Saturday, May 31, 2008

Will this be on the test? (Is blogging a worthy academic exercise?)

True confessions here...
I started blogging over a year ago just to figure out what this blogging business was about and whether it had any value for my teaching. As I continued blogging, I found that I have been focusing on a number of areas:

  • Bible software: I've tried to compare the capabilities of some of the programs available, but I am most familiar with Logos (48 entries) and BibleWorks (36 entries). I have tried to identify ways that one might tackle various tasks. I have tried to note significant updates in the field. I have tried to provide something of a survey of online resources as well as those designed for desktop and portable devices.
  • Digital resources for biblical mapping (24+ entries): I got started on this for my classroom presentations, and then I got serious about it for a presentation for BibleTech08. I am continuing to work on this stuff, because I will be doing another presentation on it at the SBL Meeting in Boston in November, 2008.
  • Visualization of data: I think it is important to get the 'big picture' as well as the details. A lot of these entries deal with manipulation of texts.
  • Greek and Greek instruction: Since I regularly teach Greek at my seminary, this has been a particular area of interest for me.
  • Pedagogy: The previous bullet on Greek instruction fits here, but I am also reading a number of education blogs, particularly ones that deal with pedagogy and technology. In a broader sense, many of my entries are ones to which I will be able to refer students, not only to learn about something but to learn how to do or think about something.
  • Research resources: This blog has been a place for me to highlight resources I am using to conduct my work: things like Zotero, library management, and issues related to the use of Unicode fonts needed for biblical studies work.
  • (Multi)media: Another interest of mine is the use of PowerPoint, graphics, photos, animations, video, music, etc. in my classroom presentations. Scan the "Labels" sidebar to see the various ways I've addressed such matters.
  • Syriac Tools and Resources: I really only had one post on this topic, but it was a lengthy one that tried to provide a comprehensive survey. It has turned out to be one of the most read posts.
As you can see from this survey, this blog is not really intended to be a discussion-generating blog, but it has been a neat way to make contacts with a number of others in these fields. I am grateful that Tim Bahula has provided some guest entries. This blog has also provided connections for me with people like Tim Bulkeley at SansBlogue, Todd Bolen at, David Barrett of BibleMapper fame, the remarkable James Tauber (the person behind MorphGNT), Rick Brannan and others at Logos, the BibleWorks wizards Michael Hanel and James Darlack, and many others.

NOW, for the point of this post: As I mentioned in the
anniversary survey post, I have been keeping up this blog as part of my sabbatical work. I have developed an unsustainable lifestyle of posting about 4 times per week, so once I am teaching again, that will have to be cut back.

BUT, does this blog 'count' for real academic work? My seminary has been very supportive of my technological interests, but at the same time, my postings on this blog are not valued in the same way as if I had been busy instead writing articles and publishing books (though I am trying to do that too!). Take a look at this section from our faculty handbook that describes one aspect of how faculty performance will be evaluated.

The following sources and criteria for evaluating a faculty member's professional development shall be used:
  1. Publications and their reviews.
  2. Research and projects in progress
  3. Participation in professional societies.
  4. Appropriate sections of the Annual Report.
  5. External peer review
  6. Evaluation by the members of the Review Committee on such items as:
  • Keeping abreast of developments in his/her discipline.
  • Participation in the work of his/her professional society.
  • Contributions to research by means of publications.
  • Sensitivity to current theological trends.
  • Demonstration of a high level ability to interpret theological issues affecting the life of church and society.
Does this blog constitute acceptable "publication"? Does it count as "research"? Do the interactions with other scholars who read this blog serve as "participation" in the scholarly community? Do the few comments my posts generate function as "peer review"?

I suspect that those of you who are even of the sort to be reading a blog like this (and reading this far into a blog post like this) are fairly sympathetic to my hopes that this blog 'counts' as real research and publication. I don't know what kind of numbers publishers hope to attain when they publish a book or journal, but over the last month or so, this blog is averaging about 100 visits per day and about 2 pageviews per visit. A blog entry may be a rather shallow form of engagement, but that readership seems fairly wide to me.

