T’was the Week Before Easter

27 03 2013

Yesterday was an interesting day. My family is on Spring Break, but I’m not. Work doesn’t stop the week before Easter in my world. In “Church Work” we like to think that every single Sunday is as important as the next. That we should strive to make each Sunday worthy of His story. But the reality is that Easter Sunday is the Super Bowl of Sundays for us. There will be more people in church this Sunday than any other this year. So I work.

But yesterday… Yesterday was different. My oldest is a 14 year old young man. Before yesterday I might have written “14 year old male”, or “14 year old kid”. But today he’s a young man. Nothing really changed of course. But there were moments yesterday that I saw some things.

As my team in the office was working on their assigned projects I decided that I needed some help getting my tasks done. I called home a little earlier than I thought my oldest would be awake on his day off from school. I told my wife that I was going to stop by the house and pick up the big kid in about 15 minutes, and that I was going to need his help doing some things at work.

I fully expected to find a moaning child exiting the house yesterday morning. But that’s not what I got. Sure, he was not quite fully awake, nor was he hopping like a rabbit on the way to the car. But there was a surprising amount of conversation on the way to the first stop on my list. As we made our way through the day I never heard a complaint. In fact I keep hearing, “What’s next?” and “Can I try to do that?”. “Where are these going?” and the one that got me was, “Do I GET TO do that now?”. Get to? Are you kidding me? Get to? What happened to have to?

After work my son and I took the short drive home in my Jeep. Parked at the far end of the parking lot was another Jeep. A 1982 Jeep Scrambler. It had a major lift kit and big mudders. It was blue and it was for sale. $13k the handwritten sign said. My son, the one that throughout the day became a young man right before my eyes, began to tell me how cool it would be if he had that big blue Jeep as his own. Sarcastically I said, “Maybe they would give us an even trade for this Jeep.” He laughed and then he said this: “Dad, we can’t do that. This Jeep has too much sentimental value. We can’t get rid of it.”

It was what I call a “Flash of Light Moment”. He gets it. He understands what is important to me. Or at least he thinks he does. Little does he know that I would give up my priceless 1974 Jeep CJ5 in a heartbeat if I thought it would make his world better. Richer. More full. In a heartbeat.

During our day together he pulled out his phone a few times but never so many times that I wanted to ask him to stop. At one point he wanted to share with me an Instagram post that he thought was really cool. He read it to me.

A deeply depressed swimmer decided to go for a midnight swim. Although the lights were out at the pool, he climbed to the highest diving board. He stretched out his arms to his side and in the moon lit shadow below he saw Christ on a cross. He knelt to pray and asked Jesus to come into his heart. At that instant the lights at the pool came on. Only to reveal that the pool had been drained for repairs.

Of all the things he sees and reads on his phone, he thought this one was worth sharing out loud. He gets it. He is amazed at how God works. Yet little does he know how much God loves him. Nor do I for that matter.

At the end of the day as I sat watching TV, something caused me to pause the DVR. It was the sound I was hearing from the other room. My oldest was playing his Playstation with his little brother. There was a lot of laughing. The kind of laughing that makes tears appear.

Little do they know…

Collaborative Consumerism

11 01 2013


Rachel Botsman is on to something. According to her website, she’s “a social innovator who writes, consults and speaks on the power of collaboration and sharing through network technologies.” Last June she did a TED talk that centers on the fact that our personal online presence can create a measurable trust coefficient and that “trust” will be, and is becoming, the new currency. Like how our credit score defines who we are in ways we might have ever imagined, our online reputation will become the filter that will be used to determine what jobs we will have, or how much money we can make; who we will marry and what town we will live in. Have you ever considered that your credit score had so much to do with those things? Our current economic structure is such a part of our DNA that it’s often dismissed as playing a role in our life choices at all.

What Botsman so clearly communicates is that in the new world where network technologies drives consumerism, those who can navigate to a point where their reputations are always trending up will always have the upper hand. In the very near future and in many marketplaces today, knowing and understanding how to manage your online reputation will become as important as knowing how to improve your credit score is to us today.

Those of you who have purchased products on Ebay or Etsy know that checking the sellers reviews is “Step 1” before you buy anything from them. I personally have been bitten by the shopping cart bug and upon reading the reviews AFTER the product I ordered didn’t show up for weeks, kicked myself for rushing past Step 1.

The advance of Social Media has so much to do with our online presence. There are even barometers like Klout that can tell us the depth of our influence within specific platforms. And while these “platforms” have been seen in the past as not much more that messaging centers or virtual chat rooms. The reality is that these systems are now already how people connect deeply with each other.

