We Built a New Website

This week we launched the new mobberly.org.

This has been a 9 month process. The old website was massive, and had become very dated in appearance and functionality. So we needed to updated it.

But we didn’t have a budget to hire a company to update it. So we decided to do it ourselves. Because we have other jobs, we knew it would take a while. Here’s the process we used.

1. In January we began tracking how people used our current website. We identified what people wanted to see. And we identified the content we thought was important that people were not seeing. We also found many pages that no one was visiting.

2. We also began talking with ministries, asking them to dream about their pages. We asked them to look at their content.

3. And we looked at other churches, looked at what they were doing on their websites.

We took a day to retreat and work through the data we had collected. We came up with a 2-fold purpose for our website, and 4 priorities to consider when making a new one.

The purpose of our site is to:
1. Help new people find out about our church
2. Be an Information hub for attenders

Our priorities were:
1. Mobile friendly
2. Guest friendly
3. East to navigate
4. Simple

65% of people visiting our website use a phone or tablet. So a responsive site is critical for us. The other priorities were straight forward.

We began to lay out our new site. We used our Strategies as touch points for the menu. We made campus pages with campus specific information, so people can find the information that relates to them. Once we knew how the site would look, we went to find a company that could allow us to build it.

In the Summer, I started trying out some web companies. It several attempts before I found one that could do everything we wanted. We settled on thechurchco.com. They have been very responsive, and our site is awesome.

So then it was time to build. I built the basic menu structure, and then pages, and then began to move content, edit content, create content. Initially we just used stock images. but as the site began to take shape, we started changing those out for our own. My Assistant Director spent a lot of time capturing new images of ministry here.

Finally, we launched and had all of our ministries go and proof their pages. We asked them to send one email with lists of corrections. (Not several emails…) I’ve made quite a few tweaks and corrections this week.

Today we had our first Sunday. On a whim I checked last weeks Analytics and noted the most used links on the old page. I made some redirects for the new page. In the space of an hour I saw 54 hits on the live video streaming link. Apparently a lot of people had bookmarked the old stream page.

I’m pretty proud of the new site. We worked hard, and thought things through. I think it will be a big improvement for us.

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Like Vader, Social Media is Altering the Deal. Pray They Don’t Alter it Further.

Remember that scene in Empire Strikes Back? Lando discovers Vader is changing things. He complains and Vader responds, “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it further.”

Vader is Social Media and Lando is every business, organization or personality that has built an audience on those platforms.

Last week the big news was that most of the major social media networks had banned Alex Jones and his media channels.

I don’t consume Alex Jones or Infowars content. That is my choice. I don’t need to be protected from any sort of speech by large privately owned companies. Now, these companies can enforce their TOS as they see fit. But this road doesn’t lead to a good place.

Generally the internet is the great equalizer. There is a very low threshold to publish anything and the market decides what is good or bad. Do we really want gatekeepers?

When any corporation that bills itself as some sort of neutral platform removes a voice because they don’t like what they’re saying, that should give us all a moment of pause. Even so, many people just didn’t care, because Jones is a terrible voice.

This week it was Prager U complaining of shadow banning. While I may not agree with Dennis Prager on all things, or with every video his channels put out, he’s nothing like Alex Jones. Yet Prager U posted this:

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After a bit of attention was brought to the issue, Facebook issued this apology:

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Pager U was not satisfied.

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So… what?

We had a deal.

These are private companies and they can do whatever they like. But there are two significant problems with the sort of behavior.

First, these social media platforms have presented themselves as open networks. They don’t have views, they allows us to share our experiences and views through their networks. They have limited restrictions for content, and generally have spent a lot of time building trust with their users.

These platforms have a sort of social agreement with the users. They have built their brand on being open. This trend is a shift away from that.

Unfortunately, these platforms aren’t admitting this behavior. In fact, they deny it. They want to continue to appear to be neutral, but also cut down on the speech they don’t like. This is problematic for users.

People who use these platforms trust that they can see content from accounts they follow (like or whatever). They signed up for it, and trust that the platforms won’t censor what they want to see.

Second, these platforms have taken money from people to build their audience. They allowed these channels and accounts to be created, and to spread their message. And they encouraged them to spend money to build their audience, to boost posts, place advertising and so on.