Bottom line: When I write up my post-sabbatical report, how much emphasis should I place on the work I've put into this blog? What are the rest of you doing when asked to give an account of your work?

BibleWorks7: Word List Manager Potential

I think BibleWorks7 users will like this one. Dan on the BW forum asked how to find lexemes that are unique to a particular book (or passage) of the Bible. Such info could be helpful for noting terms that are characteristic of that author. Ben Spackman provided the answer indicating how the Word List Manager could be used with Boolean operators in the verse range to conduct such a search within seconds.

I have done a screen capture video to show you how to follow his steps, but I have extended it with a particular application I think you will appreciate.

  • First, I want to find all the words in the Greek / LXX of Isaiah that show up only in Isaiah and no where else in the LXX.
  • Then I ask the question: How many of these words that are unique to Isaiah show up in the New Testament? I.e., if a word shows up in the New Testament and only in Isaiah in the LXX, is it possible that the NT author had the Isaiah text in mind?
  • Using the Word List Manager, it is very easy to generate this list of words, and it produces some interesting and notable results.
HERE is the 5 minute video (6.6Mb streaming, will open your WMV player) [link fixed]

When I get a chance, I will try to figure out how to do this in Logos. If someone else knows how to accomplish this task, go for it, and I will post or link your directions/video here!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

GoogleEarth now available as a browser plugin

I have long been a fan of GoogleEarth, the free earth (and sky) mapping and visualization tool. At their recent I/O conference, Google announced that GoogleEarth is now available as a browser (IE6/7 and Firefox 2+) plugin. That is, instead of having to run it as a standalone program, it can now be used within your Internet browser. (Don't confuse this with GoogleMaps which has a different function.) There is still some development work before you see it appearing on a web site near you, but read more about it here. Go here to install the plugin and see how it works. (See my graphic above.) For those who haven't downloaded the whole GoogleEarth program (why?), this will be a great way to obtain its functionality. I'm also happy to report that it is very fast and responsive.

Text2MindMap - Free mind mapping tool

Text2MindMap is a new online service that converts texts to manipulable mind maps. Displayed is a very quick outline I constructed of the Bible. I then clicked on "Convert to MindMap," and the results show up and can be moved around. The resulting image can be saved and downloaded as a JPG. Items kind of float around, even with "Lock Graph" chosen, so it is not the best for trying to chart chronological relationships. As noted by Eric in the comments, they have now updated the program to "Freeze Graph," and it works like you want it to do.
If you want a FREE, quick mind mapping tool, this works great.

(Thanks to Jane's who has links to more mind mapping tools here.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Accordance 8 released

Accordance, the well-respected Bible software designed for the Mac, announced that the new version 8 is now available. A good summary of the improvements and new features is given on the Accordance Blog. Some highlights:

  • Universal Binary
  • Library Window
  • Powerful New Search Capabilities
  • ANY Tag
  • Key Number Highlighting
  • Favorite Workspaces
  • Custom colors and color backgrounds
  • Custom leading
  • Horizontal Panes
  • Draggable Panes
  • Support for Arabic
  • Unicode Import
For more info, check out the new features in 8 page of the newly redesigned Accordance web-site.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Free: "Notes for the Study of the Greek New Testament"

On the Logos newsgroup, Terry Cook wrote:

Several years ago I began keeping notes in Greek class. After 3 years of classes I had a pretty high stack of papers so I decided to systematize the notes into some sort of book format. Well, I have about 300 pages and over 700 footnotes and I would like to share my work with anyone who thinks it might be of value.
With Terry's permission, I am hosting these notes on my site. (UPDATE: 2009.02.10: Here is an updated post with updated notes.) He state in the preface:
It is my hope that when used as intended this guide will help students to gain a solid foundation upon which to understand the New Testament in its original language and that this guide might lead the student to pursue subsequent study and gain a thorough mastery of the language. Again, this guide is not intended for use as a stand-alone study guide but aims to provide the interested person a supplement to one or more of the many fine textbooks available... It is thought that this essay might be profitable for use in self-study, for use in the classroom, and as an independent reference tool.
The graphic of the Table of Contents above will give you an idea of the thorough coverage. As he indicates, it is well-footnoted, and there are frequent citations of Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. (This is a good thing.) The glossary may prove to be especially helpful. As a searchable PDF file, you may find it useful to keep on your computer for quick reference.

