The Church-Internet (dis)connection

‘While we in the church are still asking, “How can I make my website cool?” and debating whether or not people can develop relationships and community on the Net, some 3 million people a day are using the Net for spiritual purposes.’

The above quote appears in the May/June 2000 issue of Next-Wave Magazine entitled “The Church-Internet (dis)connection,” and is scribed by none-other than our than our brother-in-ions, Andrew Careaga. His quote, and assertion, are partially based on the findings made in a survey produced by the Pew Internet & American Life Project published in a report dubbed CyberFaith: How Americans Pursue Religion Online. The other portion making up Mr Careaga’s opinion comes via experiences and observations made at the Search Party 2002 conference held this past may in St. Louis.

These two inputs, the conference and the report, conspire against each other in such a way as to produce a rather potent question – and warning – from our e-vangelist friend:

“We in the church must change our way of thinking about the Internet. If we don’t, we’ll end up with our own subculture online, just as we have in ‘real life.'”

Anyone who’s been ingesting the tangy theology tidbits offered up on my site should hear a similar tone ringing in their ear. Especially when it comes to issues of style over substance – if one can call ‘Jesus Junk‘ stylish in any way, shape or form. One need only look at the disgraceful display of church web sites that make us look like a herd of confused athelete who have taken their eye off the goal and as a result, scored one for the other team.

In other words, before you can effectively implement the stuff mentioned on my site, you need to first deal with what Andrew is saying in his article. I know, I know, pretty heavy stuff for a Sunday morning – but Mr. Careaga admonishment requires the type of deep reflective thinking — and prayer — required on the Sabbath. If it helps, think of this as more a sermonette than a Sunday school lesson.

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Finding Things in Unix

It’s late, you’re in a bind. You need to get Open Source app from SourceForge up and running yesterday. You’ve got a hard copy of a patch so you know what to fix, but you don’t know where it is!

You Putty your way onto the command line. You’re in a hurry. You need to find a distribution or configuration file and edit it. What to do, what do to ?! Finding Things in Unix [Feb. 21, 2002] … or as the article puts it

One of the most useful utilities to be found on any Unix system …

Wow! What an understatement. Whatta relief – it reminds me of a story that describes the unspeakable joy of finding finding lost coinage.

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Welcome BearTruth Visitors

I have political and personal opinions, which I will voice on another blog/site once I get done with all this server sillieness. I prefer to keep this site focused on issues technical.

That said, I an e-mail correspondence regarding the entire Pledge of Allegiance thing has been quoted extensively at :The Truth Laid Bear.

No surprise, Bear disagrees, even though the 9th Circuit Court judicial activisim is well documented. Still, I had that I figured out that when I received an e-mail attempting to “goad some Christian bloggers.” What Bear may or may not realize is, I grew-up and have spent the majority of life here in the shadow of D.C. – meaning I’m always willing to play the game! Offering contrary copy is an essential skill taught in the grade schools here. That said, I appreciate Bear’s publishing, and response, though I think Bear deftly avoided some of my little land mines – nerts!

Here are two links Bear did NOT post – both of which discuss my points over “Separation of Church and State” having been confused with the “Establishment Clause.” So for you visitors from Bear – here they are in order of preference:

  1. Under God, and Divisible
  2. God and Country

Okay folks, this is my first, and hopefully last polit-blogs for this site – though I will direct you to my personal opines when I get that all online. I’ll tell you what, for those of my faithful followers who are shocked by this display, consider this an example of an entry on a polit-blog, a.k.a. war-blog

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.htaccess – Questions & Tips

For those of you with SSH access to your servers, run this command one day:

ls -la

and perhaps you too will see a little file named .htaccess in your directory.

In case you’ve never seen this before, .htaccess is a text file that provides most HTTP servers instructions on how to configure Basic Authentication for an entire site, or a particilar directory of a therein. That said, did you know .htaccess can also define more than just simple password protection? Used skillfully, you can customize and control several aspects of your web site.

For example, I was monkeying around with OPTIONS ExecCGI to force execution of CGI scripts in a particular directory. There are a host of other things you can do with it, many of which are summed-up in a very nice page entitled: CGI Extremes – Tutorials – .Htacess and Password Protection.

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XML-RPC vs. Soap

How coincidental life can be! As I said in an earlier post, I’ve been concurrently reading Programming Web Services with XML-RPC and Programming Web Services With SOAP. I’ve also been reading my referrer logs -and when I see more than 10 hits from one place in a day, it usually indicates they’ve blogged or linked me up.

