From the Department of the Obvious: “Churches use Facebook, Twitter to help tell Gospel story”

December 22, 2011

It’s a slow news day if they need filler like this. From The Observer & Eccentric:

God used angels more than 2,000 years ago to announce the birth of Jesus.

Today, churches are using Facebook, Twitter and other modern technology to help spread the Gospel message.

Though the message is the same — God loves everyone so much he sent his only son to save them — the way that message is delivered has changed over the centuries.

“We definitely see social media as one of the languages of the culture (now),” said Josh Isenhardt, 30, social media pastor at NorthRidge Church in Plymouth Township. This generation considers Facebook a modern-day town square. “Why wouldn’t we have a presence there?”

If you Google “Second Life Church” you’ll get a fair number of hits. Images, too. I don’t know how many people dived into that game wholeheartedly, but it’s not hard to imagine that some of them used it as an opportunity to proselytize in virtual neighbourhoods as they set up worship sites there. Landover Baptist mocks this approach, but via World of Warcraft:

“…the real True Christians™ pick the Horde to play as characters and start their guilds in Horde territory because they like the challenge of sharing Christ’s message in a perilous, lava-soaked, environment. Sometimes you have to pester people for weeks before they listen to you. I followed some stupid gnome around for 8-hours until he finally told me that he would accept Jesus as his Personal Savior if I would just shut up and promise not to contact him anymore. Now that rocks! Praise God!”

Of course they’ll use whatever popular social outlet exists in order to spread their message. They’ll go where the people are and Facebook alone has more than 800 million users. A large chunk of that may already be Christian but others won’t, and some will be the wrong flavour of Christian in need of correcting.

NorthRidge added a virtual campus this year. It has a brick and mortar campus in Plymouth Township, and meets in schools in Saline and Howell.

In the virtual campus, members from around the country and world simultaneously visit the church’s website (northridgechurch.com) at 7 p.m. Sunday to watch a rebroadcast of the weekend service and participate in a live-time chat room, even praying for each other.

“Church online is for those people who are not ready to step into the physical location,” Isenhardt said.

I got hooked on the internet back in 1995 while in university. Friends set me up on these things called “talkers” which were telnet based on-line hangouts. In its heyday, the one called Resort had a hundred or so logged on at any given moment of the day and an overall population of around 10,000. Maybe more. This was before most people even understood what the internet was or wanted access to it. Maybe it was happening to others but I don’t recall anyone trying to lure me to Christ in all the hours I used those places — they were too busy propositioning me for net-sex. I still keep in touch (via Facebook) with a few spods I net-friended back in the day, too.

The internet is large enough for any type of person to find a group that fits his or her interests, be they religious, or political, or controversial, or down right nuts. And if that group doesn’t seem to exist, it’s easily created and will get found by others who need it eventually. For example, atheist-based internet hangouts have been a boon to those in areas where their lack of belief would make them targets for abuse or worse. The internet is a hell of a good thing for atheists. It’s not always easy to get together in person but if enough people are reading a particular blog or aggregate, it creates a sorely-needed sense of community. And not only that — look at all the money atheist reddit users raised for Doctors Without Borders: $203,000. Talk about awesome.

Yet with all the modern technology available to churches today, nothing will take the place of people personally talking to their family and friends about Jesus and inviting them to go to church with them, Rose said. “At the end of the day there’s one best way (to spread the Gospel message) and that’s being involved in the life of your neighbors.”

True for atheists/humanists as well. I missed out on a Freethinker pubnight last night, alas, but I was too busy packing and sorting out things for my upcoming trip home for Christmas. I hope we manage to lure some more people into our group next year, not just as token members who rarely participate, but some who really want to be active and involved with what we’re doing. We have a great group and I’d like to see it get even better.


April 25 is Internet Evangelism Day

April 22, 2010

While it could be argued that there’s too much of that already, the site has a lot of information for how Christians can go about increasing their numbers using the internet, and provides some examples of what churches have done in the past.

Most of it just comes down to finding better ways of utilizing the technology they already have in place. Those who participate are motivated to improve what they’ve got in terms of websites and information available, not only for the “average modern-day pew sitter” who’d rather do evangelist podcasts from his comfy computer chair, but also for people “winning souls” in other parts of the world, like Paraguay and Nigeria.

