  The question for many people when it stated was simple: is this real or not?

Lonleygirl15 would interact with people who were her friends on YouTube.  She would make comments on other popular YouTube personalities.  She had a MySpace page.  As far as one could tell, she was real and she wanted you to think she was.  It was a metanarrative at its best.  Viewers would respond to Bree’s posts and friend her on MySpace; and it was always Bree who responded back with bits of her personality… never hinting that she was not real.

Interactive Life Stories

The church has been a part of a greater story since the Garden.  We are experienced with merging the supernatural with the physical.  We understand spirits and miracles and mysteries.  And so, we have a choice: do we continue telling our stories in the simplest form possible (going back to the days of language and oral tradition), or are we willing to pick up our heritage and show our expertise in the guise of New Media?  We have the best story; can we be the best story tellers?

Better yet, could we have the courage to tell our stories together?  Can the American church somehow join with the African church and the English church to tell a story of unity and diversity?  We have the digital means to do so.  Will we embrace the opportunities or dismiss them as a newfangled fad?

If the world is interested in the telling of stories like lonleygirl15, but also enamored with reality tv, could we not tell of our beautiful stories of redemption online?

SIDEBAR CONTENT

What to get involved with telling visual stories?  Try these free video tools:

www.youtube.com: the biggest video network out there.  If you post your video on youtube, it’s going to be able to reach the broadest audience. However, your video is limited to 10 minutes.

www.kyte.tv: one of the more social video network, kyte.tv allows users to actually chat on the video itself.  Kyte.tv is Aaron’s favorite video service.

www.vimeo.com: vimeo allows for the best quality video to be distributed, including uploading of HD content.  Vimeo is free up to 500GB a week.

 

Micromessaging: knowing your community better than they do

The Church has been associated with several core messages that all get intermingled and sewn together: the love of Christ, sinners in the hands of an angry God, sexual molestation by priests, Promise Keepers, a slew of faith-based music, and the authority of the King James Bible.  There are many, many more messages we send (and trying to list them here would just serve to leave hundreds out).  The problem is that every church is associated with all of these messages, whether they are applicable or not.  And, ultimately, most everyone – believer and non-believer alike – has been hurt by someone in their local church at some time.

Marketing in the new media world is two-fold: there is the macromessage and the micromessage.  The macromessage is unavoidable.  It’s the brand name and all of the history and emotions that come with it.  Microsoft will always be Microsoft, and everyone will always have their own biases and presumptions thereof.  The only thing that can ever change those ideas is the micromessage.

Much of marketing is now based on evangelism.  If you are shopping for a new tv, you ask your tv expert friend what to buy.  If you are going to buy a new car, you ask your father what he thinks.  When you’re looking for stroller, you ask your neighbor who just had a baby.  No matter what the big massage a company sends out is, it’s the smaller messages that get through.

New media allows us to control, send, receive and monitor those messages.  Twitter isn’t just about telling people what you’re doing, it’s about telling people who you are and what you believe.  Church websites aren’t just about telling people when the next event is, they are about giving a glimpse into the church.  What are the micromessages we choose to send to our community that aren’t the stereotypes and all the things they’ve already heard before?

 

SIDEBAR CONTENT

Want to start pushing out some micromessages?  These services are like micro-blogs and a public IM space:

www.twitter.com: twitter is the original micro-blogging service, allowing you to post only up to 140 characters.  Twitter’s claim to fame is being able to post from anywhere… cell phones, IM’s, online, etc.

www.pownce.com: slightly more reliable than twitter, but also not as many users. Pownce’s claim to fame is being able to attach and distribute files in addition to text.

Can the Church embrace New Media?

We already have.  If you have young adults in your church, they’re blogging and doing life on MySpace and Facebook.  They’re playing interactive metafiction through World of Warcraft or engaging in epic battles through Call of Duty.  If the church is not looking at new media as simply a regular part of life, then the church is not engaged with the culture that surrounds it.  If this is the case, then instead of embracing God’s gift to interact with His creations we have chosen to create monuments to the past ways of life.

We must know the culture that surrounds us.  We, the Church, are the natural inheritors of New Media as we’re been interacting with the Creator – not just His creation – all along.  Let us find our place in the New Media World and embrace our opportunities to share in the story together.  And, along the way, perhaps someone will blog about it.

