How Does Your Tech Team Measure Success?

In most technology-savvy churches, a great deal of time and effort goes into creating the visual presentations that the congregation sees on Sunday.  The question is:  how do we know when all that effort has been worth it?  Is success based on receiving comments such as ‘I love that video you showed today’ or ‘those were cool graphics’ or ‘that background went well with that song’?

The short answer is ‘NO!’  Success is achieved when what we do has helped the church reach one or more of its corporate goals.  These are goals such as leading people into true worship of Father God, imparting spiritual (Biblical) truth in a way that it is received at the heart level, and seeing people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

There are two components that factor into our success:  the positive elements we add to the service (meaning what we put on the screen) and the negative distractions that we are able to minimize.  Obviously, defining success this way has implications for what we choose to put on the screen. We focus not on what necessarily looks the best, but rather what is the most effective; not on what has the highest ‘phat’ factor, but what images help to move the congregation into a deeper worship and understanding of God.  This is not to say that we should not be concerned with the quality of what we are presenting (poor quality distracts), but rather that our concentration is on reaching our goals that gain ground for the kingdom of God.

We also want to minimize distractions that would take away from a person’s focused worship or detract from what God was wanting to communicate through His Word.  Distractions can take the form of unnecessary time delays, jarring appearances or disappearances of projected images, text that is hard to read, and motion of graphics that is beyond what is appropriate or helpful.  Many of these can be avoided by taking the time to rehearse the presentation prior to the service and make any necessary adjustments.

We are part of a body that has a defined mission, and the bottom line is that we keep a kingdom focus, not a self-centered (‘can’t I do cool stuff’) focus.  Comments like:

‘When that sunset came up behind the lyrics, I thought my heart was going to burst with worship’


‘The guy in that video – that was my story, and I knew God was speaking to me that it was time’

are the kind that mean we are having true success.  Be encouraged to pursue effectiveness in this important ministry to which God has called you.

College Station trip

Haven’t been back here since… Patti’s seminar back when she did that presentation.  It was a multi-function meeting.  First i wanted to get to meet the IT staff at A&M that i’ve found myself working more and more with.  Put a face to the name and an idea of the operation.  I got in and went straight to the Agrilife anex building to get myself acquainted.  Right from the get-go we talked about stuff going on in weslaco, things i would like to work on and they talked about stuff going on up there and where our projects meet in the middle.

From there i checked into the hotel.  It was actually an extended stay suite called the Vineyard so a bit nicer than a hotel.  Very comfy.  From there i drove my way over to my aunt Yolanda’s thanks to the very handy map’s app for iPhone.  (i’m horrible with directions but i can follow the little blue line)  Got to visit with them.  Then went over to my cousin Linda’s and got to see some more family there and dinner too!  After that entered a new route for walmart, picked up some plastic food containers, then to winersnitzel for two family packs of chilidogs.  You’ve probably heard me rave about these chili dogs.  They really are not anything extraordinary about them.. but for some reason, their is nothing else like them.  I can taste the even now as i think of the savor of a winersnitzel dog.  Back to the hotel, stored the 20 dogs in the containers and loaded them in the fridge.

The next day back to A&M for some more meetings.  Met back up with one of the IT guys and we walked over to Rudder Tower for our first meeting.  This was a training mostly on some new software they are deploying.  Very slick actually.  Got finished with that and went over to meet with Gloria, an old family friend from Bryan.  Drove by the old homestead, visited the old church.  Then back to A&M.  This time i had some time before my next meeting so decided to do some sight seeing.  Anyone who’s been to A&M knows about the many traditions out there.  There’s a saying, if you do something twice, they make a tradition of it.  Driving around i could see the wall of Bonfire Memorial, so i decided to check it out.  Went up the wall and right from the start it was that quiet somber feeling all over again.  Very similar to being at ground zero in NYC.  Everything about the memorial was very symbolic.  The wall for example..

Visitors enter the memorial at Tradition Plaza, whose vertical wall serve as a barrier between the peace and intimacy of the memorial and the outside world. The wall is engraved with The Last Corps Trip, the poem traditionally recited before the lighting of each year’s Bonfire; the view above the lower wall draws visitors into the memorial via History Walk.


