Archives For tech

story.cashmoreThe following is from CNN’s Tech Blog and written by Pete Cashmore. Pete is founder and CEO of Mashable, a popular blog about social media. He is writing a weekly column about social networking and tech for CNN.com.

(CNN) — As 2009 draws to a close, the Web’s attention turns to the year ahead. What can we expect of the online realm in 2010?

While Web innovation is unpredictable, some clear trends are becoming apparent. Expect the following 10 themes to define the Web next year:

Real-time ramps up

Sparked by Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed, the real-time trend has been to the latter part of 2009 what “Web 2.0” was to 2007. The term represents the growing demand for immediacy in our interactions. Immediacy is compelling, engaging, highly addictive … it’s a sense of living in the now.

But real-time is more than just a horde of new Twitter-like services hitting the Web in 2010 (although that’s inevitable — cargo cults abound). It’s a combination of factors, from the always-connected nature of modern smartphones to the instant gratification provided by a Google search.

Why wait until you get home to post a restaurant review, asks consumer trends tracker Trendwatching, when scores of iPhone apps let you post feedback as soon as you finish dessert? Why wonder about the name of that song, when humming into your phone handset will garner an instant answer from Midomi?

Look out, too, for real-time collaboration: Google Wave launched earlier this year, resulting in both excitement and confusion. A crossover between instant messaging, e-mail and a wiki, Wave is a platform for getting things done together. Web users, however, remain baffled. In 2010, Wave’s utility will become more apparent.

Location, location, location

Fueled by the ubiquity of GPS in modern smartphones, location-sharing services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and Google Latitude are suddenly in vogue.

As I ruminated in this column two weeks ago, Foursquare and its ilk may become the breakout services of the year … provided they’re not crushed by the addition of location-based features to Twitter and Facebook.

What’s clear is that location is not about any singular service; rather, it’s a new layer of the Web. Soon, our whereabouts may optionally be appended to every Tweet, blog comment, photo or video we post.

Augmented reality

It’s yet to become part of the consumer consciousness, but augmented reality has attracted early-adopter buzz in the latter part of 2009.

Enabled by GPS, mapping data from the likes of Google and the accelerometer technology in modern phones, AR involves overlaying data on your environment; imagine walking around a city and seeing it come to life with reviews of the restaurants you walk past and Wikipedia entries about the sights you see.

When using Layar, for instance, the picture from your phone’s video camera is overlaid with bubbles of information from Yelp, Wikipedia, Google Search and Twitter. The challenge for such services is to prove their utility: They have the “cool factor,” but can they be truly useful?

Content ‘curation’

The Web’s biggest challenge of recent years is that content creation is outpacing our ability to consume it: “Information overload” has become an increasingly common complaint.

In the attention economy, with its millions of daily status updates and billions of Web pages vying for our time, how do we best allocate that scarce resource? One solution has been algorithmic: Sites like Google News source the best stuff by technical means, but fall short when it comes to personalization.

In 2008, the answer revealed itself: Your friends are your filter. With the launch of its Facebook Connect program, Facebook allowed sites to offer content personalization based on the preferences of your network.

Meanwhile, Google’s Social Search experiment is investigating whether Web searching is improved by using information gleaned from your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Digg and the rest. Increasingly, your friends are becoming the curators of your consumption, from Web links to movies, books and TV shows.

Professional “curation” has its place, too: Who better to direct our scarce attention than experts in their fields? I explored this possibility in a CNN article last month titled “Twitter lists and real-time journalism” .

Cloud computing

Cloud computing was very much a buzzword of 2009, but there’s no doubt this transition will continue. The trend, in which data and applications cease to reside on our desktops and instead exist on servers elsewhere (“the cloud”), makes our data accessible from anywhere and enables collaboration with distributed teams.

The cloud movement will see a major leap forward in the first half of 2010 with the launch of “Office Web Apps,” free online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote released in tandem with Microsoft Office 2010.

Next year will also see the launch of Google’s Chrome OS, a free, Web-centric operating system that forces us to ask: How many desktop applications do we really need?

Internet TV and movies

Is 2010 the year the majority of our television starts coming to us via the Internet? There’s certainly more activity here than at any other time: Among the early-adopter set, Hulu, Boxee, Apple TV and Netflix’s Roku box lead the field.

Hulu in particular has sustained remarkable growth this year, while the movie studios are getting on board with the launch of Epix, a Hulu for films.

Convergence conundrum

The outlook for devices in 2010 appears somewhat contradictory: While the convergence trend continues apace and many of our gadgets are folded into the smartphones we carry around every day, we’re seeing a converse trend in which task-specific devices gain popularity.

GPS device maker TomTom recently introduced a $100 iPhone app that removes the need to buy a TomTom hardware device. Google then one-upped the company by releasing free turn-by-turn directions on devices running its Android operating system. Garmin and TomTom beware: Standalone GPS devices may meet their demise in 2010.