 

SIDEBAR CONTENT

Blogs mentioned in this article:

Mark Driscoll

theresurgence.com/md_blog

Rick Warren

blog.pastors.com

Ed Young

edyougblog.com

Andy Woods

fieldofblog.com

Adria Lambert

seaofadria.wordpress.com

Ed Stetzer

edstetzer.com

Swerve

swerve.lifechurch.tv

CompassionBloggers

compassionbloggers.com

Anne Jackson

flowerdust.net

Aaron Linne

aaronlinne.com

Robert Scoble

scobleizer.com

Penelope Trunk

blog.penelopetrunk.com

 


[1] http://linne.wordpress.com/category/small-group/

My thoughts on the #XboxReveal of Xbox One

I have now watched both the #XboxReveal conference and the GameTrailers aftershow twice, and am conviced the Microsoft has built exactly the system that I wanted the next gen Xbox to be.

Of course, I'll be honest... there was little doubt that I would be excited. I own most of the fame systems out there, typically preordering them for launch day. Inhad the 360 before it was available to the general public, got to be at the launch of the Vita in NYC, and am back #2353 for the OUYA. I even used an N-Gage.

FOR ALL ENTERTAINMENT

The Xbox One is positioned not just as a gaming system, but as an entertainment system. Already we use the Xbox 360 for media more than we use our cable box... the new X1 will just further cement that. Why?

The X1 is developed to be always on, always at the center of your complete entertainment experience. You feed ypur cable box into the X1's HDMI IN port, and suddenly the X1's UI is layer on top of your tv experience. Want to pull up an app while watching tv? No problem, the screen can snap two experiences to the screen at once, just like Windows 8. Playing a fame and suddenly realized Doctor Who is on? No biggie, just say "Xbox play TV" and the screen will pause your game and switch.

The Xbox One makes gaming a normal part of your everyday home emtertainment, not something silo'd and seperate.

THE KINECT

When the first Kinect came out, I was just enamored with the technology. It was clear that Microsoft had reduced the Kinect down to its minimum viable product... but it was still awesome. (If you've never read the Wired.co.uk feature on the development of the Kinect... stop reading my silly blog and go read it. It's an incredible case study for the development of a product.) After about a week of beta testing Kinect Sports and Kinect Adventures, my friends and I decided two things:

1) It really needs to be HD

2) I really wanted to say "Xbox On"

And now, both of those things are coming true.

I don't know what more to say that this is a gamer's dream come true. The true capbailites of the Kinect (a product that I have been so impressed with I even bought the Windows version to develop with) is finally being realized.

With the new Kinect, the resolution has gone from SD to full 1080p HD (which will be used for Skype calls, too). The new sensors can track 6 people, the angles of their joints, and via some magical voodoo can even tell how much pressure/weight/power you are putting on/into your movements. The Kinect can tell if you are smiling or looking away... and now can even determine your pulse by watching for color changes in your skin.

This, simply put, is going to be amazing. Since these tools are seemlessly integrated and ever XBOX One comes with the ne Kinect, developers can easily use the Kinect to augment normal gameplay with a controller or create new experiences using your whole body. I might have to buy a boxing game for the first time since Punch Out.

CLOUD GAMING

No one has any idea what this will actually mean outside of Microsoft and their partners. But, Microsoft always tends to do a live beta test with things as an actual product. The first Xbox could easily have been seen as a real life beta test for the Xbox 360. The first Kinect, in my opinion, was a live beta test for the new Kinect. So where can we look for a beta test of cloud gaming?

A game called Galactic Reign for the Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.

The game's graphics on my phone are very simple. Nothing special. Kinda like a turn based board game. But then you have a battle with your opponent... and you get this amazing video of the battle. All of the ships (literally thousands) have their own AI, their own flying patterns... and it's all rendered beautifully. The video gets downloaded to the app and you can watch it all unfold with graphics at an Xbox 360 level, on my phone.

That's the power of cloud gaming, today. My little Windows Phone gets the benefit of cloud gaming to create amazing graphics. Now, obviously, the Xbox One probably won't need to offload graphics to the cloud... but what else could it offload? The AI for a crowd? The stats for a weapon? The weather in a game? I have no idea... but I think this is the biggest game changer for the consoles in 5 years from now. What if in 5 years our networks are so fast that the Xbox One could offload graphics or all the logic of a game? What if the local system only had to be bothered with rendering pixels, and all the logic is done in the cloud?

