Did Twitter just jump the credibility shark with #twitterlied?

Here’s another lesson we can take from Twitters poor handling of their @ replies notification setting problem: don’t tell users that they’re the problem when it is your system that’s sick

Jumping the credibility shark

Wikipedia explains that the colloquialism “jumping the shark” …

Fonzie 'jumps the shark' action figure.… refers to a scene in a three-part episode of the American TV series Happy Days, first broadcast on September 20, 1977. In the third of the three parts of the “Hollywood” episode, Fonzie (Henry Winkler), wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a confined shark while water skiing

… The infamous scene was seen by many as betraying Happy Days’ 1950s setting and its earlier character development by cashing in on the 1970s fads of Evel Knievel and Jaws.

I’m thinking that Twitter’s blog response to #fixreplies and #twitterfail entitled ‘Whoa Feedback‘ in a way betrays the trust of their community, thereby jumping the proverbial shark – at least in terms of their credibility.

In English please?

Sure thing, let me break this thing down:

  • Last night, Twitter opted to remove the @ replies feature;
  • Twitter initially explained on their blog that the reason for removing the feature was due to metrics and feedback that indicated @ replies was an ‘undesirable and confusing option‘;
  • yours truly speculated in ‘While Twitter fiddled, their users burned‘ that we weren’t buy the user experience issue;
  • a day later, Twitter responded on their blog to complaints with the reason for removing the feature being due to their inability to scale it to their millions of users

In short, I believe that Twitter potentially bought themselves some significant public relations problems by not explaining the real reason for removing the feature up front. One need only review the tweets hashed under #TwitterLied as proof of this.

So what has this got to do with me?

Simple, when something breaks or under performs on your church and/or charity website – don’t blame the user’s browser when you know the problem exists on your server.

Put another way, don’t blame shift problems to your users, and whatever you do – don’t lie to those whom you are called to serve.

As stewards to the Internet presence for your church and/or charity I’d ask that you remember these wise words:

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. – 1 Corinthians 4:2

Want to learn more?

Here are some useful URLs to additional articles on the topic:

Posted in Uncategorized

While Twitter fiddled, their users burned – lessons learned

Twitter, in fiddling around with their @ replies notification setting, created a firestorm of outrage among the known twitterverse manifesting itself into to hash mark campaigns entitled ‘#fixreplies‘ and ‘#twitterfail‘ respectively.

Twitter Support: how to change your reply settings

Their explanation for this ‘Small Settings Update‘ that removes the @ Replies Notification Setting completely?

We’ve updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback …

… receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

I’m not buying this as it is the the 2nd time in 2 years the folks at Twitter have attempted to remove a feature that clearly is part of the average Twitter User eXperience and expectation.

So what’s the big deal?

Why is the Twitterati up in arms? I think usability expert Jeffrey Zeldman summed it up best with his retweet (RT) that reads:

“RT self: Discovering people, topics, and conversations through friends’ @ replies was one of the joys of Twitter. #fixreplies

Here are two real-world use cases in which I’d offer in support of Zeldman’s popular assertion:

  1. Back in August of 2008 I was kvetching about some ASP.NEt anomolies when I got a pithy reply from an @jerobins whom I wasn’t following – well wasn’t following until I found out he and I shared a passion for or code, our kids and our neighborhoods which were only a mile or two apart.
  2. Similarly, back in November of 2008 I offered a #deanlink. I got a reply from @timbert of Belgium that the web services testing tool I found useful was just what he needed! Such words of encouragement are … well encouring that my #deanlink tweets are indeed useful to others.

So what’s my point?

So what has the whole dust up over Twitter’s @ Replies Notification Setting have to do with the daily operation of our church and/or charity website?

Glad you asked.

I’m currently in the process of sorting out the fairly consistent stream of email I’ve received recently regarding web site do-overs and/or content ‘manglement’ tools.

As some loyal cult members might guess, I’m going to reply with some solid, tangible technical solutions – but only after first preaching the tenets of understanding who your websites’ visitors are and what they’re seeking to accomplish.

