Thinking Out Loud

November 9, 2017

The Essential Art of Concision

I debated between calling this “The Lost art of Concision” versus “The Developing Art of Concision.” First, a definition is in order:

Therefore, when I speak of the concision as a developing art, I mean the necessity of being able to put ideas across in a short-and-to-the-point manner; something you need in a world of soundbites. Last year I wrote,

It was Noam Chomsky who introduced me to the idea of concision. I’ve taught it as, “You’re selling your car through a media which is charging you $1.50 per word. How do you describe your vehicle persuasively, but keep the cost down?”

But when I speak of it as a dying art, I’m thinking specifically of the migration of many bloggers from what I’m doing now — typing/writing words — to podcasting; and to Twitter’s decision to gift everyone with 140 additional characters on Tuesday evening.

Twitter is obsessed with the number 140. (Originally videos were limited to 2 minutes and 20 seconds, which is 140 seconds.)  The new length, 280 characters, doubles this even though 160 would have been a nice gift in itself. Or 180 or 200. 280 seems long, it seems to rob Twitter of it’s basic character, heretofore. But I didn’t always feel that way. When I joined, I wrote:

I can’t say what I have to say in 140 characters.

In case you missed it, I tend to write long.

But the word concision has come up on this blog somewhat frequently. Earlier this year I wrote,

I have for a long time questioned how much time sermon has left.  With all due respect to those of you currently honing your homiletic craft at either the undergraduate or graduate level, I really think that this particular form is destined to go the way of the CD or the land line phone. I’m not saying there aren’t some great preachers out there; I spend my evening hours listening to sermon after sermon online. But that’s me. For others there are a host of reasons why sermon doesn’t work. ADD or ADHD comes to mind. Some sermons are simply too long. Some say it’s just not how they learn. Some claim that high profile Christian pastors have simply set the bar too high and average pastors can’t achieve the quality that is now widely available online. Others would argue that we’ve become accustomed to media bursts, sound bites, and increased concision.

The Bible itself is amazingly concise. Readers are often fascinated to learn how narratives they had heard about — Creation, Jonah, The Prodigal Son — when they actually got around to reading them, were expressed in a very limited fashion. In an article about Christ’s ascension the subject was raised (pun intended):

A reader wrote, “We’re told… at his ascension that he will come again in like manner as they have seen him go.” But what do we know about that manner? How long were the disciples staring as he rose into the sky? Was there a low cloud ceiling that day? The Bible’s tendency to brevity and concision makes me think that perhaps God didn’t just beam Jesus up, but his ascension may have have been more prolonged; a vertical processional to heaven.

It also came up in a piece on diminishing attention spans:

You see this in the way books and articles in periodicals are written now; in fact you’re seeing it in the piece you’re presently reading. Pick up an older book — say 60 years or more old — and you might find an entire page consisting of a single paragraph. You might even find several consecutive pages consisting of a single paragraph. (I’m told that some chapters of Paul’s epistles were often a single sentence in the original Greek, no doubt a weaving of dominant and subordinate clauses that the reader of that time would follow easily.)

Today we use paragraph breaks to keep the content flowing; to keep the eyes moving on the page; to force us writers to adopt a greater degree of concision. Our writing is also broken up by more numbered or alphanumeric lists, by bullet points, by sub-headers and by pull quotes. (We use them often at Christianity 201, where the devotions are by definition somewhat longer, and we want to make what would otherwise be an entire page of text more interesting.)

The trend towards podcasting is actually surprising, given the push toward brevity in a bullet-point world. Have you ever thought of what a full transcript of your favorite podcast would look like printed out? It would run for pages and pages. A blog post on a similar topic would be less than 2,000 words, and easily digested in under 7 minutes. (Or spoken in 15 minutes. Compare word length to spoken time at this speech minutes converter.)  We wrote about podcasts on an article on the trend from literacy to orality:

Inherent in podcasting is the right to ramble. Listeners get the nuance that’s missing in a traditional blog post (and this is one of the great liabilities of email) but they have to take the time to wade through the host(s) stream-of-consciousness narration. There’s no concision, a quality that decades ago Noam Chomsky had predicted would be, moving forward, a key asset in communications. A great concept that’s probably a seven or eight paragraph blog post instead becomes a 53 minute podcast.  Andy Warhol’s comment that “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes;” might be modified to, “In the 21st century, everyone will have their own talk show or be the host of their own radio station.” 

