The Seven Deadly Sins of Church WebSite Design

here are six things the user hates, seven things that are an abomination to his browser:

  1. Building Worship
  2. Yelling All The Time
  3. Serpent Stew
  4. Gimmicks, Gizmos And Animated GIFS.
  5. TMI == Too Much Information
  6. Cruft
  7. Distractingly Disorganized

Having now laid hands on some 200 church web sites in the form of usually-constructive criticism at HealYourChurchWebsite.com, and having viewed thousands of other church websites as possible victims subjects, I’ve come up with my own catalog of common mistakes that often minimize the effectiveness and impact of a church website; or what I like to refer to as “The Seven Deadly Sins of Church WebSite Design”

Read along with me and see if your church or charity’s web presence isn’t about to run off the information highway and into the perdition of website sin:

Building Worship

A church website that fails to convey the purpose and personality of the congregation and staff will also fail to bring new members into the door. One sure way to avoid such failures is to resist the temptation to make your home page a shrine to your big lifeless church building.

No matter how much money you spent on your building program, most online images of bricks and mortar convey a sense of lifelessness. Worse yet, I’ve seen more than one instance where an image of a church building means “a sense of place” to the church Webmaster, while conveying something “slightly different” to a first time visitor.

Collinsvillebaptistemptyparkinglott Best example of this is the website for the Collinsville Baptist ‘Empty Parking’ Lot Tabernacle – a website whose front page unleashes on the unsuspecting user a 211kb image of a very symmetric building during the middle of the day with absolutely nobody home. Moreover, the stark white color, the faded-black parking lot, the emphasis on lines, and exactly centered boundaries shouts to me “come and behold the enormity of our emptiness” or perhaps “come to the mothership, resistance if futile!”

Not exactly the sort of message one should convey if they want to get people in the door.

rule of thumb #1: unless your holding services at the Monastery at Petra, leave the pix of the bricks for your ‘directions’ page.

Yelling All The Time

One of the most important lessons I learned while studying opera was that forte passages have more impact if you surround them with piano phrases. In English, the loud stuff sounds really, really loud if you’re singing everything else in a quiet whisper.

The same is true with the printed word. While it is important that at some level our websites boldly proclaim the good news …

… USING ALL BOLD LETTERS IN ALL CAPS
IS MORE IRRITATING AND EYE-STRAINING
THAN IT IS EFFECTIVE INTERNET INFORMATION DELIVERY!

In an exercise of contrast and comparison, here are two pages that both that deal with the facts surrounding the resurrection. However one page gets a bit noisy and induces some rather tedious eye-strain with attempts to “help” the facts along with over-used bold titles, lots of centered all-cap exclamations, and other acts of promiscuous text. The other lets the facts speak for themselves – you decide which:

rule of thumb #2: leave the yelling to someone whose image is enhanced by such yelling; like Strong Bad (Flash required)!

Serpent Stew

“If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?” – Luke 11:11 KJV

When someone visits your website, they usually fall into one of two categories. First time visitors, perhaps seeking a new church home, and repeat visitors in need of scheduling and/or contact information, and perhaps even to consume a sermon or two.

As simple as these needs are, I have found countless church websites that fail to put on their front page the times and location of their services. Many of these same sites also fail to provide an easy to find email address and/or phone number. Almost as if to say: “… come visit our church – if you can find us.

rule of thumb #3: don’t let your visitors wander in the wilderness, provide the obvious information they seek up-front (or at least provide a conspicuous link to it).

Gimmicks, Gizmos And Animated GIFS

Spincros2 I don’t know about you, but to me the Cross is an ‘emblem suffering and shame,‘ which is why I find the spinning animated version of it so offensive. It not only trivializes what happened to our Lord on that painful day, but it also makes your church website look cheap.

So do ’special effects’ such as cursor trailers, pop-up windows, scrolling marquees and Flash-intros. Yes, they may look slick the first time and all your geek buddies will think you’re cool, but such contrivances quickly become annoying hindrances to individuals who are actually in need of some compelling content.

