All a twitter

I wrote this back near the end of May for a column I write for called “Techpass” that is part of the “Connections” mag published by the Western Ontario District of the PAOC.  Anytime now (and I think it already is) the July issue (published quarterly) of “Connections” will be out and about with this article in it.  Even after only two months there are some things that I think are a bit “dated” in this but I republishing it here on my blog so readers of that article can comment, respond if they want!  Actually, anyone can comment/respond now if they want..well you know what I mean.  Oh, one more thing – I have posted about twitter here already, if you want, check it out.

Have you heard of twitter? No, I’m not talking about the word to describe the language birds use to communicate with each other. Twitter is an online app that was launched in 2006 described as a “free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables users to send and read other users’ updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length which are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have subscribed to them (known as followers)” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/twitter). Twitter has made it possible to make these short posts (and receive follower updates) using email, sms (texting), via the web, or even various other services (i.e. facebook etc.).

The whole premise of twitter surrounds the question prominently given to the user, “What are you doing now?”

At first glance, using twitter appears to be a pointless exercise. I mean, who really wants to take the time to write mini-updates through their day about what they are doing? Not only that, but come on, do I really want to follow somebody’s play-by-play account of their daily life? Yet, for some reason twitter has grown from just a handful of users when it first launched to around 475,000 in February 2008 and has reached over 7 million users only one year later. Clearly, there’s something that’s happening with this social experiment that is attracting a lot of users.

I decided I’d focus this quarter’s issue of TechPass on twitter because I think there are some potential good uses for it in the church and for us as pastors (KEYWORD – potential) in the tools we can use to understand, communicate and engage with people in our world.

Here’s what I’m going to do with this article. I’m going to throw out some ideas that I’ve come across from churches/pastors using twitter. Please know in advance that I haven’t actually tried all these ideas myself. Perhaps, there may be an idea or two that you’d like to try and think might be a worthwhile experiment in your own context. If so, let me know how it goes!!

  • One of the main uses of twitter is to maintain a church account for posting quick updates about what’s happening at the church. The real-time nature of twitter means that people following the church twitter account will get near instantaneous updates when items are posted (I’m planning on starting a twitter account for my church starting in the fall)
  • Some churches also use twitter to communicate short testimonies of something God has done, or articles worth reading, or links to full posts made on the church website (or church blog…you did read my last article didn’t you?). It even can be a great way to get prayer requests out (and Praise reports).
  • Pastors, or even people in the congregation can tweet live from church events (or a designated individual can post to the official church twitter account) and there can be not only a live “picture” recorded of what’s going on but it’s also useful for feedback, and archiving what’s happening. I twittered the last district conference (and yes I even tweeted the very important human “wave” that we serious conference attendees participated in…) (get a zeitgeist of your church)
  • Staff can use twitter to get an “inside” picture of what makes each other “tick” and the passions and interests they have (and vice versa let those that follow you discover your interests and passion). I know from experience that when you follow people you know of on twitter, after a while you get the sense that you know them a bit better because you get a bit of a picture into the things that happen in their lives. It’s also a way of getting quick feedback on a question you may have or sharing quick links to articles/resources you find. We currently have 4 staff members using twitter (including me) here at WPA and it’s interesting some of the insight I’ve gained just from the tweets they’ve made.
  • A variation of the above is of benefit to pastors in following people who may use twitter in their church. It’s a good way to get a “pulse” for the things that are grabbing your people’s attention, the trends in their thinking, etc.
  • Some churches have even tried opening up their Sunday services to twittering and broadcasting the tweets (filtered of course) on the big screen. I don’t think our church is there yet but is it a neat idea for making a service much more interactive? Or maybe it would just make things WAY too distracting… (for more on this see the post “Twitter Church“)

One of the caveats with twitter is that it is a community driven service. In other words, none of the benefits of twitter would be realized if the people you want to communicate with aren’t on the service. But for engaging people who do use twitter (an increasing number it seems) then twitter is a great tool.

This article is really just scraping the surface when it comes to giving examples of how some churches and pastors are using twitter and comes no where near outlining everything about the service and how it’s being used around the world. Still, I do believe twitter is something worth keeping on your radar as another potential communication tool for the church.

