Saturday, November 09, 2013

Jesus: Greatest Tweeter ever!

Twitter icon in Windows 8 Metro style
Think of the effective "reach" if Jesus had a cell phone and a Twitter account. All the Beatitudes are 140 characters or less!

One example: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"

Can you or your church help spread the word by "Tweeting the Beatitudes"?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Web images with snazz

The below tips are adapted from "5 Simple Things You Can Do to Make Your Web Images Pop". Note that sharpening should be last on your list of actions you take on any image.

  1. Try a subtle slightly darker edged vignette around the image.
  2. Convert the image to black and white (or grayscale). The right way: check colors and adjust before conversion. Skin tones may need an increase in luminosity of oranges and yellows.
  3. Check and adjust tones as needed.
    • -- Histogram adjustment (especially check the mid-tones)
    • -- Skin tones (color balance)
  4. Selectively sharpen areas of the image. Use a mask layer to make this easier and easier to "recover from".
  5. Last before saving (or uploading): Sharpen. ... Or Unsharp mask, if you can experiment with settings until the photo is "just right". Nearly all images from digital cameras need some sharpening.
In some of the portfolio sample photos at SharkPixel, I noticed something I like to check and often do -- skin smoothing. Check their portfolio for some dramatic changes after skin retouching and smoothing in general. Holding your mouse over a photo shows a photo prior to some retouching.

Related links:

Monday, August 01, 2011

Church identity resources

Creating and using a church identity, also known as "branding", is a sign that a church is "serious" about public relations. Branding is not just for businesses. Churches reap benefits from applying the same principles that help business with their "identity".

Branding both answers the question, "Who are we?" (by use of a meaningful logo), and provides a consistent look that people begin to associate with your specific local church.

Church identity is not just producing and using a new logo. It includes the whole consistent "look" of your church products, both printed and electronic. Fonts used, font sizes, colors, even shapes of products can all be a part of a consistent identity.

Below are some typical church products in the two basic categories and can benefit from a consistent branding.

Print media
  • Stationery
  • Intra-office memos and note paper
  • Newsletters
  • Worship bulletins (where used)
  • In-pew materials
  • Brochures 
  • Post cards
  • Pamphlets and leaflets
  • Flyers & posters
  • Door hangers
  • Print ads
  • Ad-type banners
  • Business cards
  • Give-away products (mugs, for example)
Electronic media
  • Emails from church staff
  • Emailed news, notes, or similar publications where the email itself is the publication
  • Web sites of all types -- including blogs
  • Videos
  • Projected materials (for services, classes, or meetings)
  • Online ads
  • Online business locators (such as Google, which lets you associate a photo with your church's map location and with your business information)
To make good use of funds people give to further God's work on earth, look for free online resources. One example is a free class on identity by Hewlett Packard. You have to sign up, but it's free.

A few online identity resources toget you started...
A couple image searches you can use for logo inspiration...

Monday, July 25, 2011

RoboForm for iPad

Church communicators often have multiple online account logins -- web site administration, email administration, blog accounts, YouTube accounts, etc. These can be a nightnmare to remember if you adopt good security practices of using multiple user name s and different passwords everrywhere.

The solution is to use good password mamnagement software. Roboform is one such program.

