How I Set Up Facebook Lists

I’m not a fan of Facebook’s News Feed and Pages Feed, which have their own ways of delivering content to you. I prefer to see the content I want to see and I want to see it chronologically!

So, I set up lists.

To set up Friends Lists …

  1. Go to to set up lists of Friends, either using the predefined lists or by creating your own.
  2. Go to each individual custom list page to add Friends in the “Add friends to this list” box. You can also scroll over the Friends button (for that particular Friend) and click on “Add to another list” in the dropdown menu, which is what I do each time I add a new Friend.

To set up Interests Lists …

  1. Go and create lists for Pages (I have “UMC Pages,” “Leadership,” etc.).
  2. Go to each individual Interest page to add Pages in the “Add to this list” box.

You can also add multiple Friends or Pages at a time by clicking on “See All” next to “On This List” at the top of the right hand sidebar on each page, and then choose Friends or Pages from the dropdown menu. It also looks like you can intermingle Friends and Pages now; I’m not sure that was doable when I first created my lists.

Next, I add the lists to my Favorites and arrange them in the order I want in the Facebook menu by clicking on the gear icon beside the list name.

That’s it. When I go to Facebook, I go through my lists and avoid the News Feed and Pages Feed, altogether. All posts appear chronologically, not just the ones Facebook wants me to see. That’s the good news. The bad news is you see everything so you still have to be intentional to make the best use of your time. It’s just that I want to be in control of what I see, and not rely on Facebook to do it for me!

One other nice thing about lists is that you can direct a post to a specific list of Friends. For example, if I want to limit a post to my Centre Grove Church Friends or my Susquehanna Conference Friends, I can do so.

Of course, this will need to be adapted if or when Facebook in the future. But, I hope this helps. It may sound more complicated than it really is. Let me know if you have any questions, or if you have other ways for managing your Facebook feeds!

Managing Chaos With Online Calendars

With the adoption of Ethan in 2008, Joleen and I went from being a clergy couple to being a clergy couple with a child. In other words, the chaos only increased!

Shortly after bringing Ethan home from Korea, we set up online calendars using Google Calendar. The benefit is that either of us can access our shared calendars anytime so we don’t overbook days/times. And, with mobile technology, we have access to our calendars anywhere with a mobile device.

We have set up multiple calendars (each with their own color) that all appear on one calendar. At the moment, we have Randy’s Work, Joleen’s Work, Our Work, Family, School, and Special Days.

For time management, especially family time management and communication, this is the best thing we have done. We use our calendars to schedule appointments, activities, and remind us about special days.

Time management expert Laura Stack suggests calendaring everything …

I’m not sure if we calendar everything, but one area most people, including us, need to improve is learning to prioritize what goes on the schedule and what doesn’t. Some people, such as Michael Hyatt, suggest having a not-to-do list …

I’ve written a lot about time management over the years, including Task Management, Task Management 2.0, Time Management, Early Methodist View on Use of Time, and a post on the task management app, 2do (I still use the 2do app but the app is long overdue for an update, which the developers have been promising for a long time; I may write a new post on how I use 2do after the update). I’ve written a lot about time management, not because I have a lot to say about it, but because it will always be an area I want to improve!

How do you manage chaos, especially with others (families, teams)?

Sermon Prep With iAnnotate

In recent months, I’ve been using iAnnotate in my sermon prep. iAnnotate is an iPad app that reads and marks up PDFs.

Before this app, I printed out the scriptures I planned to use in my sermon. As I read over the text, I’d mark it up with a highlighter, marking keywords and phrases, and jotting down notes and ideas. With iAnnotate, I basically do the same thing. The advantage of the app is that I’m more likely to carry my iPad than paper printouts. And I’m less likely to lose my iPad!