Don’t get me wrong – don’t be afraid to use various technologies, just make sure there is a legitimate need.

rule of thumb #4: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

rule of thumb 4.a.: you’re not allowed to have a spinning gif of a gold lamé cross on your website unless you have the same atop the roof of your church!

TMI == Too Much Information

Now that you’ve removed the Flash intro that pictured your church with a spinning cross on top, you also need to get rid of information that compromises the privacy and security of your congregation.

For example, while I think photos of smiling faces are better than lifeless bricks, I also know that we live in a world of predators, so any images of children I post on my own church’s website come from a stock photo CD instead of my congregation.

Similarly, blindly cutting and pasting what’s in the church bulletin to the church website may expose a church member’s phone number or home address.

It is also why I suggest to church web servants to avoid posting email addresses online. Nothing says “we don’t care about you” like inviting spammers to hammer away at your faithful.

I’ve written about this topic in greater detail over on my own blog in an article entitled ‘Why your Church needs a Privacy Statement.’

rule of thumb #5: when in doubt, leave it out – at least until you can get explicit permission.

Cruft

The HyperDictionary defines cruft as “An unpleasant substance. The dust that gathers under your bed is cruft …” I use this term to when discussing some of the dust that gathers about church websites. Usually this comes in the form of outdated schedules, broken links and abandoned content.

I realize maintenance is a dirty 11-letter word that none of us want to deal with, but failure to schedule regular updates is sure way to tell seekers you’re not serious about what you do.

It also makes your website a waste of time an talent as frustrated church members wind-up calling your church office asking for information that was supposed to be online … so people wouldn’t call the church office so often with requests for simple information.

rule of thumb #6: content management is cheap and easy when you employ a blogging system.

Distractingly Disorganized

If it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to build a church website, then it shouldn’t take one to navigate it. Think about it in terms of football, specifically an offensive lineman. You never know he’s there until he blows an assignment or commits a penalty. The same is true with your website’s navigation.

It should be so intuitive that it requires no instruction, so obvious it requires no guessing, and so simple that it gets a person from point A to point B in a single click.

The only way this happens is by organizing your information into a sensible outline, then using common conventions such as menus, search forms and site maps to help visitor quickly find their way around your site, and hopefully through the doors of your church; preferably on Sunday.

If you’re unsure on how to make this all work, then see if you can get a hold of a used copy of Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.” Though a bit dated now, its advice on structuring and implementing your navigation is timeless – and easy to understand.

rule of thumb #7: random experiences are for computer games, not your church’s online message – provide easy-to-read and use navigation.

Your Mileage May Vary

If perhaps I’ve mentioned something your currently doing on your church website, don’t panic. You should have seen my first attempt a church website, it wasn’t pretty. Fortunately I was able to destroy most of the evidence before Google came into existence … but I digress.

Unlike when I started my crusade to “teach, rebuke, correct & train in righteous web design” back in May of 2002, there are now a host of websites by technical capable Christians who are more than willing to help you repent of your sinful webmastery and get your church’s Internet presence back into the good graces of God, your seekers and your congregation – in that order.

Seek them out, read their lessons, be doers of what they say – or at least go visit my current series on the 12 Days of Jesus Junk so we can all laugh about our mistakes.

Posted in Uncategorized

Church Marketing Sucks – the website

Some referrer hits are more interesting than others, for example:

Church Marketing Sucks

Let’s face it, there is a great cloud of witlessness when it comes to the Church online. In fact, there is quite a bit of ‘kitsch‘ out there that distracts, annoys and otherwise drives-away people seeking and/or serving the Lord. Like HYCW, Church Marketing Sucks (CMS) is a website dedicated to dealing with this potentially fatal affliction. This sentiment is reflected in CMS’ catchy (and effective) tag line and explained on their about page:

Frustrate . Educate . Motivate

Frustrate (transitive verb) ‘fr&s-“trAt : Something’s wrong with your church. Something’s wrong with the Church. Church marketing efforts and communication in general suck. We’ve got the greatest story ever told, but no one’s listening. The church has a problem communicating, and it’s time to change.