By the way I’m on twitter (but I don’t do a play-by-play of my day!). I’d love it if a bunch of us WOD folk would sign up at twitter.com and follow each other. Imagine the vibrancy of communication at our fingertips (especially for getting breaking news/prayer requests out?) – follow me at twitter.com/nerrad.

BONUS:

Some twitter lingo to be aware of:

TWEET – when someone makes I post using twitter they are said to have made a tweet, or “tweeted” (I’m laughing with you).

@nerrad – The “@” symbol is used in a tweet to reply to another user of twitter. These tweets are NOT private.

RT – means “retweet” which is placed before or after a tweet that you copy/paste from someone else to give it broader exposure (because you thought that tweet was great).

Direct Message – Twitter provides a way for you to direct message someone. The direct message shows up in their twitter stream but ONLY to them (this is PRIVATE from every other user of twitter)

#wodconf – the “#” symbol is used to indicate a ‘tag’ (usually called a hashtag) which is simply a way of categorizing the tweet. For instance in this example I used “#wodconf” whenever I tweeted something related to district conference. This is useful because you can then look up later all the tweets with that tag that were made by yourself (or anyone else using that tag).

(One more thing: If you enjoyed my last article on keeping a blog there is a book I just finished that does an excellent job communicating the benefit of blogging for churches and pastors. It’d be a great book to read in helping you make a decision on if it’s worth the investment – The Blogging Church: Sharing the Story of Your Church Through Blogs by Brian Bailey)

Donate Friday

If you’ve used Twitter for any length of time you’ve probably noticed the phenomenom called “Follow Friday” where people tweet about people they think are worth following and actively search out new people to follow themselves.   If anything, “Follow Friday” shows us how something can gain traction when it’s simple and consistent.  Probably not too many people heard about it when it first started but because the few that did kept doing it and used a common hashtag – it quickly gained a following (pardon the pun) in the twitter realm.

I’m writing this post because of my love for WordPress and especially all the developers out there who contribute code to both the opensource project and the thousands of plugins and themes that make it such a great tool for all of us.  There has been discussion over the years of ways in which we can express appreciation to the developers who freely offer up their code to the world to use (and all the hours put into developing, maintaining, and supporting that code) but as a plugin developer myself (only one at that),  although I’ve appreciated gratitude sent my way and reviews posted on people’s blogs nothing has stoked me more than seeing that little notification from PayPal that someone has donated a sum of money to me.  The dollar amount doesn’t really matter – it’s more the realization that someone thinks what I’ve invested so much time in worthwhile enough to pay for.

How are the above two paragraphs connected?  Well, I’d like to propose starting something this Friday called “Donate Friday” – each Friday for as long as I can do it – I’m going to pick a plugin that I’m using on any of my websites and donate to them and then tweet about the plugin (including linkies of course) with the hashtag #donatefriday (I checked it and it’s not in use at the time of this post).  If enough of us do this, it will be an incredible way to express our appreciation to the developers in the WordPress community who help make WordPress so awesome.

How can you participate? In keeping with the #followfriday example:

  • pick who you will donate to.  Most plugin or theme authors have a donate link either on their plugin/theme listing at WordPress extend OR on the page they host their plugin/theme at on their own website.  You may also just want to donate to someone who contributes code to the WordPress project.
  • Pick an amount.  It doesn’t have to be a lot,  even as little as $5 is fine!  Some of you may be able to donate more than others – if you can, think of what you would be willing to pay for what you are using if you had to pay for it.  However, remember the whole point is just to lift up that developers day and give them reason to keep on working away at it!  Surely, you can spare around the cost of a gourmet coffee once a week?
  • Tweet about it using the #donatefriday hashtag.  Make sure you include the plugin/theme name,  the developer and link to the plugin page in your tweet.  Do something like, “Just donated to {name of developer} for {name of plugin/theme}.  Makes my blog purr. #donatefriday”
  • MAKE sure you actually donate!

