Picture … herding cats. Not a job I’d sign up for, and, if it were assigned to me, not a job I’d expect to complete with 100% success.

That’s the feeling that often came to mind when I needed to find a meeting time for a group of church volunteers and staff. Coordinating everyone’s availability was nearly impossible and always resulted in an avalanche of e-mail. But those days are behind me thanks to the simple (and free) social scheduling tool, Doodle!

Doodle is a web and mobile app which allows users to suggest multiple meeting times and invite the meeting participants to indicate which times will work for them. After everyone has submitted their preferences, the meeting organizer has a full view of availability and can choose the date and time for the meeting which works best for all of the participants.

The process in pictures

To get started with Doodle, you must create or sign in to your free Doodle account. After signing in, you’ll land on your Doodle dashboard where you can schedule a meeting or create a single question survey.

To schedule a meeting, start by giving it a name and location.

On the next screen, you will have an option to view the poll settings. Here you can set up various options such as limiting the number of people who can select each option.

A calendar display allows you to select multiple dates on which the meeting can be held. On the right, a link is provided to add specific time options for the meeting, if it isn’t an all-day event.

Multiple times per day selected can be added.

Finally, you are prompted to input identifying information. Doodle automatically fills in this information from your Doodle account information, but you may edit it, if desired.

When you’ve finished setup, a link is displayed which you can share via e-mail or other tools with the meeting participants. Alternatively, you may e-mail the participants from within Doodle.

The participant doesn’t have to create a Doodle account to respond to your poll. They simply type in their name and check the meeting options which work with their schedule.

After clicking Done, participants have the option to subscribe to poll updates or go back to the poll where they could change their submission, if desired.

When someone responds to your poll, Doodle sends you an e-mail to alert you to the new response.

At any time, you may return to your Doodle poll to see the responses. Whenever you are ready, typically after everyone has responded, you can click the orange “Choose final option” button at the top of the poll.

Select the desired meeting time by clicking the star in the yellow row and then clicking Done.

The poll will be closed, and a results link will display which you may share with meeting participants. Or simply e-mail out the finalized date and time for the meeting!

The great thing about Doodle is the poll set up and finalization takes less time than it took you to read this blog post. Three cheers for simple (and free) social scheduling with Doodle!

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The State of Chromebooks in the Office

It is no secret that Chromebooks rule the one-to-one computing space in classrooms across WELS. I don’t have exact numbers but anecdotal observations suggest that those schools who are committed to putting computers on classroom desks have gone the route of Chromebooks or have plans to do so. And it isn’t too hard to see why. They are fairly inexpensive, easy to configure with central management tools, and fast to load and operate. Yes, you still see “traditional” Windows computers and also iPads, but by volume the numbers aren’t even close.

But what about the church or school office. At least in my visits, I rarely see faculty and staff with Chromebooks as their primary computing device. The reasons for that are also obvious, or at least they used to be. Chromebooks have very little storage, they don’t allow the installation of “traditional” office type applications like Microsoft Word and Outlook, and they don’t function well if “offline” mode, so an internet connection is a must.

Those “we can’t use a Chromebook in the office because…” reasons have pretty much evaporated! Microsoft has made their Office apps web accessible. So if you get a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet from someone you can now open it, even on a Chromebook. On top of that, modern Chromebooks now allow the installation of Android apps, so you essentially get “apps” that provide Office, or many other installable programs, which improve their usability and offline capabilities.

OK. What about the storage thing? No longer an issue either. Chromebooks come with more and more storage, or SD/USB drives to do it as well. However, with the popularity of cloud storage, local storage is less and less an issue. I have a traditional computer with 500 gigabytes of storage. I hardly use any of it since the benefits of keeping things online outweigh having things “offline.”

What about connectivity requirements of Chromebooks? What if you are on a plane or someplace where the internet isn’t. While those internet dark spots are fewer and farther between, Chromebooks and their apps now do a much better job of allowing offline access to applications and files you deem important.

