Podcasting the Gospel

Imagine with me, for a moment, a world where the radio stations broadcast nothing but sermons from skilled preachers from across the country, nay, the world. What if your family fought over which preacher to watch on television on any given night? You might scoff at such a vision, but with today's technology, this can be reality.

Obviously, economics dictate that a radio station would not last long broadcasting nothing but the plain gospel. A radio station must appeal to the masses at large in order to produce advertising revenue. But today, such barriers are breaking down as Chris Anderson's 2004 article entitled "The Long Tail" explains:

The other constraint of the physical world is physics itself. The radio spectrum can carry only so many stations, and a coaxial cable so many TV channels. And, of course, there are only 24 hours a day of programming. The curse of broadcast technologies is that they are profligate users of limited resources. The result is yet another instance of having to aggregate large audiences in one geographic area - another high bar, above which only a fraction of potential content rises.

The past century of entertainment has offered an easy solution to these constraints. Hits fill theaters, fly off shelves, and keep listeners and viewers from touching their dials and remotes. Nothing wrong with that; indeed, sociologists will tell you that hits are hardwired into human psychology, the combinatorial effect of conformity and word of mouth. And to be sure, a healthy share of hits earn their place: Great songs, movies, and books attract big, broad audiences.

But most of us want more than just hits. Everyone's taste departs from the mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we're drawn to them. Unfortunately, in recent decades such alternatives have been pushed to the fringes by pumped-up marketing vehicles built to order by industries that desperately need them.

Hit-driven economics is a creation of an age without enough room to carry everything for everybody. Not enough shelf space for all the CDs, DVDs, and games produced. Not enough screens to show all the available movies. Not enough channels to broadcast all the TV programs, not enough radio waves to play all the music created, and not enough hours in the day to squeeze everything out through either of those sets of slots.

This is the world of scarcity. Now, with online distribution and retail, we are entering a world of abundance. And the differences are profound.

Face it, the gospel is unprofitable from a business' perspective, but when distribution is near-free, business need not apply. The Internet provides the medium for distribution to the entire world at a low cost.

What we commonly think of as the Internet is the World Wide Web, a collection of pages we peruse via a web browser. This may be a step in the direction toward our goal, but it doesn't satisfy our need for distribution. The process of searching the web for content and downloading the content from the website onto your iPod has to be repeated day-to-day in order to find content when it has been updated. This tedious process is a barrier to entry and may undo the gains of cheap digital distribution.

Fortunately, a system has been developed where the content will come to you. This system, commonly referred to as Podcasting, is based on RSS (or Real Simple Syndication). Without diving into the gory details, RSS allows you to get new content when it has been updated. In fact, this blog has its own RSS feed that updates whenever I post a new entry (see it here) which you can subscribe to with a client like Google Reader.

A Podcast marries RSS with audio and video content and your mobile device. When a new media file is available, it will automatically be downloaded into your iPod and ready for you to listen to while jogging, driving to work, or unwinding in your easy chair. The effort to find the content is expended once, and from then on, it finds you.

Now imagine if preachers everywhere put their sermons online as an audio or video Podcast. You would have a virtually endless supply of spiritual content to consume instead of settling for the trash that the for-profit media shovels out. Instead of listening to profane music or political commentary during your commute, you can hear the gospel. Instead of turning the channels on your television, you could be clicking through the video podcasts on your iPod.

I'd prefer you comment here to keep the comments with the blog, but if "the lazy" is too strong, you can post here on pleo.
  • csusoftballgirl
    The lazy in me is just too strong. Sorry, Darling. But, I would like to hear a discussion from others (because we've discussed this a lot at home) about the potential risks vs. potential good that may come from having sermons available so readily, via iTunes and podcasts. I know that we've not to be ashamed of the Gospel and that we're to confront the world's questions/comments/criticisms face on, but is it wise to put all of one's sermons out on the world wide web? Anyone have any thoughts about this?
    by csusoftballgirl at 09/04/09 11:47AM
  • windham4life
    I don't really even know what potential risks there are?? It seems like a great idea to have sermons podcasted. :)
    by windham4life at 09/06/09 4:54PM
  • windham4life
    you have to remember that you aren't the first to do this. There are millions yes millions of sermons on the web. The only thing you are going to have to face is opposition, and we already know that is going to happen if you are doing the right thing. So I think Dan has the right thought. If your not scared go for it. - Jesse
    by windham4life at 09/06/09 5:00PM
  • tortilla
    wife sends me here...you send me there! :)
    by tortilla at 09/10/09 4:14PM
  • tortilla
    I say do it. My husband had to come up with some random podcasts for his master's. i say i'd rather hear his sermons than some useless ramblings...not that they were not good! we'd listen to them. we truly value our family time. i want to know what the risks are- possibly ppl attacking the speakers?? wouldn't that be considered bearing His cross??
    by tortilla at 09/10/09 4:17PM
  • dyfs
    there is a danger in things being taking out of context. Anything you write or say can be used against you in the future, it can be warped by other people with the ability to use technology.