As Christian communicators however, we have to be careful when we try to reduce to mystery or complexity of the gospel to a concise motto, slogan, tag line or formula. In an article titled What is the Gospel, I wrote,

I also think that, when considered in the light of the Jewish appreciation of the scriptures as a great jewel that reflects and refracts the light in infinite ways each time we look at it, the idea of trying to formulate a precis of the Bible is to venture into an endless and perhaps even frustrating mission. What would Jesus think of trying to consolidate something so great, so wide, so high, so deep into a finite number of words?  Concision is great, but maybe it doesn’t work here.

Anyway Twitter, thanks for the extra characters; but I earnestly hope I have the wisdom to not overuse them. Readers, it’s a busy world out there; keep it short!


Yes, today I basically quoted myself throughout this article. To further embellish Chomsky’s teaching on concision would have made the article…well…not so concise.

For those mystified by the final graphic image, TL/DR stands for Too long, didn’t read.

For further reference in thinking about the difference between podcasting and blogging, this article is less than 1,100 words; you can halve the minutes in the above example.

 

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February 11, 2017

Life in the Twitterverse

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:10 am

Occasionally I take a day to simply reproduce Tweets here for those who don’t use that platform. For those of you with slow loading times, we’re just doing text, but you’re encouraged to visit me at Twitter.com/PaulW1lk1nson (change the letter “i” to number “1”) or simply click here and bookmark.

  • Fun car game: Flip the radio to various Christian stations carrying preacher programs and see who can first guess what major Bible story they’re doing.
  • ♫ This ban is your ban |This ban is my ban |From the Syrian desert | To the streets of I-ran… | …This ban was made for you and me. ♫
  • Attn. Middle-aged worship team members: If you wanna do all those songs which come out of youth culture, simply let the youth worship team play ’em
  • [Drew Dyck] When it comes to end times prognosticating, the trick is to change up the antichrist candidates while keeping the 1980s designs & graphics.
  • Buffalo newscaster just said, “If you go out without your gloves, you’re going to have some cold hands on your hands.”
  • The people making Christian giftware do know there are other scripture verses besides Jeremiah 29:11, right?
  • Ever wonder what’s hot and what’s not in Christian publishing? This link takes you to a pdf of the full Top 50 list
  • What does it profit a man to gain the office of President of the United States and lose the entire populace? [Mark 8:36 amended]
  • How tattoos work: Once you chose Option #1, you’ve automatically eliminated Options #2 to 999,999.
  • [Youth Group Boy] Rather than build a wall Trump just needs to talk to my church – they’ve kept minorities and those who are different out for years.
  • Need to rethink the classic Neil Diamond song: ♫ On the boats and on the planes They’re coming to America… ♫  — not anymore!
  • [Diane Lindstrom] “Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison

 

December 13, 2014

Facebook Pulling Back Feeds of Status Updates for Businesses, Churches

Sample of Church Facebook Page

From home-based hobby sales, to cottage industries, to small business, to corporations having 500,000 likes, Facebook is scaling back the practice of putting posts into the feeds of readers, and the policy change has impact for non-profits and churches as well.

facebook-logo-289-75Many small businesses currently operate as a ‘page’ adjunct to an individual’s personal Facebook profile. Just as you ‘friend’ the person, you ‘like’ the business. Years ago, Facebook started restricting what you see from individuals and business alike.  The logic went, ‘if you have 300 friends and they post twice a day, you’d have 600 updates to read daily.’

But small businesses noticed that much of what they posted wasn’t getting to anyone, with averages of 16% being normal. If someone took the effort to visit the page, they could see everything, but most people who ‘check Facebook’ read only what the algorithm assigns to their feed.

Instead they were being told to ‘boost’ each post with a payment ranging — for small business — between $5 and $33. Many times the posts weren’t even selling anything, but updating readers on local events in an effort to build community.

Then last month, the Wall Street Journal reported things would change more severely:

The change will make it more difficult for entrepreneurs… to reach fans of their Facebook pages with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising.

Businesses that post free marketing pitches or reuse content from existing ads will suffer “a significant decrease in distribution,” Facebook warned in a post earlier this month announcing the coming change…

…More than 80% of small companies using social media to promote their businesses list Facebook as their top marketing tool, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter, according to a recent survey of 2,292 small businesses by Webs, a digital services division of Vistaprint. The top three reasons owners cited for creating a Facebook page were customer acquisition, building a network of followers and increasing brand awareness, according to the survey.

Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of small business, says that Facebook’s paid-advertising options have become more effective recently and that companies should view Facebook as a tool to “help them grow their businesses, not a niche social solution to getting more reach or to make a post go viral.”

He says he has “a lot of empathy” for business owners who “are feeling this evolution” in the reduction of what he describes as organic reach. But, he says, organic reach is only one of several reasons companies benefit from having a presence on Facebook. Last month, there were more than one billion visits to Facebook pages directly. “Having a presence where you can be discovered still has a ton of value,” he says…

This is a small part of the entire article, click here to read at WSJ.