One other objection to Chromebooks in the office is that most of the available hardware just isn’t as well built and easy to use as “real” computers.  I’m writing this on a Chromebook, a $299 Chromebook from Acer, the R11. I’m impressed. While an 11 inch screen wouldn’t be the first choice for this fifty-something eyes, it is actually pleasant to look at, a touch screen, flips over to use in tablet mode, and it’s resolution is more than sufficient for any tasks I’ve tried on it. In addition, it comes with a built in HDMI port for easy connection to an external monitor.

While this isn’t an article about the R11, I do have to say it is a very nice piece of computing hardware. It has two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), an SD card slot, and audio jack. But perhaps the best parts of the R11 are the input tools, the keyboard and trackpad. Awesome…especially for a device that is $299. The keyboard keys have nice “travel”, is full size, and have a nice texture to them. If I have one complaint, it’s that they aren’t backlit. The trackpad is a nice size, smooth and very responsive. There are a number of configurations available including Intel versions. I’m using the slower Celeron version, but find it perfectly usable.

I’m sold. I think in most office situations, Chromebooks are viable, and in some cases preferable. They are more secure, great battery life and of course, cheaper. There are of course certain use cases that might be more challenges. I can think of serious video editing, perhaps even page layout, although there are online options for both, plus the option for Android apps. Your mileage may vary, but I think it’s worth a try. The upsides are worth the look.


Related resources

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Common Sense Education

WELSTech-ers may recall a past Ministry Resource post on Common Sense Media, a site which features reviews and recommendations on all types of media which is directed at children including movies, books, TV, games, apps, and websites. It’s a great resource to share with parents, and can be very useful at this time of year especially as they shop for appropriate media-centric gifts for their children.

Education reviews

Common Sense Education is another site which is produced by the same organization and geared specifically toward educators. Once again, they provide ratings and reviews of children’s media, but this time the focus is on edtech websites and apps that are organized by grade level and subject matter. Search criteria can even be narrowed by price, so the frugal educator can easily identify free resources. For each tool listed, the Common Sense ranking as well as teacher submitted ranking is displayed. Each tool includes a description and overview of what it teaches as well as suggested lessons and activities plus standards supported.

Digital Citizenship Curriculum

Digital citizenship curriculum

Another offering from Common Sense Education is their K-12 digital citizenship curriculum. The curriculum covers the following topics:

  • Internet Safety
  • Privacy & Security
  • Relationships & Communication
  • Cyberbullying & Digital Drama
  • Digital Footprint & Reputation
  • Self-Image & Identity
  • Information Literacy
  • Creative Credit & Copyright

As demonstrated in this sample lesson, each lesson includes a downloadable lesson guide as well as student activities and a family tip sheet. There are also downloadable videos and video discussion guides. And if that isn’t enough, there are student games and interactives, student badges, classroom posters, toolkits, and more!

Professional development

Common Sense Education also offers a variety of professional development to assist teachers.

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How To Pick A Browser

When it comes to internet browsers it’s not like the old days where you just used whatever came installed on your machine. Even if you have a basic Windows machine today Microsoft gives you more than one! Will you use Internet Explorer or Edge? But neither of those is even the most popular. You have Google’s Chrome, which has over 50% market share. There is Safari on the Mac. And Firefox just released a new version as well. Does it matter? Won’t any browser do? To answer that, ask yourself how much of your computing life do you spend in your browser? I’m guessing it might be more than perhaps all the other applications on your computer combined, right? So there might be some thought you’d want to put into this choice. Hopefully I can provide a little guidance, as they aren’t all created equal, and depending on your needs, there may be a clear cut choice.

Five Considerations

I think there are basically five considerations when choosing a browser: 1) Security, 2) Convenience, 3) Performance, 4) Bookmarking, and 5) Extensibility.


