Jacob Wayne Smith

A Brave New

If you are an small business, nonprofit or agency with marketing technology needs, we can help. I have over a decade of experience helping organizations tell their story and expand their reach.

The bulk of my job is listening first then being in conversation. If you want to know what it is like to work with me, here are some past collaborators.

Jacob is knowledgeable, insightful, and capable. He's a joy to work with because he inspires confidence. Dan Roloff, Publishing Manager, H. E. Butt Foundation
It’s REALLY nice having smart people like Jacob on board. He can turn our crazy, creative ideas into living and breathing reality. Thanks for helping us out. What you do is magic. Seth LaTour, Creative Director, Masterworks
Jacob's ability to identify with the audience's needs ensures that his presentations are well targeted and well timed. Tim, Masterworks
In a planet filled with opinions, I put alot of value in a person that cannot just come up with the strategy but knows how to deliver. Michael Schafer, Principal and Creative Director, openbox9
You f---ing rock. Sara, NTEN
This is one of the best, most fun and useful things I've done lately Lynda, Gathering in the East
Both witty and profound Jake's a rare combination of talents giving human dimension to an increasingly technological world. Dan Roloff, Publishing Manager, H. E. Butt Foundation
Jake has an authentic style, blending humor and candor that make his presentations really pop! Charlie, Youth Ministry Certification School

I'd love to start a conversation with you about how we can work together to use technology to meet your organizations mission. Email me today at, jake@shoeinthedoor.com.

Latest posts from the blog

I’ve been interested in trying out Jekyll and the fact that my hosting service needed renewal game me a good reason.

The hardest part was adding the necessary Ruby Gems. I went the not-cool-but-oh-so-easy route of a sudo install and all was well. With the exception of having to run the importer as root, which meant that all the posts were owned by root. A simple chown solved that.

I’ve been doing a lot more development lately, stuff that doesn’t make sense on the A Brave New Blog maybe I’ll write some more about that here, no promises.

A study found a small, regulatory permissible amount of toxic chemicals in drinking water.

It even goes on to say, that current regulation would have likely prevented this small contamination.

So you would expect drilling groups to say: “We told it was safe, this proves it.”

But no, they basically deny the whole thing and try to make it seem like the study is a fraud. Why? Because only total acceptance of the fracking’s salvific nature is allowed. Any doubters are charlatans.

It was a good study that clearly laid out the dangers of improper procedures and that the whole argument that the chemicals don’t make it into drinking water is bunk. It’s an important study to understand if safe fracking is possible, but instead of celebrating the industry dismisses it.

It is this disregard for even supportive but cautious science that makes me continue to seriously doubt the industries good faith.

Many of you know that I left Masterworks in September. What most of you don’t know is that I’ve been working on a partnership with two longtime colleagues and friends, it’s called A Brave New

I can’t tell you how excited and pleased I am to be starting this new company/adventure. It’s the culmination of a lot of work and inspiration. The support of my family, the example of entrepreneurs, the encouragement of teachers and mentors and the fellowship of friends all played a part.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And I’d like to ask you to do one more thing for me: spread the word. A Brave New is ready to help nonprofits and small business tell their story and expand their reach. If that sounds like something someone you know could use, drop an email or a tweet or a phone call.

So check out the new website follow us on twitter and keep in touch. We are going to have some fun.

Since I don’t take the ferry nearly as much as I used to, I just got around to turning off email alerts for ferry delays.

To do so, I needed a password I had long forgot so I sent for a password reset. Here’s the email I received:

You’ll see the password is redacted, because it was my actual password. I recognized it because I often use a password across a number of accounts that I don’t care about. Password reuse is a security no-no, but it’s quite common and when we are talking about my Washington State Ferry account which holds no personal info beyond an outdated address, I’m not terribly concerned about it.

That is when the password is properly secured. The fact that they could send me my actual password means they are either storing it in plain text or a reversible encryption algorithm. Either way it’s at significantly more risk than it should be.

Passwords should always be stored using a salted one way encryption scheme. That way if your database is ever compromised (from inside or outside) only the most common passwords will be compromised.

It is truly lazy programming to be able to spit back a users password and then to send it via email is downright irresponsible.

I grew up being told that I could trust police officers and that if I was in trouble or lost I could always go to one for help. I can’t imagine a world where that isn’t the case. Problem is I don’t have to imagine it, I’m living in it. Or better put I’m living beside it.

As a person of racial, gender, religious, age, citizenship and class privilege, I don’t live in the same world as many of my neighbors.

Music is very emotional for me and two weeks ago we sang a great hymn at church, here’s the third verse:

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
ev’ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.

The world does not feel like it is turning fast enough, but the chorus of this hymn does let me sing for a hoped for future.

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn!

I recently attended my second Creative Mornings and heard this great talk by Hillel Cooperman Rated “R” for adult language, but hilarious adult language.

I wouldn’t call this a proscriptive talk, but a very personal descriptive exploration of imposter syndrome. Something that as a new entrepreneur I can completely understand.

I’m a reasonable nervous flier. By that I mean I understand the fact that riding my bike in the city is more likely to get me hurt than flying. But I also know that it’s an engineering masterpiece that is keeping me up there.

A British Company has proposed a plane without windows, instead the whole fuselage is covered in OLEDs and is a giant screen.

This will mean the plane can be lighter with more interior space, saving fuel costs. The question is will people fly in it? The plane is no less safe than it was, but does it feel more like a flying death tube when you loose visual contact with the outside world?

It’s a concept for now, but I’m interested in folks reaction. Would you fly in a plane where you couldn’t spot something on the wing?

The title of this ReadWrite article says what you need to know You’ll Never Really Innovate On Someone Else’s Cloud.

The article describes how tech companies that can’t specifically tune their servers give up the ability to truly differentiate themselves from other tech companies.

I couldn’t agree more if your technology is your core service offering, but what if you aren’t a technology company? How much does the technology you use matter?

I would argue it matters a great deal.

The question is which technology do you need to completely control and what technology should you let others worry about. Every organization is going to have different answer to these questions, but here are a few rules of thumb.

  1. Is it critical to your mission? – if you are a restaurant, the system your credit card processing is mission critical, your email may not be
  2. Are your differences benefiting customers? – every organization feels that off-the-shelf-software won’t work for them because they are unique, and in many ways they are right. The question is, are those differences in process translating into value for your customer? If they are not, perhaps better to change the process
  3. What is your internal capacity to maintain the technology? – if you don’t have internal capacity, how are you setting up a partnership you can depend on long term?

These are the sorts of conversations I relish having. Be in touch if you have any questions or want to talk through any technology choices your organization is making.

Yesterday Dollar a Day launched. It’s a giving program that let’s you sign up for a $30 a month gift that is distributed across 30 nonprofits.

Each nonprofit gets $1 from each person giving to Dollar a Day, right now that means each nonprofit is getting $478. Funds are collected and distributed by Network for Good. The way Network for Good works, is the donor actually gives to Network for Good (itself a nonprofit) and Network for Good “grants” nonprofits funds based on what donors give.

This means monthly distribution of funds via a check in the mail. You can speed that up a bit by signing up for EFT, but it’s still a once monthly distribution.

Normally when someone gives via Network for Good, you can access that donor information, but in this case you aren’t getting any donor data, just the funds.

So should you suggest yourself to get on this possibly viral gravy train? Well it couldn’t hurt, but make sure your qualify. From their FAQ:

All nonprofits must be US-registered 501©(3) organizations that operate exclusively for charitable purposes. We exclude nonprofits that support a particular religion, government, or political party.

The “support a particular” is a bit murky. World Vision is a Christian organization, but they help any one, would they qualify? Looking at the list of upcoming organizations, I would but them more to the progressive side of the political spectrum than conservative.

Also without donor data, the value is just the one time boon to your bank account.

The nonprofit of the day is featured in an email to all donors. In fact you don’t even have to donate to subscribe. It’s not clear how much say nonprofits have over how they are featured in that daily email, but that’s their one chance to grab the attention of this audience to try to acquire some folks as constituents.

My read is it can’t hurt to apply and see what happens, the form is short. You could also use this as a social call to action. Since anyone can suggest a nonprofit you could ask your social audience to suggest you are added. My guess is that multiple entries for the same nonprofit will up your chances.

Still not sure how you would use this? Drop me a line and we can figure it out.

My friend Doug first introduced me to Craft. Doug works at the very excellent Viget Labs who just published an equally excellent post about Craft vs. Wordpress

I am a WordPress guy. I’ve recommended it dozens of times, built personal and business sites with it, written a plugin… I’m a WordPress guy. But I really like Craft.

The post speaks to the biggest reason: native, admin driven custom post types. Megan Zlock, the author of the post, mentions this functionality is possible with a WordPress plugin, but when it’s not baked into the CMS you are bound for trouble.

I haven’t quite figured out how to sell folks on the $300 price tag, but if you are a WordPress developer, spend some time to take a look at Craft.

The Agitator tipped me off to an interesting free tool from Donor Voice.

This feedback widget allows you to place a customizable survey on your site. We built a similar tool at Masterworks, but with a different purpose.

The Donor Voice tool is designed to ask someone about their experience once it is complete. The Masterworks tool was designed to gather visitor intent.

Caveat emptor: there is no such thing as a free lunch, and you should expect a sales call from Donor Voice as the cost of using this free service. You are also giving them access to your satisfaction data, certainly helpful in the sales process.

The setup is short and you can be online in a matter of minutes. Partially it is so easy to setup because you don’t get to choose any of the questions that are part of the survey. The four questions the survey does ask are general enough to work for any organization:

This content is owned by Donor Voice so don’t steal the questions. Also don’t worry about the red and black background, those are the customizable parts of the survey.

The automated email was also fairly general, but was responsive to how I filled out the survey. You can only fill out the survey once per IP address, so I had to use a Web Proxy service to see the other responses.

If you fill out the survey with good marks, the response suggests that the constituent donates, without a link to do so.

I think the lack of choices here is a great thing. Constructing surveys is harder than most people think and the constraints mean that organizations won’t create something bogus.

I believe two simple improvements would make this tool even more effective. The first is to ask the donor if they donated today.

The second is to add one more field to the setup process: donation URL. The last line of the email when someone responds with good marks says:

Will you please consider donating today in support of our continuing efforts to…

If the text “please consider donating today” was linked, the email would make that donation a one-click action.

And with that, you can see why asking if the individual donated matters. If I had just given a gift, and it wasn’t acknowledged by this email, it would most likely diminish donor loyalty. The very thing the survey is trying to measure and increase. By asking if I have donated, the last line could be changed to something like:

Thank you so much for donating to support our efforts to…. Your continued support is vital to your success.

However, these small things don’t preclude me from recommending that nonprofits who accept donations on their website (and if you don’t let’s talk) experiment with this tool. One way to ease into it would be to show it not to every user on your site but it a subset of users.

If you are thinking about implementing this tool and need any technical help, just let me know

For the past six months I’ve been proud to be part of the Innovation Group at Masterworks. Today, my colleague Josh posted about the group.

As you might surmise I was working on the technology consulting part of incubation and continue to do so as a consultant.

I think the incubation model is helpful generally. Josh’s description of incubation is helpful:

The incubation lab has one focus: We take ideas, practices and approaches — whether completely new, or new or undeveloped to the non-profit space — and carefully cultivate them.

To me the key is that there is explicit acknowledgement that the idea is underdeveloped or new. So we had permission to fail. What we didn’t have was permission to stop trying. When you are working on something truly new, failure is the cover charge. It is inevitably going to happen, the question is what do you do with that failure.

Our inclination is to run as far away from failure as we can. If you are innovating you need to sit with that failure study it and then move on like it didn’t happen to try a new, failure informed approach.

I would encourage you personally and your organizations corporately to define safe spaces for experimentation. Give yourself one or two hours a week where doing something new is the goal, not success.

What do you plan to incubate?

Great article over at Smashing on Developer Training.

My favorite bit is about ranking your developers on specific skills. Making this public makes it effortless for project managers to know who to contact in particular situations.

I did the same thing at Masterworks, but only ranked 1-4, which for our purposes worked just fine. The granularity of 1-10 makes sense when you want to be a bit more specific about skills, but in most situations a smaller scale makes it easier to understand.

The other aspect of publicizing this list is the inherent, healthy competition it creates. Individuals need measuring sticks and this provides one. it also lets developers know which peer they can use for help on a particular project.

Finally, it creates a tripwire for assuring you are providing learning opportunities for developers. In my experience the best developers are self-taught, but you should be allowing the space to grow. By revisiting the rankings on a quarterly basis, in a conversation with developers, you can measure your training efforts.

As I was assembling some Ikea furniture this weekend, besides feeling fairly domestic, I was reminded of my Dungeons and Dragons game.

Yes, I play D&D, no it’s not demonic or satanic. My friend and fellow adventurer, Kris, properly places it more in the realm of improv, collaborative story telling.

This past week, the game featured bas relief carvings firing darts. An adventure trope reminiscent of the Indian Jones Trilogy. The party instantly knew to avoid walking in front of those statues.

This is of course both good and bad. Without some signposts in the imaginary world that is a D&D adventure, we would be constantly blundering into our near deaths.

In the same way, the tropes in Ikea furniture directions prevent you from blunders that mean another trip to the store to replace the left hand side of a cabinet that inexplicably acquired right hand side hardware.

As soon as I screwed in a particular kind of bolt, I knew soon enough I would be locking that bolt with 1/2 screwdriver turn of a certain kind of nut. If you’ve assembled Ikea furniture recently – or ever really – you can probably picture what I’m talking about.

There are all sorts of economies of scale Ikea gets by having it’s furniture come together with similar hardware, but it also creates familiarity with the assembly process.

In the same way there are a number of digital tropes about web design. For example, having your site search in the top right corner of your site and your logo in the top left. You can choose not to follow these and other conventions for the sake of originality, but what are you loosing?

Perhaps showcasing how different your organization is, is a core value, but more likely you are missing out on the built in familiarity you users have from using the rest of the Internet.

You have to remember that your site is just one in a stream of sites a user is visiting and isn’t the only place the user can accomplish whatever task they are working on.

Tropes lower the barrier to entry on your site and will likely increase its usability and its effectiveness.

After six years at Masterworks and five before that at Silas Partners, I’ve decided it’s time to start something brand new.

Today is my first day as a freelancer.

Reflecting on the digital world in June of 2003 when I got started, the change is staggering. There was no Facebook or Twitter, in fact MySpace wouldn’t even start until two months after I did. Friendster was the social network (although we didn’t call it that) of choice.

Being my own boss feels like the best way to walk with nonprofits and small businesses in this World without Pants.

If we’ve worked together at Masterworks, chances are we are still working together. If we haven’t been able to work together before, please drop a line, we’re open for business.

I cried and was comforted last night, I wanted to know that the way I felt wasn’t an overreaction, but the way you should feel when you have to say goodbye. I wanted to share all that my friend meant to me with the world, so they would know it’s alright for me to feel this way.

You step into the blue-grey, orange streetlamp punctuated light of dawn with some distance. You realize that no words can sum up any connection, any experience. You realize that while opening a window on a relationship doesn’t cheapen it, it certainly isn’t about others understanding, it is about validating yourself.

Many know what it is to watch someone walk down their path, knowing it is a path we can no longer walk with them on. We have all felt the joy and sorry of goodbye.


I’ve been reading Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo: or The seasons in the city on my vacation.

It was given to me by a Calvino lover, whom I also happen to love so I was happy to read it.

I started yesterday on the top of a hill overlooking the mountains and foothills of Granada, I finished it in a bars and other benches around the city, and I’ve decided it’s the perfect travel companion.

At only 121 pages, it is a fast read and the short, unconnected nature of the stories means you can read through as much or as little as you like at a sitting.

The book follows the live of Marcovaldo, an unremarkable, remarker on nature and everything around him. It further aids your travel because it reminds you to think like our protagonist and narrator, to notice mushrooms in cracks of the pavement and to wander dreamlike to your next flight.

I hadn’t read Calvino before this and while I can’t say if the translation is any good, his words keep the mix of poetry and prose that I believe is the original intent.

If you want to begin to notice more of whats around you, read this book.

If there is one thing I can say for sure about most non-profits, it’s that marketing/fundraising and IT have a relationship marked by friction. I’ve seen this time and time again, and becoming a fundraiser through web development, I have an understanding of both sides.

It’s no longer acceptable for marketing departments to work around IT and find solutions. It’s also no longer acceptable for IT to manage all technology decisions. In today’s world, these two silos need to find the common ground. The good news is the common ground is often already there, right below the surface.

