Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Calling overseas, for the price of a call to Iowa

TechCrunch is reporting on a service called AllFreeCalls which enables you to make overseas calls to select location for the price of a call to Iowa.

Here's how this apparently works.  Calls to rural Iowa are subsidized by you, the taxpayer.  The subsidy is greater than the cost of the overseas call so AllFreeCalls pockets the difference.  For more information on these details check out the comments on this post or here.

Only select countries qualify, but the include places like Canada, China, much of Western Europe and...especially for us in Kosovo, land lines in Serbia (Kosovo landlines use the Serbian country code so this should work).

This is a pretty great deal if you already have free or cheap long-distance service within the US.  If you're not a Skype user, or if the folks you're trying to reach have lousy Internet service, making Skype impractical, see if you're country is included.

If you're outside the US, one TechCrunch commenter reports using this successfully with SkypeOut.  In fact, if might try this with Skype's new unlimited calling plan for $14.95.  Couple this with AllFreeCalls  and your telecom costs just dropped to about zero.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Missionary e-mailing lists: Best practices for creating, maintaining and participating

 Most of us use either snail-mail and/or email to keep people up-to-date back home.  I think everyone on my team, for example, writes an update somewhere between once a week and once a quarter.  While blogging is changing this dynamic some what, I can still say things in an email to my friends and supporters that I won't write in a blog entry.

To that end, what are the best practices for using email for updating your supporters?  I'm going to riff on this DownloadSquad post on mailing list etiquette and suggest a few tips.

A.  Use a list-server.  A "list server" is a computer on the Internet that keeps all of your email address for you.  When I want to write an email to everyone on my list I send an email to a single address and then the list server sends it out to everyone on the list.  Here are the advantages:

  1. This is a safe and secure way to keep all your email addresses handy.  I've known a number of missionaries who have had to rebuild their entire contact list one-by-one because their computer died.  Can a list-server go down and lose your data?  Sure, but you're more likely to have a camel sit on your laptop, or in the case of one friend, have termites eat your hard-drive, than a modern data center lose your data.  Plus you can easily download the list as a text file for backup.
  2. You send one email to one address...period.  More and more services are putting limits on the number of addresses one can send "to" at a given time.  The number varies, but I know a number of people who have to send out their updates in batches, 10 addresses at a time.  This takes a lot of time and makes it harder for to send out updates.  When its difficult to send out updates you simply don't do them as often.

B. Send an introduction when you add someone to your list.  It's good practice to confirm with them that they were added.  It's also a nice touch to let them know from the beginning how they can "un-subscribe" to your newsletter.  It may be another few weeks or a month before you send your next update; don't keep them wondering.

C. Add a subject prefix.  This is a great idea and suggested on the DLS post.  On the subject line use a common subject for all of your updates like <kornball> Kosovo Konnection: January </kornball>.  That way when people see your newsletter in their inbox they'll immediately know its from you and they can quickly sort it or read it.

D. Make it easy to un-subscribe.  How does your best friend from 15 years ago tell you politely that your dumb newsletters are plugging up his inbox and that he no longer cares to hear news about East-Krasnaland or the lost people groups there-of?  I usually add a footer to give people instruction for unsubscribing from the list server.  This is another advantage of using a list server to do your mailing for you.  They can unsubscribe and you'll never be the wiser.  Most list-servers have settings that will allow you to know if your Aunt Grace dumped your missive, but sometimes its easier to be oblivious.

E. On a non-technical note, BE YOURSELF.  Every once in a while I read a prayer letter that sounds like its been snatched from A.W. Tozer or Oswald Chambers.  Guess what, you're probably not him!  Just be yourself (praise God & hallelujah).  When you're having a tough time (but resting in the arms of Jesus and trusting in his steadfast love) just say so.  In other words, cut the crap.  You don't have to bleed all over people to get your point across, but you don't have to smother them with a lot of psuedo-spiritual lingo either.

