10

I haven’t been writing much here lately so it hardly feels like I can say I’m ‘still blogging’ but two days ago this little corner of the internet turned ten years old. And that’s something.

I’ve been blogging for longer than I worked in the ‘real world’, for longer than I’ve been married, for longer than I’ve been a father, for longer than I’ve studied at uni, and for longer than I’ve been in vocational ministry. That’s a whole lot of significant parts of my life that have been around for less time than I’ve been systematically trying to incarnate (or excarnate) my brain online, encoded in bits and bytes by writing my thoughts down and hitting post to send them into cyberspace.

If you’re still here, thanks for reading.

Why I now side with Paul, not Eutychus

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. — Acts 20:7-12

St. Eutychus: Where being boring kills.

When I changed the name of this site from nathanintownsville to st-eutychus, I did it because I thought the story of Eutychus falling out the window in Acts — to his death — was hilarious. Eutychus will eternally be known as the guy bored to death by Paul’s preaching. Paul. Potentially the most effective teacher ever to have lived. In my reading of the story, for the sake of the title, he fell into the trap of preaching too long. As a PR hack, who wrote pithy 500 word press releases for a living,  I genuinely believed this trap was deadly.

So what’s happened?

Somehow in recent times the tagline of this site should almost be read as an indicative — this is the place where you might come to be drowned in words, lulled to sleep, and might fall from a window to your death. Where being boring kills. Yes.

This is deliberate. I’m raging agains the TL:DR; machine. If you want short, punchy, simplistic and inane reactive viral fodder, then, well, pith off.

I’m raging against this machine because I think Eutychus was wrong. I think being bored kills. I think Eutychus should have worked harder to pay attention to Paul, and to the world — he should have known the dangers of sitting on a window sill, in a dimly lit room, listening to someone speak for hours.

We’ve lost the ability to pay attention, and the only way we’ll gain it is to start paying attention. Copious attention. To the world, to the Gospel, to the people around us. TL:DR; (too long didn’t read) is at least as much an indictment of our collective failure to pay attention as it is on poor content that is too long and convoluted.

Sure, a thing might not be worth your attention — that’s on you to figure out, and your attention is yours to give. I’m writing as an attempt to pay attention to things myself. To notice. To seek understanding. To avoid knee-jerk outrage in response to whatever is going on in the world, and to try to understand the world as people see it, and the world as I believe people should see it. Attention is what is required to live well, and love well. It’s what prevents outrage, and what causes someone to bother with fact checking before sharing something designed to create outrage. Any pithy thing I ever do write — anything under 2,000 words, the posts I typically see shared the most — is always, always, the product of thinking I’ve extensively outlined, out loud, here already, at much greater length.

At the end of the day, I write about things that interest me, that I hope, over time, might prove of interest or value to others. You don’t need to pay attention to me or what I write. That’s fine — I don’t check stats, this stopped being about my ego or my ‘brand’ a long time ago. But I do feel like I need to keep explaining the shift of gears in this corner of the interwebs.

You don’t need to read everything I write — not even my wife or mother do that (I think dad might, hi dad) — but if I could leave you with one plea. One desperate, heartfelt, plea:

Please pay attention.

To the world.

To others.

Give it generously.

Lavish it in droves.

Use your brain, and your eyes, but think about what you’re filling them with. Ask yourself why we fill a 24-hour news cycle with 10 second grabs from spokespeople forced to reduce complex issues into a memorable zinger. Ask what that’s doing to our media, our politics, and our ability to be civil. Ask yourself why we’ve got a 24 hour news cycle that we then pad out with input from multiple devices, feeding us those same 10 second lines from those same glib speakers. Read Nicholas Carr’s famous piece Is Google Making Us Stupid. In his book, The Shallows, Carr says:

“Media aren’t just channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

The internet has the capacity to stop us concentrating, and contemplating — other words for paying attention.

And then he says, according to neuroscientists and because our brains are ‘plastic’ — they change as we use them…

“We become, neurologically, what we think”

The Psalmist behind Psalm 115 says:

But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see…

Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.

We become what we behold. And what we behold isn’t just the messages we pay attention to, but the mediums that deliver them too.

Paul, in Romans, says:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Things in this world shape us. Things external to us. You might believe you’re in control of this shaping, but the only way to be in control is to pay attention — Christian or not — testing and approving of how you live and the decisions you make is what keeps you in the driver’s seat for your brain, and what keeps us able to live well in this world.

Ask yourself if you really believe that we become what we behold — then ponder why media theorists, theologians, and neuroscientists all agree that the information we consume, and the way we consume it, has the power to shape the way we think and physically re-shape our brains and communication.

Maybe a ten second sound bite or a seven hundred word opinion piece isn’t enough to do justice on any real issues in this world. And maybe consuming these things and thinking they do our thinking for us is starting to cost us our ability to see the world well, and thus live in it well. Maybe you’ve got to read ten seven hundred word opinion pieces, or one seven thousand word opinion piece to really know what’s going on, and to react appropriately.

That’s what I think. That’s why I’ve switched camps from Eutychus to Paul. Paul was also a nice guy. He didn’t punish Eutychus for not paying attention, he saw what happened and picked him up.

And then he talked some more. From midnight to dawn. That’s a lot of words. Because sometimes its words that give life.

St. Eutychus: Where being bored kills.

 

 

Internet Guru Joshua Topolsky on (new) media (and some reflections on the ‘Christian new media landscape’)

There’s a difference between making media and putting it on the Internet, and making media for the Internet. ‘New Media’ is the stuff that falls into the latter category.

Joshua Topolsky has done some cool stuff online. He co-started The Verge, and then its spin-off, Vox. Before going to work for Bloomberg. He knows his stuff. Here’s a quote I read tonight where he talks about the way the Internet is currently working (as part of his announcement that he’s leaving Bloomberg to do something new).

The reality in media Eventually is that there is an enormous amount of noise. There are countless outlets (both old and new) vying for your attention, desperate not just to capture some audience, but all the audience. And in doing that, it feels like there’s a tremendous watering down of the quality and uniqueness of what is being made. Everything looks the same, reads the same, and seems to be competing for the same eyeballs. In both execution and content, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the rat race for maximum audience at any expense. It’s cynical and it’s cyclical — which makes for an exhausting and frankly boring experience.

I think people want something better, something more meaningful. Something a lot less noisy.

We made Painfully Ordinary and innovative things at The Verge and Vox Media, we made Painfully Ordinary and innovative things at Bloomberg, but I don’t think I got even close to what’s possible. I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface.

