AlanGustin Blog2

#FollowFriday Post… a Follow-Up and More.

Posted in Announcements, Information, Social Networking by alangustin on February 5, 2011

It would seem that I got sucked into a conversation that not too many people really care about anymore. It has only been a few days, but out of about 150 people who visited the post “Would You Kill #FollowFriday?” — only four left comments, indicating that the topic has been done to death already, or that most people don’t really care.

Of course, the fact that this blog doesn’t enjoy much of a following has a lot to do with the outcome as well, but I have to admit that four comments out of 150 views is pretty lame. Now I have to face up to the fact that I was way behind the timeline on this one. This is just one more in a series of lessons I’m learning about blogging and social networking, with this lesson titled, “Yesterday’s News is Just That – Old News. Of course, this is where our adopting of – and total immersion into – social media has brought us. We live in an “instant” world now, where it seems that if you’re not paying attention, you may as well get out of the game.

But that is a cynical view on my part, and the more important lesson I’m learning now is titled, “Superficial Social Networking is Just That – Superficial”. Some things take extra time to sink in. I am still climbing the learning curve where it remains fairly steep, and I cannot see the horizon yet. But I have learned this: it’s wrong to assume that social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are some kind of “magic bullet” that will bring fortune to an entrepreneur. There’s more work to be done than simply sending out a tweet about a new blog post once a week, or mentioning your followers every week in a barrage of #FollowFriday tweets. This brings me back around to the original topic of this post.

It seems that most of us ride the learning curve when it comes to using Twitter. I remember when I first saw a FollowFriday tweet. Actually, it wasn’t just one tweet; it was many, many tweets. The same guy kept popping into my timeline with tweet after tweet listing other users. After I figured out what was going on, I noticed others doing it. Not wanting to be left out, I jumped in head-first tweeting my #FollowFriday tweets along with all the others who were doing it. As soon as I started doing it, my email inbox started filling up with messages from new followers. Wow! This was great. I started following people left and right, and before I knew it, I had a few hundred followers.

Then I noticed something. The number of followers coming in started dropping off. I found myself working harder to put out more, interesting and informative tweets. But this was becoming a one-way street, and I was growing weary of the ride. I needed to pull over and park for a while and reassess my use of social media. I viewed a YouTube video in which Seth Godin was asked a question something like, “Do you think social networking is important for small business, and how would you suggest doing it?” (paraphrase)
His answer made ultimate sense, but it was also a disapointing wake-up call. Godin said that it really doesn’t matter if you have 100,000 Twitter followers. If you don’t have any real relationships with any of them, you’re simply watching a counter that does absolutely no good whatsoever. He went on to describe what a real relationship was… valuable.

Forming valuable relationships (the mutually-beneficial kind) involves more than merely mentioning someone in a tweet along with ten other users. This is what I’ve learned (again) over the past few days of reading posts and comments on the topic of #FollowFriday. It’s easy to get caught-up in the whole I-gotta-have-as-many-followers-as-Bill-Gates syndrome. As I learn about the practice of using twitterbots or paying for followers (neither of which I use) to boost numbers, I’ve decided that I don’t wanna play that game.

This Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. I created a follow tag called #SuperSunday#Follow which I’ve been using to tweet my FollowFriday tweets (on Sunday, of course). But this Sunday will be the last time I do that. After this Sunday, I will instead dedicate myself to forming real relationships with those who want to do the same. I will, no doubt still recommend followers from time to time. But I will mention only one person in a tweet, and only if I have a reason to.

I now realize that people are going to use Twitter the way they want to, and that’s good. Attempts by some to try and “regulate” the use of FollowFriday is futile, unless enough people feel the same way and simply stop doing it. As long as Twitter allows the FollowFriday tweets to continue, then it’s all legal and up to the individual to participate in the #FF practice or not. Twitter is an amazing social network. Its vastness is mind-boggling. However, its effectiveness is in question relating to how it’s used, and that’s up to the individual to find out. Tweet on, tweeples!

Fifty-Six & Fighting

Posted in Announcements, life, Spirituality by alangustin on October 28, 2010

Hello to the blogosphere on this day, my fifty-sixth birthday.  As I reflect on days gone by, I savor the blessed feeling that was borne on the wings of thousands of Facebook birthday wishes.  Well… maybe not thousands, but at least hundreds.   Well… I received more than several.

Anyway…   the source of real blessedness, is God.  I am not ashamed to say that.  In fact, I get a deeper blessing from knowing that I need not fear what some person might think of this confession.  Apparently, the older I get, the more I trust that God is with me.  If God is for me, who can be against me.

Practically all those wonderful folks who sent me a birthday message on Facebook are also believers.  This knowledge is like icing on the proverbial feel-good cake, and it’s like I’ve been hugged by a nice, soft, warm, fuzzy, comfy, lover who has engulfed me in appreciation and validation.  From this, I have received the life/love energy to fight on. 