    Yet all of this applies to writing in books, so I think the benefits outweight the risks.
    by dyfs at 09/19/09 10:53AM
  • maryel
    Congratulations on the baby news! You two will be awesome parents; we will keep your family in our prayers.
    by maryel at 11/29/09 8:23PM
  • windham4life
    Congrats on the baby news!! So excited for you guys!
    by windham4life at 11/30/09 8:31AM
  • tortilla
    yay baby!!!!!!!
    by tortilla at 12/04/09 4:00PM
  • csusoftballgirl
    Have I mentioned...I'm crazy about you? ;-)
    by csusoftballgirl at 02/11/10 11:10AM
  • kendralulu
    Congratulaions! We are so happy for yall!!! :)
    by kendralulu at 05/21/10 1:40PM

Copyleft and Hymns

Copyleft and Hymns

We hardly notice the print at the bottom of the pages of our songbooks, but at the bottom of most pages you will see a tiny blurb of legalese. This tiny copyright notice has great implications. By law, this copyright gives the author of the song the sole right to copy it, to create derivative works from it, and to distribute it by sale or license to the public.

To create those songbooks that we use each week, someone had to obtain licenses to legally copy those songs and sell the collection the public. You couldn't, for instance, legally photocopy those songs for use in your congregation without first obtaining a license, even if there was no monetary profit in it for you. You would have to contact the copyright holder to get permission for each and every song. What a chore!

As Christians, we must respect the law of the land, and I see several burdens copyright poses Christians in order to stay compliant:
  • A financial burden to buy licensed copies. Of course, copyright holders may not charge for licenses, but the burden is still upon those who want to make the copy to obtain it.
  • A burden of a stagnant repertoire of songs. You see the same ol' songbooks at congregations everywhere and creating supplemental songbooks means obtaining licenses.
  • A burden on events like camps or lectureships. Who paid for those licenses? A congregation? The organizers? The attendees?
Recently, there has been great momentum behind the idea of the Creative Commons and their set of licenses to help facilitate free legal-sharing and copying of creative works like songs. Their licenses allow copyright holders to maintain their copyright while allowing certain uses of their work. Creators choose to allow free distribution of their works while maintaining any of the following:
  • Attribution - You must be given credit for your work
  • Share Alike - Derivative works must be given the same license as the original
  • Noncommercial - Copies or derivative works must not be used for profit
  • No derivative works - As it says, the original must remain intact without modification.
To me, the ideal license would be the "Attribution Share-Alike" or the "Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike". Authors can decide for themselves what combination of the above is best for them.

Think of the implications if all songs were licensed in such a way. Just imagine a congregation -- without the money to pay for the latest songbooks -- can now go to the web and download the songs that they think are appropriate and scriptural, and compile their own songbooks and supplements legally, for free! Furthermore, there's no more temptation to violate the law in order to praise God. What a blessing!

What do songwriters think about licensing their songs this way? Is there anything holding you back? I encourage you to consider it, comment here, and visit the Creative Commons website to learn more.

  • csusoftballgirl
    Happy Birthday, Darling! It is an honor to be in your house;-D (I don't know where that came from...our Star Trek Sundays must be warfing my mind! [pun intended]
    by csusoftballgirl at 08/12/09 7:20AM
  • dyfs
    Happy Birthday
    by dyfs at 08/12/09 8:56AM
  • adeline
    by adeline at 08/12/09 8:59AM
  • deusvitae
    Happy birthday. :D
    by deusvitae at 08/12/09 10:40AM
  • iloveponds
    Wishing you a fun-filled and delicious happy birthday!
    by iloveponds at 08/12/09 11:01AM
  • windham4life
    Happy birthday! :)
    by windham4life at 08/12/09 12:33PM
  • babyface
    Happy Birthday!
    by babyface at 08/12/09 12:38PM
  • lbell
    Happy Birthday Dan!!
    by lbell at 08/12/09 2:20PM
  • bekahv
    Happy Birthday!!! Wish I could have had the baby today. Then yall could have had the same bday!
    by bekahv at 08/12/09 2:49PM
  • kendralulu
    Happy Birthday! :)
    by kendralulu at 08/12/09 4:14PM
  • iamchriswindham
    Happy Birthday!
    by iamchriswindham at 08/12/09 4:24PM
  • bek
    O happy day!!!!
    by bek at 08/12/09 4:54PM
  • misslynn
    :):):) How did you like your gift?
    by misslynn at 08/13/09 10:38AM
  • misslynn
    BTW, I know that at CP we paid for a license to make copies of the songbook when needed - just in case you were worried about that.
    by misslynn at 08/13/09 10:39AM
  • dirk
    Happy B-Day!
    by dirk at 08/13/09 5:10PM
  • maryel
    Happy Belated Birthday! Hope it was wonderful.
    by maryel at 08/15/09 11:53AM

08/07/09 9:26PM

Welcome to the (the|techn)ology blog

I've created this blog to discuss two passions of my life: all things God and geek (with obvious deference to the former). These two strangers - often secluded in their own little world - occasionally meet in that jumbled brain of mine. This blog is their conversation.