F.  Keep them short, but keep them regular.  When I'm on the field I try to write briefly but regularly, every two weeks or so.  I want them to be frequent enough that people know what's going on without overwhelming people.  If you're only writing every quarter you'll be forgotten by everyone but your relatives.  If you're scheduling a big outreach for Friday, shoot your list a note Thursday (deepening on your time-zone) and then a quick note on Saturday morning.

Check out the DownLoadSquad post for a few more.  It's really geared for mailing lists for hobbyists and special interest groups, but it has some good information for those of us who rely on email to communicate with the folks back home.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Managing the Alpha Male

On the plane from Phoenix to Ontario, CA, today I listened to the Harvard Business Review Ideacast 2 from last May 17th.  I'm trying to get caught up on these older casts and this one was a winner.  From the description:

How to Manage the Alpha Male:  Whether he's your boss, your subordinate, your colleague, or your client, learn how to get the best of what the Alpha Male has to offer.

I thought this was a particularly good podcast as it relates to missionaries and missionary life.  Some missionaries are driven, Type-A, Alpha male types.  Others, of course, are as varied as any other population group.  Since we tend to spiritualize everything in Christian circles, however, the Alpha type tends to be either wildly praised as visionary and prophetic, or roundly criticized as sinful, selfish, self-absorbed, control-freaks, etc.

Some leaders are Alpha-males, though not all.  As with any personality type these folks come with their attendant strengths and weaknesses.

The authors in the podcast, who have written a book entitled, The Alpha-Male Syndrome, from the Harvard Business School Press.  In the book they detail the results of their study indicating, unsurprisingly, that  the range of Alpha-Male traits goes from extremely strong and positive to dysfunctional.  They also discovered that the greater the strength the greater the complimentary weakness and that age positively correlates to the strengths.

They gave the following examples:

  1. Alpha-males tend to have an assertiveness, sometimes an assertive anger that they use  to influence people.  While this can be effective, people also feel run over.
  2. Alpha-males tend to be impatient.  They tend to move the ball down the field, but in the long term this impatience burns out the people around them.

If you work with Alpha-males the podcast is worth a listen.  Their comments, and the book they've written, have some solid advice for both dealing with one's alpha-maleness and that of others one might work with.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ten Annoying Meeting Behaviors

Michael Hyatt has been cranking out the great posts lately.  Yesterday he wrote one on Ten Annoying Meeting Behaviors which was outstanding.

I've been in meetings both in the church and on the mission field where I've seen all of these behaviors.  I've been guilty of many of them too, but that's something I'm working hard to avoid...especially "checking email while in a meeting."

Because these are so well writen, I'm just going to quote at length.