This is why I don’t really want to write under the umbrella of a group blog or the Aussie Christian versions of Vox/Buzzfeed etc, the sort of set up that wants you to write short, punchy, posts that ape those successful secular online outlets. You know. List posts that are less than 8,000 words long, with headlines that create a curiosity gap. Or just things that are interested in capturing eye-balls. Christian eye-balls. But we’ll get to that…

There’s a place for that stuff, obviously, and people want to read short things. I get that (hey Mikey Lynch). But if everybody looks (and writes) the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other. And we’d end up with a pretty boring internet, and worse, boring Christians who think in short lists and punchy soundbites.

I worry that too many Christian ‘news’ websites, or blogs, here, but especially abroad, get caught up in this competition for ‘all the audience’ and that we’re guilty of many of the bad things Topolsky identifies. It’s less of a problem in our egalitarian Aussie landscape, where we’re less into celebrity Christian pastors than elsewhere (but only marginally, and partly because the size of our market doesn’t justify it). We love traffic. We love attention. We love a platform that maximises our exposure (though probably within the community we belong to, and seek recognition in).

Here’s a problem I have. It’s my problem, but it’s a problem I have with how Christians use the Internet.

If a Christian wants to find some resources for thinking about how they might talk to someone in the real, 21st century, world about Jesus. And how they might do it online. There are tonnes of sites and posts that meet that need. Everyone wants to talk about talking about Jesus, there are very few prominent, curated, web platforms where people are talking about Jesus for the sake of people who don’t know him. Or writing things that people can share. There’s CPX. But it’s a pretty high end sort of operation, and they tend to emphasise traditional media platforms and adopt a traditional media approach – their credibility comes from authority, qualifications, and gravitas. They’re an incredibly important outlet, but they’re not Buzzfeed.

Where are the real, human, presentations of the compelling message of the Gospel as it shapes a persuasive, joyful, cross-shaped life that shows what it looks like to live in and appreciate God’s good world, as his people? Who is putting flesh and blood on the propositions we want to reinforce about the Gospel in the real world. Rather than just asserting them  no matter how poetically and beautifully they are asserted. And let’s face it. The quality of writing at some of these new Christian sites is astoundingly good. They’ve sort of cannibalised the pre-existing Christian blogosphere and captured all the brilliant writers (except Stephen McAlpine. And Arthur and Tamie. And others… my point is that there are a lot of people who used to hang their writing shingle on a solo blogspot now writing on these platforms). And that’s great.

Except for that lingering question, and the sense, at least in my opinion, that we don’t need more Christian book reviews that come from people with a closer proximity to our theology (who reads books anymore anyway? I read chapters of books, then buy ten new books on Amazon.com). Book summaries might be a better bet. Here’s ten things this book would teach you if you bothered to read it… (that’s why videos that promote books are now, I think, more important than the books they promote, if they can crystallise a book’s thesis). Or better still. Book reviews that engage with what a non-Christian might think and feel if someone shoved a book in their hand. Reviews that ask “does this book actually resonate with the real world and present the experience and beliefs of non-Christians in a way that suggests it understands them”? Or book reviews about literature, pop novels, and non-fiction books from outside the Christian bubble. Or. As a crazy thought. Things written about cultural texts that don’t try to slam them through a Gospel grid, trying to find Jesus in Superman, but instead let art do what art does, hold up a mirror to the world and ask questions of us, and what it means to be human. Why don’t we spend more time coming at art as humans, and less time trying to make art bring God to us? It might actually get us to that destination earlier…

I know this is all a caricature, and there are plenty of exceptions out there that do exactly what I’m suggesting here. Sporadically. Posted on these platforms and then buried under Ten reasons Gospel Ministry is more important than shoemaking. Which is another caricature. But how about changing the emphasis? What if, instead of wanting every member of a small circle to be our audience, and competing for attention time with our base, we wanted some members of a much larger pool of people to be our audience? What if our Christian base become the people who feature in, write, share, and discuss that content, rather than just being readers?

It’s all well and good to say we need this other content too, and it’s a both/and… but where is the and happening? I reckon it’s currently in three places. Local church websites. The Bible Society’s Eternity mag. The Centre for Public Christianity. There are great things being written and produced in all of these places, but none of them are ‘new media’ at their core. None of them are built with an eye to frictionless sharing and storytelling. The kind of site Buzzfeed’s Jonah Peretti (here’s where he explains the architecture of a social web product, sort of), or Vox’s Joshua Topolsky would build. Here’s something Peretti says about how to approach the Internet as something new and different.

“…Some of what you were describing earlier about digital publishers being small relative to the traditional media and relative to television, actually it’s because early-stage digital publishers have stayed too close to print. They look like print. Their basic unit is the same kind of article structure. Some of them might be shorter or longer, but the front page is programmed almost like a newspaper. The formats of the articles are more like a newspaper. And it’s like, “Oh, let’s add a little video,” but when they add video it’s like they are trying to be TV, but it’s not quite as good as regular TV.

The way to break through and to make something that can actually scale into something big is just to say, “What would this be if the readers and the publishers were not focused on making something similar to print?” If they said, instead, “What should this be if mobile is the most important thing; if things can be more visual; if things can be more shareable; if length can be anywhere from 140 characters to 12,000 words? In that kind of world, where things can be interactive, like quizzes—in that kind of a world, what should a media company be?”

He knows what he’s talking about. Just like Topolsky. Peretti didn’t just build Buzzfeed, he also co-founded the Huffington Post.

I do wonder sometimes if our Aussie reformed, evangelical, group blogs* (which tend to write inwards focused content, for Christians who already belong to a particular circle, or tradition), are missing the opportunities presented by the social web (and often missing the nature of the social web as opposed to traditional broadcast media). The ABC’s Religion and Ethics page is an exception when it comes to thought-provoking content written by Christians for non-Christians in a place they might read (though it, by its very nature, is not an outlet exclusively for reformed, evangelical, thought). But I’m not sure the ABC Religion and Ethics page is ever going to reinvent the way content is delivered online, and do it in a way that both captures the social ennui of new media, or does it with enough street-cred to appeal to people who aren’t already interested in discussing Religion and Ethics.

Let me stress, especially given the not-ideal timing of this post, which coincides with the official launch of the Gospel Coalition Australia, that we need sites that produce, curate, and distribute great content to Christians, by trustworthy Christians, on the Internet. The Australian version of the Gospel Coalition website has been a breath of fresh air in many ways. But it won’t win the Internet for Christians. And the warning from Topolsky’s quote applies to the noisy nature of the Christian webosphere too.

It seems to me that we’re in desperate need of an approach to content generation that values expertise and wisdom (and the virtues of traditional media), but also cultivates the innovative presentation of the Gospel to others using both new mediums and a social/user-generated approach to content production and distribution (capturing the Most Unexceptional bits of the ‘democratised’ social media landscape). And it’d be nice if we weren’t just interested in writing to people who probably already agree with us, and if we were able to do it in a way that was a little less modernist, and a little more adventurous.