The first thing marketing folks need to recognize is no one calls IT when everything is working. They only get attention when something is broken. Think about it. When was the last time you sent an email to IT thanking them for the fact that for the past week you have sent and received hundreds of emails and viewed dozens of web pages? All that technology doesn’t happen by itself.

IT’s first goal is to mitigate risk, and the most direct way to do that is to limit new things. A known system is a stable system. That’s where the friction often starts. Marketers are always interested in trying something new.

But marketers avoid risk in another way. They try to limit the financial risk of not improving response, a very real and important risk, but one that doesn’t show up on an uptime report.

A Common Scenario

Let’s explore something that commonly happens at organizations. Individuals who don’t have a deep technical understanding plan an effort with technical implications. They innocently don’t involve IT until the project is about ready to be implemented. Immediately, red flags appear. With the launch date looming, marketing uses its muscle (they bring in the money) to force IT to hastily move stuff through. IT comes to the rescue but the process was harder than it needed to be.

No one did anything wrong necessarily, but marketing departments can misinterpret the friction. Their response is to move control further from IT. This only increases concern, suspicion and, frankly, dysfunction. Hence a vicious cycle is created.

Masterworks has been in situations where that cycle has led to a virtual standstill in optimization, putting six figures of revenue at risk for large organizations.

Marketing and IT Can Work Together

I think all parties have reason to examine their choices, but I’m comfortable putting the onus firmly on the marketing side. So go hug your IT guy (or girl). If only it were that easy. Here are some simple steps we have seen as keys to improving an IT/marketing relationship:

1) Find a Translator

A translator is someone who has enough understanding of the technical landscape to be able to identify the technical implications of marketing decisions. This role identifies crucial issues early on so that you can truly partner with IT for a solution (more on that below).

For many Masterworks clients, I serve as that translator. Look around . . . you have translators around you too. Look for folks who have worked both in IT and marketing, or IT folks who have a liberal arts background. Many IT folks are self-taught and can be a valuable voice in your early campaign planning.

2) Partner Early

The sooner IT is involved, the smoother implementation will go. If possible, invite your translator to campaign-planning meetings to capture potential issues. It can be tricky to have someone who is looking for “gotchas” in a creative meeting, but if you set some ground rules, it can work (believe me, I know).

When ideas are flowing, you don’t want to divert the conversation into implementation details. At the same time, you don’t want to have the lynchpin of your creative concept be technically impossible. So if you set up the meeting to allow for your translator to raise technical red flags, it takes the pressure off having to offer those in real time.

In other words, commit to talking out possible implementation hurdles, but don’t let a possible problem stop a concept.

3) Partner, I Mean Truly Partner

Partnering means staying in contact throughout the process. Things change. Informing IT of changes along the way will minimize any surprises at implementation. This means adding folks to status meetings, creative reviews, etc.

This is where clearly defined roles are necessary. Your translator or other IT folks aren’t approving creative concepts, they are informing on the implementations of those concepts. If that role is clearly established from the beginning, you won’t need to significantly lengthen your approval process.

4) Report Back Results

IT rarely hears about the success or failure of an effort. Keep them in the loop all the way through reporting and celebrate their part of the project broadly. They are the vital last leg between your plans and your constituents.

Find ways to make sure they get the recognition they deserve. But keep in mind that it might not be the same kind of recognition you might want. An email to the whole organization calling folks out by name might not be as meaningful as a personal conversation.

This formula isn’t foolproof and it requires a commitment. You need to invest in this relationship beyond a single campaign if you are truly going to change the tone from confrontation to collaboration.

Orignal published on Masterworks Blog

Some passages of scripture preach for themselves. Last night the Old Testament lesson was from Isaiah.

Since scripture is meant to be heard more than read, I broke out the old podcasting mic:

Isaiah’s words to Israel 2,400 years ago are true now. We say that we are a Christian nation blessed by God, but do we?

  • loose the bonds of injustice
  • let the oppressed go free
  • break every yoke
  • share our bread with the hungry
  • bring the homeless poor into our house
  • when we see the naked, cover them

That’s what is acceptable, not this

About a month ago it seemed I couldn’t go ten minutes without reading something about Tinder. Tinder is an app that claims: “[it] is how people meet. It’s like real life, but better.”

The primary mechanic of the app is simple, see a picture, swipe one way to say yes, the other to say no. If that person says yes as well, you can communicate on the app. For those who are old enough to remember Hot or Not (which still exists) this should be all too familiar.

My first thoughts were about how silly this is, but it was intriguing enough to make me want to experiment.

I signed up when I was out of town. I thought this safer, no way someone I knew would see me on Tinder. Within 10 minutes of signing up and a few dozen swipes, I got a connection.

My connection immediately turned the conversation, shall we say adult. Was Tinder the hookup haven others thought it to be? Then she invited me to pay to join her webcam show. Simply a version of the worlds oldest profession, in a new medium.

Fortunately, Tinder has a block feature where I could report this interaction as “spam.”

When I returned to Seattle, I continued to swipe away, actually reaching the end of Tinder. Seattle’s a small town, and I had the free time so I saw 100’s of pictures. The result of all that swiping: two matches.

One match never opened up communication, the other did. We chatted on Tinder, then met for coffee and a few dates. I had no expectations about Tinder, but in this case it did match two people with a good bit in common.

A few thoughts for those curious about the service.

It will get weird, you will run into folks you know. At some point you will see someone you know in real life and you will have to make a decision. And saying, “no” is almost always the right choice.

And to me that’s the most interesting part of the service, the asymmetry of no. It would seem that saying yes or no send the same amount of information, but they don’t.

If you say yes to someone and it’s not match you would think it would tell you that that person said no to you, but that isn’t exactly true. There are age and proximity filters that could show you people that aren’t seeing you.

So a non-match could simply mean they haven’t seen you yet. And in that way saying no leaks less information than a yes.

Finally, people in Seattle are more selective than St. Louis or Oklahoma City. In two days, in each of these cities, I received more matches than in ten days in Seattle. Not necessarily surprising, but interesting.

Final verdict, Tinder was an interesting experiment for me, but not some place where I will invest my time to make connections.

On the 26th of January 2012, my Dad and I set off from Pittsburgh to Seattle. That’s the day I mark as the beginning of my time in Seattle.

!/images/13t.jpg

It would be tempting to call it the end of something as well, but endings are are a lot harder to pinpoint. Looking back over the last two years, I feel it’s important to share some of what I have learned moving through this time in my life.

While I chafe at the identity of being divorced, it is part of who I am and I believe sharing my experience may be helpful, somehow.

1. Be Alone

I spent a few Fridays sitting at Über drinking three or four big beers and stumbling home on the bus. I didn’t drink and drive, I didn’t abuse alcohol, but I probably drank too much. It was time to be “out” but not interact, it worked.

2. Get Help

I was angry and I took it out on the wrong people. It took until May, but I finally went and saw a therapist. It’s too much to deal with on your own, you need help.

3. Make a (Best) Friend

You need someone who only knows you in this reality. Your old friends are invaluable and your best friend may never be replaced, but for me I formed a new friendship that I treasure.

4. Overcommit

I had something going on every day of the week for a while. It was too much, but finding that space was a great step. You feel like your life will never be full again and realizing that it is spilling over the edges is helpful.

5. Prioritize

Once you’ve decided that you are overcommitted you are going to have to choose some things over other things, and that often means some people over other people. This to me is the important lesson to learn. How do you understand your relationships in a way where you can be present in all of them. It’s possible if your honest about your limits.

When is it “over”? Never. True grief doesn’t diminish in intensity, just frequency. But there are moments. I was folding laundry and this song came on.

As I danced in a laundromat, in the full gray sunshine of a Northwest morning, I realized that I was truly happy with my lot and was finding my place, a new place.

What the video here to see David Ogilvy’s secret weapon.

If you don’t know who Ogilvy is, you best check yourself. I don’t know why that made me so street.

The interesting thing for me is that now sometimes in direct marketing we are looking towards general advertising. As it becomes harder and harder to pin down specific response channels we need to look at the total spend across channels to get strategic clarity.

“Many people believe that great designers get great clients. It’s the other way around.” — Seth Godin

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that when you find a good client, you stick with them as long as you can. And if you think you can’t possible choose who you work with, you should probably get out of the agency business.


Long rides make me wax philosophic. As you can see from the image, today was a rainy ride and because I am fairly Lutheran as I was washing fifty miles of grit off my feet I thought of forgiveness.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

The word used in this Psalm for “create” is Bara which is has specific meaning. It referes to creating out of nothing, something only God can do.

I also have been thinking about God’s eternalness. Which in my understanding means that God is experiencing every moment of time all the time. Said another way, for God there is no past or future only present.

There is debate about this fact, but it is a truth I hold.

What does that mean for my understanding of forgiveness, of bara, of creating something new?

It means that God sees all of my life, every experience every joy every sorrow every sin every blessing and is constantly renewing and redeeming each moment.

The headline is a bait and switch, let’s just get that out of the way. If you are reading this thinking the promise of that headline is possible, you aren’t going to be happy.

If you, instead, clicked ready to ridicule and scoff, then read on.

Masterworks’ rich history in traditional direct mail colors “acquisition” with shades of mailing labels for national organizations and lunch bags for missions.

Digital acquisition focused on asking for a gift from a cold lead, is extraordinarily difficult in non-emergent situations.

It’s just math.

Industry benchmarks put cultivation fundraising email response rates to your constituents at around 0.08 percent. Response rates tend to decrease with uncultivated constituents, so you need an exceptionally large and cheap acquisition pool. A pool that would be as over fished as Atlantic Bluefin tuna.

So enough of what doesn’t work, what is working for clients.

1. Organic Growth through integration

Ack, not something new or interesting, just good old fashioned common sense. By better integrating your marketing efforts your online donor group will grow.

Again with the math.

Most organizations have more offline donors than online donors. You can use strategies like including drives to give online in direct mail pieces to grow your digital donor file.
But aren’t I just suggesting transferring giving, not acquiring a brand new donor to the organization? That’s not acquisition at all!

Perhaps on that single impact we have moved money offline to online, but we all know that a donor who has given via multiple channels is more valuable to your organization. Moreover, you can now cultivate that donor both online and offline.

When the postal service as we knows it goes away, organizations who were unwilling to “trade” online for offline donors are going to be in a world of hurt.

2. Buy your name

What is the most frequent search term people use to get to your site? Go look in your Google Analytics, I’ll wait…

I’m willing to bet you a shiny nickel that it is some variation of your ministry’s name. And where does search engine traffic end up when they clicked on your listing? Probably your homepage. Is that optimized for conversion?

It seems counterintuitive to pay for terms where you have a high organic rank, but we have proven with a number of ministries that just such an investment can generate positive net revenue and new donors.
Add free placement with Google Grants and that dog will hunt.

3. Engage your whole email file

If you are doing permission based email marketing – only emailing people who have asked for email – then you likely have a large file of people who haven’t opted-in, but haven’t opted-out either.

If you have been sending SPAM (that’s any unsolicited email), then you already missed this opportunity, sorry.

This list of “gray” email addresses has to be carefully contacted. They haven’t asked for communication, so you have to make sure when you communicate with them it is with something worthwhile.

One tactic we have used to gather new email addresses is to provide a “Click 2 Give” offer where filling out a short form delivers a meal or medicine to someone in need.

This action is funded by a major donor as a kind of “match.”

By sending this offer to the whole email list of a Mission client we were able to increase their email file by five percent. While generating positive net revenue by asking for an additional gift after the “free” meal was provided.

4. Email appends

This one is a bit controversial. Masterworks has not seen great initial results with appended email addresses, however; we know many people swear by frequent appends.

It is certainly the fastest way to grow your email list, with lists doubling in size in one append.

If you are going to go this route, your ministry needs to plan for a long runway. In other words, getting these email addresses and dropping them into your current email stream is a great way to waste money.

You will need to plan a six or nine month email treatment to appended names to slowly understand the composition and responsiveness of the list.

In the end the number of responsive individuals you find will be far less than the number you start off with, but if you track the long term value of these donors you may find it’s worth it for your organization.

Why all the caveating? The value of email addresses has a lot to do with the composition of your current direct mail file. If your direct mail file skews significantly to individuals that are seventy or older, then we would suggest those email addresses are going to be less valuable, than if your list has folks in their fifties and sixties.

5. Name acquisition to donor conversion

This is as close as it gets to a sure thing in this space. Many organizations have a mature, profitable program designed to acquire names with a physical or digital premium and then cultivate them into donors with an integrated communication stream.

Again you are in this for the long haul. The specific communication stream is months long and it takes about a year to break even on your investment.

And that’s when you have the right premium and are advertising it in the right places. Pick the wrong premium or don’t promote it enough to get the volume you need, no joy.

There you have it, five ways you can acquire new online donors. But what do you do next?

1. Test a direct mail package where the primary call to action is to go online, don’t even include an traditional response device
2. Make sure all of the email addresses in your offline database are in your email tool. You can’t mail people you don’t know about.
3. Spend $100 a day for five days buying your name on Google Ad Words and send people straight to your donation page. Make sure you can track conversions

Originally published on Masterworks’ Blog

This idea is something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past few years. It kicked off for me with this video

And then I saw this post today. I hadn’t connected the different modes of thoughts to makers/managers, but I think it works.

New has a life of its own. New opportunities, new relationships, new seasons. The Sounder’s soccer season started last Saturday with a relatively meaningless game, which they lost.

But I was just as excited about that game as I was about the playoff game that ended last season. It’s new.

Talking with clients they are always interested in doing new things, not as interested in grinding out the old things.

There is this phase of new relationships, friendships what have you, that is damn exciting. Even when relationships go through a “phase change” things get interesting.

The new the novel, is something that our brains seek out. It’s chemistry, it’s biology. It’s silly. It’s inescapable.

We also retreat to the familiar. Everyone has a newness threshold where we go from exhilarated to exhausted. Peaked attention to overstimulated.

Learning to enjoy and embrace the new things in the brief window where they are new is something I’ve learned a lot about in the past year. With so many new experiences I’ve gotten a lot of practice enjoying the new.

But I’m always drawn back to balance, and I don’t know why. I think my Christian culture really has ingrained the “everything in moderation” vibe that calls me away from wherever I’m headed to middle ground.

Today I spent the day with Children’s Hunger Fund a newer client of Masterworks.

I talk about the ministries I work with from time to time, but I wanted to give these guys a special plug. They are doing it right on so many levels.

When you give to them you are helping not only distribute food to suffering children around the world, but that food is used to build relationships. Ever single Food Pak is handed ot a person by a person trying to build a relationship.

Hospitality is a core Christian tennet and Children’s Hunger Fund practices this every day.

I’ve been telling clients for the past few years that there is the story and the story about the story. Don’t believe me, check out this Flickr set.

If the behind the scenes of digging a tunnel is fascinating, what about the nitty gritty of your work is worth sharing?

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      What I’ve Got Left

        Driven Through or Stopped at the Airport

          Spent at Least Two Nights

            Lived


              This website was hosted on Postereous until yesterday. Since Postereous is going away it had to be moved.

              I’m excited to back on my ol’ pal Textpattern I’ve always liked this CMS the best, mostly because the writing experience is unencumbered.

              Everything should be here, so if something isn’t immediately findable, let me know.

              There are a few design changes, but the core remains true to the Posterous theme Choice I’m not 100 percent sure on the legality of using it off of Posterous, but I’m happy to suggest you check out Obox’s other themes for Wordpress.

              You may know that Advent is my favorite season of the church year. This year I am finding it even more meaningful.

              In Advent we expectantly wait for something that has already happened, is happening and will happen. Christ has been born into this world, is being born into this world and will return to this world. It’s mysterious.

              A phrase about advent that is often used is: already but not yet. I am certainly in an already but not yet time in my life.

              Our invocation for Advent has words from John 1:5

              The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

              The Gospel today was Luke 3:1-6

              In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
              ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
              “Prepare the way of the Lord,
              make his paths straight.
              Every valley shall be filled,
              and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
              and the crooked shall be made straight,
              and the rough ways made smooth;
              and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

              Pastor Hoffman preached a beautiful sermon on this text today. He highlighted the passage I bolded above.

              I am still in a wilderness time, a dark time. There are moments when I feel the darkness will overcome me, that there is no path out of the wilderness.

              I am beginning to understand that the while the darkness doesn’t overcome the light, the light doesn’t overcome the darkness either. More importantly, it doesn’t need to.

