What Was the Biggest Grossing Independent Film of 2008?

A NPR article asks that question.

The answer may surprise you.

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Review, Comment and Vote for New Facebook Use Terms

Facebook continues to work on including users in its Terms of Use:

Terms of Use Update
Today we announced new opportunities for users to play a meaningful role in determining the policies governing our site. We released the first proposals subject to these procedures – The Facebook Principles, a set of values that will guide the development of the service, and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that governs Facebook’s operations. Users will have the opportunity to review, comment and vote on these documents over the coming weeks and, if they are approved, other future policy changes. We’ve posted the documents in separate groups and invite you to offer comments and suggestions. For more information and links to the two groups, check out the Facebook Blog.

Review, comment and vote. Start here.

Are We “Reaching the Culture”? ask James MacDonald

James MacDonald posted an article called : “Reaching Our Culture” blah, bah, blah

Here are a couple of excellent insights:

Why does it seem that most of the people talk talk talking about reaching the culture are doing such a meager job of it. Why is it that from frustrated old college professors to angry young mega church haters, the vast majority of people waxing eloquent about their passion to penetrate the culture with the gospel are bearing such scanty, sparse, spartan, even scarce fruit? By fruit I mean actual living breathing men and women turning from sin and self and embracing Jesus Christ as Savior and Master of their souls.
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I think some people need to be a little more honest about what they really mean when they say “reaching the culture.” Here’s three things I think they mean:
1) They mean reaching people very different from themselves.
2) They mean reaching secular people who have no interest in God
3) They mean reaching cool people who make them feel cool

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Cultures don’t come to Christ, Individuals do.

Great article. only one area I would caution on… In point one, he goes on to talk about how it is easier for people to reach people that are a part of their own cultural subset. I agree, 100%. I would caution though, if you have so inulated yourself from the world, and are so immersed in the Christian subculture, you may not know anyone in our cultural subset that needs Jesus.

Take care to find way to keep yourself interacting with people who need Jesus. Find a new hobby, join a gym, hang out at a coffee shop. Do something.

TV’s Future Suffers a Setback

A few months ago I was introduced to a website called Hulu. It’s basically a DVR on the web. Several popular Fox and NBC TV shows are available to stream, as well as a few movies. All of them have limited commercial content. Basically, instead of a 2-3 minute commercial break, you watch a 30 second spot at each break. That’s the perfect length of commercial, because it’s not long enough to go do anything. You just sit through the 30 seconds and get back to the content.

Brilliant idea, but somewhat limited to people that like to watch TV and movies on their computers. After learning about it, I never watched a single thing from Hulu on my computer.

A little while later, I heard about Boxee. It’s a media player, a lot like Front Row but with embedded streaming sources, and without the limitations of Front Row. It was still in a limited alpha release. Sounds cool, but I still didn’t watch that much media on my computer.

Except, Boxee had a software hack for the Apple TV. I could (and did) upload Boxee to my Apple TV, and stream web content as well as local network video and audio. I could place a network HD with a TB of video on my wireless N, and stream it through my Apple TV… very appealing. But Boxee also streamed Hulu content. I could watch missed episodes of the Office or Heroes or 24 on my TV. No wires, no fuss, no hooking my computer up. Just turn on the Apple TV and go. This kind of thing is the future of broadcast TV. Boxee wasn’t just talking about it, they were doing it.

Boxee had converted my set top box to a broadcast streaming device. I was still watching commercials (In fact, Boxee doesn’t let you skip them!) but not as many. I was watching the same content available at the Hulu website. I had never used that site before boxee. The advertisers were getting more exposure to me because I was using Boxee. That’s an important point.

February 18, 2009 Hulu announced they would be shutting down Boxee’s access to their content. An excerpt from Hulu’s Blog entry:

Our content providers requested that we turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we are respecting their wishes. While we stubbornly believe in this brave new world of media convergence — bumps and all — we are also steadfast in our belief that the best way to achieve our ambitious, never-ending mission of making media easier for users is to work hand in hand with content owners. Without their content, none of what Hulu does would be possible, including providing you content via Hulu.com and our many distribution partner websites.

Our mission to make media dramatically easier and more user-focused has not changed and will not change. We will not stop until we achieve it and we are sober in our assessment that we have such a long way to go.

Reading between the lines here, Hulu’s not happy about this at all. But, without the content, there’s no Hulu.

It boggles the mind. How is it any different for me to watch the content on Hulu with commercials or Boxee with commercials? These are content providers who are afraid. This is a new model of broadcast, and they can’t think it through, so they are pulling back.

From Boxee’s Blog entry:

our goal has always been to drive users to legal sources of content that are publicly available on the Internet. we have many content partners who are generating revenue from boxee users and we will work with Hulu and their partners to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

we will tell them how users love Hulu on boxee, why it represents a great opportunity for them to better engage with fans of their shows, how boxee can help in exposing their content to new people, and why they should be excited about future opportunities of working with us.

Many comments on Boxee’s site express frustration, and claim they will go back to illegal downloads of this content through bit torrents. Virtually no one is saying theywill log onto Hulu to see this content. So, advertisers lose. Past history shows that I will never log onto Hulu to watch.

Boxee has set up a public wiki page for users to help with ideas on a “pitch” to Hulu’s content providers. Now, if we can just get past discussions on boxee.tv’s lack of use of capital letters maybe we can help move media forward… again.