What do you think folks?  A good idea?  I really do hope it gains traction – think of the impact this will make (especially for developers in between jobs) in the WordPress community?

UPDATE: I realize I posted this fairly early in the week, but by doing so I hope the idea gains more steam before this Friday so it maximizes participation.  If you are reading this and want to participate but think you may forget this Friday let me remind you, follow me on Twitter and you’ll catch my #donatefriday this week (or you can use something like Peoplebrowsr.com to save a #donatefriday search).

UPDATE (JULY 31, 2009): I  made my first donation for #donatefriday.  Sure hope more people do this!! Also Dave Moyer, the cohost and producer of WordCast (the #1 WordPress and blogging podcast) has picked up this idea and is helping to promote it.  He got in touch with me and if you tweet your donations with @wordcast and #donatefriday (he is also said #df but that tag is already in use so I think it’d be better if we stuck with #donatefriday) then he’ll read your name on the air.  Thanks Dave!

UPDATE (August 14, 2009): Using “Twitter for WordPress Extended” by Marc Schieferdecker to display #donatefriday tweets in my sidebar on this page.  Wanna give you peeps donating more recognition!

What I tweeted the past week.

  • Doing a little bit of.work on vohzimbabwe.com #
  • Day is flying by pretty quickly today #
  • most of the morning was spent on communication (email etc.), taking a quick break and reading through my feeds before moving on. #
  • moreganize.com is a great tool for planning meetings #moreganize #
  • Storm front http://mypict.me/c8MU #
  • Working on my father-in-law's computer and cleaning it up for him. It is loaded with viruses and spyware {groan} (1/2)… #
  • Would he notice if I took a sledgehammer to it? (2/2) #
  • I haven't felt this violent towards a computer in a looong time (#fixingfatherinlawscomputer) #
  • Driving my in-laws to the toronto airport. They're heading to Scotland for three weeks. #
  • Have a real bad headache after the trip hom from TO Airport. The traffic was AWFuL. I'm going to lay down for a bit and see if it clears up. #
  • Feeling a bit better after my sleep. Working on getting my inbox to zero now. #
  • Unfoldingneurons.com is down – webhost has no eta on when it will be back up. All my domains on that account are down too. Bummer. #
  • All my websites are back up. #
  • accomplished to do items so far today = 0. Why? Emptying/Taking Actiion on my inbox has taken more time than I thought. arghh. #
  • Having lunch at the mall food court and #reading #principleofthepath #
  • Back from lunch. Those new york fries hit the spot. #
  • Getting some adverts done to hopefully pull some peeps in to help on a brand new #webdevelopmentteam at my church. #
  • What do you think of this "help wanted" I posted to recruit for our web development team at my church? -> http://bit.ly/mjirx #
  • Unexpected but nice to sleep in this morning. #
  • Doinf a little work on my #organizeseries #wordpress plugin today #
  • Heading to the bulk barn #
  • Dang the bulk barn on bridgeport is no more! Time to google… #
  • Thinking I'm glad we canceled the garage sale we were going to have today – man it's raining out! #

What I tweeted the past week.

