Category Archives: blogging

Bill Kinnon on writing

Bill has a wonderful post on writing.  The entire thing is worth reading but this one got me thinking

In 2004, Nielsen BookScan tracked the sales of 1.2 million books and found that nine hundred and fifty thousand of them sold fewer than ninety-nine copies.

So we are looking at author royalties of a couple hundred bucks and a couple of conference speaking gigs.  In the end is it worth the effort?

Bill’s prescription to the cure is to write better stories and he is dead on correct (although writing stories is harder than it sounds, check out this editorial review from .  Like a lot of bloggers, I get a lot of books sent to me by almost every major publishing house.  In fact two came today and both of them look horrible.  In fact 99% of the books that I see coming my way, including many by friends are horrible.  They are poorly researched, not fact checked (if you are going to use history or science as an illustration, do your homework people!)  It’s one of the reasons why I no longer talk about theological titles here, so many of them aren’t worth my time to read and when I do read them, I am confronted by the fact that these are three hours I will never get back.  Do I keep wasting time on this or move on?  I generally find something by Michael Lewis or Steven Johnson and move on (which proves Bill’s point).

My suggestion for a lot of writers is not to bother writing a book period.  Forget the conferences, forget the interviews on Christian radio, forget the church basement book signings.  Instead throw your efforts into whatever it is that you are good at.  Chances are your ideas are intrinsically linked to your personality and your context and not as transferable as you would think.   That’s why even if I lost some weight and got a blond wig and a sailboat, I still couldn’t lead like Bill Hybels.  The reason isn’t that I didn’t mention his golf shirts (and let’s be honest, he has some nice golf shirts), it is that I am not Bill Hybels and I live in Saskatoon, not South Barrington.

Secondly, is the time away from doing what you do well or time away from learning something that you don’t do well, worth 1000 book sales and $5,000 in royalties?  Is the mini-book tour worth it?  Is the time spamming your friends worth it? What about moderating message boards on, and trying to get people to fan you on Facebook worth it? 

Thirdly, is giving the copyright of you idea to your publisher worth it?  Especially in the church I don’t know why we don’t see more writers open sourcing their content.  If you believe your idea came from the Holy Spirit, does turning that over to FOX (though Zondervan) seem to be the best course of action?  If you want to publish at least consider negotiating so your book is published under a Creative Commons license.

I have heard Michael Slaughter of Ginghamsburg talk about writing being the best way to influence people and in some ways he is right but as Bill Kinnon pointed out, is less then 100 copies influencing anyone other than your closest friends?

Would the time be better of spent writing a blog (and then doing what Guy Kawasaki did and put it out as a book), doing an excellent series of videos on YouTube which tell your story (great example of this here or here – what either of these stories be as compelling in book form?), or what about creating a world class webcast like what Spencer Burke did with or an excellent podcast?  If you are committed to writing, why not introduce your ideas to communities like TheOoze or Next-Wave

I like Rob Bell’s writing but if I was him and had to choose between writing and Nooma, I would choose Nooma. Also wouldn’t the time be better spent putting it into whatever made you think you should write about it.  I am not being flippant.  I remember the great line in Jim Collins’ book Built to Last where he talks about Lee Iacocca being distracted from running Chrysler because he was too busy being Lee Iacocca.

Finally, I know the church goes on and on about visionary leadership and visionary pastors and everyone including the pastors dog is a visionary (Maggi is visioning a piece of pizza as I type) but there have few game changing ideas that I have read in the last decade.  Most of it is regurgitated stuff and doesn’t need to see the light of day again.  Maybe the best use of our time would be coming up with some new ideas, instead of repackaging some old ones.

Wendy on the social web

Over on her blog

Several years ago someone got very angry at Jordon because he never phoned someone.  Jordon’s reply was, I e-mail regularly and I don’t really call anyone anymore.  The person was quite upset and ranted and raved about how stupid e-mail is.  Now the situation was more complicated than that but Jordon was caught using the wrong kind of communication system than someone else and they took it personally.

I find myself in a similar situation.  I publish this blog, contribute over at the cabin weblog, I use Upcoming, Twitter, Dopplr, and Flickr.  When you combine all of that content, there is a lot of Wendy out there.  You could even combine all of it together on Google’s Homepage if you wanted which would give you things like the weather at the lake and Saskatchewan Roughrider scores if you cared enough.   For some that isn’t enough or it isn’t in the right format (e-mail, phone, paper) which causes problems for them.  In the end it isn’t personal enough.

Which causes this problem

In the end, I tend to think that the problem isn’t the form of communication, it is the lack of relationship that allows you to go any deeper.  If you didn’t have a relationship with me and wanted one again, I would think this would be frustrating but at the same time, it isn’t technology that is the problem, it is that we don’t have a relationship and paper, phone, or e-mail won’t change that.

I wonder how much angst over new communication forms is based in insecurity over the relationships we fear are slipping away.

Blogger needs a template design competition

I have come to love Blogger’s simplicity and stability but it’s templates are looking horrible and dated.  Most of it’s templates come from their relaunch with Google and since then, there has not been a single new template offered up.  If Typepad can give out new templates, you would think that Google could managed to creates something attractive.