To get the document on my iPad, I copy the scripture text from and paste it into a template in the Pages app on my Mac. In the template, I have adjusted margins, text size, and line heights to be readable on the iPad (16 pt. Helvetica Neue, 1.6 line height, with 1 inch margins on the top and sides, 0.75 on the bottom). I save the document as a PDF in the Dropbox folder on my Mac which automatically syncs to iAnnotate via Dropbox on my iPad. Then, I simply open iAnnotate on my iPad and click on the PDF. It’s a very smooth process.

iAnnotate is a feature-rich app. So far, it’s more than meeting my needs. Ideally, I’d like to spend at least a week soaking in the text before studying the text and mapping out a sermon in the second week (the week before delivery).

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. If you use a similar or different tool, or process, please share that as well!

Here are some examples of documents I’ve used in recent weeks. The toolbar on the right can be customized to include the tools you use most often (there are many to choose from).

Task Management App: 2do

I’ve written about my long-time search for a better way to manage time and tasks: Task Management, Task Management 2.0, and Time Management. My latest stop on this journey is the iPad app, 2do.

As I’ve stated before, my journey started with a Franklin Day Planner when I was in college. Over the years, I’ve used paper planners primarily, and mostly formats I created on my own. I tried a PDA about a decade ago, and in recent years, I tried an online service. But I always returned to a paper format because I want to see everything at a glance.

In recent months, I’ve spent a number of hours researching iPad apps. I tried out a number of free apps to get a feel for what I like, but I usually gave up on them, often within minutes (if not seconds) of trying them. Because I didn’t want to waste any money, I did a lot of research on paid apps like Todo, Toodledo, Pocket Informant, among others, including Things and OmniFocus, which are both expensive, cluttered, and possibly overkill for my needs.

Of course, everyone’s needs are different. Some features I do not need include the ability to sync to an online service to access on other devices (although 2do does sync with the online service, Toodledo), an integrated calendar (I use the iPad’s Calendar to sync with our Google calendars), or extensive project management (2do handles basic lists and projects).

I was looking for something fairly intuitive but with extensive options to create my own system. After a long search, I am very happy with the one app I paid for: 2do (currently, $9.99; it was $6.99 when I purchased it).

I’ve been using it for several weeks now. While I can’t compare it with other paid apps, it has all of the features I’m looking for.

Here’s my system …

  • I have three “categories” (or “tabs”): “Big Rocks” (important daily/weekly disciplines), “Home”, and “Work.” Default tabs include “All”, “Today,” and “Starred.””
  • At the beginning of each week, I star the tasks I plan to do in the coming week (Monday through Sunday). All of the starred tasks appear in the “Starred” tab, which I use as a weekly list. “All” is the master list.
  • Then I assign a due date for each task to do on the day I plan to do it. On any given day, I can use the “Today” tab to view my tasks for the current day.
  • As the week progresses, I can move things around by changing the due dates. It’s easy to “defer” tasks to another day, or to change the due date.

I probably use due dates differently than most. I don’t think of them as “deadlines,” but simply the days I plan to work on them. So, as I go through the week, I can see my tasks sorted by date/day of the week.

With 2do, I can create subtasks and repeating tasks, two must-have features. I also like the ability to backup to a free Dropbox account.

One other thing that mattered to me is the look of the app. I want the app that I’m going to be using on a daily basis to look great!

There’s a lot of potential for personal customization with 2do. I’m sure there are features I haven’t learned yet as well as some features I won’t use, but I’m glad it does what I want it to do. So far, I couldn’t be more pleased!

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. Also, I’d love to hear about how manage your time and tasks!

Building a Church Website With WordPress

WordPress is a great option for church websites. It’s an especially good option if your church doesn’t have a web designer or the resources to hire someone to build a site. But even if you have the personnel and the resources, WordPress is still a great option!

Several years ago, WordPress began as a blogging platform, but has developed into a CMS (Content Management System), which means it can be used for all kinds of websites, not just blogs (see WordPress’ showcase for sites built on WordPress).

This blog is built on WordPress. Centre Grove UMC’s website is also built on WordPress. Here, I’ll simply lay out the process I followed to build the church site. While some technical ability is required, you don’t have to be an expert (I’m not!). This probably won’t be detailed enough to walk you through building a site, but it will at least, describe the general process.

1. Signup for web hosting.
It’s easier if you choose a host that offers an auto install of WordPress (see WordPress’ recommended hosts here). If you choose a web host that doesn’t offer to install of WordPress for you, you would have to install it yourself.

