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  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Entries in blog (12)

Tuesday
Dec072010

He said She said... Web design and gender

It would be an understatement to say that the brains of men and women are wired differently for communication.

I sometimes wonder whether we're even from the same species! Only kidding (watch out for the FLAME war!)

But, the simple truth is that men and women have different approaches to sharing information and consuming information.  We relate differently to facts and emotions.  Some persons prefere a story (narrative) to facts.  Others prefer safe spaces for interaction and relationship, while some prefer clinical repositories of ideas...

This helpful infographic (download a LARGE VERSION here) gives some wonderful insights into research on how women and men design their websites and blogs in different ways.  I found it fascinating to read.

I see from this that I am 'trustworthy' and 'approachable' (brown...)  Perhaps I should get a little red or pink on here to spice things up a bit!?

So, do you think this infographic is accurate?  Has this been your experience?  I'd love to hear your feedback!

Monday
Nov222010

Adding twitter and facebook buttons to your squarespace blog

Some months ago I moved from blogger.com to squarespace when blogger stopped supporting FTP to personal domains.  I had been contemplating a move for some time since blogger was getting quite slow and restrictive.

I am so pleased that I made the move - squarespace is a hosted blogging service with incredible templates, great feedback and stats, and it just seems to meet my blogging needs.

Today I added two more features to my blog - a retweet button that will allow readers to easily send a post to twitter and a facebook like button. Social networking and social media sharing are a key part of my communication strategy!  As such it is critical to make it as easy as possible for readers to interact with the content on this blog in order to save it, forward it, retweet it, or like it on facebook.

Squarespace has a built in 'share' function (see the bottom of this post for the 'share' button - if you click on it you'll see that it allows you to share a blog post to multiple social networking locations and platforms).  However, since it is an embedded service very few people make use of it.  Quite simply, most of us look for the familiar blue icons of twitter and facebook to share content.

If you have a squarespace blog (or even a wordpress or blogger blog) you can add these buttons to your blog as well.  Simply follow these links:

Now, here's where I would like to ask for your help!  Please could I ask you to find one article on my blog and test the facebook 'like' button or the twitter 'retweet' button?  I'd love to see how they work!  Any feedback is welcome (I made the retweet text a simple reference to my twitter username, the reader can add his or her own text to describe the post).

Thanks! 

Dion

Thursday
Oct072010

Someone's been trying to hack into my website...

I watch the statistics for my website (mainly using the great little squarespace app for the iPhone).  

I normally get between a few hundred and a thousand hits to my site per day.

However, earlier this week I noticed a spike of traffic to my site - almost 6000 hits to my side on one day, and over a thousand on another day...

This evening when I went to check my logs I discovered that the page that was being 'viewed' was my login page!  In fact I have had 6200 visits to that page this week!  That can only mean one thing - someone has been trying to hack into this blog.

Why?!

So, if you're trying to hack my site, drop me a line, tell me what you want to post.

You may be surprised to find that I'm quite a friendly guy!

God bless,

Dion

Sunday
Sep192010

Hello technorati! Here's the code you need!

X5HU4R7C5NBM

After I noticed a post by my fellow Lausanne blogger - tallskinnykiwi - that technorati had 'lost' his blog.  I thought I had better check mine... What do you know, they had lost my blog as well! Yup, must have had a meltdown at some point and lost a couple of blogs.  

So, technorati, here's the code you asked me to put into a post that you can 'find' my blog again: X5HU4R7C5NBM

And, if there are any readers of this blog who have their blogs listed on technorati, I would suggest that you see whether your blog is still linked or whether you need to help technorati to find it again!

Thursday
Sep162010

Thank you! Second most popular South African blog in religion

The Mail & Guardian newspaper runs a service called Amatomu that ranks blogs and websites on various criteria.  One of the metrics is the number of visitors to a blog.  

Among the top blogs in South Africa are friends such as Steve Hayes' Khanya blog (which is a far better blog than mine!), my friend Gus' Church blog (Paarl Methodist Church), Mark Penrith's very popular 'Because He lives', Roger Saner's Future Church blog (also a favourite), and then there's Stephen Murray's blog - perhaps one of the best designed blogs among us, and Thomas Scarborough's "Urban Ministry Live" blog.  

I'm pleased to say that Mark, Steve and Stephen are also members of the Lausanne Blogger Network!

However, your visits have placed my blogs at numbers 2 and number 15 respectively in South Africa.  Thank you for looking in from time to time, moreover, I am grateful that you interact with the content that I post (I realize that some of it is rather eclectic!).  This blog - An uncommon path - actually gets more hits than Dion's Random Ramblings.  However, it is listed 13 places lower on the ranking.  The list can be a little flaky at times (I have seen with a few blogs that they often get stuck at the point where the amatomu.com code loads...  So, I removed the code from this blog for a few weeks.  I have since discovered that it is better to use the non-java version of the tracker code.  That seems to have sorted the problem out!)

