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

Google Has Acquired YouTube

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special information update – Google just BOUGHT OUT YouTube for $1.65 billion. This is Google’s largest acquisition, and one of the largest Web 2.0 acquistions to date. Buy your Google stock now if you hadn’t already!!

YouTube is the most popular Internet video site, with more than 100 million videos watched a day, and Google’s own Google Video couldn’t even compete with that. Now it is assumed that YouTube and Google Video will merge content and features. This is BIG news, folks!

Update: That’s $1.65 billion IN STOCK, in other words, Google traded about 1.25% of its own shares for  100% of YouTube shares. And because such a massive deal is likely to make Google’s stock go up in value, they didn’t really even pay anything for the acquisition. Amazing!

Google Reader

Google Reader

I know I’ve already mentioned this in a few emails to certain people, but the word really needs to get out – the new Google Reader is awesome! I’ve been using Bloglines since 2004, patiently waiting for Google to release an RSS feed aggregator. When they finally did, the result was horrid. The first incarnation of Google Reader was difficult to use, as it utilized the coma-inducing river-of-news reading style.

(For questioning minds – What is an RSS feed?)

Long story short, I have continued to use Bloglines, patiently and faithfully awaiting the day when the Google Reader Team would wake up and smell the fresh feed juju. On Sept. 28, they finally did! And I finally switched from Bloglines to Google Reader. Now reading through my subscriptions list is similar in function (and as easy as) reading through Gmail (which functions as my email aggregator). If you feel out of touch or disconnected with the ever-increasing, ever-growing Internet (and its blogosphere), use your Google Account and sign in to Google Reader. Then start reading!

If you’re reading this on my site (and not in a reader), you’ll see a blogroll containing blogs of some interesting people. Here are some other sites I read daily (copy and paste feed URL into the “Add Subscription” box in Google Reader):

Tech News
Engadget – http://www.engadget.com/rss.xml
KDE Dot News – http://www.kde.org/dotkdeorg.rdf
NewsForge – http://www.newsforge.com/index.rss
Slashdot – http://rss.slashdot.org/Slashdot/slashdot
Wired News – http://www.wired.com/news_drop/netcenter/netcenter.rdf

Tech Blogs
Google Blog – http://googleblog.blogspot.com/atom.xml
Lifehacker – http://www.lifehacker.com/index.xml
Planet GNOME – http://planet.gnome.org/atom.xml
Planet Ubuntu – http://planet.ubuntulinux.org/rss20.xml
TechCrunch – http://feeds.feedburner.com/TechCrunch

Boing Boing – http://boingboing.net/rss.xml
Pantano E-News (Pastors’ Blog) – http://www.pantanochristian.org/enews/rss.xml
PCC Creative Arts Blog – http://www.theworshipspotatpcc.org/TheWorshipSpotAtPCC.org/Blog/rss.xml

Arizona Daily Star – http://rss.azstarnet.com/index.php?site=metro

And don’t forget, this blog will always have an RSS feed – http://www.philipandjenny.com/feed

Writely.com: Amazing!


I posted this from Writely.com, Google’s new web-based word processor, chock-full of AJAX goodness. Some features it has (and this is from me just using it in the last 5 minutes – I haven’t looked at the feature list yet):

  • Upload Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org documents
  • Save as Word, ODT, PDF, HTML, or publish to a blog – not just blogger.com, but several blog softwares are supported, including WordPress
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Automagic saving
  • Support for 18 standard fonts
  • Styles
  • Tags (hey – they didn’t get the accursed Google “label”)
  • Revision history
  • World peace (okay, I made that one up)

I’ve already admonished Microsoft Word, and I still don’t like the clunk of OpenOffice.org Write. This is the answer to all my publishing problems. Now if only Google Spreadsheets worked well…

Flashback 1983 (aka Tucson floods again)

Thanks to some awesome aerials over at the Star, I’ve been able to create a short but sweet tour of some of the major flooding and flowing rivers in the Marana area. Not yet pictured, but flooded: Sabino Canyon, Catalina Highway, Houghton at Sahuarita, plus several more places I can’t think of at the moment.

These low-altitude aerials are at an angled perspective, so it was difficult to line up the images in some places, because Google’s imagery at this altitude is from a top perspective. The Sanders Road image suffered the most, but you can still see all the elements in both the Google original and the overlay, they just don’t line up at all.

Download the Google Earth KMZ file of the July 31st, 2006 floods
(Get Google Earth for Linux, Mac or Windows)

I-10 at Rillito River
(I-10 where a very active Rillito rushes underneath)

All images used were grabbed from a slideshow at http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/140232.php, by Jeffry Scott/Arizona Daily Star. Used without permission under the assumption that this falls under Fair Use. Don’t sue me!

According to the National Weather Service, there’s more to come. It’s a good day to know that my house doesn’t sit in a flood plain.

Compel Them To Come In

While searching for a Web 2.0 Bible study site, I found RedLettr, the apparent tool I was looking for, but it isn’t ready for use yet. I had the idea of making a social Bible study site myself, but then quickly realized how unoriginal the idea probably was. RedLettr sounds promising, but we’ll have to wait and see. UPDATE: I’ve been asked, along with only a few others, to participate in a pre-alpha run of RedLettr. Cool! I’ll post the juicy details as they come, provided there is no Google-esque NDA (I’m joking – there isn’t).

