Because life is a series of edits

Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Signing Off

In Calling, Family, Friends, Holidays, Humanity, Internet, Places & Spaces, Pop Culture, Thought on January 1, 2015 at 12:10 pm

That's All Folks

In news that you’ll only read here, Second Drafts – my blog home for the past ten years – is closing its doors, with no plans to be reopened or replaced. I’ll save you the self-serving explanations and simply say that, for a variety of reasons, it’s time to move on.

That said, let me leave you with a final “best of” collection from the past ten years. After writing nearly 1,000 posts, I’m including 30 of my more popular and personal favorite ones – a wide variety I’d love you to read just one more time. (To be sure, there are easily another 30 I would include if I gave myself permission, but enough about me, what do you think about me?)

One of the reasons I include these and perhaps not others has as much to do with the interaction (back when people actually responded to blog posts and not just the social media announcing them), so be sure to read the comments. (Of course, you’re always welcome to troll the archives for more as you like, but I imagine you have a life.)

While I will no longer be blogging here anymore, I’ll continue to contribute a periodic post to The Scholars Blog and City Presbyterian blog every six weeks or so. For better or for worse, I still feel I have thoughts and words to share, but it’s time to develop those in a different way and for a different audience. At least personally, my blogging days are done. It’s been a good run.

Whether you’ve been a long-time or recent reader, thanks for the gift of your interest and attention. I’ve never taken it for granted. Enjoy reading/re-reading the posts, and if you’d be so kind, leave me a comment below to say you did. Thank you.

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You’ve Got (Someone Else’s) Mail

In Humanity, Internet on December 5, 2014 at 7:10 pm

email-inboxTwice this week, I’ve received emails in my inbox addressed to me but meant for other people.

The first email was from the Bursar at Elon University, a private liberal arts university in Elon, North Carolina, and while the email address was mine, the person addressed in the message was Claire M. Dunham. I’ve never been known as Claire, nor do I know of one to whom I might be related. But I do know that Claire is enrolled for classes next semester at Elon…at least until I figure out her password, hack her account, and cancel her scholarship for listing my email address as hers.

The second email (with multiple emails in the thread) was one in which I was copied by a Carol Dunham. She apparently has a daughter (Michelle), who (ironically) also attends Elon University and is majoring in teaching Spanish. I have no idea why Carol copied me, nor do I have any job leads for her daughter (we already have a good Spanish teacher at The Academy – I’m looking at you, Abby Lorenc). But the most recent email in the thread had Carol thanking Louise (who apparently is the mother of Michelle’s boyfriend) for paying to fly Michelle to Hawaii. I’m guessing Michelle’s living it up on the Big Island, and for some reason, her mom felt the need to tell me about it.

We’ve all heard of identity theft; this is more identity threat.

Does LifeLock know about this? I want them to because it’s my email address! I was surprised by how affected I was by the idea that someone else was using (consciously or not) my email handle. It’s the same feeling one gets after Googling one’s name (not that I’ve ever done that) only to discover you’re not the only Craig Dunham in the world. In fact, there are other Craig Dunhams – some who make you proud to share the name, and others who make you wish your parents trademarked it upon signing the birth certificate. You’re – I’m – the original! Everyone else is but a poor imitation!

As I didn’t have Claire’s actual email address, I went ahead and replied to the Bursar, telling him/her (are Bursars usually male or female?) of the mistake and asking to have my email address removed from Elon’s list, which they did. And because Carol only copied me on her email, I didn’t feel a need to respond (though she is a fellow Dunham, God love her), but will see if she sends something else before inquiring as to what’s going on (and maybe how Michelle liked Hawaii, just to freak her out).

But regardless, I should probably think and pray more about my initial reaction of feeling so threatened by someone else using what I think of as belonging solely to me. Indeed, “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,” (Proverbs 22:1a), but ultimate identity in any name other than Christ’s can feel like one big and unending Google search.

On Death and Dying in a Digital Age

In Church, Family, Friends, Health, Humanity, Internet, Places & Spaces, Technology, Thought on March 1, 2014 at 9:32 am

Moleta

“While the dead don’t care, the dead matter.
The dead matter to the living.”

Thomas Lynch

My mother-in-law, Moleta King of Owasso, OK, passed away earlier this week after battling ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) for the past two years. Hers was the first passing I’d ever been completely present for, from roughly 15 hours before the time of death early Tuesday morning through her burial Friday afternoon. For reasons good and otherwise, it’s been the longest week I can remember – good, in that this kind of loss forces us to slow down and mourn by way of our memorial traditions; otherwise, in that we (or some of us) push back against grief’s delays in ways our modern world has trained us – by way of technology.

Don’t get me wrong: there is comfort in hearing from hundreds of friends who, for various reasons, cannot be present with the living as they mourn their dead. A product of our overly-mobile culture, this distance disconnect can be overcome instantly via phone, email, and text messaging (along with our more traditional – but time-requiring – means of letter writing, card sending, and flower delivering). But what left me wanting this past week was the public display of affection made possible by social media. At the risk of offending those who employed it (all with the best of intentions, I’m sure), let me explain.

I became tired of people proclaiming they were praying for me/us on Facebook, mostly because I doubted they really were. It felt like there was a “crisis reminder” right next to the “birthday reminder” on the screen, so of course folks needed to click it and leave a trite message. “Praying for you!” “You’re in our thoughts and prayers!” And my personal favorite: “Prayers coming your way!” (Let’s be honest: if prayers are coming my way, we’re screwed; we pray to God, not to each other.) Of course, I know some – perhaps many – people did pray when they said they would (I’m not completely jaded), but I confess Facebook often felt too quick and too convenient to take the message to heart.

The other thing that bothered me (and I write this with no condemnation of my family, but as a completely hypocritical member of it) was how we gravitated to our own digital worlds in the midst of our grief. Both my family (wife and four girls, ages 10-15) and Megan’s sister’s family (husband and wife with five kids, ages 9-22) are fairly “wired,” and I counted at least eight smart phones, six laptops, and a desktop among us that received more than their fair share of attention this past week. Granted, some use was to make plans or to communicate them, but I would venture that just as much or more was in pursuit of comfort and general distraction. I kept wondering (again, without judgment of a crime – if it was one – to which I was certainly an accomplice), how much did we miss from each other because of the separation of our screens?

Years ago, I read a fascinating book titled Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality by Thomas Lynch. A writer, poet, and undertaker, Lynch writes from a unique first-person perspective of the generalities and nuances of life, death, and the often-uneasy tension that exists in their co-existence in our world. He has published several books along the theme of death and dying, including The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, and more recently, The Good Funeral: The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care. (PBS’ Frontline actually turned The Undertaking into this documentary by the same name, which I watched with my four daughters a few hours before leaving for the visitation on Thursday as a way of explaining what all had happened since their grandmother’s death.) He writes:

“Grief is the tax we pay on our attachments…the price we pay for being close to one another. If we want to avoid our grief, we simply avoid each other.”