I know that you can easily make your own templates but unless you want to give up the ability to drag and drop widgets, and other features, it can be a pain to do and many of us have better ways to spend our nights. 

If they can’t make some new templates in house, why not open it up to their community and offer up some cash or Google schwag (and a link back to your blog).  C’mon Google set up and give your still loyal Blogger users a bone.

Without newspapers, who hold’s government’s responsible?

The Washington Post has a good article on the importance of reporters holding police accountable.

There is a lot of talk nowadays about what will replace the dinosaur that is the daily newspaper. So-called citizen journalists and bloggers and media pundits have lined up to tell us that newspapers are dying but that the news business will endure, that this moment is less tragic than it is transformational.

Well, sorry, but I didn’t trip over any blogger trying to find out McKissick’s identity and performance history. Nor were any citizen journalists at the City Council hearing in January when police officials inflated the nature and severity of the threats against officers. And there wasn’t anyone working sources in the police department to counterbalance all of the spin or omission.

I didn’t trip over a herd of hungry Sun reporters either, but that’s the point. In an American city, a police officer with the authority to take human life can now do so in the shadows, while his higher-ups can claim that this is necessary not to avoid public accountability, but to mitigate against a nonexistent wave of threats. And the last remaining daily newspaper in town no longer has the manpower, the expertise or the institutional memory to challenge any of it.

At one point last week, after the department spokesman denied me the face sheet of the shooting report, I tried doing what I used to do: I went to the Southeastern District and demanded the copy on file there.

When the desk officer refused to give it to me, I tried calling the chief judge of the District Court. But Sweeney’s replacement no longer handles such business. It’s been a while since any reporter asked, apparently. So I tried to explain the Maryland statutes to the shift commander, but so long had it been since a reporter had demanded a public document that he stared at me as if I were an emissary from some lost and utterly alien world.

Which is, sadly enough, exactly true.

My Top 10 favorite blogs of 2008

In no particular order

  • Warren Kinsella :: I don’t know if I should be linking to his blog or the great W@AL segments on YouTube but I have enjoyed another year of his partisan posts, late night KFC confessions, and exclusive interviews with the next leader of the Liberal Party, Bart the Fish.
  • CalgaryGrit | Daveberta :: I wish more political blogs were as fun to read as these two Grit blogs with Alberta roots.  Plus, how many of you in the last couple of years have managed to get under the skin of the Premier of Alberta.
  • Materialicious :: A recent move to Typepad busted a lot of my links to them but it still is a great weblog bringing lots of daily inspiration to both Wendy and myself.  As crazy as it sounds, I don’t think we would have bought our cabin this summer if matericious hadn’t inspired me to look for a cabin.
  • Awesome Internet Site :: A blog by Dave Blondel, it is just about as random as
  • Bow, James Bow :: I am not a big fan of all of the SEO wizardry stuff out there online who promise big traffic from gimmicks and fooling search engines.  I keep telling people that if you write well, people will find your blog and will come back often.  That’s the truth about James Bow’s blog.  He writes well and I come back daily.
  • The Big Picture :: Not only do I love this site but my staff loves it as well.  When they have a new post, I generally hear about it from someone I work with before I get a chance to see it myself. 
  • Steve Taylor :: As I find myself further and further drifting away from the emerging church discussion, Steve Taylor’s theological creativity excites me and draws me back into it.
  • Scott Williams :: Scott’s restaurant gets in the way of his blogging but he has been on a roll in 2008 writing several excellent posts.
  • OneHouse :: I read OneHouse as a reminder that there is a better way to live and I don’t always take the time to live it.  In a year where I constantly felt off balance, rushed, and under way too much stress, it called me back to a life that makes a bit more sense.
  • Bill Kinnon :: Bill’s weblog is another blog I have come to appreciate more and more in 2008 because I find he expands my thinking on the Gospel and culture.  It may be because he isn’t employed by a church but also because he just may be right.

Honorable mentions (because I had to limit the list to 10): Mighty Goods, Dooce, Jonny Baker, Andrew Jones, Jason Kottke, Darryl Dash, Sportsfilter, The Morning News

Free Wifi Hotspots in Saskatoon

SKConnected-logo Saskatoon does a good job in providing wireless capability to it’s residents.  The yellow areas show where Saskatchewan! Connected provides free wifi access to Saskatoon (and other Saskatchewan cities.  There are also a bunch of other free wifi networks to tap into and I put a list of known public networks for you to tap into.

