web services

3) Here’s a Site that Will Fight for your Right to a Flight

The concept is simple. If, for any number of reasons, your flight with an airline goes south, the forces behind this site…

http://www.refund.me/en/index.php

will fight for the right to get a settlement. They’ll take 25% as their bounty, and give you the rest. You only pay if you win. How ’bout that? Has anyone actually tried these guys? It looks legit’, but I’d love to hear a real case study from our community. (Thanks to Caleb for the tip.)

2) Thoughts about Praying for Unreached Peoples –

In last week’s Brigada, we shared one participant’s search for a “pray for a particular unreached people group” template. See that item at…

http://www.brigada.org/2012/09/09_9450

One of the best models — and one of the most popular — is Pray4tunisia.

http://www.Pray4Tunisia.com

Last time we checked, over 100,000 people per DAY had committed to following and praying for their prayer items. The ringleader wrote to Brigada this past week, in response to last week’s request…

“We’ve tried to make it easy to adapt much of what we’ve done (for example offering a download with hundreds of prayers that could be adapted).

Someone said to us that we have to either control access (who subscribes) or content (what is shared).  We highly recommend controlling content (making it “safe” for anyone , even the “bad guys” to be able to see).  Controlling subscribers is a manpower nightmare and is deceptively not-secure because if even ONE person who has access to the information loses a laptop, gets hacked, or doesn’t use a VPN that terminates in the same country where all your information is hosted, has his/her VPN disconnect suddenly, you’ve suddenly endangered people.

Let us know how we can help–particularly if you’ve got a church planting focus (we wouldn’t know much about other things).

www.pray4tunisia.com

(Thanks to the folks who make Pray4Tunisia a reality for the church… and a labor of love, we’re sure, for all those who make it happen.

6) What’s the Best Web Platform for Missionaries? –

We get requests from time to time from folks searching out the best way to stage a new missionary  website. As you know, we highly recommend Cloversites. See our write-up here…

http://www.brigada.org/2010/04/25_4554

However, we also recognize that the start-up cost for such a comprehensive and powerful service might be prohibitive for some. A recent participant recommended…

http://www.ministryhome.org

They charge just $99 a year, or $9.99 a month. He noticed that Cru uses them (formerly Campus Crusade). See their site at…

http://www.cccministry.org

I’ve actually held on to a sample of their websites since 2007 or so. I keep waiting for them to add an https “secure socket” service. So far, it appears they offer nothing that is truly secure. Do you know of other options? If so, please click “Comment” below and let us know. Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

2) New Web Development Tool is Superior for Multiple Users –

I first heard about Bark Communications from a mega-church pastor in Columbus, Ohio. I was suggesting Clover, which is a good website development engine in and of itself. (It’s still the tool we use here at Team Expansion, in fact. Learn more about Clover at

 

http://www.cloversites.com/f/friendsofbrigada

 

Clover gives you lots of great tools so your site can look and be organized, simple, and attractive. But if you are thinking you might have multiple users, Clover is limited. (Each site offers only one user name.) For a larger organization, that’s kind of limiting — if everything has to go through one person.

 

Sure you could use open source tools, but — having used two or three of those over time, I can tell you first hand, it’s not easy. Some of the changes you’ll want to make… Some of the cool features you’ll want to incorporate…. well, let’s just say — it’s a chore.

 

Enter Bark Communications.

 

http://business.barkbuilder.com/index.cfm?amaffid=13556&amsiteid=13556

 

Bark gives you (right out of the box) an amazingly versatile toolbox with features that will excite your fancy — and inform your constituents. For an example, check out what we’ve done so far at…

 

www.U4theU.com

 

Keep in mind, there’s not a single graphic arts person represented in any of that site. We’re all volunteers in U4theU … and we’ve done the entire site in our spare time between normal responsibilities in our respective missions and churches. It’s all been done by lay people who have no clue about creative arts. But Bark is good enough that it helps you with everything from multiple contributors (and their stories), embedded videos, lots of nice banners (and even ads, if you want), newsletter forms, and even a fairly decent bulk emailer. The list is practically endless — photo tools, staff pages, donor tools, news pages, audio/video/media engines, lots of pre-designed templates (to keep you out of design trouble), and tons more. And one of the greatest factors is — it’s affordable. Check it out at the link above. (And — truthfully — if you decide to sign on, part of your sign-on fee becomes a gift to Brigada. But keep in mind, we subscribed and began using Bark Communications because it was good. Then, months afterward, we asked the designers — how do we refer this to others. They literally had to invent a way. So it wasn’t a marketing deal. It was one beggar telling another where to find bread.) (Steve, thanks again for recommending Radiant Tools and their Bark non-profit division.)

8) Great Time to Take Another Look at Clover (for Web Pages)–

If you haven’t looked lately at Clover, it’s probably time to take a second glance. For example, this past week, they upgraded their “picture pages” and recently, they released a ton of other widgets at no extra charge to customers. Extremely artsy set of tools which will appeal deeply to your Mac-oriented set. On the web at…

 

http://www.cloversites.com/f/friendsofbrigada

 

By the way, if you enroll as a customer during August, your decision costs you nothing extra — but Brigada will receive a $200 thank-you gift directly from Clover, simply because you picked up Clover as your webpage vendor solution. So check it out; if it’ll work for you, you’ll be doubling the monetary gift to Brigada . . . and I hope it’ll work for you.

1) Web and Filemaker Programmers/Hobbyists for God’s Kingdom –

Robby is on the search for Web and/or Filemaker Programmers or Hobbyists who would like to collaborate on Kingdom-oriented projects.