Was our family’s tendency toward technology in some way self-protective against the idea of losing each other as we had already lost Moleta? I’m not sure any of us would have verbalized it as such (nor probably would any of us still), but I do wonder. Was our handling of death and dying in our digital age normal? Was it healthy? Could it have been better without the phones and laptops? Would it have been? I don’t know.

A couple other observations from a tough week:

  • Everyone suddenly becomes a theologian at visitations, memorial services, and funerals. I heard plenty of bad theology from people – some who didn’t know any better, plenty of others who should – that it took all I could muster to keep from putting on sackcloth and ashes and weeping and gnashing my teeth. “Heaven got a new angel today!” “She finally got her wings!” And my personal favorite, spoken without a trace of irony: “I’m sure she’s having a great time, but Heaven sounds boring to me.” And then there came the platitudes: “Nothing can hurt her now.” “We’ll get to see her again one day.” “She’s in a better place.” While this last set may be true, I hate them, and I judgmentally hold in contempt those who use them. I’m not saying I’m right in doing this; I’m just saying I do this.
  • I can’t remember the last time I cried and don’t really care that I rarely do – it fits well with the Spock stereotype people often enjoy at my expense. (Interestingly, when I was not trying to get some work done across the week, I watched the first five Star Trek movies on Netflix just to touch base with my Vulcan counterpart. The more I learn about Spock’s back story, the more I happily embrace the aforementioned comparison. It’s not that Spock didn’t have emotions; on the contrary, as a Vulcan he was fiercely emotional, but was trained and learned to master his feelings to the point where he was confused for and known as being emotion-less.) All that said, I finally cried (“leaked” is probably a better word) at the end of the memorial service, so I really am human in case anyone was wondering.

As always with me, there are plenty more observations, but most are either too personal or too meaningless (or both) to write here. I’ve said before that death is life’s great perspective-bringer, but after experiencing death’s bringing of perspective this week, I’ve had enough, at least for now.

Which brings me back to Lynch and the comfort with which he writes and thinks about death. His is a wonderful analysis neither morbid in tone nor myopic in perspective; rather, he writes in a way that is warm, helpful, and full of insight into the meaning of life as viewed through death’s reality, which is not something to be feared, but to be embraced as another part of the whole of life:

“It was there, in the parlors of the funeral home – my daily stations with the local lately dead – that the darkness would often give way to light. A fellow citizen outstretched in his casket, surrounded by floral tributes, waiting for the homages and obsequies, would speak to me in the silent code of the dead: ‘So, you think you’re having a bad day?’ The gloom would lift inexplicably. Here was one to whom the worst had happened, often in a variety of ways, and yet no word of complaint was heard from out the corpse. Nor did the world end, nor the sky fall, nor his or her people become blighted entirely. Life, it turns out, goes on with or without us. There is at least as much to be thankful for as wary of.”

Indeed, but only because Jesus says so (and not because someone tells me on Facebook).

Ten Years of “Being Social” Online

In Books, Internet, Technology, Thought, Web/Tech, Writing on December 14, 2013 at 7:55 am

Craig with Books

I started blogging ten years ago when my book, TwentySomeone, came out (note the computer screen in the pic). Working on the website for the book, I wanted a way to post interesting links and speaking engagement details on the front page. My friend Will Leingang suggested adding a blog (which at the time I didn’t know was slang for “weblog”) but, because I trust Will in all things technology, I said sure.

This was one of the rare times in my technological life when I’ve been an early adopter. Back in the day, blogs were THE social media; we used them for posts, but also for those communiques that Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ (and about a dozen others) are now used – short sentence updates, interesting articles or links, and the ubiquitous personal opinion.

I miss those days, not because everything was in one place (though that was nice), but because there was usually actual interaction; it was enjoyable to read a comment thread that had some actual comments and didn’t just let one get away with the generic “Like” or “Favorite”.

The phenomenon of “liking” or “favoriting” something without explanation is interesting to me. I watch my online “friends” and “followers” drop “likes” and mark “favorites” on a variety of statements, declarations, questions, links, videos, song lyrics, poems, memes, and quotes and I sometimes wonder if they’re doing that out of actual reason or merely relationship.

The most interesting phenomenon (at least on Facebook) is what seems the obligatory “like” of the new profile picture. I’m struck by how – regardless of actual beauty – people are so quick to approve and at times (let’s be honest) lie out of some assumed responsibility that if they don’t, the person who just uploaded the profile picture will suffer some great self-esteem loss and throw themselves off a bridge.

“What a beautiful picture!”
“You’re so hot!”
“What a gorgeous family!”

I suppose there are plenty of people who want, need, and look for comments like these to justify their existence, but there are also those of us who think of the profile picture as simply an identifier and nothing more. Forgive us for not swooning over your latest profile update – it’s not personal, even though you might take it to be so.

Another thing I’ve found interesting over the past ten years of blogging and “being social” online is how much time it takes to really do well. The media are different, but they all require intentionality to do them right. Twitter’s 140 characters force one to be uber-succinct, whereas a blog (at least that folks read) demands interesting writing since something else is always one quick click away. Facebook posts tend to benefit from some kind of photo or artwork to break up the design monotony, but I still haven’t figured out to what Google+ best lends itself as I really don’t use it all that much even though I feel semi-guilty that I should as it seems strangely superior as this “social evolution” art implies:

social-evolution

All of this – uber-succinctness, writing worth reading, finding and uploading pics and art – requires dedicated time, a commodity most of us find only in small amounts. It may just be my particular stage in life, but where I once used to think that the key to writing productivity lay in using and mastering 15-minute bites, I now am down to trying to make the most of 5-minute ones. This works well enough for tweets and updates, but not so much for blog posts and books.

While I’ve taken a few hiatuses from social media (the longest being an intentional six-month respite from blogging), I’ve never thought seriously about quitting (though like an alcoholic or chain smoker, I promise I can quit anytime). I’ve read and even written about the dangers of social media (click here to read multiple years’ worth of my posts on this topic and technology), but I still find it engaging and stimulating – not as a replacement for books, but neither as a complete waste of time either.

So I’ll continue blogging, tweeting, and posting, and thank you in advance for reading, retweeting, and sharing. I’m not sure why you do, but I confess I’m glad for it, much like I imagine the person posting a new profile picture probably appreciates the comments.

Just don’t lie to me and call me “hot”.

