Taming the Email Monster (Part 4)

EmailMonstersmallSo how do we manage all that incoming email? Here are a few tips:

1. Make Your Email Inbox an 'In' Box.

Make your email Inbox a processing station, not a holding station. Imagine if you left all your paper letters in your physical letter box at the front of your house for weeks on end. What a mess it would be! See you email inbox the same way. How many email are there right now? 50, 100, 500, 1000, more? Learn to process items as soon as possible and get that inbox to empty.

2. Set Up a Simple Folder Filing System.

Within your email inbox you can create additional folders (just like drawers within a physical filing cabinet). Just select 'File/New/Folder' within your email program and give the new folder a name. You might want to include folders for various projects, people or categories such as: Urgent, Waiting, Reading, Events, Finance, etc. etc.

3. Use a Process for Handling Email.

For each email that arrives, make an immediate choice to:

  1. Delete it, if it of no use or interest to you.
  2. Do it - if it will take 2 minutes or less.
  3. Delegate it - to someone better suited to respond to it.
  4. Defer it - set a time in your Calendar, flag it, make it a Task, or put it in your ‘Reading’ folder (CCs are fyi). 

Touch emails only once and never open an email without processing it. 

Another idea is to right-click on an email and see a host of options, including 'flagging' it for follow up later, creating a 'rule' as to how you'd like your email application to handle that kind of email. Also, check out the various 'view' options available to you.

 4. Set Some Specific Times to Look at and Respond to Emails.

Depending on your work or personal role, maybe having some time to check email first thing in the morning, at lunch then and before the day ends is best for you. Either way, have some 'email free' hours each day. Turn off those sound notifications. Don't multi-task, it merely causes distraction, lowering your productivity. Go offline if that helps. If someone needs to get in touch with you urgently, they can always text or call you. 

I hope that these posts about email have been helpful. There is much more to life than sitting in front of a computer or digital screen. Get outside and smell the roses and don't forget that life is about loving God and people. That's best done 'live' - in person. Be fully present with people and put that phone away for a while. You'll be fine.

Taming the Email Monster (Part 3)

EmailMonstersmallLet's face it, we all send emails to other people and add to their inbox. So let's talk today about how to write effective emails.

1. Don't Over-Communicate by Email. 

As we have already noted, a big source of stress for people, especially at work, is the sheer volume of emails they receive. So, before you begin writing an email, ask yourself: "Is this really necessary?” Sometimes, it is better to speak directly to the person by phone or in person.

Email is not as secure as you might want it to be, particularly as people may forward emails without thinking to delete the conversation history. So avoid sharing sensitive or personal information in an email, and don't write about anything that you, or the subject of your email, wouldn't like to see plastered on a billboard by your office. Also, work email accounts are the employer’s property.

Whenever possible, deliver bad news in person. This helps you to communicate with empathy, compassion, and understanding, and to make amends if your message has been taken the wrong way.

Remember the protocal in regards to whose email address to put where: 

  • TO: only send to the person who is to take action on your email.
  • CC: (courtesy copy) is simply 'for your interest'. No is response required. It's for their reference only. A person can read, delete or file the email.
  • BCC: (blind copy) is for use when sending an email to a private distribution list.

2. Make Good Use of Subject Lines.

A newspaper headline has two functions: it grabs your attention and it summarises the article, so that you can decide whether to read it or not. The subject line of your email message should do the same thing. Use an informative Subject Line - referring to a project, action, or important date. A blank subject line is likely to be overlooked or rejected as “spam”. Use few well-chosen words to tell recipient what email is about.

A well-written subject line delivers most important information without the recipient having to open the email. It also serves as prompt that reminds recipients every time they glance at their inbox.

3. Keep Email Messages Clear and Brief.

Keep your sentences short and to the point. The body of each email should be direct and informative plus contain all the pertinent information. Email is free, so send a separate email for each topic. Ideally, limit emails to one subject. Keep it to one screen (1-2 paragraphs). Avoid long drawn out emails. Short and simple is better. Combine several, related points into one email. Use bullet points or numbers. Most importantly, be clear on what action orresponse you want. 

4. Be Polite and Check Your Tone.

Emails are less formal than traditional letters but your messages reflect you (your values, professionalism, and attention to detail). Recipients may decide to print emails and share them with others, so always be polite.

When we meet people face-to-face, we use the other person's body language, vocal tone, and facial expressions to assess how they feel. Email robs us of this information, and this means that we can't tell when people have misunderstood our messages. Your choice of words, sentence length, punctuation, and capitalisation can easily be misinterpreted without visual and auditory cues. Think about how your email "feels" emotionally. If your intentions or emotions could be misunderstood, find a less ambiguous way to phrase your words. Without empathy, misunderstanding often results. 