All browsers boast about security, but they all provide different ways to protect you. Some do them automatically, others require setting changes, and still others need add-ons. A great article entitled Which Web Browser is Best for Security written by Claire Broadley has in-depth comparison charts of all the major players, and a beautiful infographic that gives us a nice view of the entire browser marketplace. Be sure to give it a read. In my opinion it’s a fairly even horse race, however Google Chrome edges out the competition because they have the fewest days on average between updates. That means they are more frequently applying patches to guard against new security flaws and threats. On the other hand, since they are the most popular browser, they are more frequently targeted as well. If you are on a Mac, I’d recommend Safari since it seems to be less a target than any other.


All browsers are chock full of features that make them convenient to use, however my favorite feature is syncing. Syncing allows the same brand browser sync things like bookmarks, passwords, browsing history, and cookies between computers, tablets and smart phones. This is very handy if you compute from more than one device. Again, most browsers do this, but usually in different ways and to varying degrees of success. My favorites for this are Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. I’d give Chrome the edge here again however since their smart phone browser is better in general than the one from Firefox. As I mentioned there are many other convenience features to consider, so you should determine what is most important to you and then rate them based on that. Some features to think about are 1) saving pages for offline or later viewing, 2) tab management, 3) Incognito or Private Browsing, and 4) customization of the address and search bars.


Performance is basically an “arms race” when it comes to browsers. They all try to claim they are the fastest. In reality they are pretty equal. When I gauge performance I usually prefer to see how many system resources the browser uses. There are tools to measure this. For windows, just hit the Windows Key and type in Task Manager and look at the Processes tab. Find your browser and note memory and CPU usage. Then compare that to other browsers. Chrome has traditionally fared poorly in this regard. The latest version of Firefox claims a very small performance footprint. In my experience I’d recommend either Firefox or Edge. They both behave themselves pretty well and aren’t going to cause your computer fan to kick in or slow other applications to a crawl. Your mileage will vary of course, but something to consider and keep an eye on.

I shouldn’t leave the topic without one other very important consideration — does the browser you are using work well with the sites and applications you use? Some sites work better or specific browser, and if the sites you visit don’t play well with your browser, time to try another browser.


As much of what you do in today’s computing environment is web-based you likely have a ton of bookmarks to get you back to frequently used sites. That makes the bookmarking experience very important. It should be easy to tag and manage those bookmarks or favorites, and a trivial process to rename, move or even share them. If you find yourself confused by or struggling with your browsers bookmarking function, take some time to learn it, or determine that it doesn’t think the way you do, and try another browsers approach. The good news is that all modern browsers allow you to export and import bookmarks, so it’s fairly easy to bring them along as you kick the tires on other browsers. Some browsers even automate that for you and when setting them up will ask you if you’d like to import from some competing browser. Cool. I don’t know if there is a clear cut winner here. I like the way Firefox, Chrome and Safari handle this task. I will say that if this is at the top of your list stay away from Edge. Since it’s so new there are some very basic bookmarking features that it still lacks.


That may not be a word you are familiar with, but it basically means that your browser support add-ons or extensions that can give you new capabilities that the base browser didn’t come with. Firefox has had these capabilities forever, but Chrome has taken them to a new level. This is mostly because Chrome has to BE the application on things like Chromebooks, so it needs to be ultra flexible and act like a “swiss army knife” to meet many needs.

There are add-ons and extensions for almost everything. Some very specific to applications and websites, and others that work across all sites. Some of the most popular are password managers like LastPass and 1Password, or ad blockers like AdBlock. One of the first things I do when setting up a new browser is to load a few of those “must have” extensions. My list includes: LastPass, OneNote Clipper, Shareaholic, Authy, Draft, and Pinboard (all links go to Chrome Store). These are available on Chrome and Firefox for the most part. It gets a little sketchy on Edge, Internet Explorer and Safari. Clear cut winner here is Chrome.