Also on the endangered gadgets list: Flip video cameras, which PC World declared dead upon the launch of the iPhone 3G S. Meanwhile, Apple executives say the iPhone is cannibalizing the iPod: Why carry two devices when you only need one?

Paradoxically, the e-book reader is seeing traction as a single-use device. With hard-to-read, power-hungry laptop screens proving impractical for reading, and smartphone screens proving too small, the Kindle and its competitors are gaining buzz.

However, I’d argue that the e-book reader is a fad: Carrying an extra device is never desirable, and the major factor preventing convergence is the lack of superior screen technology. Flexible, expanding low-power screens on cell phones might tip the balance.

The real power of Amazon’s Kindle is its ease of use: a virtual bookstore so simple that it does for books what Apple’s iTunes did for music. The devices will converge, but the “app store” model for books will persist across all devices. The technology won’t be with us in 2010, however.

Social gaming

There’s little risk of social gaming proving a bad bet in 2010 — Zynga’s FarmVille game on Facebook now counts more active users than Twitter, claims a Facebook executive. Meanwhile, rival Playfish was recently acquired by Electronic Arts in a deal valued at up to $400 million.

Of growing interest in 2010, however, will be the virtual currencies these games have spawned: In the allegedly unmonetizable world of social media, virtual buying and selling may be the route to riches for some social media sites — a concept I outlined in this column under the title “Is Facebook the future of micropayments?”

Mobile payments

I’d wager that 2010 will be the breakthrough year of the much-anticipated mobile payments market. While much of Asia has embraced the technology, the U.S., in particular, has lagged. There’s reason for optimism in 2010, however: From PayPalX to Amazon’s mobile payments platform for developers, the big players are seizing the mobile payments opportunity.

Meanwhile, newcomer Square, founded by the creator of Twitter, began its rollout this week to much early-adopter excitement: The company enables merchants to accept payments via Apple’s iPhone.

Fame abundance, privacy scarcity

Warhol was right: Fame is now abundant. Social media has birthed a galaxy of stars in thousands of niches: We’re all reality stars now, on Facebook, Twitter and all the myriad online outlets where we hone our personal brands.

We’re seeing the ongoing voluntary erosion of privacy through public sharing on Facebook and Twitter, the rise of location-based services and the inclusion of video cameras in a growing array of devices.

The incredible efficiency of Web-based communication and our Google-fueled appetite to know everything about everything (or everyone) right now are combining to make Tiger Woods the canary in the privacy coal mine. Expect personal privacy — or rather its continued erosion — to be a hot media topic of 2010.

Several conversations lately have led me to consider the integration and universality of technology in a local church context. To be integrated means “combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole” or “organized or structured so that constituent units function cooperatively.”

Universal means “affecting, concerning, or involving all”, “used or understood by all” or “present everywhere.” As I continue to chew on this concept, other words that come to mind are total, comprehensive and whole.  

I serve as a technology pastor at a church. For years “tech” was considered one person’s role (the techie, tech director or AV coordinator) – whether volunteer, part-time or full-time. Now in most local church situations there is still the need for this AV/tech role that oversees the sound, video and lights for corporate worship services and often oversees and supports campus-wide AV needs. IT is obviously another growing area in the church world and usually requires a dedicated volunteer or paid staff member or the use of outsourced companies.

I’ll be the first to admit that those that serve in “tech” and IT roles in a church have a unique gift mix and personality. In most situations these servants and leaders are seen more as geeks than pastors or ministers. I see my role as a pastor and shepherd, but that’s a topic for another article.

I bring the idea of universal technology up because we’re seeing a shift in the way the Church looks, functions and ministers to the world. The reality that we are missionaries in a digital age is becoming increasingly more apparent and hard to ignore. This brings the whole concept of “technology” to the forefront for regular pastors and church staff members – including the non-techie.

The conversations that I have regularly with pastors are about their desire to learn, understand, apply and fully utilize technology for ministry. The shift is bringing about what I call “universal technology” – meaning every Church leader is engaged in, using and communicating through technology – not just the tech pastor.

Events, gatherings and conferences that I’m regularly apart of look a lot different. The Church 2.0 Local Forums that I host around the country or the churchtechcamp, happening today in Dallas for example, 3 years ago would have been a room full of “geeks” (not my word, I got that from Mark Batterson) and “techies” (that is my word). Now, one walks into a “churchtechcamp” and it’s full of church planters, senior pastors, bloggers and lay leaders/volunteers that are involved in community/small groups and discipleship.

I’m fascinated by it and am enjoying just sitting back and watching this shift. Of course there are still giant conferences like NAB and InfoComm where us techies get together and talk about all things tech-related and the make up of attendees and speakers looks a lot different, but overall I see a change in the use of the word “tech” and the concept and adoption of “technology”.