5. Proofread. 

Finally, before you hit "send," take a moment to review your email for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. Your email messages are as much a part of your reputation and rapport as the clothes you wear (hopefully, you look in the mirror before you head out the door each morning!), so it looks bad to send out a message that contains typos. As you proofread, pay careful attention to the length of your email. People are more likely to read short, concise emails than long, rambling ones, so make sure that your emails are as short as possible, without excluding necessary information. 

Next: Managing Email Effectively.

Taming the Email Monster (Part 2)

EmailMonstersmallYesterday, we briefly referred to the exponential changes that have taken place over the last 500 years in the way we communicate with one another.

Today let's talk about some of the challenges of email.

1. We often feel expected to reply immediately. Have you ever had someone ask you if you got their email - yesterday? Long gone is the era where it took 10 days for a letter to a arrive from overseas and you had a few weeks to respond and send a reply!

2. Online messages interrupt our day. Most workers dread the Monday morning over-flowing email inbox. Many people now receive over 50 emails every day and it is estimated that the average office worker receives 80 emails daily. Reading and responding to them all takes a long time. Our work can easily take a back seat and we can get behind on our projects. The average American worker is interrupted 11 times per hour, costing an overall loss of of $600 billion to industry. We often stay up late just to catch up.

3. Emails create the stress of new tasks and information. This overload of continual and relentless inflow can be exhausting, even affecting people's sleep patterns. Nowadays, we read less and spend less time with our loved ones.

4. Email can become highly addictive, like a drug. Any repetitive behaviour can lead to compulsive behaviour, including email checking. It alters our brains and causes attention or concentration span disruption. A recent survey of average response time revealed a rate of 104 seconds. Amazingly, 70% of people responded in just 7 seconds! How many times a day do you pick up your phone to check your email? Have you ever experienced 'email withdrawal'?

Email can be very helpful when used properly and controlled. If not … we start to feel overwhelmed.

Next: How do we tame the email monster??

Taming the Email Monster (Part 1)

EmailMonstersmallLet's do a quick tour of how communication has changed over the last 500 years.

  • In Britain in 1500, only 5-10% of the population could read or write. Wow! What did they do. They probably talked to each other - sharing stories in person.

  • Postcards took off in 1871, resulting in what TIME magazine called an ‘epidemic’.

  • In 1840, the average American sent 3 letters a year; in 1900, that number rose to 69.

  • The telegraph changed everything. A message could be sent across the Atlantic in a matter of hours rather than the 5 weeks it took for 'snail mail' to arrive.

  •  This peaked in 1945 with 240 million telegrams a year.

  • In 2007, just over 60 years later, emails globally hit 35 trillion (10,000x higher than the peak of the telegram). Email communication is easier, faster (pretty much instantaneous) and cheaper (basically 'free').

Email has completely changed the way we communicate and has made life easier in countless ways … BUT it's come at a price.

Next: The Challenges of Email.

[Source: The Tyranny of Email: The 4,000 Year Journey to Your Inbox by John Freeman]

An Alternative to Task Lists - Kanban Project Management

KanAll of us have tasks we want to get done or projects we are working on. Keeping a record of them all in one place is really important. The most popular method is a task or project list, which can be looked at regularly then items are ticked off when completed. But what if you are more of a visual person?

The Kanban (meaning 'signboard' or 'billboard') project management method was invented by Japanese engineers to create a logical workflow system. Over time the concept has been adapted for use by organisations, workteams or individuals. The method involves (1) visualising your workflow by using a board to diagram all your tasks/projects, (2) limiting your work-in-progress to a minimum, and (3) viewing your accomplishments.

All you need is a pen, a whiteboard and some sticky notes to start mapping your workflow and boosting your productivity. Use three columns:

  1. READY (work waiting to be tackled)
  2. DOING (for work-in-progress)
  3. DONE (for completed tasks).

Understanding your work is often the key to controlling it. Kanban helps you to keep everything in sight.

I now use an App based on the Kanban method of time management called Kanbana (iPad video demo), which is highly visible, lists projects that are in backlog, focuses on what I am doing now, and allows me to move completed items to an area where I can see what I have done so far in the day. I really like it. You might too ...

Read more about the Kanban Method:

Developing New Habits


Habits are what we do habitually, automatically or without thinking. They are very powerful! An old poem puts it like this:

    Sow a thought, reap an act

    Sow an act, reap a habit

    Sow a habit, reap a character

    Sow a character, reap a destiny.

A lot of new research has emerged of late about not only the power of habits but about the difficulty we experience in breaking bad habits and establishing new healthy habits. One of the keys to developing new habits is to have some accountability for the goals or rituals you are seeking to embed in your life. This could be a friend that checks up on you or even better an App that can be your daily coach.