Now- after all that time, effort, and money has been expended- they suddenly decide the message these accounts have been sharing is not allowed. They cut off access to the very audience they encouraged the accounts to build.

The deal has been altered.

Again, they can do whatever they want, but this does not lead to a good place. But hey, these channels can get their message out other ways, right? Sure, but the platforms invited them in, asked them to invest time and money. And now they don’t want them?

If they did not want this content on their platform, they should have said so from the beginning. Not after a large audience was built. Not after they accepted payment to help build that audience. Not after users signed up to get that content.

At the very least, they should immediately refund every dollar spent on boosted posts and advertising.

Businesses and channels who took these social media platforms up on their offer to build audiences didn’t do it for the short term. I manage a few accounts on different platforms, and if they suddenly threw me off for doing what I have always been doing it would be an utter shock. These accounts exist for a reason, and the users who make up my various audiences are fans/followers/etc for a reason.

The social media platforms are changing the deal, after its been struck with both users and channels.

People who build audiences have a right to expect the platform to continue to give them access to those audiences. People who use these platforms have a right to expect them to allow the content they want to see through to their feeds. Companies who use user information to generate income, and accept payment from accounts to build and reach audiences have a responsibility to those users and account owners.

Because these are private companies, there’s not much recourse. They can use other means of communication, but the audiences they built on these platforms are on those platforms. Conservative voices who find their deal is being altered can’t do much more than pray it won’t be altered further.

Paper Edit Continues

I posted on the production blog the other day, explaining the Paper Edit of the documentary.

I have been working at it for a while. I’m down to the last 3 transcripts. This is a tedious process. But I am seeing the content of the interviews again, and seeing how the final film will come together.

I am very ready to start assembling the video into the time line of the editor.

Converting Audio From Video to Text

My feature length doc film has hours of interview footage. Hours.

So now, I’m working through the footage. And I’m experimenting with ways to convert audio from video to text so I can do a paper edit.

One way is to make comments in the metadata of each clip. Then you can export the sequence from Premiere as an Avid Log Exchange file. Then change the “.ale’ to “.txt” and import to Excel. It’s not pretty or smooth, but you can see columns with time code and comments.

I tried using the old Adobe CC “speech analysis” in Premiere 7. I downloaded the previous version from the Creative Cloud and had it process a couple of clips. Let’s just say the accuracy was pretty bad. Very bad. But, I thought I could maybe use it. So I saved the project file. And then opened it in the latest version of Premiere, which still kept the metadata… as speech analysis information. But, when I exported the ALE file and tried to import to Excel, the speech analysis data doesn’t show up. And you can’t copy and paste the data from the speech analysis text box. I don’t know why.

Now, I’m trying the Youtube auto text caption option. I exported a super low resolution video, because I only need the audio and I wanted the file to be small. The video was automatically transcribed, which was great. And I could download a file. But I can’t get Premiere to like the file. They just won’t display correctly.

But, I ended up copying the text and pasting it. The caption file has the file timecode listed. Copied the text, and pasted it “special” into a word doc, to preserve the formatting.

So, that’s where I’m at- Exporting clips of interviews to Youtube and then copying the captions to a transcript. It’s working so far, but I’m always open to a more efficient process.

I’ve Been Busy…

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but life has been busy.

I have been hard at work on my feature documentary. We are about to make a trip out to the last tournament. I’ve been working several paths to get the word out about the movie.

2 shirtsI’m selling a couple of shirts to help with funding the rest of the project. So if you want a sticker or shirt, swing on over the the website and see what you can do.

I’ve got a few things to share about the process of making this film, when the time is right.

And, honestly, I am so ready to be done with production, and into Post. I can’t wait to get these stories told.

My First Short Doc Film

I found what I think is my first real doc short. I’ve done interview/b roll projects for work and stuff for years. But this was a project I just wanted to do to educate about the importance of reading young. It’s from 2014 and stars my family.

Also, it was a pretty dry creative time for me. I was working corporate AV… too many hours for not enough pay. We were looking for a decent job, planning to move. We had sold our house and were living in my in-law’s home. I just needed to make something.

