blogs

New St. Louis-area Catholic Blogger

There's a new blog in town: thiscatholicgirl, by friend and former co-worker @ESWesthoff in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. She's witty, funny, and has good insight.

While I'm on the topic of new things, I can't forget to mention that I've been brushing up a bunch of new reviews of microphones and audio devices, and I'm hoping to start testing the iPhone 5 with as many audio gadgets as I can to supplement my article External Microphones for iPhone 5, 4S, iPad and iPod Touch Audio input. More to come!

Catholic New Media Conference (CNMC) 2012 - Wrap-up

CNMC 2012

This year's Catholic New Media Conference (held in Arlington, TX), came by so fast I didn't really have time to prepare any blog posts before hand, post pictures during the conference, or summarize individual sessions.

In years past (2011 and 2010), I've tried to dump pretty much everything I learned on my blog... but this year's CNMC was so much more broad-reaching that there was no way I could keep up with all the great content!

Tech Summit

Along with Matthew Warner, I helped organize a Tech Summit on the first day of this year's conference. We talked about mobile apps, the mobile web, the Catholic development community, and much more. We wanted to try to bring together individuals involved in Catholic web design and development, software programming, etc., to share stories and think about ways we can help each other and the Church to have a stronger influence in the tech world, and an improved channel of communication through the Internet.

Some highlights from the Tech Summit:

  • Josh Simmons from eCatholic spoke about what makes a good parish website—design, content, freshness, and mobile-friendliness.
  • During an 'App and Development Expo,' I presented the Catholic Diocese App, an open-source project to help every Catholic Diocese have an app for iPhone and/or Android.
  • Dane Falkner of Surgeworks talked about development processes and the reasons why (or why not) your organization should have an app. Focus and good wireframing are key to having a good and usable app.
  • Andrew Jones talked about Logos' bible software for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and some of the great features for learning sacred scripture and other texts.
  • Jeffrey Pinyan introduced his Catechism API, which allows developers to integrate the Catechism in their websites and apps, and even has a nifty feature that allows embedding snippets of the Catechism in a website with all references and info intact.
  • Flocknote introduced its new iPhone app (waiting for App Store approval).
  • Matthew Warner and I spoke about the importance of our collaboration and use of standards in Catholic development, so we can be a relevant force in the world today, and in the future, when it comes to software and websites.
  • Flocknote announced a Catechism mailing list for the Year of Faith, where you can sign up to receive daily Catechism readings courtesy of the Catechism API.

Jeff Geerling and Matthew Warner at CNMC Tech Summit

  • I spoke about Open Source Catholic and my hope that it will be a center for collaboration between Catholic web and app developers, designers, and others.

CNMC Celebration and Networking Day

Because of my involvement in the Tech Summit, I missed the other great presentations on Wednesday... but on Thursday, I was in the main CNMC conference room, with sponsor booths lined up in the back, along with many others (I hear there were something like 100 more registrants this year than last!).

Things kicked off with a great overview of the past seven years of Catholic New Media involvement by Fr. Roderick, and an eerie but poignant video highlighting the importance of bringing the soul to the Internet.

Throughout the day I built up my cnmc-attendees list on Twitter (I've been trying to include everyone I've noticed at every CNMC for the past four years!).

Some great names in Catholic new media introduced some awesome ideas and spoke about a diverse array of topics:

  • Elizabeth Scalia of The Anchoress told us about her story, her methods for dealing with less-than-kind commenters, and her writing process. She mentioned that email from her readers really helped her keep going sometimes; as long as we let the Holy Spirit work through us, we're letting God work through us and affect people's lives.
  • Rob Kaczmark from Spirit Juice Studios gave a ton of great advice to those creating video content on YouTube (and elsewhere). Professional production costs money (so don't cheap out!), other Churches and organizations are putting out tons of high quality and modern content—Catholics, not as much. Makeup and hair are important for good video—even for 80-year-old priests! (btw, my YouTube channel is here: geerlingguy).
  • Brandon Vogt talked about how other groups (Mohrmans, Atheists, etc.) are killing it online, while Catholics are lagging behind. SEO (making our stuff show up in Google and YouTube searches) is really important. Having good site navigation and structure that is user-centered, and using language that's not 'Churchy' and incomprehensible to non-Catholics... these are virtues of good Catholic presences online.
  • Bishop Christopher Coyne, auxiliary bishop in Indianapolis, brought a little Augustine into the discussion. We need to be 'conciliating the hostile' online. We should always take the high road. We should preach Christ, then His Church. Content is king, but quality is queen. Talk more about what you're for, not what you'reagainst. Step out of a conversation if it becomes ad hominem.

Collin Raye CMN Trade Show Dinner

  • Aletia, a new website set up by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications was announced at a Catholic Marketing Network dinner (see more here). (Collin Raye also played a few songs and shared a story from his own life during the dinner).

Catholic Bloggers' Summit

Because of a meeting taking place most of the middle of the day, I was only able to attend the first and last parts of the Catholic Bloggers' Summit on Friday... but it was still a great experience.