For example, at here at Heal Your Church Website, we’re often dealing with church websites who simply miss the point. It’s not an art project, it is about getting seekers in the door without the use of firearms and empowering members so they stay inside the door without ropes and chains.

Educate (verb) ‘e-j&-“kAt : We love the church, but it needs some help. Typos, cheesy logos, and bad clip art aren’t helping the cause. But snazzy marketing won’t save this ship, either. It’s not about being perfect, but there’s a better way to communicate. It’s authentic, it’s loving, and it knows how to spell.

Add to this spinning animated .GIFs of crosses, scrolling marquees and other indulgences. Also add to this a certain demographic within Body who likes this sort of stuff to the point of emailing me a ‘love note.’ Usually such notes inform me that I’m “against God” or “tearing down the Body.” In reality, the church website reviews here, along with many of your comments, are instead fulfilling His goal to ‘Teach, rebuke, correct & train the Body in righteous web design.’ I’m just there is now another entity out there taking on the ‘TBN school of style’ on a broader scale.

Motivate (transitive verb) ‘mO-t&-“vAt : This isn’t simply about putting butts in pews or selling glossy postcards. It’s about helping the church be the Church, and seeing lives changed as a result. If helping the church communicate better allows one person to finally glimpse the Gospel, then our work has been worthwhile. It may be fuzzy math, but God can worry about that.

Amen. I know my reviews and theologies sometimes get people fired-up, but I’ve also seen several webservants move their church websites from sucky to seriously effective. I guess I should compile a list as yet a further encouragement to those who don’t take such constructive criticism personally. Such a list might also encourage others to reconsider what it is they’re doing when they design, develop and manage their Church’s communications.

Got a related comment? Let’r rip! Meanwhile I’m adding CMS’ RSS file to my aggregator.

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Healing the First Baptist of Teaneck website

I’m somewhat familiar with Teaneck, NJ. As anyone of Greek-immigrant ancestory, I have several relatives in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area, including an uncle bearing the same name as my father. Those of you who have seen the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” may recall the running gag where everyone was named “Nick,” which in my family on my father’s side has been replaced with “George.” It still confuses my ‘xenos/barbaros‘ wife at family functions … but I digress.

My point is that the general populace of this busy suburb are people of education and means. In fact many artists I know now living and working in NYC have their roots in Teaneck. So I’m hoping my mini-review of the First Baptist of Teaneck (FBT) website might inspire some local talent to heal it of some mistakes still common with many church’s online offerings.

Starting with the Church Building

One of these days I’m going to put together a lecture entitled “the Seven Deadly Sins of Church Web Design.” Somewhere near the top of that list is going to be the transgression of plastering a huge image of the building on the front page – especially when that image should and could be optimized and color reduced instead of virtually resized with the height and width attribute of the <img> tag.

In English, while I prefer to see smiling faces, the FBT website needs to at least physically reduce the size of the image of the church on their front page. The height and width attribute of the <img> tag only virtually reduces the size – that is it only looks smaller, but downloads to a visitor’s browser 169kb big.

Essential Info belong Above the Fold

I like the Scripture reference – but below that, ditch the image of the church, or move it so people see the General Information and the Schedule first. This is often what visitors want and need the first time they visit your site.

To get a bit more room, I’d also reposition the horizontal menu along the top that reads [Home] [Feedback] [Contents] [Search] so it sits just below the title banner bearing the Church’s name – eliminating as much white space between the two as possible.

Get Consistent with the Navigation Nomenclature

Speaking of the top-level menu, I might reword [Contents] to read [Site Map]. It doesn’t seem like much of a change, but it is one of those “Don’t Make Me Think” conventions that goes a long way.

Speaking of Steve Krug’isms, I’d also make sure the <title> tag, the title banner and the page name of each subpage reads exactly as the menu option used to get there. While FrontPage did handle the title banners for the webmaster, I think it might be more intuitive to render destinations such as the Schedule Page as schedule.htm instead of news.htm. On this particular page, it might also help to get rid of the Church Calendar of Events sub-title link as it doesn’t really offer any new functionality and could potentially confuse someone when they click on it and essentially get the same page.