Enter, who was kind enough to blog a piece about the Mean Dean Anti-Spam E-mail Obfuscator. As I was enjoying both the design and content of Kate’s site I noticed over in the left column a paper/article entitled: XML-RPC vs. SOAP.

XML-RPC vs. SOAP is an easy to read executive summary and comparison of these two popular webservices protocols. No propoganda, but rather useful assessments such as:

XML-RPC is about simple, easy to understand, requests and responses … SOAP, on the other hand, is designed for transferring far more complex sets of information …

Good stuff! Thanks Kate, and thanks for the mention on your blog. I like your style!

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fotos del apocalipsis – Gracias!

From time to time, I check my referrer logs, and find some of the most interesting visitors. For example: Images of the Apocolypse. A blog well-done, and done en Español.

Even better, they corroburate the purpose of my site with a nice little blog, and an example, in Spanish, that proves that we must indeed go into all the world and preach good web design.

Wow, I sure how the BabelFish translator doesn’t embarass me – but here goes:

A partir de tiempo al tiempo, compruebo mis registros del referrer, y encuentro a algunos de los visitantes más interesantes. Por ejemplo: Fotos del Apocalipsis. Un blog bien-hecho, y hecho en Español.

Incluso mejore, ellas corroburate el propósito de mi sitio con un pequeño blog agradable, y un ejemplo, en Español , que prueba que debemos entrar todo el mundo y predicar de hecho la buena construcción de la página.

BTW – I took Spanish in high school, but definately need to brush-up as I wish to teach this Latin-based language to my daughter. If my translation if faulty – please – feel free correct, rebuke, instruct — but please, with great patience!

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Home Web Server Project Distracted

Distracted – yes ! But not just by the new machine, but by something I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. Run a webserver at home for gnarly experiments that would get me kicked-off &/or crash my web host. First step was some 11 years ago when I married my lovely and beautiful wife. Who in some circles is known as the Solaris Queen and is indeed the “Unix goddess” Vincent Flanders referred to on page 134 of his new book (he wanted to mention her by name, but my wife’s not the show-boater her husband is!-).

Second step was to buy her a Sparc 5 off of E-bay for $6.00. Yes, you saw that right, six bucks! Yes, I know, I can run Linux on just about anything, but SIX SMACKERS! This bargain serves two needs – a comfortable platform on which my wife can familiarize herself with RedHat, and a place for me to run a webserver in house – literally (nothing says love like waking your spouse up with the phrase – guess what honey? I just bought you a sparc)!

My wife finally got the machine up and running, and with a few more bucks here-n-there to upgrade some of the peripherals, she’s in the process of physically configuring her new toy inbetween the precious few minutes she gets chasing a strong willed 2.5 year-old around. Once she gets Linux installed, then we’ll have some fun running Apache

Third step is going to be configuring the web server for various accounts. Rather than hand-fight the mileiu of configuration file modifications – I’ve been looking for a variety of web-hosting applications that help automate the task via one’s browser. Most of these are the ‘vertical market’ type of stuff webhost/resellers use to manage your accounts, as well as various control panels you may have access to. Obviously, I’m listing the free stuff:

Point is, we’re just getting started. It should be a fun little project with some big rewards. Obviously a bit of overkill for some of you running church websites, but I do know there are some of you putting servers on your DSL or Fractional T1’s – and with some prayer and blessings – I hope to have more to write about on this topic

BTW, my wife just looking over my shoulder. She informs me that she prefers to be called Unix Chix – soon to be Linux Chix – whatever you say dear.

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The Lord’s Day

It’s Sunday, time for rest, time for worship, time for study. And as I’m up late putting together my lesson for tomorrow’s class. This is the last weekend I have this particular group before they move up to the 12th grade class – where little do they know but a man who’s been teaching systematic theology for teens for 25 years is about to get ahold of their little-skulls full-o-mush – and they complain about how hard my class is !-)

Anyway, tomorrow is when I bring in my childhood photo album and high school year book in one last attempt to convey to them that I’m not some stinking theological genius who gets some sadistic pleasure in pointing out their pop-culture, politically correct theology. Rather, I want to show them that I’m as human as they are – the only difference is that when I committed my life to Christ at age 17 – I followed up with intense Bible study. Yet most of these students didn’t even read Titus over a three weekend period in which we studied the 2 page epistle.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a smart bunch of “good kids.” I suspect a good portion of them will get serious about HIS business one day. I’m just hoping the “wise-up” before it costs them too much, or is too late. Hence, the year-book full of pictures of people who’s lives are forfeit – or might as well be. Pray for them. Because though this particular group frustrates me, they are possibly the most talented tykes I’ve dealt with to date. If they ever do catch on fire – watch out!