In the past it was Christians who led the way in thinking about how to use new communication mediums to persuade people about the goodness of the Gospel. Think Luther and the printing press for an obvious example. But early television and radio was filled with Christian programming (the quality of Christian television and radio content rapidly deteriorated, in part because evangelicals abandoned the platforms).

When it comes to how we re-tool our use of the Internet for people who don’t already belong to our circle… here’s my opinion. Let me stress. OPINION. Thoughts that are mine. They are subjective. They are not definitive… They are vibey. They are broadstroked. They don’t apply to every thing ever published everywhere… but possibly apply to a trend that represents the bits I’ve read from places like this…

It’d be nice if our writers were a little less sure of themselves (he asserts) and a little more interested in asking or prompting questions we don’t already think we know the answer to, wouldn’t it? (he asks, knowing the answer he wants to this question).

It’d be nice if it all felt a little bit more social, like if the people who write posts actually want to hear comments and questions, like they want to engage in a conversation beyond the definitive word they lay down (in a pithy post too short to be the definitive word about anything), like they leave us with questions they genuinely want answers to as well, where those answers are crowdsourced.

It’d be nice for us to acknowledge some complexity and when we deal with a tricky question not try to answer it in 750 words (there are questions you can’t tackle in list form. Like: 10 reasons the problem of evil is not really a problem for genuine Christians —which is not a real post, I made it up).

It’d be nice to give people a platform for telling their stories about life following Jesus and what some tricky and complex situations in life teach us about following Jesus, or leave us questioning… I know some of these sites do this occasionally. But those are the Most Unexceptional bits. Think Dave Jensen’s recent testimony published via Eternity.

It’d be nice if articles on these sites were a little more interlinked to other articles on the site, or other conversations on the web, beyond the platform (and the people who are ‘in’ the circle). Highlighting what’s trending elsewhere in a box is nice. But there are too many conversation starters published on these sites, and not enough bits of genuine conversing.

It’d be nice if more of us cultivated the practice of slow blogging. A practice I once ridiculed as I sought to post thousands of bits of rubbish here a year.

It’d be nice if we provided space, and opportunities, for some innovative collaborative thinking about how we might integrate different bits of professional acumen with the Christian faith, rather than just getting a bunch of preachers to write stuff that they think about in the study (says the preacher, from his study — or his laptop).

What if our evangelical internet outposts actually represented that we believe in a priesthood of all believers? What if we did something different, rather than just trying to do the stuff we know works so long as we use a metric like audience share, and measure it against our existing audience?

I’d love ideas that move towards this sort of use of the Internet. I’d love examples of Christian sites that look, feel, and function more like Vox than news.com.au (I really like a site called Christ And Pop Culture, but even it has its limits). It may be that Christians should actually start submitting articles to Buzzfeed (and liking, sharing, and discussing it when someone does), or Medium. I read a great Buzzfeed post about small group Bible study culture.

*Naming names (and elephants in the room) — the Gospel Coalition and Thinking of God, but, to further describe the elephant, this post was prompted solely by that quote and not because the Gospel Coalition Australia launched in Brisbane tonight. I have been percolating some of these thoughts about the Christian blogosphere for a little while now though, so the timing is interesting. 

** Seriously, what non-Christian is going to read an article when they see the link says gospelcoalition or thinkingofgod. I know there’s a time and place for writing to Christians, I’m doing it now, and on a blog with an even more obscure name. But I’m suggesting a radical rethink of the way we use the web.

 

5 reasons my posts are often so very, very, long

One overwhelmingly common response to stuff I’ve been posting here in perhaps the last couple years (it hasn’t always been like this) is that there are just too many words. Here’s an attempt to explain why this happens. Just read the headings if you want the short version. I’ll use this post a bit as something to link people to when they ask about the length of my posts (or complain about them). But here’s an answer, or five, to a question you just might be asking every time you see me post anything with the words “it’s long, but…” appended to the link.

1. I write to dump my thoughts somewhere without editing. Editing would significantly, significantly, change and lengthen the time I invest here that I need to invest elsewhere.

“I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.” — Blaise Pascal (and many others)

I don’t do this for money, or attention. I think of this site as something of an external version of my brain. I do it to clarify my thinking, to offer my thoughts, unedited, to others, and to take part in wider discussions. I like to think that what people experience when they read my stuff, in bits and pieces, or as some sort of integrated whole, they’re getting a sense of how my brain works and how my thinking develops (or doesn’t). In one sense my greatest desire is to be understood. Sometimes people like what I write, and share it, but I’ve been blogging for nine years now and have never particularly cared about traffic. I very, very, rarely look at stats for my blog.

I don’t edit because I don’t have time. I have a wife. I have two young kids, with another one due in the next two weeks. I have a pet dog. I have a church family. I have a job. Writing takes me away from these things some times. To be honest, I spend too much time here for too little tangible return in the relationships that matter most (though I think the clarity and catharsis writing brings me helps me be a bit better at many of these jobs, perhaps with the exception of the dog).

2. Life and truth are sometimes more complex than 140 characters or a clickbaity list of n-things might allow

The internet is great for many things. But complexity isn’t always one of them. Our world reduces complex arguments to soundbites and slogans. The internet is not like a traditional media outlet with limited column space or airtime. Which is great, but it also means people sink to the bottom in order to compete for attention. Hence headlines that promise I don’t want to do that. Maybe I overcorrect. But I want to subvert the patterns people adopt to “succeed” online, because I don’t think traffic is success. I’m much more interested in developing some sense of what it looks like to be a virtuous writer and citizen in this new media landscape (here’s part 1 on humility, and part 2 on eloquence, from a never completed five part thing I once started on what this looks like).

3. Context takes time (and words) to establish

I don’t assume that anybody reads every post I write. And I don’t assume that people who read stuff here know me in real life. But since I want to be understood, I feel like each post has to present who I am and how the thing I’m writing about is a product of point 1, but I also want to be showing my workings a bit. I want to provide this context for people. But this isn’t the only sort of context I’m interested in. I want to show how a post relates to other posts I’ve written (because that’s how my brain works, nothing really gets developed in isolation, the integration of thoughts and ideas is what gets me excited).

Again. This isn’t the only way I think context works. I want to fairly represent others too. I quote large slabs of other sources, especially the Bible, because I don’t want to rip things or thoughts away from their own context without care. I also don’t expect people to follow a link to an external site to check that I’m representing a third party well. If I’m disagreeing with someone I want their argument to be clearly represented. I haven’t always done this well. But I want to treat others online the way I hope to be treated when someone wants to disagree with me.

