What’s so great about Google+ Circles?

I think FB’s problem with lists was their approach. To them it was a privacy feature and like many of their privacy features it isn’t well communicated or implemented for the user.

Google seems to have this down. “You want to share something? Who do you want to share it with?” Done.

– Brent Mitchell, in a ChurchMag comment

Addicted to Information: 5 Tips to Filter out the Noise

With so much information available to us, it becomes increasingly important to know how to get the right information. Sometimes that means going to the right places and sometimes that means filtering out the noise.

1. Forward mission-critical emails to your phone’s SMS

If you use Gmail with an iPhone, you probably miss the push feature that gives you instant notification of new mail messages. But even if you have push support with your mail provider / mobile phone, this tip will give you an extra layer of notification. Mission-critical is mission-critical, right?

In Gmail, go to Settings and then Filters. Now, create a new filter based on your criteria. For example, you could filter messages from your boss that are directly addressed to you. If you get a lot of emails from your boss, you could filter it even further with a keyword such as “important” or “due.” Next, choose the Forward option and forward it to the SMS email address of your phone. If you have an iPhone in the US, that number looks like 5551234567@txt.att.net

Every time an email comes in matching that filter, Gmail will forward the message along to your phone. It is usually pretty instant, although Gmail timing can be a little funny sometimes. In addition to the regular email alert, your phone will beep/twirl that you have an incoming text – with a link to a mission-critical email.

2. Subscribe to Google Blogsearch results

None of us wants to subscribe to every blog/news outlet in the world; that would overload our capability to process the information. Instead, we subscribe to the feeds we enjoy. I read Slashdot, Boing Boing and Engadget pretty much daily. But what if you are interested in a particular subject that may span multiple blogs, and want to know what the latest, greatest news about that subject is?

You can use Google Blogsearch (or Technorati, if you prefer) to perform searches across blogs. These results are usually more updated than regular Google web results. For example, I want to know everything that’s being said about Pantano Christian Church (as any good webmaster would). I did a search for that name in Google Blogsearch and then was able to subscribe to the results in my feedreader. Now any time someone mentions Pantano Christian Church in a blog, I’ll know about it.

3. Organize your RSS feeds

There are two primary ways to process RSS feeds in a feedreader – “river of news” method, and “by feed/category” method. A river of news dumps everything into your reader like an email inbox, indiscriminately pushing the latest whatever to the top of the list. I find this method too difficult to handle. Instead, I prefer to organize my feeds into categories and read them feed by feed. For people who need to section or box things in their brain, this is perfect.

Here’s how I have things organized in Google Reader. The blogs I read the most are in a “Favorites” folder. To process and read everything, I start with my Favorites and go through each feed individually. I have all of my feeds categorized somewhere so I can switch to each state of mind when reading. Technology, Lifehacks, Gaming, Software.

Another important key to keeping your feedreader organized is to unsubscribe to feeds if you find yourself constantly skipping content from that feed. Also, when you come back to your feedreader from a long break (or vacation), don’t worry about reading everything you missed. Just mark all as read and start fresh.

4. Twitter: don’t follow the Twitter Spitters!

Twitter can be a powerful communication tool. It can even be fun like a virtual party. But when your friends update too often, it can really muck up the flow of information. When you feel like you have to organize your Twitter reader like a feedreader, you know there’s a problem. Drop ’em like it’s hot. Seriously.

The nice thing about Twitter is that not following someone is a lot less socially stigmatic than removing someone from your friends list on Facebook or MySpace.

5. Develop your information archive process, and stick to it.

You are going to come across a ton of stuff on the Internet. Sites you need, videos you like, quotes that might inspire something in your next book… what do you do with everything? There a lot of options.

Browser bookmarks: this is the traditional way to save information online. They can get out of hand quickly so remember to keep them organized. I prefer how Firefox 3 and Safari handle bookmark organization.

Del.icio.us: The social bookmark website. You can post any page to your del.icio.us account and have access to the list from anywhere.

Evernote: This is an awesome notetaking, remember everything type of software that works on a lot of platforms: Windows, Mac, any web browser, plus a great native iPhone app. I currently use Evernote to store and sort specific thoughts and ideas. I’ve also been keeping track of every steampunk item I come across on the web. It’s great.

How do you filter out the Noise?

Comment system

I’m disabling the comment moderation feature. This means first-time commenters should be able leave a comment and it will appear instantly. I had been policing the comments because of a recent spam outbreak, but I think it’s under control now. So, no more waiting a few hours for me to check my email and see that you’ve left a comment!

Also, with the upgrade to WordPress 2.5, we now support gravatars in the comments. See their website for more details on how to have the same avatar display on all gravatar enabled sites.

Twitter is like the global chatroom

I just found a fun site that shows real-time geolocated Twitter updates on a 3D globe. Says TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid:

TwittEarth, is eye-candy at its finest – a mesmerizing and mostly useless diversion that sticks you in space and whips you around the globe to see a new geo-located tweet every ten seconds. Tweets are accompanied by small, goofy icons that remain static on the map, eventually providing an interesting representation of usage distribution.

And I must say, mesmerizing is the keyword. What gives it the global chatroom feel is the ability to sign in and post your own geolocated tweets from within TwittEarth. Within seconds, you’ll (and any other poor soul wasting his time watching this stuff) will see your tweet popup from your location on Earth.

via TechCrunch

Best. Magic Eye. Ever.

Click the image to see the full version. It’s easiest to do the “Magic Eye” thing when the image is in the center of your screen. I’ve seen pictures on patterns, and pictures on text, but I’ve never seen text on text. So simple yet so amazing.