RoboForm Everywhere 7 now is available for iPad 2, iPhone, and iPod Touch. It requires purchase of an annual subscription to RoboForm Everywhere. RoboForm Everywhere is a "cloud solution" that keeps your web site, login name, and password data on a remote server.
I wanted to know how the app compares with the Roboform Desktop/laptop edition. Here's what I found so far...
  • Tough to contact. I had a hard time finding out how to contact the RoboForm developer (Siber Systems) by email to ask some questions.
    Here's the tech support URL -- they reply by email.
  • Annual ssubscription fee. The 1-yr. subscription cost is currently discounted to $10. Added years are the normal $20. I'm not sure I like that. The Desktop edition lets you keep one version for several years and get updates for the version you buy free. New version upgrades cost $20. I guess that their rationale is that the RoboForm Everywhere edition can be used on multiple computers. Also, this cloud subscription service is in keeping with the software industry cloud service fee schemes. But to me it smacks of a way to keep the dollars flowing for the developer.
  • App security issue. I do not like being limited to a 4-digit PIN for access to the RoboForm app itself. It should allow at least the option to use a strong password (upper case letters, lower case letters, numerals, and symbols). After all, this one app password opens up a storehouse of all your key web sites, login names, and passwords. The reply to my question about this from Siber Systems is that PIN to access the app is in addition to the complex password you can use to access your actual Roboform data stored online. But since the iPad iOS 4.0 and higher lets you choose a 4-digit PIN or a complex password, as an app dealing in information security, I'd like to see RoboForm adopt that option too.
  • Data protection. Like with many cloud services, the quality of protection your data gets is at the mercy of the company that stores your data. Banks, credit card companies, and other businesses keep showing up in the news as getting hacked. So if you always keep your own computer patched and always practice safe computing, you may want to use the local desktop/laptop version. 
  • Convenience vs. security trade-off. Using Roboform Everywhere to store information at a remote server and be able to access it from anywhere may be too tempting to pass up.
Related links

Monday, July 18, 2011

Managing a lot of passwords

I have tons of web sites that require logins and passwords. Remembering them all is not really feasible, since I use a different name and password for most sites. So I researched password manager programs.

I like RoboForm for managing web site login names and passwords. The program is available for the below Operating Systems:
  • Windows
  • MacOS
  • Linux
RoboForm also has three "flavors":
  • RoboForm Desktop.
    This edition is for one desktop or laptop computer. The encrypted password-related files are stored on that computer. If you use this solution, remember to "back up" your lengthy site, login name, and password data and store it somewhere other than on your computer.
  • RoboForm Everywhere.
    This is a cloud solution. Your login and password data is stored on remote servers. Since the solution is a cloud one, your login and password data is available from any computer with Internet access. I'm personally hesitant to blindly trust most companies' information system security, but the choice is there. Using RoboForm on a mobile device requires this edition.
  • RoboForm2Go.
    This is portable solution for one USB flash drive. This may be a handy solution if you use both a desktop and a laptop, as you could use RoboForm2Go on the USB drive on each computer. The license is per USB drive, not per computer.
Platforms supported by RoboForm:
  • Desktop/laptop
    • Internet Explorer
    • FireFox
    • Chrome
    • Opera
    • Safari (MacOS)
  • USB Drives (RoboForm2Go)
    • U3 flash drives
  • Mobile (app is free, but use requires the RoboForm Everywhere edition)
    • Android
    • iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
    • Blackberry
There are other program managers on the market, but I'm fond of this one. It also originally came recommended by Fred Langa (Senior Editor, Windows Secrets newsletter), which encouraged me to check it out.

I'll report on RoboForm for an iPhone/iPad/iPod in a future post.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Password tips

Anyone associated with a church web presence usually has a slug of sites and passwords they need to remember.

Some cautions and tips for login names and passwords.
  • Use a different login name for different web sites.
  • Avoid using your real name as any part of your login name.
  • Don't use the same password for multiple web sites. Use a different one for each.
  • Make passwords strong (8 or more characters plus a mix of upper case letters, lower case letters, numerals, and symbols such as ^). Ideally, use 13 or 14 total characters.
  • Don't use any part of your name, birthdate, pets names, etc. in your password -- nothing a criminal could pull from some part of the web (including a social media profile you think is "locked down").
To help you remember passwords, use a long passphrase, then adjust for the character mix as above. A password/phrase that is at least 13 characters is very hard to crack.
Example: Thyrpualptaftcmaa is the first letter of each word in the prior paragraph's first sentence. We can then adjust that and change some to characters, insert numerals, and remove a couple letters to set the total here to 14: ThYrPu^13ptae$
If you feel the need for good password manager software, stay tuned for a future post "Managing a lot of passwords".