Also, just for the record, I’ve posted more than 6,000 articles here, and the average length per post is just 258 words, so it may be that I’m not actually as wordy as you think, you might just be reading something that someone else has decided is worth sharing because they think it could be of value for you… According to the stats (at least a couple of years ago when I did check my stats as an experiment), my longer posts are shared more frequently than short posts, which seems to fit a broader trend. According to this article in the Huffington Post:

“We analyzed the top 10% most shared articles to see if this was the case. And according to our research, the opposite is true. On average, long-form content actually gets shared more than short-form content.

If you look at the chart below, the longer the content, the more shares it gets, with 3,000-10,000 word pieces getting the most average shares (8859 total average shares). Not surprisingly, there was a lot more short-form content being written. How much more? There were 16 times more content with less than 1000 words than there were content with 2000+ words.”

That’s enough about me. Here’s some about you.

4. Your media habits shape your brain. 

Do you want your brain to be shaped by a bunch of unnuanced, sensationalist, short garbage that moves on quicker than a newspaper becomes fish and chip wrapping? I don’t.

The way we use media profoundly rewires our brains. Here’s a (long) six part series on how social media rewires our brains, picking up some insights from neuroscience, theology, and media ecology.

Maybe you should take time to read a bit. It’s good for your brain. Take some time out, grab a coffee. There’s a little thing at the top of each post that even warns you how many minutes an average reader might take to read every word. I don’t think people consume the web like this. Eye-tracking technology shows that when people are reading something online they scan for headings, and tend to scroll quickly through a page to see if it’s worth investing in. Slate.com has a cool article on how people read things online, even long things, that explores this a bit, I try to write knowing that people will tune out when they feel like they’ve had enough. A blog post from Buffer, an online media tool, suggests 1,600 words is the ideal length for a blog post, which is longer than most people think they want, and equates to about ten minutes of reading time. This post will be just shy of that.

5. It’s possible your complaint about something being too long means its not actually written for you. And you should simply stop reading when you stop being interested

There’s a strong argument that has been made by people I respect that what I write as a Christian, where whatever gifts I have in this area coming from God for the benefit of others, should serve as many people as possible and that means making my writing as accessible as possible. Which means shorter. I think there’s some truth here. But I also believe the primary people I’m called to serve are those in my family, and my church family, and that takes time which I can’t devote to making this site more useful for you. Sorry. And I’m not always sure shorter is better, as the above suggests…

Look. I know you’re busy. Who’s not?

But it’s also possible that your assumption that your time is somehow more precious than mine, and those I serve with it, misses the point that reading anything on the internet is a completely opt-in activity. You can choose to close the tab any time. It’s not like a sermon where if I waffle for ten minutes, to 70 people, I’ve wasted 700 minutes for people who couldn’t easily leave. The opt-in/opt-out distinction is incredibly important, it’s a bit like permission marketing v interruption marketing (see wikipedia).

Perhaps when I post something it’s not for you. Perhaps its for me. Perhaps its for the one person googling something a year from now. One of the other media ideas that fascinates me is the idea of the long tail, that it’s not initial ‘viral’ success that counts, but a thing that has a long shelf life that is returned to by a few people here and there over a long time. Incidentally, that’s why the most ‘successful’ thing I ever wrote is the recipe I shared for Sizzler’s Cheese Toast (which is a super short post).

 

St. Eutychus 5.0

Blogging about blogging is pretty meta. But. It’s what I do. It helps me chart how my approach to this little corner of the internet has changed over time.

I’ve reinvented what I do on this blog a few times now. It started out as something like a year ’round Christmas letter for my friends when I moved to Townsville. It became a rapidly rotating series of oddities and curiosities. It morphed into a space where I could think out loud about stuff during college. And now, it’s essentially a home for long form verbal processing stuff that interests me, but probably bores (almost) everyone else.

All of these things have their place.

This year I’ve posted less than in any other year since I began — I’ve started full time work, I now have two kids, and a puppy, and plenty of other stuff to distract me, but the biggest contributor to the lack of activity has been this slightly different editorial strategy. And I’m a bit bored with just writing long stuff (as much as I love writing, and reading, longer, more nuanced, pieces).

A few years back I hypothesised that there are 5 types of blogger, then, I read a post from Challies yesterday that suggests there are two.

One thing I’ve missed in the current scheme of things is linking to other people’s stuff. I found the quote below, from Challies, pretty challenging — it’s not exactly the rationale behind the switch in editorial approach. There are heaps of other factors. But I do want to love Jesus and love other people with every platform I have, and one way I can do this is point to them, and point others to good stuff. Plus. One of the functions I’ve appreciated about past versions of the blog is the way it functions as something like an electronic filing cabinet. I’m looking forward to rediscovering that feature. One of the reasons to revert to this approach is that my own browsing habits haven’t changed. My opened tabs habitually look something like this, and my bookmarks runneth over.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 3.33.49 pm

 

 

When I first began blogging, I was committed almost entirely to content creation. I was interested in exploring new ideas, reading new books, and discussing current events, and I found unexpected joy in doing it out loud and in public through the Internet. At that time I was (sinfully) opposed to curating content and linking to other people’s material. Somehow Envy had shown up and convinced me that if I did that, I would diminish my own readership. The best thing, and the safest thing, he told me, was to pretend that my site was the only one out there worth reading. It was both stupid and prideful. It’s rather embarrassing in retrospect.

One day I became spiritually convinced that I was sinning. God had given me a platform and it was only fair and good that I use the platform to highlight others who were creating excellent articles. As often as not, these articles were far better than anything I was writing at the time. I understood that I could be a bigger blessing to those who read my site by pointing them elsewhere. Discovering that sin, and dealing with it, brought a certain freedom to my life and to the way I wrote. I was free to celebrate the brilliance and the success of others, and free to share it with those who visited my blog. — Challies

Building a new church website with WordPress

A while back I was posting my way through the design and development of our new church website. You can read those posts here:

Stage 1 of the new site is live. There’s still a bit of work to be done on it – but on the whole the functionality and workability of WordPress makes this significantly more satisfying than the old site.

Stage 2 for us is mostly content related – there are a few kinks still to be ironed out, but there’ll be more stories, more videos… less text.

Anyway. Maybe you’re wondering about using WordPress for a website for your church (or small business) but don’t know where to begin.

I can’t recommend WordPress highly enough for church websites – not only for people who know what they’re doing – but it’s better than the other options out there by far, the specialist church web hosts included… If you’re worried about not being a tech person – there are plenty of people out there who’ll design and support your WordPress site for you. It’s a no brainer. It’s the biggest Content Management System (CMS) in the world. It’s not just for blogging – though it makes having a blog attached to your website easy and natural.

The first step is knowing the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com. You want wordpress.org. It’s the software that you use to self host. That’s what you’re doing. It is a little complicated and if you’re a one man band, and the technology is beyond you – then I’d be looking for help at this point. Send me an email. Add me on Facebook. We’ll talk. Or… here’s a better option.