Unfortunately, some of them want to promote internet use like the Pied Piper used his pipes to lure children. One church in Butler, PA, explained how they’d explained the internet to kids then gave them a card with internet sites included on the back of it.

the kids could use the Christian websites listed on the back to share the love of Jesus with their friends at school by simply inviting them to play the cool games at those sites. Everyone was encouraged to take extra cards, each with a balloon inside, to share with their friends.

Fun and games aside, that just seems cultishly sinister to me. Reel them in while they’re young and they might get to keep them forever, letting them grow up in a little tank, oblivious to the freedoms they might have had if they’d been left alone to grow up naturally…

Ah well, I think the trouble with internet evangelism is going to be the lure, not the bait. Yeah, there might be millions of fish in the internet sea but, if they’re not Christians already, are they going to be finding these sites, reading the testimonials or watching the youtube videos? Probably not. So that means potential evangelists have to think of more sneaky, spammy ways to trick them into it, like that “God is like a balloon” card the little kiddies got to pass around, and then keep them interested long enough to catch them for good.

How to finish…

The internet is a tool like anything else. It’s doing what newspapers, books, radio, and television have done for years – engaging the public. Someone savvy enough to think of a way to use it best will get the best results, be it the person looking for information, or the one providing it. I suppose there’s a tendency to look at this from a competitive angle, since people care about hits generated and ad money made. People have a drive to be popular and important, so they want their sites to be popular and important. The Christian angle is popular and important to those who promote it, so I can’t fault them for wanting to take the internet by storm.

It doesn’t make it any likelier that I’ll stop being an atheist, though, just because some church made a prettier website. I still have complete autonomy over my thoughts, deeds and actions. I don’t have to click their links, read their sites, listen to their advertisements or watch them preach.

And neither do you.


Edit Apr. 23/10: Paliban Daily has a snarkier post about this particular Christian day of note.


Whirlwind trips and consumer quips

November 14, 2009

The folks showed up last evening with their PC tower along for the ride. I unplugged my machine and set up theirs to see what kind of error messages they were getting that had Mom in enough of a panic to drive three hours on a whim. I worried a trojan had gotten a hold of their machine but all it seemed to need was an updated version of Avast. I also installed and ran Spybot for kicks. If it turns out to need something else, it can wait until Christmas, hopefully.

They’ve recently signed up with Xplornet for rural high speed internet and so far they’re more than unhappy with it. They’ve signed up for Sasktel’s 1.0 package advertising a download speed of “up to” 1.0 Mbps and upload speed “up to” 128kbps. An asterisk is included on Explornet’s site about this.

Actual speed online may vary with your technical configuration, Internet traffic, server or other factors. When compared to a standard dial-up modem speed of 40 kbps. 1 Limited time offer. Click on the desired package for more information.

Who ever asks about other factors?

Who’s heard of a Fair Access Policy? I sure hadn’t. I can’t recall if the folks ever mentioned a Fair Access Policy, either. If they were told about it, maybe they didn’t understand what it was and had I known how it worked yesterday, I could have installed a monitor on their machine so they could watch how much bandwidth they use in day. All Xplornet gives them per day for their 1.0 connection is 200 MB. Dialing in, it may have taken 16 hours or something to get close to that (if my math is accurate. I’m willing to assume it’s not). If Mom’s burning through it in three hours, no wonder she’s freaking out. And apparently they only have two speeds; cranked or snail. I don’t know if anyone told them what “bandwidth” means, either, and I know my folks would have been too embarrassed to ask. Even I had to look it up so I could explain it for them in an email.

But still, if people don’t know they’re responsible for monitoring their bandwidth use and nobody bothers to suggest they have to, then no wonder people are surprised when Xplornet throttles them once they go over this allotted daily allowance. And it could be a day, a few days, or even a week before they get another speed boost, depending on how many subscribers want their turn.

Now I’m wishing I’d found this stuff while I had the computer in front of me. I could have installed a monitor for them. This from Xplornet’s legal :

To ensure fair access for all Xplornet subscribers, Xplornet maintains a running average fair access policy. Fair access establishes an equitable balance in Internet access across all broadband services by service plan for all Xplornet customers regardless of their frequency of use or volume of traffic. To ensure this equity, customers may experience some temporary throughput limitations.

How can a company advertise high speed without advertising how they plan to dole it out? They sell their image as if users will get high speed any time, all the time. Instead it turns out to be akin to 20 people under one blanket but all trying to use the same pillow. Why yes, you can use the pillow, but you can only use it for 20 minutes and you won’t have it again for a week… I don’t know about you, but I call rip off. Considering the equipment costs over $200 plus a per month fee, there is a valid assumption that you’ll get your money’s worth each day.

