Interesting Church Tech Links for May 17, 2009

May 17, 2009 by

Some more WordPress links today:

101 Techniques for a Powerful CMS using WordPress
A whole lot of interesting ways to make WordPress work more like a CMS. Some I’ve used, some I’ve not.
Broken Link Checker for WordPress
Been using this and it finally forced me to fix a few already known but broken image links
Analyze WordPress Performance – Plugin!
This plugin generates some interesting stats about the queries for generating a page. Not sure exactly what I’m going to do with the information right now but I’m glad to have another tool for when I will need it.
Change Admin Pagination on Posts, Pages and Comments
WordPress 2.8 looks like its going to have some nice upgrades, but for those who cannot wait, here’s some code to let you alter the number of comments, posts or pages listed in the admin module.
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Interesting Church Tech Links for May 3, 2009

May 3, 2009 by

Some good articles for WordPress and Google Apps.

Syndicated WordPress Plugin Keeps Your Brand Intact
A WordPress plugin that does URL shortening so you don’t need TinyURL.com or such and you keep your domain name in the resulting URL – good for keeping your brand identity in the steam for Twitter and such.
Mt. Gilead’s Experience with Google Apps for Domains – Part I and Part II
Some interesting analysis and experience with Google Apps for Domains
Embed WordPress Functions Outside WordPress
Used this technique to integrate my error pages into the WordPress template.

Auto-Email Web Server Errors with WordPress

April 30, 2009 by

404/403 Website Error Pages with PHP Auto-Mailer from Nettuts+ scrolled through my RSS feeds the other day.  I was thinking that since I have WordPress installed it should be really easy to add some auto-emailing to the 404 template page.  While there are a few 404 WordPress plugins I didn’t see any that added the emailing.  So I added this to the bottom of my 404.php file:

<?php
$s_headers = "";
$s_to = "" ;
$s_subject = "404 Page Generated" ;
$s_message = "<ul>" ;
$s_message .= "<li>Request URL:" . $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'] . "</li>";
$s_message .= "<li>Request Method:" . $_SERVER['REQUEST_METHOD'] . "</li>";
$s_message .= "<li>Referer:" . $_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER'] . "</li>";
$s_message .= "<li>Remote Address:" . $_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR'] . "</li>";
$s_message .= "</ul>";
mail($s_to, $s_subject, $s_message, $s_headers ) ;
?>

So when a 404 gets generated I now am informed what failed, where it came from, who it came from and if it was a GET or POST.

What about other errors?

Ok, that was easy for the 404 because it was built into the WP template system.  But what about other errors like 500 (server error) and 403 (forbidden)?  WP doesn’t have templates for them.  Well, its pretty easy to take an arbitrary PHP script and include the entire WP environment.  I created a 500.php file that looks something like this:

<?php
define('WP_USE_THEMES', true);
require_once('wp-load.php');
?>
<?php get_header(); ?>
<div id="content" class="narrowcolumn">
<h2 class="center">Server Error - Pray For Us</h2>
</div>
<?php get_sidebar(); ?>
<?php get_footer(); ?>
<?php /* all that emailing code I just wrote in the 404.php file but used "500" instead of 404 */ ?>

The define() and require_once() functions pull in the WordPress environment.  You only need to watch out for the relative path to the wp-load.php file since it depends on where your PHP script is executing.  Now, duplicate code is a poor programming practice and I had access to all of WP; that means I had access to the functions.php file for the current template.  So, I took the original emailing code and wrote it into a function in the functions.php file.  Of course, if I change the theme I’ll have to make sure this function moves also.  The alternative is to put it into a separate PHP script and include it like the wp-load.php script.  The last line of the 404.php and 500.php files now look like:

<?php mail_request_info( "404 Page" ) ; ?>

and

<?php mail_request_info( "500 Page" ) ; ?>

Wrapping Up

You’ll want to follow their tutorial for how to update your Apache environment to reference the 500.php in the event of a server error.  I also wrote a 403.php file that worked the same way.  This effort paid immediate dividends for me as I found a couple of minor broken links on the site.  Nothing an HTML validator wouldn’t have found but I don’t run one against the site unless I’m redesigning it.  Between these scripts and the Redirection Plugin there are now very few broken pages since the major redesign on the site.  One note of caution, if you’re a high-volume site you might get flooded with emails.

How evangelistic is your church web site?