My friend Paul has started a web design and marketing business called Promeate. He specialises in WordPress. And he’s a good guy. He loves Jesus. He loves churches. And he’s keen to help. He wrote this post about the process for setting up a church website.

stjohnssmallville1

We’d both like to help you. I’ll be posting some more bits and pieces in this series in weeks and months to come.

Church Websites: Jesus is king, but content is important

Continuing this little series on building a new church website I thought I’d go through a little bit of how to fill your outsider focused site, designed with the modern web consumer in mind, once you’ve found, or defined, your voice.

This takes two separate but related bits of thinking: A content strategy and a content schedule. It’s quite possible that the thinking you put into your web based content strategy and content schedule will actually double as your communication strategy and your communication plan which will cover how you communicate offline as well. This is a good, and mostly necessary, step. But I’m jumping right into the latter, because that’s what I’m working on right now, and knowing that in our case, the teaching plan for the year at church is well and truly bedded down. If you’re just starting with a web content strategy, that’s fine, but it might feel like cart before horse stuff.

The step after this, which depends on having content is your distribution strategy, and somewhat relatedly, what to do with comments and discussion about your content. That can get its own, subsequent, post, but you should read this study about the impact of comments on the web in the meantime.

Your content strategy (and a bit about information architecture)

There are a few ways to approach the question of what content you’re going to put on your site, and a few style type decisions you’re going to have to make in the process. The first is choosing whether you’re building a static site (where the content is fixed, and a schedule might involve a periodic update – this is the easiest option), a dynamic site (a site where new content is generated in a steady stream, where a schedule is really important, or the stream will stagnate – this option is the most work), or a site with a mix of static and dynamic elements.

You could, I reckon, mount an argument by analogy from the nature of God’s interactions with creation that the last is the best. If you’re familiar with deism – the idea that God set up the world and then walked away – the static site is the deistic option. Set it up. Forget it. It’ll point to the existence of your church, but won’t really help people know it beyond whatever content they can observe from a very small amount of evidence. The purely dynamic site is more like open theism – this is a simplification of open theism – but there’s nothing concrete. Everything changes. According to the whims of the webmaster. There’s not really much consistency and nobody really knows what to expect. The mixed site – which I like the best – involves a well thought out creation, that is good and purposeful, with fixed rules and structures, but a long term commitment to engaging with the world. The analogy breaks down in all sorts of ways, and isn’t really that useful… except that static sites aren’t all that great, and purely dynamic sites are dangerous).

While I’m a big fan of the static/dynamic mix – there are actually good reasons to choose a static site, if your resources are limited. If this is the case, don’t start a blog on your website and leave it with the “hello world” post that WordPress gives you as a default… That undermines the credibility your website is attempting to give your church as it proclaims an important message. It says “I’m lazy” or worse “I’m uninspired”… A static site, at the very least, should give a visitor an idea of what your church is on about, where it is, and how to contact you.

The voice you’ve developed comes into play when you’re writing the static part of your site – but so to does the content strategy. Are you going to be take a minimal approach to content, or try to give as much information as possible. Is your information architecture going to be simple – with as few pages and clicks as possible, or complex with complicated menus and trees and a huge dependance on your site’s search capabilities?

So we’re going with a mix of static pages that tell our visitors who we are and what we’re on about as a church (the gospel of Jesus), that use a mix of multimedia and carefully structured text, erring on the side of saying too much rather than not enough, and a blog where we demonstrate who we are and try to provide valuable content for visitors to our site that serves our mission as a church.

A content strategy for static pages

It’s counter-intuitive – but I think with some careful writing and layout you’re actually better off doing a relatively flat, minimal click, site structure, with a fair bit of content per page.

There are good search engine optimisation reasons for writing pages that use lots of relevant keywords together, and I think there’s huge value in producing a site that actually answers the questions people might be bringing to a search for a church in a transparent and open way. I’m also pretty convinced that long valuable content is a better long term strategy than minimal content – though it is really important to be aware that not everybody reads the web in the same way.

This means each page should have a nice clear lead paragraph that explains what you’re on about in the rest of the page – recognising that a fair percentage of your audience will stop reading and click away there – and making the opening paragraph link heavy, so you can control where people are clicking to next, I’m a big fan of anchor links that take people to specific sections of the same page too, they can be a really useful heuristic tool.

Basically my approach to content writing is based on the good old inverted pyramid that journalists use.

Image Source: Wikipedia: Inverted Pyramid

The inverted pyramid is useful for a couple of reasons – it recognises that some people want all the background stuff, but others only want the news at a glance, and it means if you’ve got limited space people don’t lose out on the real substance of what you want to communicate if they ignore the bottom two thirds.

You are more than a headline. Your website, hopefully, is occupying something more significant than the role a headline plays in a news story. There are good reasons for an exceptionally minimal approach to marketing a product – especially if the product is well known, or if you want to create some sort of buzz, or vibe. But if you’re after a user-friendly website, that will make an interaction with your church in the real world less painful for somebody who is not familiar with who you are, because they’re more informed, then just having your particular buzzword like “PRUNE” in really big text isn’t actually telling anybody about who you are or what they can expect.

And you also can’t rely on videos and multimedia to carry the can (and they certainly won’t help with how you come up on a search engine). While videos won’t play nice with search engines, the use of testimonials from real people is, I think, a really nice way to not be blowing your own trumpet, and to be authentic. That’s why people use written testimonials, but videos help carry a bit of pathos and ethos along with the written world. They’re moments of oratory captured for ongoing use.

Which means you need text. And I think more is more. Or rather, enough is enough. But you need to structure it with a mind to how people read websites – they scan, they look for links, they click away, and structure your content accordingly. So that a visitor to your site can both find what they’re looking for, and get a sense of what you’re trying to tell them about, with minimal fuss.

A content strategy for a church blog

So once you decide you want a dynamic aspect to your site, and you’ve allocated resources to the site for a certain amount of time (you can always reassess and downgrade to a static site if you can’t maintain a schedule), you need to decide what sort of stuff you’re going to post, and there’s a few factors to weigh up when you’re answering this question.

  • Who are you? Part of this is knowing what your voice will be, but a bigger deal is figuring out if you’re existing online as a particular individual within your church (the minister), as the church speaking corporately, or as individuals from your but before that you need to figure out what your “brand” is – what is your ethos that you want driving your communication? How do you want to present yourself to outsiders so that they get a feel for who you are.
  • Who is your audience? How wide are you casting your net? If your site is for newcomers are you just blogging for non-Christians? Do you also want to be providing resources for other Christians? 
  • Why are you posting? What’s the purpose of having a dynamic page – just for google links, to provide resources, etc?
  • How does your blog content relate to the real world that people will experience when they visit your church? How does it match up to your philosophy of ministry?
  • Who will write your content? Will it be a team of individuals as individuals, or a corporate mothership with multiple contributors adhering to the same style guide?
  • What are you going to write about? Are you going to generate content? Are you going to link to other resources?
  • How often will you post, and how substantial will your posts be?