There are now a huge variety of apps that have been designed to help you form good habits. Recently, I've started using the Strides App and I find it really helpful. It syncs across different devices and has a variety of types of goals and habits you can measure. The basic version is free and it's very easy to use. Check out a review or a video demo if you are interested.

My habits are vital to my disciplined lifestyle and having a tool that holds me accountable is very helpful. I DO have good intentions but if they are not pushed to me and if I don't measure my progress, I can often drift and fall short. This leads to frustration and ill-health. In contrast, living daily by habits that shape my life positively creates joy and a sense of fulfillment.

What new habits are you going to form or strengthen in the new year? It's all about becoming the person you really want to be.

See also:

Is it worth buying an iPad?

IpiPads or portable computing devices seem to be all the rage nowadays. If you like technology, they can sure be a fun and beneficial device, enhancing our lives and work in amazing ways. 

I love this brief video clip (in German but easily understandable in any language) about a daughter asking her father how the new iPad she bought him for his birthday is going ... enjoy :)

Play Video

Day One - A Great Journal App

Day oneI have been journaling for many years now. I find it a great tool to help me unpack what I am think and how I am thinking. It's a place for me to process the events and circumstances of my life. It's a way for me to open my heart to God and listen for his voice of guidance. 

I used to use a paper journal, then a few years ago I switched to a computer word processing document. That enabled me to have my journal wherever I am, shared across devices, as well as search functionality. Earlier this year, my son Ashley made me aware of a really cool app designed especially for journaling. It's called Day One. Visit the Day One web site for full details or watch an online video review. [Unfortunately, it is only available for the Mac at this stage, but a Windows version is on the way. Windows users can benefit from a number of alternatives]

Why I like Day One:

1. I can have separate entries throughout the day - for general diary stuff, for spiritual prayer times, for reflection, and for recording insights. Dividing these up makes them easier to find later, and separates them into neater categories.
2. The ability to put pictures into an entry is cool too, as it gives visual reminders to clues to what is happening in my life.
3. Tags are very helpful too - for tracking down related entries.
4. Location works well, as it reminds me where I am when I write, including the temperature of the day.
5. Focused view enables me to put everything else out of my mind, avoiding distraction.
6. Having a live copy on my mobile devices is fantastic too (synced via Dropbox), enabling me to read what has taken place, add in new events or thoughts, and insert photos.
7. Automatic time and date insertion is helpful.
8. The formatting is basic but workable.

I also like the concept of a DAY:

* Each day is a new beginning - “day one” of the rest of my life.

* On each day, “one” thing is needful and that is connecting with God, then reflecting on that experience so that I change and grow. 

* The “day” was created by God as a segment of life. I can learn lessons from the creation week and how God lived out a rhythm of work and rest.

[Related BLOG posts: A few thoughts on seeing your journal as a listening book, 3 great questions to start the day]

The Future of Social Media

2014Facebook, Instrgram, Twitter and Snapchat. Welcome to the exploding world of Social Media. Where will it all go and what trends are trending into 2014? Ryan Holmes, the CEO of HootSuite, a social relationship platform, recently wrote for Fortune magazine outlining five trends that could be poised to shake up the industry and the way we use social media in 2014:

1. The rise of ephemeral social networks.

2. Learn to tweet. Your boss expects it.

3. Social customer service kills the dreaded phone tree.

4. Social media finds you as you browse.

5. Get ready to see ads from the neighborhood pub on Twitter.

Read the full article for the details. 

For more, see ..

Top 10 Social Media Predictions for 2014

Major Changes coming to Social Media in 2014

Social Media Explained



 Social-media is slowly creeping into all areas of the web. Even websites and services that have no social features usually place a Facebook or Google+ like button somewhere to help spread the word of their existence. Even so, it’s quite difficult to explain to someone new to the Internet, or social aspects of the web, exactly what this social media revolution is. And just as importantly, what the difference between social media services are.

That problem has now been solved by using a donut analogy. Douglas Wray posted a whiteboard breakdown of all the major social media services and explained how they differ from each other using the example of a donut. Quite fittingly he posted the image on Instagram –the photo sharing service.

The breakdown is the clearest I have yet seen of how something like Twitter differs from Facebook or LinkedIn. Twitter is for telling people what you are doing at any given moment (eating a donut), Facebook is more for sharing what you like in general (I like donuts), and LinkedIn is for sharing what you’re good at (skilled with donuts). Yet all rely on the sharing of information in different ways to remain relevant and keep people using them.

So, the next time someone asks you what social media is, or how two services differ, save this image and pull it up on your phone. They’ll understand much more quickly and you won’t be standing there trying to find examples that work to show the differences. Alternatively, memorize the donut analogy and look clever at parties.