    1. Arriving late. This ends up wasting everyone’s time. Not only do you miss out, but it often forces the group to start the meeting over just to get you up-to-speed. It also screams, “I’m disorganized. I can’t manage my time.” Is that really the impression you want to create?
    2. Taking phone calls. This is probably the most obnoxious behavior. You might as well say, “Excuse me, but I have someone else more important trying to reach me.” At the very least, have the courtesy to quietly excuse yourself and step out of the meeting. And, don’t answer the phone on your way out the door. Try to be as discrete as possible.
    3. Checking e-mail. This is similar to taking a phone call. It communicates that you have something more important to do than pay attention to the meeting. Just say, “no.” Leave the laptop in your office unless you need it for a formal presentation. And, please, PLEASE resist the urge to pull your Blackberry out every five minutes and check your messages.
    4. Engaging in side conversations. A good meeting only has one conversation going on at a time. A side conversation is, at best, distracting. At worst, it is a challenge to the meeting leader for control of the conversation. Engage in a little self-control. If you need to follow-up with someone, write yourself a note, and do it after the meeting.
    5. Not taking notes. If it is not worth taking notes, why are you there? This communicates, “Nothing going on in this meeting is worth remembering or following-up on.” If you haven’t done so, you might want to read a previous post I wrote called “Recovering the Lost Art of Note-Taking.” You’ll be surprised how much more interesting the meeting becomes when you are capturing your thoughts or what others are sharing.
    6. Talking too much. There’s nothing worse than the person who feels the need to comment on everything. Or worse, once they get the floor, they won’t give it up. They just keep talking ... and talking ... and talking. C’mon, give the rest of us a chance!
    7. Interrupting others. Okay, you have a great idea. You’re smart. We’ve got it. But can you wait until the person currently talking is done? The worst form of this is the person who randomly changes the subject. When you make a sharp left turn, you can you can give everyone else meeting whiplash.
    8. Not coming prepared. Maybe you got away with this in school. But this is real life. People notice. When you are invited to attend a meeting, people expect you to make a contribution. If you don’t contribute, people assume you haven’t done your homework. Maybe that’s why you are getting invited to fewer meetings. Hmmm.
    9. Chasing rabbits. This is one of those behaviors that makes meetings longer than they need to be. You don’t need to respond to every comment with a quip. You don’t have to tell some long, drawn-out story that everyone has already heard before. Stay focused. You can do it! The sooner we get through the agenda, the sooner we can get back to our offices and get some real work done.
    10. Not speaking up. Every meeting seems to have them. Deadwood. How can you sit quietly for the whole meeting? Sometimes I want to pull out a mirror, hold it under your nose, and make sure you can fog it! Why do you keep coming to meetings? Worse, why do we keep inviting you? Speak up or bow out.

There are some real stingers in this list.  In some ways these kinds of behaviors may be more prevelent in faith-based-organization meetings than in the for-profit sector.  I've had church elders tell me that they wanted to leave "work behind" when they came to church meetings.  But Micahel nails it when he diagnoses the core problem: "When you really get down to it, all of these flow from the same basic problem: disrespect"

Did he miss any in his list?


Technorati tags: ,

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

CloneSpy cleans up duplicate files - Do you know how much HD space you're wasting?

I've noticed a tendency that comes from larger, cheaper hard rives.  I pay less attention to duplicates of data, music, and especially, photos.  What difference does it make when you have a half terabyte of storage?

Those of us running on laptops may be a little more sensitive, but I found a little utility called CloneSpy that's opened my eyes a little.

CloneSpy is a duplicate file-finder that doesn't just search for duplicate file names, it searches for duplicate bits.  That is, it searches for duplicate files that may even have different file names but contain the same date.

  I thought I'd take a break from pruning and write about it because it's already found 225MB of duplicate files and it's only gone through five percent of "My Documents."  Yikes?  I feel like I'm reasonably careful to avoid saving duplicate information too, but apparently not.

CloneSpy works pretty intuitively and seems be careful to avoid letting you delete important stuff.

My only beef so far with it is that you have to make a decision on each group of duplicate files, rather than handling them in a larger batch.  On the other hand, I suppose that keeps people like me from becoming "delete happy" and losing something important.


via Download Squad

New Skype pricing structure...price hikes for SkypeOut

Jaanus, over at the Skype blog gives some further explanation of Skype's new pricing structure.  You may have seen this before, but there has apparently been a  lot of rumor and opinion circulating as to what it all means.  Here's a recap from Jaanus:

  • As of January 18, a connection fee of 0.039 € or equivalent applies to SkypeOut calls after the fifth second, with the exception in the next two bullets.
  • The connection fee does not apply if you are on the Skype Unlimited plan in the US or Canada, or Talk for Britain plan in the UK.
  • The connection fee doesn’t apply to toll-free calls. You can do toll-free calls without having any Skype Credit or paying anything.
  • The following regions were added to our Global Rate of 0.017 € per minute: Czech Republic, Guam, Hungary, Israel, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Puerto Rico and both Alaska and Hawaii in the United States.
  • We are working on our new Skype Pro offering that, among other things, will have domestic SkypeOut calling in a number of countries with a connection fee but no per-minute charges. You can sign up to receive more info by e-mail, and it will of course be here on the blog. No date yet, but I think it’s safe to say we will speak more about Skype Pro in weeks, rather than months.
  • Nothing changed in the structure of our other prices (Voicemail, SkypeIn, or free Skype-to-Skype).


