Before I even get to talking about the sessions, one interesting point to discuss about the Christian New Media conference is that they actively encouraged people to tweet about the sessions and the conference.
This seemed pretty successful such that people unable to attend the conference could keep up with what was going on. Indeed given that they were using Twitterfall to show the traffic this produced a couple of amusing moments such as the point they switched the feed to the big screen just as Mum tweeted that she was going back to doing the ironing tagged with #CNNAC11!
However the encouragement to tweet was backed up with some grumbling from people about it being frowned upon tweeting in church – the implication being that it was fuddy-duddy type attitudes to object. But is it?
It’s useful to just revisit some of the reasons churches object to tech – the most common restrictions being please turn off your phone and please don’t take pictures during the service. Both have come about from experience, for example I can think of a number of occasions where times of silence and prayer have been interrupted by a mobile phone (on at least one occasion owned by the priest) and certainly several weddings that have ended up like paparazzi photo sessions with all the flash photography. From there we got to asking people to silence their phones and not use flash, but it was pretty quickly realised that many people struggle to understand their gadgets such that they don’t know how to silence them or disable the automatic flash. As a result it’s now all phones off and no photography at all.
I’d suggest that most techies can manage to enable silent mode and disable the flash – however given that we can do that should we then be live tweeting the sermon?
To be honest I’d say no. Part of the point of a service is to provide a separate space, away from the world outside to focus on the spiritual. Certainly you may consider outside through the sermon, or the prayers, but ultimately most people there are focusing on God. As was highlighted by some of the speakers the idea of a sabbath time away from work applies just as much as a time away from the noise of the online world.
As people who experience Taizé for the first time discover, silence is a very powerful way to focus, and it is something that is little used in many services, let alone in the Christian world online.
TechCrunch today published an interesting article giving tips for tech companies, particularly those involved in the latest online developments on how to make the best of their beta programmes. Whilst in the past most people would never see beta releases unless they were signed up to specific beta programmes, but now, with the ease of distribution offered by the internet, companies such as Microsoft and Google offer beta releases of upcoming products on free download. The article also makes interesting points about the kind of people who will participate in such beta programmes will be, and what technology they will tend to be using, and the importance of blogs and bloggers to the whole equation.
That reminded me that I was planning on posting another update on how my experiences with Shozu had been going, as although the possibility of actually using it had come to an end thanks to issues with my phone, as I mentioned at the weekend, I’ve carried on chatting over e-mail with Andy Tiller since then. Certainly I’m not alone with other bloggers commenting on how open Cognima are about their product, and Andy popping up to answer questions. We’ve actually had a good discussion about how I was looking to use Shozu in relation to how it works, and it is certainly a good example of how to run a beta programme.
Following on from my posting on why Shozu wasn’t working, Andy was curious as to why on exactly the same phone, I wasn’t having problems with Opera Mini. My conclusion was that this was primarily because Opera wasn’t checking on the Java permissions. When I fire up Opera thanks to my lack of certificates I get a message from the operating system of the phone saying that Opera is attempting to access the internet, and giving me the option to allow this or block it. If I allow it then Opera has access to the internet for the duration of the time I am using the browser. If I subsequently exit the browser and go back in, I then have to reauthorise Opera. The difference with Shozu is that in order to provide specific features, such as the automatic resumption of transfers if the GPRS signal is lost, the application needs full access – as the loss of the connection and resumption would result in an annoying series of dialogs repeatedly asking for permission to connect. As a result, Shozu checks it’s level of permission and if it doesn’t have what it requires, forces you to exit. The argument I offered Andy on the subject was that Shozu doesn’t actually need this level of access, and could work at the reduced level I have available on my phone, so it would be better to offer a warning that the reduced level of permissions could adversely affect the user experience in Shozu but let the user use the application anyway. I also highlighted that if Shozu were an application on a PC I’d usually be careful about handing it full control of a connection until I was happy it wasn’t going to connect without my permission and clock up a vast bill, and as such giving Shozu users the option to use the phone operating system to restrict Shozu was helpful.
It is worth mentioning at this point that I don’t think I convinced Andy of my point of view, but at the same time I certainly felt that he was open to discussing other ways of doing things. This again makes a refreshing change, as sometimes you get the feeling that software developers (and I’m sure I give the impression at times too) take anything that seems like criticism of their product pretty personally, when in actual fact the users are only trying to be constructive.
It also kicked off a discussion at work, over some of the occasions when despite a whole series of requirements documents, user workshops, and even sitting watching users work it transpires that the users are actually using your application in a totally different way from how you originally envisioned it. Sometimes this could be as a result of a bug, or that having been given a new application they realise that they can use it to do more than they originally thought. However there are a number of occasions we’ve had some incident reports that appear really obscure until you work out what the users are doing. Equally some feature that seemed massively important, and that we spent ages developing, for some reason is now totally ignored and the users are doing the same thing in a totally different way (usually involving an Excel spreadsheet).
Certainly when I get a phone that is capable, or the guys at Cognima produce a version that doesn’t insist on specific permissions, I’ll take a look again. With the other options being the frustration of trying to get MMS to work reliably, or e-mail, that increases the size of any picture transfer by about 40% (the overhead on Shozu is only about 4%) it certainly seems a great way to send pictures on the move. Also, if you want to see a good example of the kind of mobile photo-blogging that Shozu aims to support just take a look at some of the more than 13,000 Flickr pictures tagged with Shozu! (And you can even see pictures of the guys who work at Cognima in amongst them too!)
I got a laugh from Howards posting today. Apparently he so likes his ringtone, that he’ll listen to it all the way through rather than answer the phone!
Now some university somewhere must have done a research project into the psychology of ringtones. On our floor we have a couple with the notorious Nokia default, that Dom Jolly uses. However we also have a polyphonic rendition of the Imperial March from Star Wars, assorted dance tunes, plus Waltzing Matilda from somewhere else… We even have a little bit of patriotism with someone who used to have Land of Hope and Glory, and has switched to Jerusalem after the cricket!
Having said that, my phone is on vibrate most of the time, not sure what the message is in that!
Thoughts from, and the lives of a Canadian and a Brit living in Southern England.