I used to work for Jesus. Okay, to be perfectly honest, the treasurer at Covenant Baptist Church signed my paycheck. But in seminary we were taught that ministers really work for Jesus. So I always felt like Jesus was my real boss. I certainly had a title that emphasized my connection to Jesus. I was the pastor of a church, a local gathering of the body of Christ.
In my mind, Covenant Baptist Church was middle management. Jesus was the CEO.
So yeah, I worked for Jesus – sort of. And I worked for Covenant Baptist Church – also sort of. It was kind of a messy arrangement. But still, I always got a warm glow at the thought that I was working for the man upstairs.
Now I work for this guy and this guy. They are businessmen. They make products and sell them to people. They’re good guys, honest and hard-working. And the products they design serve a useful purpose in the world. I also have a new title. I am the Director of Internet Development and Social Media Integration for Philanthromax....
There is a group of men at our church who mow the grass and consider that to be a sacred calling. We are not a secret organization, though most people at our church couldn’t tell you who we are. For lack of a better name I will call us the Brotherhood of the Land. We have not taken vows, but we are a rather monastic group. Blue jeans serve as our robes, caps our tonsures, and our hermitage is a shed.
Working away at my job with Philanthromax. Currently I’m molding their website into a social media rich site. I’ve been working on our news page, which uses Drupal aggregating modules to pull headlines. This is just the first version of it. http://Philanthromax.com/news.
The idea of the news page is to begin to get conversations about philanthropy and nonprofit organizations happening on our site. While there are some nonprofit newspapers, I think I can create a pretty good index of the news using Drupal’s feed api and feed mapper modules. I’ll be following this up with a number of other additions to the site, including some kind of discussion wiki where we can produce a whitepaper that may get presented to congress.
Maybe you can help me with something else…
Does anyone know the best way to get a widget created? By widget I mean that Philanthromax wants to let people have some code to embed a little calculator on their websites. This calculator would let a nonprofit estimate their giving for the current quarter based on their giving from that quarter in the previous year. The formula will be produced by PhilanthroDEX, which is far more complex than such a small calculation. But our program will provide a plus or minus percentage for that calculation. We’ve got a couple of people working on a quote. Any freelancers out there want a shot at this?
Sunday morning found the Atkinson family visiting a church for the first time. We chose an older Episcopal church in our city that is well known for having a high and traditional worship service. Before going we checked their website and found that there was a Bible study for middle and high school students as well as a couple of study options for adults. We got there early to attend the Bible studies before worship.
When we arrived, we found the youth room empty and the lights turned out. We were told that the church doesn’t have youth Bible study on Sundays during the summer. I was a little put out that the website had not made this clear. Church insiders would know, of course, but visitors have no way of knowing...
I feel rather lost as a writer. Letting go of my identity as a minister and that weekly rhythm of the sermon has been…harder than I imagined. I’m happy about my decision. And friends tell me I seem happier to have let that go. But it’s as if that calling and my writing were so deeply entwined that I feel I’ve lost them both. I haven’t written anything for the Christian Century lately, though they have asked me to send things. My weekly writing at High Calling Blogs is all I have right now.
I think this is a natural writer’s process. I’ve never been a cerebral writer. That may surprise some people who have seen my writing as being very cerebral. But I write strictly from my gut. I follow dreams and images and mostly don’t know what I’m going to write until I’ve written it. So it seems right to me that such a foundational personal shift is going to upset the bedrock beneath my conscious mind.
I feel myself waiting to see what is going to happen.
On Wednesday Hank flew to San Antonio to meet with Rob and do some planning and strategizing, etc. Our first press release came out last week and was picked up by Forbes and a BUNCH of other news sources. Rob and Hank did an analysis of the BP oil spill and its effect on charitable giving in the United States. Everyone was excited about the exposure.
So I met with Rob and Hank for a couple of hours in the morning. I gave them a behind-the-scenes tour of Drupal, illustrating what a CMS website can do and all of that. We worked on my strategy for the next few weeks. I was feeling pretty excited. They trust my knowledge of web design stuff and social media stuff. I have no clue how they put together their charitable giving forecasting instrument or how they can keep all the numbers straight in their heads. Seems like a good partnership.
Afterwards we went to lunch, and that’s when I bit my tongue. LITERALLY.