Meaning, before I render judgment on WordPress, ExpressionEngine, drupal, Joomla, MovableType, TypePad, Blogger, and/or any other means of managing a church and/or charity website on the cheap …

I am first going to provide some practical steps in getting information about those consuming your online services that in some cases include … wait for it … making actual contact with actual human beings about how they actually use your website.

I suspect the folks at Twitter could have and should engaged the same … though the skeptical me speculating that either that if indeed the folks at Twitter were aware of said actual usage (as I suspect they are), then they are trying to modify user behavior to …

… take your pick, as this is all just wild speculation on my part.

The bottom line?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Want to learn more?

Here are some useful URLs to additional articles on the topic:

Or just leave a ‘love note’ in the form of a comment, question, etc …

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Things that heal your church website

Last Friday I posed the question “what actually heals a church website?” Now it’s Tuesday and I’d like to talk about this in light of the many excellent comments received.5 remedies to heal your church website

But first a BIG THANKS to all who participated in this dialog – this was both good and healthy and it is much appreciated.

1. If it’s broke, please fix it

“The medicine that heals depends on the illness — if you’ve got a spinning gold cross, removing it becomes job #1” – Mickey

It’s such a simple point, yet a very salient one. There are some very obvious maladies that afflict our church websites. When we see them, we should fix them.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I prescribe my post entitled:

Even if you do know what I’m talking about, it’s a fun read … don’t worry, we’ll be here when you get back.

2. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

“I fixed up my church’s website with WordPress and a user-friendly, inviting design. Within months they’d wrecked the colors, changed pictures of people to pictures of furniture, and otherwise mucked it up.” – Jeremy

Okay, I’m not trying to be a wise-guy here, but I’ve seen this happen all to often. Usually this occurs when an individual has an agenda that it outside the scope of what the church website is trying to accomplish. Two that come to mind are:

  1. On the job training or skills advertising
  2. An ego that can’t share nice things

Often, I find it’s a combination of the both. My post “Mr. Zeldman meet Mike Boyink, one of ‘The New Samaritans’” comes to mind.

3. Content is King

“Even if it has to be black Times New Roman on a stark white background, I’d say job one is relevant content. When, where, what, who, and how, and for good measure, don’t forget why.” – lemon

I’m thinking ‘lemon’ pretty much summed it all up rather nicely with his/her enumeration of the basics that help us avoid the “Seven deadly sins of web writing.”

4. Identify your target audience

There are really (at least) two distinct audiences for a church website:

  1. People not part of your normal congregation, seeking information about your church …
  2. People in the congregation who want to know what’s on this week …

Since the introduction of this  blog back on May 17, 2002 I’ve been preaching the importance of identifying the purpose and personality of your church website – and then aiming all content, controls and/or contrivances at seekers and members alike.

Put another way, “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.” – Empty Parking Lot Tabernacle

5. Identify your process & work-flow

“Unfortunately I think its a people problem, the site is just a symptom. People need to see it as a communication medium and commit to its use. I’m surprised at how poorly email is used by churches, let alone websites.” – David J

Unfortunately, I think the master of the B2Blog has offered a diagnosis that is as incisive as it it accurate. David accurately points out that unless we understand the work-flow that defines how we:

  • identify things that need fixed;
  • identify things that work;
  • identify what makes compelling content; and
  • identify the target audience of your church’s purpose and personality …

… then a church website is likely never to get healed no matter what content management system it employs, …

… no matter how much Flash animation the site does or does not have, …

… no matter how many social networks the church-geek API’s into the site.

In short, unless church doesn’t have well defined processes for how to effectively get the right information out to your target audiences, then you’re efforts are like the person Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 as aimlessly batting at the air.

At least that’s my take. What about you?

Posted in Uncategorized

weekend open thread: What Heals your Church Website?

I want comments on the following question: what actually heals your church website?

Is it:

  • using WordPress as a content management system on the cheap?
  • using Joomla or Blogger instead of WordPress?
  • is it adding a Twitter plugin or widget?
  • is it adding more spinning animated gifs of gold lamé crosses?
  • is it hiring someone to wordsmith your pastor’s boring sermons?
  • all of the above?
  • none of the above?
  • something else …

Of course the list above is more a conversation starter than a poll … meaning … I want your feedback on what YOU think heals a church website.

Thanks in advance!

Posted in Uncategorized