Create a custom shorter URL

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Here is a solution for those URLs (website addresses) that go on forever.  Often the links get broken in an email if they are too long, and can also be difficult to type or read over the telephone.  At TinyURL.com, you can create a much shorter URL for free.  Just go to their site and paste the log URL and wha-la… a short version.  You can even create custom URLs instead of the automatically generated ones.

URL Shorteners

Do you use a URL shortener?  This is an easy-to-use tool that can help you share websites with others.  URL stands for uniform resource locator, which is the technical name for a website link, such as http://www.missionaryhelp.com Some, like this are simple, while others are more complex, or much longer.  For instance, I shortened the link to a book at Amazon from http://www.amazon.com/Hamster-Revolution-Manage-Manages-Business/dp/1576755738/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1301868103&sr=1-1 to http://tinyurl.com/hamsterrevolution Click here to use TinyURL.

Reasons to use a URL shortener

  • To keep a long address from wrapping to a second line and breaking in an email
  • To make a long address fit in a text message or Twitter post
  • To make it easy to memorize a website address
  • To hide an advertising affiliate link
  • To make it easier to share a link over the phone
  • To make a link better looking
  • To track how many people follow that unique link to your website
  • To hide a free online website or file sharing site with a strange name

Common URL shorteners

Managed Missions Helps Manage Your Trip

If you are looking for a way to stay on top of the tasks, finances, plans, and other details for your short-term missions trip, check out ManagedMissions.  It is a website that allows you to communicate with your team members, manage expenses, track donations, track task completion, and more.  At the price of $15/trip for one trip, or $15/month for multiple trips, it is an affordable option for churches and ministries.

Google SMS

If you do not have a smart phone with a data plan, Google SMS may be a useful tool to check flight arrival times, get definitions, search for local restaurants, do basic web searches, and more.  Simply send a text to 466453 (GOOGLE) and you will receive a reply that is similar to a typical Google search.  View an interactive demo.  Here are some keywords you can use.

  • Airline code – “aa101”
  • Restaurants – “pizza 94040”
  • Web search – “web free sms tools”
  • Sports – “score red sox”
  • Definitions – “define missions”
  • Weather – “weather atlanta”
  • Currency – “5 usd in eur”
  • Time – “time nairobi”

Bookmarks for Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is a great tool for missionaries for several reasons, including its web browser.  One limitation is that the browser does not allow you to order, sort, or group your bookmarks or favorites.  There is a simple solution.  Simply create a DOC file (Microsoft Word document) with your bookmarks and email it to yourself.  Then open this “book” to access your bookmarks.  Here is a list of common sites.  Most of these are mobile versions of sites that load faster and display better on the Kindle.  You can download a DOC file , add your own links, delete those you do not use, and then email it to your Kindle.  You may also copy it below.

Start | Google | Twitter | Facebook | Kinstant
Email | Gmail | Yahoo | Hotmail
Google | Mobile | Calendar | SMS | Voice | Talk
Travel | Kayak | TripIt | FlightStats | XE
Travel | Maps | Weather
Work | Dropbox | RTM | Evernote | gDocs
News | CNN | BBC | GNews | NYTimes | Fox
Read | GReader | ESV | YouVersion | Wiki | mhelp

Social Networking on Short Term Missions Trips

Social media or social networking is ubiquitous in our days and is often at the forefront of fast breaking news and an important factor in social movements.  How are we using this tool and opportunity in missions?  One way to use social networking is to share your short-term missions trip experience.  Social networking tools such as Facebook can help you communicate with your team before your trip.  While on the trip, you can post status updates to Facebook and Twitter, post pictures on Picasa and Flickr, post videos on YouTube and Vimeo, and write longer articles on Blogger, Posterous, and WordPress.  After the trip you can continue to use these mediums to share your story.  If your church or group has a website and active social networking presence, you can link it all together.  Here is an example.

The organization that I am a part of is sending out 160 college students tomorrow on a ten day mission trip.  The students are organized into six teams led by a staff member.  They have used Facebook and email to communicate among the students regarding applications, finances, and training.  Each team leader will carry a smartphone with WiFi and a global GSM phone.  A Twitter account and Facebook page have been established for each team.  A student on each team has been selected as the trip reporter and equipped with a netbook computer and a Flip video camera.  Each team is expected to post regular status updates and capture raw video footage.  Our communications coordinator in the home office will highlight special items through our main social media channels and organizational website.

In the past we piloted this with Twitter.  We chose Twitter because of the ability to easily post updates via text message (SMS) from a simple phone.  Some teams will be staying at facilities with wireless internet and can do much more online, but almost all our teams work in areas with mobile phone coverage.  We quickly realized that parents really appreciated the updates, and called our home office much less with questions about the trip.  Family members shared that they felt like they were on the trip with you, praying for the ministry and see how God worked through the team.  However we also discovered that many people were unfamiliar with Twitter, and it was cumbersome to explain how (and why) they should follow us on Twitter.  Additionally, most of the college students were not on Twitter, but on Facebook instead.  We also wanted a way that the students themselves could get more involved in sharing the missions trips with their circle of friends.  This led us to create Facebook pages for each trip and link them to the Twitter accounts.  We also put a Twitter widget on our website to create a rolling feed of posts to make it simple.  We also created a Twitter list of all of our trips to make easy for someone to follow them all.  You can follow us and see how it works.  Visit go.wol.org to get the details or follow us on Twitter at @wolmissions/trips

MissionMakr Helps You Manage your Short-term Mission Trip

Do you want a simple way to advertise your church’s short-term mission trip, communicate with the trip participants, and share with the supporters?  MissionMaker.com offers a simple and easy to use website that does just this.  You can customize it with your look and feel and allow participants to log in to a secure area.  Sure, you could do this with a blog, Facebook, Google Site, or other tools, but this is easier for those who don’t want to get bogged down with technology.  It costs about $15 per participant.

How to make an Online Form

Online forms are a great way to capture information in an organized method.  Some forms require database and web programming skills while others are easy enough for the average computer user to make.  Here are two tools that are very easy to use and can help build simple forms for registration, contact forms, surveys, and information gathering.  They don’t require any programming or website ability.

  • Google Docs – With Google Docs, you can create a form that feeds information into a Google Spreadsheet and emails you when a new entry has been made.
  • Jotforms – This is an easy way to create powerful form that can email you, create CSV/Excel files and more.  It is the best mix of features and ease of use I have found.  It includes the ability to upload files, screen entries for span, include hidden fields, create custom actions, custom emails, and success pages.

How To RSS The Whole Article

Do you use RSS? See this article to learn what RSS is.   Some RSS feeds contain the entire article, while others only deliver the first few lines.  Full Text RSS Feed Builder (reported by Lifehacker) is a free and easy to use service that converts an RSS feed with only partial articles into a new RSS feed with the whole article.  Just copy the existing feed URL and paste it here and you get a new URL.  This is a great way to read the entire content while offline.

Tracking a Flight

If you are concerned about a friend who is running late or needed the flight number or other information for a flight, just turn to the web.  Here are three good options.

Google Search

Just type the airline code and flight number as a Google search.