Some Helpful Productivity Tools

WLLife is busy (or 'full', as I prefer to say nowadays). There are lots of people to see, places to go, and things to do - more than we seem to have time for. In many ways, there is enough to do to fill multiple life times. But we only have one ... so we must make choices between one thing and another. We have to determine priorities, discerning at times between what is urgent and what is really important. 

I have always enjoyed thinking about life management and how best we can live fruitful yet enjoyable lives that please God. Check out the posts on this BLOG about Personal Development and you'll be able to access some of the ideas and concepts that have been a help to me. 

David Allen's book Getting Things Done is an excellent guide to managing the many details of our lives. One of the keys to productivity is to have a good system to store all of your projects and tasks, along with the material related to them. Here are a few technological tools I have found helpful:

1. Evernote. This is an outstanding free program, that works on all computer operating system platforms. It enables you to set up 'notebooks' where you can store items such as ideas, photos, files, web pages links, audio recording and pretty much anything you imagine. I have a notebook for all the areas or roles of my life, with sub-folders for various categories. Everything is stored in the cloud and can be accessed from all of your devices.

2. Wunderlist. This is an excellent free task management system that also resides in the cloud, and can therefore be accessed from all of your devices (computer and mobile phone), with changes made on one device able to be synchronised across other devices. I try to get tasks or ideas out of my head as soon as possible so I have them stored in a place where I can remember and/or find them when I need to.

3. Dropbox. This is another great free program that enables you to store any kind of documents in the cloud. They can then be accessed from any device, as long as you have internet access. Of course, files can also be worked on or edited while offline. I keep my Journal, Bible devotional notes and other documents I am regularly accessing in my Dropbox folder. Sign up for free!

These powerful software tools, in addition to Outlook for email, my Contacts and my Calendars, help me keep my life relatively organised so I am in the right place at the right time and have the work and preparation required of me done on time. 

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." [Moses - Ps.90:12. NIV]

 "Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity (redeeming the time - KJV], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is." [The Apostle Paul - Eph.5:15-17]

10 Ways Your Phone is Changing the World

IphoneIn this week’s special wireless issue titled, “THE WIRELESS ISSUE. 10 Ways Your Phone is Changing the World,” TIME explores how mobile phones have become a super-extension of ourselves, altering in fundamental ways how we approach everything from education to politics, from medicine to romance.

The issue includes an exclusive TIME Mobility Poll, conducted in cooperation with Qualcomm, that highlights the increasing significance of mobile technology in our lives. TIME‘s Nancy Gibbs writes, “It is hard to think of any tool, any instrument, any object in history with which so many developed so close a relationship so quickly as we have with our phones.” Read more here.

When it comes to people and their devices, 61% worldwide plan to replace their phone in less than two years; 84% worldwide said they couldn’t go a single day without their mobile devices in hand; 44% would leave their wallets at home in favor of their device; 50% of Americans say they sleep with their mobile next to the bed — as do more than 80% of 18-24 year olds; an 30% said that being without their mobile for even short periods leaves them feeling anxious. 

This week’s cover image features more than 200 photographs chosen from 31,429 Instagram photos submitted by TIME readers in more than 120 countries and on all seven continents. Plus, every photograph within the wireless section was originally shot on a mobile phone camera.

Exclusive TIME Mobility Poll:

  • 84% Say They Couldn’t Go a Single Day Without Their Mobile Devices in Hand
  • 20% said they check their mobile device every ten minutes
  • 43% have used texting to ask someone out on a date
  • 30% said that being without their mobile for even short periods leaves them feeling anxious
  • If forced to choose, 65% worldwide opted to take their wireless mobile device with them in the morning instead of their lunch
  • 66% of people feel that their wireless devices have made them better parents

Read more about the poll here. See the results here.

[Source: Mac Daily News]

Separating Fact from Fiction - on the Internet

TrueEvery day or so I receive one of those "pass it on" emails explaining some horrible thing that has happened or some latest conspiracy theory. It's hard to know what to believe. How do you separate fact from fiction?

There is a web site dedicated to helping us in this area, called Snopes. Their mission is "to be the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation." You can use the search box on the web site to locate an item of interest or browse the site by category.

A recent example (actually, it's been around since 2004) is an email announcing the supposed crushing of a small boy is an Islamic country for stealing a loaf of bread. The full true story shows how this information has been twisted to give a false message. 

Their 25 Hottest Urban Legends is worth a read, just for your awareness.

A few important quotes:

  • "The first to speak in court sounds right — until the cross-examination begins." Prov.18:17. NLT 
  • "The gullible believe anything they’re told; the prudent sift and weigh every word." Prov.14:15. MB
  • The apostle Paul commended people who not only received his messages with enthusiasm but also "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11)." 
  • "Slander is telling the truth in such a way as to give a lying impression." Charles Finney

There are always two sides to every story and it is better to wait before passing judgment. That is why no matter or issue in Israel could be settled without the evidence of two or three witnesses (Deut.1:6-19). 