Xplornet Internet access is not guaranteed. This policy applies to all service plans including “Unlimited” plans where customers’ use of the Service is not limited to a specific number of hours per month. Xplornet indicates that approximately 5% of subscribers are responsible for a disproportionate share – often as much as half – of the total Xplornet service traffic.

5% might be a low estimate if they all play with Facebook as much as my mother does. I’ve just discovered that they offer a lite version which might help matters a little.

<blockquote?Unfortunately, many of those subscribers are not using Xplornet for its intended purpose.

Intended purpose being what, web searching via Lynx so you never have to waste bandwidth getting images? Checking email once a month? What? The guys who set up my folks never even set up a mail account program like Eudora or Thunderbird that would only need bandwidth for sending and receiving because Xplornet accounts are entirely web based through Google Apps. How much bandwidth will that hog, I wonder?

Sasktel’s FAQ about this is as expected.

How reliable is the SaskTel Satellite High Speed Internet powered by Xplornet?
Although there can be minor interruptions of satellite service during severe weather patterns, the latest satellite technology has proven to be very resilent [sic] in our Canadian weather. Any type of satellite service disruptions can be typically measured in a collection of minutes throughout one year. Satellite service is recommended for users active in internet usage for: e-mailing, research and surfing, banking, chatting, photo sharing, uploads, blogging, and not typically recommended for certain quick response or real time on-line gaming.

I think service disruption will account for a lot of minutes in a month, let alone a year. But back to Xplornet:

To ensure that all Xplornet subscribers have fair and equitable access to the benefits of the Service, Xplornet has enacted a Fair Access Policy (FAP) to prevent abusive consumption of bandwidth by a handful of users.

The Fair Access Policy (FAP) is straightforward. Based on an analysis of usage data, Xplornet has established a download data usage threshold well above the maximum typical usage rates. When a customer exhibits patterns of system usage, which exceed that threshold for an extended period of time, the FAP may temporarily limit that subscriber’s throughput to ensure the integrity of the system for all subscribers.

The Fair Access stuff is hidden under a little grey link labeled “Legal” that’s all the way down at the bottom of their pages and not that obvious. Obviously they want to sell this service to people who not only don’t read the fine print, but don’t notice there’s any to be read.

I can see why they’d put this into play, obviously. I’m not arguing against the need for it. What it needs to be is visible and out there, not left to caveat emptor. What they should be forced to do is print average expected usage so a person knows that up front. Don’t advertise the “Up to” all the time if 95% of the time it’s down to 50kbps or worse. There should be more a lot more truth in their advertising.


Pop culture vultures

November 11, 2009

If the entertainment world was a billiards table and every pop culture reference were a stripe or solid sitting on it, I’d be the cue ball that careens around the table yet drops into the dark corner pocket of cluelessness without ever knowing what I missed.

That’s not an entirely accurate analogy, but it’s close enough. I see movies (eventually), I watch some television (albeit a season or seven behind everyone else), and I have the internet. I’m never totally unaware of what’s popular in any given moment, but it might require a very annoying internet meme to be passed around the interwebs like a plague before I find out why.

What I do notice is that notoriety has become more interesting to our culture than behaviour that would actually be deserving of praise. On the rare occasion when I flip through a gossip mag or check a site, they’re all reporting on who’s doing drugs, who’s the babydaddy, and who flashed the camera flash again. She looks fat, he looks homeless. She’s still trying to “collect the whole set” of World Children, and he slept with someone who’s only reknown by proxy. So how come we still have to get news about him and a reality TV “star” who fell from grace? Who really gives a damn about any of them?

Although Andy Warhol is credited with saying “In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” I’ve discovered he later refined the concept. He’s referring to Studio 54 (the actual club, not the movie based on it) here:

It’s the place where my prediction from the sixties finally came true: “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” I’m bored with that line. I never use it anymore. My new line is, “In fifteen minutes everybody will be famous.”

(source)

But will we be famous for any worthwhile reason? Will it be our choice, or random unexpected happenstance? What is the Star Wars kid doing these days? Did Ghyslain Raza’s parents have to sue the parents of the kids responsible for his unwanted infamy? Maybe, maybe not. But those asshole students did not ask Gaza’s permission to take something he made for fun at school nor did he know they’d post it online so the whole world could mock his high nerd factor. Those kids didn’t even know who Gaza was. Newsweek has a great article about Gaza’s experience (among others) and how the internet is proving Warhol right.

