Category Archives: Effects of Mobile

A Disturbing Image, A Passive Reaction

Edward Snowden

With the Halloween season right around the corner, there are enough tales of humor and horror to keep you busy for another 364 days. Yet, this year the most disturbing image given – the acknowledgement of some of the most influential governments in the world have been monitoring digital communications in various clandestine ways – has seemed to illicit more of a yawn and more of the same.

…But what is, in a way, more alarming is how relaxed many of my professional peers seem to be about it. Many of them are people who do understand how the stuff works. To them, Snowden’s revelations probably just confirm what they had kind of suspected all along. And yet the discovery that in less than three decades our societies have achieved Orwellian levels of surveillance provokes, at most, a wry smile or a resigned shrug. And it is this level of passive acceptance that I find really scary.

What’s even more alarming is that the one group of professionals who really ought to be alert to the danger are journalists. After all, these are the people who define news as “something that someone powerful does not want published”, who pride themselves on “holding government to account” or sometimes, when they’ve had a few drinks, on “speaking truth to power”. And yet, in their reactions to the rolling scoops published by the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Der Spiegel, many of them seem to have succumbed either to a weird kind of spiteful envy, or to a desire to act as the unpaid stenographers to the security services and their political masters…

The Guardian is right. Publicly, we’ve just not done this part right – and its scary.

I’m guilty too. I’ve not moved as far or as fast as others have towards making more secure communication practices or crafting online spaces which are better secured from prying eyes. I’ve done a few things, but not nearly enough… most of us in #mobmin haven’t. I don’t know that we can continue to be passive about it. Either we play the role that many in the public space have – ignore it while talking about it only in private – or we take ownership of it and do things differently (whatever that looks like).

I’m in a bit of a weird space. I could do something like what’s had to happen with my personal blog and steps I’ve taken with social networking, or there might be something more drastic of a step to take – like really going back to hosting MMM from a mobile phone (really good method here), and only letting verified connections take place to it – then doing secure RSS feeds from there or something else which is mobile, secure, and open – like OpenRepos.

I don’t know… there are methods of ministry on mobile that we should continue to talk about. But, the other side of that tech and truth is that mobile is also a very monitored and monetized communications media whose aim isn’t connecting (first), its making money and keeping vigilance. Can we accept that and be passive about those issues going forward? Or, does #mobmin adapt to that reality too… teaching better methods, understanding even more the incredible opportunity going forward?

Digital Natives or Digitally Naive

More than 90 percent of young people in many developed countries are digital natives, with South Korea leading the way at 99.6 percent, according to a new study.

The terms digital native and digital immigrant can be a bit of lighting rod. We’ve talked about it several times over the years, and have grown to treat it with a bit more sensitivity towards its imaginations and realities. What I’ve liked best about the discussion has been what difference in opinions and applications come via economic lines.

For example, in an article at the NY Times, its talked about how the terms fit developed nations differently than emerging nations – and even gradients within both of those.

Everyone’s fascination with digital nativism in the U.S. or, say, Scandinavia is fine, but the places where this phenomenon probably has the most impact is low-income countries in Africa or Asia,” Dr. Best said. “The places where it is most salient are those where the least amount of attention has been paid to it.”

There are also striking differences among developing countries. Malaysia, for example, fares well even against many wealthier countries. Seventy-five percent of 15- to-24-year-olds are digital natives.

As a percentage of the total population, 13.4 percent of Malaysians are digital natives. Malaysia ranks fourth, behind Iceland, New Zealand and South Korea, on this measure, which the study suggests will be an important determinant of a country’s future potential to take advantage of the economic, political and cultural opportunities of Internet use.

And then you have these introspective looks at the utopian effects of mobile and connected spaces. These are things which are probably best understood in action and behavior by someone described as a digital native, but is best seen against those who are not – for instance this article at The Atlantic Cities looking at smartphones causing more interpersonal interactions in some urban contexts:

Especially in big cities, Huttenlocher argued, social media can help people connect with specific groups of people and feel less lost among millions of other residents – and millions of other people on the Internet. “One of the things we’re seeing is the increasingly urbanization of tech and how we use tech. Location is part of that re-personalizing of technology,” he said.

Digital Natives per Country Map – The Atlantic Cities

There’s a good bit to look at here. And depending on your location, the conversation about the significance of being digitally native or not carries a different weight. There’s not a broad sweeping opinion, but there’s also nothing stating that some of the characteristics identified which can be helpful in understanding the trends and applying a decent solution.

[Infographic] Opera Notes Mobile Consumption

Opera, one of the pioneers of the web browser, and definitely one of the leaders for mobile browsing, has recently released a set of graphics noting some mobile consumption trends in the USA. Here’s one of those graphics:

Mobile Consumption Guide


One might wonder why we don’t see more information like this, or even how Opera is able to get this kind of info. In Opera’s case, they can pull this information using the analytics gained from the use of their mobile browser products. From that information – including the sites that are being browsed, and the times of day, they can point to trends like this. Its one of many examples of using a common access point to determine how people use your product, and how to position your product development cycle.