Some good wisdom for us there! Don't believe everything you hear ... check it out first.

Finally, it can be a bit embarrassing when you discover that you have been told an incomplete story or believed a lie. I followed up on one of those "You've been left millions of dollars in an inheritance" emails for a while many years ago before discovering, just in time, that it was nothing but a fraud. As annoying as it is, let's never forget, "The truth sets you free!"

Techonology Tools for Effectiveness

TechTechnology, love it or hate it, it's part of our lives. For me, it can either be a great servant or a cruel task-master. The key is whether you are serving it or it is serving you. It's a matter of control and setting boundaries (something I'm stilling working on!). I love certain types of technology that makes life easier and enables me to organise the many spinning plates in my world so they don't all crash. 

On my BLOG, I have written a number of posts about technology that I find helpful, with topics such as: computer software, phone apps, social media, BLOGs, eBooks and my favourite web sites. 

Click here to begin reading.


Highly Recommended - Evernote Software

Evernote Pretty much everyone I know has used a notebook of some sort at sometime in their life. A notebook is a great place to take notes, to write down ideas, to make yourself a task list, to write down things you want to remember or just to doodle. Paper notebooks are good but they have their limitations. 

A number of computer-based and/or on-line notebooks have recently been created. The best I have seen and which I now use extensively is Evernote

Here are some of the best features of Evernote:

1. It is FREE! Yes, there is a Premium version, but the free version has extensive features.

2. It works on multiple platforms (Windows and MAC) and devices (laptops, mobile phones, iPad, iPhone, etc), which can all be synchronised effortlessly.

3. You can create a system of notebook folders for every area of your life, work or ministry, including sub-folders.

4. You can capture pretty much anything in a note - text, graphics, screen shots, web pages, documents, photos, audio files, etc, etc.

5. You can organise all your data extremely easily. Everything is indexed and there is an extensive search feature, helping you find pretty much anything that you have stored within your notebooks. You can also tag your notes. 

6. You can record yourself or a meeting and store the audio file within a notebook. This is a great feature for listening to lectures or speakers in any environment. 

7. You can encrypt confidential data within a note so that it is accessible only via a password. 

8. All of your data is stored and backup via a cloud, although you can also have copies locally on your computer. 

Click here to watch a brief video profile of Evernote. Click here to download the program. After that, create your own free account. Click here to read the Getting Started Guide. If you become a serious user, it's worth purchasing the extensive Evernote Essentials document ($25 US).

Michael Hyatt has written many BLOG posts about the benefits and uses of Evernote. Click here to access these helpful posts. 

Happy note-taking!

Scrivener: Great Software for Writers, Speakers and Composers

Images-31 For anyone who writes or speaks, the task of preparation is part science and part art ... with lots of prayer and perspiration mixed in. Some people think more intuitively. I know one speaker who prepares all of their messages in their head - never writing anything down. Others write out their ideas, sometimes word for word - on paper or by typing into a word processor.

I have always used a note pad to scribble down ideas for messages, often creating a bit of a pathway or 'story board' to outline my flow of thoughts and the direction of a message. Then I will type in all the details of my thoughts and research into a WORD document - often cutting and pasting back and forth. This can be quite a challenge, especially with a long document where you can't see everything in front of you at once. 

Enter ... some new software ... Scrivener.

Scrivener was designed by a writer ... for writers. Take the time to watch the 9 minute demo here.

This is a terrific piece of software ... and it works on a MAC or within Windows (beta version currently available). You can have everything in one place, including your research and other bits of information you may not need for your final message, whether spoken or in writing. I have just started using this program and I love it already. I can't wait to watch all of the video tutorials and use this software to its fullest potential. 

For a more in-depth review click here and here.

Scrivener ... I highly recommend it!

P.S. A 'scrivener' is a scribe who can read and write. 

My Favourite iPhone Apps

Images-17 I recently changed my mobile phone from a Nokia E71 to an iPhone 3GS. I really liked the Nokia, especially the keyboard, which was so easy to use. The iPhone is pretty cool but I am taking a while to get used to the touch screen ... and the automatic word correction. I can't tell you how many times I have finished a text message with 'Nark' instead of 'Mark!'

Anyway, change takes time. The iPhone application store has over 200,000 programs and sometimes its hard to know what is any good (all accessed via iTunes). I purchased a book recently that rates and reviews almost 1,000 Apps and found it very helpful.

Here are some of my favourite apps.

1. BibleReader. This free program from Olive Tree is excellent, although you will have to pay for various translations and books.    

2. Daily Deeds. Want to change your habits? Create a simple check list of the things you want to do each day and simply tick them off when you are done. You can compare your progress over time.  

3. iThoughts. This is a clever little mind-mapping tool for outlining ideas or relationships between thoughts/topics. 