Endless possibilities.

E3

And all this... before we really get to see the games. Microsoft made a great move in announcing the console, the UI, and the entertainment features ahead of E3. Now they get to focus on games, games, games. I've bought into the strategy and tech: now just deliver the gaming experiences worthy of a new console, Microsoft. Then you can take all my monies.

October 22, 2012

I didn't mean to stop blogging. And yes, it's been over a year. But early last year I found out such amazing, exciting news that I knew I couldn't possibly keep blogging without blerting it out and we had to keep it a secret for a while...

So. Just in case you didn't know, on October 22, 2012 this guy came into our lives:

 And all I can think is, "My God. Thank you."

My son is just over six months old now and it is simply overwhelming. My love for him is overwhelming. Watching him smile in his sleep is overwhelming. Having this little boy-to-become-man projectile poop on me is overwhleming. Seeing my wife so readily and courageously grow into a mother is overwhelming. Having him cry and cry and cry until suddenly he is asleep in my arms is overwhelming.

I have never been so overwhelmed in so many great and wonderful ways.

This child looks to me for safety. He looks to me for comfort. He looks to me for affirmation.

This son of mine looks at me.

Every moment of life is a miracle. Every cell being stitched together to form him, every organ doing its job, every breath sustaining his very life. His eyes. He looks at me and he smiles and maybe giggles and sometimes he is crying because he. just. wants. me. to. hold. him.

This son of mine is my son.

 

 

This is my son, and I love him.

Why Chris Pirillo is Wrong About "How Real People Will Use Windows 8"

A friend of mine sent me a link to to an article about this video and wondered what my thoughts on it were.

I'm not saying there isn't an issue here... but it's not a real world example at all. We're still at the beta stage, and there's no tutorial at all in the product. With as big of changes as Micrsoft is making, I'd expect there might just be a tutorial or so on the first set up. But even so, even if this is a real world experience, that doesn't mean it's a real world problem.

More than once, when showing somone an iPod touch or iPhone for the very first time, they don't have a clue how to exit an app. They have to be taught, and taught once. There's no tutorial for that. Someone shows you how... and I don't care what you say, it's not intuitive. I've seen babies know how to turn on an iPhone, how to swipe to unlock... those are intuitive. But that very first time (unless you've seen it before), a person has to be told to presss that random button in order to exit an app.

So how do you get back to Metro?

Press the Windows key.

It's that simple. If Chris had just told him what to do, like he would have in a real world situation, his dad would have learned it right away. His dad would have gotten back to the screen with all the boxes that, from what I could tell, he seemed pretty interested in. Normally, people would just say "hit the WWindows key." It's learned behavior, and you only have to learn it once.

Nevermind the fact of how obvious it will be on a table device... since the button will be right there next to the screen... just like an iPad or iPhone. And guess what? They'll probably still need to be told to press it to get back to Metro... the first time.

On Our Trajectory

Today, one of my friends from college, whom I haven't talked to in years, discovered that I helped put the Bible on the XBOX 360. She then raved about it on her Facebook wall, telling her friends... and another of my friends from college discovered it from her post.

It is so amazing to see when your friends follow their calling in life; I always knew Jenny was meant for way more than a stage in Campbellsville, KY. I'm so glad she followed her dreams and has made NYC her home.


Campbellsville, the middle of no where

 I'm so proud of my friends who were artists and High School and went on to work for Disney, and so proud of my friends who knew they were meant to be a pastor's wife and wouldn't settle for less. I'm so proud of my friends who simply wanted to find work so they could provide for their families... and so proud of my wife who's been published as a Bible teacher and now gets to serve the church by publishing - and spreading - other leader's messages.

It's so crazy to think that now, in this season of life, we are all on our trajectory. We are living out the stories and dreams of our lives.

It's so humbling to think that someone might stumble upon my profile, discover my work on utilizing technology (and the XBOX) to spread the Gospel... and then they might think: "yeah, that's right for him. That's Aaron."

I think I'm going to love this stage of life.

Yes, we're developing a Kinect App

So... a few weeks ago, Microsoft came out with the Kinect for Windows. I did a review of it at launch, here. And, like I suspected, this really is more or less a public beta for the device. It's enabling the various developers around the world to officially get their hands on the device to program for it, it's allowing Microsoft to get back some of the costs for developing an SDK, and it's... just sitting on my wall.