HINT: If you have trouble seeing it, try to relax your eyes. Let your eyes start to go out of focus.

In Defense of Complaining

Should companies be immune from complaints? Cory Doctorow put together an answer to that question. Cory is one of my new heroes, I think.

I’m always astounded by this reaction. Companies aren’t charities. They’re businesses. It doesn’t matter why they’re offering an unacceptable product — all that matters is that the product is unacceptable. Companies aren’t five-year-olds bringing their fingerpaintings home from kindergarten. We don’t have to put on a brave smile and tell them, “that’s just lovely dear,” and display their wares proudly on the fridge. I don’t care if Apple adds DRM because Lars from Metallica has incriminating photos of Steve Jobs, I don’t care if Sony BMG put a rootkit on its CDs because they were duped into it by a trickster spirit that appeared to their technologists in a dream. I care whether their product is worth my money. It’s the market — there’s no A for Effort.

Even weirder is the idea that companies shouldn’t be criticized because in a market, you should just take your business elsewhere. Free markets thrive on good information. For a market to function, customers need to have good information about which goods are worth buying and which ones should be avoided — that’s why we complain in public, to help companies make better decisions.

Link to article (via BoingBoing)

insert obligatory apology here

Obligatory Apology
(thanks to Matt, btw, for the update post format I’ve borrowed)
Wow, I’ve become fantastically awful at blogging regularly. I hear that the less you blog, the more likely your friends will remove you from their blogrolls and feedreaders. Hey, at least we’ve seen some pic postings from Jenny at various big events that happened in the last few months!

*———-=====-

Grr, sorry about that, Lili decided that my keyboard was the best place to get my attention (and she’s actually right – cats are too smart).

Decorating is for the SWEDISH and their IKEA oddities
In case you’re interested, Jenny and I are doing well. Jenny’s house decorating progress is 3/7 (office, bedroom, living room) and she’s planning to tackle the bathroom next. I try to stay out of the way; I have an opinion about everything, which is decidedly less helpful than a simple “looks great!” Besides, I’ve determined that my “home improvement” efforts are better spent outside the house. The rafters and a few walls could use a repaint/reseal and that’s something that actually bothers me. That’s not to say that painting a house would be in my top 10 list of fun things to do while bored, though.

World of Warcraft
We’ve adjusted our TV time in the evenings to playing World of Warcraft instead. Jenny’s Blood Elf hunter Jenivya finally hit level 70 (alongside my second level 70, Avastus the plays-with-fire mage). We both play a decent amount but I suppose you could consider us casual players, as neither of us are really into the end-game raiding content. We did join Resurgence, a raiding guild, just for fun. Jimmy, Christy, Tristan and Katie are to blame for that. Okay, enough about WoW. Hopefully it’s not as controversial as politics or as mind-numbing as Linux.

*pauses briefly to smack Lili off the keys again*

I Control All You See and Hear
My role at work got shifted around a bit. To make room for a full-time pastor for Pantano’s “elements” service, I left the team and took up the Audio/Visual Ministry full time. I’m now responsible for pretty much all technical equipment owned by Pantano, with the exception of the theatrical/intelligent lighting system. I supposedly manage a team of sound volunteers, but we’ll see how that goes as I’m actually better at communicating with machines than people. I also took on an expanded role as Chief Web Ninja, aka the Website Lead Engineer, aka the guy who does all the coding. Here’s my shameless plug for the recent (Jan ’08) overhaul/update of pccwired.org. And yes, if you find it, I’m using a Simpsons Avatar on my church staff profile page. The perks of being a Web Ninja.

Speaking of web updates, InspiredMumblings is due (like two years ago) for a design update. I think I have some time in the next few weeks to work on it. I’ve been picturing some sort of circular layout, done completely in CSS. It’s probably never been done before (which is the real appeal). I’ll definitely head back to the garden for creative inspiration.

Church Management Software
Does anybody know of a really good church management software solution? Pantano uses ACS, Fellowship One is way out of our budget, and we’re eyeballing another system (which I won’t name since we’re still considering it). My compulsive, interface perfectionist side is whispering things to me about the usability of this system. You don’t need training to use Google Docs or Google Groups or Facebook. Why can’t someone just design a small group manager as bonehead easy-to-use as Facebook Groups? IT’S NOT THAT HARD FOLKS and I’d do it myself if I had time. Honestly, it’s surprising to see how many web-based software companies are still living in the Internet stone age.

Yes, we want anyone to have the power to create new groups. Yes, people should be able to join groups without moderation or intervention. And no, privacy is not an issue, except for with those paranoid tin-foil-hatters. So please, ChMS designers, give us more social networking options. Where’s the Web 2.0 in ChMS? Maybe tucked away somewhere between the extended training sessions and the “consulting” fees…

All your church are belong to us. /endrant

DISCLAIMER: Although I have seen and used the interfaces of many ChMS systems, I haven’t ever had the chance to play with Fellowship One. So if you or your church is considering a move to Fellowship One, try not to take my criticism out of context. You’ll note that the above rant is specifically directed towards the “unnamed” system we’re considering (not Fellowship One). Of the systems I have had the chance to use and see, I firmly believe they don’t have a grasp on what software usability means. Of course, who am I but a lowly self-appointed software critic?

Big Brother tag and Google Reader

I use Google Reader as my primary feed reader, and I read a lot of feeds. I like to see every item that comes down the pipe from news sites such as Slashdot, Digg, and BoingBoing. Recently I discovered a way to tag individual items (stories) in Google Reader, and I also figured out that I can share any given tag with the public.

So, without further ado,
Items marked “bigbrother” via Philip (RSS feed)

Now you can join me in my paranoia of the Big Brother State.