Category Archives: Weblogs
There has been some conversation in Christian circles about the Top 200 Blogs List released by Church Relevance. They used a variety of metrics, but Adrian Warnock was quick to point out they hadn’t accounted for Twitter followers. He compiled another Top 2oo, based purely on that, and which he has been kindly amending as he discovers other Christian bloggers of various persuasions. He followed up today with a further post in which he asks Christian bloggers to be aware of their motives in wanting to blog and to be on such lists.
Adrian is right to ask why we blog. Vanity can slip in all to easily. I recall one Christian friend who said he steered clear of blogging because he felt it was all ‘Me, me, me.’
But Christian communicators want to have an influence. The statistics, though, can only tell us so much. Does influence consist in reading? If so, I influence 2-3,000 people per week. But anyone can read, and only a tiny minority interact through the comments.
Yet much as I welcome the comments, and they are part of my raison d’être for blogging – I want to have a conversation – even that is a crude way of mentioning influence. Does not a messenger of the Gospel want to exercise influence in seeing changed lives? How do I measure that?
How much, then, are the metrics worth?
What do you think?
A blog post entitled ‘Anyone over the age of 35 should read this, as I copied this from a friends status..‘ is trending on Facebook. (Ignore the grammatical error, it appears to be a Scandinavian writing in the foreign tongue of English.)
The gist is this: the author fails to bring some reusable shopping bags to the supermarket and is told off for this by the checkout cashier. The author apologises, not having had ‘the green thing’ when younger. The article then goes on to recount practices from past generations that are actually greener than today’s habits: bottles were recycled for the deposit, they walked up stairs rather than took escalators, they washed and reused cotton nappies, a house had but one small television, they used more public transport for journeys and homes had fewer electrical sockets. Ergo, why should younger generations have a go at older ones on environmental issues?
All the examples quoted are true, and yes, they are greener. The problem is this: things were that way due to lesser economic wealth and greater thrift. Once more prosperity came along, then it carried with it technologies that created more convenient and allegedly labour-saving approaches and devices. When these appeared, they were – ahem – hoovered up.
Economics and technology create these opportunities and more. One of the major issues about sin is opportunity and availability. Moving beyond green issues, are more people prone to slip into pornography because it is more readily available on the Internet and with web browsers that offer ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ browsing modes?
And perhaps another observation worth making about this post is that is true but simplistic. Isn’t that something that many of us have to watch? We want to keep things simple, which is laudable on one level, but we also don’t want to think too hard – or we don’t want others to make us think hard.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 47,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
A major controversy in recent weeks in British Methodism has involved the case of the Revd Dr Stephen Plant, who was appointed Dean of Chapel at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Unfortunately, ancient rules mean that appointment is only open to ordained Anglicans, therefore Dr Plant was ordained into the Church of England. Subsequently and inevitably, he had to resign from the Methodist ministry.
This has produced a lot of agony in Methodist circles, with criticisms of both the Anglican and Methodist establishments. I have followed it on the UK Methodists page of Facebook. What, not the Methodist Recorder? Funny you should mention that, because in today’s Recorder, Dr Plant’s friend, the Revd the Lord Griffiths, Superintendent Minister of Wesley’s Chapel in London, has had a potentially explosive letter published in the Recorder, in which he says he is so fed up with much of Methodism that he will effectively resign from it when he retires.
Now, how do you debate that? Look at the Recorder’s own website, to which I linked above. It is primitive. It has been the same for years. It might just have been acceptable in the 1990s, but that website is now an embarrassment. It gives you little more than an outline of this week’s headlines. It is stuck in an age before broadband, where debates would happen on the letters page. And I can tell you from personal experience, even that was slow. The gap between writing a letter and having it published could be four weeks. Press releases suffered a similar time lag. (And the one where I noticed that? It was about a New Media conference!) Four or five years ago, in frustration at this, I gave up subscribing. It coincided with a time when our household finances were tight, and so when they phoned me to ask why I wasn’t renewing my sub, I’m afraid I chickened out of giving them the kind of customer feedback I should have done.