I’ve been using DreamHost since 2006, which has been a positive experience for me, so far. DreamHost also offers free hosting for non-profits (find details on this page).

2. Choose a theme.
Unless you are a web designer, or hire one, you will need to choose one of the many, many themes that are available from WordPress or elsewhere. There are many free themes, but you can also purchase a theme (from various sources).

I looked at many, many (free and paid) themes over the years, but decided I wanted more control over the design. Last February, I purchased the Headway Theme, and used it to build this site. In the past month, I replaced the previous church site with a new one, which is now also built on Headway.

Many themes offer a complete design, out of the box. But, as I said, I wanted something that offered more control. According to Headway, the theme framework gives you the ability to take full control of your website’s design with an “intuitive visual editor.” That’s what caught my attention. You can build a site using their layout editor.

I am looking forward to the new Headway 3.0 version, due out this week. As much as I’ve enjoyed Headway 2.0, the new version looks like a major development!

3. Plan the layout.
Plan the site layout and content on paper, then build the site. In Headway, I used the built-in visual editor.

4. Configure theme/site.
You will need to tweak the Settings in WordPress to your need/liking.

5. Add content.
Create pages with different kinds of content. The church site has About, Events, and Calendar pages, at the moment. I also incorporated a Google map for the church location in the footer. This page shows you how to add a Google map to your site (and this site describes how to remove the white pop-up bubble from Google’s map).

7. Work on the design.
Again, in Headway, you can do this through the visual editor. Otherwise, you’d need to get into the CSS code (you still can in Headway, if you want). Both this blog and the church site would look a lot better if they were designed by pros, but I prefer a minimalist look, anyway.

From what I can tell, Headway 3.0 will give even more capabilities to design the look of the site. Headway 3.0 will also allow for the use of “child themes.” Child themes allow you to use designs built by web designers for use with Headway.

8. Add plugins.
There are many plugins that provide extra functionality. For the church site, we’re using Akisment, Google XML Sitemaps, Jetpack, and WP-DB-Manager. This blog currently has 24 active plugins installed.

Well, as I said, this post isn’t intended to walk you through the process of building a church website in step-by-step detail, but just enough to show that it can be done.

WordPress is a great option for church sites. WordPress is free. You will need web-hosting (free hosting for non-profits is available through DreamHost). You will need a domain name (approximately $10/year); some hosts, including DreamHost, throw in one free domain name. And you will need to install a (free or paid) theme. So, WordPress is a great option, especially if resources are limited.

Hope this helps. If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!

Kindle vs. Nook on the iPad

Earlier this year, Kindle ebook sales at reportedly surpassed sales of both hardcovers and paperback print editions, combined. That development happened without any help from me—mainly because I have so many printed book on my reading pile!

I bought my first ebook a couple months ago (the new Bible translation, Common English Bible). Besides the Bible, I downloaded my first ebook a few days ago. So, I’m still pretty new to reader apps.

There are multiple apps available for reading books on the iPad—Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Kobobook’s Kobo, and Apple’s own iBooks. The Kobo app has strong social networking/sharing options, if you’re interested in that. In the last few months, I’ve had some experience with iBooks (mostly a few PDFs, including Psalms from the Common English Bible).

Last week, when I went to purchase Church Unique (which I mentioned recently), I decided to compare apps.

First, any of these readers are fine. While both iBooks and Kobo have some nice features (such as animated page turns, which I don’t really need or want), the Kindle and Nook apps are my favorites. At first glance, Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook) have a greater selection and are less expensive (at least in the spot checking I did).

Between the Kindle and Nook apps, I prefer Nook, mainly because it has more viewing options. The Nook app has multiple options for line spacing and margins; the Kindle app doesn’t, as far as I can tell. Both have multiple options for color schemes—Kindle has three, Nook has five. Kindle only provides one font, Nook has six.

Both apps allow highlighting and adding notes; I like the Nook’s handling of highlighting better (i.e., searching highlighted passages). The Kindle app offers the capability of sharing highlights on Facebook and Twitter; I don’t know that Nook app does. The one thing I don’t know that either app does is allow copy-and-paste, which would be helpful for blog book reviews!

