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Municipal Matters get a new look

While I liked the old version of Sean Shaw’s blog, Municipal Matters, I am really liking the new look and feel to his blog on Saskatoon politics and governance.  If you get a chance, check it out along with a couple other Saskatoon civic blogs that are a lot of fun reading, even when we find ourselves on different sides of the same issue.

While on the topic of city hall, Dave Hutton’s post points out that the province could be tossing some money into Gordie Howe Bowl, something I have been saying needs to be done since I was 12.  Seriously, since I was 12 I have been telling anyone who cared that Gordie Howe Bowl has tremendous potential as an entertainment destination.  I wonder if I put up a PayPal link if we could get enough donations in to get the naming rights. If Stephen Colbert can get a urinal on the space station named after him…

City Hall Notebook

This is cool, the Star Phoenix has launched a new blog covering City Hall.  While I was adding them to the blogroll, I also added Norm Fisher to the blogroll.  Norm is a realtor but he could be a writer and is a lot of fun on Twitter as well.  At work I keep an eye on the housing market and while I used to go to CMHC for the information, I eventually bookmarked Norm Fisher’s blog as it has the information that I want to have.

Speaking of the Star Phoenix, we get a couple of copies at work so I never subscribed at home.  They phoned the other night and I said “sign us up” as Mark is at the same age I was when I started to read the paper every day.  Since we got it at home, every night he comes home, cracks open the paper and reads every word.  I keep thinking I should be getting him a pipe and a cup of brandy.

Is Social Media a Fad?

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.

Kester Brewin

is back blogging.

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.

Bill Kinnon: The next Rupert Murdoch?

He may well be as his blog was named one of the top 60 church blogs in the world today.

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.

RSS Feed Fixed

Sorry about the lack of updates since I upgraded to WordPress.  I had a mistake with my Feedburner settings that I missed.  All is working now and everyone should see current updates from the site.  You can still follow the site at