Monthly Archives: January 2012

Review of 2012 Mobile Ministry Resolutions

2012 calendar from Just CalendarYea, we said that we’d not do resolutions. But, we did post some articles this month which should have made for some decent resolutions for some of you whom are doing mobile ministry or aiming to increase your perspectives towards mobile ministry this year.

Here’s a rundown of what we’ve posted:

  1. An App is Not A Strategy
  2. Specifically Define Mobile in Education
  3. Get Connected to Tech, Mobile, and Mobile Ministry Events
  4. All Books Project and Mobile UX Standards and Raising the Bar on Mobile UX Standards
  5. Become a Digital Faith Advocate

Those aren’t too hard, though its a high bar and might present a challenge for some of you. But that’s what a new year is for right, seeing the challenge and then taking the steps to overcome it.

How are you doing so far in your resolutions? Making progress, or needing a restart? There are 11 months to go, get crackin’.

2012 Resolution #5: Become A Digital-Faith Advocate

Some time ago, the Digital Evangelism Issues blog posted an intereting question: does your church/parachurch organization have a digital advocate? This is an interesting and timely question given the streams of knowledge we now have about digital issues and how these relate to faith engagements. Here’s a piece of the description of this digital advocate that’s been offered so far:

Such a person would obviously need to be a web maven – a networker who knows a wide variety of online Christian resources/strategies and loves sharing them. They might function like this:

  • be available to consult about ideas and resources
  • write about digital opportunities and resources in the church newsletter
  • share resources in a short focus spot from time to time during meetings
  • explain how church members can use Facebook effectively, especially in relation to sharing the good news appropriately, including how to use the video-clip sharing resource
  • encourage people to load online bibles and other resources on their smartphones

Read the rest of the description of a digital advocate at the Digitial Evangelism Issues blog.

And after you’ve read it, how do you feel about such a position (or even gifting) in your community? Is this something that’s already happened, but without a formal title? Or, is this something that’s needed and needs that kick in the pants in order to make it work best?

A Tech “Call to Arms” at ChurchTechy

Over at ChuchTechy, there’s a post talking about something very much in the line of thinking of John 17:20-27 – unity of the brethren so that the works done points back to the Father. Its really neat, here’s a snippet:

A desire to serve the smaller Church, charity, non-profit, small business and others whom don’t have access to dedicated and / or regular support – be that via volunteer or paid basis. To see this be a vehicle to serve the Church and community so that God’s love may be seen by our actions. To see this be a vehicle that will draw together those from different backgrounds; denominations; race; creed; upbringing; etc. To see this work so that the local Church may better fulfill its own destiny.

Read the rest of A Tech Call to Arms at ChurchTechy.

We’ve been a part of initiatives like this in the past. A few of the earlier ones fizzled away, which a few others have turned into some globally-reaching moments. This seems like a great opportunity to take something again at the ground level and see it rise up into something beneficial at the level of local churches.

If it ressonates with you and your efforts, jump in on this and be a part of something that should benefit a number of local communities.

[Guest Post] iBooks Author: It’s Place in an eBook Production Workflow

This is a guest post submitted by Craig Button (@TheProdSon)

Introduction, Quick Summary

Since most of you have no idea who I am, I suppose I should introduce myself. First and foremost I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. After that I’m a geek. I’ve owned just about every type of computer ever made and today work on both Mac and PCs depending on what I’m doing. I use both Pages and MS Word, prefer Excel to Numbers, and either PowerPoint or Keynote depending on what I’m doing. I’m a health care provider by profession, an educator by avocation, I’ve been clergy, (church offices on weekdays weren’t what I was expecting) and am now a grad student. I’m always looking for ways to package and present information.

I was excited when Apple announced iBook 2.0 and iBooks Author. I’m in the process of producing a couple of books/ebooks and was looking for something that would make it easier. I was hoping that iBA was going to be it.

After spending a few days playing with it (and I have to be honest and admit it was playing, not a focused systematic study/evaluation of the program) There are some conclusions that I’ve come to regarding iBooks Author which might not match your needs, but hopefully shines some light towards its strengths and weaknesses at this juncture of the application.

Summarizing the Positives and Negatives

There will be projects I’ll use iBA for. However, I won’t be using it for everyday kind of work. Not because, I don’t like it, or it’s a bad program, or even because of the EULA that says you can only sell product from iBA thought Apple. I’m accustomed to a bit more control and flexibility when creating publications, and iBA doesn’t quite meet those spot on – though its not far off.

Positives about iBA: It works, it looks good, it’s easy and it produces what it says it’s going to.