I have had both of my blogs in the top 5 a few times, and Dion's Random Ramblings has been at number 1 a few times.  I'm not sure how accurate the statistics are (as I said above), but it is great to be able to give the blog some validation as a source of religious (and particularly Christian) interest in South Africa.

How many visitors do I get per day?  

Well, I normally get around 250-300 visitors a day to each blog.  This blog has gone as high as 1500 visitors a day - depending on the topic of my post and its relationship to a particular event in the news.

If you have any suggestions for improving both the content, and making it easier for you to interact with me and the content, then please leave a comment below or drop me an email.  I would love to hear from you!

I know that I break some cardinal 'blogger rules' by not posting only within a single genre, writing posts that are a little too long, and not posting enough 'link bait'.  But, my blog is a fun and personal space!  It reflects my life and thoughts...

God bless,

Dion

Monday
Feb082010

Welcome to my new blog!

Welcome to my new blog!

After some years of being very well served by my old 'blogger' blog, I have decided to make a move!  You're welcome to ask me why!  I have moved all of my posts and comments from that blog here.

I will still keep the 'old blog' active for a while since it has quite a bit of Google page ranking.  Could I ask that you update your links however? 

The blog:  http://www.dionforster.com

The RSS feed:  http://www.dionforster.com/blog/rss.xml

You can link to all of my social networking sites and feeds on the right of this page.

Lastly, I will be starting my 'blog roll' from scratch, so if you would like me to add a link to your site please leave a comment below.

I would appreciate any comments, feedback, suggestions, and help to make this site as user friendly and helpful as possible!

I hope you'll visit again!

Rich blessing,

Dion

Friday
Oct262007

Celebrating theological diversity, with respect. It is the way of Christ's Kingdom.

A fellow blogger, Stephen Murray, whose posts and insights I have enjoyed a great deal blogged the following challenging thought today:

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs of late where my guess would be that the authors wouldn’t classify themselves as ‘evangelical’. I read them because I appreciate the way these folk wrestle with so many pressing issues and how they integrate multiple academic disciplines with such skill trying to probe into important topics facing the broader Christian movement. Yet as I read these folk I often wonder what they think of us.

Let’s say that by chance they drop by …daylight and browse around, reading some of the posts. I wonder what they think about 4 young evangelicals who believe the Bible is God’s authoritative, infallible word for life and salvation, that salvation comes only through repentance and faith in Christ because of his work of substitutionary atonement and that hell is a real and coming judgment for those who reject Christ? Do they think we’re simpletons? Naive in our faith? Closed minded and narrow? Anti-intellectual? Misguided? What do they think?
Here's my response to him:
Hi Stephen,

 

Thanks for sharing this honest, and challenging, post. I have wanted to respond to it all day long but have not yet had the time. So, here goes....

I have also often wondered what others think of my particular approach to Christ... It is important on some level since my hope is that we (those who love Jesus and the people whom Jesus loves) will find one another now so that eternity won't be quite so difficult! Ha ha!

Seriously though, my realization in the last number of years has been that there are very few 'complex' and 'simple' expressions of faith. Rather there are simple and complex labels for approaches to faith. Each approach, I believe, is filled with complexity, depth, and a measure of conviction that makes it both precious to the person who holds it, and precious for God in relation to whom they hold it. It is much the same as me relating to my two children, I do not love or appreciate either of them more (even though one is older, more articulate and has a richer life experience because of her age). It does not make her experience of life, or of my love, more valuable or worthwhile. The fact that both of them live, and love me, is all that I long for. The rest is just unique (and sometimes just odd!) It doesn't impress me that my older child can do bonds of 18 while the younger child cannot yet crawl, since both are appropriate expressions of who and where they are. As I say, what impresses me is that they love me.

With regard to judgement however, I know that people often make the opposite assumptions to the ones you mention above about me i.e., that I am too open minded, that I am too intellectual, that I have lost my naive and simple devotion to Christ and that somehow I have lost sight of what truly matters in the Christian faith. Sometimes that hurts... However, I know that God is not impressed with my degrees, or titles, or anything else - these are simply thing that are more or less appropriate for someone who has had the education, opportunities, and experiences I have had. My quantum theories, and neuroscience, intricate readings of the Greek text, and all the things that I think are quite smart, must seem like 8 year old Maths to God - appropriate for who I am, but not important in the big scheme of things!

The people who judge me are probably correct, to some extent, about some of those assumptions, but they are also quite wrong in many others.