If I'm reading this correctly, I'll now have to pay $.74 per minute to call Kosovo mobile phone (.039+.0354=.0744).  That's significantly higher than what I was paying a year ago to SkypeOut a colleague's mobile phone.

If I'm not mistaken that's now significantly higher than a run-of-the-mill long-distance card from a retail warehouse store (Sams, Costco, etc.)  If memory serves, and I can't find the data on the Sams Club site, I used to pay around $.50 / minute from the US to a Kosovo mobile (which are routed through Morocco for technical reasons.)

If you've been using Skype for US-to-foreign calls you may want to check your rates.  Rates to the countries mentioned above are now apparently cheaper, but prices to the off-the-beaten-track places look like they're going up.

Are You a Leader?

I'm always interested in how various people define leadership.  To some you either have it or you don't.  To others leadership is the synthesis of traits which can be learned and developed.

Pastor Tony Morgan wrote a great post called, 10 Easy Ways to Know You're Not a Leader.  Tony is self-confessedly in the "you have it or you don't" leadership camp.  While I'm not sure I agree with that I love his Top Ten NOTs of leadership:

  1. You’re waiting on a bigger staff and more money to accomplish your vision.
  2. You think you need to be in charge to have influence.
  3. You’re content.
  4. You tend to foster division instead of generating a helpful dialogue.
  5. You think you need to say something to be heard.
  6. You find it easier to blame others for your circumstances than to take responsibility for solutions.
  7. It’s been some time since you said, “I messed up.”
  8. You’re driven by the task instead of the relationships and the vision.
  9. Your dreams are so small, people think they can be achieved.
  10. No one is following you.

I think this is a pretty good list.  While you might take issue with one or two, flipped on their heads this is a pretty good list of characteristics.  As I read through each item different things hit me, especially numbers one and two.

#1. I just listed to a great podcast from the guys at Manager Tools.  One of the things that came through from their experience is that good leaders get the job done and don't wait for more funding, more personnel, etc.

#2. I was struck by many conversations with my good friend David Aderholdt who has frequently commented that he feels that one can often have more influence outside of leadership positions than inside them.

May God all give us both great vision for what he wants done, and the perseverance to gut it out until we get there.

via Michael Hyatt

Saturday, January 20, 2007

How to manage kids in the Home Office

WebWorkerDaily has a great article today on managing kids and the home office.  As a missionary, whether I'm on the field or on home assignment in the US, I do much of my planning, studying and administrative work from my home.  I would imagine this is true of most missionaries.  At the same time, I have two beautiful little girls who frequently want and need daddy's time and attention.  What to do?

WWD frames the discussion with this question: Are you going to leave the door to your (literal or figurative) office open or closed to your kids?  The author decides to leave it "open" and gives a number of great suggestions for managing work and kids at home.

This is a question that I've struggled with as well and have also decided to keep the door open.  It's something of a relief to realize that work-at-home parents from many professions are dealing with the same issues.

If you're wrestling with how to be both mom or dad at home, and gainfully employed, check out the WWD posts and comments.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Putting OneNote & MindManager together

I've been a fan of both Microsoft OneNote and MindJet MindManager for several years.  They both occupy important places in my toolbox.  I use OneNote almost daily for project tracking, reference and the core of my productivity workflow.  I use MindManager for planning, brainstorming, sermon writing, agenda creation and taking notes of conversations.

