Being Multilingual is Hard

Sure, most of the latest stuff I’ve written here has either been church-related or personal stuff that no one really cares about. What about the meaningless stuff I do from 9-5 called work?

As a web developer, I try to keep a fairly flexible toolbox. It’s extremely important to stay current on available technologies, but at the same time, equally as important to pay attention to what works.

In the same way that an international businessman (or man of mystery) might wish to be semi-fluent in multiple languages, the same holds true for those of us in technology. Each client or project requires its own unique set of tools. In the web world, these tools consist of server hardware, operating systems, web servers, database servers, server-side development languages, client-side development languages, web services, a variety of markup and transformational languages, CSS, graphic design, and a ginormous number of plugins, APIs and libraries. Add to that things like usability, accessibility, standards and the like, and you can see the difficulty.

Usually, a developer or a team may specialize in a set of tools. Additionally, that team may consist of a project manager, a handful of backend developers, a database administrator, a user interface designer, and a usability specialist. Granted, that team may be a little robust for a simple content-managed marketing site and better suited for a large-scale web-based application. The point is there is a great deal more that goes into this business than buying a template online, creating a Microsoft Word document & saving it as HTML or even using Dreamweaver.

Since the days of Geocities, Tripod, and other free website providers, there has been a perception that web design is easy. The market became (and remains) saturated with brothers, cousins, uncles, stay-at-home-moms, and friends-of-friends that can use Frontpage and download scripts to make a website functional. Then there are professional software engineers who have lived in the desktop world, but the market has demanded that they come to the dark side of web development. This usually involves using similar tools, but comes with those developers not understanding the differences between the web and the desktop. Then we have extremely talented designers who come from the world of advertising and try to use print philosophies on the web, only to then complain that the web is boring and not flexible enough to meet their needs.

I say this all because I just wrapped up a stretch where I was involved in three projects simultaneously, each using a completely different tool set. My head still hasn’t stopped spinning. One is based completely on Microsoft technologies. Another I’m implementing using an open source content-management system using PHP & Mysql. And the third is a custom application developed using Ruby on Rails. Don’t worry if you don’t understand or care about any of those names or acronyms because I don’t either. Two of those three were custom designed by me, with the third having a second phase that will include a custom design.

Being self-employed has allowed me the luxury of being able to use several skills to execute projects. The ability to blend the creative and the technical keeps my overhead pretty low. However, I also know my limits. There are definitely things I can’t do. And, having been in this industry for a decade, I understand the constraints of the medium — what works and what doesn’t.

The moral of this story is simply that whatever business you’re in, there are certain barriers of entry. My business happens to have very low barriers, creating a ridiculously cutthroat environment. Choose your culture carefully. Understand the medium in which you work. Fill your toolbox with the right tools. These may not be the easiest or even the best, but as long as they’re the right tools, you’re making your job that much more successful. Know and understand the limits of that medium, but most importantly, know and understand your own limits. Having a passion for what you do helps as well. It keeps you interested in continually learning more and not relying on prefab techniques, but exploring new ways to accomplish old tasks.

LogoMaid Steals Logos

This may not concern the two of you who read this blog, but it’s a worthy cause, so I thought I’d use my measly Google page rank of 4/10 and send some link love to a fellow designer and the other blogs picking up the story. Digg has it too, if you care.

Dan Cederholm is a designer of websites, logos, icons, etc. In December, he re-branded his site with a new logo. A few days ago, he found this blatant rip-off for sale on the LogoMaid website. According to their website, LogoMaid is

an amazing collection of 3600 pre-designed logos from! as low as $19!

Predesigned is right, folks. Now, I’ve been involved in some pretty lengthy discussions on branding, design, inspiration, copyright, intellectual property, etc. Where is the line drawn? It’s actually rather gray. However, this one is a pretty blatant rip by LogoMaid.

To add fuel to the fire, Paul Viluda of Vilords media and proprietor of LogoMaid, shares that the logo in question was designed for a client in “October, I believe” and unused, and subsequently being posted for sale on LogoMaid’s website. He therefore suggests that he is “strongly considering a lawsuit against simplebits not only because of the logo, but also the fact that you are harming our goodwill.” Goodwill aside, all metadata and timestamps surrounding anything remotely involving the LogoMaid logo come AFTER Dan’s re-brand post of December 4, 2006, not to mention his first preview of the logo on November 17, 2006. Oh, and did I mention that Mr. Viluda has created multiple Flickr accounts to attempt to back up his original Vilords user?

As if that weren’t enough, it didn’t take long for a few sleuthing users to find other suggested rips. Not surprisingly, the first is only a screenshot, as the logo has been removed from LogoMaid’s catalog (after being moved around from unique to non-unique categories). The short list (some more blatant than others):

  • Original:

    LogoMaid’s copy:
  • Original:

    LogoMaid’s copy:
  • Original:

    LogoMaid’s copy:
  • Original:

    LogoMaid’s copy:

Bombarded with Evangelism

I find it fun to go through times like I am currently. I’ve been pretty frustrated with a lot of things, and stressed with the amount of things in which I am involved. So, when I get on a soapbox like I have been lately with evangelism, it’s gratifying to have it affirmed by the things around me.