Your Turn

That’s about it, at least for me; three items that can be healed in about an hour using their existing FrontPage license and the free image optimizing application, IrfanView. How about you? What two or three things might you heal in a hurry? Leave a comment, but do so with love.

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Using Word’03 to author XML documents

It’s the weekend, time for a coding project to get out of yard work and house cleaning. Oh wait, I like yard work – and now that I’m moving, not cleaning isn’t an option.

Okay, let me start over: It’s the weekend, time to play with something fun. How about replacing all those messsy include files for schedules and news with something structured? Like say some XML generated using Word 2003?

Hmmm, that solves your problem but not mine; here let’s try this for an opening: So that I might live vicariously through the rest of the HYCW cult while I’m busy packing, here is yet another great link I found while putting together a Thursday technoCache for blogs4God that is bound to keep you busy creating new tags and transforming old data: “Lightweight XML Editing in Word 2003.”

Amazon.com - Office 2003 XML: Integrating Office with the Rest of the WorldFirst, 1000 Uber-Geek points go to Evan Lenz for penning an O’Reilly publication; 100 more for getting an article online with the same. Actually, make that 1100 points and about $30 (USD) as it looks like I’m going to have to buy a copy of “Office 2003 XML: Integrating Office with the Rest of the World.

Why? Because while I knew Word’03 documents could be saved in XML, I never gave much thought to using Word as a lightweight XLST editor! From the article:

“This article presents a lightweight approach to XML editing in Word. It’s ‘lightweight’ in that it ignores all of Word’s built-in custom schema functionality. A nice side effect of this approach is that it works in all editions of Word 2003. All you need outside of Word is an XSLT processor …”

Hey folks, we’re programmers remember – or at least laypersons who aren’t afraid to get ourselves a bit dirty climbing a binary tree, right? If we don’t have an XSLT processor we can make one – or at least install something Open Source out there. Why? Glad you asked:

“This approach to editing will work only when your XML format is isomorphic to the structure and styles of your Word documents. The document’s markup will only be as rich as the styles that are applied to it, so this rules out full-on Docbook editing. Word doesn’t work well for editing recursive markup structures in general, because it doesn’t support recursive styles. Each paragraph has exactly one paragraph style, and each character is associated with exactly one character style.”

Sounds like something I could have used this past June when I was working on that isomorphic structure otherwise known as RSS (apologies in advance to David Winer).

Sounds like something others of you can use to design news feeds, schedules of events and other little snippets that we’ve often rendered as server-side include files.

Now if I could just convince my wife to out-source packing all our belongings I’d have time to play with such fun stuff … instead of boxing-up computer gear and throwing away old C++ books.

BTW, I’ve got a turn of the (last) century player piano – free for anyone or any organization who wants to come by and haul it away (or if you live nearby, we can enjoy a ride together in my pick-up truck).

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Icons, keeping them simple so you don’t look stupid

I recently went through a job interview process that included a 4-part test of my skills. One of these parts covered graphics, which included the following assignment:

Can you develop graphics and define standards? Propose gifs, 30 x 30 pixels in size, that both establish a design standard and are representative of a grouping called problem types. The problem types you are addressing are Towing and Parts Delivery. Towing represents a vehicle needing wrecker service pickup for a vehicle and parts delivery represents a mechanic needing parts delivered from the parts warehouse to the field where the repair is occurring. Provide at least one gif for each problem type.

While I have a Bachelor of Arts degree, I’m not going to try and pass myself off as someone with a commercial art degree – especially since my degree is in the field of music (e.g.opera). That said, I’ve had enough theory, design and even some art history to know that I needed to buy, consume, digest and practice every single word penned by Robin Williams in “The Non-Designer’s Design Book” … but I digress.

The point is, to avoid painting this coder and sometimes writer into a corner, I need to keep my graphic solutions as simple as possible. With the above assignment, this meant doing two things:

  • Boil each icon down to a single noun or verb
  • Use something simple to tie each icon together

Let’s take for example the towing metaphor …

Think Solution

the hospital signAs I drove around town thinking about the problem, I took note of the road signs. One that caught my attention was for the hospital located about a mile down the road from where I work. It didn’t have a picture of someone with a broken arm; rather it had a plainly stated letter ‘H’ on a blue background. In other words, the sign showed us the way to the solution, not the problem.