These days are crazy.  It seems as if there is a fight going on in every corner of existence.  But I am empowered by my faith, and ready to step up and punch my way through all the messiness that assaults me from every angle.  And as I fight, I find strength in knowing that my brothers and sisters are with me, going through the storm by my side, encouraging me and lifting me up before the One from whom all blessings flow.

Thank you, God… for my Godly friends!

Goin’ Home

Posted in Announcements, life by alangustin on December 2, 2009

Heading home in a few days. We will pack up the Virginia house, load it into a rental truck and head across the country. The reason we’re leaving our nice, big home in Virginia for our old, smallish, house in Wickenburg, Arizona is complicated. The story involves our jobs, our kids, our parents, and our discontentment. I will write a book about all that later. For now, though, I’m excited.

When we decided to leave Arizona a couple years ago, I made the trip from Wickenburg to Carmel Church, Virginia, twice. The first time, it was to bring my wife’s van out so she and the kids could get around. Then I flew back to get my truck, and drove it across country. It was kinda cool to have some solitude for the three days and nights that it took to make that first trip. But the second trip was just plain lonely.

This time, I get to make the trip with Val and the two cutest kids in the universe. Even though I’ll be driving the rental truck, I’m hoping I can convince my daughter, Ali to ride with me for part of the trip. She might agree to it, once she gets bored with playing her DS, or once they have exhausted the supply of DVDs that they’ll be watching. I won’t even entertain the idea of Evan riding with his daddy, since he is still connected, via a super-strong umbilical cord, to his momma. Don’t believe me? Just ask Val.

Val can be at home with Evan working on her computer (or pretending to be working while actually browsing Facebook) with Evan right in the next room. Evan will go into Val’s office, check to see that she is still there, then return to the TV room to watch Spongebob. Not two minutes go by before Evan is yelling, “Momma!”
“What, Evan?” Val will reply.
“Wha-aye you?” His way of saying, “Where are you?”
“I’m right here, Evan.”
A minute or two will transpire, then, “Momma?”
“What, Evan?”
“Wha-aye you?”
“I’m right here, Evan!”

So Evan will ride with his mommy the whole trip, unless – through some divine intervention – the umbilical cord gets severed. Ali, on the other hand, has already asked if she can ride with daddy in the big truck. I told her that I would be glad for the company, but that it would be a bit more boring. Evan and her keep each other occupied on long trips, and I know she’ll miss “her buddy” before too long and beg to go back and ride in the car with mommy and her brother.

We will be anxious to get back home to Arizona, and so will probably not be stopping very often. Another of the reasons we want to get going is that we want to try to avoid any winter weather. We are looking forward to spending winter back in the nice, warm, desert of Arizona.

Tune in for pics of the trip, which I’ll post here and on Facebook, if Internet access is available on our nightly stops.

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Thank You.

Posted in Announcements by alangustin on November 11, 2009

Arlington National CemeteryOn this Veteran’s Day, I have a different view of veterans.
A little over a year ago, my family moved to eastern Virginia. We live between Fredericksburg and Richmond, right along the I-95 corridor. It is beautiful country, with farms, churches and lots of scenic back-country roads meandering through corn fields and rolling countryside. It’s particularly beautiful now, because the trees have turned, and fall splendor is everywhere. Soon barren, empty trees will replace this palette of color, but in the mean time, it is soothing to my eyes.
The other day, on my way home from one of my part-time jobs, I witnessed a majestic American Bald Eagle glide through the air across the road ahead, and land in a tree right next to the road. I was compelled to stop and look at the beautiful bird, which was perched in a tree, now merely thirty feet from where I sat in my truck, peering up through my windshield. It looked down at me with a stern gaze, and for a moment, our eyes locked. I was in awe for that brief moment, and then I started feeling like prey. Of course the eagle could not have carried me off, truck and all, but I was very glad not to be a field mouse or squirrel at that place and time.
On this day, I remember that encounter with the eagle, which is a symbol of my America – the strongest and greatest nation in the world. I also remember our recent trip up the freeway to the Arlington National Cemetery, just south of Washington, D.C., where my family went with my mom, dad, and nephew during their visit here from Arizona.
In over a year, we had made several trips to D.C., to visit the Smithsonian museums, of which my favorite is the National Air and Space Museum, but we had never stopped along the Metro route to visit the Cemetery. This time we did, however, and I’m so glad. I now have a much deeper appreciation for the sacrifice made by those who served in our nation’s military. I also have a deeper appreciation for the freedoms that I enjoy in America, knowing that a terrible price was paid by many for those freedoms.
As I looked out over the vast expanse of the cemetery grounds, the sheer volume of headstones overwhelmed me, and I was overtaken by a sense of reverence and awe. I found it difficult to speak, and on more than a few occasions, I felt the beginnings of tears welling up in my eyes.
Quite a change from the way I used to be back in the hippie days of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Back then, I participated in more than one demonstration against the war in Vietnam. I had that naive, youthful hubris permeating my personality and oozing out of every pore. It was a movement that I felt a ‘part of’, and it gave me a sense of belonging. Other than that, it was just fun being a hippie war protester among a bunch of other, lost souls who were each searching for a place to belong.
I used to (and still do, actually) think that war is hell, and that it should never happen. Aren’t we, as the ‘advanced’ species on this planet, supposed to be above that sort of thing, since we possess a ‘higer intellegence’ than all the other creatures that inhabit this ball? Sometimes I wonder if God forgot to install some program in our brains that would ordinarily keep us from wanting to kill each other, instead of simply talking about the problem and working it out in some better, non-violent way. But that programming is not there, and so we have the constant fear of war in our world.
Now that I have become older (albeit not necessarily wiser), I realize that war is sometimes required. Take the case of our two World Wars. Were those wars necessary in order to stop evil tyrants from killing everyone in sight, or turning everyone into slaves? Yeah, I think so.
So, my opinion is that that WWI and WWII were ‘righteous’ wars. Wars in which nations of the world had to defend themselves against violent aggression; wars in which freedom and liberty were at stake, and failure to act would have resulted in a much different world. I am not writing this in order to incite some dicussion about the rightness or wrongness of war, as that is a topic for another forum. What I want to do in this post is simply thank veterans of America. Thank you.
I pray that war will dissapear from the earth one day. But until then, I will respect and honor those who have given so much, so that I can be free to have a blog, free to own a home and business, free to worship God, and free to enjoy all the other benefits of living in a free society.