Here’s a case study for how we’re thinking about our blog at church, which will then inform the schedule/plan we put together for our blog.

I’m thinking that it’s not too weird to have our static pages (to use a nice WordPress distinction) speaking in a “corporate voice” – so using a royal “we” and hopefully saying things that every member of our church family would be happy to have said on their behalf, with a personality that’s a bit representative of how we do things on a Sunday, and think about ourselves, and then to have our posts, on our blog, using particular voices – from particular individuals within our church family. So there’ll be a little less consistency in style, but we’ll also be giving people a picture of who they might meet on a Sunday, and who in our team and congregation is interested in different areas.

We’re pretty keen for our website to primarily be about the newcomer – but we also want to give the newcomer an accurate picture of what we’re on about without them having to sign up to be part of The City, our online community – so we want to be providing content for people who are part of our church to share with their non-Christian friends, content that reflects on what it means to be a Christian, and we’re also committed to using our resources, as a bigger church, to serve other churches who are, like us, trying to reach people in our world with the gospel.

We’ve got a philosophy of ministry that is pretty helpful for shaping our editorial policy – how we decide what goes up, and what doesn’t. We use a pathway for how we think about how individuals move from being a visitor to a mature, servant hearted Christian – and we use the words: Connect, Grow, and Serve. These will become the categories that we use for our blog. We also teach through books and topics in groups of ten – in line with the school term, which gives us a nice period of time to produce material related to the big idea of a Sunday service.

Connect will feature bits and pieces that help newcomers connect with the gospel, resources for people thinking about Christianity and joining us to process whatever issues the current series is raising, links to the podcast, some bits and pieces about church life, and maybe some interactions with pop-culture and current events. Grow will feature book reviews, interesting and useful articles, resources for living as a Christian, some more in-depth reactive stuff when it comes to pop-culture and current events. Serve will feature resources that we’re producing for other people, outside of Creek Road, to use for ministry – kids church material, some articles from our staff on different aspects of what we’re doing as a church, etc – and both the Grow stuff and the Serve stuff will be produced mindful that it’s being published to an audience of everyone.

The content will be produced by a number of different contributors, centralised, checked for consistency and moderated and posted by one or two people. It’ll include a mix of videos, text, links, and pictures. And the content will either support or duplicate what is happening at Church on a Sunday, so that there’s consistency in our messaging across our different distribution platforms. This means a lot of our content is generated by what we’re already doing, but appropriated for the web, and some of it will be generated to support what we’re doing, and to articulate how we’re doing it, which is a pretty useful process and hopefully won’t bog our staff and content producers down.

Your Content Schedule

This is a pretty tricky area with millions of different opinions. Here are a couple of maxims I live by:

Blogging regularly is important for keeping on going.

A blog that isn’t updated regularly dies, and stinks up the place (where the place is your website).

The problem with these maxims is that it’s impossible to know what regularly is. 6 times a day is too regular, and you should probably see a doctor. Once a week is probably at the other extreme.

The most important thing here is to have a plan, and try to stick to a minimum. The thing I like about our content strategy is that there’s a mix of proactive stuff – where we’re running the agenda, and putting out material that supports our ongoing ministry, and reactive stuff, where we’re joining existing conversations that are happening in the public and using those conversations as opportunities to express our key message – the gospel. Having that freedom is really nice, it makes sure we’re not missing anything essential, but that we have the freedom to take opportunities as they arise, without being inconsistent or piecemeal in our online presentation.

My plan, partly design driven, is to be preparing posts in triplets – one for each category – and featuring them in dedicated boxes on our home page by relying on certain WordPress processes, rather than needing to do things manually. That means getting a pool of content generated for release ahead of time, and keeping ahead – it helps that we’re planning our sermon series a long time in advance, and having most of the content sorted months in advance too. The lead time in the teaching team’s thinking means there’s time to generate supporting content before the last minute.

This also means we need to plan a slot for reactive stuff. And planning to be reactive is hard, and counter-intuitive. But there are certain events we know are going to happen ahead of time (like a Federal election), and there are pop-culture type events like movie releases, or music releases, that other things might trump, and that aren’t as time critical. Plus, there’s always something to react to.

I’m wanting to sketch out a schedule in line with the teaching plan, and have a more concrete schedule for a term, with posts produced at that point (before the term, if possible), and then a slightly more flexible weekly or fortnightly schedule for some reactive things. Steve Fogg has this cool template for church communications planning that’s worth using at this point. I’ll be putting together something like this with three different columns dedicated to blog categories.

2012 in review

It’s been a big year for our family this year, a big year for me, and a big year for this little corner of the internet.

Think of this post as part Christmas Letter (where I brag about how wonderful my wife and daughter are, and you cringe), and part reflection on another year blogging).

Mostly reviews like this are an opportunity for me to think about how much I’ve got to be thankful for. Life is good. 2012 was a good year.

So in case you want to skip this post – thanks for reading, sharing, commenting, or ignoring St. Eutychus this year, and if you’ve been a part of our life in bigger and different ways in 2012, thanks for that too.

We welcomed our little girl into the world in December 2011, and I was pretty sure that parenting was going to take a toll on my blogging – my capacity and desire to write things.

This was true – my output, by post, is less than half what it was. This year’s 414 posts is a big drop from the 1,007 posts in 2011. But by any other metric this has been an exciting year to blog.

We also changed churches, moved house, saw siblings get married, and kept plowing through life at theological college. It’s been a pretty big year in the real world, and in terms of where the college/future trajectory is at – the rubber is starting to get closer to the road in terms of having to figure out what 2014 and beyond holds.

Hopefully a hoverboard.

Parenting has been an amazing joy – both watching Robyn grow as a wife and mother, and watching Soph get bigger and cuter, and more animated. I’m so blessed to have such wonderful girls in my life. I’m constantly blown away by Robyn’s gifts and love for me and others, and her patience is a big reason I’m still posting stuff here.

Robyn and Soph

Creek Road has been exciting – I really love being part of a big team of people who are passionate about Jesus, and who have been given amazing gifts that they’re willing to use to see people meet him.

College has been pretty rewarding – I’m really excited about what I’ve learned this year, the faculty and other students at QTC have been a big part of giving me a richer understanding of the Bible and the world behind the text – and hopefully that’s informed, more than most other things, some of the content here this year.