But it gets worse, as churches and non-profits will also be affected.  One writer suggests the strategy over the next few months should be to get those Facebook friends to respond to something that provides their email address (and in countries where applicable, express consent for placing them on on a list.)

Over the past 18 months, one of the biggest challenges with Facebook marketing is not knowing exactly what changes are on the horizon and how it will impact organic reach. We believe that eventually organic reach on larger nonprofit Facebook pages will reach close to 0%, so marketing on Facebook will significantly change.

Read more at NonBoardBoard

One website, while overtly trying to sell a print report, offers some clues:

The ability to build communities of fans, and then maintain contact and encourage engagement using content published to fans’ News Feeds was a critical aspect of Facebook’s early appeal to marketers. The opportunity of achieving engagement at scale motivated many brands and corporates to invest millions in developing communities and providing for care and feeding via always-on content…

This isn’t an academic exercise. Facebook Zero is a reality now facing every brand and business with a presence on the platform. Action is required, and specific decisions will need to be made with regard to content planning, paid support for social media activities, audience targeting and much more.

Read more at Ogilvy.com

But social media of one kind or another is so essential. In a recent 48-minute podcast at the aptly-named Church Marketing Sucks, the director of Social Media for Saddleback Church offered a number suggestions as well as stressing the importance of social media for churches.

Listen to the podcast here.

The same website also offered suggestions for using social media at Christmas. While most of these arrive too late for this year, you could file them away for 2015, but with Facebook Zero coming soon, the information may seem antiquated a year from now, or even sooner.

Want to switch your emphasis over to Instagram. I wouldn’t. Remember, in 2012, Facebook paid $1 Billion to acquire the photo site. What’s happening on FB will certainly follow on Instagram.

Twitter, anyone?

This page is a reminder that what Facebook decides here has worldwide impact on Churches and Christian charities.

This Facebook page image serves as a reminder that what Facebook decides here has worldwide impact on Churches and Christian charities. That’s 2,868 people the organization is engaging with in the UK that it now has to find other means to reach.

September 17, 2013

Frittering Your Day Away on Twitter

Filed under: links, media, quotations — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:11 am

 

I’m glad I decided to restrict my exposure to Twitter. I don’t know how people do it; do they have 36-hour days that I don’t? How do you follow a thousand people?

I find that trying to condense my thoughts into fortune-cookie sized wisdom-bites just about impossible. However, for what it’s worth, here’s what the last few weeks have looked like on @PaulW1lk1nson with annotations:

  • Elevation pastor Steven Furtick’s 2 1/2 minute sermon highlights video offers a refreshing approach to giving. http://ow.ly/o41vu
  • [Contrary to the 2nd commandment:] Paper money and coins carry the image of human government and leaders, therefore Christians should pay for everything with debit and credit.
  • I think some men validate their masculinity by the noise volume level of their power tools. [Written while trying to relax at a friend’s cottage… my wife just wanted to hear the loons, but the atmosphere was rather looney!]
  • At Newspring, pastor @perrynoble invites the congregation to vote on future sermon topics! http://newspring.cc/ask/
  • I wonder if instead of just teaching kids and teens abstinence, we would do well to throw in a few lessons on delayed gratification.
  • “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” – G.K. Chesterton  (quoted by: @EugeneCho]
  • “It isn’t possible to burn out if you’ve never actually been on fire.” ~Perry Noble
  • Creation care: Urban municipalities should enact bylaws that you can’t cut down a tree unless you’re going to replace it with a new one.
  • “Humble Theology” means we approach Scripture with an understanding of our inadequacy to grasp with certainty everything taught in the Bible [“Humble Theology” is a concept I discovered reading @DanKimball in the 2012 book, Adventures in Churchland published by @Zondervan]
  • @johnortberg — Great idea for Christian cartoon show–the disciples as little boys: ‘The Tiny Twelve’ Bet it happens
  • Faith is about relaxing in the way we do when we are with a friend who we know for certain is fond of us.- Catholic theologian James Allison
  • Pastors vary as to “office hours” but “hours” spent outside the office, i.e. in the community at large, are often most productive ministry.
  • Pastors: If you’re preaching to the choir, then you probably have your back to the congregation.
  • In Quebec, Canada, ‘tabernacle’ is a swear word, sort of like saying “Jesus” as an expletive. [But isn’t it interesting that, in keeping with Catholic priorities, the church is preeminent over Jesus, even when blaspheming?]
  • Today my wife asked why I’ve never helped when one of our cats had to go to the vet to be euthanized. My response? “I’m Anabaptist. We’re a pacifist denomination.”
  • This morning a rare face-to-face meet-up with a regular reader of http://christianity201.wordpress.com/  She starts her day at C201; awesome responsibility!
  • [attended a] Lively concert with the band newworldson @newworldson
  • In the tradition of “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23,” we bring you, “An Ox Looks at Being Unequally Yoked.” New from Oxdervan Publishing.
  • The Biebs, in New York City for Fashion Week, heads to a Hillsong-affiliated church: http://www.americapreachers.com/entertainment/justin-bieber-thanks-pastor-amazing-sermon/ …
  • From a Canadian perspective, party politics at the municipal level or county level must automatically eliminate many good potential candidates.
  • When people on other planets find the Voyager spacecraft and the long-play record we sent them, what exactly will they play it on? Seriously, we sent them a record?
  • I want to start promoting the idea that “the mark of the beast” described in Revelation 13:17 is actually a reference to Google. [Six letters, too.]
  • I asked my wife if she wanted to see a counselor to talk about her nightmares, but at $80 an hour, she thinks the nightmares are cheaper.
  • A classic Canadian “inspirational” rock song! Copperpenny “Help Your Brother” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4pjee9Npu0 …
  • Imagine if your cell/mobile phone had component parts that you upgraded instead of discarding it? Much less waste! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDAw7vW7H0c …
  • Unexplainable things on Twitter: How former UK resident @SheilaWalsh could become a big fan of American college football. Don’t tell her British friends!
  • Rare YouTube gem: Phil Keaggy Band in Cleveland, 1978 w/ Phil Madeira “Mighty Lord” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNZMfoadpaI …
  • A classic Canadian “inspirational” rock song! Copperpenny “Help Your Brother” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4pjee9Npu0 …