               

               

              Good night
              Two sing song syllables
              Too much meaning

              Wispered between sheets
              Shouted across streets

              Good,
              we’ve made it another
              night.

              Two syllables
              Two people

              Performing music has been a part of my life since I played my first band concert in fourth grade. I don’t think I’ve thanked my parents enough for braving what had to be an experiment in intonation.

              In the next two weeks the two groups I’m a part of: Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church’s chancel choir and the Seattle Symphonic Band will both be “performing”. The choir performance is during the festival worship of All Saints next Sunday, thus the quotes.

              We will be singing John Rutter’s Requiem in pieces throughout both the 8:30am and 11:00am services on Sunday November 4th at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church. At All Saints we remember friends and family you have died but are still with us in spirit. Phinney has a tradition where the congregation is encouraged to bring photos of loved ones who have died to church so that we may be visually reminded of the great cloud of witness we worship with every week.

              Should be a meaningful service all around.

              I just joined the North Seattle Symphonic Band this fall and as I’ve posted, playing instrumental music is so much fun. We will be playing a concert on Sunday November 11th at 7:00pm at North Seattle Community College’s Concert Hall. The program includes a number of pieces, here are a few to listen to before hand: Children’s March, Suite of Old American Dances (we are not as good as this recording), and Britannic Variants (we are better than this recording).

              I would love for anyone to come out and enjoy.

              I need a refill far more than once every weekend

              One of a the great lines from Neon Cathedral. Not the point he was trying to make, but certianly something I’ve found in my own faith life.

              Once a week is not enough to keep my faith alive. I need choir on Wednesday and Basketball on Saturday morning and usually something else inbetween.

              What do you need to keep your spirit topped up?

              “Everything you don’t understand is magic — When you understand things, there’s no more magic.”
              Tim Berners-Lee
              Once an innovation is implemented it is no longer innovative.
              - Jack Anderson, Chevron

              I was going to write about the second quote and then Mark suggested the first as an important corollary.

              That was weeks ago. Now I don’t think I have anything intersting to add beyond putting these two quote side by side.

              I’ve been watching a lot of How I Met Your Mother lately. It’s on Netflix and comes recommended.

              If you are completly unaware, the entire show is told as flashbacks from 30 years or so in the future. The premise is the main character is telling his kids how he met their mother. The story has taken seven seasons.

              I’ve not written a lot of fiction, just the first 1,000 words of the semi-autobiographical great American novel that everyone has started. Everyone has one of those right? 

              I know the end of that story. Spoiler: the main character is in the Minneapolis airport looking at the flight board deciding what to do with this life. I don’t know if most writers write with an end in mind or not, I don’t think I could write something coherent if I didn’t know where I was going.

              But that’s not how life works. Life is not a coherent, cohesive narrative. This past year of my life is not some incredible plot twist that is going to bring me closer to my ideal life.

              Life’s story isn’t a story at all and while it’s a nice plot device to look at every thing in your life as leading you to one shining moment of glory it turns decisions about dinner into life or death. 

              That’s where How I Met Your Mother gets it right. The choices the main character thinks are the important ones seldom are and it turns out the mundane ones mean a whole lot more.

              I don’t know how the story of my life will end, I don’t even know how this chapter will end. Right now I don’t even know how this blog post is going to end.

              Perhaps all of those things are better left unfinshed.

               

               

              For the summer, my church, Phinney Ridge, has been doing Wednesday night bible studies called Bible Basics. I’ve attended five or so and they have all been good but tonight hit home.

              The topic was Death and Life. Pastor Hoffman, who was teaching the class, posited that the Bible is a book not about Life and Death, but about Death and Life. We started with the resurrection story from Mark and wound our way through the “greatest hits” of New and Old Testament death/life paradoxes.

              We Lutheran’s love our paradoxes. It’s not Death then Life or Life through Death it’s Death and Life at once. Each week we say these words: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. How can all three tenses of “to be” be possible at once? That’s why it’s a mystery.

              We finished with a passage from Diana Butler Bass’ new book Christianity After Religion. She relates a friend asking a liberal Episcopal Bishop if he believed in the resurrection. He went on to say of course, because he sees it every day. Bass uses this to make the point that trusting the resurrection is far more important than believing it.

              Trusting the resurrection is a phrase that a year ago would have ment little to nothing to me. Today it means everything. If God condescended to go from death to life, then surely I can be united with God to go from New Castle to Seattle.

              Ahh but the paradox. I have to die daily in order to live. Some days there is more dying than living, most days are the other way round. But every day I know that each and every emotion and thought is one that is intimately understood. My hope is built on nothing less.

              From The Verve:

              For the first time in its five year history, Apple will stream each event from its iTunes Festival website, a universal iOS app, and its Apple TV. MacRumors reports that Apple updated its Apple TV recently to include a new iTunes Festival app that supports the live streaming.

              I think this is more than just a random happeing. Perhaps this is Apple dipping its toe into the live content production business.

              We all make choices that necessitate other choices we would rather not make. In other words we give up things for better things.

              When I was a pastor’s spouse I gave up worship. Perhaps that is not a universal experience for other Pastor’s spouses, but it was mine. Today in worship I was able to sit with friends and truly to enjoy the beautiful music of other friends.

              I’ve cried more in the past six months than I have in the past six years and I’m realizing that maybe 1/3 of the time those are tears of joy. This moring they certianly were.

              How are you?
              I think that you are very cute and that u know for sure how to make ur girlfriend happy. you know, I was learning psychology in university and that’s why I know a lot of things about physiognomy! So, I examined pics of urs, analyzed them and decided that u are very cool. That’s why I am writing you this message.
              Oh, some stuff about me. My name is Ed and I am 25 years old. I’m here daily and that’s why I’ll be waiting for you to answer!
              Please, don’t let me wait!

              Ed, I’m flattered but I don’t think your my type. I’m also a bit perplexed as to how knowing how to make my girlfriend happy matters to you.

              I will not be responding direclty to you, but you can consider this a public no thank you.

              Seattle is becoming home. Being away has a way of making that clear.

              It’s not the Seattle I left, I didn’t expect it to be of course. The city changes, relationships change and I’ve changed.

              I was reminded last night that those closest to me want what I want: contentment. Even if that means living 3,000 miles away.

              If I were to describe what it feels like in terms of a drink recipe:

              2 parts excitement
              1 part sadness leaving family
              Nervousness about making a new life to fill.

              I’ve been making a new life for myself in Seattle but I haven’t committed to it. Now I can and I with God’s help I will.

              You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
              – Saint Augustine, Confessions (Lib 1,1-2,2.5,5: CSEL 33, 1-5)

              Who knows if the actual quote from Augustine is anything like this, but I’ve heard this a lot and I’ve felt it’s something I’ve need to hear.

              Sometimes I wonder if God has made me to rest in restlessnes. Is that possible? Can it be my place in this world to be unsure of where I am? What does that mean for the people around me?

              My first thought is, “How can I express this restlessness in a way that is constructive?” One answer is, writing. I can write about what I might like to be doing and maybe expereince enough of it to rest.

              For the past week I’ve been in New Orleans for the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering.

              I was part of a team of four other exceptional people and had a great time. I’ve done five other gatherings, but this one was by far the most impactful from my point of view.

              For me, the heart of the gathering has this piece from Bishop Hanson. There was a strong anti-bullying theme to the Gathering which was a masterful way to get the broader issues of justice and peacemaking to make sene to high school youth.

              I was bullied as a kid and it still hurts, I wish I would have heard this message in middle school and I hope and pray that the 28,000 young people take this message home with them and change our culture. That’s not hyperbole that’s possible.

              Bullying is about those that have power lording it over those who don’t. It is a justice issue. It often involves violence. It is a peacemaking issue.

              The most beautful moment of the Gathering was before it even opened. We had a service of Holden Evening Prayer in one of the club rooms of the dome. It was a small group, maybe 50 people. Rachel Kurtz sang her verison of Hallelujah which is amazing. You should buy it right now.

              No I’m serious stop reading go buy it listen to it and then imagine that acoustic in a room of stressed out youth workers ready to embark on what is for many of us the biggest thing we do.

              Now imagine it in a dome with 33,000 people and baloons lifiting fabric and lights. Can’t imagine it, no worries you don’t have to.

              I also celebrated my 32nd birthday on Thursday. It’s been the most difficult year of my life. While I couldn’t be with my family who have so strengthened me I was with some of my oldest and best friends. It’s not a turning point, every day is an opportunity to walk closer to the way God intends you to be. But it was pretty fucking awsome.

              Dozens, maybe hundreds of youth have posted that this was “the best week ever!!!:)!” My hope, this is the best week ever – until next week.

              When can Google do something that goes unnoticed for a few months? When they slightly modify their eligibility guidelines for Google for Nonprofits.
              In February, with a low-key forum announcement, Google included places of worship and other nonprofits in a religious orientation in their Google for Nonprofits program.

              That doesn’t mean there are zero hoops to jump through. Nonprofits do have to agree to the following statement as part of the application process:

              My organization does not discriminate on any unlawful basis with regards to hiring or employment practices, including discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, veteran status, national origin, ancestry, pregnancy status, sex, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, mental or physical disability, medical condition, sexual orientation or any other characteristics protected by law, in the administration or provision of all programs and services.

              Additionally, organizations have to be recognized as 501©(3) by the federal government. Some of the ministries we serve are organized differently and do not have this status, and would remain ineligible.

              But now that the majority of ministries we work with are eligible, what does that mean? There are three important benefits of being part of the Google for Nonprofits program.

              My organization does not discriminate on any unlawful basis with regards to hiring or employment practices, including discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, veteran status, national origin, ancestry, pregnancy status, sex, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, mental or physical disability, medical condition, sexual orientation or any other characteristics protected by law, in the administration or provision of all programs and services.

              Additionally, organizations have to be recognized as 501©(3) by the federal government. Some of the ministries we serve are organized differently and do not have this status, and would remain ineligible.

              But now that the majority of ministries we work with are eligible, what does that mean? There are three important benefits of being part of the Google for Nonprofits program.

              1. Free or Discounted Google Apps for Your Domain
              2. Google Apps for Your Domain provides Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs, but at your URL. In other words you keep your @charity.org email address, but your email is hosted by Google. This could replace your current IT infrastructure at a significantly lower cost. There are privacy concerns about giving Google access to that much data, but do keep in mind that any email service provider has access to this information.

                Many organizations are happy with their IT setup and would see no reason to switch. It’s nice to have options, and Google Apps for Your Domain has been embraced by large organizations, including nonprofits, as an alternative to hosted IT solutions.

              3. Free Adwords Advertising
              4. Now we are getting somewhere. Through Google Grants, your ministry can advertise for free on both Google’s content network and on search engine results pages. Masterworks has seen that well-timed and placed search engine marketing campaigns along with other integrated, multi-channel tactics can increase response to the campaign overall.

                This also allows your ministry to test new concepts and offers with little risk. Since you aren’t paying for placement, ROI becomes less of a factor. Once an offer is established and viable, it can be tested in other channels.

              5. Enhanced YouTube Branding
              6. “Enhanced” branding is a bit nebulous, but two pieces of this benefit are interesting.

                First, you can create a branded YouTube channel. This additional attention to the look and feel of your presence on YouTube sets your page apart from the thousands of others on the site, adding authority and lowering anxiety about your content.

                The action overlay is the moneymaker, literally. We are all familiar with the partially transparent gray background and white text promotions that come up in YouTube while a video is playing. In the biz these are called “lower-third” promos. In all cases but nonprofit videos, these are reserved for paid advertisements.

                If you participate in the nonprofit program you can specify the text in this area and provide a link to your website to donate or complete some other action. Not being able to embed a link right in the video has always been a knock against YouTube and, in some cases, has caused us to recommend other video-hosting solutions.

                With the overlay, the increased audience YouTube provides makes it a clear choice for hosting video.

              How to Apply
              The application process is available online at:
              http://www.google.com/nonprofits/

              The application process doesn’t take a ton of time, but you should have a number of documents at the ready. If your ministry files an IRS 990 form, having the latest version of that will work just fine. You will also need a Google account for your ministry. You should set up a new account, not use your personal account.
              Once you apply, Google can take their good old time approving or rejecting your application. As you can imagine demand for the program is high. Your patience will be rewarded.

              We recommend that you should at least look into this program for your nonprofit. It’s worth the time and effort for the action overlay alone, but the other benefits now, and likely in the future, make being part of this program a strategic asset for your ministry.

              Originally Posted on: http://www.masterworks.com/blog/google-apps-open-up-to-religious-nonprofits.html

              I’ve already posted once about the dead heat in the Olympic Trials, but this post I found even more fascinating.

              Here’s the part that struck me:

              Swim races, which use touchpads to determine each swimmers’s finish time, have shown that that clock’s precision is greater than that of pool construction.

              Huh? Not every lane is exactly the same length, even in Olympic level facilities. At normal human speeds it doesn’t matter, but at world class athlete speeds, the small difference in lanes actually matter if you take the time out to enough decimal places.

              Measurement is huge in my job. It brings up an intersting question: if we measure close enough are we letting the size of the pool decide the winner?

              With the ability to measure every little thing to a very detailed degree, are there some measurements that reflect small differences that have nothing to do with what our client is doing. I don’t know what that means yet, but I’m thinking about t.

              This morning I wrote the first lines to a musical one I’m unlikley to get any further than what is here.

              When I ride my bike down Hubble Place there is a strech between 8th and 9th where you are so close to I-5 that you can say, sing, scream whatever you want with no chance of anyone ever hearing you.

              This morning I wrote the first lines to a musical, “Life is a funny thing.” I imagined the characters all waking up and their primary conflict being introduced to the audience in the opening song. “Love is a funny thing,” “work is a funny thing,” “death is a funny thing,” etc. 

              But this post isn’t about my nacent musical (non)talent. It’s about having a place where you can shout at the world. Not a blog or twitter that certianly provide that, but an actual real place.

              Through those two blocks I’ve blessed, I’ve cursed, I’ve sang, I’ve shouted and every time I come out feeling better than I went in.

              After the latest random self-serving Facebook change today where The Zuck decided it was in my best interest to show my Facebook email address to the world as my prefered address I was very close to de-activating.

              Something I’ve considered a lot these past few months, but never have been able to pull the trigger on.

              I was hoping Path would be an alternative, but it just doesn’t have the people Facebook does and with people a social network isn’t all that interesting.

              Then I realized I can get the intimacy of Path myself, I just have to be ruthless about who is my Facebook friend. Not mean, just very picky. I think it’s important for everyone to do this, becuase Facebook is not out for my best interest. As a publicly traded company they are out to earn the most dollars they can. 

              The reality is there are some folks I love and care about that I wouldn’t be as connected to without Facebook so it needs to stick around but on my terms.

              My new rule: the car keys test. If someone showed up at my door looking a bit worse for the wear and asked for my car keys would I hand them over without asking any questions?

              The amount of data my Facebook friends (and whatever wacky apps they add) have access to is about the same in terms of value.

              For some people that’s a wide circle for others its smaller. For me it’s about 86 peope, which sounds like a lot but when I look through my friend’s list they pass the car keys test.

              Push. To the top
              7 degrees on a half wheeled tractor
              seems like nothing
              but on two wheels
              7 degrees is everything

              At the top, perpendicular woosh
              speeding down, knowing glance, but
              knowing what?
              Pity? Envy?

              Going down has its perils
              a single rock or
              thoughtless door
              sends you tumbling

              We are all going up
              or coming down
              Pushing past or
              looking ahead
              for danger

              But going up
              or coming down,
              is always better in the bunch.
              Friend or foe doesn’t matter,
              the bunch turns
              pushing and looking
              into flying

               

               

               

              P156

              It is 5 degrees warmer where I am sitting because this bus is idling. Doors open AC pouring into the night.

              Driver and two passengers blissfully unconcerned about the implications of their actions.

              I note this with an awareness I’m sure I do the same somewhere else.

              A reminder to stop and think about what you are doing.

              I’m always amazed people complain about mechanical delays on aircraft. Would you rather fly on a plane with no brakes?

              Welcome

              overview // github // pypi // issue tracker

              Legit is a complementary command-line interface for Git, optimized for workflow simplicity. It is heavily inspired by GitHub for Mac.

              Git Workflow for Humans

              Feature branch workflows are dead simple.

              $ git switch # Switches to branch. Stashes and restores unstaged changes.$ git sync# Syncronizes current branch. Auto-merge/rebase, un/stash.$ git publish # Publishes branch to remote server.$ git unpublish # Removes branch from remote server.$ git harvest # Auto-merge/rebase commits from given branch.$ git sprout # Sprout a new branch from the current branch.$ git graft # Merge unpublished branch into current branch, then remove it.$ git branches# Nice & pretty list of branches   publication status.