Thanks for sharing all your work with us, Terry!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Berean Bible Study Freeware

From the Berean Bible Study Freeware website:

BerBible is simplified Bible study freeware that includes the complete ESV (English Standard Version ©2001 by Good News and Crossway Publishers) and the NKJV (New King James Version ©1982 from Thomas Nelson, Inc.) Bibles at no cost.
In addition, you can also download for free the NET (without notes), BBE, KJV, WEB, ASV, Webster, and YLT. It is a compact and fast program with installations available for Windows, PocketPC, and Palm. Don't expect any original language tools, dictionaries, maps, parallel version displays, etc. It is only designed to locate biblical texts quickly and conduct efficient searches on those texts, and it does this job well.

Microsoft Ending Book Search; Internet Archive Affected

I have previously blogged about Microsoft Live Book Search which is similar to Google Book Search but was scanning/digitizing different books and approaching with a slightly different permission procedure. Microsoft has now announced that they will be stopping this service. Cf. articles in NYTimes or from AP. The business perspective on this is all about Google vs. Microsoft, but from those in biblical studies, it is a blow to the online books that will be available. According to the AP article, Microsoft "said it will give publishers digital copies of the 750,000 books and 80 million journal articles it has amassed." What does this mean for those books you have searched and used on Microsoft's site? Again from the AP, "Microsoft will take down two separate sites for searching the contents of books and academic journals next week, and Live Search will direct Web surfers looking for books to non-Microsoft sites."

The related issue here is that Microsoft is dropping support for the Internet Archive which hosts a ton of other resources I regularly use. The Internet Archive has resources to go on "for a while," but it would be a shame if this site went down too.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bible Software Reviews...

Came across these in my wanderings in the (online) wilderness:

At PreachingToday: A fairly long and balanced review by Pastor Lee Eclov of:

  • Biblesoft's PC Study Bible Version 5 (Professional Reference Library)
  • BibleWorks 7
  • Logos Bible Software 3 (Scholar's Library: Gold)
  • QuickVerse 2008 (Platinum Edition)
  • Zondervan's The Teacher's and Pastor's Library 6.0 for Windows (Pradis-based)
His conclusion is that they are all "amazing," but in the end:
For $150, Zondervan's The Teacher's and Pastor's Library is probably the best bargain if you do not plan to do extensive language study. It is stodgy in design and needs a face lift, but it is a great price for what you get. Biblesoft's PC Study Bible and QuickVerse are great if you aren't particularly into more scholarly approaches. They are both well-designed and fun to use. I'd give Biblesoft a slight edge.

For those who are serious about using the biblical languages, you have to go with either BibleWorks or Logos. I'd say it's a toss-up between the two. One of my student scholars felt he needed them both to get the range of study he wants to do. BibleWorks offers the better price. With Logos you pay more and get more, especially in the other non-exegetical resources, plus it is generally easier to use and more creative than its competitors. In the final analysis, Logos's Scholar's Library will be my go-to software.
At ChristianityToday: "The List: Bible Software: The top five computer helps for Bible research. It has very brief reviews of The Resurgence Greek Project, Logos3, BibleWorks7, Zondervan’s Greek & Hebrew Library 6.0, and Accordance. Check out the comments for more suggestions of programs that should be on "the List."