For people who use blogs and social-networking sites like diaries, putting their personal information out there for the world to see, this presents a serious risk. “I think young people are seduced by the citizen-media notion of the Internet: that everyone can have their minutes of fame,” says Barry Schuler, the former CEO of AOL who is now the coproducer of a new movie, “Look,” about public video surveillance. “But they’re also putting themselves out there—forever.”

Shaming victims, meanwhile, have little legal recourse. Identifying posters often means having to subpoena an anonymous IP address. But that could lead nowhere. Many people share IP addresses on college networks or Wi-Fi hotspots, and many Web sites hide individual addresses. Even if a victim identifies the defamer, bloggers aren’t usually rich enough to pay big damage awards. Legal action may only increase publicity—the last thing a shaming victim wants. “The law can only do so much,” warns Solove.

We are long past the point where people will forget what we’ve done. We may sink into blessed oblivion for a little while, but everyone, everywhere, may be only one click away from the world’s attention.

How do you want to be remembered?


This quiz claims I’m internetly younger than I really am.

November 8, 2009

For kicks I took an Internet Age quiz. Results:

Internet Age: 126.4 Internet years (*)
Internet Birthday: 4 September 2001

The asterisk is to let quiztakers know that internet time passes differently than real time, a fact I can attest to. Anyway, my birthday is all wrong here.

My first internet forays occurred in my first class on the University of Regina campus back in 1993. I had a course where I was required to email reports and assignments to my prof. It was on the now defunct MAIL> style setup that predated PINE. It had no way to inform you if your messages were received or just dropped into the ether. It was a pain in the ass and involved daily prayer to the internet gods that the stuff got to where it was going. I didn’t care for computers at the time and not just because of traumatic LOGO experiences years earlier.

In the fall semester of 1994, though, one of my friends was friends with a guy who was into mushes and moos. Another friend and I got in the habit of joining her in the computer lab those evenings just so we could see what the hell she was doing. I didn’t care for the gaming so Tankgirl showed me what Surfers was like and addiction to spodding fully set in.

It’s funny how I actually remember this part. She started out by chatting with a guy going by the name of Cunning. We found out some information about him that way and then she showed me how to log on and as Meerclar I started chatting with him, too. We didn’t tell him we knew each other so when I started performing a bit of “psychic” shit, he was totally taken in. I let him in on the gag soon after though. We were net-friends for several years before we lost touch and now I wish I could remember his real name. He’s probably on Facebook. My mother’s on Facebook.

I still spod on occasion but never to the extent I did back then. A couple hours and I’m good for a while. I don’t have close friends in EW-Too/Playground land anymore. There’s a lot more choice for communication now. I never did like browser-based chat but I had a couple ICQ numbers, tried IRC briefly and some IM but not often enough to make a habit of it.

I have one friend who met her husband in a chat room (9 years ago!), and another who found hers (four years ago?) via Instant Messenger but I’ve never had that kind of luck.

I could add more on this topic but you get the drift. I’ve been out and around for a while. I survived every encounter with the Lag Beast, no matter how heavy he stomped on my ‘net connections. I made friends I keep up with even though we’ve never met in person. And long ridiculous emails to far away love interests have got to be long deleted and disassembled by now so I rest comfortably knowing the Wayback Machine can never find them.


A cry for help passes for entertainment

November 21, 2008

This is disturbing.

19-year-old Florida resident Abraham K. Biggs, who went by the screen names “CandyJunkie” and “Mr Biggs”, told users on a bodybuilding forum he would be committing suicide that night and invited them to watch the live video.

The forum moderators allegedly ignored the post – assuming it was a prank – while other users posted insults and even egged him on.

The teen used the “lifecasting” website Justin.tv – designed to let users share the minutiae of their everyday lives – to stream footage from his bedroom.

Biggs was seen taking several pills before lying on the bed with his back to the camera.

He didn’t move, and users claim they realised it was serious a few hours later when they saw he wasn’t breathing. Moderators then traced Biggs’s location and informed authorities.

The webcam was still streaming live footage of the teen’s body as police entered the room. A laser-guided weapon was pointed at the body and an object was thrown at the bed.

Authorities then appeared on the video as they approached the teen’s body, checked for a pulse, and covered up the webcam.

I think what really bothers me about this is the time delay. Whether they thought it was a prank or not, the audience should have reported it sooner. As it was happening, in fact. Did anyone who knew him in real life watch this or was it all internet folk who’d never met him in person?