So which browser to choose. All provide some advantage and disadvantages. My advice would be to try them all. Live with each for a month and then make a decision. It will impact your productivity and online stewardship. Which one do I use you may ask? That depends. Primarily Chrome for many of the reasons mentioned above, but I have to say I have been tempted by the recent promises of improved performance and usability by Firefox. But again, it really doesn’t matter what I use. It’s a personal preference, and maybe even sometimes it’s the little things not even mentioned above, perhaps you just like the logo, or the “back button.”

I hope this at least has given you pause to consider the options you have and some of the considerations. Browsers can truly save you time, make you a little more productive, and improve the general enjoyment of your computer and the internet.

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Ripl – A Marketing Team in Your Pocket

Writing a Password Policy

Passwords have been around for as long as the internet has, and if you count your ATM pin codes, even longer. They were used in Roman times and were critically important in the Battle of Normandy…a battle my father fought in. Here is an interesting snippet from Wikipedia.

Passwords in military use evolved to include not just a password, but a password and a counterpassword; for example in the opening days of the Battle of Normandy, paratroopers of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division used a password—flash—which was presented as a challenge, and answered with the correct response—thunder. The challenge and response were changed every three days. American paratroopers also famously used a device known as a “cricket” on D-Day in place of a password system as a temporarily unique method of identification; one metallic click given by the device in lieu of a password was to be met by two clicks in reply. (click for full article)

We use passwords for our home alarm systems, to get into our bank accounts, and to retrieve email. They secure our 401K’s, tax returns and photo libraries. They are important. And increasingly so as we personally, and as non-profit organizations are under constant attack by those who’d love to get into our stuff. But how many of us know how to write a strong password security policy? If you are responsible for your organizations security, you need to know.

Password Policy Template

I ran across an excellent blog post over the weekend that should help your thinking when crafting a good password policy for your ministry team or faculty. It was called Password Policy Template, but it offered more than just that. Some of the key takeaways include:

  • Password Creation
    • A password should be unique, with meaning only to the employee who chooses it.
    • Employees must choose unique passwords for all of their company accounts, and may not use a password that they are already using for a personal account.
    • All passwords must be changed regularly, with the frequency varying based on the sensitivity of the account in question.
  • Protecting Passwords
    • Employees may never share their passwords with anyone else, period!
    • Employees must refrain from writing passwords down and keeping them at their workstations.

There were other nice tips there as well. Read the article for more.

Related resources

Complex Password Generators:
Good Articles:

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Reformation Resources Roundup

On this very special day – October 31, 2017 – WELSTech celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation with a collection of Reformation resources for use in ministry and personal settings.

Fun & Educational




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More Favorite Productivity Tips: Cleaning Up Your Desktop

Being in the technology business for many years means I have seen a lot of computer screens and a lot of user desktops. While I have never done a scientific study, I’d guess that an easy majority of them are so full and seemingly disorganized that the user probably knows where a few key files are, but the rest…forget about it. It seems that “desktop” is a dumping ground, home base, halfway house, and miscellaneous whatever, all rolled in to one. At times I’ve been guilty of it too. My ministry productivity quotient went way up however when I finally followed these three simple tips to a healthier desktop.

Tip One: Your desktop should be reserved for documents you need to have one click access to.

Not all documents are created equal, and their relative importance can change over time. Take a look at your desktop right now and identify at least one document you haven’t opened, looked at or otherwise thought about in the last three months. Find any? If you did, it’s like trying to drive down the road and having abandoned cars just sitting there, in your way, slowing you down. Why are they there? Why aren’t they parked in someone’s garage, or towed away, or taken to the dump?

It’s your job to keep the path between you and your destinations as fast and friction free as possible. Not littered with all kinds of things that are just taking up space, making you look at them over and over again for no good reason. And then each time you look at them you think, “I should really clean this place up.” What a waste of brainpower. Knowledge workers like you need clear, distraction free paths to your work. Not an obstacle course. Clear those unneeded or unused documents away. Put them in folders. Delete them. Take a few hours. They’re digital. It won’t take long. You won’t even need to break a sweat.