The “History Walk” was a pathway to the actual memorial.  The ground covered in dark grey and black smooth gravel, the granite slab along the pathway.  I noticed a date engraved at the beginning of the stone.  1909.  The first year bonfire burned.  89 blocks in all.  Notches were cut out in each stone representing a bonfire for that year.  A small amber light within the stone glowed.  Three of the notches had plaques in them, each with a name in them.  Those plaques represented a person who perished that year during the bonfire.  Another stone along the pathway was not grey granite like the rest but was all black.  That represented the year the President Kennedy was killed.  The bonfire was dismantled log-by-log in respect for the fallen president that year. 

Then at the end of the walkway came the actual memorial.  A ring made up of 27 granite blocks with 12 portals created the “Spirit-Ring” This recreates the perimeter fence around the actual bonfire.  on the ring itself were more plaques representing those injured, but left blank representing all those injured during the 90 years. 

Each the portals has a portrait and signature of each of those killed along the left side, the right side a written memorial and along the floor the person’s hometown.  Through the portal you could access the grass, in the center was another plaque.  Being totally overwhelmed with everyone’s memorial out there and the sollemness and peace of the memorial, i didn’t feel right walking out there but according to the brochure,

At the ring’s center is a black-granite marker, 18 inches in diameter, representing the Bonfire stack’s Centerpole. Positioned on the exact spot used for Centerpole, the marker is engraved with the date and time of the collapse: 11-18-1999 2:42 a.m.

Kind of made it hard to go back on the with the rest of the day.

Made it back to rudder tower for another meeting this time on the internet threat out there, and how the bad guys get in.  It was actually scary the reality of ever thing out there.  Check out this blog of the guy who was doing the presentation about some of the stuff the bad guys are doing out there.

After the presentation met back with with guys in the IT office, ending up talking way longer that i was planning on.  Ended up trying to rush back to the airport.  Come to find out the name “airport” on my iphone took me some where completely different.  So i put in the name of the airport and now i’m back on track, except i get to the exit and think i know where i’m going, yeah i end up at the private airstrip, not the main terminal.  so back on the road literally the car rental return slot, throw the keys in the drop box and huff it up the stairs to the ticket counter.  The flight aka, roller coster ride, back to houston was rough.  The first time i’ve ever got sick on a flight. 

Finally get home and open my luggage.  and find the card from tsa saying they’ve checked my bag, nothing odd.. but i can just imagine that guy going home to his family, “you’ll never guess what i saw in this guys bag!  20 winersnitzel hot dogs cold and packed in this guys luggage”

a long night at the radio station..

and i don’t even work there anymore!  Tuesday evening there was some really bad storms, i was driving to the weekly tuesday evening dinner at the Leals and i was listening to 105.5 just for a change of pace.  When i was about to the 281 interchange i heard the signal go silent.  i was going to flip to the other dials but a few seconds later it was back on.  ok.. that was weird but not really my problem anymore.  a few moments later Milton is calling in a panic. 

Well.. 8 hours later pretty much came to the conclusion that lightening hit the tower and took out all of the video displays in all of the control rooms as well as a few other pieces of electronics including the entire phone system.  Toasted the cpu card.  all that the phones were showing on the display was “major alarm”

iPhone 040

change your world

ok, that title has nothing to do with any of this but that’s kind of how i feel about my new job. I haven’t posted any about it since i left so i better catch you guys up with what’s going on.  from last Thursday through Monday, i was on a mini vacation debriefing from my old job and getting some much needed rest.  Come tuesday i was ready to hit the ground running at my new job.  I am the System Analyst for Agrilife Research a part of the Texas A&M system.  The guy currently taking care of their computers actually knows his stuff pretty well.  I overheard him diagnosing a problem with a dns server over a vpn and another problem with an external smtp server.  So, after spending the morning doing the mandatory sexual harassment training, ethics training, computer saftey training, etc etc..  I got to shadow the current computer guy, repairing hardware in a mac, connecting a pc to a network printer, safari problems.. just liittle things here and there, but the more i got to walk around and see how things were being done, i’m taking this all in and making notes, seeing how can be better.  so by the 2nd day, i’ve got a pretty good size list of things that can keep me busy for a while.  later that day we go into a meeting and they hand me a list of things they could use help with from their system analyst.  pretty much everything on their list was covered by my list previously made.  and almost all under the umbrella of setting up an Active Directory / Open Directory environment.  A&M uses this really extensive LDAP system that i’ll probably need to find a way to integrate into what my thoughts are.  Tomorrow i get to meet with the guys up in college station to see about getting our ideas together and finding out how much we can actually accomplish. 