In my spot checks, ebook prices at Amazon and Barnes & Noble were comparable. Sometimes Barnes & Noble was a little higher. However, because I shop Barnes & Noble through Discover Card’s site, which offers 10% cash back on purchases at Barnes & Noble (right now, there’s a 15% holiday bonus), I still save money.

So, the Nook app is my first choice, but the Kindle app is okay, too. I suspect that most of the ebooks I read will be either Nook or Kindle versions, but Nook will be my first choice when there’s a Nook book available and when it’s less expensive.

If you have a favorite reading app, share your opinion in the comments below!

Twitter Web Apps

I wrote a week ago that I had recently started using Twitter, a micro-blogging service (posts are limited to 140 characters).

Since I started using Twitter, I’ve been comparing options for using Twitter (view my Twitter page here). So, for the benefit of people who may be searching for other alternatives, I thought I’d post my experiences so far.

Twitter users can post comments (“tweets”) to their Twitter page from various sources — itself, or via computer software clients, mobile phone and wireless device software applications, as well as web applications/interfaces.

Since the Twitter interface is pretty basic, many users look for alternatives that offer more features and functionality, either in software applications or other web app/interfaces.

In the last month I have tried out a number of different web interfaces. There were a few things I looked for: (1) Functionality, (2) User-Friendliness, and (3) Style/Design (in fact, I’d normally choose a basic site that looks appealing over a more powerful site that doesn’t).

After checking out a number of different sites/interfaces, here are some (very) basic thoughts on some of the services I looked at.

Several sites offered various features that may be important to some people (e.g., multiple accounts, scheduling tweets, integrating with other social media, etc.), but either I wasn’t particularly interested in those features or I wasn’t overly crazy about the design/usability of the site.

So, for various reasons, these sites are honorable mentions (i.e., they’re worth checking out and may have some features you are looking for) …

The following three sites are good, especially if you are looking for multiple columns for viewing/tracking different things.

Personally, I prefer a more minimalist, less cluttered (single-column) design. At the moment, I’d say my top four favorite sites are …

  1. iTweet
  3. Brizzly
  4. TwitIQ

None of these are perfect, but they each have their own strengths. They all have a single-column, fairly minimalist design.

If did a better job of auto-refreshing and if it included a URL shortener (it might, but I haven’t figured it out yet), it would be the clear favorite. Add in a URL-expander and inline viewing of media and it would be even better.

If iTweet (which is the best of the four at auto-refreshing) loaded older/previous tweets below (like the others) instead of loading a new page, and if it allowed me to open Twitter-related pages in new tabs/windows, it would probably be my clear favorite.

If Brizzly did a better job of refreshing, and if account basics (i.e., number of “followers” and “following,” etc.) were visible on the main page, it could be my clear favorite. Brizzly is the best at viewing older tweets. Upon reaching the bottom of the page, the previous section of tweets automatically load without having to click anything.

Brizzly and TwitIQ are nice in that they show expanded URLs (so you know where you’re going before you click) as well as inline photos/videos (so you don’t have to click to go to see them).

For now, I usually have these four sites open in four different tabs in one browser window. I seem to use iTweet the most (because it’s the most up to date without having to refresh the page), but as I said, there are things I like about the other sites, too.

It will be interesting to see how these fairly new services develop in the near future, especially with Twitter’s conference in a couple weeks.

Feel free to post a comment about a Twitter-related web app (or even software application) you either use or have tried in the past.

There’s Always a Better Way!

Too often we get so comfortable with what’s familiar that we stop looking for other ways, including better ways, of doing things. We live by the cliché, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” (actually, I like “If it ain’t broke, break it!” better!). We settle for less and it stifles our growth.

But, years ago, I read a statement that helps me to try to stay out of the ruts (which seems to become more challenging over time) …

There’s always a better way!

We try to instill this value in Ethan and Sarah (last month, I wrote about it in Cultivating Creativity). To truly believe that there’s always a better way is to embrace change as a good thing (or at least a necessary evil!). Without change there is no growth, no transformation, because transformation is change!