Negatives about iBA: it produces HUGE files. A test file went from 800K .txt file to 27MB (~1000K = 1MB) with a couple of pictures added. The second, and in my case the biggest thing against iBA, is it only produces a product that can be viewed on iOS devices. That means not on the Kindle, not on a Nook, not on an Android phone, not on anything unless it has been made by Apple. I’m a Mac fan boy. But, I’m about communication. Therefore, limiting my target audience isn’t good for me. My first product is to be a textbook on Critical Care for Emergency Room nurses. The second book will be first aid and health for photographers. Both topics I’m pretty passionate about (hence my issues with file sizes and limited devices).

It’s About Workflow

It’s about workflow. The term workflow is one that you hear in the digital photography world. It is the term that defines the flow of data from the camera to the final print. I think the term works well for the ePub/ebook industry as well.

My Workflow: I use a program called Scrivener. This is a Mac application, (Windows and Linux also available) that I use to produce the text of my work. It’s a combination text editor and research organizer. This is probably were 80+% of my work is done. I do all my writing within Scrivener. It also produces ePub files which can be read by nearly all computing platforms. It does have some drawbacks, with one of them being that its not easy to place tables and graphics into the output. From there, I use Adobe InDesign for layout that needs formatting and graphics. I don’t own this program; I rent it as needed since I only use it maybe 1-2 months out of the year. Using InDesign I produce a ePub, witch is a zip file that includes all the information needed for the ebook reader to read your file. It only takes a little modification for it to work on any of the readers.

How could iBA fit into this workflow? Well in my next publication, it might work for me. These books I’m publishing on health care and first aid directed at travel photographers whom are likely to have iOS devices. But, in using iBooks with plans on selling it, I’m sure the iPad market will be a bit too limiting. I will however give it a try. iBA is very easy, and I’m hoping it will allow me to easily produce the product I want. However, for anything that is text-based, or contains just a few graphics, the files produced by iBA are way to big and to limiting.

The workflow I have fits my use case, and allows me the broadest target audience. While I’m a geek, and still have a copy of the original PageMaker running on a Mac Classic, I’d like to have more control than what iBA offers. On the other hand, for someone who has never produced an ebook, iBA might be the perfect tool.


After writing the first few paragraphs, and sleeping on it, I came up with a few other thoughts. The first is that I’ve been through this kind of transition before. I remember when PageMaker first came out and people had lots of different fonts to use. I remember when Photoshop first came out and it was affordable to anyone to buy. People produced some horrendous publications and photos. And you’ve all probably sat through some pretty long, boring PowerPoint presentations. Just because the tools are there, doesn’t mean that everyone should use them.

I’m a Tim Taylor, not a Bob Villa, when it comes to using those hammers and screwdrivers. Like any task which needs to be done, it deserves to be done right. Use the right tool, have the right people use the tool, and spread the word.

For more information and to download (free), see the iBooks Author page on the Apple website. Note: content created with iBooks Author can only be read on devices with iBooks2 on the iOS device.

Craig is @TheProdSon on Twitter.

Interview with David Palusky of Renew Outreach

David Palusky, Renew OutreachSome time ago, we were invited to the offices of Renew Outreach to help them shape a few initiatives they are working towards which included some understanding of mobile. We spent 2 days meeting, laughing, and scribbling over a whiteboard to some exciting directions for those projects. After that was done, and before leaving their offices, I asked David Palusky, who is the leader/visionary/main catalyst behind Renew Outreach if he’d be up for a short video/audio interview to talk some about Renew Outreach and what they are about.

About Renew Outreach
From their website:

Renew Outreach creates audio/visual presentation equipment that’s solar/battery-powered and super portable! We harness the newest technology, engineering your tools to spread the message to the most remote people groups on earth.

For more information, and especially in the case of seeing how Renew Outreach can help your misisons efforts get to the literal ends of the earth, check out their website. Here is one example of the stories to be found on their site from these efforts.

About this Video
This video goes about 16min. It was recorded using a Nokia N8 smartphone (I also used my iPad with Evernote to record an audio-only stream with which I later used to compile the video, audio, notes, and still images). And it was uploaded by LaRosa’s really fast connection (thanks bro).

*I intended to record this with Qik as we’ve done previous videos, but forgot to initialze that application and went straight to the normal camera app.

If you liked this interview, let us know in the comments. As we come across others in the Body who have an interesting story to tell towards their efforts at the intersection of faith and technology, we’ll do more of these.

