XP is dead – Linux community misses marketing opportunity

RIP Windows XP - October 2001 to June 2008After today, Microsoft will discontinue sales of its Windows XP operating system to retailers and major computer makers; this despite protests lodged at InfoWorld’s ad-impaired Save XP petition page.

Meanwhile, the world of Linux continues to overlook major marketing opportunities – this time missing a chance to dance on XP’s grave by not planning and then announcing releases for any and preferably ALL ‘distro-butions’ today.

So what does this mean for your church and/or charity organization? For me it is just another reason why Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions such as Zoho and/or ThinkFree.

Why? Because as long as you have a browser, and in many cases an up-to-date mobile phone with good data services, then you don’t have to worry about jumping through some of the potentially hazardous and most definately expensive flaming hoops required to ‘enjoy’ operating system paradigm shifts.

For example, you can still get XP once you realize Vista will choke your current hardware platform, but only if you first buy Vista and then “downgrade” to XP (nothing like giving the customer what they want).

Why bother?

A comparative cornucopia of online office ’sweets’Instead, if your laypersons and/or church staff are running a variety of computers on a mix of Mac, Ubuntu, or even Windows 2000 systems, no problem. There are many tasty selections from today’s cornucopia of online office ‘sweets’ that offer collaboration capabilities that will not only allow everyone to work-n-play well together remotely, but will also save your budget from all the Advil required to deal with operating system update-induced migraines.

That and think of the gas everyone will save when you can hold meetings via products such as Skype and collaborate on documents via Google Apps Education Edition; the later provided to registered non-profits with current 501(c)(3) status free-of-charge.

Bottom line, quit thinking desktop and get that office-ware and associated operations into the collaborative web space.

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If the Olympics are going mobile, then why not your Church Website?

If the Olympics are going mobile, then why not your Church Website?On August 8th, the eyes of the entire world turn towards Beijing. Some on their TVs, others on their PC newly equipped with the Silverlight plugin. Then there will be those stuck in a line at the store or waiting at a restaurants who will be keeping up with the 2008 Summer Olympics via their mobile phone.

And though some may complain their pastor’s sermons are indeed a marathon event, that’s still no reason why the content on your church and/or charity website shouldn’t be made made available and readable to an ever growing community of mobile readers.

Here are 5 things you can do to quickly bring your organization’s on-the-road browse-ability into the 21st century:

  1. Render your content in simple, semantic HTML – or better yet, let your content management system do it for you. For example, if you use WordPress as a content management system on the cheap, then not only do you deliver valid XHTML but can effortlessly transform it to WML with any number of nifty plug-ins;
  2. Create a subdomain – be like Yahoo, who makes access to their mobile content easy to remember and access: http://m.yahoo.com … Google also does this with a simple /m path after their domain name, but I like the subdomain approach the best. Even if it is nothing more than a redirect to another page or html to mobile rendering application.
  3. Check your work using a variety of browser-based tools, here are four for FireFox that will allow you to consume your content posing as your favorite mobile device:
    • wmlbrowser – Add WML markup support to FireFox;
    • XHTML Mobile Profile – Add xHTML MP support to FireFox;
    • User Agent Switcher – Use this plugin to send the user-agent string of whichever mobile browser you want to emulate. ZyTrax offers a nice list of mobile user agents you can load up and test using this plugin; and
    • ModifyHeaders – Allows you to spoof headers. Use this to add an x-up-subno, x-wap-profile, etc. header to your FireFox browser session so your app thinks you are coming from a network operators proxy.
  4. Remember to keep your sermon and calendar of event page titles pithy, powerful and to-the-point in 128 characters or less. Also consider adding driving directions to pages that go to mobile;
  5. Once you get the above done, advertise it in your new letters, your Sunday bulletins and other places.