Of course the Recorder is entitled to limit what it publishes online. It seems in this to be allied to Rupert Murdoch’s way of thinking, that if you publish content online you will lose the customer sales on which you depend. However, rather than either setting up online subscriptions as News Corporation have, or publishing interesting material when the print edition had expired a week earlier, it does nothing. Either you shell out for a weekly paper that hasn’t had a significant redesign or even change of font in thirty or forty years, or – well, nothing. It isn’t realistic in an always-on, Internet-everywhere age. You have to offer something.
Take a computing magazine like PC Pro. It reports news items on its website in a timely manner – after all, they will be discussed all over the Internet. However, it only publishes major articles online after the monthly magazine has gone out of date. That seems to be a sensible balance to me. And if using a tech mag as an example seems unrealistic for this debate, just look at how the premier Anglican publication, the Church Times, combines the PC Pro and News Corporation approaches, with some articles available to all surfers and others limited to subscribers.
So I can understand the frustration that controversial Methodist blogger David Hallam must have felt today, knowing this debate was going on, leading to his decision this evening to publish Leslie Griffiths’ letter on his blog. David has been taken to task on Facebook for breaching copyright, and the breach has been reported to the Recorder. Legally, I’m sure that’s quite correct. But it still begs the question about how people expect controversies will be debated today. We have people on Methodism’s Connexional Team who are well versed in contemporary communications methods. But our one and only newspaper is doing a fine impression of the music industry around the time downloading and file sharing became widespread. It’s hoping all this new-fangled stuff will go away. But that isn’t what will disappear. Luddite approaches to technology are what will die.
One thing is for sure in my mind. I’m not about to resubscribe to the Recorder in the foreseeable future. As things stand, the paper is part of Methodism’s past, not her future, and I’ll stick with Facebook, blogs and official emails to get my Methodist news.
Unless, of course, it can change …
Via Internet Evangelism Day’s Facebook page: Internet World Stats have published details of Facebook usage statistics around the world. Not only that, these same statistics also mention general Internet usage in the nations of the world.
Of particular interest to me are the United Kingdom stats, which can be found on the European Union page. As of June last year, 82.5% of the population had Internet access. As of August last year, 44.6% were Facebook users.
OK, so some will have opened accounts and either not used them or only used them sporadically, but how much more convincing do churches need that an Internet and social media presence and strategy is no longer optional, it is central? It isn’t enough to say that these statistics don’t reflect the much lower usage among members of an elderly congregation, even when that is true, because such thinking openly betrays the lack of missionary thinking. Is the Internet just a glorified internal communication tool for the church, or is it somewhere to interact with the world in the name of Christ and with the love of God?
Both my churches here have Facebook pages that I set up. At present we don’t use them a lot, and I have to remember to put updates on them. Mostly there is the automated feed of my blog posts through them, but we could think of more, I’m sure. Similarly, Knaphill has a website. Addlestone used to, and is in the process of designing a new one.
The church needs to recognise that people are living a large amount of their lives online today. I don’t simply mean the minority who live almost exclusively online to the detriment of face-to-face relationships: I mean that millions live online in extension to the rest of their lives.
So thank God for initiatives like CODEC and others, such as the forthcoming Open Source evening at the Pentecost Festival (which, sadly, I can’t attend). We need to take what comes out of these ventures and translate them into mission in the local church.
All of this may be obvious to readers of this blog. You come here, either because you visit the site, you get the email updates, you follow it in a feed reader or via my Twitter stream or on Facebook through my account, the blog page, or one of the two churches above. But others need convincing, and this is something we need to communicate passionately and eloquently in our churches – not so that our online usage is a mere digital church notice sheet, but so that we genuinely and conversationally interact with a massive section of the population that we say we want to reach.
One or two of my church leaders recently wanted to think about streaming a video feed of church services online. It isn’t going to prove practical since there are too many hurdles, such as child protection, data protection, the number of personnel to do it effectively and possibly the cost, too. However, nothing could delight me more than that they are thinking imaginatively and not letting the old “We haven’t done it before” slogan prevent them coming up with ideas. What a great bunch of people they are to work with, especially in this culture.