Likewise, rather than ‘offer’ someone a flat-tire or an overheated-engine, that is rather than tell them what they already know, why not show them a solution – you know, solve their problem, don’t remind them of theirs? This narrowed down the graphic solution to one of two metaphors:

  • display a car being serviced
  • display a tow truck

The first thing I did was draw both a car and a tow truck – on paper. In case you don’t do a lot of icons and graphics, 30×30 doesn’t leave you a whole lot of room to get fancy. There are those who somehow manage to render glorious 3-D icons in less space – I’m not one of them.

Breaking it Down

need a tow?tow sans signageBecause of limited space, I boiled-down my hand-drawn images into primitive shapes – outlining the penciled sketch with a Sharpie™. For the tow truck, I simple put together a semi-circle, a rectangle, a triangle, a circle and a question mark – just like they teach you on the back of a match book.

Semi-circle? Where? You don’t see the semi-circle because I cut the image in half, only showing the back-end of the tow truck; the wheel and the hook being enough to convey the idea to anyone who’s old enough to drive.

car parts and cogsparts sans signageSimilarly, for parts I opted to use the solution of a cog. This was rather easy to put together once I figured out I could use a 5 pointed asterix character in which I trimmed off the outer edges with a circle – then cut a donut hole in the middle with a circle. The trick was finding the right font as most ‘*’ are rendered with six points.

Tying it Together

Finally, I used the orangey warning sign-like diamond to tie both images together. Like I said, nothing that rivals the experts, but enough to convey the message (within the context of auto repair) … and land me the job.

The point is, I’m not a professional graphic artists, so either I hire a pro or I keep my solutions relatively simple. This means breaking down the message of the icon into a single noun or verb – preferably one that represents a solution, not a problem. Once I’ve got my eyes myopically set on the prize, it then just a matter of sketching out the idea on paper, defining it in the most primitive of shapes, recreating them with my graphic package, and then cutting and/or juxtapositioning them until the pieces of the puzzle come together into a singular “Don’t Make Me Think” idea.

Be Single Minded

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

spin your salvation until you get sickSame goes for selecting graphics you buy or ‘borrow.’ Think about it in terms of that horrible animated GIF of the spinning cross we still see inflicting church websites, what singular thought does the graphic convey to you? “We’ll get you so saved we’ll make your head spin until you lose your lunch?” No thanks!

I know there are some graphic-guru lurkers. Go ahead, leave a comment as I’m sure I left out something really important (or basic) and/or overlooked something else that might be useful – or perhaps you’ve got a better icon – don’t be shy, leave a comment.

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CPC Website Ministry FAQ – by means of a plank in my eye

Ever print out or save something for your own personal and private use, only to find out later that everyone can see it as well? That happened to me recently, in fact last night. So the first order or business is a public apology to Jeff Wilkinson and the good folks at Central Presbyterian Church in beautiful Baltimore Maryland. Second order or business is to examine what happened so you can learn from my mistake.

How It Started

I was pursuing contacts for my next article in Christian Computing; specifically I was looking for church webmasters who have demonstrated some knowledge of systems design and/or the software lifecycle. I knew there was this church in/near the city of my birth that had an extensive page church website administration. I hadn’t visited it in a while; in fact I had trouble remembering its name. It wasn’t until I found an old, old bookmark in my MSIE browser (which I don’t use much anymore) that I found the URL for “the CPC Website Ministry FAQ” (CPC/WMF).

When I clicked on the URL I got a server error – and not a nice little offline or database error, but the type of error you see when a site goes out of existence. I was bummed; this page was truly “Resource Filled.” So much so in fact that I have refrained from mentioning it because it is a no-brainer – that is, there are times when I’m so busy I cant’ blog so I throw such URLs out under the category of “Resource Filled” as one would throw a bone to a hungry pack of wolves. You guys get fed, discover a new site, and I can get on with whatever real-life issue is keeping me from doing what I’d rather do: writing original and compelling content.