So all in all.. I’m super excited about this job.  I love the atmosphere and the people.  I have a very spacious office area in the administration part of the building as well as a work area within the data center itself.  The DC is pretty much empty now, just a router, core switch, and a couple of novel servers that don’t seam to be doing anything of any importance that i can tell atleast.  So i have alot of room to grow into.  The electrician guy came by today asking about a cooling system for the DC.  I threw some numbers together and the finall recommendation was something like.. after i get done in there.. your going to need many more AC circuits as well as several tons of cooling in there.  at least for the first phase of upgrades.  The work environment is so much more welcoming too.  Even before i officially started they were asking what computer i wanted, what chair i wanted.. what supplies i needed, shirt size.  On my first day my chair was their waiting for me.. unopened computer boxes, new staff shirt, id badge, keys, everything i need to make a productive first week. 

I went by the old office today to help them with a few things.  It was really strange being back their.  instantly i could feel the difference.  just as instantly, i knew i didn’t have any regrets about my decision to move on.  Now it’s a new adventure.. new accomplishments to make, new things to learn, and many new friends to begin making. 

Customer Service (or lack thereof)

Is customer service just going to the toilet now a day?  Back in April of this year, i opened two trouble tickets with Sprint and T-Mobile.  Both carriers were having problems dialing our studios.  I first tried reporting the problem as a regular cell phone user.  “Hi, i’m having trouble dialing some numbers from my cell phone.  They work with my other cell phone but not with yours”  These conversations could last hours.  Stuff like “take out the battery and put it back in” “Are you in a remote area, under a bridge or tunnel?” “is their any bad weather out there”  Quite frustrating.  Most of the time, after several hours they would say something like the problem isn’t with us, it’s with the other carrier.   One of my favorite responses from t-mobile was “we can’t guarantee that calls will go through when you dial, it’s in your contract sir”

Perhaps I’m just spoiled and used to having problems resolved when i report them.  We have an amazing phone company here at the studio that has been unlike any service I’ve ever gotten.  I can literally email or call the director directly and get issues resolved pretty much immediately. 

Another company that has an amazing customer service track record is Fog Creek.  I wish more companies on my speed dial were like them.

So i finally had to get a hold of our national sales rep for both sprint and tmobile, send them a dissertation with my woes, they forwarded it to their engineers and finally got my sprint issue resolved and a phone call from tmobile this morning that was the most promising yet.  We’ll see how this goes.

helps if you plug it in

this morning i got a call from Marilda, an old friend.  She noticed she couldn’t hear KTEX on her car radio and thought about me.  Odd, i thought.. but didn’t think to tune it in to verify.  I was getting ready to take a shower and then Mr. meek called that KTEX and KBFM were both silent.  Transmitters were on but only silence on the air.  Hum.. i didn’t get a call from the slience sensor so the computers must be running. 

I checked my email and found 4 or 5 alarms sent.  odd.  that many systems can’t be off at the same time.  must be instrumentation. 

So i start heading to the office, mr meek called from the transmitter, no signal was being sent to the tower and the antenna didn’t appear to be obstructed or moved or gone for that mater.  then i get a call from a sales rep saying he couldn’t print.  All of a sudden things start clicking in to place in my head, starguides reported off… file server #1 reported off, XDS receiver reported off, and STLs off too?  Were all those alarm i disregarded actually real alarms?  one quick way to check, i tuned into 1700 to see if ABC was coming in, silence.  But why didn’t i get an alarm call?  a week ago i moved the power source for the alarm system over to a battery backup for surge protection. 

The only consistency about all these faults were that one UPS.  Mr meek’s on the phone again, i knew what his next report would be “The entire rack is powered off” about that time i’m walking in the door, sure enough the last two racks were dark.  walked around the back of the rack, took the power going out of the ups (which was off too) and plugged it directly into the wall, the lighting dimmed quickly as about 1500Kva suddenly began being pulled all at once and in the background i heard KBFM began playing from the control room. 

Kind of reminded me of the airplane movie where the guy plugged the power cord back in and and everything began working again.  Now to spend about $1800 on a new UPS…

Kung Pao

no.. it’s not one of ours, but a very interesting site none the less.

some guys have all the luck, er time.