Tip Two: Don’t use your desktop for applications

One of the wastes of computer desktop space is to leave or put shortcuts to application start up icons there. So you have your Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Email Client, Browser…and the list goes on. Whether you use Windows or Mac you have a Start/App Menu AND  a Task Bar/Dock. Use them for those frequently used apps. While I’ve seen some computers that do have them there, they ALSO have links to them on the desktop! Great! Two ways to get to the app. Sound more productive? Not really. You only need one. In fact, you really don’t need any icons to apps on the desktop or the taskbar/dock. Wait a minute…what? That’s right. The fastest way to open an app is to not even take your fingers off the keyboard. “Resist the mouse!” Say it with me. “Resist the mouse!”

Just tap the Windows key (on a PC) or the Command Key plus Spacebar (on a Mac) and type the first couple letters of the app you want to open and hit enter. More than likely those first couple letters will net you the app you are looking for. Your computer is smart. Let it do the work for you. Give it a try. I almost never use the mouse to open an app. Opening Microsoft Word is as easy as Windows Key -> “wo” -> Enter Key. Opening the Chrome browser is Windows Key -> “ch” -> Enter Key. Sweet!

Tip Three: Change the default location of your desktop to a cloud service.

I saved the coolest tip for last. Perhaps the geekiest too. Unfortunately I think this tip is only for you Windows users. Did you know you can change where your desktop files are stored? Basically that means that whenever you “think” you are throwing something on your desktop, you are “really” storing it in a location of your choosing. My recommendation, if you are OK with the security side of it, is pick a cloud service. I use OneDrive for instance, and have it sync to my computer. Then I change the desktop location to it, and presto, I have anything that is sitting on my desktop also synced to the cloud. This makes it easy to get at my most active files from almost anywhere and any computer…or mobile device.

It’s actually very easy to do. Here is a quick tutorial on it. Another option is to use Google Backup and Sync to make sure your desktop data is stored in the cloud. One of the most frequent “oh no” moments I’ve observed in helping co-workers is when they realize they were saving stuff else where, to the cloud, etc. But neglected to consider the stuff on their desktop. Important stuff!

So just take care to use the desktop wisely. It is a great surface on which to work. Quick. Easy. Efficient. You can now make it even better.

Additional Resources

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Reformation Fun

Celebrate the Reformation with this free downloadable group puzzle experience, A Day in the Life of Tölpel, The Luthers’ Dog.

Players will travel around Wittenberg with Martin Luther’s dog, Tölpel, as their tour guide, learning about the city of the Lutheran Reformation. The 28-page download contains everything you need to host a fun puzzle event!

Martin Luther loved his dog, Tölpel, and he mentioned Tölpel throughout his writings. (Really, I didn’t make that part up!) This puzzle is an “historical fiction” narrative in which Tölpel will explore Wittenberg in search of challenges. He’ll discover a challenge at each new destination he visits. Each time he solves a challenge, he’ll earn a puzzle piece. Earn all six puzzle pieces, and Tölpel will be able to solve the puzzle and become a wiser and happier dog.

This game was developed by Kevin & Sallie Draper as part of the site. We want to share it freely so WELSTech-ers can enjoy it during this special season of Reformation 500!


The puzzle game can be enjoyed with any group including classroom, catechism class, Sunday school, youth group, family game night, etc.

Typical time to complete​: 30 to 45 minutes

Ages​: 8-108

  • Younger children can play as well, but each group should have at least one strong reader who can read the clues to the others in the group.

Optimal group size​: 4-8

  • Multiple groups can work through the puzzle at the same time. Simply print multiple sets of clues. It would also be a good idea to have the groups play in separate designated areas, for instance, the four corners of a classroom.

Puzzle resources

Download the game resources in PDF format using the links below. Start by reading the instructions. You will then need to print the puzzle resources and either the color or black & white version of the Lutheran Rose.

IMPORTANT​: These documents should only be read by the Puzzlemaster! The Puzzlemaster will prepare and oversee the puzzle for the players. Reading this document will spoil the puzzle for anyone who wants to participate in solving the puzzle

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My Favorite Productivity Tip!