The Error

Getting back to what happened, I was disappointed that the Internet had lost such a valuable resource. So I went to Google to see if I could cache the content before it disappeared into the ether forever. I was in luck, and proceeded to use my FireFox browser to snip the source of the cached CPC/WMF. I proceeded then to paste the FAQ into a test area of this blog. Actually, it is an entire other blog I keep to test things on this site before inflicting them on you.

Another reason I cut and paste the content was to see it contained contact information for the webmasters. It did, as a link to a staff page; so again to Google to grab the cache. Only this time, when the cached page came up, so did the graphics – which indicated to me that the CPC site was back online.

So I went to the CPC site, and emailed Jeff Wilkinson about my upcoming article and how I’d love to use his site as a “for instance.

What I didn’t realize was that unlike the blog #1, that is HYCW, my test blog defaulted to “post” instead of “draft” when I save articles. That is, my snip of the CPC/WMF was published under my test subdirectory. Worse, unbeknownst to me, it was visible to the search engine that comes with later versions of MovableType.

The Incident

This morning I woke to find two emails from Jeff; the first a very nice email as to the best way to contact him and some discussion of design. The next was a grace-filled but stern questioning as to why, when he searched for his site on my blog, found the CPC/WMF cut and pasted onto my blog. You see, from his perspective he didn’t realize that my test blog wasn’t for public consumption – only that CPC’s copyrighted content was copied wrong!

I was mortified!

Two reasons, first because my copy of the CPC/WMF was for my private use, and only done so because I thought their site had gone the way of so many other useful resources. Second, because I have of late been using my test area as a personal notepad – including a travel itinerary containing some sensitive information.

My Penance

First order of business was to re-password protect the path of my test area. I had some time ago removed the password protection to test some web services experiments I was trying to access from a second site –and then lazily didn’t put the protection back in place.

Next was to remove the snippet/post. There is no need to keep it seeing as the CPC website is now back online.

Third, modify the search page form so it ONLY searches the HYCW blog, and not any secondary blogs I’ve created for testing and such.

Finally, apologize profusely to Jeff Wilkinson and the good folks at Central Presbyterian Church. It was never my intention to violate your copyright, steal your intellectual property and/or plagiarize your compelling content. I’m heartsick about this and pray you understand that is was sloppiness, not a malicious intent that caused this to happen – a sloppiness that I deeply regret and hope others will avoid in kind.

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Call for some ‘Purpose-driven’ case studies

It’s that time of month again when I have to put together another article for Christian Computing Magazine. As with my last two articles, I like to cite real-world case studies. In my upcoming article, I’m looking for church websites that were designed using some form of a formalized needs requirements and/or a deployment plan.

For example, one of my cases is going to be First Baptist Church of Frederick, MD (FBCF) – a site originally I critiqued last December because of a variety of usability issues. A few months later I was pleased to see they had a very different and very usable website.

When I spoke to the pastor and the web designer on the phone, I discovered that the website was a by-product of a desire to establish an intranet. Communications of their internal information online being an essential tool to meet their overall goal of becoming a more lay-driven church. Based on that goal, they opted to address their primary need (the intranet) by using Community Builder, a web-based church membership management database software that also has web-publishing capabilities.

So what I’m looking for is one or two more case studies where a church website is the product of a well-defined purpose. The website can be the end-goal, or it can be a secondary byproduct of another goal as was the case with FBCF. Point is, I want encourage and teach other church webservants to:

  • Think about their needs before they select a web publishing tool;
  • Precisely define the purpose of their online presence;
  • Make their design decisions, and subsequently their mistakes, on paper first;
  • Create a project plan for their development and deployment.

You can help if you’ve gone through two or more of the above steps; even if you’re just a one man show. Leave a comment … if you don’t feel like giving details, just say “contact me” in your comment and I’ll get to you. I’d like to get this all done in the next day or three, so don’t be shy! I’m not going to be critical, I just want some “for instances.”

Oh yeah, I’ve got IM working now. Let the reader understand.