Tech Talk

In Internet, Technology, Thought on October 15, 2012 at 9:25 am

I haven't watched Saturday Night Live in probably 12 years, but I came across this clip and was surprised by both how funny and sociologically spot on it is.

Because We Apparently Need More to Do

In Calling, Education, Family, Internet, Technology, Veritas, Young Ones on August 23, 2011 at 7:12 pm

You may or may not have heard, but Megan and I have started writing a new blog together about our journey (past and present) through the world of classical education. The blog's called Docendo Discimus. Here's our angle on the name and idea:

Seneca "The philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BC-65 AD) offers us his counsel: 'Docendo discimus.' Translation: 'By teaching, we learn.' As we seek to provide our children with a classical Christian education, we hope to gain that which we did not experience in our own. Granted, it is probably more difficult now at our current stages of life due to slipping memories, full-time jobs, and possible mid-life plateaus, but it is not impossible, nor do we have to do it alone; hence this blog."

For more on our rationale, you can click here to get an idea of where we're going with it (and why). We're planning to write every Tuesday and Friday and, while what's up there now (a short series on what makes education Christian) is mine, Megan's planning to launch her first series from the homefront next week, so you won't want to miss that.

In addition to the new blog, we've also created a Twitter account to go with it. You'll find us tweeting about most things classical education at @PagingSeneca, so retweet us every now and then if what we write resonates with you.

Rest assured, we'll still continue writing individually at Second Drafts and Half-Pint House, but we're excited to be able to contribute to this new one together. So, check out the site and/or follow us on Twitter. Hope they help.

On Teachers, Students, and Social Media

In Education, Internet, Politics, Technology, Thought on August 3, 2011 at 10:27 pm

1984

In yet another example of ridiculous government over-reach, the governor of my previous state of Missouri signed into law a bill banning public school students and teachers from communicating and being "friends" on Facebook. Here are some article excerpts:

"'Teachers cannot establish, maintain or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian or legal guardian,' the law states. Teachers also cannot have a non work-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student. The law is not limited to Facebook and applies to any social networking site. Although Facebook fan pages will still be allowed, direct communicaton between teachers and students on the site will be banned."

And:

"Although some critics have said the concept sounds positive on the surface, they worry it may imply that teachers may not be trusted on the site without legal intervention. Others worry that restricting sites such as Facebook could hinder the educational process in the future."

And:

"In 2010, Lee County school district in Florida advised teachers not to friend students on social networking sites, claiming that teacher-student communication through this medium is 'inappropriate.' This was the first school district in the state of Florida, possibly even the country, to issue teacher-protocol guidelines for social media."

I have a hard time believing this last paragraph. 2010? Seriously? In 2008, my administration at Westminster Christian Academy, knowing that I used social media and was "friends" with several of my high school students, asked me to draft a document that later was adopted as part of the school's social media policy. Here's what I submitted:

  • Never initiate the friend, wall-to-wall, inbox, birthday, or other functions; always be a responder to students, but even then, refrain from excess posting on their pages.
  • Unless you have a pre-determined set of relationship criteria (i.e. males only, females only, etc.), do not discriminate among friend requests; accept all or accept none.
  • Always maintain a degree of formality despite the informal medium; keep titles (Mr., Mrs., Miss) and try to relate with as similar a classroom tone as possible.
  • Realize that conversations you may have in other networks may be privy to those in your network unless you set up different access levels. Use discretion, as you are exposing students to your college/post-college discussions and topics, which may or may not be helpful to your students.
  • Use good punctuation and grammar whenever possible; avoid slang and model excellence as an educator in your communication.
  • Do not post pictures of yourself that are questionable, sensual, or ridiculous; if other friends include you in such pictures on their profiles, ask to remove them or untag yourself from them.
  • Do not delete inbox or wall-to-wall conversations; always keep a record.

These guidelines were helpful as I related to students online. Some teachers were more reticent than I was to be online "friends" with their students; others not so much. The school did not take a hard and fast stance on the issue; the point was that all of us were encouraged to think about what we were doing and to use common sense concerning our online interactions with students.

The problem, of course, is that common sense is not so common, and the American response to the ills of the few has increasingly become a legislative knee-jerk against the good of the many. Maybe I've just been fortunate enough to know and work with too many caring, dedicated teachers, but I don't know anyone (public or private school) who has abused or been accused of misusing Facebook with his or her students. (Actually, I've read a whole lot more in the past six months about congressmen sexting pictures of themselves to interns. Where's the "no social media" law against them?)

I'm sad for my public school teacher friends in Missouri who just lost a way to be an invested, influential voice among the milieu of madness that is a teenager's online world. And, I'm a little nervous where this kind of thing might go for my private school teacher friends, as some fearful parents, school boards, or administrations may over-react with their own knee-jerk policies in the wake of the new law.

Just today I got a Facebook message from one of my first students (now a college sophomore at Ball State University in Indiana) with whom I've been "friends" since his freshman year of high school. In reading his words, walking through high school with Daniel – even from a distance via Facebook as I was only his teacher for one year – obviously meant something to him.

I'm just glad I moved to Oklahoma so he could tell me.

Second Drafts, Redux

In Calling, Internet, Technology, Writers on May 31, 2011 at 7:34 am

Five years ago (give or take three weeks), I created and launched Second Drafts. Here was part of the birth announcement (you can read the original post here):

My friend and co-author, Doug Serven, is right when he says the idea of writing a book is a lot more appealing than actually doing it. In fact, a lot of bookwriting (at least in our experience) amounts to "vomiting on the page" and then rearranging what sticks. Doug is fond of the vomiting part; I tend to tolerate the rearranging (though we each did a fair amount of both).

Likewise, life is much like bookwriting, as so much of living is really editing what we and others "throw up" (again, continuing the vomit metaphor). Anyone can come up with a first draft of something; writing the second draft, however – revising thoughts, letting go of bad choices, and improving the overall whole of the manuscript – is the more difficult part of the process…and the most rewarding.

So, with that in mind (and just to be sure I run the metaphor fully into the ground), my goal is always to think about life "editorially" – listening for Voice, considering word choice, getting rid of fluff. You're invited to bring your red pen along (or your purple one if red is too threatening) and mark things up with me, or just wait around for the finished project.

A word of warning, though: if you wait, you'll probably wait a long time. Writing and life are both too confusing without community. You're welcome (and wanted) as part of mine.

Leave it to me to equate writing and vomiting (actually, readers have probably drawn the conclusion before, but were too kind to leave their observation in the comments).

I haven't spent as much consistent time on the blog in recent years due to the advent of micro-blogging (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), but I still enjoy keeping one for reasons of posterity and/or narcissism. Two-and-a-half years ago, I wondered aloud if blogging was dead, but looking back on my own experience, I would say the medium was not so much on its deathbed as my literary creativity seemed to be.