At About.Com: Christianity: Who knew they would have so much stuff on Bible software at this site? Look at the bios of the reviewers to understand their background. Interesting... In any case, check out:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

BiblePro - Free Bible Software and Online Resource

Catching up on a few things... and first is BiblePro. I had not heard of this program before, but it is a decent FREE program. (The site says that the author is a software engineer doing it as a hobby. It is truly free, but the author will gratefully accept $5 or more donations.) All the texts used are public domain ones, but the interface is simple and clear. You can download a limited version, or pay only shipping/handling ($8.95) for a CD with 43 Bibles (a number of them are non-English), "250,000 Commentaries (I can only conclude that this must count comments on this many verses; looks to be 19 public domain commentaries, devotions...), and "1,750,000 References" (from 1o dictionaries, lexicons...). If you want to check it out, I recommend that you try the BiblePro Web Version shown in the picture above. It includes searching, parallel versions, automatic links to the dictionaries and commentaries, and more. Clicking on "Stories" is a way of connecting synoptic parallels. Most interesting is the "Maps" section which includes 124 maps. Some of the maps I recognize from eBibleTeacher, ABS, and other historical maps. The program is not designed for original language study, and the usual cautions about using only public domain stuff apply, but again, nicely done, and it is FREE.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

BibleWorks, Logos, Accordance: Searching in Hebrew/Greek, Scanning/Context in English

The exercises I will demonstrate here arose from a discussion on the BibleWorks forum. The question is this: How can one conduct a search in an original language (Hebrew/Greek) but scan the results and see the context more quickly in English?

I played around a bit in BibleWorks, Logos, and Accordance to see how one would respond to that question in each. What I did is conduct a search on the Hebrew word ברך (bless). I then show how those results can be displayed in each program. Then I show how I might go about scanning the results in English and viewing the context of the results.

Here is the BibleWorks video. (2'44" 5.3Mb)
Here is the Logos video. (2'52" 4.8Mb)
Here is the Accordance video. (1'13" 1.2Mb)

Summary and Conclusions:

  • BibleWorks is very fast in conducting the searches, but it is rather awkward in trying to scan the results in English. It is easy to click through the results and see whatever texts one wants in horizontally-oriented parallels. The parallel windows feature--which allows for vertically-oriented viewing of parallel texts--is helpful, but it requires frequent backtracking to see the search results.
  • Logos is the slowest of the three, but it also has the most powerful features and options. The linking of windows provides a good way to run through hit results. Starting with the Hebrew (or Greek) text, it is easy to conduct a speed search and then "Export Results to Verse List," and then set up the verse list to display "References and Text in Three Columns." My only complaint here is that I would like a four column display so that I could have BHS Hebrew, LXX Greek, and an English version displayed.
    I did not demonstrate it in the video, but there is a way of accomplishing even more than a 4 column display. 1) After exporting results to a verse list, one can leave it at "References Only." 2) Use Tools > Bible Comparison > Parallel Bible Versions to open in a new window. 3) Choose the versions you want displayed. 4) Create the text link. [UPDATED directions >>] I.e., when you double-click on the reference in the Results window, it should open a window or two with the text. Using the small chain link icon at the top of one of those windows, choose a link set. Choose the same link set in the Parallel Bible Versions window. 5) Now when you double-click on one of the results in the Verse List, it will appear in this window.
    The value of the Reverse Interlinears is also demonstrated with this task. It is easy to conduct a speed search in Hebrew, Greek, or English. The results display in English--and the hits are even highlighted in the English!--but they are linked to the original language, and one can, of course, link the Reverse Interlinear window to any other text display one wants.
  • Accordance does a very nice job of returning helpful displays of results. The texts can easily be set to display in vertically-oriented parallels. The use of the "Context" option makes it easy to see as much text around the results as one wishes.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pictures are worth ... a lot: Resources for Biblical Pictures

Sometimes you really need a picture of a biblical location to tell the story. Where, for example, are you going to find a picture of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives like the one above?

There are a number of issues to consider when looking for biblical pictures. First, you want pics of suitable quality. Be sure to preview the picture in the format you plan to use it. Second, the photo should tell a story or help you to tell the biblical story more clearly. Some resources provide clear descriptions to help you in this way. Third, do you want actual photos or drawn pictures/illustrations. The list I have created is focused on photos. For drawings/illustrations, check the Bible Illustration blog. Finally, one of the main issues you need to keep in mind is whether you can obtain permission to use a picture. (I've talked a bit previously about copyright issues with regard to biblical maps.)