              Installing Legit

              $ pip install legit$ legit install

              Nice and simple ?the way it should be.

              Fork me on GitHub

              ?? Copyright 2012. A Kenneth Reitz Project.

              Girls girls girls! Please!???.. Android vs iOS is boring enough, do we really have to trip back through the time tunnel to the oh even more tedious Mac vs PC nonsense too?

              This is just a light hearted dig at the unimaginative way some Android devices are named, not a heavyweight critique of the entire platform, and even those of you with an unhealthy fixation on Apple?s failings, are usually generous enough to grant that it manages its image better than the opposition. Don?t be so oversensitive, we aren???t about to confiscate your toys.

              Now back to class!

              Photo

              This table has been my table since I was three years old. It went from Laura Acres to The House with Pink Shutters to Springfield to the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg to New Castle to Seattle.

              I’ve sat around it with my family, my friends, people I didn’t know yet and people about whom I knew everything. I did homework there and played quarters there.

              We are unsure how a pressboard table has made it all this way, but it has. Sadly the table has left the family.

              As you can see it didn’t fit well in my dining area and the legs wobbled and one of the chairs was somewhat broken and the other three weren’t that far away. It’s had a good long 18 year run.

              Yesterday I took the table to the Goodwill in Ballard, so that it can continue on its journey.

              Whoever buys it will have no idea what it measn to me or my family. They will have no idea the few tears, generous laughter and caring words that were spoken over it. They won’t know the hands of cards, science projects and fists pounded in frustration on it.

              A powerful, gentle reminder that all that we have isn’t ours to begin with. That table served the Smith’s well for nearly twenty years and it will serve another family now.

              It’s only a table, but it was mine. Right now I can look at my life as being full of beginings or full of endings. I choose to not ignore either side of that coin. That I can every day clothe myself in new life is a great joy, but in order for that new life to take root I must die every evening.

              As many lenten journeys draw to a close, maybe a simple dining room table will remind me what it means to be reborn.

              A friend asked me for some beers to try and I thought others could use the info. He likes cigars so some of this advice is based on that.

              First resource is the show notes from the Podcast Jim and I did a few years back: http://yournextbeer.wordpress.com/

              The audio isn’t online, but, you can read the reviews. A list of 115 isn’t much of a list. So here are some general thoughts.

              Session vs. Big
              First thing is to decide how you are drinking, one beer or six. You need different kind of beers for different purposes. If you you want one nice beer with a cigar look for beers labeled double, tripple or
              imperial. If you want a few, stick with something lighter.

              Malty vs. Hoppy
              Hops are the bitter, malty is the bread like taste. I’m not a huge malt guy but it has it’s place. Belgians tend to be rather malty so I avoid them. IPA’s are the top of hop spectrum usually. Once you get hoppy enough they tend to get a little grapefruit taste as well, which can be quite nice. Hoppy beers are great with spicy food.

              A few styles to try:

              • Barley Wine. Almost like port, sweet alcoholic and all malt, unless it’s been aged in barrels then it can get interesting.
              • Amber or Double/Imperial Amber. A good hop/malt  balance usually you can drink ambers all night an imperial is usually going to be on the hoppier side.
              • Porter (esp. Smoked). One of my favorite styles similar to a stout but less creamy and the smoked varieties would be perfect with a cigar
              • Saison/Farm house/Bier de Garde. All slightly different, but all light, highly carbonated and refreshing. A cigar would kill these beers, but perfect or an afternoon out on the deck or with first course/appetizers

              Some breweries to look out for:

              • Stone. I like everything they do, their Smoked Porter should be a first stop
              • Green Flash. Their West Coast IPA is my favorite and Le Freak is perhaps my favorite beer right now.
              • Firestone Walker. Haven’t had much as they don’t distribute out East but have a great reputation
              • Shiner. Obviously you know about Shiner Bock but their “Family” mixed case is usually a good value. Their Light is the best Light I’ve had and perfect for BBQ’s or cooking with. Their Hefeweisen is also very good.

              That should get just about anyone started. If your wondering what your next beer should be, leave a comment.

              If you are part of Steeler’s nation then you are either shocked or not surpised at all to find out that Harrison was suspended.

              If you haven’t seen the hit, you probably don’t care to, but there is video in the link above.It clearly shows Harrison droping his helment before contact. The hit has going to be hard, and likley draw a personal foul, but he didn’t have to lower the crown of his helmet. He didn’t even attempt to wrap up. It is a picture perfect hit for the NFL to make an example of.

              The debate about whether that should be legal or not is pointless. The NFL has made it clear: helmet to helmet hits with intent are no longer part of football. You can call it changing the game if you want, but consider it changed.

              This is the first suspesion for a hit, which had to happen at some point. Even hefty fines aren’t as much as game checks and what almost every NFL player truly values is playing the game. Beyond that, teams don’t care if their players get fined so they have no inscentive to coach away from these kinds of hits.

              The fact that its a Steeler is no surprise to me. They have been so unrepentant individual and as a group about the changes to the rules in the NFL, it had to be them. They exemplify what the leage office is trying to take out of football.

              As a fan, I’m not happy, but the Steelers brought this upon themselves. I also wouldn’t have it any other way. I want the team to play the brand of football that is their identify until it is clear that it is hurting their chances of winning. 

              In the end I think the suspension is fair because it sends a very clear message. There is no ambiguity now that this has been done. Hit a QB in the head with intent, you’re out for a game.

               

              It is also imaginable that Wal-Mart could set up in-store payment kiosks away from the registers with the Square Register. It could just be a little booth in every department of a Wal-Mart that would be designed to handle payments for a couple of items.

              The big win here is for the little guy. With millions of transactions running from Wal-Mart, Square should be able to lower transaction fees for everyone.

              Of course they may pocket the difference and not lower the little guys fees, but a stable giving platform is still good for the little guys.

              Earlier this fall I was with a good number of college friends in Newport, RI. Andy is stationed there with the Navy Supply School. Since none of us had been there before, we decided it was a good spot for what has become our yearly get together.

              When predictions of Irene’s path become clear, the question was: “what do we do?” We all had tickets to come in on Thursday night so we knew there would be no trouble getting in, but the track made getting out on Sunday evening dubious.

              We decided that even in the worst case scenario we could drive our rental car out on Monday if we needed to and it would be an adventure.

              The storm tracked a bit further West and weakened more than expected so the actual storm itself wasn’t much more than an impressively windy rain storm. The rain had largely stopped by 3pm on Sunday. The only lasting effect of the storm for us was the power outage that effected almost all of Rhode Island.

              I should pause here to acknowledge that the “hardships” I’m about to describe are nothing compared to the loss of life, livelihood and treasure that others experienced. I am very aware of this reality, and my thoughts and prayers remain with those who’s lives were deeply affected.

              We lost power at around 10:00 am Sunday morning. Most of us were up early as the wind whipped Andy’s fourth floor apartment. Unlike the day before when a thick fog set in that prevented us from seeing the harbor only two blocks away, but by the early morning hours of Sunday that fog had blown out and we could clearly see boats bobbing and swaying in the medium chop.

              From our perspective no water had risen out of the harbor, but we understood that over on the other side of the island the morning high tide had overtaken Ocean Avenue.

              We turned on the local news to see the circus we knew it would be and were not disappointed. A screen cast of a web browser served to give a real time report of the situation on Block Island and a reporter received numerous chat requests as she tried to show pictures of damaged posted to the station’s Facebook page.

              I was pleased to see she was using Firefox.

              It was reported that 80,000 homes in Rhode Island were already without power and we thought we were safe. I had assumed that we would wake up to find we were without power. But just as the storm began to slow the power flickered once then 1/2 an hour later was gone for good.

              We had the time to cook and largely clean up breakfast but the fridge still held our lunch and dinner including mussels and shrimp for pasta that evening. We had considered that Andy’s gas range would allow us to cook up some pasta, but we didn’t consider less perishable proteins to go on our spaghetti.

              All morning people were out on Thames Street. If you don’t know Newport, think of the commercial street closest to the water in your favorite beach town. It’s lined with overpriced shops, bars and restaurant. Most had boarded up Saturday – I think as much to deter the odd looter as anything.

              As the rain stopped, Jim and Matt wanted to go out and see what was what, but the high winds made Andy, George and I a bit leery. Then began the first of our planned indoor, non-power necessary activities: cards. Andy, George and I started with cut-throat Euchre. An evil variant where two people team up on the third. If Euchre is Pinochle for dummies, cut-throat is Euchre for sadists.

              Once they got back Matt needed a shower – the only one to take advantage of that luxury on Sunday. It is important to note that here as you will read later.

              Now with all five of us together we had to find the right game. Matt’s brain isn’t wired for cards so choices are limited. Andy introduced us to a game called Cucumber. If you have played the drinking game Asshole it’s like that in reverse but with Hearts like scoring and variable hand sizes. It was good fun for everyone except for Jim who seemed to be getting no luck in the cards.

              Of course we all assumed it was because he was no good at the game, but we are an arrogant lot.

              After our first game it was time to enter the refrigerator for lunch and beer. In military terms this was an all hands movement to extract all the items in minimal time to assure that thermal integrity was maintained. With two people grabbing all they could and two others on each door of the fridge we were able to extract a cooler full of beer, club soda for Matt’s warm Vodka cocktails and the pizza leftover from two nights before as well as a quart tub of French Onion dip. The Dip was an unintended consequence.

              The adult beverages made the second round of Cucumber seem to go much more quickly, but I was playing well so that is also a factor. There is nothing better than being able to play a hand of cards exactly as you imagined. Since I don’t play chess I don’t know, but I imagine the feeling is similar to trapping your opponent in a well planned gambit and taking the piece that you have seen in your mind for the past dozen moves.

              With Jim loosing badly again it was decided a new game was necessary: corn hole. For those not near the mid-west this will be foreign. Corn hole is played with corn filled bean-bags (a misnomer of course) and two slightly inclined boards placed around twenty-four feet apart. The boards have a single hole cut about 3 inches from the top. The object is to throw a bag into the hole or at least land it on the board.

              When you are playing in a more regulation setting, doing this requires mastering the balance of loft and power to get the bag to the board, but not to run it completely off the board’s upward slanting surface.

              In our modified indoor setting loft isn’t as much of an option. Andy’s house rules state that a bag that even grazes the ceiling fan results in a forfeit of all points for your team for that round.

              I can not tell you how many games of cornhole we played, but I can tell you we played long enough for Matt to take a run. That’s correct Matt ran through the remnants of a tropical storm.

              This resulted in another shower, his second of the day.

              We played long enough for Matt to play even after he got back and to need a second, perhaps unwarranted, trip into the fridge to clear out the rest of the beer.

              Clouds started to roll in and the room was getting dark quickly. It was around 6pm and sunset was scheduled for 7:45. We knew he had to get dinner started, because cooking shellfish in the dark is a recipe for disaster.

              Andy expertly cooked the shrimp and mussels with garlic and onions and added them to jarred tomato sauce for the best meal of the trip.

              As the light faded we ate around a fresh cotton scented candle. Five 30 something men mercilessly making fun of each other, laughing with each other and enjoying each others company without checking cell phones or glancing at the TV or listening to music. This is how meals should be eaten.

              From there we wanted to experience a post-hurricane bar lit by generator power Christmas lights and candles. One round of six dollar Bud Lites later and we were back in the darkening confines of Andy’s apartment. Sitting beside each other on coaches and sharing secrets like middle school girls while we finished off the last of the beer.

              Until around 11:00, tired and pleasantly intoxicated we got ready for bed. If the power had come back on we probably would have stayed up past 2:00 am, but I’m sure we spoke more, listened more, fellowshiped more and learned more laughing by candle light and going to bed early.

              On the car ride back to Boston, Matt, George and commented on how powerful it was to have our phones off for most of the day to preserve battery life. Before that there would be stretches of time when all of us would be using our devices to connect with the “world” and in so doing missed the community we were a part of.

              It’s like yawning. One person in a group checks there phone quickly another takes that as a social cue to do so. Then by the time the third person does the first person is done but sees 1/2 of the group on their phones – and there is always something else to check.
              Before long fifteen minutes of precious time together has been replaced by unnecessary “connections.”

              It also forced us into a more productive daily rhythm. We were in bed early because the darkness gave our bodies the cues to being to slow down, hours before we drifted off to sleep, not minutes. Because we went to bed early when the sun woke us we got up. We let God’s alarm clock set our clocks and felt better for it.

              Don’t worry folks I’m not going Amish on you. As soon as we stopped for breakfast at a Duncan Doughnuts I was charging up my phone and George was checking email. I spent the afternoon emailing and calling and working in the electronic world that we all inhabit.

              What I am going to do is strictly enforce – on myself – a no phone checking policy when I’m around people. That goes for when Erin goes to the bathroom as well so I’m not caught up in something when she gets back and we start the smart phone yawn process.

              I do value what folks share from places and will continue to take and share pictures but if I post the photo of the beer I had two hours ago as opposed to the beer I’m having right now – is your life any worse off?

              If I share the fact that I had an amazing, engaging conversation with Josh and Kris earlier in the evening is that less meaningful than checking in with them on Facebook?

              I firmly believe that we are not physically, emotionally and spiritually equipped to be as connected as technology allows us. We do ourselves and those around us a disservice when we do not give them our full attention, which is impossible if our faces our lit by the blue-grey glow of an electronic device.

              So be on notice, I’m not going to reply right away to your text message or call. If you need me urgently, you may have to go old school and call the restaurant I’m at – which of course you won’t know because I haven’t checked in.

              So that’s the cost, what’s the benefit? My promise to you that when we are together or on the phone or chatting online that you will have my full attention. If I can’t give you that, then I’ll say so and I will get back in touch with you when I can.

              You deserve that from me because we are both incredible creatures endowed with unspeakable gifts marked with the image of God. We are called to be subject to one another and I promise to be attentive to you. It’s the least I can do.

              A good post at Bokardo about the Facebook logout button. The site isn’t responding so I’m going to quote a good bit of the post.

              At the very least, interfaces should not lie. They should not deceive the people who use them into thinking something is true when it actually isn’t.

              Apparently, Facebook does not agree. On Sunday Nic Cubrilovic posted some troubling news: Logging out of Facebook is not Enough. Facebook doesn’t actually log you out when you ask it to. They pretend to, but they don’t. Instead, they simply change the status of your logged in session to fool you into thinking you’re logged out.

              You don’t see your friends or profile. You don’t view your feed. Even if you try to access your profile pages, Facebook will send you to the login screen. Except that you’re not actually logged out. Every step of the way Facebook knows that it’s you trying to access those pages. You’re not really logged out, but Facebook is tricking you into thinking you are.

              So, I’ve designed a more appropriate Facebook logout button…instead of saying “Logout” it now says “Logout (not really)”. This is more accurate and better reflects what’s actually going on.

              This is a good example of the difference between a technical user and a non-technical user. For a non-technical user being logged out means not being able to access your stuff without logging back in, this is exactly what Facebook is doing.

              To a technical user, logged out means that you no longer know who I am so I’m browsing the site anonymously.

              This is an interesting exercise in language. I agree with the conclusion that this is bad for privacy, I think from the perspective of the average user the interface is truthful. 

              What say you?

               

              One of the best things about working at Masterworks is that everyone is on the lookout for new ideas, this one came from Milo, our Vice President for Administration.

              The Chronicle of Philanthropy wrote about two organizations using Amazon.com’s Wish List to highlight items needed for donation.

              The Wish List has two built in features that make it perfect for gift in kind.

              First, your ministry can select how many of a particular item they need, but donors can buy any quantity of that item. So if you need two dozen packs of socks, a donor can buy six and then future donors see that you only need eighteen more.

              Second, you can include a ship-to-address as part of the list setup, so donors don’t have to think about where to ship it. And it assures that your donations end up at the right spot.

              The ability to be very specific about needs is also helpful. I know many missions struggle with getting gifts in kind that have been so “loved” the ministry can’t use them.

              Most importantly, this takes a traditionally offline transaction online: lowering costs and likely increasing donor value. Because, we know – say it together now – that donors who give in multiple channels can be worth more than twice as much as donors who give in a single channel.

              As opposed to the usual, drop and run gift in kind donation, this method allows the opportunity to close the loop with donors. The donor’s name will be on the package from Amazon and in addition to receipting and acknowledging the gift, you can share photos or video of the distribution of the gift in social media or email.