Now the folks at MindJet Labs have released the OneNote 2007 + MindManager tool which increases the ability of these two tools to work together.  Basically the tool provides:

  • OneNote 2007 Send To MindManager
  • OneNote Hyperlinks in MindManager
  • OneNote Notebook Hierarchy Mapping

These function allow the passing of data between the two applications:

  •  From MindManager, you can easily map out the Notebooks, Section Groups, Sections, Pages, and Subpages, including hyperlinks:       Select File...Open...OneNote 2007 Notebooks.
  • From MindManager, you can send the current map to OneNote as an image that you can sketch on and annotate:       Select File...Export...Microsoft Office OneNote 2007
  • From OneNote, you can send a page to MindManager as a hyperlinked topic:  Press the Send to MindManager MindManager button on the Standard toolbar in OneNote.

Rob Bushway previously outlined how to hyperlink from MindManager to OneNote, but this new tool should make it much more natural to share data between the two applications.  Some of this functionality is really already of part of OneNote.  But the new open OneNote API is going to make this kind of development all the more common and I'm looking forward to seeing how real geeks leverage the power of OneNote for by connecting it other applications.

via David Rasmussen

Ten ways to collaborate at a distance & the best tools to do it.

Judi Sohn over at WebWorkerDaily  recently posted a great article on the ten ways you can work with and communicate with colleagues at a distance and the best tools for doing each.  The ten are:

  • email
  • phone
  • text chat
  • VOIP
  • Web conferencing
  • Document collaboration
  • Group on-line document sharing
  • Wiki
  • Shared calendars
  • Message forums

 She goes one to gives some pros and cons for each approach and some of the best tools for each of the ten modalities.  If you work with people over long distances this article is worth your while.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Great Firefox tip: Ctrl-Enter

Descapa, over at the OneNote Extensibility blog gives a great usability tip for Firefox today.  You may have run accross this before, but if not its worth checking out.

. If you type "cnn" and then hit ctrl-enter it will prepend the "www." and append ".com" so you have "www.cnn.com" which is great!

Just today I got a Starbucks gift card and I wanted to see the balance on the card and to do so I would need to go to "www.starbucks.com/card" as it was printed on the back of the card. I had already opened Firefox and I typed starbucks in the address bar and at this point I would go through the effort to hit home type www., hit end type .com and then "/card" but instead I just typed "starbucks/card" and I hit Ctrl-Enter and Firefox filled in the rest for me so I went to www.starbucks.com/card. It was just too awesome.

I tried it again, for example the OneNote site is: www.microsoft.com/office/onenote/ so I just typed "microsoft/office/onenote" and Ctrl-Enter and it went to the right site! Sadly this doesn't work in IE 7 : ( However I was just very pleased to see this feature working and just how I would try it too!


Technorati tags:

Monday, January 08, 2007

No New Years Resolutions for me...

Maybe the timing of this post is a little off. This time of year everyone is talking about New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not a big believe in resolutions…I don’t think they work for me. They work for some people, but not for me. You may be a little like me, in fact, according this WNBC/Marist College poll only 44% of adults are planning on New Year’s Resolutions this year.

Instead, I try to think about this question:

What one thing can I do today that will make the biggest different 120 days from now, or 365 days from now.

Answering that question helps me to leverage today for tomorrow.  You see, I can't get my head around, "this year I'm going to exercise more & lose weight"  It will never happen.  I can only think about, "I'm going to exercise three times this week."  I can't handle "this year I'm going to be a better person."  I can only daily allow God to work on my heart through daily spiritual disciplines.  Incidentally, according to the poll above these are the two most popular New Years Resolutions

Over the years I’ve come up with a list of things that I want to be about regularly that I think will pay off big 120 days from now. Of course, it may not be that on May 3 such and such will happen. But the value of the regular discipline of “one things” aggregates over time. Here are some of my “one things”:

Prayer & Bible Reading – I believe that my spiritual life is my life’s center out of which all personal development, discipline and horizontal & vertical relationships derive. This one thing pays big dividends over time, 120 days from now or 1200 days from now.