  • A change of perspective can make an incredible difference on how you "see" things. #
  • Up early and ready to get back to work! #
  • Just finished hanging up some pics and whatnot in my office that I brought in to hang a year ago. #
  • finished cleaning my office and now onto my inbox. Lot to do on first day back from holidays. #
  • Having some weird dizzy spells today 🙁 #
  • wrapping up and heading home #
  • Just changed the sms updates 4 twttr on my phn 2 direct messages only. #
  • 2 my twttr friends, U cn reach me on my mobile by typing "dm" before my twitter name – i.e. "dm @nerrad" #
  • Doing my morning devotions. Heading to staff prayer in about 30mins #
  • http://bit.ly/SJKJV 2/2 #
  • RT @tonymorganlive @timastevens: "decide the non-negotiables, then get out of the way and watch great people do great things!" 1/2 #
  • We can't do anything FOR God WITHOUT Him! (an excerpt from the message I'm speaking this Sunday PM) #
  • Do you really think you have anything God NEEDS? (snapshot from this coming Sunday's PM message) #
  • "Hold onto your hat when it's windy" – what do you have to hold on to in the tough times? #
  • About to meet with a group of guys to discuss the future of Men's Ministry at WPA – hoping something great comes out of it! #
  • RT @thirdplace Don't miss your chance to get a free copy of Crazy Love by Francis Chan – http://christianaudio.com/free #
  • Just had an awsm meeting w/ a group of guys brainstorming men's ministry 4 the coming year. So looking forward 2 how ths will turn out! #
  • Another #churchwebsite that rocks! –> Sanctuary Covenant Church http://bit.ly/RHMy8 #
  • On our way to marineland! #
  • At the show with the fam to watch ice age while it rains. Don't want to get wet setting up the tent. #
  • I do not like rain when camping but we'll make the best of it! #
  • Now this sunshine is more like it! YES! #
  • Finally at marineland 🙂 about to watch the marine animal show! #
  • I'm about to go on this…scary. http://mypict.me/boTB #
  • Wish I could take a pic from the top – pretty cool view of the falls! #
  • Niagara falls skyline and mist from the falls http://mypict.me/bpED #
  • Ker is taking the plunge, or going sky high I should say. http://mypict.me/bpQa #
  • Aw man I hate having to leave my family at the campground while I head hom. At the same time I'm looking forward to church tomorrow. #

What I tweeted the past week.

  • Very lazy slow day today. #
  • Off to visit my grandparents #
  • Wow. Where did that day go? Had a great visit with my grandparents. #
  • The purpose of life is ALWAYS greater than what you think it is. #
  • Some good tips for hiring -> http://bit.ly/3wPlqL #
  • Keeping an eye on this Church Community app….they are doing a lot of stuff right (#ccb YOU need to check this out!) http://bit.ly/UnBYp #
  • Checking out the new WordPress BlackBerry app! Ya – finally a way to update my blog on the go! –> http://bit.ly/XxWLu #
  • Just finished vacuuming our house. I love vacuuming. No really, I do. It should be a sport. #
  • My breath is gonna be stinky – I'm eating a summer sausage sandwich. mmm… #
  • Just found out a service I used is gonna cost me $$ 2 keep using it. Bummed out – need 2 look 4 another way 2 track my books. (ittagit.com) #
  • Decided to drop itaggit.com and going with anobii.com to keep track of my book library. #
  • I really don't like it when a service doesn't have a way of erasing your data from their servers… #itaggit #
  • Do you worship Jesus Jr. ? -> http://bit.ly/JEpxT #
  • Friends have arrived for the next two days. Awesome! #
  • mmm…supper! YES! http://mypict.me/8RJH #
  • Another delicious pic of tonites supper mmmm… http://mypict.me/8RW0 #
  • Shot some hoops tonite for the first time in years. I really need to get out and do that more. #
  • Nobody likes whiners. Are you one? #
  • At the waterpark with the kids. Nice and warm out. #
  • About to watch "Knowing" #
  • Just b/c it's the "perfect" opportunity and others are telling you God set it p – doesn't mean He did! -> http://bit.ly/1OUL6 #
  • The church ISN'T the hope of the world. Jesus THRU the church is the hope of the world! -> http://bit.ly/6vq5v #
  • Yet another reason why I want a mac. Anyone want to gift me with one? –> http://bit.ly/k99e8 #
  • http://twitpic.com/a4kc8 – This is the first time I've seen this. WordPress.org is down. #wordpress #
  • On last day of vacation – it's been an AWESOME two weeks. Feeling much rested! #
  • If you could do anything you wanted to and no one would know what you did – what would u do? Your answer reveals your character. #

Test post from new BlackBerry App

I got the announcement about the new blackberry app for WordPress being released to the wild and decided to download it (link is for ota downloads) and give it a try. And so, here is this post.

So far it’s looking like it’s on track to be another useful addition to my curve. Remember though that it’s still only in beta so mileage may vary.

NOTE: I just posted this as a draft using my BlackBerry and then touched it up via my laptop to add the links – there’s still no easy way to add links in the app.

What I tweeted the past week.