What if Someone on the Team is Interfering With Your Expert?

It happens. You have a team member that is doing their speciality well. Another staff member comes along with an idea or new way of doing things. Sometimes it’s simply a suggestion, sometimes it can be more insistent than that. Maybe it’s a new ministry venture, or a new way to market the church or a new thing to buy, or new class to teach.

First, check your ego, and evaluate the suggestion objectively. It may be a great idea, or it may generate a great idea. Try not to be territorial. I’ve been in the conversations where someone just got back from the latest conference, and heard the latest, greatest thing. It’s easy to get defensive, especially if the new idea is in regard to area that you think is doing very well. Remember that nothing is perfect, and everything can be better.

After you’ve objectively evaluated the suggestion, if your expert still doesn’t agree it’s a direction you should go, stand by them. Follow the lead of your expert. You hired them for their knowledge. It’s likely they know more about it than anyone else on staff. If they are a big picture kind of employee, you can trust that this isn’t territorial. Ask any question you need to understand why moving forward isn’t a good idea, and then stand by them.

Now, here’s the tricky part: make sure you respect the chain of authority. Sometimes the person making the suggestion is higher up the chain than you. Hopefully, they are the kind of leader that trusts your judgement. If not, remember that God has called you to work there, under the authority of those higher up. I think it is good, and even expected to speak your mind about the areas you oversee, and to even disagree with your boss. However, once a decision is made, I think you should support it. Period. (I could spend a lot of time talking about this, for for sake of space, I’ll leave it at this: If you are in a place where you can no longer respect those in authority over you, it’s time to ask God if it’s time to move on.)

If it happens that you must implement the suggestion over your objections, be frank with your expert, explain what happened and make sure they understand why you are respecting the chain of command. We are all under authority.

In a perfect world, suggestions come in, are evaluated, and decisions are made in concert with the trust of the experts you have on the team. In an imperfect world, you adjust to the situation, stand by your expert, and know when to accept the decisions of those in authority.

What if Your Expert isn’t so Expert Anymore?

It happens.

A person at the top of their field takes a job and settles into a routine. Time passes, and they have not kept up with the changes. In media and technology, this is a huge concern. Before they know it, they don’t really qualify as an expert in their field anymore.

While I am more of a generalist than a specialist, there are some areas that I used to know a lot about. I say used to because I chose not to stay up on the current trends in those areas. My passions and job requirements took me in a different direction. For example, I used to know quite a lot about audio recording. This was back in the days of 2 inch, 24 track analog tape. Within a couple of years after I left the recording studio digital tape, and then hard disk recording was taking off. A few years later I returned to the same studio to find most of the gear I knew had been replaced. I was no longer an expert in multitrack recording. It would be a mistake for me to try to act like I am.

How do you keep your expert from losing the edge?

Hopefully the person is a life-long learner, with a desire and passion for the area they serve in. Encourage them to read, attend conferences and conventions, and take part in discussions with fellow experts. If they need to be re-certified, help them do it. Encourage them to stay up on any new technology or techniques in their field.

Protect Yourself on Facebook

It’s easy to forget that facebook is a public internet site. Most of the time your information is safe, but there are ways people can find out more about you than you want them to know. While I have not been hacked, several of my friends have. An interesting article about Facebook privacy settings was posted on a friend’s profle. While some of the concerns here don’t apply to me, there are some good tips:

10 Privacy Settings Every FB User Should Know

Are Experts Still Experts after You Hire Them?

Have you ever noticed that when a church hires an expert, about 6 months into their employment they are no longer regarded as an expert? Why is this? I’ve heard stories about consultants that were paid top dollar by a church and later brought on staff, only to have the same kind of opinions they were paid so highly for before be disregarded. They find themselves having to bring in a consultant to say exactly what they have been saying before they can proceed.

If you went out of your way to hire the very best person you could find, someone you respected enough to offer a job to, why would their opinion be less valuable after they’ve been on the team for a while?

I think this is more about interpersonal relationships than loss of knowledge. It may be from loss of respect, or some sort of unresolved conflict. Maybe they have even made a couple of mistakes. Regardless, the person you hired is still the same expert. Yet, because they know they have lost that stats in your eyes, they are even more frustrated than they would have been.

The key is to recognize their area of expertise. In church work it is often required to branch out of your area of expertise and get the job done. Audio experts may have to do video or lighting. Lighting experts might have to use a camera. A video expert might have to write for the web. A writer might have to shoot a photo.

No one would expect an audio expert to render expert advice on a new HD capture device. Now, she may know something about video, and might be able to contribute to the conversation, but she would not claim to be an expert. However, if you asked her opinion of a new sound board or microphone, it would be a mistake to think her advice is equal to the rest of the team.

When you hire experts, keep their area of expertise in mind. Trust them. Don’t expect them to be an expert in every area, but if they make a recommendation within their field, don’t ignore it.

President is Against the Fairness Doctrine

A Fox News article claims that President Obama has come out decisively against the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine:

“As the president stated during the campaign, he does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt told FOXNews.com.

Facebook Listens

Yesterday I became aware of a brewing controversy among users of facebook. Apparently, the Terms of Use had been changed a few days ago

Today, I was greeted by this statement:

Terms of Use Update
Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

How about that? They did what lots of online services have done, but when their users complained… they listened. Don’t know how it will come out, but at least those who are concerned get a chance to be heard.