Friday, October 9, 2009

Windows 7 Ner.. Launch Party

I just got my Windows 7 Launch Party Pack in the mail yesterday! I snapped a few pictures of all the keen gear. The software would be the high point. My wife thought the reusable grocery bags were nice. I just have to sit and scratch my head over few of the items. My 3 year old daughter thought the puzzle was at least interesting (but adults?). It is safe to say that my party will be cooler than the demo videos that microsoft put out. And hey, we have streamers. Viva la nerd party!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Short URLs for Scripture: part 2

If you haven't already you should read Short URLs for Scripture: part 1
I have recently found two services that utilize short, predictable urls to address online scripture. Because of their surprising depth in features I have decided to do a two part series. Otherwise the post was going to be way too long. They are both really great examples of ministry integrating well with web technology.

Part Two: Read.ly



First, the short url redirect service. Read.ly has a strict url format. I think they have chosen the simpliest one (albeit not the shortest one, ref.ly tends to be 2 characters shorter). They have the format http://read.ly/gen1.1.NIV - three character book abbreviation then chapter dot verse dot abbreviation for chosen Bible version*. Although, their url shortener is basic their online Bible offering is where they really shine.

Here are some of the things that make YouVersion.com great.
  • 40 versions in 22 languages!
  • Search widget. This widget is exactly like the Ref.ly one.
  • Contributions seems centered on social sharing.
    • Your account allows for following so you can see what your friends are doing.
    • Hub for likes, bookmarks, journal-ing, contributing, and tagging. They provide a lot of different ways to interact with Scripture.
    • A distinction between contributions and journal(private) items.
  • Mobile apps for all the major players. This is an important web space. It turns your web capable device into a powerful research/devotional tool. Not to mention mobile is the perfect venue for short url sharing.
  • Public facing profile listing you activity (excluding your journal which is private). At this time there are no privacy settings available, however, I am not sure if they are necessary.
  • Adjustable font size. Makes sense to these weary eyes.
  • Reading in parallel. You can lay out two versions next to each other. This is really powerful and they do it well.
  • Audio Bible component.

Concludings

Here are some high points from both services.
  • Ref.ly online has a more flexible redirect service.They connect a user to a online and offline product and seems aimed at the ministry professional. There is a lot of value there.
  • Read.ly is no slouch. The social aspects of scripture reading and the multitude of ways to interact with the Scripture make for a very inviting user experience. Their site is a little more attractive as well. The reading in parallel feature is pretty awesome. Lastly, the audio book option also sets them apart.
I really expected to have an obvious winner. Both services provide a great deal of value. I think it really comes down to the features that would serve you best. It is great to have two online options for url shortening and Bible research.

[*Update: it appears on closer inspection (thanks richschmidt) that the required abbreviations varies by book. ex. Gen is three letters but Exod is four. This is pretty disappointing and kind of a deal breaker for me. By not picking one or the other and since the urls are very strict (it will not search and guess for you like ref.ly) I find the Read.ly service sadly crippled. I think one of the powers of these services is their compos-ability (I made that word up). And I unfortunately will not be able to remember which books require 3 and which require 4 characters. Hopefully YouVersion will fix this.]

The important thing is to get in there and start sharing those great little urls! Please share your thoughts in the comments. I am interested is your take/experience.

You can also follow them on Twitter
@logos and @youversion

SHAMELESS PLUG: Sign up for my web design class (JRN315)! MU classes start on August 31st so register today.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Does anybody build static web pages anymore?

After all, if the future of the web can be divined we will all be building nothing but Word Press sites in a matter of a couple of years anyway, right?

My web class is underway. As I was prepping a few of the assignments I came up against this question, "Which is more valuable: building static pages or building templates for dynamic content?" Personally, as I develop pages for Multnomah University I can't afford to trap that content into one location. The true value of mark up in my opinion is that it frees your content to be re-purposed.

By and by, the development necessary to utilize dynamic content seemed too focused in web development and beyond the scope of my class. But I still wonder if conceptually students wouldn't be better served to see a website's design as just a temporary skin housing external content. For example when discussing CSS and CSS page layout (love it or lump it) one of its tenants is how easily a site is redesigned without changing the (x)html structure, however, another strength is that CSS is agnostic to the content involved. Thus, when building out a design we style a content block with every detail of our style guide and it is ready for any dynamic content that might come its way. In this sense, it might be that a static page is no more than a dynamic page with you as the manual cms.