One of the things I have particularly tried to foster, at great cost, within our denomination (the Methodist church) here in South Africa is a love for my sisters and brothers that recognizes that diversity does not mean separation, neither does disagreement mean a lack of respect. I have sought to encounter people, rather than ideas, and to find what God loves about them first, before saying what I find objectionable about their words, thoughts or actions.

It is important that we are brave enough to leave our 'corners of conviction' in order to allow God to speak to us about new things, through strange prophets. That, I think, is the way of the Gospel.

There are of course some ideas and approaches to Christ, and Christ's Kingdom that I find incompatible with the Gospel (such as judging people by their race, which was a huge issue for us in the previous decades. In such instances I would encounter people with such views in love, and where they were not willing to change or repent I had to be honest, but loving, about how wrong they were). However, I know that I am often as wrong as those that I am quick to judge - so as time has passed I have sought to understanding first, then to make up my mind about people and their ideas. It takes discipline to do that, and I am still learning!

Know that even if I should find some aspect of your approach to the Christian faith different from mine, and I have not yet found such difference but the possibility does exist, I respect and admire your love for Christ.

Together with you in Him,

Dion

Thanks Stephen, you have challenged me, and reminded me that God's standard is both gracious and supreme.

 

Tuesday
Oct232007

Pictures of the funniest blog 'bumper stickers' for your blog!

This has to be one of the coolest things to stick on your blog, a blog bumper sticker! Here are a few that I thought were funny!

Never has a truer word been spoken!

Yikes!

Indeed, one must not allow one's friends to play with Giant Squid!

For all those myspace users... Here's a good one! Come on, admit it, how many of you ONLY have Tom as your myspace friend!?

Here's one for those, who like me, often read the offbeat posts on digg.com!

One for Pete, Wessel and I - the Mac guys!

Monday
Oct152007

Rankings in religion! Number 1... I say we start a little cult?

So, it has happened at last! Dion's Random Ramblings is number one in religion (on www.amatomu.com at least).

What do you say? Should we start a little cult? I know I'm strange enough to keep it going... And let me not say too much about a few others who subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog....

Vrystaat! We could all wear Orange in this strange cult, sing songs about trains, bribe waitresses not to give toys to our kids, try to win people from the 'emerging movement' to orthodoxy, live in Malaysia and be friends with Brian Mclaren, look for prophetic inspiration between sermons, live to be 'gruntled', or go to Duke to learn just how African we truly are, and learn to wear carpenters shoes, or become a dassie bouncing, sky pilot with a 'bell butt'!

If you're really looking for a worthwhile read, please follow the links to the blogs on the right of this post.... They're much better than mine. Truly!

Regardless, thanks for reading the posts on this blog! I have no idea why you do it, but I'm grateful that you check in from time to time!!

I am a little snowed under today, I hope to post something more meaningful and serious tonight.

Rich blessing to all! And particularly a huge thanks to all those who asked for copies of the little prayer guide book for Zimababwe! I am overwhelmed by the response! It goes to a good cause.

Dion

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Thursday
Oct112007

Thanks everyone! We're number 3 in 'Religion'

No, this is not some cryptic Church growth methodology! Neither is it some kind of weird inter-religious competition!

Rather, it is simply a quick post to say thanks to everyone who is checking in on my daily posts! Your efforts have made this site the 3rd most popular blog in the Mail and Guardian's blog Rankings! How about that?

What I love about www.amatomu.com is their 'truly South African' way of ranking blogs, simply click on the schmaak this button to say that you enjoy it! For those who are not South African, 'schmaak' is slang for 'love it', or 'cool', or something like that...

Schmaak this blog!


Thanks everyone! Keep the love coming!!

Jenny, thanks for pointing me to amatomu.

How would you feel about reading posts from some other, more enlightened, and faithful, Christians? If I were to approach and sign up a few contributors would you enjoy reading thoughts, ideas, rants, ramblings, and insights, from others? Drop me a line and let me know!

Blessings,

D
Technorati tags: , , , ,

Friday
Oct052007

Getting more traffic to your blog!

I have had quite a few folks asking how I get so much traffic to my blog.

Well, there is a very simple answer for most bloggers.... Are you ready for it?

Update your blog!!! Post, post regularly, and post sensible and useful stuff (not that my posts fit into either of these categories)!