Five years later, I choose to relaunch here at Second Drafts with a new header and color scheme, a slightly different design, and a new hope of some reinvigorated reasons to write. I shouldn't lack for material – new state, new place, new people, new job – but I suppose dealing with aspects of the novelty is what keeps me from writing about it.

So, welcome (or welcome back). Do me a favor and spread the word that everything old is new again here at the blog. And drop in every now and then and leave a fresh comment or add to an interaction – those mean more than you ever might think.

Coming to St. Louis in 2011

In Calling, Church, Education, Internet, Musicians, Places, Places & Spaces, Theologians on November 13, 2010 at 8:10 am

Mike Teaching (with logo)

In case you missed it, the website I've been working on for musician/author Michael Card's Biblical Imagination Series just went live this weekend. I used Clover Sites to create it and am impressed (still) with how easy and well-thought-out their content management system is (I've worked with plenty of lousy ones in the past and this was a dream).

For those in St. Louis, we're bringing the conference to Chesterfield Presbyterian Church all day on Saturday, January 15th, with Mike doing a concert on Sunday the 16th. The cost is only $58 for the conference AND concert ($78 if you want Mike's new book and album coming out next year as well – see site for details), and I can personally vouch for the quality of the experience (though the emcee/education guy's a little suspect).

Whether you've read the Bible for years or are just starting out in the Scriptures, this one-day conference would be well worth your investment in cultivating greater biblical literacy and love for God and His Word. Hope to see you there (and please help spread the word about the new Biblical Imagination website and Facebook community – thanks).

Blogging Down Memory Lane (Part 2)

In Calling, Internet, Technology, Web/Tech on November 10, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Schoolboy blogging

(continued from previous post)

3. How do you feel blogging and the presence of social networks and media has influenced students at Westminster?

While I know there are some students who keep blogs, I don't know many – it's too much work for too little instant gratification. Some students are on Twitter, but not nearly as many who are on Facebook. And, of course, cell phone texting is the medium of choice when it comes to communication for high schoolers.

As for the influence of all this on students, I have two thoughts. First, I think social media affects students very much the same way it affects adults, that is, training us (if we let it) in the art of distraction rather than the art of focus. I've written about this before here, here, and here (and it's not an idea original with me), but the Internet is by design created to distill our focus rather than sharpen it. I feel this when I'm on my computer (which is frequently because of what I do): it's easier to check Facebook or Twitter or a blog or two than actually write something myself to contribute something of worth to the blogosphere. The effect is the same, regardless of age: a lot of time gets wasted with very little to show for it (for an excellent article on this from a biblical perspective, click here).

Second (and this seems more true of students than adults, though there are plenty of exceptions), the ease and proliferation of digital media tools has created a constant public existence that robs kids of much of the privacy and mystery of their youth. I worry that students share so much online (vulnerable thoughts, sacred memories, less-than-appropriate pictures, and personal experiences) that they have nothing enigmatic really left for others (parents, boyfriends/girlfriends, even themselves) to gradually discover about who they are. In many ways, the Internet has made us more boring than interesting because everybody knows so much about us already. Where's the mystery and intrigue in that?

4. What is your opinion about blogging's future?

I've been asking this question a lot of late, even posing it to some friends of mine who are far more wise in the way of all things wired (read my friend Will's fascinating comments in answer to my inquiry here). I remember a few years ago I first started hearing folks warn of blogging's demise, largely because Twitter was really starting to explode in mass popularity and micro-blogging was coming into its own on a wide scale. Even in my own reading habits, I wasn't checking blogs like I used to (I follow anywhere from 100-150 different blogs using Google Reader, but only check them now when someone notifies me via Twitter that they posted something…and only then if the 140-character summary sounds interesting).

All that to say, blogging's not going away anytime soon, but I do think people's reasons for reading blogs continue to evolve. I think we're going to see the middle of blogging drop out; that is, the bloggers with bigger audiences will get bigger because of content and deals, while the bloggers who write for smaller audiences (usually made up of people who know them) will continue to do so simply for their personal love of writing or for niche reasons tied to their interests or work. Those in the middle who anticipate writing for a huge following but are unwilling to "sell out" to attract an audience are going to end up choosing one or the other.

5. Where do you see the future of your blog headed?

In light of my answer to #4, I easily fall into the second category mentioned and have no real desire to be part of the first. Sure, ideally, if I could cultivate a huge following of folks who love my writing, well, that would be great, but I don't anticipate that happening (and without the "deals," there's really no money in blogging).

Personally, I still write with books in mind, but I've struggled over the past three years as to how much to adjust my thinking to wholeheartedly pursue the more digital versions of publishing (if "publishing" is even really a word/concept anymore). Even going the full digital route, I'm haunted by the words of one of my seminary professors who, when I asked him if he ever feared running out of topics to write about, responded by saying he was more afraid of running out of people who would want to read what he wrote. His concern wasn't that people would stop reading him (he's an excellent writer); his concern was more that people would stop reading, period.

Granted, in many ways because of social media, we're reading more than ever, but much of what we're reading is not worth the page or pixels it's printed on/with when considered within the broader historical context of scholarship and publication. There's a lot of garbage to sift through to find well-written truth.

6. Why do you enjoy blogging?

I'll probably continue to blog because I'll always continue to write; in fact, I can't NOT write – it's how I process life and discover what I think. Ever since I was a kid, I've always loved keeping journals and writing letters – a desire that has never gone away even with the creation of websites and email. As Wendell Berry wrote in his essay, "Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer,"

"My final and perhaps my best reason for not owning a computer is that I do not wish to fool myself. I disbelieve, and therefore strongly resent, the assertion that I or anybody else could write better or more easily with a computer than with a pencil. I do not see why I should not be as scientific about this as the next fellow: when somebody has used a computer to write work that is demonstrably better than Dante’s, and when this better is demonstrably attributable to the use of a computer, then I will speak of computers with a more respectful tone of voice, though I still will not buy one." —Wendell Berry, “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer” in What Are People For? (1990), p. 171.

Gathering my thoughts on my blog (and not everything I think gets posted for reasons listed in my answer to question #3) is a perk of living in the 21st century – one for which I'm grateful. But in terms of meaning and significance, I still don't think today's technology compares to the original social media – oral tradition – through which God spoke and preserved His Word. After all, look at what this social media produced: words that are still just as current and relevant as the latest update, tweet, post, or book I could ever write, and the best part is you can talk to the Author whenever you feel like it.