Just some questions to mull before you scrap it all and do nothing but xslt.
When was the last time you built a static page? Does is still have value and where?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Want to take my class for free?

Classes at Multnomah University start on Monday (31st)! My course starts on Tuesday!!

Students, as you are running around getting all your ducks in a row I wanted to remind you of the the new Tuition Relief Scholarship. Basically, if you are currently enrolled in minimum of 14 credits the next three credits (up to 17) are free. That means MU will allow you to take my 2 credit course Web Design course (JRN315) for FREE!

If you might be interested in web design or just understanding the internet better you should give JRN315 a look, especially if you are sitting at 14-15 credits right now. Free classes, they are not just for alumni any more.

Hope to see you on Tuesday!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Calling all Web Developers - Name a Resource

If you have been following my blog at all I hope you have noticed that I am working intently on preparing a beginning web design class for Multnomah University (JRN315). This is all happening from scratch. I have been scouring the web trying to piece together what would make the best topics and what resources to use and suggest to my students.

I am looking for several types of resources.
  1. The reference manual type. My short list being w3c for the spec and w3schools for some basics in (x)html and css (perhaps javascript). There is bound to be more out there that I haven't even heard of so let me know what you use.
  2. The second would be of the tutorial persuasion. I am looking for repositories of basic to advanced tutorials. Examples would be building out basic layouts or different examples of navigation. The key is that they are standards based and veer away from hacks.
  3. The third delve into the nitty-gritty of web development and tell it like it is. Now I don't want to confuse this with hacks, but I am looking for resources that can detail the difficulties with different browsers and levels of (x)html and css adoption. Lists of abhorrent and buggy behavior per browser as well as per version.
I know that I can just do a Google search (oh I have), but that really isn't going to tell me what is best or just what works. I have what I use and will be posting that soon enough. I would really appreciate your input (in the comments or via twitter @mrleroylee) and thank you for your time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Short URLs for Scripture: part 1

I have recently found two services that utilize short, predictable urls to address online scripture. Because of their surprising depth in features I have decided to do a two part series (Part 2). They are both really great examples of ministry integrating well with web technology.

Some Basics

It is a simple concept really. Both Ref.ly (Bible.Logos.com) and Read.ly (YouVersion.com) are fundamentally providing the same functionality. They both provide links, verse by verse, to an online Bible. In order to make links to verses easier to share they are utilizing url shortening technology redirecting these short links to their online Bible site. The real beauty is that the format for these urls is so straight forward I can write them without necessarily going to the online source. I can link to Genisis 1:1 for example by just writing http://read.ly/gen1.1 (or http://ref.ly/gen1.1). Choose a specific Bible version by adding a little bit more to it http://read.ly/gen1.1.NLT (http://ref.ly/gen1.1.NLT). The urls makes sense at a glance.

Part One: Ref.ly


Evaluating these services involves two parts, the redirect service and the Bible site you are taken to. Ref.ly as a short url redirection service has one big advantage - the urls are forgiving. Whether you type http://ref.ly/ge1.1;NIV or http://ref.ly/genesis1.1.NIV you are going to arrive at the verse you intended. I think that could be really beneficial. Their suggested format is http://ref.ly/ge1.1;ESV - two character abbreviation of the book then the chapter dot verse semicolon and the abbreviation for the Bible version you would like. Also, their chosen format does make their urls, on average, two characters shorter than Read.ly for those who care about such things.

In terms of their online Bible product that these urls point to, here is a list of stand out features.
  • 30 Bible versions/translations (including some non-english).
  • There is a contributors section. Contributions seemed to be focused on sermons. You need to create an account to contribute, but the accounts are free. The offerings so far seem very professional.
  • Bible.logos.com does coordinate with an offline product you can purchase for further, in depth research.
  • Footnotes and cross-references are available. This was one of the first things I notice when I tried Ref.ly. It made it feel like a more complete service to have these available.
  • There is a blog widget for auto-linking scripture addresses. This widget will turn text like Genesis 1:1 into a link to the correct verse using Ref.ly. Also, a nice addition.
  • Search widget to add to your site. People can search Bible.logos.com directly from your site.
Their (Bible.logos.com) web product is in "Beta" but its initial feeling is of polish. It looks to be a very good resource.