Jennifer Fulwiler, of Conversion Diary, reminded us of the importance of proper use of time online in her keynote. She said, "How many minutes of your day do you spend online? How many in prayer? What's your ratio?" The world won't stop if you are away from your blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. It's true! Your blog is not about you. People read blogs more for the stories than for the argument. Be ready to step away from the blog if the Holy Spirit calls you to do so.

Some breakout sessions were held by a variety of bloggers, and from what I've read on Twitter, they were equally enlightening. I'll try to summarize them when I can, but for now, just head over to the #cnmc12 hashtag on Twitter and read through midday tweets on August 30, 2012.

At the end of it all, I and others talked a bit longer, said our farewells, and headed either to a bed to get some much-needed sleep, or a bar to continue the 'IRL' conversations later into the evening.

Flocknote Meeting

The CNMC was the first time all the Flocknote staff met in person since we hired our new Happiness Engineer, Kaitlyn Rawley. We had a great all-hands-on-deck meeting during part of the last day of CNMC, and during the meeting, we snapped some new staff photos. We'll be updating things here and there accordingly, but here are a few headshots to give some idea of how crazy (and crazy-awesome) the Flocknote team is:

Matthew Warner - Flocknote     Kaitlyn Rawley     Jeff Geerling - Flocknote

We're working on some awesome new things at Flocknote, and it's really the best communications tool for parishes and other Catholic organizations that have a variety of ministries and groups! Check out how Flocknote can help your organization.

Odds and Ends

The conference was awesome. This was by far the best CNMC to date, especially with regard to the diversity of the attendees. I met people working in social media, software development, communications, blogging, marketing, and other fields, and I think everyone was able to take away something great.

The WiFi and Internet connection at the conference was very reliable and fast (here's basically how it was set up: WiFi for small conferences), and kudos to Steve Nelson, Fr. Roderick, Maria Johnson, Inge Loots, and all those from SQPN who helped make this such a wonderful event!

Lake at CNMC with Sports Arenas
Lake and sports stadiums in Arlington, TX; conference center out of frame to right.

I'm looking forward to #cnmc13, are you?

More resources and other summary posts:

Inspiration and Garbage

My relationship with writing is a funny thing; I've never been a 'writer', per-se, but I do love writing things from time to time. I probably write about as much prose as the average active blogger, but a lot of my writing never sees the light of day, nor is it focused in one particular area.

I blog about Drupal development and technology over on my Midwestern Mac blog, about the Church and technology on my Open Source Catholic blog, about life in general here, and about a variety of other things on various other blogs and fora.

But I think it's really important for someone who is serious about writing—and writing well—to do two things:

  1. Stay inspired
  2. Throw out the garbage

These two actions support and help each other; discarding mediocre writing projects and posts will allow you to take a fresh look at what you're writing, while staying inspired can help you more easily discern what's garbage, and what can be engaging and/or informative.

Just yesterday, I spent over an hour writing a post I thought would turn out funny, a bit tongue-in-cheek, and mildly informative... but it just didn't happen. Instead of wasting more of my time trying to make a mediocre post a little less mediocre, I threw it out, and started this post instead.

It's hard to stay inspired, but simply clearing away distractions helps (very rarely do distractions aid in inspiration). My favorite writing is often done after I've taken a break from coding or playing a game (or something else that involves a bit of concentration), and simply read a book, watched a video, prayed a short prayer, or did nothing at all.

St. Louis-area Catholic Bloggers / Websites

Mostly for my own reference... but I'm sure some other people may find this useful as well! Below are listed all the St. Louis-area Catholic blogs and websites that I know of (major organizational sites excluded, because those are pretty obvious):

Section: 

Vainglory: Best Catholic Blog to read on the Toilet

Dustin Faber, formerly known as the 16-bit Catholic who posted awesome articles about gaming from the perspective of a Catholic about-to-be-married on dustinfaber.com, and now posts awesome articles about marriage (and maybe how it's like gaming, except way harder?) with his wife on The Catholic Lovebirds (wow, is this sentance long, or what?), has honored Life is a Prayer with the esteemed title of Best Catholic Blog to read on the Toilet.

I have to say that I'm truly flattered—I am no stranger to the throne, as I spend many hours there, pondering the fundamentals of life. Or watching Star Trek. Since I have Crohn's, there's always an opportunity for spiritual growth or sci-fi entertainment on the ol' iPad (I'm currently progressing through TNG season 3).

To see that someone else honors Life is a Prayer enough to spend some of his most focused time reading it is truly edifying.

But enough about me—check out Dustin's new blog, in which he and his wife Allicia chronicle their way through the Sacrament of Matrimony. Natalie and I still haven't fulfilled our promise to share more of our marital progress on this blog and over at geerlingguyandgirl.com, but it looks like we don't need to, if the Faber's keep up their site :-).

Reset

Starting today, I'm going to be slowly working on:

  1. Upgrading some of my older sites to a newer version of Drupal.
  2. Rethinking where I post about certain things.

With regard to the latter point, I'm going to start focusing more on life, religion, philosophy, and such things on this particular blog, while I will focus more on technology (and web development in particular) on my Midwestern Mac, LLC blog.

I've hit a point where I think I'll start putting a few sites I maintain on mothballs (much like I have my old 2002-era Latin website, the Dual of the Seminarians site, et all).

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