And, unfortuantely, I have yet to find anyone who has actually released a full-on, available in final form, piece of software for the Kinect for Windows. So, I grabbed my buddy Tim Eicher, and we're doing what any real nerd with some time on their hands and cool device sitting on their wall doing nothing but throwing infra-red light at you would do...

We're making an app!

Of course, we're not really ready to talk too much about it... still in the early stages of development... but I got so excited when Tim sent me this test video that I simply had to share it on here.

This little device can sure create some magic. We've got some cool things planned... hopefully they turn out as awesome in real life as they are in my head!

If you could make any kind of Kinect app... what would you build?

Aaron's 7 Tips for Writing an Angry eMail

Writing an angry email is dangerous. Only trained professionals should attempt such a risky career defining move. After clicking send on that emotionally-charged email, you'll realize the truth - one wrongly worded sentance to the wrong person when you don't have all the facts could haunt you for the rest of your life. And once you click send, you can't get it back. It will exist forever, saved in someone's inbox. Your rival will cherish it, ready to use it like a hand grenade throwing your words back at you.

But you don't care about that, right? You want to throw caution to the wind and prove you're right at all costs! HULK SMASH and all that. I don't suggest ever sending an email in the throws of emotion. Take a breath. Leave the office. Drink some Tassimo coffee. Come back, crack your knuckles, and pray for serenity.

And if you still need to send that email... be wise and think it through. Because really, a trained professional wouldn't send that angry email you wrote in your head on the way back from the meeting where everything blew up.

Here are my seven tips for the angry email writing process:

1) Don't put any email addresses in the send box

It's a natural habit to put people's names/addresses into the to: box right away. Don't do it. And if you are replying to an email, the very first thing you should do is clear out all the names. Don't type a single word until all the names are removed. This should be standard practice, as it does three very important things for you:

(A) It keeps you from making a mistake and sending the email too soon. Maybe you weren't done writing it, maybe you hadn't proofed it, but some how you might accidentally hit send. If there's nothing in the to: field, it doesn't go anywhere. If there's a name in there... you just messed up.

(B) It sets the tone for you mentally. You just cleared out all the names. Why would you do that? Because things are about to get real, yo.

(C) In the end, when you do get ready to send it, you have to put all the names back in. You have to type them in and, when you type each name you will think about the recipient. You'll be forced to think of them as a real person and forced to consider how that very real person is going to react to your strongly worded email.

2) Use big words

No, really. Don't be superfluous or unnessesarily verbose, but be very particular and unambiguous in your choice of words. Intentionally using big words enables you to get greater usage out of your linguistic skills but, more importantly, it slows you down and it slows your reader down. By being creative in your word choice you develop a way to execute your message instead of just gushing out emotion. It also makes the reader pay attention, so they know you put thought into your communiqué (yeah, I totally used communiqué incorrectly there, didn't I?).

3) Save the draft, then read another email

Write the email. Then save it and do something else. When you come back, read it again with fresh eyes... you know you forgot something. Or, you know that you said too much. In a recent email, I tried to lighten the mood by referencing Vincent van Gogh. Upon reading it back, I realized that it made me sound over-the-top egotistical and not at all like the silliness I meant it to be. Van Gogh got cut.

4) Admit where you are at fault

More than likely, you don't work for your parents. As such, people do not think you are perfect. And, in any situation where there is anger... someone is loading emotion into the situation. If you're angry, more than likely someone else is angry with you. Take the high road and admit your own faults in the situation. First of all, it lessens the opportunities for a volley of tough emails going back and forth over who did what... you already owned up to it and admitted you meesed up in some specific way - and you get to direct that conversation. Secondly, it helps diffuse the situation. As soon as you admit fault, the opposing party is more willing to look inwardly as well and admit any fault they might have had in the situation.

5) Quote other emails

I don't delete emails. Period. Having a robust history of communication is vital when confusion or questions come up. This is also when I try my best to recap important decisions made via phone or meeting in an email; there's a record to reference in the future. It's very hard to argue with a direct quote from an email someone sent you. Referencing previous emails gives a solid sense of timeline and responsibility; it also helps you to guide the conversation.