  • I really want to try this tie knot sometime – when I've got to wear a tie I might as well make it fun! -> http://bit.ly/9ieWy #
  • Van just passed the drive clean test. YAY! #
  • I said I don't want to get old. My wife is such an encourager – "you're old already!"… #
  • I love my wife 🙂 #
  • Handy "WordPress Configuration Tricks" http://bit.ly/GXefb #
  • Up and at 'em. I haven't slept in this late in a long time! #
  • Having a family movie night tonight. Been a while. #
  • RT @MarkBatterson: ethr the sze of yr vsn wll determine the size of yr budget or the size of yr budget will determine the size of yr vision. #
  • Ok I've got to make this the last day for sleeping in otherwise it'll be hard for me adjusting going back to work! #
  • Interesting discussion on the purpose of the weekend gathering… -> http://bit.ly/wXcwC #
  • Happy Canada Day! So thankful for the great country I live in! #
  • Shirt Karissa is going to wear today http://mypict.me/6UYa #
  • Raining again. But on a more postive note – I'm having some of my wife's awesome homemade soup for lunch. mmmm..yum! #
  • This is the soup I'm talking about. Oh yes. http://mypict.me/6V6a #
  • tkng dn my daughters bunk bd 2 giv them more space in their room. It's not a gd fit 4 the room. Switching 2 jst mattresses 4 now. #
  • Next item: organize and cleanup the laundry room and basement closet #
  • People have a better chance of getting a response from me quickly digitally rather than via voicemail or letter, what about you? #
  • An interesting take on church membership… http://bit.ly/13o2QS #
  • Just had some great desset with the eizenga's and are now setting up for fireworks at the UofW #
  • Made some pancakes for the family this morning. Mmm good. #
  • Going for a bike ride with my kids. #
  • Just heard from a friend on a short-term missions trip to Uganda. Brings back memories of when I was in Zimbabwe! #
  • Playing skipbo with my kids #
  • Liam lost his first tooth today. http://mypict.me/7kOz #
  • Late night tonight but alas, I am finally off to bed! #
  • Just had an awesome greasy bacon and egg breakfast! Thanks ker #
  • Check out this great view of the "Beattitudes" by Kevin Rogers – "The King would Like a Word With You" – >http://bit.ly/3wQJtv #
  • Playing skipbo with my sis, her hubby and my wife. I'm getting clobbered. It's a really hard game. Really. It is. #
  • Always find it difficult missing service at my home church (WPA) when I'm on holidays. Ker is volunteering for the toddler room today. #
  • If you're afraid of someone finding out then you better tell someone about that sin in your life before it consumes you. #
  • Setting up sprinkler for kids to play with! #

Things I like about my country (Happy Canada Day)

Credit to <a href=
Credit to Chris Lancaster

Well today is Canada Day and even though I think I’m a pseudo-American (my birthday is on July 4th) I was born here and am really grateful for my roots in this country.  Here’s some reasons why I’m glad I’m a Canadian.

  • Freedom. Even though there are some trends that are a bit unsettling I still have the freedom to write what I want on this blog and publicly profess my faith.
  • Security. Relatively speaking – I feel pretty safe here.
  • Free Health Care. It has its faults of course and still needs some work (it’s also kind of not free because our taxes pay for it) but I can go to the hospital or my doctor and not worry about how much it’s going to cost me.  That’s nice.
  • Hockey.  Our hockey teams/players rule.  ‘nough said.
  • Travel Perks.  It’s kind of cool that wherever I go in the world people are really receptive to the fact I’m a Canadian.  Just being a resident of Canada gives you a sort of “special recognition” (probaby due to the friendly role Canada plays on the foreign relations scene).
  • Beautiful Nature. Canada has been blessed with an awesome natural beauty that is world-renown.  I’ve been able to enjoy some of my country near where I live but I hope to get out West and out East sometime to see the rest!  Oh, and there’s so much open space in Canada!

Well, that’s a shortlist of stuff I can think of right away.  With more thought I’m sure I’d come up with more but this is all I have time for right now.  Anybody else have some things to add?  Why don’t you start your own list of things you love about your country?