I’ve written before on how we all have a Trust Bank. I talk to my boys about it all the time. We deposit trust into our bank when we do things that are expected of us… When we tell the truth in a difficult peer pressure moment… When we go beyond what was expected. Trust is also withdrawn from our bank when we are caught in a lie, or when we don’t complete the task we were assigned or when we break a promise. Trust goes in and trust goes out. The more trust that sits in our bank, the more trust we are given. Interest is even earned on trust that stays in the bank.

Botsman’s point is no different than this. Though her’s goes beyond the simple analogy. As the world moves towards a more collaborative, Social Media enhanced, network technology fueled culture, our reputations will matter even more and be viewed by pretty much everyone that wants access to it.

Collaborative Consumerism is real. Trust is the currency. Your reputation is what will determine how well you are doing. Big businesses, organizations and even non-profits like churches should take heed because even though Botsman’s discussion involves mainly peer to peer markets, the implications are far reaching. As 2013 kicks off, learning how to manage your online presence should be high on the to do list… for each of us personally AND the organizations of which we are a part.

Watch Rachel Botsman’s TED Talk video here:

Additional resource: Unique by Phil Cooke

Why I’m Cheering for Instagram From the Cheap Seats

19 12 2012

Yesterday the social media world was in a frenzy. Instagram released their new Privacy Policy and the wording within the statement implied that Instagram could use our photos for their own gain… WITHOUT having to have our approval. I sat back and watched as friends deleted their accounts and went shopping for other FREE services to post their beloved images.

While I personally applaud Instagram for their efforts to protect the images that ride on their system, I yell a long deep “BOOOOO!” from the cheap seats because of HOW they mismanaged the communication of the policy. They vastly underestimated the push back their “wording” would be perceived by it’s users.

This is honestly not surprising at all, considering Facebook owns Instagram and Facebook is famous to changing policies and practices without care for how their users will react. Of course they, like all FREE social media platforms, don’t really have to poll the crowd. They know they are the best game in town and most follow Apple’s methodology of change. “Remove the floppy drive,” said Steve Jobs. Then, “No, we’re not putting Blue Ray DVD players in our machines,” he said. Then, “remove the DVD drive all together”. Steve was right because he understood the big picture and could see the future. Floppy disks were a horrible medium to be followed by a less than practical format with the CD-ROM and then the DVD. He saw the promise of the cloud, and he knew the only way to get there was to remove the very thing that was stopping us from moving forward. The major Social Media platform providers see the future too. They will make changes to protect their assets. It just so happens that their assets were created by us!

Instagram wants to be able control who uses the images that are stored on their system. They produced a privacy policy that seems, to us, that they want to take advantage of us. In fact though, they are protecting us. Previously they had no ability to go after any organization that snagged those images by normal means.

An example is this Taco Bell Los Taco’s ad.

The images that appear in this ad seem to be taken directly from Instagram users. In my own job (Communications), I’ve taken images posted on Instagram and used them for promotional purposes. Granted the images were tagged with a custom hashtag and all of the people who shot the images knew how they were going to be used. However until Instagram created this new Privacy Policy, any company, anywhere in the world, could, in theory, use Instagram as a free stock photo service.

Not anymore though. Those images are now (or at least will be after Jan. 15, 2013) protected. Only Instagram will be able to use those images. Some people will continue to go nuts over the fact that the images they took and then posted on a server somewhere so that other people could see them are now going to be considered “Controlled by Others”.

Me? Well, I’m not going to go nuts over it. I’m going to continue to post images as often as before. And I’m going to remain smart about it. Posting images online is fun. It’s a way to express yourself. It’s a creative outlet. My kids are cute, I’m proud of them and I want the world to know about it. My wife is incredible and I want the world to know how I feel about her.

I’m glad Instagram is adding teeth to protect the images so that some company I’ve never heard of can’t use them. Can Instagram use them? Sure they can. But they would be stupid to use an image of a minor in an ad without written permission first. And although Instagram and Facebook are not great at communicating the advantages their policies being their users… they aren’t stupid. Does the policy provide them the right to sell the images to others? Yes it does. Will they? Probably not the images themselves, but for sure the data that is hidden within them.

For instance… I post images of my 1974 Jeep CJ5 a good bit. A company that sells accessories for my Jeep wants to target their ads at Jeep owners. Instagram’s data mine knows that I have a Jeep and so that company pays Instagram to place ads in my photo stream. Or because my zip code is part of my digital footprint the accessory supplier will buy ads in areas that have a high concentrations of people who own old Jeeps. Before the policy was in place, that company could have paid some other data miner (think of data as gold) to dig up that information and then connect it to my other online footprints. Instagram wants that money. They need that money to install more servers to provide more room for us to post pictures. And of course to pay stock holders.