Do be sure, however, that you're not becoming "that guy" who throws people's words back in their face. Quoting an email that is in your favor is like a trump card; treat it with respect. Be sure, as well,l to quote accurately. Your arguement completely falls apart if you quote an email and someone comes back with a quote from a later date that makes your quote null and void. That makes you look either disconnected or manipulative. With great quotations comes great responsibility.

6) Talk about process and positions, not people

If things truly have gotten heated, start taking some of the non-essential human elements out of it. If a person in a specific position did a specific function because that's what they are supposed to do... then the issue is with the respnsibility of that position, not the person. The person did the right thing - but maybe the position is set up incorrectly. Maybe it should or shouldn't be empowered. Maybe it should or shouldn't be involved at all. But if it's about position and process, make it about position and process. When you involve actual people, things get skewed very quickly due to - and rightfully so - personal relationships and loyalties.

7) Watch pandas drinking milk

If you can watch this and still be angry, then one of two things are happening:

(A) You are justified in your frustration and trying to express your emotion may be neccessary or

(B) You are a cruel, cruel person and if you get in trouble for your angry email you deserve whatever fallout you get for being so mean.

Why you shouldn't do favors at work (or, please don't do my work for me)

There are two kinds of businesses: (A) the one where everyone pitches in to get everything done... usually this is a small business. And (B) the one where things have grown to where process is needed. And yeah, there's the third kind... the one where a company is transitioning from A to B.

This process, generally, sucks. Becuase suddenly, the next hire you make seems like they aren't really doing an actual work. They are managing work. It can become frustrating very quickly because you think you really don't need a project manager; you need another developer to get the work done. You don't need another person to make decisions on when to buy new paper for the copying machine - you just need the paper!

But what if what you really needed was a project manager, several hires ago. What if you actually did have someone watching your paper consumption, and they found out that buying you an iPad would save money over the long run. What if, instead of just getting business done you actually knew your business?

So, obviously, this isn't just a hypothetical post. In the past few weeks, I have had multiple situations come up where people were, simply put, too nice. By working aroud the system or by covering people's tracks, I was made unaware of the real situations that were going on. And, as a manager, being uninformed is the most dangerous position you can be in.

More importantly, there is nothing more dangerous to an organization than an uniformed manager.

I do my best to keep tabs on the workload of my employees. Why? Because there are times when they will need to work those extra hours - and times when they do deserve to go home early. But if they are working late every day and I don't know it... two very bad things happen:

(1) They get burned out and feel neglected. We, as employees, want to do our best in any situation. Often that means working the extra hours. But if no one knows... then there is no thanks given. Since no one knows you are working killer hours, the assumption is that they might have more capaticy... and the very viscious cycle stengthens. Eventually, the straw will break the camel's back.

(2) If I don't know, I can't fix it. Anytime something is done that's not a part of the process, your manager simply won't know. And sooner or later you have inherited a whole new job responsibility because you said yes one time, trying to help out. Eventually, work arounds become the norm. Once they become the norm, the real problem never gets fixed because it simply isn't known.

Sure, there are times when you do a favor and rush a project because that's the right thing to do. But if you become known as someone who "gets things done," that may not be a good thing. Suddenly, everyone is coming to you and now you can't get your real job done. Also, that kind of descriptor is a bad omen in general. If only one person in the company get "get things done," then what is the rest of the company doing?

Perhaps the process actually is broken. If you keep working around it, things will get done. No one will be anymore the wiser. Instead, there will be division. Those who are doing the work around and not understanding why management doesn't fix it (or find one specific person to blame) and those who are clueless and don't understand why the people who are doing the workaround can't get their real job done. If the process is broken, people need to see that it's broken. Not everything is about people... somtimes it's just about process and positions.

Maybe the issue isn't process but, instead, it's about resources. If you have 4 people doing an extra 10 hours a week, but no one knows or sees it... they are forever going to keep doing an extra 10 hours a week. But if work is piling up and there is no end in site via the schedule... well, sooner or later someone is going to take notice. Either they are going to have to decrease the work or increase the resources.

And hey! Decreasing work is neither scary nor bad. If forces the company to dive in and find out what they really should or should not be doing. It's a good thing you hired those people whose job it is to manage the work, right..?