But I do love how Greg Boyd @greg_boyd totally ignores the 140-character limit and just continues from one Tweet to the next:

  • I just got COMPLETELY SLAUGHTERED in our worship service!!! BAWLED non-stop through two songs. The REALITY of God’s love overwhelmed me! When any group people are 100% focused on Christ in worship, each person becomes a conduit for God’s presence–and WHAM! It’s spectacular! It’s like the whole atmosphere of the room gets electrified! It’s as if the music and singing acquires a different dimension or something! I know many of u know what I’m talking about. One taste of this and you understand why heaven will never become boring! He is SO BEAUTIFUL! The one downer is that afterwards, your heart aches for every person on the planet to experience THIS!

November 29, 2010

Social Media Overload: Sabbatical or Sabbath?

From Dictionary.com:

Sab·bat·i·cal
/səˈbætɪkəl/ [suh-bat-i-kuhl] –adjective

5. ( lowercase ) any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, esp. for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.

and

Sab·bath
/ˈsæbəθ/ [sab-uhth] –noun

2. – the first day of the week, Sunday, similarly observed by most Christians in commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ.

I think you know where I’m going with this.   There would be a lot fewer people burning out on social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) if they practiced the concept of Sabbath.   Then they wouldn’t need a sabbatical.

I grew up around people who had all kinds of arbitrary Sunday rules:  No television, no sports, no swimming, etc.   I always swore I wouldn’t be that kind of parent.   But early on we sensed the need for a Sunday computer Sabbath.     Now that the kids are in their late teens, we don’t have full compliance every week, but as for myself, the computer doesn’t get switched on until around 4:30 PM.

You really do need to take a break now and then.


Here’s a post about the actual words used to mandate a day of rest

Related post from last month about working at home on Sunday

February 27, 2010

David, Goliath: Follow Them on Twitter

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:25 pm

We ran this a year ago, but it’s one of my favorite pieces from the blog The Christian Ranter. Don’t forget that in Twitter, as in blogging, to catch the sequence of what follows you want to start reading from the bottom up.   (RSS subscribers please visit the blog for this one.)

david-vs-goliath

June 3, 2009

Twitching, Twittering and Texting in Church

Filed under: Christianity, Church, worship — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:18 pm

TwitterI was using that hot new media format called Twitcher in church on Sunday, and was just about to post a Twitch when I noticed the woman across the aisle scowling at me.   Okay, there is no such thing as Twitching (in the media sense) but I thought the post title needed a third element.

A lot of people who Twitter do so in the middle of church services.    Recently Josh Harris posted six reasons why he’s not warm to the idea, but I liked reasons number three and five the best:

3. The most important thing I can do while I’m sitting under the preaching of God’s word is to listen to what God is saying to me. I need to actively engage my heart and mind to receive (Isaiah 66:2). Twitter, can take the focus off of hearing and receiving and and makes it broadcasting and sharing. So instead of my mind being engaged with thoughts of “What is the Word of God saying to me?” when I start “tweeting” my focus becomes, “What do I want to say? What do I want to express? What am I thinking?”

