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November 25th, 2006

Using Slidy

It’s always important to test the cool new ideas you find against the cold hard realities of making things work, with genuine requirements, and a firm deadline. Overall, i’d rate my experience of using Slidy for my SBL presentation as a B-. This is not a slam on Dave Ragget’s fine tool: if i used it again tomorrow, things would doubtless go a bit more smoothly, and your mileage may vary. But here’s a scorecard on my own experience, as someone who’s definitely not a W3C-grade wizard, but probably still in the top 5% technically of the potential user population.

Pros:

  • Once you understand the basics of organizing slide content (at its simplest, each slide is a div,and bullets are li items), laying out the textual content is dead easy.
  • You get quite a bit of functionality for free through the javascript application: navigation, a table of contents, smaller/bigger fonts, autosizing of fonts for window size changes (which didn’t work perfectly but was still helpful).
  • Including images was mostly straightforward, provided the image was appropriately sized and you played a little with float:right and other placement. (but you’ll see plenty of places where i didn’t have time to get it right: the screenshot of the NYTimes article scrolls off the page, and i wish i’d been able to get the text overlaid on the Google Earth map of Miletus.)
  • One big win illustrated by that last point: you can link directly to individual slides because they all have URLs. Likewise, you can embed links to create a genuinely hyperlinked presentation. Sure, Powerpoint allows that too, but there you have to switch application contexts to visit the link. Here, everything lives in the browser.

Cons:

The experience was reminiscent of the bad old days when i was formatting my masters thesis with LaTex: you’d lay out the content, then run it through to generate Postscript, then inspect it, find a problem, tweak again, repeat, repeat, repeat. There’s no compilation step here, but i still found i needed one application for editing and another for viewing (since my XHTML editor of choice, XML Spy, renders with IE, it didn’t have the right preview, and Ragget notes there’s an XP bug for local content with javascript). Then the cycle was edit, save, refresh browser, view: definitely faster than the bad old days, but still not as direct as i’d like.

In summary: if you know basic HTML and don’t care about tweaking the theme or advanced details, you can use Slidy right off-the-shelf (i guess that should be off-the-web). I’ve tried to make this easier for the next person with my Quick Start Template. If you want to do more advanced things, well, there’s a learning curve: that’s life. But this is not (yet) the drag-and-drop, menu-driven Powerpoint process most folks are accustomed to. And if you want to modify themes, you need a very good knowledge of CSS and a lot of patience. I definitely hope to use Slidy (or some future variant of it, or S5, a similar idea with slightly different execution) again, because i think it’s the right thing: there’s just no reason to lock presentation content away in proprietary formats that aren’t web-friendly. Hopefully i’ll have enough time to create an more personal and appealing theme to use.

Posted in SemanticBible | 1 Comment
November 25th, 2006

SBL Presentation and Updated NTNames are Available

As promised, the slides from my SBL presentation earlier this week, “Weaving the New Testament into the Semantic Web”, are now available on SemanticBible. I spent a few slides overviewing the Semantic Web, RDF, and OWL, and how it might relate to things that Biblical scholars are familiar with. I also reflected on incorporating some Google Earth data about Bible places into New Testament Names: ironically, i experienced first-hand the same frustration with application-specific formats and semantics that is one of the motivations for the Semantic Web. Then i gave an overview of the New Testament Names knowledgebase itself: the classes, properties, instances, etc. I also had a brief demonstration of using the Longwell browser to view the data: I hope to get a live version up on SemanticBible, since seeing the data for 60 seconds seemed to connect more with people than all my other abstract descriptions. I closed with some suggestions for extending the work: enriching the Composite Gospel Index, expanding the coverage of NTNames, and other Semantic Web applications for Bible scholarship.

One of my goals was to try to identify others who would benefit from this work. Attendance was rather sparse though, no doubt a combination of being in the last session of the conference, and having a pretty esoteric topic. It’s still early days for this technology, and especially early in its application to Biblical study. But i’m hoping the web may unearth some others who can look far enough ahead to see the promise of this kind of work and help grow things incrementally.

And, as promised, i used Slidy (more about that experience later): that means all the content is in HTML, and each slide has its own URL, so you can link to individual slides, like this ramble on ways that NTNames might be extended. Click the help link at the bottom if you can’t figure out how to drive the presentation.