Church Tech Today’s 6 Great Church Tech Blogs, MMM Refresher

Church Tech Today logoChurch Tech Today that we were included with five (5) other websites named as great resources in terms of church tech blogs. What’s really nice about this listing is that it covers almost all aspects of IT as it relates to the church (local, global, mobile, social media, services, etc.). Its really a great listing, and a few of these sites we’ve profiled here before:

  1. PastorGear
  2. Church Tech Matters
  3. Church Mag
  4. Church Techy
  5. Church Tech Arts
  6. MMM

We’d encourage you to check out all of the sites notes on the Church Tech Today post, and be sure to leave a comment there towards other resources you might know of and use online. There’s definitely a body of things happening that’s worth keeping track of.

A Refresher About MMM
Given that inclusion on the list, and some good trends happening lately towards an increasing number of visitors, this is also a good opportunity to give a quick refresher as to what MMM is and what are some of the things you can find here.

First, this is who we are:

Mobile Ministry Magazine (MMM) is online magazine asking questions, presenting approaches, and experimenting around stories related to the implications of faith and mobile technologies.

There’s more on our about page including the history, notes about where we’ve been, and how MMM fits into this picture of faith and technology.

We’ve got (probably) the most comprehensive listing of Bible and religious apps, a listing of mobile web and application services for buiding your own products, and a page full of cases studies, resources, and metrics towards web and mobile tech. Beyond those items, we keep a pretty updated media page which has our issues, presentations, and experiments and another which is simply a tag cloud of all of the tags we’ve used on articles.

In terms of keeping track with MMM, there’s this website, our mobile website, a Twitter account (@mobileminmag), an RSS feed, and even an ability to get posts emailed to you via Feedburner. While we do have a few apps, these are regarded as experiments moreso than primary engagements (or content model doesn’t fit within the need for a native app), though we tend to do a number of these just to check out mobile platforms and the content management systems which bolster their use.

Its a bit much. But, its done so that you have something to build on when you want to learn more about, or advance your ministry/organization towards mobile practicies which are more respective of your faith/ethics questions than some others. If we are missing something, or you’ve got something you’d like to add, let us know. Or, like with the Church Tech Today post, just add us on your website so that others can take advantage of anything good here you’ve found, and then we’ll find you and make a reason for the Body to come together (John 17:20-27).

A Mobile Strategy for Life, not Just A Season

Earlier this month, I was reading over at the Wapple Blog and a title from one of their posts from the end of last year caught my attention: Mobile Strategy is for Life, not just Christmas. As I pondered how that title rocked me (the content of the article fills in the blanks), its struck me at how with many mobile (Internet, radio, TV) ministry efforts, the tool’s use starts and ends with evangelism. Once the person recieves Christ, essentially both the tech and the people associated with the tech go away.

In conversations about similar observations with some others, I’ve heard things like “yea, those are just tools to get them in the door, the local church needs to take over,” or, “we don’t see [mobile/web/media] technology able to facilitate the things we’d like to do in ministry relationally.” Don’t get me wrong, I get it. But, I wonder if such viewpoints constrain our ability to not just innovate with evangelistic efforts, but we end up missing the other demonstrations of life after the Gospel is preached. And not just after, we actually end up missing the places and opportunities for evangelism in what should be the most obvious of circumstances.

In what ways can mobile minsitry stick around for the lifetime of an evangelistic endeavor? I’ve heard of educational engagements where the Bible was used to teach people how to read/write/trade with other economic groups. Couldn’t the use of mobile in minsitry track along the same lines (instead of a book, we are using a mobile, and taking different steps towards language learning and interaction due to the unique characteristics of mobile)? Some groups talk about going into areas and starting their approach to evangelism with health and wellness. So why wouldn’t you take advantage of the access that some might have to a mobile device to provoke behavioral changes which keep them healthy long after the funding of your endeavors have you leave their presence?

I’m not saying that you have to skip preaching the Gospel, or even propose that you water-down the message. No. What I’m saying is that if you are bold enough to say that the tech is good enough for the season of getting someone aware of the nearness of the Kingdom of God, that you also need to be bold enough to stick around longer than the season – with that tech channel as part of your teaching/discipleship efforts. I like how the Wapple piece put it:

Those who didn’t implement a mobile strategy in time for the festive season not only missed their share of these sales but may also miss out on future sales as consumers offer their loyalty to brands who delivered them a merry mobile Christmas.