Blogging Down Memory Lane (Part 1)

In Calling, Internet, Technology, Web/Tech on November 9, 2010 at 10:25 pm


Blogging dream and reality

I have a student coming in Thursday to interview me for Westminster's school newspaper, The Wildcat Roar, on the topic of my blog (or more specifically, I think, the fact that I have one). I asked her to send along her questions so I could think through my answers. Here's what she sent (and what I think):

1. Why did you want to begin writing your blog?

Second Drafts is not my first blog; it's actually my third. Back in the early part of the "aughts," when I was on staff with The Navigators in Colorado Springs, I was using a really poor content management system to post book, movie, and music reviews to our family ministry website. This was novel and fun, but there was no means (other than email) for interaction with others, so it was basically a static page that I just added to and kept up. I wouldn't call this a "blog," but it was a step toward what was coming.

In the fall of 2003, as part of promoting my first book, TwentySomeone, a friend of mine set up a promotional website and suggested including a blog as part of the homepage. I liked the idea since it provided the opportunity for feedback and interaction, and especially because the software (I used WordPress for the interface) was so much better than what I was used to. It was also cool to be in on the early stages of blogging, particularly since the book was aimed at people in their twenties (surely, I thought, this made me ultra-hip). I kept this blog for two-and-a-half years.

When we moved to St. Louis to start course work at Covenant Seminary, I felt the need to chronicle some of my experiences, but I wanted to do so in a different way. Using Blogger (which has come a long way from when I started using it back in 2005), I created an anonymous third-person "reporter" – Seminary Tychicus – who kept track of the ups and downs, ins and outs of the life of a new seminary student, "Learner," who was adjusting to graduate school with a family of four and plenty of insecurity to boot. The Tychicus connection came from Paul's words in Ephesians 6:21: "Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing." I kept this blog for almost two years, from June 2005-April 2007.

Having started the Tychicus blog and getting further into my mid-thirties, I felt it was time to discontinue the TwentySomeone blog, as I didn't want readers to feel like I was desperately clinging to my twenties (I also didn't have a lot of mental energy to spare for two blogs). So, I shut down the TwentySomeone blog at the end of 2005 and stopped blogging as me all together for six months (which I now consider a mistake as I lost hundreds of readers in doing so). It was around this time that Facebook really started to explode, but I wasn't a big fan of the whole micro-blogging idea as it seemed a cop-out on real content.

Probably as a reaction to all this (as well as the fact that I missed writing as me in first-person), I started Second Drafts in June of 2006. The idea was to use the blog as a place where I could combine all the past writing I had done – books, magazine articles, online resources – with new stuff that might turn into new books, magazine articles, and online resources (my second book, Learning Education, is made up of a lot of my posts about teaching). In addition, I use the blog to pass along interesting links I come across through the inclusion of my Delicious and Twitter feeds, as well as to try to sell my books and some of the music I've recorded as a way to generate some (very minimal) additional income for my family.

2. What was/is your inspiration?

From the beginning, my goal in blogging has always been to offer my thoughts to others for the good of God's kingdom. I think of myself as a maven of sorts – "a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others," and while I'm no "expert" in anything, I do know people trust me and that I love to learn and help others do the same in a wise way. Translating big ideas into more manageable thoughts has always been my modus operandi, as it's an opportunity to influence others. Sometimes I'll come up with an original idea, but most of my writing seems to be along the lines of discerning or restating something in a way that helps readers better understand than they did before (at least that's what readers have consistently told me I do for them). I'm grateful for (and gratified by) that.

(To be continued)

Calling All Techies

In Internet, Technology on October 25, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Techie_Timeline
I just sent this out via email:

I'll go ahead and congratulate you now but you can decide whether you're excited about it or not. Essentially, you're one of the eight (count them: eight!) most techno-savvy people I know and I need whatever wise counsel you might share.

Let me be brief: Megan and I are at a point where we're evaluating together what a next step might be for us with regard to our online presence/interaction. We've read a lot about and participated for years in the whole blogging/social media thing, but we're wondering how to think about the next stage of where things are going and how we can anticipate changes we may need to make to more widely and deeply influence people for the Kingdom via the World Wide Web.

I hesitate asking too many specific questions that might limit your answers, so I'll just go with this: In your opinion and from your vantage point/experience, where do you see things going in terms of technology, publishing, and general social media that you would advise us to consider in thinking through this?

I can provide more information if you want it about where we're at in all this, but in a nutshell, we both feel we're at a point of starting over and we'd rather not retrace paths that seem overgrown by now. That said, personal anecdotes and observation are completely legitimate here – we trust your instincts.

Take as much time as you need and share only what you honestly want us to hear. Thanks in advance for your consideration and good advice.

Got any thoughts to share? Comment away.

Man Crushes & Bromances: The Movie

In Friends, Humanity, Internet, Places & Spaces, Thought on October 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Chewy and Han
Jon Barlow and I have been online "friends" (Facebook, blog comments, etc.) for probably 4-5 years, live five minutes apart, are graduates of the same seminary, have many mutual friends in the PCA, and are involved with the same school (I'm a teacher; he's on the board). Both of us have four kids each (I have four daughters; Jon has four sons), and we both love our wives, our kids, theology, philosophy, good writing, interesting music, and well-made films. We both think pretty well in terms of pop culture, and both of us probably spend too much time online (though Jon's finishing his PhD at SLU, so I'm not sure).

The funny thing is, while there seems to be a degree of mutual respect for one another, Jon and I have never met face-to-face. I think our story would make a good movie.

Here's the thing: the thirties are a busy time – possibly the busiest, I've been told by many, for a variety of reasons (young families growing, career paths taking off/changing, etc.). For those of us guys who are more introverted and emotionally fragile (yes, I'm being serious), it can be hard to get below the surface of news, weather, and sports with other men. While I can't speak for Jon, I know I haven't had the depth of male relationships in my thirties that I had in my twenties; more breadth, yes, but depth, no.

Here's a post from Jon's blog which, after reading, I knew we could be friends:

"At church, I feel like a ghost. It is so hard to get to know people in the few milling-around minutes that are available each Sunday. Especially when you've gotta watch your four boys to be sure they aren't running around or misbehaving. At school, I feel like a ghost. What am I going to do – hang out around the office and talk theology? How is that going to ever happen? I'm least ghost-like at home in the few hours between when I get home and when the boys go to bed, and I'm least ghost like in situations where I have to be there for a set amount of time to do some task. But even at the office, I find it hard to really get into my co-workers lives and learn about them. I keep thinking how the boss needs to get this project finished so he can bill it and make payroll for me and the others.

Part of this is also just the season of life that one is in at the time. When kids are young, you can't really be hitting the nightlife, whether recreational or educational, even in a great city like St. Louis and even community involvement is very difficult. And so I think you grin and bear it and hope for a better day and just try to stay sane and healthy and do what you can. The hard parts are those quiet moments – maybe you wake up before everyone else or you're in a public restroom or walking somewhere and there's no radio, no television, no one talking, and you're just stuck with yourself and all the crap in your life is circling your brain like electrons around the core of an atom and you're bewildered and saddened. But I guess that's why they invented the cell phone, so that a game of solitaire is never too far away. Pitiful, but true."