As I’ve said in past articles, as more and more of your church members and/or seekers go mobile, so must your content. Meaning, if you’re still rocking like it’s 1999 with FrontPage, consider these recent postings on this topic:

Here are a few more articles of interest describing the disruptive technologies on display at the 2008 Olympic games:

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How to lovingly respond to Christian spam

Is there anything worse than spam from fellow Christians ?Who knew joining a new church or Bible study could be so dangerous? That was my thought at my last church after I mistakenly shared my email with other members of the Sunday morning Bible study – as no sooner than I had gotten home I began to receive emails about how Madalyn Murray O’Hair is conspiring with space aliens from the grave to take images of the Cross off the airwaves.

And no sooner had I responded, nicely and in Christian love to please stop forwarding me such ‘hoax mail‘ did I receive a scathing reply accusing this died-in-the-wool conservative of being a commie pinko, tax-n-spend liberal whose Christianity was called into question for even for a second considering any and all such messages to be urban legends … let alone spam.

I think I still have some on file that I need to dig up just for grins … but I digress.

The point is, most members of the HYCW audience are in the same camp as I. That is:

  1. We prefer to get our latest and greatest news updates from our feed aggregators, not email. We assume this of our friends as well;
  2. We tend to not believe everything we read but instead take Paul’s advice to the 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and “test everything” against the snopes urban legend database;
  3. We believe that there is no need to cut-and-paste any article that is on the web when it is far more considering to write a single original sentence describing why the content is so compelling that ends with the URL of online article;
  4. We get really, really grumpy when we see our email addresses exposed with several hundred in the others by an individual forwarding a message without the benefit of using or understanding the purpose and benefits of their email program’s BCC feature; and
  5. We’ve received enough of this Christian spam that we don’t even bother to read it before summarily pressing the delete button.

so ask yourself - how do you teach, rebuke, correct & train your Christian spammy friendsBut enough about ‘we’ as this unfortunate but all-to-common occurrence raises the uncomfortable question “how does one go about teaching, rebuking, correcting &/or training such a ‘friend’ in righteous email netiquette?

Glad you asked.

As I recall the numerous instances where I was excoriated for:

  • asking nicely not to be included in such distributions;
  • informing the sender that the content was probably false;
  • that exposing my email address in such distributions potentially exposed me to professional spammers further down the chain; and
  • anything worth cutting and pasting is probably already posted as a page on the web;

I realize that there’s no need for this messenger to continually expose himself to such emotional gunfire when there are already a number of web pages and services that will do the dirty work for me.

Most recently, the good folks over at LifeHacker fielded a poll entitled “Email Etiquette Pages Explain So You Don’t Have To” – offering individuals to vote on which ‘tell a friend they’re spammin’ya crazy‘ service they use:

  • Thanks. No – for opting out of all types of unwanted email;
  • BCC Please – for requesting the sender doesn’t expose your email address to a large list;
  • Sentenc.es – for explaining your email brevity; and
  • Waiting-For.com – to let your recipient know you’re waiting to hear back from them.

Had said survey not been closed, I might have possibly recommended some other pages that also go into detail over what’s proper and what’s not in terms of one’s SMTP activities, including:

use this service the next time you get hit with Christian spamNote that I said “I might have possibly recommended some other pages” … this is because old ‘never met a Software as a Service he didn’t like’ author has found via the folks at AppScout a nice, free little online service offered by the generous and thoughtful folks at StopForwarding.Us.

What this neat little online tool does is simply send an anonymous email to the church spammer of your choice that sheds the light truth on said sinner’s incorrect use of the forward feature on their email program. Here’s a sample I sent myself:

Hi Dean is testing this service,

One of your friends has sent you this message from StopForwarding.Us, a website that allows individuals to anonymously email their friends and politely ask that they stop the habit of sending forwarded emails or FWDs.

