Category Archives: Weblogs

New Mission Blog

In addition to my regular blog here, Big Circumstance, I have today set up a blog for my Methodist circuit. It aims to provide short, punchy articles about Christian mission that are for regular churchgoers, not just the theologically qualified. You can find it at Thinking About Mission. You can follow it in the same way that you do this one, including having every post emailed to you.

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WordPress, Akismet And Spam

WordPress logo blue

WordPress logo blue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is any other WordPress blogger receiving higher than usual incidents of spam getting past Akismet and entering the normal moderation queue for comments? My Akismet is fully enabled, but over the last two to three weeks I have had a high amount of blatant spam to trash.

Justin Welby And Social Media

Bishop Welby’s elevation to Canterbury was announced by Downing Street on Twitter:

In his press conference, the ABC-designate said, “I intend -if I am not stopped – to go on tweeting.” (Currently he tweets here, but that will change.)

If these are early signs that the incoming Archbishop understands the communications world in which we now live, that is a good sign.

Social Media At Work: The Downside

Learnstuff.com has an interesting infographic about the downside of workers and students accessing social media in between tasks. It is US-based, so needs some translation for us Limeys in Blighty. It’s also aimed at the general (‘normal’?) workplace, rather than the peculiar environment of church work. It also seems only to conceive of social media in terms of leisure.

Nevertheless, there are some sobering thoughts here. I guess this is the converse to yesterday’s post. Perhaps I should tell you to get off this blog and get back to work!

Social Media At Work

Stephen Holmes On The Church And Social Media

I’m not sure who I saw refer to this recent video, it might have been Vicky Beeching. This is an interesting seven-minute interview with Dr Stephen Holmes of St Andrew’s University. I’d be interested in your views.

A couple of the points for conversation that struck me were these:

1. Dr Holmes says that the church is often slightly behind the curve when it comes to adopting technology. This is my experience, too. We cannot adopt things as wholeheartedly as people like me would like to, because inevitably several of our older members do not have access, and we don’t want to treat them as second-class. However, that also means we lag further behind in contemporary means of communication. And like it or not, one of the things the Christian church is about is communication.

Furthermore, I even find among many Christians who are connected to the web that they are reluctant to embrace a lot of social media, with the sole general exception of Facebook. Sometimes it seems we are only using electronic technology as a new form of typewriter.

2. What about his point that it’s only in recent times that our culture has been so private? There is a lot of nervousness about the way privacy is broken down in social media, but Dr Holmes suggests near the end of the interview that we are merely reverting to the way society once was, and that such openness is a good thing. What do you think about that?

Here is the video:

The Church Limps Into The Social Media Age

Here is a brave attempt by a country parish to use social media (in this case, YouTube) to advertise for a new vicar. They seem to know they’re struggling with the technology but are not afraid to laugh at themselves. It’s amusing, yet touching:

Via David Keen.

Measuring The Influence Of Bloggers

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?

Over-35s And ‘The Green Thing’

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.

2011 in review

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.

Click here to see the complete report.

Discussing Methodist Controversy In An Internet Age

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 …

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