What if Jon and I – without ever meeting – wrote a screenplay about two average, semi-interesting, clearly heterosexual guys who are married, have children, and struggle to make ends meet in their quest to educate themselves and others about God's Word and world. And yet while they know of, know about, and know electronically the other, they never meet – on purpose, it seems – even though they have every opportunity to do so geographically, vocationally, and relationally? What would be gained or lost? And do they meet in the end (and so what if they do)?

Last week, Jon posted on his Facebook page that he was in need of some new clothes because, after years of seminary and grad school, all his clothes were wearing out all at once. I happened to have pants that no longer fit me but matched his measurements, so I messaged him and told him I'd be glad to get them to him if we could figure out a drop that maintained our non-acquaintance existence (the whole thing has kind of become a joke between the two of us, but honestly, I think we're both a little afraid of what might happen if we actually meet face to face – too much friendship pressure). As he had a board meeting at school (in my room, no less), we agreed that I would leave the pants in a bag on my desk for him. The drop worked and we maintained our no-meet streak.

Think of all the humorous scenes we could play out like this in a movie. We've already been in the same room together with neither one of us realizing it until later; we've both found out after the fact that we've been at my township's local arts fair at the exact same time but our paths never crossed; we've both had people tell us (or at least I have – I won't speak for Jon) that we'd be fast friends, but for whatever reason, even when we once tried to get our families together for dinner, things didn't work out. (I'm sure we've been at other events that neither one of us knew about the other being there as well.)

But here's the best part (for the movie, at least): What if, after we get the screenplay written (separately, of course) and some independent film company picks it up and produces it, what if as part of the build-up and promotion of the film, we finally meet on opening night at some film festival somewhere, families in tow and with the joke finally over? What if the film turned into some huge commentary on the challenges of real male friendship in an extremes-preoccupied world (sports fans on one end, geeks on the other), as evidenced by the reality that terms like "man crush" and "bromance" have crept into the vernacular as guys try to describe respect and even affection for one another without being talked about with raised eyebrows? What if?

I'm just throwing it out there. Would you go see a flick like that? What other motivations, scenes, or characters might make it compelling to watch? What would you call it? And do any guys resonate with what I'm talking about, or is this a movie no one would go see? I know the idea is rough and needs refining, so here's your chance to make it better.

Communications or Entertainment?

In Internet, Movies, Technology, Thought, TV on July 24, 2010 at 12:11 am
Bundle
"Here we are now…entertain us"

Nirvana

So Megan and I, having been the victim one too many times of AT+T raising our home phone/DSL rates again, have re-entered the fray of trying to figure out the best communications deal out there. If you've done this recently, you know it isn't easy: there are far too many options, and none of them seem all that great bundled together for our particular purposes.

Our particular purposes, I suppose, are part of the problem, but so are the prices. In researching options, I was amazed both at the breadth of what's available as well as what the market is apparently willing to bear per month to subscribe to them. By my estimation, families with a land line, multiple cell phones (say 3-4), 300+ TV channels with multi-channel DVR capabilities, and broadband Internet across multiple computers could be paying as much as $400-$500 per month in fees, which doesn't even include hardware (cell phones, receiving dish or cable installation, computers) costs on the front end.

We currently have a land line, one pay-by-the-minute cell phone ($100 goes about 6 months), antenna television (6 channels), a mid-level (two movies out at a time) NetFlix subscription, and DSL. Add on a subscription to Covenant Eyes for the computers and we now pay about $120 in monthly fees, which we've determined is too much for our budget.

We'd like to find a cheaper land line provider (or drop the land line altogether and bite the bullet financially and philosophically by going to two cell phones), but we can't make the numbers work (and, of course, none of this even deals with the whole television part of the equation, nor the movie rental fee).

How much is too much in this area of communications? And is it really "communications" being talked about, or is our culture's thirst for entertainment – visual, digital, social – behind the willingness to pay ever-increasing amounts of money to ensure access to it?

For the Christian, how does what gets spent on entertainment compare to what gets given to the Kingdom each month? How much is too much/too little? Where's the line and what are the reasons for where it's been drawn (or re-drawn) over the years?

Wrestling through this anew these days. Feel free to add your two cents and share your own communications/entertainment experiences, ideas, and counsel. I'm open like 7-11.

My Point Exactly

In Internet, Marriage on June 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Megan: Let me use your laptop and I'll organize the Flickr account while we watch the movie.

Craig: You never just watch movies anymore. I think the Internet has rewired your brain.

Megan: You just don't want me to use your laptop.

Craig: That's not true. Did you read those links I sent you about continuous partial attention and the ineffectiveness of multi-tasking?

Megan: I skimmed them.

Craig: (pause)

Megan: (smile)

Craig: I am so putting that on the blog.

Summer 2010 Preview, Etc.

In Books, Calling, Education, Family, Humanity, Internet, Musicians, Places, Places & Spaces, Theologians, Thought, Travel, TV, Vacation, Web/Tech, Westminster, Writers on May 23, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Sitting here on a Sunday night listening to some Lucinda Williams and doing a little writing. It's been a while since I've done a summary post of sorts, so since Megan and the girls are out of town and we're collectively an entire season behind to really make the LOST finale worth watching, here are a few things I've been thinking about and/or looking forward to:

School: This week is finals week, so I'll be spending most of my time grading. The good news is, unlike the past three years when I was evaluating projects and papers, I'm going into finals week with nothing other than finals to grade, so that should make for a little less consuming week in general.

In other school news, I've signed on for another year at Westminster, but my role is changing a bit as I'll be leaving the world of freshmen New Testament behind for fourth section of sophomore Ethics and one section of senior Worldviews next year. I'm glad for the transition all around.

One last note on the school front (this time the homeschool front), we're going to be entering a new stage of education here at home. This fall, our two oldest girls will be full-time students at Central Christian School in Clayton, while Megan continues leading the Classical Conversations group and homeschools our younger two (here are details from Megan's perspective).

Summer: In addition to writing (more on that below), my primary goal in June is to hang out with the little ladies, read some books, and get a few projects done around here. In addition, I'll help coach our Westminster summer baseball team for a week in June, as well as get trained on some new school information software, as I've been asked to be a mentor teacher to the rest of the staff this fall.