The occasional favor is good. It shows you can push ahead for a few moments. It can help build relationships and trust. But, when that favor becomes a normal part of your job... you may have just hurt the company by working outside of the system. You may have just hurt someone else because now they aren't going to get the relief they needed. A short term fix is seldom a great long-term solution.

My former boss, James Jackson, would be simply shocked to see that I wrote this of my own free will. Coming into a professional environment right out of college, I simply knew that I had all the answers... and that all our processes were wrong. Maybe they aren't right... but maybe they're there for a reason. And maybe, just maybe, if we trust the process... we'll find out we can fix the process.

What seems like a 1,000 years aga, James suggested I read Orbitting the Giant Hairball. I suggest you do too.

What does it mean to be human? Appreantly, not a heartbeat.

As I grow older, I realize that some day there will be things that the next generation do that I just won't understand. My guess is that it will start with embedding chips in their hands, so they can just wave at the cash register. My assumption is that by then end of my life, I will know people who have communication devices in their brains, so they can talk to their friends without even speaking.

But that's just life in the head of a futurist. And then, every now and then, reality is far more compelling than simply dreaming.

There are currently at least three living, breathing, human beings in the world who don't have a heartbeart. Instead, they have a constant flow of blood, streaming through their brains.

Chips, implants, or metal skeletons all seem cool and awesome and all that. But when you mess with blood? It's always about the blood.

How much of life is based upon that steady rhythm of a heartbeat? How many lovers rest their ear to the heartbeat of their spouse? How many parents await the first heartbeat of their unborn child? And, simply practically, how important is your heartbeat while exercising?

Suddenly, there is no need for a heartbeat. You are moving, up, alert, living life. Climbing stairs or sleeping, it's all the same. Running or reading, a constant flow of blood throughout your body.

But no pulse.

This technology... astounding. The fact that it can save lives... so thankful. But wow... does it shatter pretty much ever romantic inkling we have about life and the heart.

But, it's still all about the blood.

Helping the church understand the digital revolution

originally written for BP News

Being born in 1980, I've had the pleasant experience of being one of the oldest members of the rising generation. I am a true digital native, but had just enough years of life without the Internet to remember what life was like before it.

Of course, I also was teaching my elementary school teachers how to put the discs in CD-ROM trays, back when they first came out. I've hoped that my life and skills would be able to be used to help spread the Gospel through technology and help disciple the church in the new digital generation.

A while back I received a package in the mail -- a signed copy of "Viral" by author Leonard Sweet. In "Viral," Leonard Sweet manages to accurately describe, analyze and embrace the shift in our culture. Where as I simply know it as reality, Sweet manages to articulate the cultural and spiritual changes happening in America due to the digital revolution. Using the acronym of TGIF (standing for Twitter, Google, iPhone and Facebook), Sweet manages to summarize so many things I've wanted to say to the church, but never quite knew how. All this in right around 200 pages.

In 2010, B&H Publishing Group released "NetCasters," by Craig von Buseck. Von Buseck is ministries director of CBN.com, home of the Christian Broadcasting Network. In his book, von Buseck shares stories of people who are effectively and passionately using the Internet to spread the Gospel. From podcasting to creating movements like the Internet Evangelism Day, there are stories ripe for sharing about how people are using digital tools every day to share the Good News.

At a tech conference a few years back, I met Gabe Taviano. Gabe was experimenting with a group centered at DigitalDisciples.net -- a way for people to organize for study and discipleship both online and in real life through digital means. And for this group it wasn't only about education and bible study -- it was about true relationship and accountability. It was about embracing the connections that suddenly were possible due to the advent of digital tools.

In Sweet's "Viral," it becomes increasingly evident that the tools we use -- the medium we use -- shapes us just as much as the media does. Sweet talks about how culturally we have moved from thinking as a larger family unit in society to thinking as a smaller, individual unit. But that now, with our ever-connected lives, a new societal unit is forming: our network.

How intense is it that by being disconnected from those around us we are even more connected to those further from us?

Books like "Viral" and "NetCasters" are vital resources for the church. It's not that we "need" to embrace technology for the spreading of the Gospel -- it's that my generation simply doesn't understand a message that doesn't involve interaction through technology. For us, it's no longer a sit and listen, tune in and watch. We are in relationship with everything; we create, interact, and destroy things on a daily basis. And we are desperate to find Good News in all that we do.

The books are available to explain. The tools are there to be used. The message is ready to be shared.