Many churches and organizations have a similar data collection point when they offer the Internet through WiFi hotspots in their facilities. Through the data access logs, you can see what it is what people are accessing and when they are accessing it. You’ll want to scrub this information of data that directly identifies who might be browsing – but getting information such as the type of browser, the type of device, the sites being accessed, etc. are enough to understand a bit better what folks are looking at. And if you notice that your web properties aren’t being accessed, that’s not a time to force people to your site, but it does mean that you should look at designing accessible areas on your website which speaks to what people are genuinely interested in.

Infograhpics like this and the one posted a few days ago give those kinds of avenues forward in mobile ministry (#mobmin). Now, its up to you to design and implement a mobile strategy that makes the most of that data.

Updates to Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) Rules

Our partners at Symbiota (@symbiota) have written up an excellent summary of the revised rules under the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act).

Please be informed that a revised rule under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) goes into effect on 10/16/13 that will require “prior express written consent” for text or voice messages sent to phones for solicitation purposes. For informational texts and other non-solicitation texts, the existing “prior express consent” standard will continue to suffice. For example, the new requirement does not apply to purely informational or transactional calls or messages, such as sending a link to a non-solicitation web site, flight updates, surveys, or bank account fraud alerts; however, an informational text that includes an upsell – such as a flight update followed by an offer inviting the consumer to upgrade to first class – would require written consent. There is limited guidance on what constitutes a solicitation, but to paraphrase the FCC, “if the text, notwithstanding its free offer or other information, is intended to offer property, goods, or services for sale in the text, or in the future, that text is an advertisement.”

Read the rest of this summary at Symbiota

Of course, this counts only for those folks in the USA. Other countries have different and similar rules regarding communications. If you are aware of communication law changes which effect mobile for your region, do make us aware and we’ll get those posted also.

Ofcom Researches UK Children’s Use of Media & Digital

Ben Evans posted about an Ofcom study that looks at children and how they have evolved in using digital devices and media on them. There are lots of nuggets here worth hanging some mobile ministry strategy considerations on. Here are a few of those graphics:

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Check out the rest of the post, and a link to the study, at Ben Evans’s website.

You might also want to look into subscribing to Ben Evans’s newsletter. There’s nothing like it and its worth the kind of content discussions you only get from one of the leaders in this space.

A Funeral Over Facetime – Digital Presence Discussions

Of the many discussions intermingled with the terms mobile ministrydigital evangelism, and internet ministry, the topic of being present is tightly held. So much so, that many in-coming practitioners cannot see and outright reject a reality where the virtual presence carries just as much weight as the physical. Sociologically speaking, this is because we are talking about a paradigm shift where the participants have always seen broadcast (or screen-cast) media as a different method of interaction. If you will, its always been a media element that talked at you instead of talking with you.. And as such, when those perons who come in this digital ministry frame don’t have the boundary between physical and virtual worlds, there’s a tug of war towards what is right and wrong… when there’s a good chance that the right answer lies somewhere in the middle.

I bring this up now as we are probably the point in digital ministry efforts where the in-coming practitioners don’t have the frame of reference of being separate from digital and physical contexts. They have been living in both easily for the past 10 years, and not because it was something taught, but because it was the context that was always there. And as such, how they respond, even to the most solem of moments, has its footing in a world that seems at times to skillfully balance the best characteristics of both.

His brother arranged it. Matthew arrived in San Francisco early Sunday morning, just four hours before the funeral in Baltimore. Only a military jet flying at Mach 4 could have delivered him on time to the graveside. But both boys had iPhones.  “I’ll ask the rabbi if I can link you in,” said Jonathan.  A wise woman unafraid to blend the ancient with the modern, she said: “Of course.  Bring him here.”

We did

She delivered a eulogy. We chanted and shoveled dirt onto the coffin as Matthew watched, sitting in a too-large, borrowed suit before his phone as his brother held the camera of his phone to the service. The day was blazing hot; I heard cicadas. I also heard, then saw, a young man 3,000 miles away weeping and knew, sad as he and we all were, that he would carry no special burden, for we—that is, all our friends and family—mourned as one.

Read the rest of A Funeral Held Over FaceTime Blends the Ancient and the Modern at Quatrz.

And yes, I totally understand and want to commend both sides of this discussion. There are moments in which culture and sensibilities seem to dictate that to be present means physical, emotional, and psychological being there. But, what does culture say about those who might have adapted to a different reality? One where a funeral being held over Facetime is received with just as much respect as giving someone the funeral program by hand.

Presence, as it seems, might be due for its own upgrade. Or, maybe digital challenging here might mean we have pushed too far. What are your thoughts?

Your Digital Trail

Among the challenges of dealing with getting organizations and ministries up to speed with mobile, there’s also a upgrade in terms of understanding ethics, law, and other articles related to digital living. NPR has recently set for a series titled Your Digital Trail in which this topic is explored, and gives good information in terms of what’s out there, what’s tracked, and what individuals can do about it.

Start with the video above, and then dig into the rest of the series to learn more.

This all reminds me that we’ve not published the insights gained from an interview with a security company. Lots of things to pay attention to in this space.

