June 25, 2009

Ministry and the Internet (With a Little More Press-Telegram Bashing)

Perhaps I should start off by explaining that there was more to my previous post about my frustration with the Long Beach Press-Telegram than meets the eye. Last week I went to the library (how very old-school of me) and checked out the book What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis. A few years back, Jarvis wrote on his blog about his problems with a new Dell computer he'd bought, and Dell's failure to deliver the customer service it had promised him. Dell initially ignored his post, but thousands of other disgruntled Dell customers did not, and they rallied around Jarvis, eventually forming a sort of anti-Dell movement online. Dell eventually refunded Jarvis the cost of his computer, and has since greatly improved their customer service. Dell has also stopped ignoring online conversations about its products, and has joined those conversations instead.

Jarvis titled his post, "Dell Sucks," because (as he puts it in his book), "if you search Google for any brand followed by the word 'sucks,' you will find the Consumer Reports of the people." I had thought about titling my post "The Press-Telegram Sucks," to make it easier for others who may want to share my misery to find. It wouldn't be the first time such a title has appeared on this blog. (Type "Verizon sucks" into the search box at the top of the page to know more about that.)

Perhaps I should have titled it "The Press-Telegram Sucks," but I didn't. I didn't want to sound too "juvenile." Of course, now that I've used that phrase twice in this post, any searches for "The Press-Telegram Sucks" will direct to this post, not that other one. (Oops, that's three times.) Well, if that's what brought you here, I'd love to hear your comments.

Really, though, this is an experiment for me, as I learn more about how the internet works, as well as the readership of my blog. When I began this blog four and a half years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. For the most part, I still don't. Originally, this blog was about me, for me. I didn't expect many people to be interested in what I had to say. I even doubted my own interest in it, and am surprised I've kept it up this long.

I know that this is still a very small blog. A couple dozen people read what's here in any given week, plus some others who read it via my facebook page, where it is cross-posted. In some ways, the blog is still for me, as it continues to help me learn about information technology and the internet. But in other ways, it's become very public. I've enjoyed watching it evolve.

One of the things I've learned is that a blog can open up a conversation that is two-way. This week, I have press releases appearing in local newspapers about some church events happening this summer, and today and tomorrow I'll be hanging door knob flyers advertising our upcoming Vacation Bible School. Those are examples of information travelling one way. But one-way conversations aren't always effective or even appreciated. (Take my ongoing, one-way conversation with the Press-Telegram, for example.)

The internet, on the other hand, allows for two-way conversation. On Facebook, folks are talking about our church's upcoming "Evening on the Patio" event (it's this Sunday at 6:30, and includes Michael Morton playing the flute), and that conversation is generating more interest than any other publicity we've done. We may have some folks show up after all, despite the fact that it seems that half of our members are out of town this week.

Obviously, I'm still learning. I'm twittering now, as you can see from the right-hand column. I'm still figuring out the value of twitter, and how to make the most use of it. I expect twittering to be an interesting part of next month's General Assembly, and I'm looking forward to experiencing that.

However, I have a thirst for knowledge and understanding when it comes to how churches like mine can use modern information technology to their advantage. I'm hoping that there will be workshops, resource groups, and/or exhibitors at the General Assembly that will focus on helping churches do that.

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