Sometimes looking for better ways simply means shaking things up, making sure you stay out of a rut. Weightlifting has a principle called the “confusion principle.” Because your body and muscles get accustomed to your regular routine, you confuse your muscles by changing your routine from time to time in order to overcome the tendency to get in a rut.

I’ve written about how I’m always looking for a better way in the area of task management (see this post and this post). I seem to always be looking for a better way to browse the Internet, too.

While there’s no such thing as the perfect browser (every browser has its strengths and weaknesses), too many people simply settle for the browser that came pre-installed on their computer (although that’s changing, according to a recent article at which notes that Firefox 3.5 is currently the most-used specific version).

When I was a PC user, I looked for alternatives to Microsoft Internet Explorer. I used Avant Browser, one of the early “tabbed browsers.” I loved tabs because I often have multiple windows and a number of tabs open at any given time with pages I’m reading, researching, and/or tracking). I also liked how Avant regularly released new updates (a sign of constant improvement).

Since switching to a Mac six years ago, my primary browser has been Safari, but not just because it came pre-installed on my Mac (it also came with Internet Explorer for Mac which I deleted a long time ago because it had already been abandoned by Microsoft after Apple released its browser, which now has a Windows version).

While Safari has been my primary browser, I periodically try other browsers, looking for better, more effective/efficient ways of browsing the Internet (or maybe I just get bored too easily). I’ve used Firefox (it’s been my main back-up browser) and have had a brief stint with Opera (now that version 10 is out, I may give it another spin, at some point). But, for some reason, I always come back to Safari after a while.

Recently, a beta version of Google Chrome for Mac was *finally* released (the Windows version was released last fall), and I’ve been trying it out in the last few days. As a beta version, it lacks some key features, but overall, I like Chrome and think it has some potential.

There are some things I really like about Chrome — its minimalist look, how it handles tabs, and how well it fits in a Mac environment (this is actually the number one I reason I keep returning to Safari).

But in order for Chrome to become my primary browser, there are some things that need to be added: the ability to open PDFs within the browser, a bookmark manager, and the ability to “Open all (bookmarks in a folder) in tabs” would be nice.

I would love to see keyword bookmarks (the ability to create shortcuts for bookmarks, like “ww” for, for example. Firefox and Opera have this feature; sadly, Safari doesn’t. The Official Google Mac Blog lists some features that are on the way.

Well, there’s always a better way. Or maybe I just get bored doing things the same way all the time. What about you? What are some areas in which you’re always looking for a better way?

Online Image Editors

(This post was updated on April 6, 2016.)

For the first few years of this blog, we posted very few photos. That changed when we adopted children, and wanted to share photos of them here and on social media.

Photos need to be reduced and optimized for the Web for faster page loading. Over the years, we’ve tried several different tools, some which are no longer in service.

The tool we’ve used the most is Pixlr, which is a great tool (WebResizer is a scaled-down tool for optimizing photos). More recently (April 2015), I’ve discovered Canva’s photo editor, which is just as great. And, what’s really nice, is that it integrates with Canva’s image design tool, which I use a great deal.

So, if you’re looking for online image editing tools, I hope this post is helpful!


IMG_3034Years ago, we named this blog “Willis Wired” simply to indicate our online presence. But recently, I’ve been thinking about all the wires that seem to be required in our real lives.

Up till now, we’ve tossed our various wires, cables, adapters, and power cords in a bag, but we’re getting to the point where we need a better system for keeping track of the them, which might need to include labeling them so we remember what they all go to!

Today, I took a photo of some of the wires, cables, and adapters that we have around the house (not including the ones that are currently connected somewhere). In this photo, there are different kinds of USB cables, chargers, adapters, video cables, and audio cables that connect different kinds of devices.

It makes me wonder how things will develop as new technology continues to emerge. Even as a growing number of devices go wireless, I wonder if the different types of wires/cables/adapters will eventually become more universal or will they continue to multiply? (I’m guessing the latter.)

Is you world becoming more “wired,” too?