Its not just about mkaing best use of the evangelizing season. Its about preparing and being presented as ready for the implications of evangelism.

story4all – Heart Languages and Faith by Ears

story4all (logo)Last week, we spent some time with Renew Outreach talking about missions in remote areas, literacy, and how mobile is making its way into these very unlikely environments profitably for the Gospel (we’ve got a bit about those folks coming). One of the groups tossed out during one of several conversations was story4all, a podcast-based Christian media group which uses audio streams in the heart/native language of those being preached, spoken to.

A bit more about them from their website:

…We believe deeply that the Message Jesus delivered was not only brought by Him “wearing our skin” (becoming like us and embodying the Message), but it came in a style best understood by His audience, and in a language of the heart.

It has been estimated that only 8% of people living in Israel during Jesus’ time on earth were literate. However, He came and taught everyone (literate Pharisees, etc., as well as the mostly non-literate populace) through the medium of stories. Mark chapter 4 says “He was never without a story when He spoke”. Jesus saw fit to deliver truths to the literate and non-literate alike through the medium of stories. He demonstrated through this that to be effective and to promote recall in the minds of those who hear, most of our communication should be housed in stories.

Ironically, 90% of all Christian ministry today occurs through literate communication styles…

For those of you who’s mobile and ministry pursuits need to start with audio stories (not visual stories), story4all seems like a great place for connection and content. Check out their website and subscribe to their podcast RSS, iTunes). You might find that the heart language they speak, also ressonates with the faith that you aim to share with others.

Continuing on Resolution #4: Raising the Bar on Mobile UX Standards

MMM on the N8 - Share on OviA few articles ago, we went a bit on a extended talk about the All Books Bible Reader that I’m developing for personal use. After talking through the technical features and goals, we wrapped up with a statement talking about clarifying the goals and features for your mobile(-first) endeavors, and being mindful of the specific UX needs mobile presents:

Mobile-Friendly and Personalization As Core to User Experience
The takeaway from this project is that there have been several methods to engaging Bible/document reading, social/offline networking, funddraising, and other initiatives in mobile ministry. However, even if you nail the features, at some point in the maturing of that person using the service or the company offering it, doing something that fits the mobile context and that’s personalized will come forth. It might not be the aims of your projects initially, but do know that eventually, they all point to these goals needing to be met.

With that starting point, we want to highlight a bit more about Mobile (UX) Standards and in referencing that All Books Project, and some of the items to keep in mind whiile moving forward in your mobile initiatives this year and beyond.

Mobile UX Standards
It is assumed that the idea of what makes for a great mobile user experience is pretty easy – just grab yourself an Apple iPhone and use it for a week or two, then switch to another platform for the same amount of time and note how often you frown, toss the device, or find yourself limited in some fashion. And while we can agree that Apple’s iOS platform does make for some suitable claims towards what makes a good mobile experience (consistency, quality, variety of applications, etc.), its not the only mobile experience, nor does it answer every question anyone developing, selling, or using mobility will ask towards.

Over at UX Mag, an excellent article talking about mobile standards beyond the styleguides, frameworks, and guidelines that would usually reference as we develop apps makes an excellent point:

…Apple, Android, and Blackberry all do a great job of sharing standards with their developer communities. They share detailed guidelines on standard UI elements, the associated terminology, and their behaviors, and give usage examples for the UI. However, what they don’t do is string them all together into patterns.

  • What happens after you click this button?
  • How should these messages change in context of the task?
  • If you’re opening a document online, should it open in a new window or in the current window?
  • When and where do error messages appear in a form?
  • Is that different or the same in a wizard or series of forms?

These are the questions that designers and developers spend most of their time toiling over—the little things that pull UI elements together into a full interaction. And these are also the questions that the OS standards do not cover. This is a key gap in standards for designers and developers that can be filled by a new custom set of guidelines, which further save money and time in development efforts and add value to the existing, basic OS standards.

*List formattting added

Beyond simply saying “we want to go mobile” or “let’s use this or that to go mobile,” you really have to ask core questions about the interaction and steer adamantly towards those goals. What happens when you don’t steer specifically towards the goal, understanding these kinds of questions throughout, is that you end up with a glut of features, conflicting brand messages, dis-engaged users, and missed opportunities to deliever the depth of the Gospel that you/your group intends that application or service to portray.

Start With A Picture, Ask Until the Ink Dries
With the All Books Project, I started with an idea in my head (more efficient Bible reading on my personal mobile device that wasn’t limited to closed-licensed texts), and started scraping together what was needed and what wasn’t in order to make that happen. I boiled things down to two features: reading and searching. And then I took to one of my favorite apps on my iPad (Tactilis) to sketch some reasonable ideas towards how I would get there.