Anyway, one of the issues I need them to walk away with is that Christians once enjoyed the ability to influence the culture – usually through art, music and literature. Now, with mass-media atop that list, Christians no longer influential forces upon our culture, but are influenced BY the culture. A point I hope to bring out by a variety of examples, including a comparison of the 1963 and the 2002 versions of the Baptist Faith and Message. Point in case, section VIII – the Lords Day:

1963 2000
The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employment’s, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted. The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Now mind you, while I’m no Sabbatarian, and while the 1963 version did need some updating, I still think the 2000 version wimped out a bit. Which is odd when you consider the scripture sited for both are exactly the same:
Ex. 20:8-11;
Matt. 12:1-12;
28:1 ff.;
Mark 2:27-28;
16:1- 7;
Luke 24:1-3,
John 4:21-24;
Acts 20:7;
1 Cor. 16:1-2;
Col. 2:16;
Rev. 1:10.

If the Scriptures didn’t change, then why the major surgery Section VIII?

It’s Sunday, a time for rest, worship and study. Hopefully my notes here will give you something to chew on. Leave some comments, invite your other blog buds to c’mon over. I’d like to hear your opinions.

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Scan Me NOT!

I’ve said this before, but Kevin over at the Brown Trout really hit that nail on the head when he said on his blog:

Often, churches miss out on a great use of the web when they do not provide content for their members.

A valid topic of discussion in its own right … go there, read, discuss (you’ll enjoy it it, it is a nicely designed site).

As part of his argument about content, Kevin cites the book of Nielsen, reminding us that church websites should be more than a print brochure. Which got me to thinking, I wonder how hard it would be to find church sites indulging in the cardinal sin of scanning their bulletin and or schedule and posting on their web site?

Notice 3 problems endemic with all of the above sites. First the needlessly lengthy load times as most of this content could be presented as text. Second, no links to other areas on the site based upon items in the schedule. Last and certainly not least, notice how quickly such scans go stale. The point is, while this may be easy to do at first – like most quick fixes – it has a very expensive maintenance cost. That is, while it might be harder to establish text context, once done, keeping it up to date is far easier than the ‘scan-your-plan‘ method.

BTW, ending on a positive note, while I found a lot of bad examles, here’s one site that uses scans appropriately – and one I found myself getting lost in rather quickly –Royal Institute of British Architects, British Architectural Library.

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Lorem Ipsum Dolor

I was perusing through some of the ‘other‘ chapters of Vincent Flanders new book looking for a specific quote when I ran across Vincent’s comments regarding the erroneous use of that long-tested test phrase ‘Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.’ According to Norman Walsh’s comp.fonts FAQ, the etymology for this phrase is a jumble from Cicero’s ‘de Finibus‘ that roughtly translates:

There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain.

Obviously Cicero never ran into some of the dysfunctional characters that frequent Oprah, Jerry Springer and other toxic by-products of 20th century post-modernism/humanism. But I digress.

The point is, this almost-Latin phrase is recorded to have first appeared in the 16th century in a book of fonts. The thought being that if the text was nonsensical, then the person viewing the book would focus on the type of type and not what was typed on or not-typed between the lines. Of the same intent, several 21st century word processors and web page editors also serve up ‘Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet‘ as sample text.

This in and of itself is not a problem – in fact, used as originally intended some 500+ years ago, it is still a reasonable if not a useful practice. Where the problem lies is those instances where web servants fail to test and/or proof read ALL of their new pages before posting them into production. The most conpicious issue being what goes on between their <title> tags. Point in case:

the Biltmore United Methodist Church of Asheville, NC; USA

The link above opens a new window, and in this new window, you should notice right away that the <title> tag of this page does not include the name, denomination and location of the church – which EVERY church web site should include. Instead, the web servant here makes it very hard for users to bookmark their page, and especially impossible for search engines to accurately index, and subsequently find, Biltmore’s site. Of course the site exampled goes one step further in obfuscating their identity, not just with Latinizing their title, but by using an ‘unindexable‘ graphic to declare the church’s name and location – as opposed to very ‘indexable‘ <h[1..6]> tags!

All of which explains why Google (who still hasn’t cached my site correctly) lists the site 23rd instead of 1st even when I enter the very specific search phrase ‘biltmore united methodist church asheville.’ It gets worse, as the title offered by the search engine is ‘Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet‘ – a sure way to get overlooked by any and all who aren’t either converted Catholic, or some other champion the old school vernacular.

DON’T DO THIS! – get someone to proof read your pages, and check those title tags.

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