July ups the ante considerably in terms of travel, as we're planning a family trip to Colorado Springs, as the girls are now old enough (somehow) to attend The Navigators' camping programs (Eagle Lake and Eagle's Nest) we helped lead back in the day. I'll try to see as many folks as I can in a few days' time before I jump on a plane from Denver to Portland for my third year as part of Westminster's Summer Seminar. This time, I'll be investing ten days with 25 soon-to-be seniors in Washington state instead of South Dakota, after which I'll fly back to Colorado and then we'll all drive back to Missouri.

August sees staff reporting as earlier as the week of August 9th, but I'll have a few publishing projects to edit and design from the Washington trip, as well as a fair amount of prep work to finalize for my new
Worldviews class. Orientation starts the 12th and the first day of class is the 16th.

Studying: Despite baseball high-jacking my time and energy, I've been reading in a couple areas of interest this spring, not the least of which has been the study of the end times, or eschatology. N.T. Wright's book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, has been helpful, as has revisiting my notes from seminary (particularly Dr. Dan Doriani's notes from his Epistles and Revelation class). Of the three years I've taught Revelation to my freshmen New Testament classes, I feel like I've done the best job this year.

I'm also finishing up a couple books on education, namely John Dewey and the Decline of American Education by Henry T. Edmondson III, Curriculum 21 edited by Heidi Hayes-Jacobs, and The Secret of TSL by William Ouchi. It seems I've been reading these for a while (and I have), but there's been some good content that's come as a result.

Looking ahead, I have some Worldviews reading to do this summer, including (Re)Thinking Worldview by J. Mark Bertrand; The Compact Guide to World Religions edited by Dean C. Halverson (ed.); The Journey by Peter Kreeft; Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey; and The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire. Should be fun.

Writing: Now that my second book, Learning Education: Essays & Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching, is finished, I'm turning back to finishing the ThirtySomewhere manuscript this summer. I'm still looking for a formal publisher to get behind it, but now that I've experimented with the self-publishing gig a bit (and am still experimenting), I may go with what I've got at some point this fall and see what happens. We'll see.

I plan to continue blogging here, though I really wonder how much people are interested in anything longer than 140 Twitter characters these days. Speaking of which, I've enjoyed Twitter enough to keep using it, but there again I just have no way of really knowing how far the medium's actual reach is so as to invest more time in it. Oh well.

Guess that's it for now. There's more, but this is long enough. I'll try to post a few more thoughts later on this week (nothing brings out literary creativity like the desire to avoid grading). Have a good one.

Why Johnny Can’t Write (Part 2)

In Church, Education, Humanity, Internet, Technology, Thought, Web/Tech, Westminster, Young Ones on March 14, 2010 at 8:29 am

(Continued from my previous post on the topic; sorry for the delay/random smatterings. Can't believe it's taken two weeks, but I'm guessing you found other things to read).

With regard to the problem of teaching and learning the Bible, David Nienhuis sums up the problem nicely: "Biblical literacy programs need to do more than produce informed quoters. They need to produce transformed readers."

Most Scripture memory programs focus on the imperative verses (what to do), almost completely ignoring the indicative verses (what is true). In other words, we in the church spend more time telling kids (and ourselves) what to do for God rather than what God has done for them (and us). In the evangelical church, we're all about the what and how, and hardly about the when, where, and why.

But let's not pretend that decontextualization is just a biblical literacy problem specifically; in today's postmodern world (or post-postmodern world some would say), it is a literacy problem in general. Here's where we come back to basic reading and writing
skills, and these skills' corruption by the very thing so many proclaim will help – technology.

There is, after all, a difference between learning something and learning how to search for something. Is one better than the other? That's a debated question: does a kid really need to learn when or where or why an historical event took place, or does he just need to learn how to search for it effectively with Google? How you answer this question has everything to do with your pedagogy, and while I don't think the two answers are mutually exclusive, I do think the former gets short shrift compared to the latter.

Think about this: nobody memorizes phone numbers anymore because we can just input them into our phone, press the name of the person we want to call, and dial the right number. This works great…as long as we have the phone. But what happens when we lose the phone or the phone stops working? How do we get a hold of the person we're trying to call? What do we really know? We know that we want our phone back and working again, and we realize how lost we feel without it. (Note: For the other two of you in the world who, like me, don't own a cell phone, apply the idea to losing your Web browser bookmarks…it can seem like the most helpless feeling in the world.)

The point is that we live such a wi-fi-enabled, out-sourced, off-site, backed-up life that we use our brains for little more than remembering where we store our passwords than what it is (stories, ideas, responses, reflections) they protect. Ours has evolved into such a non-oral tradition "tradition," that the thought of memorizing sonnets from a poem or narrative stories from the Bible for meaning and not information seems archaic and unnecessary. If we think we need it, we can find it; we don't need to learn it. And if we don't think we need to learn it, well, who cares?

The result of all this (or at least the result I see in the classroom) is a student who struggles to write or process ideas that take more than a paragraph to explain (see this Onion article for a humorous version of the problem) growing up in a culture that validates his multi-tasking dysfunction despite studies like this one and articles like this one that question it as a good means to deal with life. As an educator, I suppose I risk becoming suspect to students and parents (and perhaps colleagues and administrators) in calling for moderation and (at times) sobriety when it comes to drinking the technological Kool-Aid, but when I watch a program like Frontline's Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier, it confirms my concerns. Again, I'm not down on technology, but idolatry is a different matter.

Maybe it's because of the subjects I teach (New Testament and Ethics) or the experience (or lack thereof) I've had in the classroom, but depending on technology instead of using technology to teach seems ridiculous for many reasons, not the least of which is this: what if the power or the Internet goes out? If I can't teach apart from my laptop with its Keynote presentations and Web-access and wikis and online forums and Skype conversations and YouTube clips and ITunes access and podcasts and Scripture software – all of which I use in the classroom – then I'm not sure I'm really much of a teacher.

I need one more post to respond to some of your questions about how we try to apply any of this here at home with our own kids. I promise I won't take another two weeks to get to it, so hang in there. In the meantime, here's a link to the blog of one of my students who has the increasingly rare gift of being a sophomore in high school and able to utilize technology while still thinking and writing meaningfully. Enjoy.

WWJD?

In Books, Calling, Internet, Marriage, Movies, Places, Technology on January 23, 2010 at 7:38 am

Arts-julie-and-julia-584

On Friday night, Megan and I had an impromptu date. It had been a while. As the girls were happily occupied at a friend's house up the street (thanks, Erin and company), we went out for Chinese, talked, and then came home to watch Julie & Julia before picking up the girls to play parents again.

If you haven't seen the movie, you might have heard how good it is. Megan especially liked it because it's about so many things she loves: marriage, blogging, cooking, books, and the challenge of juggling those things all at once. The conversations in the film were familiar ones to both of us, as we've struggled with many of the same things Julie and her husband did concerning her art: the absence of time, the constancy of insecurity, the selfishness of narcissism, the fear of rejection, and still the hope of creating something beautiful in the midst of everything else.