Scripture Memorization – This is similar to the first one but I’m committed (right now) to memorizing large blocks of Scripture. This does a number of things. It’s fantastic mental exercise which helps me to stay focused and sharp in other areas of my life. It also firmly roots me the Reality of what God says. Right now I’m using a method I wrote about here.

Exercise - This is a no brainer; regular exercise makes a significant difference in how I feel, think and act. Guess what, I’m not a very disciplined person when it comes to exercise. I’ve never had to do much to maintain my weight.  But I believe that I feel better and think more sharply when I do.  I don't exercise every day, but I try to shoot for three times a week.

Drinking Water - This may seem odd, but as someone with kidney stones I want to keep track of roughly how much water I'm drinking.  I don't care about the totals, I just care about the trends.

Weekly Review/Daily Process-Inbox - This is something out of David Allen's Getting Things Done.  In short, both daily and once a week I review all of my outstanding projects, to-dos, goals, etc.

Write/Blog - I've committed to blogging fairly regularly, not because I think there are oh-so-many people interested in what I'm writing, but because its good exercise.  If you want to be a better writer you have to write.  Blogging forces me, in a quasi-public way, to get out there and try to put my thoughts "down on paper."

Language Study – as a missionary in a foreign country there is nothing more important to my continued impact than my ability to communicate with the people with whom I live. At the same time, I set the bar for this pretty low. I want to spend 15 minutes every day studying language. That’s ridiculously low, you might say. But if you ask missionaries who are currently on home assignment in the US how much time they spend in the study of their adopted language few will admit to much. In fact, last spring I was busily scanning in language resource books so that I could bring digital copies home with me. One of my colleagues, who is the sharpest language learner on our field laughed and said good-naturedly, don’t bother…you’ll never look at them. Why? Because there is so much else to do while on home assignment. And she’s right…except I’ve determined that plugging away at the language for a short time every day will pay off when we return to Kosovo.

Professional Reading – This is a no brainer too, but one that many missionaries over look. Being mindful of one’s personal development pays huge dividends down the road. Here again I’m only looking to spend 15 minutes a day in professional development. To this point I’ve been pretty selective of what I think counts. For example, I just finished an awesome book called “The Arabists” by Robert Kaplan. It’s the story of how modern diplomacy in the middle east has been formed by the foreign service officers who lived there long term. It's an awesome book, but it doesn’t feed into my professional development, so I didn’t count it. Right now I count books (or podcasts) on missiology, theology, business management, finance management, etc. These are things that specifically hone the tools in my tool box or give me new tools all together.

Again, I’m not interested in spending hours every day; there is just too much to do. But by spending some time each day my mind is exposed to new material in ways that help me be mindful of my own development.

Of course it's great to have a list of regular disciplines.  But how do I map my progress? 

Last May I discovered Joe's Goals which has really helped me track the “one things” in my life. Joe's Goals allows me to make my disciplines regular, instead of daily.  That way I don't get too hung up, too neurotic about them. 

Joe's Goals gives me a handy graph to help chart these against time and also weigh them for importance.  My daily devotions and weekly review are weighted at three points, water drinking gets only one.  It's not a perfect tool, but it's very, very handy.

If you're still reading you can from the above graphic that I didn't hit too many of my "one things" over the weekend.  That's true!  We had friends visit from out of town and all my attention was on them, not on hitting the daily biggies.  And you know what?  That' just the way it ought to be!  The "one things" are not my masters, they're my servants.  Tracking my goals over a longer period of time gives me a larger context in which to evaluate myself.  One weekend spent doing something else more important fits in appropriately.   At the same time, when I began a new week today I was easily able to get back in the groove.

For my money, forget about New Years Resolutions.  Focus on doing the things today, or this week, which will leverage your tomorrow.