              You could go so far as to call out specific product donors by name in your social media stream.

              As with many things digital there are lots of possibilities, but the first step is to build a small wish list and share it with a group of committed donors. If it works, widen the circle, rinse and repeat.

              I thought about doing a voice over, but I think this does the trip justice.

              Great direct mail advice although I can’t agree with #25 and #34.

              Mistake 25: writing a package and then surrendering it to an artist.  Lean over the artist’s shoulder all the way.  It’s your package.  And don’t just give verbal instructions.  Make a rough pencil layout.  The artist’s responsibility is to enhance your concept to make the package visually exciting – but only within the framework of your vision for the package.

              This makes it seem like artists, left on their own, will always detract from effectiveness. The best work we see is when artist and writers collaborate.

              Mistake 34: failing to understand that the only reason you write to $10 and under donors is to motivate them to step up to a higher level.  If you let them stay at $10, your fundraising costs may be embarrassingly high.  So learn all you can about upgrading techniques.

              We’ve found at Masterworks that donors who give you less than around $20 on a first gift never give enough subsequently to make up for it. Perhaps in other areas of direct marketing it’s different, but with our clients it is better to stop mailing $10 donors than try to upgrade.

              While on vacation we eat a memorable meal at the Ligonier Tavern. The best way to describe it is as better than it needed to be.

              In other words we were in a bar in a small town; if they would have put a nice plate of food in front of us we’d have been happy. But it wasn’t just a nice plate of food it was a well loved expression from the chef.

              He’s a transplant from New Zealand via Colorado. I had gnocchi that were soft and perfect. My Dad had scallops that were ok but the risotto with artichokes that came with it was out of this world.

              Shawn had lamb that was Indian inspired served with rice and flat bread, very authentic to the cuisine.

              Oh and a very good beer selection to boot.

              I posted on twitter about this already, but this spot is worth a stop in Ligonier. It is also a great example of a chef putting great food that may be a bit of a reach for the local population but knowing that it is kick ass. I guarantee there wasn’t a place in 30 miles serving cold Thai noodle salad, but this place is and is serving it well.

              Tomorrow Erin and I head to Ligonier, PA for a Smith/Berkebile vacation. We are going to Idlewild amusement park Monday and Tuesday.

              Mom and Dad picked Idlewild because it is centralish and is specifically geared for smaller kids, of which we have two. I'm excited to spend time with the family and to meet my new niece. I hear she is cool.

              After breakfast on Wednesday we go to McKeesport so I can meet up with Brian and we can start our FiveByThree ride from Pittsburgh to D.C. Stay tuned to this space for updates as we go. I've already posted our daily routes if your interested in where we'll be riding.

              • Day 1 - McKeesport to Connellsville
              • Day 2 - Connellsivlle to Cumberland
              • Day 3 - Cumberland to Big Pool
              • Day 4 - Big Pool to Leesburg
              • Day 5 - Leesburg to D.C.

              I’m not a desinger and I’m not going to be one. It’s time to find a theme I like and use it. Thanks Obox for letting hacks like me customize your themes to our hearts content.

              On the afternoon of July the 3rd, I did the first full test for the Pittsburgh to DC ride in July. It was a fifty mile ride from our house to Pymatuning State Park. I picked this campground because it is far enough to be a true test of a long ride then camping, but close enough that if things went horribly wrong, Erin could come and pick me up. You can see the route I took below.

              You can see a few waypoints are on the map where there is a trail head. I was planning on taking two trails as part of the trip, but as it turns out, both trails will barely suited for walking, let alone riding a bike. First lesson: don’t believe Google’s bicycle maps.

              The second lesson, your effective average speed is significantly less than your rolling average speed. What do I mean? I left around 2pm and got to the camp site at around 7pm so 10 mph effective average speed. I don’t have a bike computer because I’m trying to be zen about speed, cadence, etc., but I know my average rolling speed was more than 10 mph.

              No when your out on a club ride, this doesn’t matter much. When it’s the different between arriving before sunset and after sunset, it matters a great deal. I’ve factored stops into our ride schedule and found out we need to leave about 1/2 an hour earlier than planned on our longest, 95 mile, day so we aren’t riding through Cumberland, MD in twilight.

              Being without water for the five miles or so was a hard way to learn lesson number three. I was expecting that I would pass a convenience store somewhere, I was wrong. On the big ride we have planned stops every thirty miles, so I’ll be alright.

              The rest of the lessons were about setting up the campsite and I shot some video for that.

              [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHJKi9iAnHI?rel=0&hd=1]

              Finally, after doing this ride once, I think I’ve found a better route if I ever do this again, and if I wanted to do a loop, here’s a westerly route back to New Castle.

              I’ve had this bag for more than a year. I got it orginally for use at the beach and because it is a smallish carry on bag that works for my ’lectronics.

              [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RO5PE_PN2n0?rel=0&hd=1]

              This bag isn’t waterproof, but it does have a raincoat, tucked into a back pocket. The plan for this bag is stuff that I need to get to quickly or often. I imagine it’s also what I’ll use going to and from our campsite to the shower. I found this knog bag, but it’s an Australian company. The interior of the bag is … well … anatomically correct. You’ll notice I’ve done some modifications so that when I open the flap on a plane, I’m not scandalizing anyone. Here’s what’s inside the bag:

              Our last day is another 1/2 day with only 44 miles of riding and takes us on three (sort of) different trails. If your doing the math, that’s actually six trails not five. We’ll get to that.

              The day starts on the W&OD trail, it’s another rail trail that runs from just north of Leesburg to Shirlington outside of DC. It’s a rather busy trail, but it’s paved and sets us up for a better entry into D.C.

              I’m guessing we’ll sleep in a bit, since we can, and stop in Vienna, VA for lunch. That way we can check out Norm’s beer store, a favorite from my time living in NOVA.

              The Four-Mile Run trail connects the WO&D to the Mount Vernon trail. I’m not counting Four-Mile Run, since we are going to be on it for just over two miles.

              Our final trail takes us past Ronald Regan airport and across the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The Memorial Bridge runs right up to the back of the Lincoln Memorial and provides the most visually impressive way in and out of D.C. We’ll take surface streets to Union Station, drop off our bikes and get a well deserved beer at Cap City.

              Our last full day has us in three states, all on the C&O canal trail. This day will have the most to see with stops in Sharpsburg, MD and Harper’s Ferry and a night in a real bed in Leesburg, VA.

              Another day spent on the Maryland, West Virgina border. Today, our last day on the C&O Trail will take us 77 miles.

              Our first stop is the longest single leg of the trip at 39 miles to Sharpsburg, MD. We may start in Williamsport, MD for a snack, that is if Brian starts complaining. We’ll be eating at Gege’s Place which I’m intrigued by as it is described as, “”snippet">a cross between a restaurant, saloon, biker bar, and pool hall." My only concern is they are a pizza place and Brian is claiming to be lactose intolerant.

              We’ll be stopping in just tweleve more miles in Harper’s Ferry, WV. This is Brian’s request, but I’m excited since I’ve never been. No big plans here, just roll through and get a snack.

              The last bit of the day is exciting as well. We’ll be taking White’s Ferry, the last operating ferry on the Potamac river. From the Virginia side of the river the fine folks at the The Leesburg Colonial Inn will pick us up and take us into town for a night in a bed.

              Day three gets us to our third of five states, via lunch in Paw Paw, WV then back to Maryland for Dinner in Hancock and Camping in Fort Frederick State Park.

              This seventy-five mile day also sees us onto our third trail the Western Maryland Rail Trail. The WMRT parallels the C&O Canal trail, but is paved, so we’ll be able to make better time, and avoid a part of the C&O that is usually rather bad. Word this is the most remote part of the route, and the lack of restaurants that aren’t part of an Exxon highlight the fact.

              Paw Paw, WV has a exactly two options and were going to Grandma’s Country Kitchen, the only one with reviews. The canal is the West Virginia Maryland border so we will be a few feet from West Virgina for nearly all of this part of the ride, but only crossing over into the Mountaineer State once on this day.

              Dinner is slated for Hancock, MD a trail town and the restaurant reviews here are all over the map. Most places get as many raves as pan’s but trail guides say that Weaver’s Restaurant is the best place to stop so we will.

              Camping in a state park means it is free, but also first come first serve. I’m fairly sure we won’t have trouble, but if the park is full we might have to stealth camp along the trail.

              The second day is our biggest day, ninety-five miles. We’ll be passing through Confluence, Meyersdale and ending up in Cumberland, MD.

              I’m not too worried about the distance, if you look at the profile we cross over the Eastern Continental Divide just past Myersdale. We’ll loose 1,787 feet in about twenty-five miles or 71 feet per mile. So it’s technically downhill, but barely.

              We’re stopping at Sister’s Cafe in Confluence but the Lucky Dog Cafe looks promising as well. I’m sure we’ll be hungry enough it won’t much matter.

              Dinner is at the GI Day Room Coffee Shop in Myersdale that allegedly treats trail riders like “royalty.” With 32 miles left to go on the day, I want to make sure we get a meal that doesn’t weigh us down.

              We’ll exit the Great Allegheny Passage trail in Cumberland and ride a mile or so to the YMCA to setup camp, and sleep very well.

              First question should be, why five days? Most people do this in three or four days. Well two big reasons.

              First, the best train back from Washington leaves at 4:05pm. So if we did four days, the last day we could be hustling to get a train – not fun.

              Second, before we leave the Smith’s and Berkebile’s are taking a vacation. I don’t want to cut that short, so starting the first day around noon made sense.

              The first day we are starting from Brian’s house and heading the wrong direction for a few miles so we can start at the McKeesport trail head. Apparently, Brian is some sort of trail hall monitor and they want to get his picture starting our trip.

              The first day is designed to ease us into riding and give us plenty of time to setup camp the first night. We’ll be staying at River’s Edge Campgound and Cabins, just outside of Connellsvile, PA. We’ll be following the Youghiogheny (jk??eni) River all day today, so I expect lots of bridges and old industrial parks.

              My friend, Brian Evans, and I are riding from Pittsburgh (McKeesport) to Washington, D.C. this summer. Right now our route will take us on five trails (Great Allegheny Passage, C&O Canal, W&OD, 4-Mile Run, Mount Vernon) across five states (Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virgina, Virginia and the District of Columbia).

              That’s why the asterisk, technically it’s four states and a federal district, but that doesn’t really have a ring to it.

              We’re doing it in five days in July. Most folks take the trip in three or four days. We’re doing it in five because we aren’t starting until the afternoon of the first day. So it’s really four days of riding, two half days for the first and fifth day and three full days of riding.

              I’ll be posting a bunch about this ride, including our route, gear, etc. So if you are at all interested about bicycle touring, stay tuned to the fivebythree tag, you can see all posts about this here.

              For the Apple devotes like me, “Just one more thing” refers to the phrase often uttered by The Jobs at the end of a keynote. For you it should be a phrase you think about in your donation process. Specifically, asking your donors to share their gift with friends via Facebook or Twitter.

              Eventbrite has had social sharing options on their site for a while now and has looked deeply at the numbers. In a March blog post they reported that people are ten times more likely to share an event with friends after they have RSVP’d for an event.

              This makes intuitive sense.Once you say you are going to an event you want all your friends to go.

              While it isn’t as obvious, I think people have a similar desire to share the fact they have just supported your organization after they give. We know that people give for emotional reasons, not least of which is the positive emotional experience giving brings.

              As someone of faith, this isn’t cynical to me. I understand that I am to walk with the hungry, naked, poor, and imprisoned. Giving is part of the life I’m called to and living that life means living well.

              By adding social sharing options, you provide an easy way for your donors to get the social recognition they deserve for supporting your cause. And when they share they are endorsing your organization to their social network.

              Recently Facebook launched the “Send” button that makes this sharing more powerful. Send differs from “Like” because the donor gets to choose who is going to see the update. It allows your donors to target the message to people they think are most likely to appreciate it. In other words your users are segmenting their social network for you.

              The easy part is inserting the button, the more difficult part is making sure that the link that is shared is to an appropriate page. By default both Twitter and Facebook link to the page where the button is located. Since the link is being shared from a “Thank You” page, that’s the worst option.

              The minimum option is a landing page specifically designed for people coming from social sites. You can reuse this page for general “about us” links from social sites as well.

              The best option is to create a set of pages specific to your common offers. If you are a rescue mission that would mean a meals page that is geared towards people who are coming because a friend pointed them to the page via social sites.

              This is something that it is easy to do in phases. Start with the button pointing to your homepage, and then add the more specific pages over time. As in many things, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

              Online donor acquisition is a huge growth area that is going to take significant investment and suffer from many false starts and missteps. However, you can take your first step towards acquiring new donors online in an afternoon.

              Read this in one of <a href="http://twitter.com/jeggers" class=" twitter-atreply" rel="nofollow">jeggers</a> blog posts and dug it: "You can't jump a 20-foot chasm in two 10-foot leaps."<br /> <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/chadnorman/status/52703882496843776">chadnorman

              The original blog post focuses on Jana Eggers move to CEO of Speadshirt. Thanks to our friend the internet, it is easy to find earlier references, and the earliest I could find was from David Lloyd George1:

              Anything can be achieved in small, deliberate steps. But there are times you need the courage to take a great leap; you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.

              George was Prime Minister of England during the first World War.

              Incrementalism is the safe course, it is often the easier course, but I am convinced in many situations it is not the best course. However, it is hard to argue with incremental change. Our political work environments with high valuation on “buy in” value consensus over innovation. The thought is that by bringing everyone along the team will be better able to execute the innovation.

              Except of course if the team is lying dead at the bottom of a canyon.

              That’s the image this quote evokes and it is a powerful one.

              An incrementalist can argue they aren’t trying to leap over in small jumps but build a bridge over the chasm. The question is how many people are going to leap past you while you are debating the style of bridge?

               

              1. I did find this referenced as a “Chinese Proverb” which I don’t count as an actual reference.

              Remember in elementary school when you were told to XYZ? Well an unexamined Guidestar page is much like the unexamined zipper: embarrassing and easily fixable.

              A recent Network for Good study found that 25 percent of the donations Network for Good collected over the past nine years came through giving portals.

              We’ve seen a large uptick in December visits to our clients that start on charity rating sites like Guidestar or Charity Navigator.

              So the question is: “When was the last time you reviewed your information on these sites?” This isn’t just a digital issue as many people go online before giving offline

              A 2008 study by the Nonprofit Times, showed the people were almost as likely to research a ministry on an independent rating site as the ministries website. I know 2008 seems acient but it is the newest I found.

              Network for Good’s data also showed that the majority of that portal giving was driven by disasters. If your organization deals with disaster response, an out of date or incomplete profile could be costing you.

              I think I’ve made a case to update this information but with at least a dozen rating sites, where do you start? I would suggest Guidestar since it is the most prominent and your Guidestar information is pulled in by other web properties to represent your organization.

              Updating your Guidestar profile is straightforward and it is well documented on their website. One area where this is more complicated is if your ministry was organized as a church or is part of a larger organization.

              The short version is if you are part of a larger organization your out of luck. The larger organization can include your ministry as a program, but you can’t get your own profile. If you were organized as a church as long as you have an employer identification number and a denomination you should be ok, you can read more here.

              If you’re looking for a great example of a Guidestar page check out Care Net’s page. They have just about every area filled out and do an excellent job of responding to comments.

              Do you have another example of a great Guidestar page? Link it up in the comments, but only after you check your page and make sure it is up to date.

              If you know me you know I’m not the handiest. This morning Erin woke me up at 6am to tell me that our furnance had stopped working.

              I got up a bit later and went down to check it out. When the furnace started up it sounded like there was water in the fan. Technically it’s not the just the fan but the cumbustion inducer. It speeds up air going into the burer for more effecient heating.

              This happened last year as well on a Sunday no less. Last year we called to have someone come out and fix it and were informed that it would cost an extra $90 an hour for them to come out on Sunday – so we waited a day.

              When the guy did come out he told me it was exactly what it sounded like – water in the fan. The intake goes to outside and condensation can form in the pipe, there is a drain, but it can get clogged and over time if that happens and the water backs up it can get into the inducer.

              The repair man did show me how to fix a clog. It’s very low tech you litterly suck the clog out using tubing that is part of the furnace, you end up with a mouthful of gunk and water – not pleasent but not dangerous. The water is from condensation, so it’s relatively clean.