I keep reflecting, year on year, about why I blog – and who it benefits. This has been an especially big question for me to answer this year. It certainly benefits me – I love having the opportunity to get my thoughts out of my head, and also watch them develop. I hope that when things click, and my posts are appropriately free of ego, arrogance, and my own chipped shoulders – that they are useful for others, and worthy of sharing – and I especially hope that my time at college, and whatever gifts I might have will be useful for helping people think more clearly about who Jesus is. I’m also trying to find a balance between generating content that is useful to other people – but may not be all that interesting to regular readers – and stuff that excites me and hopefully entertains.

I love blogging. I love the doors it opens. The relationships it creates. The way its helped my ability to express things. And most of all when it does serve people.

It’s hard to find the right balance of writing for an audience of two (God, and me), and writing for an audience of you… but I’m trying to get there, and after 7 years of pretty concerted blogging, and 5,728 posts, I’m feeling like I’ve got a bit of a grip on my voice, the medium, and what I’m on about. Maybe I’m losing it – there’s certainly been a bit of a change in mood, content, and length in these parts this year, and in some way that must represent a change going on in my head, and heart – because I’ve always hoped that the content here in some way reflects who I am.

I’m mindful of some of the limitations of this medium – it’s black and white, it’s impersonal but personal, and the nature of the internet means some people aren’t here for the whole ride but get a hold of a post that’s been shared because it’s part of something controversial – and I’m mindful of some of my own limitations – my desire to argue, my arrogance and desire to be right, my inability to cope well with criticism, and my pride and tendency to spend too much time measuring myself by stupid standards (which is similar to arrogance, but slightly different), so this year I made my “about” page a little more robust, updated my disclaimer and added a comment policy.

So again, thanks heaps for reading, for commenting, and for sharing in 2012. Here are some numbers and stuff for people who like that sort of thing.

St. Eutychus by the Numbers

  • Posts: 414
  • Unique Visitors: 81,979
  • Visits: 111,601
  • Pageviews: 151,093

Some things people liked… (in order)

Where people came from

This table makes for some interesting viewing – special thanks to Simone, David, and Gary for sending people my way – and for all of you who like and share stuff from here on Facebook.

facebook.com

15,119

m.facebook.com

5,003

google.com

4,613

t.co

1,510

google.com.au

1,091

simone1975.blogspot.com.au

653

google.co.uk

464

davidould.net

403

google.ca

277

garyware.me

212

How I’m hoping to aid clarity in online discussion

Some of the responses to some of my recent posts have been interesting. There are now more people reading St. Eutychus that I don’t know than there are people who I do. People who haven’t been following along for the six years I’ve been posting on this blog. So I’ve done some housekeeping.

I’ve updated my about page to be something more substantial than a staccato list of definitive factoids about me.

I’ve created a comment policy.

And I’ve edited my disclaimer.

I’m going to expect that people who comment here have familiarised themselves with these before they attack me (not before they comment), so they’ll be useful to refer people to. But they also say something about why I blog, what I blog, how I see this blog, and how I see conversation on this blog. They provide the interpretive context for reading each of my posts.

I’d love your feedback on each, or all of these – especially if you think my expectations are ridiculous or I’m incredibly wrong about any of it.

While I was doing some housekeeping I moved the Facebook comment form off the home page and onto each individual post, where previously it was on both. It was slowing down the page too much and a little too cluttered. Clutter reduces clarity.

Blog mythbusting: is less more?

Someone gave me some advice about my blog yesterday – its advice you hear so often that its simply assumed to be true – I was told that I’d probably get more readers if I wrote shorter posts. Now, I think this person is an occasional reader, rather than regular reader, so I suspect his view on my typical content strategy is slightly skewed by the posts he’s read, and we’ll get to how that is relevant in a moment…

I’ve given this advice myself before. It seems sound. People digest information in relatively small chunks, and scan the internet relatively quickly. There are some stats that support this from my all time visit figures…

The average visit length here is just under 90 seconds. 78% of visitors “bounce” – they land on the page they come to, and click no further.

I wonder if this “myth” ultimately comes down to metrics – I think there’s probably something to it if you’re after comments and discussion – if you leave some things unsaid, people feel the need to say them for you – and that’s certainly been true of the discussions I’ve entered elsewhere. So engagement might be higher on short posts…

But if you’re interested in people reading what you have to say, and sharing it, then in my experience – it’s the longer posts where I’m attempting to provide something of value, or articulating something I think – usually on a timely issue – that traffic and sharing go through the roof…

Here’s my all time visitation in a graph… we’ll drill down in a sec…

Screen Shot 2012-10-13 at 12.22.26 PM

There are a couple of noticeable spikes there, one, around the 29th of September 2009, was a real outlier – I was Pharyngulated – visited by some of the internet’s angriest atheists after I wrote this post. That was a list. It got more traffic, and more comments than anything else I’ve written – except, now, for my guide to making Sizzler’s cheese toast. These two posts, together, account for a significant chunk of my all time traffic, 5% and 4.7%, respectively. Other popular posts have been tied to getting near the top of Google’s search rankings for planking, a fake Martin Luther King quote, a Thom Yorke shirt, Ehud, Things to do in Townsville, and Instagram web profiles.

Interestingly, thanks to the comments, the atheist post became a long form post – and people spend, on average, 5 minutes trawling through the comments. In fact, there’s an interesting trend in my top 30 posts, where people spend 3 minutes or longer on site, on average.

What gets more interesting is if we just look at 2012, so far…

Screen Shot 2012-10-13 at 12.35.12 PM

Something interesting happens around the 29th of February, the 22nd of March, the 11th of April, the 18th of April, the 16th of May, the 7th of June, the 8th of August, the 19th of August, the 1st, 5th, and 11th, and 27th of September and the 12th of October – those are the sustained 2-3 day spikes you see in the graph.

But why? Did I post a particularly funny youtube video? Share a pithy observation? A series of observations in the form of a controversial list? A fantastically popular “how to” guide?

No.

On the 29th of February I posted a couple of things – one, a video of two jumping Eric Cantona lookalikes who couldn’t sing or keep time, two, a lengthy piece on abortion and a controversial ethics paper that advocated after birth abortions – the first was shared five times on Facebook, which is significantly better than the average number of shares, the second, was shared 54 times on Facebook.

The first was 21 words long, the second, a staggering 2,881 words long.

What about the other days?

It seems from this data that there’s a fairly direct correlation (and, based on a more in depth look at my analytics – direct causation), between long posts offering some sort of substantial content, and increased sharing and traffic. Which are, I think, the best metric for my blog. Here’s the top 15 posts, by visits, from this year – this doesn’t include page views of the home page, it’s people who’ve clicked through to particular posts…

Screen Shot 2012-10-13 at 7.03.10 PM

I don’t really go out of my way to cultivate comments or foster discussion (though I enjoy it), I’m more interested in contributing to a conversation with a more “finished” product.