I have compiled a list of programs, sites, and other resources that provide access to photos of biblical sites. I have a description of about 20 such resources for now, but I suspect that there are many more. Leave a comment, and I will update the list.

In addition to the descriptions, I provide some example pics (I am particularly amazed by the examples I show of what GoogleEarth and Microsoft VirtualEarth can do of replicating real, on-the-ground pics), and a summary of recommendations. If you are in a hurry, here are my recommendations for now:


For high quality, high-resolution pictures:

Best online sites:

Ways to get pictures to use in your own presentations (i.e., clear use permissions)

  • Holy Land Photos: Clear and generous permission policy; excellent quality
  • Most of the packages that you buy allow for presentation use
  • It will take some checking, but many pictures on Flickr have clear Creative Commons usages described
And here again is the complete LISTING of programs, sites, and other resources. Let me know if you have others I should add.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Imagining a study Bible with Livescribe...

Livescribe has been around a while, but it's recently been updated, and there's a neat video showing what it can do. Now just imagine a study Bible using this technology. You could add all your notes with voice annotations, translate text, etc. Pretty spendy for now, but in the not too distant future it would seem quite doable. We can also wait for Bill Gates' new TouchWall...

Monday, May 12, 2008

ESV and NKJV Bibles for OneNote2007

I've been trying to use Microsoft OneNote2007 a bit. It is a neat program, especially for organization of random notes, associating varieties of files/text/data, and for annotating data. It is not great as a bibliographic tool (compared to something like Zotero), nor is it intended to be a Bible research tool. BUT... over at TabletBible, I discovered that the ESV Bible and now also the NKJV Bible are available as FREE downloads for OneNote. If you take a look at the TabletBible page, you will see how nicely one can annotate the text on a Tablet PC. I'm using it on a desktop, but the graphic above will show you what it looks like and what is possible. (Note that I used the mouse to do highlighting and an attached graphics pad to do the handwriting.) I can imagine how great this would work on a Tablet PC where you could write directly on the screen.

Most of the big Bible software programs have ways of annotating the text or attaching notes. HERE is a recent note on annotating in Accordance. I have found it difficult to highlight text easily in BibleWorks, though it has been easy to add chapter/verse notes. Logos has a much more powerful annotation tool set, and I probably should learn to work with it more, but it still is a lot more work than tapping, typing, and drawing on the screen as in OneNote.

BTW, interested in getting OneNote... and the Microsoft Ultimate Office 2007 for cheap?
If you have an .edu email (teacher, student, or alumni: you do not have to be an active student), Microsoft's The Ultimate Steal is an incredible value. For $59.95, you can purchase Microsoft Ultimate Office 2007 which includes Access™ 2007, Accounting Express 2007, Excel® 2007, InfoPath® 2007, Groove 2007, OneNote® 2007, Outlook® 2007 with Business Contact Manager, PowerPoint® 2007, Publisher 2007, and Word 2007. The offer has been extended to May 16, 2008. This is entirely legitimate and quite a deal.
(My wife who is finishing a DMin at Drew was able to get one. Do make sure you are a student. If they check on you, and you aren't a verified student, you will have to pay the $679 retail price. BTW, my link to the page is an affiliate link, and if you buy, I get $1! Thanks!)

Powerset: New Natural Language Query Processing Tool

Powerset was just launched today. As described by CNET, it "brings a new, rich semantic dimension via natural language query processing." For now, it is only applying this technology to Wikipedia, but its broader applications--and I am thinking in terms of application to biblical text--are intriguing. So what does Powerset do? Again quoting CNET, "Powerset's engine has read 2.5 million Wikipedia pages and extracted 'meaning' from the sentences, creating a navigation and semantic layer on top of the popular Web encyclopedia." To understand more clearly what this means, read the CNET article and this one at PCWorld (where it is called a "Google-killer"!) in addition to watching the introductory video on the Powerset web page. I have also created a 2'15" video showing how it works with "Septuagint" as a search term.