Biggs last posted on MySpace three days before he committed suicide in a wall post about taking sleeping pills. A week ago he left a message about closing a chapter in his life and apologised to his friends for his behaviour.

Isn’t that a classic suicide announcement? Don’t most suicide victims do this with the hopes that somebody will pick up on it and save them from themselves?

What a damned shame.


I know people were stupid before technology but still…

November 6, 2008

I can’t get over how obsessed people get over things. A mother forbids her 18 year old son from using MySpace and his reaction? He cuts her wrist when she tries to take his cell phone and then makes a getaway on a bicycle. He did not get far.

It’s worse when stupidity becomes tragedy, though – like Tyrone Spellman who brutally killed his own toddler after she accidentally knocked his Xbox over. He’s been convicted of third degree murder which could keep him behind bars for up to 47 years, apparently. I wonder how he feels about that.

More recently comes the story from Ontario about a fifteen year old boy whose parents insisted he spend less time playing Call of Duty 4 on the same game system. The argument escalated on Thanksgiving Day (Oct 13th) and he left the house. After several weeks of searching for him, including rewards (including $50,000 donated by Microsoft) they’ve found some remains that might be his.

I didn’t think that would end well.

Is internet obsession a new psychological disorder? It sure could be.

Dr. Jerald Block of the Oregon Health and Science University says that American psychiatrists need to learn how to treat the disorder, which he prefers to call Pathological Compulsive Disorder.

That article has some information about the obsession and its effects in South Korea – it’s a real problem there.

Internet obsession has led to 10 cardiopulmonary deaths in Internet cafes and one game-related murder.

The problem is more public there. Visiting one Internet cafe for research, he saw about 30 kids completely immersed in the virtual world of Internet games.

“Not one person looked up while I was taking photographs,” Block said, adding that South Korea considers Internet obsession among its most serious public health issues.

In his editorial, Block said that the South Korean government has estimated that around 210,000 South Korean children are Internet obsessed and require treatment. About 80 pecent of those needing treatment may require psychotropic medications, and around 20 percent need hospitalization.

Block also stated that despite cultural differences, American and Korean case descriptions are very similar. He said that as of June 2007, South Korea has trained over a thousand counselors and enlisted over 190 hospitals and treatment centers in order to deal with this disorder.

Here’s more bizarreness – remember that Gary Larsen cartoon where the parents are dreaming that their Nintendo obsessed boy will be able to get kick-ass jobs if he can use that as experience? I don’t remember which book it might have been in, unfortunately, but while hunting, I found another stupid thing – parents let their kid drop school for Guitar Hero. He hopes to win big in tournaments and managed to win $1000 by the time the article came out.

Maybe he’s not so weird, he’s just in the wrong country. In Korea:

Professional video gamers are among the biggest celebrities in the country. Some fan clubs of South Korea’s top gamers have more than 700,000 members. By comparison, the fan club for South Korea’s most famous singer has approximately 510,000 members (Aleksandar, 12). Gaming competitions are so popular that the finals of top Starcraft tournaments are held in stadiums, often with tens of thousands of screaming fans in attendance (Schiesel, 2).

The salaries these gamers can earn are astronomical. In 1999, for example, a Canadian Starcraft champion took a job as a professional player in South Korea and was offered a $100,000 initial salary. Several years later he was a star making an estimated $500,000 per year. The average annual salary in Korea is $16,291 (Hua, 1). In 2004, Lee Yun Yeol, a respected video game champion, signed a three-year, 600 million won contract. By comparison, the average salary for a Korean professional baseball player is 71 million won (Aleksandar, 10).

They have television stations devoted to matches. Whole stations. For people playing video games.

Granted, it does take some brains for the strategy aspects of games like Starcraft (at which I suck) but what are the games good for beyond that?

Guitar Hero kid isn’t an actual guitar player so he’ll never have a band where he could actually make money making real music. He’s stuck slapping buttons in time with a screen and his parents seem to support his decision to be an undereducated moron.

Then there’s all the people who avoid their first life by living vicariously in a Second. Of course, there are people making money playing that, too. Real money. Like, actually becoming a first life millionaire. Nobody pays a person to get hooked on cigarettes but earned Linden dollars can become American dollars if enough time and effort is invested. Paid to play. That’s quite an incentive to stick around.

But, the majority of gamers and on-line addicts will never get rich off their habits.


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