Not me clearly,

been working on another secret project at the radio station that primarly invovles my development and implementation as well as some things for Billy do to which me’s he’s going to ask me to most of them for him.  This get’s kicked into high gear next week, the week i tried to take vacation.  Tommrow elaine hollar starts her stent here.  Saturday, sunday, monday, tuesday and wednesday.

then tursday Richest of fare show up so i need to have the stage cleared after elain and before they show up to setup a concert type stage.  they play friday night, saturday morning/afternoon workshops, saturday night, sunday morning and sunday night.  And on top of that, an event at the live stock show that saturday, two new satelite shows on saturday that i’m gonig to have to be at the station for at the same time i’m at this night-o-worship at church.

Did a career day thing at my old alma-mater this morning.  it was actually fun.  I took some equiptment to demostrate and let the kids talk “on the radio”.  i was strange being back their.  i never minded school all that much, just all the short little people.

finally over

this was another long week.

worked on finishing a promo video for John Keller, had a new talk show buy some time on one of our stations so i had to get that wired up.  a talk show is not like a normal music show.  tuesday i spent most of the night at the studio wiring that show up, then wednesday night was the show which started at 10 and ended at midnight so another long night, ended up spending thursday in bed most of the day.  today we got some of the details for the new premium content stuff so that’s going to be my next chore.  and what’s worse, i had planned on taking my “vacation” the same week we are deploying the new programing, but i was taking the “vacation” to be at church to run the elaine hollar stuff as well as get ready for the seminars the day after elaine.  argh…

Career Day

I was doing some work in at the radio station in preparation for the George Strait contest they are doing. 100th caller wins tickets to this show. yeah… a little taxing on my system so i need to reallocate some stuff around. Accidentally caused the whole thing to reboot. as it came back up im’ watching the readout on my screen. Mostly for diagnostic purposed but i’m also able to keep tabs on all calls comming in and out of the system. at that same moment, i noticed a call from a San Isidro number dial into irene’s desk. Why would someone from SI be calling promotions? Being the nosey self i am, i asked her about it. They are doing a career day and wanted someone from the radio station to go out there and do a presentation. I mentioned that SI was my old alma mater and volunteered to go out there. Now.. i have to come up with a way to make a presentation that would be interesting talking about what i do. I may just take a mini FM transmitter, a mic and cd player and let the kids “go on the air” Maybe even a HD radio (assuming they can pick it up way out there) This promises to be fun. starts at 9 in the morning though, i wonder if there is a hotel i could stay at over there rather than wake up at some ungodly hour.

Serenity now

The weekend was like any other.  Had a dept meeting with the media guys to talk about April.  It’s going to be a busy month for us.  Elaine Hollar is coming this month, The worship conference is this month.  we have a few upgrade and repair projects and just lots we needed to work on the calendar with them.  The worship conference group decided to have their meeting on the same day and i really wanted to get to find out what’s going on with that so i stuck around for that one and we just ended up combining the two together.  Romeo called that they wanted to go on a bike ride.  I had just gotten a cushion for my bike so i was ready to try it out. 

We ended up going to Santa Anna on their bike trail.  I had no idea it was 7 miles, one way.  I made it though.  I make the kids drag my lifeless body out of their so their was some motivation to keep going. 

Monday got to work, like any other day.  On my desk is a DSS station that gives me the status of our PBX network at a glance.  I keep an eye on all of the request lines, alarms, PRI channels, Copper trunks, etc. etc.  I walked in and 23 of the PRI channels were lit up.  PANIC!!!

Did some testing, had no RED alarms which meant the the physical line was up.  The smartjack didn’t indicate any problems either.  Rebooted our system to make sure it wasn’t just a quirk.  Still no luck.  Called the CLEC and they ended up finding the problem.  I got a free lunch out of it. 

On the way back to to the office i was on the phone with patti when i heard something odd.  Hung up and ended up finding out it was coming from my AC.  *sigh*

And then i’m back i the office and one of the vendors shows up and wants to fix another problem we’re having.  So we’re back their working on his stuff and someone else walks in asking if the network was down.  “Shouldn’t be” i said.  I was standing right in from of that smartjack and and i glanced over and saw the ALM light lit up.  *sigh* looked at my cell phone and no bars.  I’ve been through this enough times to know what it was.  Ever since we switched to smartcom our telephones have been unaffected by the biannual fiber cuts but everything else is subject to being isolated from the rest of the civilized world.  This one ended up being restored around 10pm. 

It was one of those Mondays.