What Powerset is trying to do is get beyond simply using keywords to identify what is relevant in a text. Keywords can be effective if a real, live person goes through a text and applies the keywords. This is basically what Logos has done when it links a biblical text to "topics," and it can use
something that is specifically oriented in this way like the New Nave's Topical Bible. Of course, this approach is only as good as the person who applies the keywords/topics.

Is there a way to get a machine to analyze a text? The easiest approach is to check word frequency on a passage, filter out trivial words, and highlight the most often used ones. Logos is implementing this kind of approach with its "Important Words" section in its Passage Gui
de. Here, for example, are the important words in Mark 6:30-44.I am not clear on the algorithms that Logos is using to generate this list (e.g., why is αρτους less important than ιχθυων even though it occurs at least as often?), but it does provide a helpful start at seeing some of the main concepts in the passage. Powerset, if I understand this correctly, is taking this approach another step further by not only analyzing frequency but also trying to understand the meaning of the sentences. I.e., it appears to be looking for subjects, predicates, and complements in the sentences in the Wikipedia article. Note how this data is presented in its Outline, Show Factz view. Some of its returns make questionable sense, but in general, this is a quick and efficient way for speed scanning a passage and getting a better sense of its content.

In any case, this is an interesting new textual analysis tool, and I will be interested to see how it might be applied to biblical texts.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bonus items for research and note-taking

In the previous post I listed a couple tools for conducting research and note-taking. The person in the BibleWorks forum who had provided the impetus for this discussion noted that he sometimes made voice annotations. It was a quick way to take notes, but he was trying to figure out how to organize them or to convert them into text. One solution: simply use Zotero with the Vertov plugin (see that previous post) and simply work with the audio files.

Jott is another option that you may not know, but it is one I find myself using more and more. First, it is a FREE service and uses a toll-free phone number, but you must be a USA or Canadian resident, and, depending on how you use Jott and your phone service contract, you may incur some phone charges. (With two teenage daughters, we have unlimited text messaging, so I'm good to go...)
You can use Jott in all sorts of ways, but the main wonder of it is that you talk into your phone, it converts your speech into text (though it also saves the audio), and then posts it to a wide variety of places you can choose. E.g., I hate to try to type out those text messages on my phone, but with Jott, I simply call, tell it to send a message to my daughter, and then (clearly) speak my message. She gets the text message about 5 minutes later. (Officer, I wasn't texting while driving. I was Jotting. ;-) ) You can also speak a message and have it post on your blog. Or Jott to yourself to set up a reminder or create to-do lists. You can also use Jott on your computer and have it send a text message reminder to your phone at a designated time. Okay, so what does this have to do with biblical research? There are at least two ways I am using Jott.

  • Let's say you are driving walking, and you get some great idea, and you have no paper. Simply Jott yourself a message and pick it up in your email later on.
  • You are in the library or a bookstore, and you come across some book you want to reference again later. You call Jott (quietly when in the library), and use its built-in connection to Amazon. Say (or spell) the author and the book title. When you check your email later, it will have the link to the Amazon page, and from there you can Zotero it in to your bibliography.
It really is a cool technology. It's in beta, but I have had no problems, and they are assuring users that it will always be free.

Super bonus extra: If you don't know about GOOG-411, you can thank me now. It's from Google, it works great, and it is FREE. (I like FREE.) You simply dial 1-800-GOOG-411 from any phone (USA or Canada only), indicate location (city/state), and state the business type or the name of a specific business. It will start returning best possible results to you, and when you get the one you want, it will automatically dial the number for you. (Note that this is all voice-activated interaction.) Okay, I'm not sure how you will use this for biblical research (though I did just check and called the seminary where I teach), but it sure is handy.

Research and Note-taking Tools

A person on the BibleWorks forum asked what others were doing to take and organize notes as they did research. The person was hoping to do so within the BW7 editor. This would certainly work, but, as the person noted, it would take some forethought about directory structure in order to organize the notes efficiently. There is an effective "Find" feature in BW7 that would allow for later searching. One can also set up notes within Logos, of course, and you can work with those notes more easily by grabbing the free DomiNotez "note enhancer for Libronix."