Rarely do productivity tips have such an impact on my life as one I picked up years ago from reading David Allen’s excellent book “Getting Things Done.” And rarely do tips I implement stick with me this long. But the tip I call “waiting for” is one I think so highly of, that today I elevate to a ministry resource. It is one of the handiest time stewardship tools I have, and I have found it invaluable in getting projects unstuck, helping co-workers/volunteers and me stay “on task”, and in general one of the only tips I’ve ever found that improves my mental health. It’s easy. Here is how it works…

Every time you ask somebody to do something (answer a question, complete a task, provide feedback, you name it), note in some kind of capture system (electronic or analog):

  1. what you asked/expect,
  2. of whom you asked it, and
  3. when you made the request.

So for instance, I ask one of my staff to email me their budget request for next year. I note the who, the what and the when of that encounter. Then at the end of each week, or more often as I have time, I review this “waiting for” list to clean up those “delegations” that have been completed, or take the opportunity to remind somebody of something I’m still waiting for.

My brain doesn’t have to try and remember the who, what and when. It just has to know I’ve captured it and will be able to review those things to circle back if necessary. One of my biggest sources of stress was always trying to remember not only when I made such a request, but even IF I had. I can’t tell you how many projects have become “unstuck” because I simply was able to return to a key moment that a request was made and others are in a holding pattern until something gets done. That “something” is now concrete, not just a fading memory that my brain churns and worries over unnecessarily.

The question I bet your asking, and perhaps the most enjoyable part of the tip, at least for me anyway is, where do you capture this stuff? Where is this magical “waiting for” list? Well that depends. For me, I’d say 90% of all the items on my list are captured within email. I like to use email because it is “in writing.” Perhaps more for my own sanity than anything else. I have to be clear, can use bulleted text, and can ultimately search it if necessary. What I’m “waiting for” isn’t always a return email, but that’s OK. I do have a record of the request at the very least, which, guess what…has the recipient, the time sent and the request itself in the body of the email. Perfect.

The mechanics of doing this in email is the point of my quick screencast below. But to whet your appetite, it’s super easy. By simply cc’ing yourself you can automate the tucking away of said email for future reference without you having to do anything more than hit send. See the video below for how to set this up in either Outlook or Gmail. It can easily be done in other email clients as well.

If it’s not an email, perhaps a verbal conversation (of all things!), a voicemail left, a post it note left on a desk, an instant message or text message, there are a myriad of options. If it’s digital at all, I use OneNote. I simply have a Notebook with a tab called “Waiting For”. I can take pictures with my phone, copy and paste text, even drag a voice mail. I can also jot down the relevant info with my finger on the phone app version. Sometimes I just leave a voice memo for myself right in OneNote. It is a super tool for this kind of stuff. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of OneNote, but any tool like this would serve you well (Apple Notes, Evernote, Google Keep, etc.). The key is to have as few “inboxes” as possible. For me I have my “waiting for” list in one email folder and one OneNote section. Anything beyond that would get a little complicated.

That is not to say that you couldn’t do this with pen and paper either. The trick is that it needs to be easy and always with you. For years, before I transitioned to the smartphone/OneNote approach, I used a wallet from David Allen called the TriFold Notetaker. Unfortunately it isn’t made anymore. However, for guys, any wallet with a small pad of paper and pen will do. Ladies, same thing. Just find a small notebook as your “capture” device. Then once you have those notes (remember who, what, when), you need a place to store those and then go through the contents each week to review all the week’s “waiting for” items. A file folder would work, but make sure it’s in plain site.

If you’d like to learn more about this “waiting for” list concept, just do a quick Google search on “getting things done waiting for list” and you’ll get hundreds of approaches as examples. You’ll find what works best for you. The important part of this “ministry resource” is to start capturing those “waiting for” items, keep stuff moving forward and comfort your brain that you’ve got things “under control!”

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