I say that I am cheering from the cheap seats because I’m not a stockholder. I’m a user of a FREE service that makes it’s money using the unseen data I provide. It’s as simple as that. If I have to look at ads, I’d prefer them to be about something I’m at least interested in. I’ve noticed in the last 5 years that the ads on the right side of my Facebook page more closely resemble my tastes and lifestyle. That is because companies, or at least their Ad Agencies, are learning and now understand better how Social Media works. I for one am grateful for the free service and I’m happy that I rarely see ads for things like feminine hygiene products or acne treatments.

Product development teams at all major companies want and need the data that is mined from Social Media. If you want better products and services for you and your family… post pictures on Instagram! Make statements on Twitter! Post your thoughts on Facebook!

Trust me. Instagram’s new policy has very little to do with the images that you posted of your kids playing in the indoor playground at the fast food place down the street… It has to do with the fact that the fast food place wants to know if you were having a good time… if your kids liked the food… if you enjoyed hanging out with your “Mom’s Group”… if you used the wifi system they just installed… if it was too crowded… how often you are there… what time you were there… Every little nugget costs money and Instagram’s new policy means they are the only ones who can mine for those nuggets.

I’m okay with that because I understand that the big picture is made up of thousands and thousands and thousands of images taken in places all over the world, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Everyone of them leading to better ideas, better solutions and better products.

So take those pictures! Share them online! We’d all like to enjoy them with you!

My Namesake and His Draft Card

12 11 2012

Chesley James Rivers was my Grandpa.  This week he would have turned 101 years old.  The Veterans Day celebrations that occurred this past weekend caused me to cast a light on his newly discovered (at least to me) Selective Service card. I find it so very interesting. He was 28 years old when he signed it in 1939.  I can only assume that it was signed in October of that year right after the Burke-Wadsworth Act was passed by Congress and of course, a couple of years before the U.S. entered World War II.

I have no idea if his number was ever called.  It would not have mattered anyway since he would have be classified as Section V. He was not able to hear. His deafness was caused by complications from a childhood illness.  As I recall the story told to me long ago… when as very small child, he developed pneumonia.  Near the end of his recovery, after the first snowfall of the season, his sister let him out to play in the snow.  The remaining fluid in his ears froze and forever damaged his eardrums.  How much of that story is accurate is in question of course. However that is how I remember it. I will add the disclaimer that my imagination often adds embellishments.

I never heard my Grandpa speak.  However I did hear him sing.  Funny that I write this during Veterans Day… His favorite song to sing out loud was “Onward Christian Soldiers” and although the words came forth in a manner you would expect from someone who is deaf, the notes were always in the right place. I call it his “Marching Song”. He would sing it only while standing… and always at the top of his lungs.

The card was signed while he was working at the EM Holt Plaid Mill.  He worked a loom and although I’m sure the mass manufacturing process was laborious at best, he kept a nice sized loom in his home until the day he died.  He made beautiful things.  Mostly in plaid of course!  My Grandparents lived in the Carolina’s, but also in south Louisiana, Houston and Washington, D.C. He moved from the loom to the printing press and worked for the Congressional Record for a time in the 70’s.

Today I honor him for his service.  He signed a card and was willing to serve.  Though he wouldn’t be asked to fight in a war, I’ve never known anyone more patriotic. I used to think his deafness placed him in a world where only deaf people worked.  Mills and print shop are loud, distracting and sometimes dangerous places.  Many, many deaf people worked in these places because they were ideally suited for the work.  However as I look at it now, I see that he chose work that offered him creativity through the use of technology.  He made beautiful things… from loud, complicated machines.

Happy birthday Grandpa! Thank you for providing for your wife and daughters. For singing loudly and for making me smile.  Thank you for being tall, but for never looking down on anyone. Thank you for teaching me, even after you are gone, that creativity can come from the most complicated things. I miss you.


To the Silent Segment

6 09 2012

Are you an active participant in Social Media? By that, I mean do you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pintrest at least once a day? Or maybe you’re a non-poster, but instead an avid viewer. Maybe you log on only once or twice a week to see what “the kids” are up to. No matter how often you take a look, you are bound to see some type of political statement in this season of elections. Is the polarization of our country becoming worse or are we just now more aware of it?

I, for one, am interested in the high level of engagement that appears on Social Media these days. Granted I see it more overtly with “repeat offenders” (for which I have created a Friend List), but I do watch a number of intense debates that shed a great deal of light on the nature of our culture… Even our local sub-cultures.