Technorati tags: ,

Decision-Making and the boy who cried wolf

Recently a friend of mine, Matt Peace, turned me on to the Harvard Business Review Ideacast series.  Ideacast is a great biweekly series of podcasts that include book reviews, interviews with notables, and "lessons learned" from recent business events.

Working backward from the current podcast I hit on number 6 which caught my attention.  Its from July, 2006.

How Your Company Can Make Better Decisions: In this look at organizational decision-making in light of Merck & Co - Vioxx experience, Harvard Business School Professor David Garvin offers an improved prescription for company decision-making.

Okay, I have to admit I was clueless that there was a problem, but Garvin makes some great observations:

  • Decision-making is not punctiliar, it doesn't happen it a single point in time.  "Decision-making is an extended social process"  Decision-making in an organization always involve multiple people at multiple strata of an organization.  Sometimes decision-making generates its own momentum over time.  Because of this it is not always possible to truly know when a decision has been made.
  • Because of this momentum contrarian view points are often suppressed intentionally or unintentionally.
  • To protect the organization, minority views need to be actively supported by leaders.
  • Decision-making processes should actively stimulate dissent.  Assign people in the decision-making process to be active contrarians. 
  • Assign people to create multiple options or alternatives. Options present decision-makers from the blinder of a "go/no-go" solution set and broaden discussion.  Decisions shouldn't be framed in a "should we do action A or not."  They should be framed as, "here is the issue and A, B or C are suitable solutions.

Here is some advice to managers for creating better decision-making within their organization:

  1. Companies have decision-making cultures.  These cultures help or hinder good decision-making.  We need to understand our corporate cultures and encourage positive characteristics.
  2. Encourage constructive conflict but not dissent for its own sake.  Get multiple alternatives and minority viewpoints.
  3. The leader shouldn't open a meeting with his own viewpoint.
  4. Decision the decision-making process to periodically surface different points of view.
  5. Strive for transparency.  The best decision-making process happen where everyone understands the rules of the game and information is shared up front.
  6. Encourage trouble-makers in your organization.  Andy Grove from Intel calls them "helpful Cassandras."  These are those who are regularly cry wolf, say the sky was falling, etc.  Grove actively sought these people out to be part of the decision-making process.  He found they always helped lead to better decisions.

This is great advice for Christian organizations.  Frequently, in the name of "constituted authority," "being on the same page" or "God's will" dissenting viewpoints, contrarians and minority view points are suppressed.  Decision-making is paralyzed in these contexts out of fear of being "rebellious."  Good decision-making requires openness, honesty, listening-skills and compassion.  These are traits Christian organizations should have in abundance.


Technorati tags: ,

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Nice mention in Joe's Goals

I've been using Joe's Goals for about nine months as a way to help me track my "one things." My "one things" are those actions or activities that I think will have the largest payoffs 120-360 days from now. I'm working on a post now that describes these, but Ian was nice enough to list me with some of the big-wigs for putting a Joes Goals badge on my website. Thanks Ian.

I put the badge there to help all of my supporters know how I'm doing on some of these "first things." I think that the more communication I give those interested in our work and the greater the transparency in our relationship (to a point) the greater the synergy created between us, hence the badge.

Online file conversion

Have you ever had a friend email you a document or an audio file that you can't open? ZamZar is an online file conversion site that will convert a number of different types of image, document and video files from one format to another. Simply browse the file you're converting, select which format to convert to and enter your email address. They'll mail you back the converted file.

While I haven't tried it yet it looks like a handy utility to bookmark.

Via Joe

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More Skype Extras

Jaanus over at the Skype blog announced another extra today called Unyte.  Unyte is a document sharing facility built into Skype that allows you to share documents, applications and even desktops with others you're speaking with.

Unyte is great for when you’re discussing a project with colleagues. If you are on a conference call with four co-workers and want to discuss a project plan you have all been working on, use Unyte to share the document with everyone on the call and any updates you make will be seen straight away by everyone.