I’ve also put up another revision of the NTNames data: there’s an overview here. Alas, while i hoped to get to a decent stopping point, i just ran out of time. So i still haven’t completed a pass through all the Man instances to ensure i’ve disambiguated them all, and to get the basic properties like religiousBelief, ethnicity, etc. But i did get the latitude-longitude data attached to City instances, a nice extension for which i’m grateful to the folks who’ve contributed to Google Earth data. I’ll keep chipping away …

November 12th, 2006

Slidy Quick Start Template

After going back and reviewing the directions, i have to agree with Tim’s comment on my previous post: the Slidy instructions include a lot of detail that isn’t essential to somebody just getting started (though it lets you do many more advanced things).

So i created a quick start template (which is itself a Slidy presentation, of course): you’ll find it at http://www.semanticbible.org/blogos/gems/SlidyQST.html. You should be able to modify this to make your own Slidy presentations with a minimum of head-scratching, provided you can edit basic HTML.

November 11th, 2006

Finding Myself

When Microsoft’s new Windows Live search went, well, live recently, i decided to try it out just to see how its results differ from the Big Search Gorilla. The tried and true way to do this is, of course, to egosurf and google yourself.

But first, a brief history. Over the years, the Boisen name has not exactly been a household word. Other than an obscure horticulturalist who couldn’t get his new berry to thrive and spelled his name funny, there just aren’t that many Boisens out there. (Happily, John Knott was able to rescue his work, and wound up with a successful amusement park as a reward) Growing up, i only heard of a few others Boisens who weren’t relatives, and it wasn’t until our daughter Claire went to college that i actually met a non-related Boisen in person, another girl in her freshman class (one of those statistical anomalies that seem like they should never happen but actually happen all the time). By the time i was Net-savvy enough to want boisen.com, though, i discovered some namesake had gotten there first: wouldn’t you know it!

I’ve been on the web for a while now, presented a few papers and such, and of course have this blog thingy, so i’ve got my small share of Google’s index (though my Googlemass is still exceeded by my brother the big shot musician, who is so cool he even has a Myspace page). “Boisen” being of Scandinavian origin (our branch of the family came through the Schleswig-Holstein area of Germany), and “Sean” being from Ireland (a place my mother loves), i’ve always assumed the chances of finding somebody who shared both my first and last names were close to zero. Imagine my surprise, then, when live.com returned another Sean Boisen!

Unfortunately, i can’t quite figure out who my web namesake is, since all the information about him appears to be in Danish. A colleague tried an online Danish-to-English translator — a rather rare service itself — and we guessed from the resulting word salad that he manages real estate (i’d really be in trouble if he were a computer scientist!). So at least our resulting web presences aren’t likely to overlap much. Just checking today, he’s lately wrangled his way into the first 30 Google results for our name: he didn’t used to be there at all. And he’s #4 in the results on live.com: harrumph!

This all became even more interesting when i looked at the site howmanyofme.com. An initial slashdotting brought it down, but it’s back up now, and you can look up how many other people in the US share your first and last names. The funny part is when i look up myself:

HowManyOfMe.com
Logo There are:
0
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

I knew my name was rare, but i never realized it was so rare that i don’t even exist!

November 11th, 2006

Upcoming Talk at SBL Meeting, and Slidy

There have been quite a few silent weeks at Blogos, not because i have nothing to say, but because things have been busy with some new developments i can’t quite bring out in the open yet. But i want to remind anybody who will be at the Society for Biblical Literature meeting in DC next weekend that i’ll be giving a talk, “Weaving the New Testament into the Semantic Web”. The talk is in group S21-6, at 11AM on Tuesday the 21st: i’ll post the location once i know what it is. This appears to be the last session of the conference, so it may get a little lonely: come and keep me company :-)

In preparation, i’m plowing through to the next release of New Testament Names, which i hope to put out prior to the talk. This will be the first release with a full set of instance data for people: it will also include geographic data for numerous locations, more detailed documentation and best practices, and several new properties, so i’m excited about it. But there’s no shortcut yet (though i hope this will provide one for those who come after!): it just takes a long time to create this data.

At the same time, i’ve decided to bite the bullet and use Slidy for the presentation. I was frustrated last year that i couldn’t make my presentation a first-class citizen of the web. Like Jon Udell says,

“… sharing a few well-chosen words and pictures with audiences, both during a presentation on a projection screen and afterward on the Web, should require nothing more than the tools and techniques the Web natively affords.”

One of the most appealing aspects of Slidy to me is making the contents of presentations directly addressable: rather than “go here, download the PowerPoint presentation, and check out the great graphic of this on slide 6″, i can just put in a link, or at least i could if last year’s talk were in Slidy (not yet). This is all part of the microformat revolution of unlocking data from the myriad little caves it currently hides in: that’s a main theme of my talk, so it only makes sense to exemplify it with the presentation itself.

I’ll post a follow-up when the slides are available (hopefully before midnight Sunday!).

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