God's word has survived and thrived for centuries without the modern technology of today. While the argument could be made that modern conveniences have done more to hinder the gospel than to help it, I believe these two can work together for good.

Here is a sampling of the topics I will be discussing in future posts:

  • Copyleft and hymns
  • Syndicated gospel meetings

Please leave comments and join the conversation!

Note to pleonast users: I will be keeping this blog on the website http://theotechnology.blogspot.com/. Although I intend to cross-post my entries here (barring any technical annoyances) I am disabling comments here so that comments can be kept at one place (there).

No crying baby? No problem!

Who would be so cruel to take a lollipop from a poor defenseless baby? I see the sad little tyke's bottom lip swelling up and his eyes well up with tears and it breaks my heart. No person would dare commit such a treacherous act!

But a big corporation? Those soulless, cruel, and faceless entities don't care when you steal from them. You don't face the people against whom you've trespassed, and in fact, that big business probably got what it deserved. It's their fault they made it so easy for you to steal from them in the first place!

I see people in my neighborhood "acquiring" some "extra" stone and brick for their landscaping projects from those piles allotted for new home construction. Others end up with some extra items in their shopping basket due to the negligence of the checkout clerk.

It's all to easy to steal when you don't see the families who are hurt or the blubbering baby who wants his lolli. Is it just me who feels strongly about this? When I see people do this I go nuclear (internally, of course. It might just be the jalapenos).
  • tom_bombadil
    I also want to blow up. Then again, I'm also eating jalapeƱos.
    by tom_bombadil at 06/09/09 9:18PM
  • misslynn
    No jalapenos - still want to explode!
    by misslynn at 06/10/09 5:46PM
  • ewalker
    Last week we went to one of those inflatable wonderlands (for the birthday party) and the adults from another party were taking drinks out of the snack area (that you were supposed to pay for, it had a sign) and I heard them say "nobody will see us". Ridiculous. And of course their little kids were with them, watching it all.
    by ewalker at 06/11/09 1:26PM
  • 4tea_something
    I would steal a lollipop from a baby, but I wouldn't do that other stuff. Seriously, it's the same mindset that occasionally causes An employee to steal from Kevin. "He won't miss it, & I'm more important than anyone else."
    by 4tea_something at 06/27/09 12:01PM
  • 4tea_something
    And I have no idea why "An" suddenly got capitalized.
    by 4tea_something at 06/27/09 12:02PM

The folly of optimization: Web mapping applications

Why is it that several popular web-based mapping services (Google/Yahoo maps, Mapquest) provide some insane results?

For example, if you're taking a cross country trip and route A takes 24 hours and route B takes 23 hours, 59 minutes, it will tell you to go route B every time. It doesn't matter how many toll roads are in the way or how ridiculous the path may be, if you can shave off a fraction of a second it will pick that route.

The problem is that they present you what they consider to be the most optimal path, but they only optimize on one vector: time.

Case 1: Say I plan to drive from Austin to St. Louis. According to Google Maps, that should take 13 hours, 9 minutes. All is well and good except that once I get to Oklahoma, I'll be taking a toll road. If I explicitly check the option to avoid tolls, my entire trip time will be 13 hours, 40 minutes - a measly 4% increase in trip time.

Case 2: I want to drive from Austin, TX to Jackson MS. Using Google Maps it tells me that it will take 8 hours, 54 minutes by going I35 to I20 for a total of 592 miles. This would require me to go due north to Dallas, and then due east to Shreveport. But I learned in math class that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and Hwy 79 makes a line from Austin to Shreveport with the side benefit of avoiding the deathtrap that is I35. For just a 7% increase in drive time (9 hours, 33 minutes) I save 7% of the mileage and 90% of my sanity.

While Google has come up with some of the greatest search engine algorithms on the planet, rest assured that the computers wont take over the planet a la Skynet any time soon. The old guy behind the counter of the Philips 66 can still beat the machines at telling you how to get from here to there.
  • texanmandy
    The toll road going through OK is actually the best way to get to St. Louis. You have to pay a little, but it is SOO much faster! :)
    by texanmandy at 05/19/09 11:29PM
  • iamchriswindham
    Although a little different from what you are talking about, I find that my GPS gets North and South sections of highways confused sometimes, no bueno. Going back to your subject, you should find a way to improve on this issue and make big bucks!
    by iamchriswindham at 05/20/09 1:00AM
  • jabberwock
    The problem with NOT taking the OK toll roads is that you have to go down US 69, aka Speed Trap Heaven. On one trip, I once saw nine different cars pulled over on that stretch of road.
    by jabberwock at 05/20/09 6:49AM
  • csusoftballgirl
    The Skynet reference was a nice touch:)
    by csusoftballgirl at 05/21/09 6:57AM
  • kendralulu
    Well the down side to Case 2 is that you'll have to drive through Milam County. Hey, we missed you last night. The movie was really good. :)
    by kendralulu at 05/23/09 8:14AM