Lately I’ve seen somewhat of a backlash of traffic where people are threatening the acursed “un-friending” of those that continue to fill the space that answers the question “What’s on your mind?” with political preponderance. I hesitate to call these [posts] rants. However, many times the comments that follow the initial posts often qualify as such.

I think that I can break down those who are reading this into one of three groups. Group 1 (these are in no particular order by the way) would be those of you who are nodding your head in agreement. Group 2 are those of you who are, at this very moment, thinking about what you want to comment in rebuttal of this post so far. Group 3 are those of you who just want me to show you how to create Friend Lists. Group 4 are those who have no opinion what-so-ever, and you are just trying to kill some time by following some links from a Twitter feed.

To each of you, here is my point: The world we live in, is in fact, becoming more polarized. Social Media has NOT accelerated this process. It has though brought it more to our attention.

I have close friends and distant acquaintances that live on both sides… wait. I really don’t think there are simply 2 sides anymore. I honestly believe it’s more of a interlocking group of spheres. Think of an atomic nucleus. Yes it’s made up of protons and neutrons, however each are connected and touching so many others that are unlike themselves in the highly compressed object.

Our culture is highly compressed. I think it’s very hard to find a “purest” anymore. There are radicals to be sure. However even within those ranks there are hypocrites. Yep… hypocrites (one of the most touch sensitive words in our vocabulary).

I do wonder, in the next 60 days, will we see a marked increase of political based chatter on our Facebook walls and Twitter feeds? Will people other than the repeat offenders have something to say? Or will the Silent Section (what used to be the Silent Majority) watch from a distance and then vote how they had planned to vote at this time last year? Are there really that many undecided, or does that percentage of the polled public lie about their choice to ward off Pollsters and the inevitable follow up questions?

I see all of this as proof that we are headed to a zenith of a “WE” culture. When the witch hunt will begin again. The last time a zenith of a “WE” hit was in the early 1940’s. The Department of Justice started keeping a list of organizations that it deemed subversive beginning in 1942 and then came McCarthyism. We are 10 years from the next zenith (2023, which is 80 years from the last one), however if you look closely at history and you watch our culture evolve, you can almost make out in the distance where we are headed.

Now I’m not saying the government will propel the movement to “call out” and “blacklist” people. But I am saying that the Silent Segment will have to state out loud and in public what they believe. The atomic nucleus will be blown apart and each person will have to stand on their on with their core values and beliefs.

It will take 20 years for the dust to clear and for effective change to be made easy again. My boys will be 20 and 25 at the zenith and close to my age at the tipping point (when we begin to head more towards the “Me” culture. I’m not a survivalist and I’m not storing up ammo (yet), but I am worried about my boys. Will they be ready to answer the hard questions? Will they be ready to not be silent? To stand up, raise their head high and be clear about what they believe? Will they lead their families to do the same?

Many in the Silent Segment believe, actions speak louder than words. So many of us are in fact hypocrites that we know our words hold little weight. It’s the reason we are silent. It’s not that we aren’t convicted… just that we are aware that there is plank in our own eye. (Maybe now more of you have moved to my Group 1!)

So many of us struggle with our own forgiveness. We head for the charity route so that we can try to donate our guilt away. We become tolerant because we think we understand the internal guilt that we assume “those people” must have. (Some have now moved to Group 2) Moreover, we can’t defend our beliefs so therefore we remain quiet. Like when the teacher asks a question in class that we should know the answer to, yet we pray she doesn’t call on us! We “kind of” know the answer, but surly someone else can provide it more clearly, or at least with authority.

I see the next generation being more hungry than the last to be able to answer the questions. They have a better handle on hypocrisy and understand that you can’t get away with it anymore. It’s the good part of being in the middle era of the “WE” culture. Information is not hard to acquire and proof is even easier to provide. The very first thing that was pointed out in speeches of BOTH the RNC and DNC were lies (a.k.a. mis-information, exaggerations, bad data, inaccuracies, simple conjecture.) Where with my generation the was a lack of absolute truth, the next generation will have to find truth absolutely. There is a difference.

Unlike the special note added to the post for the image at the top of this page, soon there will be no special forum state your view. It will all be public and everyone will have to answer the questions. Are you ready to speak clearly about what you believe? Do you have the words to convince, say… yourself, that what you believe is true?

What causes you to be silent?

Get Some Airtime

5 06 2012

Okay, I have to say that clicking on the “Talk to Someone” button freaked me out a little bit.  Who was going to pop up? Would we be able to speak to each other or just stare at the screen.  I had no idea that God might use this app to light my fire once again!