It is great to have all your Bible-related notes in a single place, but neither of the note taking editors in BW7 or Logos (or any other Bible software program) are well suited for collecting research notes on books or articles. So what else is available? I have previously blogged about bibliographic tools (here and here), but we are interested more here in research and note-taking tools.

My two favorite tools are 1) the combination of Orbis (a free-form text-retrieval system) and Ibidem (the bibliographic database) with NotaBene and 2) Zotero.

Orbis is outstanding and is well structured in connecting notes to their origins and also quite versatile in composing free-standing notes. It basically is creating a textual database with sophisticated search functions. The drawbacks: it will cost you somewhere around $200-400, and it will take a commitment (but potentially a very worthwhile one)to learn how to use NotaBene.

Zotero continues to expand its capabilities, and it is free. Using the Vertov plugin, Zotero can even be used to annotate a wide range of media. I have also noted how to keep Zotero synced across any number of computers using FolderShare. Zotero works great for inserting end/footnotes and for generating bibliographies in MSWord and OpenOffice, and you can even download an addin that formats everything according to the SBL stylesheet. (Read about it here and my observation that it was having trouble adding page numbers. If you install the Zotero Development XPI, it works just fine. This is a one-click installation, so it is easy to do, but note that there are some language restrictions.) The drawbacks: you need to be using Firefox, and there is a little extra work to keep it synced across multiple computers.

So, Zotero is great as a bibliographic tool, but what about its use as a research and note taking tool? Take a look at the graphic below. (Click to expand.)

Books can easily be added through a site like Amazon with all their bibliographic information included. Web articles or pages are easy to add, and one can also add standalone notes. Once the items have been added to your library, you then have multiple ways of organizing and annotating them. You can create Collections to organize the items, and items can be dragged/dropped into multiple collections or subcollections. You can add a note to it or attach any other resource, either online or one located on your computer. You can also add tags which will prove to be useful later in searching. You can also link the item to related items in your library. When it comes to finding / retrieving the info you want, note that you can click on one of your collections and see just those items. You can search using the tags you have applied. You can also use the search box to search your items. Note that this search also includes the full text on the web pages you have in your library! If that isn't enough, there is also an advanced search that uses Boolean operators and searches on any field you choose. It is a pretty amazing tool...

Bottom line: If you are using NotaBene, Orbis and Ibidem are the way to go. Everyone else should really look at Zotero.

I have a couple of bonus options for you in my next post!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pope goes digital!

Pope Goes Digital to Better Connect with Youth

The Pope will text daily messages of inspiration and hope during the six-day Sydney event while digital prayer walls will be erected at event sites and the church will set up a Catholic social networking Web site akin to a Catholic Facebook.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The future of biblical studies and technological tools

After the church in which she'd grown up closed for lack of money and pastors, Paula switched to one of the nondenominational congregations that Wal-Mart had added to many of its retail/social complexes.
Have your attention? That is a quote from a fascinating article in last Sunday's Washington Post Magazine. (Free registration may be needed to read the whole article) The article posed two possible scenarios for what the Washington D.C. might be like in the year 2025. The quote is but a very minor part of a picture in which energy costs, terrorism concerns, and market influences have conspired to make outfits like Wal-Mart and Google (how will you survive without Google LifeServices in 2025?) pervasive influences in a very changed society.

In addition to the implications for the Church and for community as suggested above, one of the other things that made an impression on me in the article was the repeated references to responses to cyber-terrorism and cyber-spamming/manipulation. I.e., we should probably expect a lot more attacks via the Internet. Some will be intended to disrupt economies and social institutions (cyber-terrorism). Some will simply be intended to manipulate your opinion or your pocketbook. If you think spam is bad now, imagine a time when it will be very difficult to verify what really is true information. Everything on the network will be suspect.