Please do not forward chain letters, urban myths presented as truth, potentially offensive jokes, videos or photos without being asked or first receiving permission. If you find something that is funny and it is clean and you genuinely think the recipient will enjoy it then foward it to that person only (not in an email blast to all your friends and family) and include a personal note about why you enjoyed it and why you think they will too. Avoid sending forwards to friends or relatives that you’ve grown distant with. It can be frustrating for the recpient when the only correspondance you have with someone is via impersonal, unwanted email.

For more tips on email etiquette, visit StopForwarding.Us/etiq.html

Thank you,
A Friend (via stopforwarding.us)

And if that doesn’t work – send’m here to this post for a dose of tough love.

Now pardon me while I get some wiki work over at blogJordan.com.

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5 things we can learn from the Winston-Salem Hampton-Inn Toaster Czar

See why the Soup Nazi is a bad model for supporting users of your church and/or charity website .This weekend, I ran into an elderly gentleman whom appointed himself the ‘Toaster Czar’ in a fashion similar to the infamous ‘Soup Nazi‘ of Jerry Seinfeld fame. I made the mistake leaving my bagel momentary unattended to go get coffee while trying to enjoy the complimentary breakfast at the Hampton Inn Winston-Salem-I-40/Hanes Mall. Here are 5 things your church and/or charity webmaster can learn from this experience:

  1. don’t assume you know your user’s context;
  2. don’t assume you know your users work-flow;
  3. don’t assume you know what’s best for your user;
  4. don’t assume your user will appreciate your intervention; and
  5. don’t assume your user is stupid.

Note that all 5 points deal with assumptions. For example, regarding context, one might assume that the individual pictured below is waving and saying “hellooo” – or they could be waving us off saying “noo.”

bagels enjoyed in the public setting of the Hampton Inn Hotel lobby

Another example, regarding knowing what’s best, thinking they are stupid and/or not understanding their work-flow, the aforementioned toaster czar possibly assumed that the unattended bagel in slots 1 and 2 of a 4 slot toaster were either:

  • done;
  • done enough;
  • abandoned;
  • in his way; and/or
  • there to annoy him

Whether or not my opinion of his motives are correct, my view is that he potentially didn’t take into consideration the following user-centric scenarios:

  • some like to eat their bagels in the context of their coffee;
  • some like to engage in a work-flow that includes getting coffee while the bagel toasts;
  • some are confused when 1 slice of the bagel remains in the toaster while the other sits on the counter, replaced by some one else’s bagel half;
  • some lose their appetite when others not involved in food services touching their food; and
  • some don’t like being treated as if they are the problem when in fact all they wanted to do was toast their bagel and eat breakfast in relative peace.

In the same way, you as church webmasters should consider that your users:

  • may like to consume your church website content in some other context other than initially planned – for example, aggregators and/or mobile phones come to mind;
  • may like to consume your charity website in an order other (work-flow) than initially imagined and/or programmed – for example, site navigation through search engines comes to mind;
  • may need more information when things operate outside of normal expectations – for example, more informative 404 errors for pages not found come to mind;
  • Click here to see a video about Nick Burns, a hilariously popular character of former SNL funnyman Jimmy Fallon.may get turned-off if they find content they contributed modified without annotation – for example, modifying a user’s comment on a church blog or bbs without noting it was edited by a moderator or admin will drive users away permanently;
  • may not want nor like the Jimmy Fallon/Nick Burns ‘Your Company’s Computer Guy‘ approach to web site support (let alone a communal toaster).

Bottom line, don’t be a toaster czar.

Treat users as you would guests in your house, not as idiot low-life’s whom annoy by making you wait an extra minute or two simply because they happened to get to the proverbial toaster 30 seconds before you did.

In other words, you are not your users – so don’t assume you completely understand their interface to your system without collecting realistic and specific usage metrics and spending some time setting next to them while they demonstrate how they navigate your site the way they do, and why.

What about you? Got a similar story or useful use case/test scenario to share? Leave comment in love!

In the meantime I leave you with this aggregation from the above caricatures : “moooove … no soup for you!… was that so hard? … come back, 1 year … you’re Welcome

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