I had a 1st gen Canon EOS-M, a microphone and Zoom H4n recorder. I didn’t say, “Hey, let’s make a documentary film.” I just interviewed the family, shot some B roll and put it together. It’s too long, pacing is slow, the coloring is heavy handed, and I hate the music. But otherwise, not bad for throwing something together. Things have changed a lot in 4 years.

Creatively, it helped sustain me through a weird period.

I Don’t Understand the Amazon Video Algorithm

I have no idea how Amazon Video chooses what videos to show people.

I mean, I know that you can impact things by having more reviews, or sharing the links to the video and generating more traffic. But when that’s not happening, what makes Amazon Video show content to people?

Recently I saw a spike in older content that’s on Amazon Video, which I placed their through Amazon Video Direct. I’ve done zero promotion for this in the last year. It just sits there.

I assumed that people who are searching for religious video content on Amazon might stumble across it. And I’ve seen a steady trickle of payments that reflect that. I’m getting enough to pay for my lunch once a month. Not bad for content that was just sitting on a hard drive. AVD payments are always more than my similar content on Youtube. Always.

Then October happens. Suddenly there is a spike in minutes viewed and number of individual streams. And almost all of it is for the series. And based the a couple of reviews, the people seeing it aren’t looking for religious content. (It’s always a fun adventure to see how a non Christian reviewer sees content that is meant specifically for a Christian audience.)

So I don’t get how Amazon is populating the series to viewers. I search through Google to see if the link had been shared somewhere, but didn’t find anything other than the normal listings. Its actually easier to find the series on Youtube or Parables TV if you search on Google.

Overall the numbers of views aren’t huge, but its about 5 times what I normally get. Now, in November, the views have dropped back to the normal rate. I wish I understood this better so I can capitalize on it more when my doc film releases next year.

Technically Superior Internet Syndrome

There’s a virus infecting the internet. Really, it’s infecting internet users. Luckily there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Symptoms of this infection are most easily seen in the comment sections of popular sites like Youtube or social media platforms. While it may show up anywhere, it’s rampant in tech communities.

The affliction comes on you like this: You do a Youtube search to find out more about a piece of gear, maybe a drone or camera. You watch a video, and realize that the video didn’t include some very critical information. So you have the overwhelming urge to comment, to share you’re superior understanding of the issue.

Maybe someone has asked a question in a group you frequent. But you know that the question, at it’s base level is fundamentally flawed. So, rather than answer the simple question, you proceed to explain why the original post is wrong headed and tell the world the correct approach, provide the correct information. At no time do you even consider answering the question as asked.

It can strike at any time, on any issue.

Here’s an example about van graphics:

Original post is looking for design inspiration. The two commenters were stricken with the need to share vital information, unrelated to the original question. One even correcting the 1st commenter.

I recently saw a comment on a professional videographer’s video about a drone flight. The commenter was quick to point out that the video has been taken illegally, since the location required a permit to fly drones. At no point did the commenter consider that the person flying the drone may have actually acquired a permit, and been flying with permission.

Once a member of a FB group posted an innocent questions about showing videos in their church. Rather than answer that question, several responders pointed out that showing the clips would be illegal without the proper licensing. At no time did the infected consider that the person asking the question might already know that. They assumed they knew better, and told everyone so.

Technically Superior Internet Syndrome (or T-SIS) is rampant.

There is at this time, no cure. But you can fight the symptoms by being aware of them, and taking a moment before you answer a question to make sue you’re actually answering a question. Pause before you tell the world how wrong someone is to make sure you know all the facts. Generally, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. If you aren’t answering the question, don’t post.

Just a Few Hours Left in the Crowdfunding Campaign

Less than 7 hours until my crowdfunding campaign ends.

To be frank this one has been tough. I put in more work setting this one up than any of the previous ones. I had the “large” donors set up to drop their donations in the first few days. And I had built relationships in communities that will be the target audience for the finished movie.

When the campaign launched, I had several large donations come in. But almost zero small donations. When I did the campaigns for my TV show I had lots of small donations and almost no large ones. A couple of the communities I was in were a bust. I don’t know what happened to the rest.

But a few larger donations have come in outside the campaign. I am under $500 away from reaching the goal.

It’s not likely that I will reach it, but I will have enough to make the film, and tell these stories. Later, I will try to figure out how I misread my audience so much.