By this metric, longer is better.

This isn’t true for all cases – I don’t think every long post I’ve written has been worth reading, but I think most of the stuff I’ve written that has been worth reading has been in long form. Some posts have been worth writing, and are now in the resources tabs in the menu above, though they weren’t particularly widely shared at the time… I don’t think this post is as substantial as some of the posts it links to… but the conventional wisdom doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny.

Looking at the posts that have been shared widely there’s also a bit of a common theme – which is certainly something for me to think about as a content strategy… they’re generally substantial posts about a public Christianity/PR/ethics kind of issue.

I’ve got a plugin currently crunching some numbers to tell me what the average word count of my posts is, but I’d suggest it’s somewhere around the 100-200 word mark. I’ll update this paragraph when the count finishes. If it does. – turns out, at this point, I’ve published 1.52 million words in 5,639 posts for an average of 270 words per post…

The number one rule, I’d say, is to produce content that people want to read, word limits are arbitrary. Some of the posts above were, in my opinion, longer than they needed to be, but hitting the right content, at the right time, while saying the right thing, will always trump saying something in half the words but four days too late.

I’d say the myth is busted, but there’s also a good reason I don’t only post long posts, or only post about the same thing – I’d get bored, as would the readers who’ve been here for the long term, and I do think there’s something to be said about sustaining the discipline of blogging regularly – there’s a reason I’m still going after almost six years, while most of the blogs in my blog roll (except for a few, like Simone’s, Ben’s, Anna’s, Findo’s, Andrew’s, and Arthur and Tamie’s have been either sporadic, or died).

A grand day for my archives

I’ve occupied this corner of the internet, or one very much like it, for quite a while now. And it’s always surprised me which posts get traffic and which ones don’t. I’ve just had a fun moment looking at my all time stats (well, for as long as I’ve had google analytics installed).

This is fun – to this date my most controversial post “Five things that would make atheists seem nicer” has been my most read post of all time. It got hammered in three days, and took down my server. This week sometime that post will be eclipsed by my “longest tail” post  – “How to make Sizzler’s cheese toast.” This is pretty satisfying to me. You should be part of getting it over the line (especially now that it has just been updated with a slight change to the recipe secured via the Sizzler website).

That is all.

Blogging v Writing

I love this quote from a Daring Fireball post a couple of years ago.

“The entire quote-unquote “pro blogging” industry — which exists as the sort of pimply teenage brother to the shirt-and-tie SEO industry — is predicated on the notion that blogging is a meaningful verb. It is not. The verb is writing. The format and medium are new, but the craft is ancient.”

Other than the YouTube videos that keep my post count ticking over (or in the case of HeySoph.com are the entire content strategy) – this represents how I conceive of my sites these days. A place to write.

I’ve found my longer “essay style” posts actually get better traction and traffic than short form blog fodder so I’ve pretty much moved away from posts like this one, or posts about what I’m doing from day to day. I do occasionally miss having an avenue for that sort of thing, but that feeling is fleeting and is well and truly overcome by the satisfaction of trying to piece together a cogent 1,000+ word rant.

I read the Daring Fireball post because its a blog that celebrated its tenth anniversary today. That’s impressive.

I guess what I want to ask you, dear reader, is have you noticed the change? Do you care? Do you miss anything?

Introducing “Resources”: Some content housekeeping

I’ve been working at pulling together some streams of content and sporadic bursts of related content into something that is less “blog” and more “website”…

So I’ve gathered together a few streams of resources, and you can find a nice little drop down menu on the top of the page.

I’ve got:

I’ll be updating these over time, but hopefully this will provide a better return on investment for me content production wise, and be of cal

Confession: I have been a bad citizen of blogworld

A long time ago, in a virtual galaxy not so far from me, people used to comment on blogs as a blogging love language. I knew that, It was blog etiquette. Somehow that world passed me by. And I miss that.


Image Credit: Apparently there’s a conference called blog world. Who knew? (This guy)

I have commented much more sparingly than I used to. Others seem to have a similar blog comment malaise. I’m going to do my bit to hold up my end of the social (media) contract. And be more appreciative of the good content other people are writing that I’m thinking about.

Here are some links, rather than comments, as my first step towards rectifying this situation.

Andrew has pretty much killed Things Findo Thinks, replacing it with A Borrowed Flame. I liked this SLR camera simulator he found.

Anna at Goannatree has been writing about writing about writing. She’s posting about her PhD, which is about literature. Which is pretty meta. I enjoyed this post, which came hot on the heels of this one about a week of dissertation themed life in Scotland.

Al writes nice little posts, and I like them. His posts about Tim Chester’s posts about Social Media made me grumpy, not at him, at Tim Chester. So angry I commented on the first one. Also, his post about preaching at weddings is something I’m going to file away for the future.

Ali posted something last week about her near brush with a raving gunman in Sydney, and this week introduced me to The Tallest Man on Earth. She also tagged me in a book spine poetry meme which I will participate in once my books consist of something other than light reading on Corinthians and the Pentateuch.

Arthur and Tamie are getting ready to finish life in Melbourne, start life as parents, and start life in Tanzania. Their posts are fun. I liked this one.

Ben has a new theme. Which looks nice – though for some reason the first second after you load it the fonts are really effeminate, only to be replaced with the felt tip styled ones.

David posted a good little review of the 2 Ways 2 Live App, and a better post about marriage and stuff.

Izaac has been pondering preaching, I commented on two of those because I think the idea that word ministry is ONLY preaching is a bit spurious and doesn’t fit with the Bible’s picture of prophetic ministry, or the way Paul conceives of his teaching of the churches he cares for to include his life and sufferings.

Mikey posted about the search for black curtains, spiritually inspired cake, and excellence – following this discussion on Hans’ blog. Hans has an excellent post on Christianity and homosexuality too.

Steve at Communicate Jesus also reflects on the excellence thing.

Peter Ko posted on a strange issue (I thought). Apparently there are young Christians who think it’s a good idea for unmarried Christian couples to holiday together. Alone. And further, that it’s a bad idea for people to be “legalistic” about the issue. This isn’t legalism. This is wisdom. And thus, I became an old person.

Simone has been writing reports and musicals.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of the posts I’ve enjoyed from the blogs that I read, but I hope that in some way it makes amends for my poor online citizenship in recent times.

UPDATE: I completely forgot this one. Which was, indeed, the motivation behind providing a list to blogs I enjoy. Dave McDonald has started a blog tracking his fight with cancer, and the thoughts that go with it. This sensational letter to Sam Harris is a fine example of what he’s producing and why you should read it. Plus – it’s a great way to keep him, his family, and those around him, in your prayers.