I have a giant chunk (about the size of a pencil eraser) missing from my tongue! I have no idea how this happened. I was going to town on a chicken fried steak and somehow my tongue got all rolled up funny and I ripped a big piece out of it. So I’m chewing and trying to laugh and act all casual and everything.
<Warning: Things are going to get a little gross from this point forward>
I'm sorry to have been away for such a long time. The short answer is that I've been rather absorbed in my new job.
The longer answer is that I'm not sure what effect my new life is going to have on my writing. Having been out on a spiritual ocean for so long, I might need to find my land legs and see if I can write on the ground.
But enough of that. Let me tell you about my new job.
I'll start with a general description, then give some technical details for those who are interested.
A college roommate of mine, whom I last saw at his wedding in 1983 (I think it was '83), found Real Live Preacher, read a bit, and contacted me. He was until recently the president of the American Cancer Society Foundation. Executive guy. Smart, driven, high-achieving. Nice guy too. His name is Rob Mitchell. Rob and his friend Hank Zachry, who is also a serious business guy, currently the president of his own company, started Philanthromax, a consulting company for nonprofits that produces instruments that assess and analyze charitable giving trends.
Rob told me about his new company and asked me to evaluate their website, which I did. It was a standard Web 1.0 site. Nice graphics. Static content. Based on the image roll-over menus, I suspected it was laid out in Photoshop, sliced up, and published with Dreamweaver.
We had some conversations, yada yada yada, and Rob and Hank asked me to take their current site and turn it into a Drupal site, Drupal being the ultimate (IMHO) open source CMS. I was also asked to install a payment gateway system for the purchase of their new product, the highly technical and hush-hush PhilanthroDEX, a fancy nonprofit forecasting instrument developed by a team of Ph.D. statisticians. When the team "hit" on their algorithm that ties nonprofit giving in the U.S. to a series of 40 or 50 financial markers, there was a rush to the patent office.
Don't you love the intrigue?
So I developed their Drupal site on a contract basis. The project was completed and I got paid, which was nice because we were COMPLETELY out of money. Here is the site I finished for them. I did the theme work myself, using the graphic look from their original site. Technical details below if you are interested.
Apart from a few little things, their site isn't making use of Drupal's considerable abilities. My next project is to actually use some Drupal muscle to turn their site into a robust social media site around which conversations about nonprofit fundraising, giving trends, and other topics can take place. I have 10 weeks to finish that project. (10 weeks to put the machinery in place, so to speak, and begin working the site to encourage those conversations.) At the end of that 10 weeks,
their our site will be the model for a website package that we can also sell. "Like our site? We can set one up for you."
What does this mean for me?
1. If I do a good job, I have a chance at a permanent position with Philanthromax, which I think I would like.
2. I'm also thinking of temporarily changing the name of this blog to something like "Chronicles of a Clueless Working Boy" or something. I'm going to return to blogging regularly, but I'll be writing a lot about my new job for the next couple of months. Kind of a subject change for me. Life in the corporate world.
3. This is kind of a secret. but you could help me in my quest to land a permanent job. I'll tell you more about that in my next post.
Technical Details for those interested
The new Philanthromax site is a Drupal 6.16 site. I developed the theme using Artisteer, a tool that is looked down upon by serious Drupal gurus and professional theme designers. However, I think it is a marvelous tool if you need a straightforward design. A wysiwyg interface that produces a master file that is then exported to a theme collection of php and css files. If you need to change something in your theme design, you return to your master file, make your changes, export, upload, and you're done. With tools like Artisteer you simply need to know their limitations. If you need a fancier theme, go to a serious theme developer. If not, you can keep your work in-house without having a theme specialist on the team.
Modules I'm using:
1. The standard drupal core and optional modules like blog, poll, etc.
2. Node Block - turns sidebar blocks into standard nodes for easy updating.
3. Taxonomy Access Control - allows me to restrict content access based on user roles and tags. Only members can see the highly confidential PhilanthroDEX files. Oooooh!
4. Panels - a free form layout module that I used to design our landing page for PhilanthroDEX members. Demo here.
5. Views - a module which allows me to construct various ways for users to view information. (Example: "Take all blog entries labeled as "news" and put their titles in a block on the front page) I think this module has been adopted into Drupal's core for Drupal 7. It's practically a core function now for most serious Drupal users.
I'll be rolling out a lot of new functions and cool stuff over the coming weeks.