On to the story. While reading the RedLettr creator’s blog, I noticed a link to Evotional.com, which also sounded interesting. The “About Us” page best describes the purpose of Evotional.com, which by face value is not much more than a pastor’s blog:

The evolution of evotional.com is the convergence of three core convictions:
C1: The church ought to be the most creative place on the planet
C2: The greatest message deserves the greatest marketing
C3: The church belongs in the middle of the marketplace

Whoa! Talk about a forward-looking purpose, obviously intended for the “Media Generation” as I like to call ourselves (or “Millennial Generation” or more traditionally, “MTV Generation”). Evotional.com’s blogger, Mark Batterson, writes some interesting pieces, but one in particular used Luke 14:23 as the marketing slogan.

“Compel them to come in.” – Luke 14:23

What a great verse, I thought. We could use that to inspire and motivate hundreds of Christians to spread the Gospel in “compelling” ways. But I always need to see context, so here’s where Google comes in. First I headed over to BibleGateway and read Luke chapter 14 in my favorite translation (NLT). But, because BibleGateway only has Matthew Henry commentary (way beyond me in most cases), I googled “Luke 14:23″ to see what others were saying. Put in context, Luke 14:23 comes from the “Parable of the Great Feast.” Here’s a quick sum-up for the unaware: rich man invites rich friends to dinner, rich friends blow him off, rich man’s servant gathers up poor and homeless from the streets, and then rich man tells servant to get anyone from the highways and outside the city and compel them to come in, and rich man declares his house will be full so that none of the original guests he invited could enjoy the feast. So as you can tell, it was one of those parables that Jesus told to the Pharisees. When I first read it, I could make connections with evangelism and relating the rich friends to people who reject God. So the “compel them to come in” slogan would work. But I dig deeper. Google searching gave me:

Andrew Wommack’s commentary on Luke 14:23 (an apparent televangelist, so I read this with caution)

A bible study on Luke 14:12-24

That second link especially helped in relating the allegory of the parable to the appropriate context. “Compel them to come in, ” as used by buzzconference.com and Mark Batterson, is not taken too horribly out of context, and doesn’t over-allegorize. But a word to the radical zealots: “compel” doesn’t mean crusade with guns blazing! In the context of the story, the master was telling his servant to “not take NO for an answer.” So in designing the media and creative culture of a church, we must compel our audience to come in. We should demand their attention. Create with such a quality that they can’t shrug it off as garbage or boring church junk. Does that mean an extremely loud and obnoxious local TV spot? Definitely not, since I said “demand their attention” not “repulse their affection.” Does that mean having a creative culture within your church (large or small) that incorporates arts, design, media and marketing? That is certainly a good start.

In the end, I had successfully used Google to study a passage of Scripture. Doing a search for “Compel Them To Come In” has almost 41,000 results. Some even have warnings against the usage of that phrase out of context, based on historical persecution. As with anything associated with the Internet, there are pitfalls and dangerzones to avoid, but be aware that Google can certainly provide you with a wealth of commentary on any passage. So until those Web 2.0 bible study sites are ready, Google is (rather, still is) your best friend.

Speaking of parables, during a recent study I had the feeling that some people were “over-allegorizing” the Parable of the Vine. At the time, the only phrase I could verbalize was “be careful not to extend the metaphor too far.” But “over-allegorize” is a perfect description of what we need to be aware of. I found some great Principles for Interpreting Parables, which include a rule for not over-allegorizing. What that means: not every specific detail given in a parable has an allegorical reference. Over-allegorizing and over-analyzing can suck the very life right out of an otherwise meaningful passage.

Gmail is now Google Mail!

Gmail is now Google Mail!
You heard it here first, folks!

Also: Who thinks it was law-suit related?

UPDATE: I guess it was for temporary testing, because as of 10:51am the next morning, it is back to Gmail. I knew I should’ve taken pictures.

Google Calendar, part 2

Well, as it seems, Google still hasn’t activated calendar.google.com, so it looks like we’ll be waiting forever.

But while you wait, check out HipCal, an awesome AJAX-driven calendar with some great features. While it isn’t integrated with GMail, it’ll do for now.

In other news, Google Video is now offering MacGyver episodes, along with 5 other classic CBS shows (only a few episodes per), and 3 primetime CBS shows. Now, if only I could pull a MacGyver-style move and watch these videos without breaking into my piggy bank.

Google Calendar

I just realized that I’m not keeping a consistent calendar. I need to. But, there isn’t any offering that meets my (and most of the Web 2.0 generation’s) needs yet.

  • I can’t use Outlook Calendar. It’s too clunky, and only portable when you’re part of a corporation with Exchange, which I’m not anymore.
  • I can’t use Kontact (or the latest Linux desktop offering), for the same reason.
  • I need an online calendar. One that’s fast and “Ajax-y” (adverb for AJAX).
  • I have a Yahoo Calendar. I haven’t used it in 3 years because the interface is not intuitive enough for me to keep coming back. And, I don’t like having to use my Yahoo account for anything but spam signups.

I KNOW! I need a Google Calendar. One that integrates RSS feeds, has Gmail “groupware” hooks (collaborate meetings via Gmail), and has a nice interface. I know Google can do it, and I’m firmly believing that the only reason we haven’t seen it yet is because the Googlers have turned down every calendar mockup in hopes of launching the best and greatest online calendar service the world has seen. A Google Calendar launch would be as noteworthy as the original Gmail launch. Much more useful than any other service they have churned out of the labs (other than Google Local/Maps).

Where is it? These “wise” prophets expected it a month ago: Google Calendar Expected Tomorrow

That was obviously wrong, but calendar.google.com is live, so there’s hope.