              Then I had to figure out how to get the water out of the inducer itself. Searching online found suggestions to take the unit off, it’s only attached with four screws after all. I tried, but one screw is wedged behind a gas pipe – not something I really want to try to move around with a pry bar.

              So was I stuck? Was I going to have to once again forfiet some small piece of my manhood by calling a repair man? The answer is no.

              By taking off the inlet collar and shoving two drinking straws together I was able to suck out the rest of the water in the inducer. Again not the most pleasent, but not too bad.

              Final result: a fixed furnace and another punch on my man card.

              I’ve seen a number of posts about Near Field Communication (NFC) lately. If your unfamiliar the always helpful Ars Technica has this primer.

               

              At the Innogive mobile conference this past summer, Nick Nayfack of Mobile Cause suggested we were years away from this becoming a reality. Why? Retailers don’t want to update their entire point of sale systems to support an emerging standard that might change and that people may not adopt. How many stories have RFID card readers that never get used?

               

              This sounds sensible for me. Take Walmart they have 3,609 “regular” and “Supersized” stores in the United States. If each store has 15 registers (an under estimate) that’s more than 50,000 individual machines that need upgraded – a huge capital investment.

               

               

               

              Another Battle Star post?

              Instead of the f—- (read F-dash-dash-dash) word on the show they use “frak.” It’s used freely on the show and clearly as a one to one substitute. But SyFy never had any trouble getting their shows on the air.

              SyFy is cable of course and it might not have flown on broadcast, but it is an interesting study on how puritanical we remain about language.

              “Bad words” are only bad because society says they are. If you were to use another synonym for the above vulgarity you would sound silly but not profane. Witness, “make love you!” or “make love off!” or “mother love maker.” You are communicating the same thing, but you aren’t using the magic word, so it’s alright.

              According to the internet “frack” or “frak” isn’t a word at all except in the Battle Star universe. “Fracking” is short hand for hydraulic fracturing, a way to extra pockets of natural gas from shale.

              So SyFy has made up word that is clear from the first time you hear it meant to make you think of one of the most vulgar words in the English language, but it is 100 percent ok on TV.

              Language has fascinated me since I read 1984 as a senior in High School. The addendum on New Speak was just as interesting as the book. The words we  have limit our ability to express thoughts and emotions.

              Language is under assult from both ends in the U.S. right now. At the vulgar end, text messaging is taking phonetics to a whole new level. At the professional end buzz words are coined at an alarming rate. Both are lazy and in the final equation have us saying things that are less meaningful.

              With this dual assault on the language of Shakespeare, I am happy to see that inventing new expletives something we are spending some time on.

              2010 Year In Review

              I decided to take the time to look back at 2010 and put together some highlights. I know this isn’t everything, but its something.

              Thank you

              Erin, Mom, Dad, Rachel, Shawn, Andrew, Bobbie, Dan, Mary, Caitlin, Pap, Butch, Bill, Gina, Billy, Matt, Joni, Nathan, Micah and Arin for being the most important people in any year.

              Music

              Four songs are part of this video: Hallelujah
              by Rufus Wainwright, Snowfall Music
              by Carbon Leaf, Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise
              by the Avett Brothers and Peg & Awl by Growling Old Men

              Photos

              Some of the photos are my own, some were taking by others and uploaded to Facebook, so technically Facebook owns them, others to Flickr. I put the first draft together to late at night to think about crediting everyone.

              Cory Booker is the mayor of Newark and has been dubbed “Twitter’s Mayor” by Vanity Fair.

              He’s been tweeting for a while now. The last time he got some noteriarty from his Twitter use was when he and Conan O’Brien had a dust up of Newark jokes that ended in a $100,000 to Booker’s Newark centered chairity. Not bad.

              This past week @CoryBooker by responding personally to resident’s tweets about the snow storm. Vanity Fair covered the ten most valiant.

              We’ve talked a lot about how to raise money with social networking, but i believe the real value is using these channels like these for customer/constiuent/donor service. Just like Mr. Booker did.

              He has seen some backlash, with folks asking why he isn’t doing “real work.” My use of quotes should make it obvious that I think Mr. Booker is indeed doing real work. It seems to me connecting directly with constiuents is a much better use of time in a crisis than micro-managing the people who are being paid to do the real work.

              Who inside your organization could benefit from some direct, frank interaction with donors?

              Adama_800

              What is a geek supposed to do with a few days off? Start watching Battlestar Galactica of course. In a Season 1 episode, Commander Adama says something like, “I often keep tactical details on a need to know basis.”

              It got me thinking about the dividing line between strategy and tactics. At work we like to make a neat categorical break between the two, but my understanding has evolved to differientate the two functionally.

              A categorical definition would say that you have a direct mail strategy and then each individual mailing is a tactic of that strategy. However, you could argue that the direct mail strategy is just a tactic of a fundraising strategy. Before long categorical definitions have us saying it’s strategy all the way down.

              A functional definition, says strategic thinking focuses on the ends and tactical thinking focuses on the means. Your strategy defines the problem and how you know when you have solved it and your tactics do the solving. If you are going to seperate these functions across different people or teams, it requires great humility by everyone.

              The strategist has to give up deciding the “how” and the tactition has to give up deciding the “why.”

              This begs the question is this seperation sensible? I think not. Succesful teams will break down tactical/strategic boundaries and work together to both define problems and propose solutions. This means it should be an expectation of eveyone on the team to be able to contribute to both the why and the how.

              A team member who can’t think both strategically and tactical isn’t valuable. Timelines are too short, the pace of change is too fast and what was once the well guarded border of strategy and tactics (accounts and creative) is now a no-mans land one has to traverse to find success.

              That’s the title of a panel I wanted to be part of at this years NTC, but the voters have spoken and that panel will not be. But I want to explore the concept.

              My basic premise is that most fundraising we do now depends on scale. In other words, until you your direct mail list is big, like thousands, a custom direct mail program is going to cost more than it brings in, in revnue. Of course once you go over that magic number, direct mail can be like printing money. Although that printing press is spitting out smaller and smaller bills.

              When I think about the future of communication, it is my belief that no one way to communicate is going to reach enough people to have any scale. Ask yourself, what’s the best way to get your attention? For me its a tweet @j8ke. For others it’s a Facebook message and for many it is still a piece of nonprofit mail.

              Now of course you can get my attention with a USPS two-day envolope as well, but that gets pricey … at scale.

              Right now most groups are at a place where the default is to say the same thing everywhere you can and hope that you get people’s attention. That will work for a while but isn’t cost effecient and won’t be effecive as the vocabulary of different channels continues to diverage.

              So now it’s a question, what fundraising methods are you using that don’t need scale to succeed? Are you willing to spill?

              Peter Merholz at Adaptive Path wrote a post grandiosely titled “The Pernicious Effects of Advertising and Marketing Agencies Trying To Deliver User Experience Design.” Luckily I know what pernicious means, but it did take awhile to find an adjective to make my title as diffuse long-winded wordy.

              To summarize the post, Peter believes that since advertising and marketing agencies engage in a “poisonous endeavor” and see people as “sheep to be manipulated” they can’t create good user experience. Well that got my dander up and I feel like I can respond from deep within the “Poisonous Core.”

              To be fair, I think Adaptive Path is a great company that does exceptional work. I’m a proud owner of Indi Young’s “Mental Models," but I think they are a bit off the mark here. Peter took the time to write the piece, so I want to take the time to respond to each of his points with some thought.

              I am sure that there are some agencies that are everything Peter says they are: I can only speak for Masterworks, where I work. I’ve not commented on some of his points that simply don’t apply because we work differently than a typical agency.

              The Poisonous core
              I don’t believe that encouraging someone to do something that they otherwise aren’t inclined to do is inherently unethical. While Peter doesn’t come right out and say it, that’s the general impression I get.

              If we should always let people do what they want and not try to change their choices, then you have to say that Breast Cancer awareness is unethical. If a woman doesn’t want a mammogram who is Susan G. Komen to tell her that she should, they shouldn’t try to scare people into doing something they don’t want to do.

              An extreme example to be sure, but we all need to be reminded of things we should do and don’t want to.

              It is my job to convince you to donate to an organization you haven’t donated to before, does that make me a bad person? If I do it with integrity, I don’t think so.

              Customers are sheep
              Here Peter says that, “user experience tends to favor the end-user over the client, sometimes to the client’s chagrin.” Well it must be nice to work in an industry where you don’t have to satisfy the people that pay you.

              Zappos goal is not to deliver a great customer experience; their goal is to sell products. Tell me all you want, that’s not what they are about and how cool their core values are and how they are on twitter. At the end of the day their primary metric of success if profitability not customer satisfaction. And if someone from Zappos is reading this and thinks I’m wrong, start sending me free shoes – size 13 Adidas please.

              At the end of the day the work we do is judged by how many people give. Perhaps that means our clients are “misguided” and they should be more donor focused, but I think they are realistic. No nonprofit makes money by people visiting their website.

              Ad agencies are the new music industry
              I certainly hope not, or I won’t be able to keep up my fine beer habit. Seriously though, the way donors act and react is changing so he’s right that there is a risk if agencies don’t change. There are days when I worry about Masterworks and if we are changing fast enough.

              We do know that we have to delight donors, but we also realize that you have to ask.

              It’s the first rule of fundraising and it isn’t going to change.

              Yesterday, ReadWrite Web posted  a story titled: “CRM: A $75 Billion Failure?” I posted it to our Yammer at work and a colleague responded asking:

              Evaluating the cost-to-value of CRM software is certainly a valuable exercise, but this article doesn’t even address it aside from the first sentence.

              That first sentence says:

              In the past ten years, $75 billion has been spent on CRM software, according to Gartner analyst Michael Maoz. During that time, customer satisfaction has risen only 3-5 percent.

              Regardless of the truth or fiction of ReadWrite Web’s headline, I think the Maoz’s premise is wrong. If the best way to judge the effectiveness of CRM (Constituent/Customer Relationship Management) systems is increases in customer satisfaction, then you can assume the goals of these systems are to increase customer satisfaction.

              The acronym CRM also implies that. Real relationships come with the expectation that both people are putting forth an effort. We rarely keep relationships where it is clear that our friend is simply trying to maximize the value they are getting from us.

              But that is exactly what the companies Maoz is looking at and the nonprofits I work for are trying to do. CRM should really stand for Constituent/Customer Relationship Maximization. The goal isn’t happy customers, the goal is customers who buy or donate and one means to that end is to have happy customers.

              So customer or donor satisfaction is only as important as it relates to a customer’s desire to continue to buy.

              If you read on you can see the article is really about arguing for more social solutions to improve customer satisfaction. So the piece basically says hammers are better at hammering than a salami.

              While I would agree with that statement salami’s are still very, very tasty and CRM systems are valuable at maximizing customer value at any level of satisfaction.

              Thanks Drew for pointing me to The Perils of Hipster Christianity. One paragraph caught my eye:

              “And the further irony,” he adds, “is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them.”

              I’ve been telling clients for years that my generation has been marketed to since we were toddlers. Many of us were sat in front of the TV from an early age. I often tell a story about my wife Erin buying a Malibu Barbie Hot Dog stand only to be stunned when sand and palm trees didn’t come pouring out of the box.

              Erin says that is when she stopped trusting marketing, she was five.

              Match that with the new to me movie The Joneses. I know this movie is a year old, but they showed on the plane back home on Friday. Most movies are just background noise as I, ahem, “work” on the plane, but this one kept my attention.

              I am about to ruin the first 20 minutes of the movie if you haven’t heard the “twist” already.

              The Joneses are a created family positioned and supplied by major brands to introduce products to people personally. Each family member has markets and products to push, but it is all rather under the radar.

              In a recent conversation with a high school student about what they read online, her biggest factor was the number of friends that had recommended it and how close she was to those friends. The closer the friend, the more the recommendation meant.

              Personal recommendations are the most important thing a nonprofit or a brand can have.

              Does that mean traditional mass marketing is dead? Certainly not. A personal recommendation means more if the product or charity is already firmly lodged into your memory.

              How do you create personal recommendations? My three rules without any research backing them up:

              1. Provide exceptional, obsessive customer service. 
              2. Have a strong, unapologetic story.
              3. Have an enemy.

              Most will have no problems with the first two, but the third that’s a tough pill to swallow; especially in the Christian nonprofit market I work in. You shouldn’t define yourself as the anti- anything: that’s why it is important to have a strong story. But I do think it is good to look at another brand in your space and create a zero-sum game with that brand. For every customer/donor they get, it means you loose one.

              Then get out there and tell your story so well that people forget about your enemy.

              This concept was conceived while I was mowing my lawn. Mowing provides a time to think. Mostly I think about how I don’t like mowing my lawn, but today I thought about project management.

              First let me say I’m talking about project management as a function, not about any of the talented Project Managers I work with now or worked with in the past. And I’m talking about project mangement as a separate function on a project. Yes every project needs “managed” in the sense that every project has to be defined, milestones along the way have to be planned and something has to be delivered.

              The question I’m considering is when is it appropriate to separate out the PM function and have it handled by a specific person otherwise uninvolved in the project. The following chart summarizes my thinking

              Marginal-value-of-pm

              “Person Days” is the number of people on a project times the number of days a project is open. The chart shows that the fewer days a project is open or people working on it, separating the project management function has negative marginal value. In other words, it hurts the project.

              Now if this were an economics class with Dr. G. Dirk Mateer I would be done with my essay and out the door, but I’ll ellaborate a bit more. This is going to seem like I’m going far afield but stick with me.

              I volunteer at the ELCA Youth Gathering. One part of the gathering is staffed by volunteers who work in one of the dozens of hotels where participants are housed during the event. For a time, each hotel had a three person team with specific titles: Hotel Pastor, Crisis Counselor and Youth. That model has been done away with for a number of reasons, but one was the fact that Crisis Counselors created crisises.

              When you give someone a job they do it. When you tell someone to manage the project they do, even when the project doesn’t need external management.

              You can see that there are no numbers on either axis. My thought on the X-axis is that somewhere around 150 person days (five people working for a month) is where the red line turns into the positive. That’s more than five people working on a project that is open for more than a month.

              Anything less than that and project management shouldn’t be separated out, but can be done by the team working on the project. This comes from my seven years of experience working on projects in an agency environment.

              What is your experience? Am I wrong? Is the X-intercept too far out? Too close? Let me know in the comments.

               

              Erin and I joined a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture plan this summer. A local farmer sells shares and people in the community buy them to support the farm. Its a great way to get local produce cheaply.

              The “downside” is that you don’t get to pick what you get. So this week we got a bunch of radishes, tops and all. Neither Erin nor I had ever used radish greens, but thanks to the internet it was easy to find a recipe.I settled on Radish Top Soup

              I felt inspired tonight so I cooked it up tonight and filmed the steps.

              [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf6nWzBPkkY?wmode=transparent]

              I hope to do this each week as we learn old ways of cooking new things.

              I recently got a new helmet ahead of?? the big charity ride I’m doing this weekend. My old helmet was a nice one, it matched my bike, it was comfortable and safe.

              However, it didn’t have the ventilation that most other bike helmets do. It was a gift so I don’t want to talk bad about it, but there are better helmets out there in terms of weight and ventilation. Keeping your head cool isn’t just a nice thing. I would sweat enough in my old helmet that it would run into my eyes. Not the best thing when you are speeding downhill at 30 miles an hour.

              Erin offered to buy me a new helmet last year for my birthday, why did it take so long for me to follow through? Because last year on this charity ride, one of the marshals at a turn said she liked my helmet.

              That’s right because some complete stranger said they liked my somewhat behind the times helmet I kept it for nearly a year. And it was only when the old helmet fell apart a bit that I bought the new one.

              One lady makes one comment and I can’t get rid of my helmet because I think I look good. It never crossed my mind that she said that to all the riders. Words of encouragement are important out on the road and perhaps she was providing that.

              I sometimes forget how much what other people say influences beyond rationality. It makes what I do everyday – try to get people to donate to nonprofits – seem even more like throwing darts.

              I like making simple things. Of course since I’m not the most handy in the real world, most of the simple things I make are made of 1’s and 0’s. Two things I’m most proud of I did in less than an hour.

              The first is the Conan Comeback Clock I created it over my lunch hour the weekend before Conan went off the air. I used code I had orginally written for rescue missions to count down to Easter or Thanksgiving. Since January this page has had 25,897 visitors. If you look at this from a time per visitor perspective the site is very effective.

              The second is NTC Vendor Bingo. I built this in response to a tweet from Amy Sample Ward that a bunch of vendors were cold calling her and others. Thanks to jQuery, I was able to set this up in about 1/2 an hour. You can see all the code right there on the page. This page saw a decent spike in visits before the conference and probably got Masterwork name in front of people who would have otherwise missed us.