Thank you.

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This is (was) way too cool!

Posted in Announcements by alangustin on April 16, 2009

From the ‘Hoongle’ site:

“Save children from hunger. For every search you do, we donate 20 grains of rice to malnourished children around the world through the UN World Food Program. So far we have collected 9,596,300 grains of rice.”

Now this is an idea that I must show my support for. I have made Hoongle my default browser. I heard about this on NPR this morning, and I must say, this is the best use of the world-wide-web I have seen in a while.

I hope that this will inspire more web developers to do similar things to help the less-fortunate. I have not researched this very deeply yet, so if anyone knows or finds out anything negative about Hoongle, please let me know.

UPDATE: It would seem that this was extremely short-lived. Hoongle is no longer functioning. Sorry for the false alarm about this.

Modern tecnology allows us to see God’s glorious creations.

Posted in Announcements by alangustin on April 13, 2009

This is some really cool video of the sun. It is an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Just think… the same God that loves you and me; the same God that came down to live among us as a man, only to be nailed to a cross as a sacrifice for all; the same God that offers us grace every day – this is the God who created space, time, and everything in it. This video represents just a taste of how powerful God really is. God truly is AMAZING!

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In the beginning…

Posted in Announcements by alangustin on April 3, 2009

faith music

I wasn’t always a follower of Christ. I’ve always been a seeker, but the things I found through seeking usually weren’t very good for me. I developed a love of music when I was a kid, and am often mesmerized by it. Music is my strongest creative outlet. Though I have found over the years that I can express myself creatively in different ways, music is my number one. The places my musical excursions took me though, were sometimes dangerous to my health; bars and clubs, Hollywood, studios full of cigarette smoke, drugs and alcohol. DUring those times, my behavior was not stellar, but I rarely hurt anyone. I dissapointed many people, but mostly I just hurt me with my self-destructive lifestyle.

When I got clean and came to faith, music became my ministry. I have tried to fold my faith into my musical creations, and in 2003 I released a self-produced CD titled, “Jesus Lives”. I didn’t have any marketing skills, manager, or record label. I wasn’t able to promote the CD release on my own, and I couldn’t even perform live anywhere, because I didn’t have a band. It was my desire to make a living writing, recording and performing my music. But today I believe that my desire got in the way of even moderate success, because I wasn’t considering God’s desire. I wasn’t a completely-sold-out-believer, willing to give my all to God. But lately I have found a better love, a stronger faith, through working on getting rid of my desire.

God has been using me at church to help bring others into God’s presence through praise and worship. Leading worship has brought me much joy, and from time to time, much frustration. I’ve been blessed and distressed. But in seeking the will of my Lord, I have found that His pleasure has become my true desire.

God is the Great Creator. He created creation. Before creation exists, He exists. God created space and time. The Earth, black holes, galaxies, planets, sub-atomic particles and wonders yet unseen in the far reaches of the universe have all been breathed into existence by God, the most creative of all.

The Bible tells us that God created us in His own image. Since God is a creator, we must also be creators — since we are made in His image. Today I believe that unless we human beings find our creative niche, or find some way to express ourselves creatively, we are incomplete, and we may even become spiritually ill. I know some may say that isn’t true. But it’s true for me. What I need is to find creative expressions that feed my soul, and at the same time honor God. I know music feeds my soul. I now strive to please God and bring a smile to the face of the Master Creator. Like a child showing daddy her first crayon drawing, I long to express that youthful, innocent purity to my heavenly Father.

Al’s other blog
Al’s web site

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