NOTE: I have to admit after poking around Ref.ly for a couple of days I was very impressed. I didn't think Read.ly had the stuff to compare to this. I was pleasantly surprised. Check back tomorrow for part two.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Sign up for my web design class (JRN315)! MU classes start on August 31st so register today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Can you audit my web class?

Thanks to the age we live in, it was only a few moments after I posted the announcement about my web class (JRN315) that a good friend of mine commented on Facebook asking if he could audit the class.

Part of putting together my curriculum for my class is writing a section in the syllabus called "Relationship to College Mission Statement" or why are we offering this class. It is a good exercise. It has caused me to readdress the reasons that I currently do web development and find it inline with my Christian mission (perhaps for another post). A lot of my focus has been on the new students or more specifically journalism students. However, my friend happens to be the poster boy for why vocational sounding courses gives wheels to one's ministry training.

My friend got his bachlors degree from Multnomah University. He even worked for MU for a while in the music department. He is a very gifted musician and has great deal of pastoral giftings. For many years he has been very active in the church in many capacities. While serving at his current local church he has found himself in charge of the church's website. Now I don't think he would mind me saying that he really didn't know much at all about web design or even how to administer a site. He has come a long way and done a great job.

This class is a great opportunity for many reasons. Consider this short list.
  • Missionaries do so much communication via the web
  • Journalist (this is a journalism seminar after all) must utilize the web
  • Pastors and lay people alike may one day (or currently) manage a website or e-newsletter
  • A lot of theological discussion is happening online and basic web design skills can help you join the discussion.
These are just some things that I put down as I approached this class. I think it will be a lot of FUN as well!

Alumni
If you are interested in "getting you some web skillz" you should know...
The day and time can be found on the course description page (JRN315). Also, you can audit for free! Check out the alumni benefits page for more info. The form to apply is on that page.

Class starts August 31st! Ack! Back to work.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My trip to Chi-town for SIM


It has been several weeks. I was in Chicago for the Stamats Integrated Marketing Conference at the end of July. The conference was good. Stamats is currently working on the look & feel of our next website (will definitely be talking more about that) and we got to spend some good time with our rep Ronnie Woodson.

While we were there is just so happened that our Alumni director Michelle Peel was in town for an Alumni conference. We met up with her for some Chicago Cub baseball (killed the Astros) and a Chicago Alumni Chapter event. It was a great time. We heard some amazing Multnomah stories that went on to become amazing life stories. Michelle got some pictures (too many involving me). I was most impressed with a story by one of our alum who took his degree from Multnomah (then "School of the Bible") continued to get a masters in teaching from Lewis and Clark and then spent decades teaching and sharing the gospel with the people of Congo (then Belgium Congo).

I got pretty excited sitting there listening. As a web developer I get to be involved in a lot of promotions for programs at MU. Launching of the Master of Arts in Teaching was one of those programs. It was amazing to hear what God has done with one person, a Bible education, and the skill of teaching. It was a good reminder. The addition of the MAT program at MU reaffirms - God is at work at Multnomah.

Thanks for having me Michelle. And Chicago region alumni, my hat is off to you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Announcing my web design class at MU!

I am very excited to announce I am teaching again. I have been asked to teach a journalism seminar class on web design for the fall semester at Multnomah University. The course description (JRN315) is a little weak so I wanted this announcement to lend a little clarity.

JRN315 will focus on web design fundamentals. This will include (x)html and css but also delve into the concepts behind what good design/development is.

More details coming soon. For now just "Woo hoo!" and I hope to see you all in class.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Launch

I have been planning a blog for some time. I always found it a little embarrassing to be posting on a forum or something that asks you to supply a "homepage" and having nothin'. I used my twitter feed for some time with some success. Professionally I could always include Multnomah University's website (it is mine after all). No more. I will now call this little (blog)spot my home. At least until I decide to shell out the money and time to build some sweeter.