4. Pocket Weather. Nothing like knowing what the weather is going to be like to you can choose what to wear or plan when to do that outdoor job. Of course, with Melbourne, things are sure to change.   

5. Brain Toot Lite. A creative way to keep your brain active. 

6. MyNetDiary. Want to lose some weight? Here is a terrific program for setting some goals and keeping track daily. It's like having your own personal trainer right with you.  

7. AroundMe. Want to find anything nearby? This program locates where you are and gives you all the details of everything from petrol stations to ATMs. Very handy. 

8. VicTraffic. Want to know how the freeway traffic is today? This free app from VicRoads might just save you some time travelling to where you need to be. 

9. ShopSavvy. Hold your phone up to the bar code on any item and wait until it reads it. In an instant you can compare prices of the item in other stores and online, and even access reviews to read other people's feedback before you purchase. A very smart shopping tool.

10. Paper Toss. A mindless but addictive game ... just for killing a bit of time ... but not for too long.

If you have a different phone, you might find something similar for your operating system.  

Will Social Media Lead a Revolution?

Images-14 You probably noticed that Facebook and Twitter are all the rage nowadays. Social media seems to be changing how we relate to one another and could possibly affect the future of society. Many are saying it is a revolution.

Or it is all a bit over-rated? Malcolm Gladwell, popular speaker, blogger and author of the best-selling book The Tipping Point, seems to think so. He recently wrote an insightful article in The New Yorker called "Small Change: Why the Revolution will not be Tweeted." Click here to read it.  

Learning on the Web with iTunes U

Itunes-u The world wide web provides a wealth of information for learning and growing in any area of life. One place I have recently discovered is iTunes U. It contains over 350,000 free lectures, videos, films and other resources from some of the leading universities and educational institutions in the world. Read all about it here.

Once you have downloaded iTunes (a free program that works in either a MAC or Windows software environment, as well as on most mobile phones) you are ready to go. Most people who have used iTunes are aware of the availability of music, podcasts, movies, TV programs and even audiobooks via the iTunes Store, but many have not noticed the iTunes U section (on the far right). 

Check it out!

Are iPad Users Selfish?

Speaking of technology ... the uptake on the newly released iPad has been quite phenomenal. Apple is struggling to keep up with orders for its latest cool toy, now taking the marketplace by storm. What do those without iPads think of those who have one? What iPad users really like? 

One consumer research group believes that iPad users are 'selfish elites' (read the full article here). Others question the basis of the research. I think it's most important that we keep our priorities in place. After all, live is about 'loving people and using things' not the other way around. 

My Favorite MAC Programs

MAC I have been a PC computer user most of my adult life. I started with a desktop and eventually moving to a laptop then a netbook. I have managed to find my way around a host of Microsoft Windows based software programs. They have been tremendously helpful to all sorts of tasks and aspects of work and personal life. [Click here to read about my current technology]

Of course, our young adult children and heaps of our other friends (mostly the creative types) are into MACs. What is it about PC and MAC users - they don't really like each other and you have to be in one camp OR the other, for some reason. It's a bit like FORD and Holden, AFL and Rugby League, and Collingwood and whoever (after all you can't 'like' Collingwood - you have to 'love' them or 'hate' them; nothing in between seems appropriate). There is no neutral ground.

Well, I have to confess, I am a bit of a two-timer with my computers. The family has an iMAC desktop at home and I use it from time to time ... and it really is amazing. Software programs such as iPhoto, Logic (for music) and iMovie are so intuitive and simple to use. In fact, I recently created a photo montage movie for a friend's 21st birthday party and people thought I was the next Spielberg! I even had job offers :)

I now have an iPad and our recent new work phone deal offered me an iPhone, so I really am flirting with both sides ... PCs and MACs ... and enjoying it (much to the disgust of either side). There are so many cool Apps for these gadgets. A few of my favorites are Things (I changed across to Wunderlist in February 2012, which is an excellent free program that works on all platforms), Bento, and the OliveTree Bible Reader. I can also use my Logos 4 Bible program via an iPad App, which enables me to access all of my Bible software and books.

For a more technical article, see the August edition of Australian PC Authority for an article entitled "Is the Best PC a MAC?" Click here for something similar.


I wonder if the two will ever meet ... PCs and MACs ... some day in cyber heaven!?

The iPad

IpadOkay, confession time ... I have an iPad ... and it is really cool. It hasn't replaced my phone or my laptop ... yet ... but it does a lot of things really well. It is brilliant for browsing the internet, doing email and checking your calendar. The eBook reader on it is much better than the Kindle. It is colour and turning pages is much more intuitive and you can load all your Kindle books on to it, plus 1000s of other eBooks (one application alone gives you access to over 23,000 free public domain classic books). The touch screen is like a big iPod and is a pleasure to work with. There are over 100,000 applications that can be used on the iPad - most of them free or very inexpensive - from calculators to encyclopedias.