April 24, 2009 by

Shouldn’t it be obvious?  I’ve seen many that are not, just like many churches are not.  It is good to have pastor’s blogging and current events showing a living church with real people.  It is good to use social media to connect the congregation with each other and the church leadership.  But what are you doing with “the web” to bring people to Christ?  My church site is doing a fair job of bringing existing Christians to our church.  But as I consider the content I have on the site, to be honest, it is not doing much to reach out to non-Christians.

With this in mind this year’s Internet Evangelism Day is April 26, 2009.  We need some strategy and plans for how we want to do our outreach.  It provides some resources to start.  I personally think we should be considering the web and our sites as a missions field.  Does anyone else treat their sites (or the web in general) in this way?

Question: What are you doing for site backups?

April 21, 2009 by

Recently I read of some web host failures. It got me thinking about what it would take to recover my church’s site. I periodically back up the WordPress db, but that doesn’t save the uploaded content.  So nothing would be preserved in the WP uploads folder or the sermons and other media that’s uploaded via FTP. If my host couldn’t recover the files we’d be very much out of luck and I don’t have local back ups of multiple years of MP3 and uploaded event pictures.

So how would you fair if your web host lost everything?  What is your disaster recovery strategy for your church’s web site?

Interesting Church Tech Links for April 19, 2009

April 19, 2009 by

Theme for today is “WordPress”.

WPSeek.com
I’ve been working on a new WordPress plugin and not being all that familiar with the details of the WP environment this site has been a valuable resource.
Removing Curly Quotes in WordPress
This has long been an annoyance and its a simple fix.
Embed WordPress Functions Outside WordPress
In case you’re writing some PHP outside of the WP environment and need to tie in, this is how you do it.
Top 50 WordPress Tutorials
There’s many “Top 1000” type posts out there – this is a good one from a good source.

Interesting Church Tech Links for April 5, 2009

April 5, 2009 by

Some links aimed more at those of us who are more technical than creative but need to do quality visual design work:

The Golden Ratio in Web Design
A nice breakdown of good general proportioning in side design and layout
8 Simple Ways to Improve Typography In Your Designs
Excellent review of standard typography considerations and what we can do about them with CSS
50 Useful Design Tools for Beautiful Web Typology
A nice collection of font and CSS tools
70 Expert Ideas For Better CSS Coding
This one’s a couple years old but still very much relevant for good CSS coding practices

Adwords and Blogging for Churches

March 28, 2009 by

Paul Steinbrueck recently wrote “Why AdWords IS Worthwhile for Churches” over at OurChurch.com. It nicely pulls together things I’ve been talking about and trying to encourage my church to do:

Adwords costs real money, but if used as part of a larger strategy I think it can serve as a cost effective tool.  Blogging is also important as it is “moving content” for better search engine indexing and provides more information about the chruch than a simple list of events ever could.

Interesting Church Tech Links for March 22, 2009

March 22, 2009 by

I seem to be in a planning and strategy mood these days…

20 Tips for Success in Church Technology Projects
All good things to remember
A Social Media Strategy for Ministry
People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology
Is Your Church Social?
“The physical church is limited by time and space. The social web has no limitations on time and space.”
Church Website Design, assess and improve your website to reach outsiders
There are so many aspects of church site content and design to consider it is hard to remember them all

Legally playing CDs at a church service

March 16, 2009 by

This might be old news to some, but in my research I found a fair amount of anecdotal “its ok” and some mis-information about the legalities of playing CD’s at a church service.  I needed to figure it out and I wanted the hard facts – the law itself.  This is what I’ve found out:

It is indeed legal to play the music from a CD as part of your service without violating the copyright.  It doesn’t come from the fair use provision (US Copyright Law section 107 “Limitations on exclusive rights: fair use” ).  This is a common misconception.  It instead comes from section 110 “Limitations on exclusive rights: exemption of certain performances and displays” paragraph 3.

“(3) performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or of a dramatico-musical work of a religious nature, or display of a work, in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly;”

So, it is fine to to play the CD as part of the service.  Now, this doesn’t include projecting lyrics or printing guitar tabs or choir parts, etc.; that’s all under CCLI.  This also doesn’t cover recording the audio as part of an audio or video recording – that’s a reproduction issue and paragraph 3 provides an exception for performance, not reproduction.  Also, there probably is some question about if you want to play a CD as background at a church potluck.  I suspect that since such a performance is not during the “course of services” that it would not be legal.  But, that is outside of my initial search parameters for playing music during a church service proper.

Here are my key sources:

I hope this is helpful.