UX Flow for All Books Personal Bible Reader - Share on Ovi

This UX flow document is my gage of whether I’m meeting my goals. If I am, then the lines here continue to make sense. If not, then I go back to this document towards what I (originally or later modified) thought and ask whether my thinking should continue down the path I’m or, or get back on course to what was drawn.

One of the pieces of interaction that I’m aiming for with All Books is a sliding popup for when I click on those verses with footnotes. The feature is harder to implement than its drawn. But, because I’m clear towards what I want to do when the popup is envoked, how its interacted with, and how it is dismissed, I can keep my programming focused and timelines (generally) well kept.

A Good Mobile UX Is Also Your Feedback Loop’s Process
In designing an effective mobile user experience (UX), you also need to take into account the development/design of your support infrastructure. As we talked about once before when developing mobile web apps, you need to have in place the resources not just to build the app, but to support, maintain, and maybe even update it.

Build, Get It Out There
After I was able to figure out my issue relating to displaying content within All Books, I needed to start using it. It didn’t matter that there was (noted) performance issues or the inability to see the footnotes as I’d like. Getting it into my normal use allows me to catch things that I’d not considered in my initial development and design, and then adjust on the fly without effecting other pieces of the project. For example, I realized that for all the work I did with makng this a spatially-orienting design, I still felt lost when navigating. The insertion of colored indicators on the section that I was within helped this considerably, and it was a few lines of code to add to do this (1 CSS class and 1 JS statement).

With that: do you have your mobile UX resolution refined now. Its the middle of January, don’t let too much longer go by.

Splashtop Remote, Bible Library Servers, and Mobile Accessibility

Last month, we had a post from LaRosa Johnson talking about his new Asus Transformer Android tablet computer and how he planned to use it work and Biblical studies. Of the latter, he was doing something pretty neat in that he would use the tablet to remotely log into his laptop to be able to use the desktop Bible software packages that he has there. We’ve found another example of this over at Biblical Studies and Technological Tools where instead of a tablet, we’ve got an Android smartphone, and the software being used is SplashTop Remote Desktop. Here’s a snippet of that experience:

In the past I have used Logmein for remote access to the various family computers I maintain. Even the basic free account lets me take over a computer and run programs on it. It works great and is secure. I will continue to use it for such maintenance tasks. Note that this can work the other way around, and what a program like this allows me to do is run programs that are on my home system from any other computer. As long as I have my home system on and Logmein enabled, I can remotely connect to my home system and use my installed programs like BibleWorks or Logos. I’ve also used it to grab files I’ve forgotten on my home computer when I’m at school. (I now use SugarSync to keep my systems all in sync via the cloud. It’s a wonderful thing.) It’s a little slow to use Logmein this way, but it works. What this also means is that I can use the web browser on my smartphone and see BibleWorks on my phone. I say “see,” because without the use of a mouse on my phone, I really can’t do too much. Logmein does have an Android app ($29), but I just don’t use it that much, especially on my phone, to buy it.

Read the rest of BibleWorks and Logos on Android (sort of…) at Biblical Studies and Technological Tools.

Now, this sounds like something that would be only useful in areas where wireless bandwidth is accessible and there’s some technological savy on the part of the person putting this together. But, I can’t help thinking that at some level, it would make a lot of sense to see something like Bibleworks, Logos, etc. offered in a “server package” where you purchase “seats” and those authenticate mobile devices are able to use it. This would be no different than what we see with CRM, task management, Intranet, and office productivity suites (Salesforce, Basecamp, SharePoint, and Google Apps to name a few).

A difference in the application here though would need to be that Bible software suites doing this would want to explore being usable in different streams. For example, something like having the BibleWorks install and UI sitting on a Seagate GoFlex Satellite, with anyone accessing that hard drive/access point being able to “see/read” BibleWorks on their device, but it is being served from that single point. There’d also be something like Logos’ Biblia that could be explored where a license for an organization could make available to authenticated seats some measure of the Logos library. Or, finally we could see the BibleWorks/Olive Tree/Logos/etc. move to a model of use where instead of purchasing and downloading a product, that people and organizations purchase access to a virtual desktop of sorts which would allow them (a) access to the library and (b) multiple devices which can access it per use account. Now that I’m thinking about it, it would be really neat if I could recreate the mobile web server and then host the bible project I’m working on from it… uhmmm

In whatever case, its pretty neat to see these kinds of access choices taken when it comes to Bible software. We shouldn’t limit mobile just to “what’s designed for the small screen” when its clearly possible for that small screen to access a bit more. What is worth being explored though is how we can better enable mobile to be a key to a content library, whether or not those with the devices have the financial means to access the content or not.