However, there are a few more meaningful tips that you can follow to increase traffic to your blog. I have used this guide below quite a bit and found that it has helped to get traffic to my site. Of course I don't advertise or have clickthrough's... My only reason for wanting traffic on this blog is to share some thoughts and ideas (and to generate some discussion). Anyway, here is the REAL guide on how to get more traffic on your blog:

Many first time bloggers automatically assume that once their blog is setup and they put a few posts on it, they will get some hits and regular readers. This is quite untrue. You won't get any traffic if no one knows about your website. In this article I hope to tackle these problems and discuss some of the common ways bloggers and webmasters drive more traffic to their site by understanding the user. I have received many emails from aspiring bloggers asking me what they can do to get more traffic, so hopefully this will help out at least those people. Don't forget to checkout the prequel, How To: Start Blogging, that covers the technical side of setting up a blog.

Blog Usability

Before I get into getting your name out there, your blog has to have some style. Most web users are instantly turned off by tacky site designs or extreme neon colors. I know I won’t stay at a website too long if the layout or navigation annoys me. The goal is to have a unique blog, different than all the other weblogs on the net. The one thing I really stress to others is making it easy for your readers to contact you. It shouldn’t take a reader more than a click, if any, to find your email address or a contact form. This makes the reader feel like someone actually runs and cares about the website. An about page is also a great asset to have on a personal site or blog. The more a reader knows about you, the more they trust your content. I highly recommend reading this weblog usability article by usability guru Jakob Nielsen.

Content

Your blog's usability goes hand in hand with its content. You can specialize in a niche subject as long as you have an idea of how many people might be interested in that subject. If you do well with your niche subject matter, you could get some crazy traffic for being the only decent blog online with that type of content. On the other hand you could have widely used content, such as some aspect of technology, but add your own twist with your opinion or comparing / contrasting from other tech analysts. People won’t go to your site to read something they could have read on CNet or Tom's Hardware, they want a unique take on it. If you learn anything from this article, I hope its that reblogging is a very bad thing. The one thing to kill your traffic is having identical content to another several hundred blogs. I suggest taking a glance at Mr. Veloso's Evils of Constant Reblogging to get a better idea. Finding out what your content should be is a key element of your blog's identity and the type of image your blog will ultimately emit.

Technorati is Your Best Friend

Technorati is one of the best traffic providers for bloggers. It makes your blog much easier to find when people search by technorati tags. Technorati is also a large blog ranking engine. Based on the number of links to your blog from various websites, your blog is given a rank. The higher your rank the easier your blog is to find when people search for things. A higher rank gives your blog greater credibility in technorati. If you don’t already have a technorati account, get one. After you have setup the main settings, such as your profile, you need to claim your blog. Go to Account and then down the page to Your Blogs. Enter the URL of your blog in the URL field and then hit "Claim this weblog." Once you’ve done that go to "Configure this Blog" and fill in what you can. Click the checkbox to select "Include this blog in Technorati's Blog Finder" and fill out as many tags or keywords that accurately represent the content in your blog. When you’ve done that, click "Save Changes" and then grab your claim code. There are two types of codes that you may put somewhere in your blog for technorati to verify that your blog exists and keep track of it. If you have a blog that is Blogger powered or some other blog host that does not give you direct control of your blog files you will want to use the "Link Code" and post it somewhere on your blog. If you are using a more versatile blog publishing system, such as a custom WordPress or Movable Type installation you should copy the "Embed Code." You can edit your sidebar, header, or footer file and put it wherever you like. You also have the option of posting a Technorati search box or various links on your blog without altering the code you just pasted. Select the options you like and click "Save Changes." Everything is done automatically by Technorati. One last thing you might consider is adding the Technorati ping link to your weblog. Doing this will let Technorati know when you have updated your blog. Find out how to do that on Technorati’s Ping Configuration page.

Technorati Profile

I hope that helps! Let me know if your traffic increases as a result of these tips, and if you have any other tips to post please let me know. Of course there are the 'sneeky' ways of driving traffice to your site, by including words like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, sex, porn, google, skype, serials, cracks, free software, unlock, crack, hack, blog, weight loss, diet, health, Jason Calacanis, Leo Laporte, Patric Norton, Bill Gates, Microsoft, Steve Jobs, iPhone, iPod, John C Dvorak, John Chow, Mahalo

Tuesday
Sep042007

A challenge from Ray Chung's blog - high idealism, low follow through.

This evening Ray commented on the previous thread in this blog. Thanks Ray! He also sent me a link to his blog. I went and took a look and found this incredible quote from Glenn Packiam - it challenged me!

"We're obsessed with beginnings - the start of a new project, a new relationship, a new book. Everybody wants to start a revolution; but nobody wants to fight to the last man standing. We long to be extraordinary, to be remembered long after we're gone, to be part of something greater than ourselves, to leave a legacy; yet we don't want to go to work on Monday morning."

What do you think? I tend to agree. Idealism in the contemporary Church is high, but follow through and the commitment to make the ideal (i.e., God's Kingdom of grace, justice, mercy and equity) a reality, is not quite so high.

Thanks Ray!