Rapid Mobile Phone-Based (RAMP) Survey Tools

Some folks have been asking for sometime about best methods to collecting data via mobile, or at least some best practices in doing so. For better or worse, those folks asking usually weren’t trained in the area of quantitative or qualitative research methods and so there’s a bit more of a learning curve when it comes to answering that. Nevertheless, there are some methods and practices out there and the Red Cross has pointing to a neat method/toolset called the Rapid Mobile Phone-Based (RAMP) Survey. Here’s a bit more about it:

RAMP provides a survey methodology and operations protocol that will enable national Red Cross Red Crescent societies, governments and other partners to conduct surveys rapidly, at reduced costs, with limited or no external assistance.

In 2011 and early 2012, RAMP was piloted by Red Cross societies, the IFRC and partners in Kenya, Namibia and Nigeria. In these countries malaria is a major public health problem. Programme managers were interested in finding out the extent to which malaria programme objectives were being reached. The surveys provided statistically significant data in a number of areas including: ownership and use of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs), and the percentage of children under five years old that were accessing health services within 24 hours of the onset of fever. A RAMP survey bulletin was available within 12 hours of completion of the final survey questionnaire with a full draft survey report available within 72 hours.

Read the rest at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies


We’ll be getting this added to our listing of resources pretty soon, while the case studies section will link to the reports already posted. For some of you, this kind of info will speak directly to your efforts. For others, it might make for a means for you to move forward with mobile/mobile ministry, with some additional insight towards areas of opportunities.

The Mobile Lens According to Smartphones

I’m not really a big fan of the focus on smartphones. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of a mobile device that has a significant level of intelligence above the models that I had in pocket half a decade ago. But, overall, a lot of the push for smartphones really just comes from carriers and their stakeholders who see the ARPU higher with smartphone owners than with feature phone owners. If you will, it literally costs you more to own a smartphone, and carriers are milking that for all its worth.

That’s why I look at this recent image about the top countries for smartphones with a bit of disdain (from Textually). No, not that it doesn’t make some sense, because it does. What happens is that much of the marketing and focus for smartphones and those using it are not towards those folks at the top of this listing – at least by proportion of activities, marketing and development.

When it comes to ministry, and even some recent affairs concerning it that I put myself for, there’s this unhealthy focus on what can be done with smartphones, what can be done with English-first users with smartphones. We aren’t always looking at the cultural dynamics that make up smartphone… mobile usage. And that’s a mistake. Yes, there’s something to be said about looking at mobile and its transitioning happening in those nations that have had a deeper history of communication technologies and behaviors. But those folks that skipped a few things… man, there’s something rich and valuable about what the faith looks like in the UAE, SK, and Saudi Arabia. Are we developing towards those perspectives too?

Or, is the lens of our smartphone just confined to whatever media is pushing? If its Google-based, then the perspective starts in Silicon Valley. If its iOS, then its one part California, another part China. If its BlackBerry, its Canadian with a heaping of Washington DC. If its Nokia, then there’s the Finnish experience, with a North American attitude. And that’s not even to talk about the lens if we went with the largest carriers instead.

I wear tinted glasses, but make sure to take them off or look around the edges. Sometimes, what the world offers has a better color than what I’m usually seeing.

A Few Items in the Tabs

For a little more than a month now, I’ve been using a Chromebook. And ironically, during the same time, I’ve been collecting a ton of links to post. Collecting because many of these were supposed to be published, but you know… there’s that issue with the main website. Ah well, here’s my attempt to cull a few things and point to a few happenings.

Some days ago, the folks at Pew Religion & Public Life published some of the questions from a religious knowledge survey they did. They postured this as a religious knowledge quiz in its own right. It’s pretty easy, but don’t be like me and get one wrong.

I’ve not really figured out exactly how to describe it, but the NSA/Snowden situation is a pretty major one that effects current and future prospects for mobile ministry (#mobmin). Of one of the things I’m thinking about is how we clothe ourselves with data, and what that makes evident in our dealings in ministry and beyond. Alan Moore put this part of the conversation in better words than I can (at this point); here’s his piece: Are We Naked Without Data: Edward Snowden Asks A Big Question.

Logos has a mobile education suite. For those of you looking at expanding your use of their content libraries, this makes a lot of sense. For those looking for something a bit more packaged and aren’t using Logos, this also isn’t bad. Gosh, and all the work I do to pull all of this together on various mobile devices… look how far things have evolved.

I’ve often talked about mobile opportunities that demonstrate living by the Gospel, not simply preaching/teaching it. MAMA – the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action – looks to be an excellent example of this. I really wish that I could say that other ministries are taking part with this (I’m sure there are a few), but this is the kind of approach that’s widely missing in my neck of the developed world.

We’ve got that discount code for Mobilista Rockstars – find out how to get it.

That’s all the tabs for now. Please keep MMM in your prayers. I’ve got a few trips coming, and looks like one of them is in major jeopardy for not happening. The site’s getting worked on, and things are being fleshed out here. And… well, there’s always more to come. Stay tuned.