              With each the problem was obvious and the solution straightforward. The reward was not an elegant solution that advanced comuter science, but a simple one that hopefully brought a bit of joy.

              Last week I saw my friend rooting for the Montreal Canadians while they were playing the Pittsburgh Penguins.

              He is a Philly fan generally, so I chided him for betraying his state and his country. He came back at me saying his dad was a Habs fan from when he lived in Montreal.

              That shut me up.

              As anyone knows, being a fan of the team your father (or relative) is a fan of is one of the best justifications. It got me thinking that I should categorize some of the other valid reasons to be a fan.

              Geography
              The obvious and easy one is geography. This includes where you grew up and where you went to college.

              Family member played for the organization
              There is not statue of limitations on this one and includes minor league teams.

              Live saving procedure at college teaching hospital
              You might be saying, this one has to be completely rare, but I have a Alabama Crimson Tide and Carolina Tar Heel fan that would say otherwise.

              Outside of that I don’t really see any good reasons, here are some bad reasons.

              Favorite player now plays for the team
              It is fine to be a fan of players, I’m a fan of Shaq but I wasn’t an Orlando, then Laker then Heat then Suns now Cleveland fan.

              They won a championship in your formative years
              This is a tough one. I have a former roommate who is a Chicago Bears fan because he was five the “Super Bowl Shuffle” year. However, I have to say that this isn’t a good reason. Interestingly though if any of his children are Bears fans they would be justified.

              They were the team everyone in your town hated
              Another tough one since I have an uncle that is a Dallas fan. Dallas and the Steelers played a good number of important games that the Steelers won. I’m fairly sure my uncle is just a Cowboys fan to be a contrary. Fortunately his son is back in the Black and Gold fold.

              What did I miss? What are some other good and bad reasons to be a fan of a team?

              You may have noticed that I recently added a Creative Commons license to this blog and my website. This license grants you permission to use anything written here as long as you are using it for non-commercial purposes, you attribute it to me and you don’t modify it.

              By giving that permission to you, I have given something that isn’t mine – the right to my ideas. I recently read over the confidentiality and trade secret agreement I signed as part of my employment at Masterworks it says:

              Employee shall, during the term of Employee’s employment, disclose promptly to Masterworks in writing all ideas, plans and discoveries related to Masterworks’ business, as defined in “2” above, whether or not conceived or developed during working hours or on the property of Masterworks. Such ideas, plans and discoveries shall be the property of Masterworks and it shall have the right to any copyrights, trademarks that may be issued or be available with respect to the same. Employee shall also, and hereby does, assign to Masterworks and/or its nominees all Employee’s right, title and interest in such ideas, plans and discoveries.

              Masterworks business is defined as:

              … any and all information not generally known or recognized as standard practice, disclosed to, developed by, know or contributed by Employee as a consequence of or through Employee’s employment by Masterworks about any and all of the technology, research, procedures and results, reports, equipment, forms, processes and products, services used, identity and description of services used, client lists, purchasing, accounting, engineering, marketing, mailing lists, merchandising, selling and servicing, surveying and business method used or developed by or for Masterworks.

              So in layman’s terms anything I think of related to anything having to do with running a small business or management or fundraising anywhere, anytime is owned by Masterworks. This isn’t unique to Masterworks, in fact you can find similar language on RealDealDocs for free.

              This language is left over from a time where processes had to be protected in order for a company to survive. I could publish every bit of Masterworks process, every analytical device we use and we would still be competitive. Why? Because it is our creative ideas and our ability to actually use the tools that sets us apart.

              I will continue to publish my thoughts and ideas in this space and I believe by doing so I help Masterworks be more competitive, not less.

              I am firmly of the opinion that a major failure of organizations of any size is too much care for others work. I’m not as good as others at their job and they aren’t as good at mine. When we take time to do others work or make their decisions we rob ourselves and our organizations.

              People don’t like to hear, “I don’t care” and understandably so. It smacks of disdain and derision. However, in the work place the fewer people that care about your job the better.

              How do you separate caring about the person and not caring about their job?

              I care if a person is overwhelmed and experiencing stress, but I don’t care for them to recount their todo list to me.

              The workplace culture is one where you have to constantly prove to others that you are busy as a way of convincing them that you are properly balancing their priorities. We have a workplace where it is assumed people can’t do their job.

              I assume the person doing the job is competent. Some may say this is dangerous, but if someone can’t do the job their failure will be an issue at some point and I’d rather sooner than later.

              So when I ask you for something and you give me an estimate of when it will be ready, I don’t need any more explanation than that. If that time line doesn’t work, we’ll negotiate further. Either way I’m confident you are correctly prioritizing your work.

              When we stop trying to do others job we have more time to actually care for the person. To find time to do our own job better to help them or to provide some helpful encouragement. That’s where we should be spending our energy.

              As I’ve mentioned before I’m a proponent of much of 37Signals ideas about business, one their mantras is: planning is guessing. Which, if you read further, doesn’t mean you never plan it means you don’t plan too far out.

              The folks at 37Signals suggest 90 days. But they don’t offer any specific of how you can do that. Of course each organization may take different tactics, but I’ve come up with a general shape for that planning, I call it the Next 90 meeting.

              It is a once a month one hour meeting designed for a small team of people. Specifically three roles need to be represented: the person who is responsible for success, the person responsible for making sure work is completed and the person who does the work. More generally a director, a manager and a producer.

              How those three roles should really be one person is a discussion for another day. For now, those three roles are fairly normal in an organization.

              Those are the players, how does the meeting run?

              The first 20 minutes focus not on the future but on the past. The majority of time in the meeting should focus on what just happened and what was learned. The idea is to apply these to what you are about to do.This segment is lead by the director.

              After looking backward, you would spend 15 minutes on the next thirty days. The goal is not to discuss everything that is to happen, just to make sure everyone is aware of what is happening, key deadlines resource needs and roadblocks. This segment is lead by the manager.

              The last 15 minutes are spent on the sixty days after that. Since this area is more unknown the goal here is not to plan as much to think about new things that can be done that will take longer or more research. This segment is lead by the producer.

              The division of the three sections is designed to keep the meeting moving and to assure that each person can prepare. Some healthy competition to make sure their part of the meeting runs well is a good thing.

              Do you have a meeting like this in yoru organization? How does it work? Comments are cool people.

              Recently I orderd some Moo Cards to take to the NTC conference. I wanted to get a QR code on the back so my contact information would be scanable.

              I got my order in the mail and attempted to scan them and they didn’t work. The QR code wouldn’t scan. I figured I was out the $20, but an email to Moo couldn’t hurt.

              What followed was a multi-email back and forth that ended with this email:

              I created a new Illustrator file with vector text and your QR code.

              Your order is reprinting and I checked the QR code again.

              Everything works. =)

              Best Regards,
              Zachary

              No extra charges, they sent me a new batch. That’s what customer service should be.

              I write sans WiFi at the first open power outlet I could find, six gates away from my own. I am on my way back from Atlanta where I attended the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC).

              Believe it or not, I’m an introvert. While I’m fine (some would say happiest) in front of a crowd, meeting and greeting new people takes energy.

              This year I wanted to make a special effort to push past my tendency to want to stare out my window.

              I leave it to others to share what they learned as far as using nonprofit technology. I’d like to share what I learned about the community I am a part of.

              The people I met genuinely care about you. They don’t appear pleasant for pleasant’s sake but want to know how you are doing, not just how your job is going.

              In particular I spent some time with John Merritt, Jess Rodgers, Manny Hernadez the folks at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Civic Actions and just a short conversation with Amy Sample Ward. In each case, I know that I have made connections that I can’t call “contacts” or “prospects.” They are folks that I would be blessed to call friends.

              Two missed connections this year with Danielle Brigida and Chad Norman.

              This is the second year in a row that Danielle said something about social media that I will quote all year and will make me sound smart. She gets it. I’m so thankful we don’t work with organizations that have to compete with the brand she is building for National Wildlife Federation – we would loose.

              Meeting up with Chad Norman was going to be completely self serving. I miss doing a podcast and I think I could be a decent panelist on the Baudcast. I was hoping conversation about my family in Mount Pleasant over a beer at the Brick Store would show my sparkling wit.

              If this reads as a bit of a love letter and your worried that the old cynical, arrogant East Coast dude is on the outs, I don’t know.

              Perhaps it is only in long shadows of Hartfield’s C Concourse with the warming sun well balanced by an occasional air conditioned breeze that I can fully appreciate others. Or perhaps I as I am closer to 30 than 29, I can now appreciate that even if I’m as good as I think I am, it isn’t as good as what I can be if I work in community.

              And perhaps this is the lesson that NTC is designed to teach.

              Original posted at Masterworks

              Today, thousands of Christians will commemorate the Last Supper, the final Passover meal Jesus ate with his disciples. Over the next few days, the ministries we serve will physically serve thousands of Easter meals in places as diverse as mission kitchens in Orlando and tents in Haiti.

              We know that donors love to support meals. Because we know it can be successful, we often appeal for meals much more than we appeal for the other important programs ministries provide.

              However, as many enter the Triduum on this Maundy Thursday and follow Jesus from table to courtroom, to cross, to empty tomb, I feel that it is important to offer another perspective on meals as sacrifice.

              This isn’t my idea. I came across it in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology, a book by Eugene Peterson. In one discussion, Peterson is talking about sacrifice and writes:

              “Hospitality is the daily practice in keeping sacrifice local and immediate: a meal prepared and served to family and guests is giving up of ourselves for another. (p. 219)”

              Peterson challenges the reader to consider this humble sacrifice a worthy one, and to stop thinking that their sacrifice needs to be grandiose to count. He is reminding Christians of something I believe we often need to be reminded of: salvation is God’s work and it has been accomplished; we are blessed that God chooses to let us be part of it.

              Peterson continues:

              “An enormously complex web of engagement is behind underneath, and around even the simplest meal we serve or that is served to us. The preparation, serving and eating of meals is perhaps the most complex cultural process that we human beings find ourselves in. It is a microcosm of the intricate realities that are combined to form the culture that gives meaning to the daily lives of us all….(p. 210)”

              One could say Peterson is reaching here, but I don’t think so. When I think about the important relationships in my life, they all were formed or strengthened preparing, serving and eating meals, and I would venture to say that is shared experience. Can you name one great friend who you haven’t cooked with?

              So what does all of this have to do with fundraising? That is what we do here at Masterworks, isn’t it?

              Most days yes, but tomorrow our entire staff will be serving others. It is a tradition that we started last year in partnership with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. A tradition that has inspired our team and deepened our care for all the ministries we serve.

              Fundraising is a lot of what we do at Masterworks, but it isn’t who we are. I read books on theology and find inspiration for a meals offer. Others volunteer their time to work with youth. And still others pray for people they have never met.

              This commitment to ministry matters. It shapes what we do and keeps the focus right where it needs to be for success that goes beyond pro-formas and ROI. Success that we can all celebrate, perhaps over a meal, perhaps at a great high feast.

              We were talking around the lunch table at work last week and it was decided that a number of us need to write more. I figured it would be motivation if for every week you didn’t write you had to donate $2 to charity.

              I am a tools guy, that is to say I think the tool you use has a significant effect on the end product. So I sometimes build my own tools, and this was no exception. In this case I built Writers Blok. I started on it on Friday night and was done by Sunday.

              However, Saturday night I was further away from being finished than when I started. I was trying to build something much more complicated than I needed. It is a common trap we all get into. Seth Godin says something in our “lizard brain” keeps us from wanting to complete a task.

              He’s right. The more I played with a “feature” the eight people that would ever see the site don’t care about, the safer I was. I didn’t have to launch anything, to hear possible criticism to have to fix possible bugs.

              In a previous episode, I mentioned the book Rework. In that book, the authors mention that when they launched Basecamp, their first and flagship product, they had no way to accept payments. How could they launch a product with no way of being payed for it? 

              When you sign up for a Basecamp account you get a free 30 day trial. They figured they could add the payment system in before that 30 days was up, so they focused on other things.

              If you launched a fee supported application with no way to collect fees you would be scoffed at today, but you need not be. Until you have a customer you don’t need to collect fees and until you have about ten you don’t need to automate it.

              It is a struggle for me, but I feel like on Writers Blok, I’ve practiced what I preach: I built something quickly that has only the stuff it needs for today. If 100 people sign up tomorrow, I’ll be spending some time over this weekend to upgrade. Better that then spending time this weekend to launch the “perfect” version and loose momentum.

              I recent read Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson from 37signals.

              In the book Fried and Hansson do something that Marx and Engels did for an earlier generation: describe how a technological change affects the worker. Marx and Engels described how the industrial revolution affected largely agrarian workers, while Friend and Hansson describe how the internet revolution is affecting knowledge workers.

              In the same way that Marx’s exortations must have appealed to newly minited factory men, Fried and Hansson’s catchphrases like, “planning is guessing” and “meetings are toxic” just feel right to a generation of workers.

              The similarities end there of course, Friend and Hansson are capitalists through and through and don’t feel as if there are describing a historical inevitably.

              One of Marx’s concepts is alienation. Best summarized in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844:

              The fact express merely that the object with labour produces – labour’s product – confronts it as something alien, as a power independent of the produce.

              Workers who previously produced goods by hand for largely their own consumption moved into factory work, making durable goods largely for the consumption of a middle class they had little hope of joining. This created a very real feeling of alienation.

              Now, more than 150 years later, the vestiges of that factory mentality are still in our knowledge workplace. Take this passage from Rework:

              Not only is this workaholism unnecessary, it’s stupid. Working more doesn’t mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more.

              In the world of assembly lines where the pace of production is not in control of the worker, how long you work does determine how much you produce. Now freed of the assembly line, knowledge workers can work at their own pace – with the best working more quickly.

              Marx’s power came from the fact that he was describing a feeling that workers had just begun to be able to express themselves. I believe that Fried and Hansson are doing the same thing and all knowledge workers have to loose is the chains attaching them to their keyboards.

              Dscn0540

              Yesterday was the Spring Clean up day at our church. I spent most of the morning cleaning the sanctuary with Nora. Nora is one of our older members, her and her late husband were there when our church was formed.

              I had no idea how involved until yesterday. Our altar, shown here decked out for Advent, is a unique feature of the church. You can see it is a boulder with a wooden top. Talking to Nora, I now know why.

              She mentioned that according to the Old Testament an altar should be of unhewn (unfinished) stone and of an entierly different wood than the rest of the wood used in the sanctuary. I found the unfinished stone referenced in Exodus 20, but I haven't been able to find the different wood instruction.

              Regardless, of the specific instructions, the more important part of the conversation was how Nora described her and her husband's experience. Experience where God was an active participant.

              She mentioned that it was a blessing to find a rock that was the right size and shape in the quarry that wouldn't require any tooling. On top of that, the altar top is made out of "some wormy chestnut" that Nora's family had been keeping. Nora said they didn't know why they were keeping it, "but the Lord knew."

              In our culture it is easy to see God as divorced from history – especially when it gets us out of answering thorny theodicy questions. That's not how Nora sees God, she understands God as a real power that guided her husband to that particular stone and kept the wormy chestnut safe for God's very specific purpose.

              At the beginning of Holy Week, I am challenged to see God as an active and pervasive force in this world.

              October 29, 2007
              Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL

              Initial Impressions

              If you aren’t quite sure where to go, you usually you just follow the balding middle aged (for the industry which means 32) men. That wouldn’t have worked at SEED.

              Breakfast is as one would expect: awkward. Coders don’t mix well with anyone, designers are too busy figuring out if their glasses are the hippest in the room, and sales people make everyone uncomfortable. The sales types are the easiest to spot in their “laid back” suit with no tie.

              Another thing that struck me is there was more “product” in the guy’s hair than the women’s hair. These conferences are probably the few places where that happens. It’s really an untapped sponsorship opportunity.

              Links

              Quotes

              Communication that doesn’t take a chance doesn’t stand a chance.
              - Carlos Segura
              One piece [of design] won’t fix your twenty-five years of bad habits
              - Carlos Segura
              Interruption is not collaboration
              -Jason Fried
              Documents are illusions of agreement
              - Jason Fried
              It’s easier to out-cool than out-think
              - Jim Coudal
              We’re [Coudal Partners] totally unfocused
              - Jim Coudal
              This could be a slight paraphrase, but I’m sure he would agree with the sentiment.