5. Just because something is incredibly popular in culture doesn’t mean we have to accommodate it in our worship. Who cares if the whole world is talking about Twitter? Lost people in this world don’t need to see that we’re current with the latest trend, they need to hear God’s unchanging truth (see 1 Peter 1:24-25). They need to understand that God’s word makes a demand on their life. And they should see from us a reverence and holy awe in the presence of God and his word that points them to the fact that what happens in a Christian church is completely different than anything happening in the world.

Even John Piper joined the discussion, with remarks that included:

…But when you are in corporate worship, Worship! There is a difference between communion with God and commenting on communion with God.   Don’t tweet while having sex. Don’t tweet while praying with the dying. Don’t tweet when your wife is telling you about the kids. There’s a season for everything. Multitasking only makes sense when none of the tasks requires heart-engaged, loving attention…

This is a fragile bond. The fact that an electric cord is easily cut, does not mean that the power flowing through it is small. It produces bright and wonderful effects. So it is with preaching. Great power flows through fragile wires of spiritual focus.    Perfume can break it. A ruffled collar can break it. A cough can break it. A whisper can break it. Clipping fingernails, chewing gum, a memory, a stomach growl, a sunbeam, and a hundred other things can break it. The power that flows through the wire of spiritual attention is strong, but the wire is weak.

Somehow, I don’t think either of these guys will be promoting the book The Reason Your Church Must Twitter.

So where do you stand on the burning theological issue of the week?   And should denominations decide or should it be settled at the congregational level?   Okay, I’m not really making light of this, because I think both Harris and Piper have rightly shown us that this is all a microcosm of a much greater issue; it says what we think about worship, which says what we think about God.

~ HT Randy Bohlendar

Related:  Take microblogging to a new level with Flutter

April 21, 2009

Overload of Social Media Causes Man’s Head To Explode

MI-064-0295

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, YouTube, Picassa… Is it more than our human brains are meant to process?    That’s the question I posed in the comments section of Anne Jackson’s blog today.

While the header for this post is fictional — or has it already happened? — the question it raises is serious:  How much is too much?

First, here’s a little bit of what Anne wrote:

Let’s say all the people who follow me on Twitter and myself were in a big room at the same time.  My friend Joe is somewhere in this room talking about his wife who just had a baby. I’m across the room by the food table eating a cookies. And cupcakes.

And in between us are 3300 other people talking.

Now let me ask you a few questions:

Am I going to hear my friend Joe over all the other conversations?

Am I even going to be able to make sense of all the noise 3300 people talking at once?

No way.

Any of you old enough to remember to remember the Paul McCartney song “Silly Love Songs” will know there’s a part at the end where it breaks into a rather nice three-part counterpoint (probably the most complex thing he’s ever written).    It starts out with a somewhat descending melody:

How can tell you about my loved one?

And then they add a simple ascending melody:

I love you

Finally overlaying the more intricate:

I just can’t explain the feeling’s plain to me; say can’t you see?
Ah, she gave me more, she gave it all to me

Around the time this came out, I was studying some much more orchestral music with a man who had a doctorate in music.   While you can argue what I’m about to say, he claimed that the human brain was only capable of processing two of the lines of the song at once.    You know there are three playing, and you can quickly compare A +  B,  B + C, or A + C; but he claimed that in any given moment in time you can’t actually be fully processing all three of them.

(So you can talk on your cell phone and drive your car, but as soon as you add chewing gum to the mix, everything, including yourself, goes out the window.)

I also often wondered what the incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease is going to be among those of us who currently thrive on either an encyclopedic knowledge, a preponderance towards multi-tasking, or both.  (Both, but not three things, since you wouldn’t be able to truly process three things!)

I also wonder if God has not placed certain limits on what we’re capable of doing and we’re trying to exceed those limits — building our own, individual, personal Tower of Babel to stretching human limitation.

Anyway, here’s what I scrawled on Anne’s blog:

Social media is producing a generation heading for a collective insanity. Your brain was only meant to track so many things at one time. Perhaps the people Twittering are actually teetering on the brink…

I try to keep my posts short and succinct.   There’s only so much people can take.

September 8, 2008

Microblogging

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:57 pm

Jordan Cooper has a really good summary of much longer New York Times article about the newer trends in blogging, such as Twitter and Loopt.   Take just a minute to read Jordan’s item, and then decide if you want to read the longer article.

…the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting…

Blog at WordPress.com.