Not more than 24 hours after this post, I happened upon a link to Issue 4, 2006 of the WCA News. The particular issue happens to be focused heavily on evangelism and affirmed everything that has been floating in my head lately. I’ll pull out some highlights, but please take some time to read the issue in your spare time.

The first article, titled “Evangelism in 3-D” highlights Willow’s 3-D philosophy: Develop Friendships, Discover Stories and Discern Next Steps. Here’s a quip about the root problem of evangelism today:

People hate evangelism. Christians shy away from it. They’re afraid of it, discouraged by it and feel guilty when they fail to drag a seeker across the line of faith. If Christians dread evangelism, non-Christians despise it. They feel pressured, preached at, cornered, judged, condemned and reduced to spiritual projects. “Somewhere along the line, we’ve forgotten what evangelism is really about and we’ve reduced the process to simply inviting people to a weekend service,” says Willow Creek’s Director of Neighborhood Evangelism, Garry Poole. This is a problem.

This is a serious problem, folks. The statement “…they fail to drag a seeker across the line of faith” sums it up too plainly. This isn’t a task at which we can fail.

The same article also offers some responses to the question “what is your knee-jerk reaction to the word evangelism?” You can read for yourself to see some pretty scary responses. Poole also had this to say:

“We needed to shift from ‘doing community in the church’ to ‘doing church in the community,’”

And this:

Developing friendships is showing an authentic interest in their interests. “Don’t try to be interesting, just be interested.”

And this:

And whatever you do, don’t view your neighbor as a project. No one wants to be reduced to a spiritual project just so you can check them off your list.

How many times do we write a name down on a card and… yeah. Poole said this, too:

Christians often view evangelism as getting the seeker to listen to us while we share a verbal witness — give our testimony in the hopes they will better understand the gospel… We’re omitting a critical part of the process — the other person’s story. Non-Christians are eager to tell their stories.

Amen, brother. I am in the midst of another amazing book titled The Revolutionary Communicator. The first principle in that book is that communication is about listening. People just want someone to listen and be authentic.

There is a great deal more to learn from that article, but let’s move on to one by Bill Hybels, the Senior Pastor at Willow. In Just Walk Across the Room (also the title of his new book), Bill describes a relationship he had with his son’s childhood soccer coach, Brian. It is a relationship that was Spirit-led and took years to yield a new believer, surprising no one more than Bill himself. He nurtured the relationship on Brian’s terms, serving him, listening to him and just being a friend. Relationships and serving others goes a very long way to expanding the Kingdom.

And finally, an article titled Connections: The Bridge to Grace, also highlights the importance of relationships with an interesting story. The author’s wife was in the middle of an evangelism course and had an assignment to have evanglistic conversations each week (what is an “evangelistic” conversation, anyway?). He describes a conversation where her close friend opened up and shared some things that completely redefined their relationship…

A soul connection was made. For the first time in many years, this friend saw Jesus and the church in a different light — a very positive light!

Interestingly, though…

…she flunked with an “F”… because she failed to present the plan of salvation… and that was the assignment.

Granted, this was an assignment for a graded class, but sadly, I feel like this is exactly how we view our role in evangelism — an assignment that gets graded.

While tracts, strategies and events are brilliant tools perfect for certain situations, evangelism is about “walking across the room” and building relationships. The Bible tells us to be prepared to answer questions, but not to shout those answers to those who are not listening.

I didn’t plan on writing this, but I felt the need. Who knows if there will be more. Stay tuned.

More on “The Bubble”

A recent Bible Study led to a discussion on asking for signs from God. How do we know it’s a sign from God? What do we say to those who need to “see to believe?” It turned into a discussion about “the lost” and “the non-believers” and how we as Christians prove God’s existence to “them”.

Only recently have I felt our church making an effort to tear down that invisible wall around our group of believers and really make our community more than an afterthought. Evangelism tends to be something we make about “us and them” and appears in events like we’re doing this weekend which, while effective, is just an event.

We as Christians continue on with our defensive bubble, asking those around us to come in and hear what we have to say, or with this idea that we have something to prove. We make Christianity more about religion than about relationships.

Christianity is not exclusive. It isn’t something we do. It is something we are. I believe the self-inflicted bubble has contributed more to the angst against believers than anything else. Where is the humility in being set apart? We take that so literally that we seclude ourselves. Or, in a thinly veiled attempt at evangelism, we try to convince this “them” that we have something “they” should want.
It is not our job to prove anything. It is our job to serve those in need. It is our job to serve those not in need. The Holy Spirit does the tugging.

Please, do not take this to mean that I’m against sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ or that I’m encouraging a strictly passive approach to sharing (or not sharing) the Gospel. I believe wholeheartedly in the Great Commission. I just feel like we tend to look at it more as a job or an obligation than a heartfelt desire to expand the Kingdom. We put such emphasis on telling people about Jesus, that we completely skip over the first step of building a relationship and meeting the needs of people.

If we truly want to make a difference, there is no convincing to be done. There is only serving.