              What I learned at SEED

              I had to give a presentation all “what I learned this summer” style. I’ve included the flash here. Without me talking it may not make much sense, but for what it’s worth here it is.





              orginaly published by Silas Partners
              September 2006

              The most frequent email related question we hear at Silas Partners is: “When should we send out our mailing?” The industry standard reply is by and large: early in the week, early in the day. This conclusion is often based on open rate analysis.

              I’m seldom happy with “industry standard” and “by and large.” In order to be able to give more specific and more helpful advice, you have to go past open rates when looking at email performance. To this end we recently compiled a sample of email statistics and performed some new analysis on this data. The results validate some of the industry standard thought, but they also give more insight.

              We applied a new analysis to the open, click through and action rates of the emails we analyzed. An action is defined by a user filling out survey, making a donation or taking an advocacy action. Normally mail performance is judged on one of these factors alone, but this narrow view doesn’t take the whole picture into account. You need to look at how these factors influence each other to get a more complete picture of the success of an email campaign.

              An example — with small numbers — will make this more clear. Say you have a list that has ten subscribers, and you send out two emails to this list. The first one is opened by five people but only one clicks through to take action. The second email is opened by three people but two people click through to take action. Which email was more effective? If one applied simple open rate analysis the second email would have appeared to fail when in reality it faired much better at eliciting action.

              Often time these numbers are looked at without considering the percentage difference from the average. Without looking at the percentage difference it is difficult to decide if any increase is actually significant. Another example will help to illustrate: If you have an open rate on Monday of 15 percent and 20 percent on Tuesday normal analysis would say you should send emails out on Tuesday. However, if your average open rate is 17 percent then it is evident that there isn’t a truly significant difference between Monday and Tuesday.

              Enough with the theory, now on to the numbers. First, a quick note about our sample; we used a cross section of types of email and frequency. We also excluded daily or weekly devotional emails from our analysis as these tend to be more about keeping in touch and providing a service and less about eliciting action. While our sample is representative it is on the small side by statistical standards, which means that your results may vary – more on that later.

              From our analysis the best time to send an email is Tuesday between 3pm and 6pm. We would not have arrived at this conclusion had we used traditional open rate analysis. Tuesday actually has the second to worst open rate of any day of the week. However, the click through, action, and forward rate are by far the best of any day of the week.

              The general concept of our analysis was to get a number of opens, clicks, actions, and forwards you could expect per 1,000 emails sent. On average our data showed one could expect 243 of those 1,000 emails to be opened and of those 243 opens we expect 38 clicks, 24 actions and 0.6 forwards.

              On Tuesday you could expect 211 opens, 73 clicks, 51 actions and 1.1 forwards. That is 91 percent more clicks, 117 percent more actions and 70 percent more forwards.

              If we had applied simple open rate analysis to our data set we would have suggested Thursday as the best day to send emails. Our data showed one could expect 300 opens for every 1,000 emails sent.

              However, the click, action and forward rates plummet on Thursday. All three rates are down between 60 and 70 percent leading to significantly fewer actions per 1,000 emails sent.

              This clearly points out the problem with the question, “What is the best day to send our emails?” The objective of the email weighs heavily on the answer to that question.

              Some emails are focused on getting information to constituents. If that is the goal, Thursday, with the highest open rate, is your best day. However, if you are looking for the best overall performance, Tuesday, with the highest action rate, is the obvious choice.

              We also found that time of day can have an impact on the performance of your emails, although the variations were less than the variations caused by the day of the week. In general we found that sending messages overnight would give you the best action and forward performance, while sending them after 6 pm eastern would give you the highest open and click rate.

              When we combined time of day for Tuesday we found that Tuesday between 3 pm and 6 pm (EST) had the highest action and forward rate. It is important to note that as with any set of data, the more you slice it the smaller your sample becomes and the more prone to variation and error any analysis becomes.

              Also to reiterate, while we feel confident in our analysis, our sample size is not large enough to make broad general claims about every email you would send. The original purpose of the analysis was to collect data and look at open rates to make such a general claim. However, through the analysis we have found that while claims in the aggregate may prove instructive, there are more nuanced factors that have to be considered.

              To summarize, the bad news is: knowing when to send your emails isn’t as simple as you thought it was. The even worse news is that depending on your audience and your email content our aggregated analysis may not match up to what you are seeing. The good news is that Silas Partners is ready to help.

              orginaly published by Silas Partners
              May 2006

              Search Engine Optimization or SEO is one, of many, buzzwords thrown about on the web without any real explanation. We all know SEO is good and something that we need to be doing, but ask anyone who sells SEO what it is and you’re bound to get an answer that sounds like an alchemist telling you how to turn lead into gold.

              Search Engine Optimization is the snake-oil of the web: provided by traveling salesmen who trust in their victims’ customers’ ignorance and fear to hock their tawdry wears.

              I exaggerate. I don’t think all SEO companies are just trying to steal your donors’ generous contributions or that you have been a bad steward if you have employed an SEO company.

              Still, on any project where you are promised Search Engine Optimization you have to be sure what you’re getting isn’t a jargon-laden boilerplate but a well-thought-out plan for success.

              Write Compelling, Unique and Topical Content

              Every search engine’s goal is to return results that are helpful to searchers. If a search engine returns bad results you are likely to stop using it. Every search engine wants their top result for a search to be the best resource on that subject.

              Make your content exceptional. Your ministry knows what is going on in your field, perhaps better than anyone. Be bold and choose stories that will get noticed and stand out from others. Keep your focus on the topics your ministry can speak about with authority.

              Re-purposing existing print copy is not enough for your website. You have to make time to write web-appropriate content for every page. Most ministries do not have the time, people power, or expertise to do this. This is where partnering with an experienced web agency is crucial. When looking for that partner in your online efforts, make sure they will work with you to produce excellent content for your website.

              Make Your Content Search Engine Friendly

              This is where it gets technical and many SEO companies wrap the client in a tangled web of acronyms until they stop struggling. In short, search engines use machines to read your website, so you have to understand how those machines work when you are building the site.

              There are no optimization programs or filters you can run your website through to make the underlying code search engine friendly. Also, most easy-to-use web design programs spit out code that chokes many search engines. The best way to assure your website is search engine friendly is to hand-code the website while keeping in mind the factors that add to search engine friendliness.

              Keeping up with coding standards and tricks could be a full time job. While you are pouring over “A List Apart” you aren’t thinking about the next campaign or event or church service your ministry is preparing for. You partner with someone to build your website so you do not have to get bogged downed in the muck of HTML and CSS. Creating websites that are search engine friendly has to be part of the way a web partner thinks; it has to be part of their DNA. Everyone from the Information Architect, to the Project Manager, to the coder who produces your templates, to the production person who builds out your “About Us” page has to know how to build your site to please both man and machine.

              Get People to Vote for your Site

              The most effective way an organization can increase its ranking on search engines is to increase the number of inbound links to its content. This is something SEO companies cannot do for you; you have to do it yourself. Search engines count inbound links as votes for the content on your site. Sites with more votes are considered to be of higher quality.

              There are two factors that weigh into inbound links, quality and quantity. The best way to get quantity is to connect with the thousands of bloggers who publish every day. Many of them are also your donors or subscribers. Quality comes from high traffic, trusted sites like news media or governmental websites. Having your organization featured on a high traffic news website will produce at least one very quality incoming link.

              Seeking out and connecting with these online communities and media outlets takes time, more time that you don’t have. Any partner planning to increase your search engine rank has to have a plan for generating more quality inbound links. Further, they need people who understand bloggers and online media. That is the only way your partner will be able to communicate effectively in the niche that your ministry fills.

              Always Pay for SEO

              Wait a minute, now the truth comes out this author just picked a catchy title so people would link to this page to increase this article’s search engine ranking. Not entirely true: search Engine Optimization is not a line item on a contract or a one time project; it needs to be a continuing part of your entire web effort. So as your organization begins to think about how you can turn searches into supporters, find a partner who will:

              • Come alongside you and develop compelling web-centered content
              • Have people who know how to build and maintain search engine friendly websites
              • Reach out to the larger web community to build incoming links

              orginaly published by Silas Partners
              September 2005

              Information Architecture, or IA, is a buzzword around web design of late. Most of the time buzzwords end up being nothing more than a flash in the pan, but information architecture is more like the pot you use to cook up content and navigation into a tasty website stew. Essentially, it is the work that turns conversations and Word files into useable websites. At the most basic level it is determining a site map and navigation scheme, but it can also be thinking critically about the information offered on each page of a site.

              Many people come to us with some of this work already completed and just want us to implement their site architecture. These groups feel that they best understand their site structure, and would rather have us spend our time creating designs and migrating content. This is an understandable position-anyone who has ever sketched a site map on a napkin has done Information Architecture. However, there are a number of reasons why this approach is not the best choice for your ministry.

              Driving without Direction

              Think back to all the times you have been lost driving someplace. I know it often happens to my family when we are on vacation. I’m sure there was interesting scenery going past my window, but I never see it. I’m too busy looking out for road signs and making sure the tension in the car doesn’t make anyone’s head explode. When people don’t know what to do on a website, they generally don’t just sit there and stare at a great design. The design is there to make the information presentable, but without good IA site visitors will never find your information.

              Our designers can create design after design, but if the site is built on shaky IA, their great design is nothing more than window dressing. Good IA also helps our designers create designs that support your goals for your website. IA is the framework that supports your core functions. Designers are experts at creating a user interface that points a user toward a particular part of the page. With good IA, they know just what to highlight and what to push to the side.

              Organizing Content

              At many organizations, a website redesign means a chance for everyone to throw content into a big bucket, and, all too often, that content is just splattered Jackson Pollok style all over the canvas of your new website.

              Starting with a complete IA plan allows you to channel the creative energy at your ministry to create content that is going to be useful to your site visitors. A good focused information architecture plan allows your ministry to communicate specifically with content creators. Nothing is better for someone looking to create content than direction.

              Without a focused IA plan, it can be difficult even to know what content is needed for the website, let alone understand where the best place for that content to live on the site. The project gets off into the weeds since there is no clear plan to how content should be structured.

              Insiders

              Every organization develops its own ways of thinking and speaking about what it does. At Silas Partners, we use so many acronyms I don’t expect anyone outside of the company can follow our conversations. We also think differently about what we do than someone outside Silas Partners. This article is a perfect example. When we say IA to a client many of them have no idea what IA stands for, let alone why it is important.

              Matt Morrow was my editor in college. Everyone had someone, or was the someone, that their college friends used as an editor. Without great editors, I would have never been considered a good writer. We all know that to produce a piece of great writing we need someone outside ourselves to review our work-the same principle applies to the Information Architecture of your website.

              It may seem counterintuitive that someone who knows little about your organization would be able to create a more usable site structure than the person who knows everything, but it is very true. If you think about your average site visitor, how much do they know about your ministry? More often than not, they know very little about the internal workings of your ministry. This is where good IA can help. Well thought-out Information Architecture can guide site visitors to the pages and actions that are most important to your organization.

              The Untrained Eye

              So at this point you may be saying to yourself, “Our website passes all these test with flying colors.” To find out how good your IA is write up a few common tasks like “find our service times,” or “download a PDF of our most recent article,” or more complicated, “sign up for our eNewsletter.” Next find someone who has never used your website and doesn’t know much about your organization. Relatives are great for this, especially those who aren’t especially Internet savvy. Plop them down on your homepage and ask them to complete one or more of those tasks. As they are trying to accomplish the task, ask them questions about why they are doing what they are doing.

              This testing will show how good your IA is. If your unsuspecting subjects can quickly find what they are looking for without going back and forth between pages, then either you have great IA or you cheated and chose your friend who just so happens to work for Silas Partners.

              Or better yet have someone at Silas Partners take a look at the site. We have a bunch of people trained to look out for common IA mistakes. Fixing them doesn’t have to be a monumental undertaking either. Sometimes all it takes is re-ordering a menu or even something as simple as adding a button or a word on a page to make a world of difference.

              So take some time to do some IA testing on your website and let me know how you did. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

              orginaly published by Silas Partners
              July 2005

              Excuses are easy. “We already have a web guy.” “We are a small church.” “Our pastor just started using Outlook; we aren’t ready for a Web Ministry.” At Silas Partners, we hear excuses like these from churches all the time. If these website excuses or others like them hit too close to home, you might want to stop reading now.

              Volunteering at a church with a small congregation, I understand why these excuses feel like perfectly good reasons to keep things as they are; however, as a web professional, I understand that churches need to take some steps outside of their comfort zones and invest the time and effort necessary to create a great Web Ministry. Let’s take a closer look at the “excuses” I listed above and let me tell you why theses excuses shouldn’t stop you from moving forward with your own Web Ministry.

              Excuse Number 1: “We already have a web guy.”

              Well so does Silas Partners, in fact, we have sixteen web professionals. Volunteers are great and most churches couldn’t work without them, but what happens when your web volunteer moves or gets a promotion or gets married? You may find yourself with a website that no one at your ministry knows how to manage. When I go on vacation, my fellow web developers and designers are here to pick up where I left off and your Web Ministry doesn’t miss a beat. We always work together as a team to make sure everything runs smoothly.

              Most volunteers are already working full time jobs, and God bless them for their willingness to come home and work for the church in their spare time, but we all know at the end of the day sometimes we need to take some time “off.” Self care is something that many church leaders and volunteers don’t take seriously enough, and we have seen people burn out and have to step away.

              At Silas Partners, your Web Ministry is our fulltime job. We think about everything else so you and your staff can do what you do best, minister at your church. We have designers, marketing folk, client service people and technical wizards all managed by a top notch project management team. Greyhound bus line used to have the slogan, “Leave the driving to us.” When you work with Silas Partners you can leave the driving, engine repair, navigation, and bus cleaning to us.

              Excuse Number 2: “We are a Small Church.”

              The web provides a great way for your church staff to reach out to visitors. Imagine if I were to visit your church and fill out a visitor card and include my email address, and then you entered this data into a Content Management System (CMS). Later that week, you sent me an email that includes a link to a “New Members” section of your website.

              Your Content Management System tracks me through the new members section recording which ministries I am most interested in learning more about. The following Sunday, you send out a follow-up email that automatically highlights what I care about most. So now, with only a few clicks and in less than thirty minutes, one staff member has personally communicated twice with me. This may seem like a lot of work just for little old me, but keep in mind it is the same amount of work for one visitor as it is for fifty visitors.

              A Web Ministry can also cut the time your staff has to take answering routine questions. My mom was a church secretary and during the summers she would have us come into work with her. My sister and I would always be excited, but it always turned out we were coming in on newsletter collation day. If our church would have used an email newsletter instead, they could have saved time and money (and saved my sister and me from many paper cuts).

              Excuse Number 3: “Our pastor just started using Outlook; we aren’t ready for a Web Ministry.”

              We understand that this is uncharted territory for many churches. Don’t worry, we have been here before. It is our mission to help ministries achieve their goals and it is our passion to work intimately with you to help you realize your church’s vision. We are dedicated to being a virtual staff member for your organization.

              If our client service team were to come by your church on a Sunday morning, they could be ushers and greeters without missing a beat. Our project management team would be able to answer the phones and our creative director could run your Christmas pageant. We emotionally invest in the churches we serve, and it shows.

              At Silas Partners, we realize that not everyone is technically savvy. We don’t want you to have to worry about the process of putting content on the website—we want you to worry about the content itself. With our training and support, you have nothing to worry about. We have trained grandfathers who didn’t know what an email address was on our tools, so we should be able to train just about anyone. And if you want to be pampered, Silas Partners has webmaster services where we work with your church to create web pages from something as simple as a Microsoft Word document.

              No More Excuses

              We firmly believe churches need a Web Ministry to be successful on the Internet. So the question for you is whether you are going to choose to keep making excuses or give a Silas Partners Web Ministry Consultant a call to start a relationship that will help your church harness technology for the Gospel.

              When I started at Silas Partners two years ago, I had no idea what a Web Ministry was. I thought a church website should be about three pages of fairly static content. After seeing the life changing work a real Web Ministry can do I can honestly say I was wrong. Most churches out there are satisfied with their website, but they shouldn’t be. No one should be satisfied to have a hastily designed, seldom updated static site, when a professionally designed dynamic Web Ministry is easier to create than ever before. Two years ago, I was in a very similar place to many of you; if I would have heard that last sentence I would have had no clue what to do next. Luckily that was two years ago, and now my friends and I at Silas Partners have a bunch of ideas. So are you ready to stop making excuses and come alongside us to create a Web Ministry for your church? I know I’m hoping the answer is yes.

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