The app is called Airtime (www.airtime.com) and it was created but the same guys that brought us Napster.  In it’s simplest form, it uses the data within your Facebook profile to connect you with people all over the world who have similar data. Songs and artist, books and websites, schools and jobs, etc. They are all poured into a jug, shaken up and then you get a chance to put your hand in and pull out a name.  It you don’t like who Airtime picks for you, you just click the “Next Button”.

In the course of about 3 minutes I got to meet a guy in Dallas (who uses 10 of the same apps I use) , a guy in Atlanta (whose dad played baseball for LSU), a guy with a fu-man-chu stash (who simply had a Star Trek airship cutout that he waved across the screen) and a guy who looked really tired in Singapore.

These conversations were extremely brief. Almost like speaking to someone in a checkout line at Starbucks.  Now those of you who know me, know that I don’t start conversations with people in line at Starbucks. Or any other place for that matter.  However, coming literally face to face with people online that in some manner have a slight iota of similar interests makes me want to persue it.

In the last hour I’ve been able to share Christ with people from one coast the other!  The standard starting point on Airtime to ask where a person is at that moment.  Next question…. What do you do in Yourtown, USA.  “I’m a minister” I say.  You should see the expressions!  


So now I’m off to see how to get deeper into the core process of how this thing really works.  So that, of course, I can go ye therefore!  Hey, and maybe I’ll make some new friends along the way!



Reflections… of sound and other things.

2 05 2012


Over 20 years ago I was cutting my teeth on audio design for very unique environments.  I was extremely blessed to be handed the keys to the Tennessee Preforming Arts Center (TPAC) for nearly 2 months.  During that time I was the project manager for one of the most interesting audio system installations in the world.

TPAC was built with music in mind.  Being located in the center of the music capital of the planet, it’s patrons were super critical listeners.  So critical, that when the Nashville Symphony played there, complaints about the “feel” of the room were often heard. Because of that fact, the Symphony moved out.  They left their new home, moved back and set up shop at the much older War Memorial Auditorium. Older, as in, dedicated in 1925. Even though it was not nearly as nice or as comfortable as TPAC, it had the right “feel” for the sound of a symphony orchestra.

The people at TAPC needed to get the room “fixed”, but at the same time it needed to preserve the seemly dead acoustic space for acts beyond the classical variety.  Enter Jaffe Acoustics and their Electronic Reflected-Energy System (ERES).  It was a game changer over 20 years ago and it forever changed my understanding of acoustics for performing spaces.  The ERES system was comprised of over 100 speaker enclosures.  Most of which weighed more than 100 lbs. a piece.  Each enclosure reproduced a different, very select group of audio frequencies (or notes), and they were hung above the floating ceiling panels or hidden in interesting locations around the edge of the room.   Several microphones were hung out in the room and several were hung on the edge of the stage.  Using Jaffe’s magic processors and some rocket science, we were able to electronically make the room feel good.

Part of what makes a room feel good is the amount of reverb time it has or allows, and how the sound bounces off one wall and then another before it comes to rest in your ears. Like singing in the shower, classical music sounds best, and ultimately feels best, in a room where the sound takes a second or two to come to rest after the maestro has frozen his baton. Because of TAPC’s plush curtains, thickly padded seating and soft carpets, the sound was literally sucked right up like a Hoover as it flowed off the stage.

Using the tiny amount of sound that did make into the room, we were able to use the perfectly placed microphones to “mix” the sounds, add artificial coloring and route them to over 100 different locations in the room.  It was like night and day.  Upon final tuning, the Conductor came out into the seats and listened to his orchestra with and without the system activated.  The Nashville Symphony moved back the TPAC.

That was over 20 years ago.  Today I came across a video that caused those old memories to come forth.  This new origami-ish system does nearly exactly what ERES did, but with no artificial ingredients!  Of course there is a magic box that controls the “breathing” of the system, but still… it’s an amazing use of technology, art and science.

Obviously this post is totally geeked out. However, I wanted highlight this point.  We spend huge amounts of energy to create things to fix problems.  Problems that are caused by nearsightedness or sometime more than that… strong opinions.  TPAC was created for performance. But it fell short because it focused on comfort and ease of use.  War Memorial Auditorium was admired for it’s seemingly perfect acoustics. But if you ever sat though a show there or had to load in a set from back stage, you would find it lacking. People in 1925 never anticipated the need for HVAC systems nor were they concerned about ADA regulations.

This may sound backwards, but I think nearsightedness is okay.  Glasses, contacts and now surgery can fix that.  Innovation comes from fixing problems.  If there were no problems there would be no innovation.  Tweet that!