Friday, July 01, 2011

Sentence Sermons - part 2

In his book "701 Sentence Sermons", L. James Harvey gives several excellent tips for excellent text for church signs and wherever else the church uses that sentence sermon -- see Sentence Sermons - part 1.

Below are are a few tips based on Volume 1 of Harvey's book.
  • Condense the English.
    You don't need to include every word of every saying or quote. You can even rearrange the messages to better fit the sign. Most signs have only 3 to 5 lines for brief text.
  • Consider line breaks.
    • Decide what wording makes the separate lines read better. Revise the wording as needed, but keep the meaning clear.
    • Use a line break for natural speach pauses.
    • Use a line break for most commas.
  • Consider the speed of passing cars.
  • Even passengers in a moving car have only a few short seconbds to read and understand the entire message.
  • Consider your church's theogical views.
    Don't use sentence sermons that run contrary to your church's views.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Communion: Eat. Pray. Love.

Communion: Eat Pray Love
Sometimes we can get spiritual messages from the world around us. That's what happened to me recently. While reading "701 Sermon Sentences" ideas, a possible church sign message related to communion popped into my head ...
You could even add a tag such as "Join us Sunday". The message is accurate, relates to the modern world, and is spiritual.

We don't really give much communications "push" to Communion. Maybe we should! Perhaps we  could develop a graphic and then add color posters or flyers (mini-posters) around the church "advertising" Communion in addition to using the words on the church sign that week. That's how the above graphic was born.

If we treat a "Communion Sunday" as one at which we expect lower attendance, it will likely happen. What would happen if we instead treated and advertised a Communion Sunday as a special one.

This reasoning does not exactly fit those few churches that have Communion every Sunday, of course. But in any case, perhaps we shouold "advertise" communion better.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sentence Sermons - part 1

701 Sentence Sermons
When I cruised through a local Cokesbury store, I noticed a paperback titled, "701 Sentence Sermons" by L. James Harvey. The cover showed a church sign. After a quick skim, I added the book to a small pile for the checkout.

Harvey stresses that the book is about a lot more than just church signage. He coined the phrase "sentence sermons" because he says that church signage should be short sermons. Also, he didn't title the book about church signs because he strongly encourages churches to use the sign "sentence sermons" in several ways, not just on signs.

In our modern multimedia world, some churches give less importance to the non-computer, non-video variety of media that is available. But excellence in communications means that churches need to employ a wide variety of media.

Types of "sentence sermons"
  • Advertising of upcoming events (keep to a bare minimum, Harvey says).
  • Bible-oriented messages.
  • Wisdom messages [a famous quote, for example]. These may reach a currently unchurched person better than quoting scripture.
Places to use "sentence sermons"

  • On the church roadside sign (duh!).
  • In church staff email sigs.
  • In Sunday bulletins.
  • In church newsletters.
  • In a tweet.
  • In a blog entry.
  • In sermons!
  • As a teaser in an ad.
  • [your idea here].
If you have a church sign that allows for messages, you may also want to pull ideas from Volumes 2, 3 and 4 of this Sentence Sermons series by L. James Harvey.

Another book that looks interesting is "Signs for These Times" by Ronald Glusenkamp. That one includes chapters oriented on themes and seasons. The book also includes a topic an scripture index. That could come in very handy for finding a sentence sermon that relates to an upcoming Sunday sermon.

Sermon planning
Sermon planning should include planning sentence sermons. Plant them on the church sign, in email sigs, and in the bulletin. Then watch them bear fruit.

Ask congregation members to suggest a brief "sentence sermon" about the Sunday sermon. Post an accepted idea on the church sign for the next week. Then announce (in church or in the Sunday Bulletin or newsletter or news blog) whose idea it was.

Friday, June 24, 2011

We're baaaak

After a long hiatus, the Webs4Churches blog posating has now resumed. Work, home and health all dovetailed to reduce time available and keep me exhausted.

I hope to post about once a week or so. That may seem infrequent, but that schedule should also help me keep postings a higher quality.