If you know someone who fits that description, encourage them to email Robby at

RobbyQButleratgmaildotcom

 

Robby says thanks!

6) How to Set Up a Network that will Filter Unwanted Web Traffic –

Thanks to Brigada participant, Bill, who just wrote, “We just set up a library for a K-8 school run by an inner-city ministry (City Impact, San Francisco.) Part of the set-up involved a handful of laptops and other donated computers. We wanted to make sure the kids weren’t exposed to pornography, and other undesirable sites.”

 

Bill explained, “I used OpenDNS …

http://www.opendns.com

 

“It’s a free service that filters and blocks unwanted web traffic. Very easy set-up, and multiple levels of control. Basically routes all traffic through their constantly-updated filters. Nice.” Thanks for the tip, Bill!!!

1) What’s your Favorite Inexpensive Hosting Solution? –

Boyd wants to know. He wrote this past week, “Many missionaries and appointees want something more significant than a blog, such as a personal website that is interactive. For example, you put a prayer letter on-line with a response coupon. You want people to fill out the coupon and have it come back to you. Or have your website link to your mission for donations and more.” In his opinion, most programs are too expensive. Friends have pointed him to solutions like RapidWeaver (Mac only, $50, supposedly easy and intuitive). His max is $300. Where would you send him? He also says he wants “to avoid a significant learning curve (like DreamWeaver).” Would you recommend …

http://www.freeway.com ???

http://www.squarespace.com ???

http://www.wordpress.org ??? (to download & install the files) or…

http://www.wordpress.com ??? (to host them on WordPress servers)

Something else?

Also, a couple of Boyd’s friends are looking to develop a web-hosting solution specifically for missionaries. What components would you like to see in it? Please click “comment” below and give your opinion. Thanks in advance for any input you can offer.

1) Fun Website Shows Real-Time Decisions for Christ –

Check it out…

http://greatcommission2020.com/

Look at the volume they’re getting — 200,000 visits in a day! This group (Global Media Outreach, with a home page of

http://www.globalmediaoutreach.com/

have seen their sites *soar* in visits, with some pages now having made it into the top “1000 most visited sites on the web.” Hats off and bravo, Global Media guys! (Thanks to the group at Finishing the Task who shared that link with me.)

3) How do you Know How Good your website is? –

websitegraderNow you can. Browse to…

http://www.websitegrader.com

It’s fun to compare your own site to “competitors.” Now granted, there’s no competition among lighthouses. But let’s just say we *all* want to attract more ‘hits’ to our sites. Compare yourself to other agencies, churches, or individuals… and see what you come up with. And thanks to those who have linked to Brigada, by the way! :-)

http://websitegrader.com/site/www.brigada.org

You can also ask the same folks to grade your Facebook page [but see my warning below first!] at…

http://facebook.grader.com/

Of course, maybe you’ll feel fishy putting in your Facebook log-in information. (I didn’t, by the way.) I can’t find any indication anywhere on the web that these guys are scammers. But, let the buyer beware, just the same. Still, it’s a cool idea… even though I couldn’t bring myself to log on there.

6) Need a Great Website Tonight?

Never Fear. Clover is here. Check ‘em out at…

http://www.cloversites.com/f/friendsofbrigada

See all the features they have now, as well as the new features they’ll have starting Apr. 28th in their “2.0″ service (which will be the same price, by the way; and current users will be upgraded automatically for free).

http://www.cloversites.com/greenhouse-updates

I personally have set up two different sites with this service. Like fallin’ off a log. Try them. Unlike other flash-based sites, the folks at Clover have figured out how to optimize flash for search engines. Hard to believe? Just go to your favorite search engine and put in, in quotes, the phrase “Multiply the Momentum”. Odds are, the first site listed out of 280,000 will be one of my Cloversites. (mtm2010.com) I’m tellin’ ya — they’re good. What’s more, they’re *fast*. Yes, the $1000 set-up fee is hefty, but after that, you pay just $20/mo. But the best part is, your site will pop. Graphics, pictures, text — it’ll all be easy to update and will look great.

4) Can you Point my Buddy to anyone Using Facebook for Outreach? –

A buddy of mine working in a very sensitive field would like to know. He’ll use his VPN to watch this page directly. He wrote, “Two of the websites we made that got about 250K hits were recently blocked so we’re looking into alternatives.” Would you be able to direct him to any Facebook apps that would be useful in ministry? (Please… and this is Doug talking… no farms or any other sort of animal that you raise, no mass valentines to everyone in your address book, and especially no mafia wars.) :-) Just click into the Comment box below to give him ideas. Thanks in advance.

3) Best Bet for an Attractive, Easy-to-Use Church/Agency Website

I’ve gone on record saying, “I don’t know of a single, solitary more effective web-authoring solution for the non-web-professional.” Just browse to…

http://www.cloversites.com/f/friendsofbrigada

and be sure to notice the upgrades they’ll do in April — to “Greenhouse 2.0.” Interestingly, once these new capabilities come online, some web-professionals might start using Clover as well, just because it’ll be so much easier than anything else… yet it’ll look like they did the site professionally, in Flash.

4) ACMC (Advancing Churches in Missions Commitment) Conferences

Three United States Regional Conferences are scheduled for early 2010. ACMC conferences are great for folks who are interested in missions and want their churches to be more effective in reaching the world. The speakers and workshops are helpful and interesting. The issues addressed are issues you are dealing with in your church.  Check out:

http://www.acmc.org/conferences

to download brochures and to get more info.

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