For me, the film's storybook ending (literally: Julie Powell's blog gets turned into a book which gets turned into a movie) was about revisiting the hope of being faithful with very little in order to be faithful with much. The perseverance required for Julie's experiment of cooking 524 recipes in 365 days (and then blogging about it for all to read) reminds me of "the good old days" of blogging, when the hope of something happening seemed more possible than it does now, as there seemed so fewer blogs then.

Apparently, though, it does still happen. Just yesterday, I read on Heather Armstrong's blog (I've been a reader for probably five years) about the exclusive development deal she and her husband, Jon, signed with HGTV. I know next to nothing about the network, but apparently lots of people do. While I'm happy for the Armstrongs, it feels like it's the beginning of the end of such transitions (if you'll remember, almost a year ago, I considered whether the potential of the personal blog might be coming to an end).

Sadly, my need for inspiration comes on the heels of yet another rejection of my own writing efforts, this time in the form of an email from an up-and-coming agent I approached a few weeks ago. He writes:

"Thanks for allowing me to review your proposal. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to pass. It’s not that I don’t think this is a good idea or good content. I think it’s fine on both those levels. But these days, with the poor publishing economy, I am having to limit my new clients to only those authors who have established a large national fan base. The larger publishers are insisting on such, since they don’t have the marketing budgets they once did. They want to know that they can sell an immediate 15K or so books to the author’s fan base without having to spend a single marketing dollar. It sucks. But that’s the way it is right now."

Thus, I'm giving thought to what this means (or should) for my publishing future. Do I keep up my occasional attempt to squeeze through a publishing door at least
enough to get someone's attention (even if it's only to look up and ask
me to leave)? Do I swallow my pride and go the self-publishing route, building a grassroots following, and then, if all goes well, take another run at the agents and publishing houses? Or, do I let go of the idea of traditional publishing machine all together and go completely digital, publishing content here (or elsewhere) without getting completely ripped off financially or otherwise?

These are some of the questions I've been asking myself of late, but as of last night's movie, I've added one more to my literary litany of lament:

What would Julia do?

Adapting to Digital Discipleship?

In Calling, Church, Internet, Technology, Thought on January 10, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Most readers don't consider me a Luddite when it comes to technology, but some may be surprised that I tend to be a slow adapter/adopter when it comes to new stuff. Consider:

  • I recorded three of my own CDs before I actually owned a CD player.
  • My first cell phone was a late-90's Ericsson (I don't own or use one now by choice).
  • My first iBook was second generation.
  • My current MacBook is second generation.
  • Our iMac is second generation.
  • Our iPod Shuffle is second generation.
  • Our iPod Nano is second generation.
  • My iTouch is second generation.
  • Our current video player is a 12-year-old dying dual VHS/DVD player, but I don't even know what options are out there if/fwhen it goes.
  • It took me a year or so to come around to Twitter, but I'm liking it (enough) now.

Here's where I've been more on the technological front-end of things:

  • With the exception of a six-month sabbatical in 2005, I've kept one of several blogs since August of 2003 (TwentySomeone (2003-2005), Seminary Tychicus (2005-2007), and Second Drafts (2006-present).
  • I was on MySpace and Facebook pretty early (a fact my students still don't believe).
  • I got a Gmail account as soon as the service was available. I
    also got in early on GoogleWave as well, but the tide is out right now on that, at least for me.

I suppose the main observation I make is that, with the exception of Twitter, I tend to be on the cutting edge of technology when it's free; anything I have to pay for I tend to wait to see how it turns out (and it usually takes me a cycle to justify spending money, though if I had the money, I'd probably spring for Apple's rumored iTablet/iSlate the first time around).

What does any of this have to do with the price of eggs in China? I'm getting there.

This weekend, an acquaintance emailed about an opportunity to do some research that would eventually be part of Monvee, a website/database designed to be a systematic approach to (for lack of a better phrase) "digital discipleship". Pastor/author John Ortberg seems to be the main name attached to this initiative (though there are several other endorsers), and while I'm not that familiar with Ortberg's present ministry, I know he was involved with Willow Creek for ten years, particularly in the area of spiritual formation.

Spiritual formation, apparently, is what Monvee is all about; in fact, it claims it is "the future of spiritual formation" (no expectations there). If you watch the preview video, you can get an idea of what Monvee understands spiritual formation to be in terms of meaning and methodology. In the video, co-founder Eric Parks sums it up this way: "I like to think of the Monvee…as the eHarmony for my spiritual life, but instead of finding a mate, Monvee discovers how I'm wired and how I grow best." (Note to Parks: Comparing Monvee to eHarmony is not going to win me over to using your product. Bad analogy.)

After you complete Monvee's three-minute survey, Monvee apparently helps you discern what your spiritual needs are, how you best learn, and how you can grow and best connect with God. Monvee then customizes a plan – "a spiritual guidebook for life" – that covers four areas: time (practices); mind (books, videos); relationships (mentors, groups); and experiences (service). It then pulls and ships all the materials you need right to your door, prints email reminders for what you're supposed to do each day, and somehow tracks your spiritual progress in real-time.

But wait, there's more: If you're a church leader who uses Monvee with your entire congregation, Monvee can provide "a spiritual dashboard of insight into how your church is growing…on a live and on-going basis…with real data, in real-time, and about real growth."

Here's my question: Is my hesitancy to support this "digital discipleship" justified or is it just another example of my technological tendency to slow adaptation/adoption?

From my perspective, the pros are that the technology seems well done, and for someone with absolutely no help, I could maybe see how this could be useful initially in self-analysis and resource selection. But the cons run along the line of the rampant individualism this could promote, the dependence on database diagnostics rather than the Spirit of God for one's sanctification, and probably just how Parks ends his video with "Let Monvee help you find your way" (creepy).

What do you think? Would you buy in/encourage someone to buy in or not? Should I?

I Hear There’s an App for That

In Internet, Technology on November 19, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Iphone-appstore I've had an iTouch for a couple of years now, but I've not really spent a lot of time looking through the supposed 85,000 apps that Apple claims have been created for it. To date, I've downloaded a few games for my girls to play, an app called Check Please to calculate tips, the Zippo Lighter app should I happen to attend a concert that rocks, the Just Light app that projects a white screen to read by if it's dark (and I'm desperate), and the Facebook app.

I don't have a lot of time to come up with needs I have for apps (and any apps that might meet them), so I'm throwing it out here. For you iTouch users, what apps have you downloaded and use the most? My only criteria are that they're useful and free (yes, I know some of them are only a few bucks, but I'm cheap).