I recommend that you read the article for yourself, but it also got me to thinking about the implications for what I tend to be doing a lot of, namely, using technology to enable and enhance biblical studies. What might we expect in 2025?
  1. I suspect that we will gladly be paying for more secure Internet-type services. I.e., I am not sure what exactly the Internet will look like, but wide-open Internet access will no longer be viable. Perhaps there will be all sorts of VPNs (virtual private networks) providing security and filtering, and it will be via such VPNs that we might connect in to the larger network. I suppose this is simply an extension of what we have now, but I think the change of perception will be significant.
  2. For example, will anyone still be bothering with blogging? Will the cacophony of voices be so overwhelming that it becomes impossible to manage? Will it be so difficult to determine what is true and reliable from what is intentionally manipulative or deceptive that our circles of reference will actually contract rather than enlarge? I have managed to keep a reasonably small list of biblical studies related blogs in my RSS feed, but I can see a time when it will be too much work for bloggers to keep up and too much uncertainty to make it worthwhile for readers.
  3. I am also wondering, then, if we might actually become more dependent on private resources/devices rather than network resources. I.e., it will be lots easier to secure a personal device not connected to any network, and I will be more confident in working with guaranteed secure resources not based on the network. This does mean that I believe that someone will still be developing and providing technological resources for biblical studies, but I also suspect that the choices will be greatly reduced. We are already seeing the convergence of best features of the various Bible programs, and as this trend continues, the only differentiating factor will be cost. I just hope we aren't all buying Wal-Mart or Google Bible software after they buy up every other current company in this field...
I am pretty sure I am way underestimating what is going to be possible in 2025. The Washington Post article did reflect on the future needs for community and interpersonal connections, and I too believe that there will still be a need for the kind of community we experience in Church or synagogue and in the company of other biblical scholarly sorts. Maybe all these online services (Google Docs, blogs, wikis, WindowsLive, etc.) will be able to keep ahead of all the security issues, and network resources will still be viable. Maybe we will be doing virtually everything in what is now being called the 'cloud' of online reality. Maybe we will all have embedded devices that virtually embed us in the network. Would you be willing to have a chip embedded in you that made the whole Bible--with real transparency to the original language texts and full search and supporting secondary resources--available to you simply by thinking it? It would be an interesting way for Jeremiah 31:33-34 to become a reality!

Bible Mapper wiki update - More videos!

Want to learn how to make the fine map pictured below that depicts Paul's travels as described in Acts 16.11-12? I made it using the free Bible Mapper program. Over on the Bible Mapper wiki, I have posted a series of short videos showing all the necessary steps. Look for them on the Tutorials page. Okay, I have other things to do, so that will be the last of my work on Bible Mapper for a while. Join the wiki, and share your work!
And BTW... did you note the new RefTagger from Logos? Hover over this Acts 16.11-12 reference for a moment.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bible, Hymns, and Movies

Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) just announced:

For the past several months here at the CCEL, we've been working on a new database of hymns and worship music. Do you want to search for a hymn text or tune? Find a hymnal that has it? Perhaps you are a worship leader and you would like to find a hymn on a certain Bible text or a setting of a tune in a different key.

These are some of the kinds of uses we support in the Hymnary. Jointly sponsored by the CCEL and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, the Hymnary currently has 14,225 hymns indexed, of which 2,986 have the full text of the hymn, and 4,977 media files including MIDIs, mp3s, notation files, and sheet music.

Click on the Bible text link, and you will see how nicely it works. I regard hymns to be a form of biblical interpretation, so they are often worth checking.

Similarly, it won’t include every movie you’ve liked, but WingClips is a great way to find video clips related to particular themes. According to the site:

You can view inspirational movie clips from many of your favorite films. These WingClips™ can also be downloaded to use in your church, school or other non-profit organization for FREE.

New Mac Unicode Polytonic Greek Keyboard

In light of some comments generated by a previous post, Rodney Decker has just updated his Unicode Polytonic Greek keyboard for the Mac. Check it out here. For much more on Unicode in general for use in biblical studies (both Mac and PC), also check out his Unicode Resource Page.