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RatherNot – a MoveableType Plug-in for the ages

I wrote an article for ZDNet, once. I think it was back in 1989 when I reviewed some books on the topic of C programming and MIDI. So imagine my utter shock and disappointment when I couldn’t get through the reception desk after I called about John Borland’s article entitled “this” title=”C|Net – Bloggers drive hoax probe into Bush memo”>Bloggers drive hoax probe into Bush memos.”

the article correctly identifies bloggers as the grimy guys (and gals) in the bowels of the ship stoking the political furnace, but some of John Bo’s pejoratives regarding the (lack of) journalistic talents of bloggers was a bit over the top. think about it, C|Net is geared at geeks, why torque them off withthe blog that lit the fire”>detailed, expert-sounding implications‘ of amateurism? Indeed!

So it is with much acrimony that I unleash upon the blogosphere a MovableType plug-in that once and for all settles the argument of whether or not the CBS/60 Minutes Bush Memos (C/6BM) are frauds:


Just cut-n-paste this bad boy in your plug-ins directory and the rest is history. the RatherNot option should appear in your Text Formatting drop-down near the bottom of your post edit screen/form. Oh yeah, it helps if you’re using MovableType 2.6 or better.

As always, use at your own risk, absolutely no warrantees offered. And for my cult members, leave comments of patches, updates and/or suggestions of other text transformations that might further the cause — or at least improve the code.

 

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Creating multilingual websites

One of the more interesting aspects of having lived in NYC and Washington D.C. is that I’m used to hearing many accents from new Americans from all over the World; including many who attend my church.

With the recent surge in the Hispanic population in our area, and with a Korean Church that leases space from my church, I’ve often thought it might be useful to offer the Redland Baptist website in many colors and flavors that bless our geographic region. In other words, or actually in terms of the Internet, we’re talking Localization and Internationalization – something I suppose I ought to explore when I upgrade the Redland site to MovableType 3.1.

But what about those of you who don’t use MovableType, especially those of you rolling your own content ‘manglement’ solutions for church or charity website?

How it works

Whether you use someone else’s system or your own to publish your church’s website, it doesn’t hurt to know how it works. Which is why I’d like to direct your attention to a set of articles by Karl Seguin entitled:

  1. Creating multilingual websites – Part 1
  2. Creating multilingual websites – Part 2

While Mr. Seguin discusses Internationalization from a .NET perspective, how he goes about using this programming tool can and should be applied to any just about any architecture I can think of. Here are just a few quick reasons why:

  • He inherits and overrides the ‘Resource Manager’ to dynamically feed upon XML files so you don’t have to compile the site every time you add or change a language.
  • Content is further separated from formatting and processing.
  • He eliminates the need for multiple pages using an Apache/Mod_Rewrite like technique.
  • The door is thrown wide-open to offer localization functionality into a web service.
  • He drives the site using meta-data that is data that describes the data; only he goes the extra step to make sure it is well normalized.
  • Placeholders, or what we in blogging refer to as templates, allow for programmatic changes to what is (dynamically) display.

If nothing else, how to set up the database and the how to run a re-direct on an IIS server is worth the bandwidth.

Question D’Jour

So is your site bi-lingual? If so, how do you go about getting it done? Have you ever developed a multilingual solution? If so, how did your approach differ from that of Mr. Seguin? Inquiring minds want to know – so leave a comment.

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Do You ICQ?

I have a confession to make: I’m not as geeky as you think I am. Oh sure, I can put together a regular expression so I can mod_rewrite old URLs to new, but when it comes to contacting me, I guess I’m either just too old school or too cheap. That’s why I’ve never owned a cell phone, and never got into instant messaging. I’ve never had the need for such things, so why bother with the expense and hassle?

Now it appears that I may have a new job where I’m required to have both. So my question to you is, do you ICQ? AIM, Y!? Do you route it to your cell phone? Do you find it useful? Which one do you think is the best?

Which client do you use? Whatever the provider provides or are you ‘gaim‘ enough to use something thrillin’ like Trillian? Mostly, do you use it for church-related communications? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and let us know how you use it.

As for a cell phone … pray for me … I gotta pick a plan … ugh!

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