It has a full size keyboard that pops up any time you want to type - either in Notes or in Apple's suite of applications such as Pages (similar to Word) and Numbers (similar to Xcel). Viewing photos and video is a cinch. Battery life is around 10 hours of continuous use.

Watch the full profile here.

I think they'll really take off, especially as more variations are released and prices come down (hopefully).

A New Online Bible

You version LifeChurch.tv has launched a free online Bible called YouVersion. YouVersion has been growing by hundreds of thousands of users each month. Almost 7 million people are reading the Bible through one of their mobile apps, including the iPhone and the newly released iPad. Check out their BLOG here.

In addition to multiple translations being available, you can put together your own personal reading plan, create journal notes, and interact with other people about their learnings.

Worth checking out!


FacebookThis month, the number of people using Facebook will pass the 500 million mark. This is astounding when you consider that it was only six ago that years after Harvard graduate Mark Zuckerberg helped found Facebook in his dorm room as a way for students to keep tabs on one another. If Facebook was a country it would be the third largest country in the world (even bigger than the USA). It could be nothing short of a social media revolution.

Facebook enables you to connect with your friends wherever they live anywhere in the world. You can let them know what you are doing and find out what they are up to. Upload photos or videos and link to your favourite web sites.

Discussions about security and privacy have emerged recently. Click here for a recent Time magazine article called ‘friends without borders.’ Facebook has responded with some new privacy features. Click here to read some insightful comments from Michael Hyatt in developing a Facebook strategy.

Personally, I am a Facebook user (not Twitter though). I browse at it briefly in the morning and again at night most days. It helps me keep up with friends birthdays and other activity in my social network. However, there is nothing like face to face time with people … and I try not to forget that God wants me to be his friend. I’ve accepted his offer but I need to make sure I connect with him every day so I don’t get distracted by all the other noise in the world.

The Social Media Revolution

Social Media

Click here to watch an educational video on the growing impact of social media.

Here are just a few statistics: 

  • By 2010, Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers
  • 96% of them have joined a social network
  • 1 out of 8 couples married in the US last year have met via social media
  • Facebook added 100 million users in 9 months
  • If Facebook would be a country, it would be the world's 4th largest
  • 80% of companies are using LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees
  • 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices. People update anywhere, anytime. Imagine what that means for bad customer experiences?
  • In 2009, Boston College stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen
  • YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world
  • There are over 200,000,000 Blogs. 54% of bloggers post content or tweet daily.

Could this be bigger than the Industrial Revolution?


Web Wonders – December 2009

WWW Today we continue with our web wonders recommendations. Check out October and November's lists if you missed them. Here are some more:

  1. CHRISTMAS. Tired of the commericalism of Christmas? Check out Advent Conspiracy for some creative alternative ideas about spending less and giving more.
  2. PARCEL DELIVERY. Want to send something across town, interstate or overseas? Check out Interparcel for excellent rates via their online web site. They'll pick up from your house and even send you the labels ready to print out and attach.
  3. REAL ESTATE. Interesting in buying, selling, renting or investing in property? Realestate.com.au is the place to go.
  4. CHRISTIANITY. Interested in what's happening within the broader Christian community? Check out Christianity Today's excellent web site.
  5. BIBLE READING. Want to set up your own Bible reading plan? Check out this web site for everything you need to get started.
  6. TRAVEL. Going to another country and aren't sure what electricity current they have or what adapters you need? This web site has all the information. Here's a good currency converter web site too.

Happy surfing!


Kindle Now that I am a Kindle user (yes, I received one from some good friends for my recent birthday!), I'm starting to learn a bit more about eBooks - or 'electronic books.' True, there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands and flipping through its pages, but eBooks can open up an entire new world.

Amazon has a corner on the market for books dedicated to the Kindle, their own eBook reader. However, you can download other documents to the Kindle, as well as a variety of eBooks. You can also read eBooks on your computer via the aid of an eReader. A popular eReader is Mobipocket (they were bought out by Amazon a few years back, but don't let that hold you back from checking it out). Mobipocket is free and can be used to read eBooks on your computer or mobile phone. You can even create your own eBooks.

Another good thing about Mobipocket is that it can convert all sorts of file types (PDF, Office, HTML, text, etc) into eBook format (including for the Kindle). You can use it to read books, newspapers, magazines or reference materials. You can even learn another language with it.

Best of all, there a heaps of sites with free eBooks. Here a few for starters ...

  1. Manybooks
  2. Feedbooks
  3. Free Tech Books
  4. Google Books
  5. Guttenberg
  6. Mobipocket free eBooks - in multiple languages
  7. A list of 20 web sites for downloading free eBooks
  8. Another list of 25 sites

Happy reading!