This new reality that I’m referring to as universal technology is a good thing and a long-awaited one by me, personally. I’ve always viewed technology as a tool and not a toy, so the thought of senior pastors, worship pastors, youth pastors, communication directors, small group leaders, missions and outreach leaders, etc. getting interested, involved with and captivated by technology is a beautiful sight to me.

What about you and your situation? Are you seeing volunteers and staff members that don’t have “tech” in their title or job description talk about technology, Facebook, Twitter, blogging and online ministry?

I’m the Director of Technical Arts at my church (Bent Tree), so I oversee all the technical arts ministries. I’m coming into a new and long-awaited season of being able to put up the blueprints, take off my hard hat and be the pastor, shepherd and leader I am called to be. Praise God, this Sunday is Bent Tree’s official “Grand Opening”! After being in construction for 3 years, we are finally opening our doors wide to the community.

Many close to me have pointed out that I’ve been a little busy, a little (that’s an understatement) stressed and a little preoccupied with work the last year. I’m hesitantly glad to say that I think I’ve made it through the valley and am looking forward to moving forward as a church and as a Technical Arts ministry.

Let’s talk practical: I’ve blogged before about the team that it takes to pull off a Sunday. Only myself and our Audio Coordinator are paid. The rest of the team is an army of dedicated servants. It usually looks something like this:

  1. Dir. of Technical Arts (that’s me – I float around, encourage and oversee)
  2. Front of House audio (usually our full-time Audio Coordinator)
  3. A2 (second audio engineer at FOH)
  4. Monitor Engineer
  5. Lighting Technician
  6. Service Director (on headset with stage managers, times service, executes)
  7. Stage Manager on stage left
  8. Stage Manager on stage right
  9. Stage Manager on floor
  10. Producer (takes in overall experience, gives creative feedback/guidance)
  11. Video Director (right now the VD calls and switches)
  12. Video Engineer (this person is the camera shader and is responsible for starting the recordings for the DVD-R and capture to FinalCut for the video podcast)
  13. Camera operator 1
  14. Camera operator 2
  15. Camera operator 3
  16. Graphics Operator (right now their is one that runs EasyWorship)
  17. FUTURE: Broadcast audio engineer (right now we capture to ProTools HD)
  18. FUTURE: TD at the switcher (the Video Director will just call the shots)
  19. FUTURE: Prompt Screen Operator (we are going to move to 2 graphics operators, one for the screens that the people see and one just for the prompt screens that the singers see)

So, currently there are 16 “black shirts” serving around the main worship center on a Sunday. As you see, I hope to increase to at least 18 in the next few months. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it many more times: YOU MUST CONSTANTLY RECRUIT! For various reasons, you have to keep recruiting. Once we have more than enough graphic operators, we’ll split and have 2 graphic operators each week. If we had too many of them, we’d split again and have one for an effects screen (which we’re working on). If we got too many camera operators, then we’d add cameras 4 and 5 on stage left and stage right.

One note: all 16 are at rehearsal on Wed. night: EVERYONE. We do a complete run-through with full music, tech and any other elemenHold high the value of rehearsal.ts that might happen (drama, etc.) each Wed. night from 7p to 9p. That’s a blog post unto itself.  Raise the bar. Set a standard for quality and value each person’s time and commitment. I don’t think it’s right for one person to miss and 15 others give up their time and be at rehearsal. ALL 16 must be there. Committing to serve on a given week means you’re “on” for Wed. night and Sunday. Our volunteers mark their availability via Planning Center Online – that’s another blog post all to itself. What a resource!

Usually I’m walking new team members around on Wed. nights, giving them the behind-the-scenes tour, introducing them to the team and passing them on to a volunteer team leader that trains them on their particulal place of service.

* Tomorrow’s blog will be about how new people get plugged in and where/how I start them out.

Another note: What I listed above is just what takes place in the main worship center. I’m working on a new position for an AV Coordinator to oversee the equipment throughout our campus. In putting together a job description, I realized we have 13 different venues (22 projectors) across our campus.

On a Sunday, “tech” is happening in classrooms, the Treehouse, the gym, the main worship center and our new FX Live family production that kicked off this past Sunday. The FX Live team has their own full tech team and uses IMAG (Image Magnification) in their production as well. NOTE: FX Live has 2 cameras right now (the same ones we used in our old worship center).

I’ll blog more about FX Live another time. You may have heard of North Point’s KidStuf – FX Live (FX stands for family experience) is based off of KidStuf – featuring worship for kids and parents led by singers, dancers and actors. They have a newly built 2 story theater/stage. I heard this past week that we have the largest family production theater in the country. Estimates are that we still turned away 200 people! We are meeting and planning on how to remedy this.

Below is a picture from this past Sunday’s official kick-off of FX Live:

More tomorrow on what I call “gateway ministries”.  SO.. what does Sunday look like at your church?