Saskatchewan! Connected wifi coverage in Saskatoon

Downtown Saskatoon:

  • Earls, 610 2nd Avenue North
  • Hilton Garden Inn, 1st Ave S & 22nd Street E
  • Jake’s on 21st Street
  • Mulberry’s Cafe, 3rd Avenue & 23rd Street
  • Park Town Hotel, Spadina Crescent & 25th Street
  • Sheraton Cavalier, Spadina Crescent & 21st Street
  • Spadina Freehouse, Spadina Crescent & 21st Street
  • Timothy’s, Midtown Plaza, 1st Avenue & 21st Street

Hotspots around Saskatoon:

Bill Easum is blogging

I don’t know how I missed this but Bill Easum is blogging.  Bill’s writings have influenced my thinking a lot over the years and just the other day I was talking about his books to someone.  I have generally considered church consultants to be like snake oil salesmen but Bill’s firm and Lyle Schaller has been the exceptions to that rule for me. He is also on Twitter @billeasum

The Cabin Weblog

I used to host this site on my site but since I migrated to WordPress, it was just easier to host this at Blogspot.  After playing a bit with it, the cabin weblog is more or less online.  We wanted a place to post the changes that we are making over the last couple of years and since quite a few friends have used it this summer, we needed something that we can give to people to find Arlington Beach and also so they know what to bring along with them.  It is also a place for Wendy and I to post some links to some design and architecture sites and articles that we find interesting.

What Makes for a Good Blog?

Merlin Mann of 43 Folders fame has a list of things he thinks makes up a good blog.

I’ve come to believe that creative life in the first-world comes down to those who try just a little bit harder. Then, there’s the other 98%. They’re still eating the free continental breakfast over at FriendFeed. A good blog is written by a blogger who thinks longer, works harder, and obsesses more. Ultimately, a good blogger tries. That’s why “good” is getting rare.

The list is a good one but this paragraph got to me.  He’s totally right and it bothers me because I haven’t put that much time and effort into this site because I have been too busy doing things that I think are quite a bit more important.  It’s a challenge because good writing takes time and time is what I don’t have much of anymore.  It’s crazy but I am in the middle of 24 straight days without a day off.  Some of those days include 16 hour shifts. It’s hard to find the time or the energy to put into the blog.  I cringe when I see posts go live that would be so much better if I had an hour to flesh it out but lately those hours are better spent with Wendy, Mark, Oliver, or just sleeping.

If you stick with me, the quality will return.  I promise but it’s going to take a few weeks.

Is Blogging Dead?

Jason Calacanis thinks so.
> Bloggers spend more time digging, tweeting, and SEOing their posts
> than they do on the posts themselves. In the early days of blogging
> Peter Rojas, who was my blog professor, told me what was required to
> win at blogging: “show up every day.” In 2003 and 2004 that was the
> case. Today? What’s required is a team of social marketers to get your
> message out there, and a second one to manage the fall-out from
> whatever you’ve said.
> Think: Nick Denton has reworked the bloggers pay at Gawker Media to
> reflect not the quality of the words but the number of page views
> those blog posts get. He doesn’t pay by word count, he pays by page
> views. He’s closed the loop between editorial and advertising, turning
> the Chinese wall into a block party. It’s the publishing promised land
> while simultaneously being the death of publishing. Gawker is growing
> page views while simultaneously destroying it’s brand equity. This
> will either result in an implosion, or the perfect id-driven magazine
> where our core desires are synchronized in relation to their
> marketability. It will be fun to watch, but I wouldn’t want to be one
> of those bloggers in the cage, running on the Denton’s wheel.
> Excelling in blogging today is about link-baiting, the act of writing
> something inflammatory in order to get a link. Many folks say I’m
> responsible for link-baiting–these people are absolute idiots. I’ve
> never tried to get any of these insecure, lonely freaks to link to
> something I’ve said.

In many ways I agree with him but only for those that want to write a weblog for a living. I write because I want to write, not because of stats, page views, or what advertisers want. I don’t really think people care if I continue this or not but I do because at the end of the day because I want to, not because my mortgage is dependent on it.

I know this is kind of old school but if you want a better blog, become a better writer. The rest will take care of itself and you will enjoy it a whole lot more.

Looking for sponsors

The Jesus Manifesto is looking for sponsors.

If you look to the right sidebar, you’ll notice sidebar images for Christarchy, Missio Dei, and Submergent. These are groups that I’ve helped get started. There’s also a link for the Breviary there. In addition, I’ve used a banner ad (which is also displayed in the rss feed for each article) to promote things like the Pentecost Writing Competition, the Missio Dei Breviary, and the Cobalt Season’s latest album. With the exception of the Cobalt Season, I’ve used these to bring attention to some of my other ventures…things that resonate with the same impulse as Jesus Manifesto. Below that, there are a list of still other groups and sites that share the same impulse as Jesus Manifesto.

I’d like to take the images down for Christarchy, the Breviary, and Submergent (moving them into the regular set of links) and replace them with 3 or 4 sponsors. In addition, Missio Dei would only appear in the banner section and rss feeds about 1/4 or 1/5 of the time, depending upon the other sponsors.

I am not sure if his traffic justifies the cost of the sponsorships but it is a good idea for raising some money on a weblog other than the generally tried and failed Google Ad-Words.  Daring Fireball uses subscribers and being part of The Deck as a revenue generator while others have gone to ads alone.  The problem with advertising is you need significant traffic and with subscribers, you need exclusive content which is kind of hard for many blogs or even the mainstream media.  That being said, I wish the best for the Jesus Manifesto and I hope his business model works.  I like it a lot better than putting ads all over his site.  That being said, I would love for someone to do a high quality ad network like The Deck.