P.S. For a few thoughts on the art of reading, click here. If you are struggling with 'information overload', click here for a few suggestions.

Web Wonders – November 2009

WWW The World Wide Web is an amazing source of information and communication. However, it's becoming so huge and complex that you can easily get lost in it or miss out on some of spots well worth visiting. Last month I shared a variety of sites that may be if interest to you. Here are some more:

  1. GADGETS. Visit www.productwiki.com for a thorough listing and review of all sorts of gadgets. For local price comparison here in Australia, check out www.staticice.com.au
  2. GARDENING. Visit Gardening Australia at www.abc.net.au/gardening if you need help or inspiration for your garden. Also, check out www.thevegetablepatch.com, www.burkesbackyard.com.au and www.weekendgardener.net.
  3. EATING OUT. Looking for somewhere to eat out? Visit www.webmenu.com.au for a list of restaurants in all Australian capital cities and then browse menus for most of them. Other details include maps and opening hours.
  4. PERFUME. Looking for a special gift? Check out www.perfumeempire.com.au for some great fragrance bargains, with discounts up to 80% off the recommended retail price.
  5. BOOKS. Visit www.amazon.com – this is the world's largest online bookshop (they also sell all sorts of other stuff too). Prices are very reasonable and they usually can post internationally. For many of the books you can have a look inside at the table of contents and first chapter, as well as the back cover. It's also a good place to read reviews of various books you may be interested in. In some cases, you can get a good overview of the entire book, without even having to purchase it. A good Australian online book site worth visiting is www.booktopia.com.au and a good UK site with free shipping worldwide is the book depository.

Happy surfing!


Web Wonders – October 2009


The World Wide Web is an amazing source of information and communication. However, it's becoming so huge and complex that you can easily get lost in it or miss out on some of spots well worth visiting. Here are a variety of sites that may be if interest to you.

  1. BIBLE. Visit www.biblegateway.com for an excellent site with multiple Bible translations, all for free.

  2. ENCYCLOPEDIA. Visit www.wikipedia.com – the world's largest online encyclopedia with a wealth of information on just about anything.

  3. FREE IMAGES. Visit http://commons.wikimedia.org – a massive collection of more than 5 million free-to-use images. Also check out: http://freerangestock.com/index.php and http://images.google.com.au 

  4. ONLINE AUCTION. Visit www.graysonline.com.au – this is an online auction group based in Melbourne. They sell all sorts of items, usually being liquidated. You can get some excellent deals here. They add a 15% charge to most items as well as shipping costs, so be sure to keep that in mind. Of course, there is always www.ebay.com.au, the biggest online trading spot for just about everything. Why not take some time to clear out your garage and turn some unused items into some handy cash? Remember, one person's trash is another's treasure!

  5. PERSONALISED HOMEPAGE. Create a Google account at https://www.google.com/accounts/newaccount then go to www.google.com/ig, sign in and get started setting up your own iGoogle page, which can include all sorts of things such as gadgets, themes, calendar, to dos, email, a clock, and Google Reader (for reading RSS feeds).

Happy surfing!


New Blog Commenting Guidelines

Blog When I began my blog just under two years ago (August 17th, 2007), I had a number of experienced bloggers advise me to not allow any comments. They had chosen to close off their blogs from any comments or to only allow approved comments to be published. Why? Because in each case, their blog had been somewhat hijacked by a few individuals who tended to dominate the conversations and/or who bullied other people.

I heard their advice but decided to go with open comments on my blog. So far, it's gone pretty well with just under 2,864 comments on the 514 posts I have made. To this point I have only had to delete a few comments due to their profanity. Overall, the dialogue and interaction has been helpful and informative. None of us have the full perspective on any topic and I believe that we learn best by interacting respectfully and in a spirit of humility with those who have different points of view.

Unfortunately, with the recent blog post on the topic of 'Homosexuality', the commenting section degenerated to a point where it became un-constructive. This really disappointed me. 

As a result I have created some new guidelines for commenting on this blog. Here they are:

All visitors are welcome to post their own personal comments on the majority of my blog posts. However, there are a few basic guidelines (these are also now displayed on the upper left hand side of the blog):

1. I reserve the right refuse comments that are inappropriate, that use offensive language, or that are a personal attack on myself or other people.

2. Comments should be brief (preferably under 100 words), polite, constructive, and relative to the topic.

3. You must state your real full name to have your comments posted.

4. I will continue to read all comments posted but, as previously, will not be able to respond to each one of them.

If you are happy to abide by these simple guidelines, then I welcome your comments.

Mark Conner

P.S. You can now Search this entire blog for any content. Simply type a word or topic in the upper right hand corner search box and hit Enter or click Search. I also hope you like the new graphics design. Enjoy!