This probably isn't for everyone, but it's another example of how the barriers of distance are collapsing around us.  Skype is really making online collaboration approachable for the masses, for the poor, and for the technically challenged.  Seriously, the things that Skype, and other IP Communications companies, are offering are bringing this kind of technology down to home-espresso-maker level.  They're still not for everyone, but they're becoming for more and more the regular folk.

Technorati tags: ,

Out with BlogJet, in with Live Writer

I've been using BlogJet as my blog editor since April 2005 and  needed something like it for a couple of reasons:

  1. I needed an offline blog editor.  The Internet in my adopted country isn't super fast and using an online editor, like the one built in to Blogger, isn't practical under those circumstances.
  2. I needed an editor which allowed me to post pictures easily and in one step.  BlogJet, for instance, allows you to select a picture from anywhere on your computer and add it to your post in nearly one easy step.  No separate resizing, formatting or uploading necessary.

BlogJet did both of these fantastically and I regularly encouraged others to give it a try.   Other editors I tried either didn't handle pictures well, or where priced out of reach or just didn't click with me.  To be honest, it took a long time to get BlogJet to upload my pictures properly.  For some reason it couldn't communicate to my FTP server and this was an issue for a number of people in BlogJet's support forums.  After about six months it was fixed and I purchased the program and haven't look back. 

Last week I upgraded from the old Blogger to the new Blogger.  The new Blogger has a lot of great features and I'm glad I made the change.  The downside is that BlogJet can't communicate with the new version.  One minute I'm posting a blog with no problems, the next I'm back to using Performancing or Blogger's built in web-based editor....yuck.

That will be fixed in the next version; Dmitry has been working on BlogJet 2.0 for quite a long time, and I know he wants to get the product right.  He's been very responsive to my own requests for technical help and he's made a great product.  The problem is that he's not been very forthcoming about a ship date for 2.0  He posted a screenshot of 2.0 and talked about new instant search capabilities in August.  Then in November he clarified the upgrade pricing policy, which is very reasonable.

But Blogger Beta went live about a month ago and he's not responded to anyone's concern that the current BlogJet won't work with it.  I don't have any idea how many BlogJet users use Blogger, but I would guess that Dmitry's install base is fairly large.  I would think he would release a patch, or make the 2.0 beta public, or respond in some way.  But in one of the threads on the BlogJet support forum Dmitry simply says on November 3: "No dates yet, but it will be released soon."  When one forum member says that "soon" isn't good enough Dmitry simply replies:

 "Yep... But I promised not to make promises smile
But since this official announcement: http://www.blogjet.com/blog/2006/11/03/ … ube-demos/
you may not afraid of buying the current version wink"

Now, I actually applaud Dmitry's commitment to his product and desire to avoid endless Microsoft-like-slipped-ship-dates.  At the same time, its been two months since he's made mention of 2.0 and two months is an eternity when you're trying to blog daily.

So, while I love BlogJet and wish it and Dmitry all the best, I decided I needed another option. So this morning I downloaded Windows Live Writer and gave it a whirl again. 

Windows Live Writer was released last spring or summer and everyone raved about it for a while.  I downloaded it and tried it, but couldn't figure out the picture uploading scheme in the 90 seconds I tried it and went back to BlogJet. Until last week.

Now it's working great, supports plug-ins for things like ink and Flickr and is as easy to use as BlogJet. 

The problem really isn't so much that I can't use BlogJet with Blogger anymore.  The problem is that I have no idea when I'll be able to.


Technorati tags: ,

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Great GTD wallpaper

I continue to enjoy the benefits of the “Getting Things Done” methodology, even though I have a lot fewer projects on my plate. Sometimes it’s nice to have a visual reminder of the work flow behind the methodology. Stefanos Karagos over at Anabubula.com has created some great GTD desktop wallpaper for your motivational purposes.

Group One

Group Two