God’s Word | our words
meaning, communication, & technology
following Jesus, the Word made flesh
March 27th, 2011

Seasons and Cycles in your Bible Study

Listening to a podcast by Justin Maxwell for CHI Conversations* raised an interesting question. He was talking about how we all have cycles and mood changes in our lives that affect our interaction with software: the lunch time at the gym, the afternoon doldrums. Based on his previous work with Mint, there were big differences in people’s interactions around paydays, when there’s both a large inflow of money and a lot of bills to be paid. College students tend to break up more frequently before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Which leads to the question: what are your cycles and moods with respect to Bible study (whether via software or print)? For most of my life i’ve considered morning the optimum time for personal Bible reading: my mind is fresh, and i can take those thoughts with me into the day. Sunday morning (and maybe Wednesday Night Bible Study for the churches that still have them) are obvious times of higher activity. What about Saturday morning compared to weekday mornings: more or less usage? More Bible reading during Lent?

In the digital age, Bible search engines and programs that talk to the cloud have the potential to identify some of these variations. For example, someone associated with one of the large Bible search sites told me they saw a spike in usage in the late hours of Saturday night (pastors preparing their sermons?). We’ve seen some similar upticks in various websites operated by Logos, though i haven’t been able to do a careful analysis.

So i’d be interested to learn more about the cycles, moods, and seasonal fluctuations of Bible reading and study. I’m interested in your own personal reflections, but even more in any studies or data you might be aware of.

*“CHI Conversations covers Computer/Human Interaction, including design, human factors, cognitive psychology, social science, and more.”

March 26th, 2011

Aaron Marshall: User Adoption Strategy

It really changes things when the CEO gets on board with digital literacy. Book by Michael Sampson User Adoption Strategies.

No adoption = no value: you have to plan for adoption. Rogers Bell Curve: perceived utility and ease-of-use matter a lot, which comes back to design. Tip: establish a glossary. “It’s really hard to sit behind someone using your software and not tell them what to do”. “Ideas are cheap, but they still feel like my heart.” “Analytics is the one area I’ve neglected most.” Everything BIG started small. Progressive disclosure: give people a slow introduction to features, don’t overwhelm them up front.

Some interesting sites for augmented reality:

  • stickybits: attach comments to physical objects with barcodes.
  • Greengoose.com: temperature/sound/vibration sensors. Instrumentation of everything.
  • GE smart grid
  • Layar: find people who tweeted nearby, wikipedia articles. You can create your own.
March 26th, 2011

Steven Cummings: Bringing the Power of Search to Mobile

The mobile revolutions means the goal of software now must be to reach the user wherever they are.

BibleReader 5 is their application: showed it on iPad. Originally used EverNote for note synchronization, but wasn’t a good fit. Resource Guide is a new additional to pull in everything in their library that relates to the passage you’re reading. Other library integration around lexicon entries.

March 26th, 2011

Scott Magdalein: Volunteerism in Bible Technology

They have around 300 volunteers at some level of activity. Testing and UI translation are big areas of activity: also data management. Also user support: about 600 support tickets per day. They also spend a lot of effort on app store management and review (like voting down troll comments). Social media “omnipresence”: we want our users to feel like YouVersion never sleeps.

Be ready when people sign up to volunteer. Some volunteers act as management, but more it’s clear communication. For internationalization, each language has a lead who makes sure the translations are getting done, that enough people are active, and that the translations are accurate.

Managing all the volunteers used to consume 40% of his week: now they’ve broken it down.

They use HighRise HQ for managing volunteers (37 signals). [also Google Groups, Wave, BaseCamp, Skype conversations]

  • Where do they come from? Somebody volunteered, we said yes and posted about it, and now we get 10-15 signups a day! All over the world (but English is required).
  • How much do they work? Minimum is 5 hours, all the way up to essentially full-time. Use MyGengo for managing volunteers.
  • Why did you start recruiting volunteers? We’re part of a church, so it was natural.
  • Do you vett them before they get involved? Yes, similar to our hiring process for staff.
  • How do you handle legalities? Hard problem: we choose wisely who we allow on the team. They sign an agreement that code they write for YouVersion belongs to YouVersion, and that they won’t steal their thunder. [comment: in our non-profit, we can’t even have interns because of legalities.]
  • What about quality of work? Quality is a result of passion, not skill. We have a culture of excellence and don’t accept mediocre work.
  • How do you keep them engaged in projects? Need to not see them as “free label”: let them work on what they’re passionate about and make sure they’re working on things that are meaningful.
  • What don’t you let them do? Volunteers don’t create the vision.

Scott is @scottmagdalein on Twitter.

March 26th, 2011

Aaron Linne: the Road to MyStudyBible.com

Core goals:

  • create an environment for studying the Bible
  • maintain feature set of bible.lifeway.com
  • raise awareness of the HCSB
  • sampling strategy for HCSB study notes

Bad timing: started with Silverlight, then moved to HTML 4 (with a little flash). “We get more compliments over how we presented our Strong’s data … ” Development from features to community and awareness. Using MSB.to for URL shortening. Windows Phone 7 is more valuable because of its connection to Xbox (in response to a tweet from @BobPritchett). My Notes tab is coming soon.


  • Feedback mechanisms? “we consider our feedback link our most important feature”
  • Other feedback channels?

Aaron is @linne on Twitter.

March 26th, 2011

Jim Albright: Publishing using CSS

Given the explosion of devices, how can we write once and then publish to all the different formats and devices? Jim’s current assignment: figure out how to go from the basic translation programs to other formats using markup languages.

Some deeper details about how to use CSS for specific formatting purposes.

March 26th, 2011

Rob Jex: Visualization of the New Testament

They’re creating a library of videos projects to provide visual representations of the Bible story: 55 stories from Matthew. Created a Jerusalem set in the desert outside Salt Lake City. They expect to cast in the hundreds. High production values!

They’ve combining the videos with personal testimonies in services: one initial result was very highly ranked on YouTube. Also making videos of picture books: http://scripturestories.lds.org.

March 26th, 2011

BibleTech 2011

I had to miss the first day because of another commitment, but today i’m here at BibleTech:2011 and looking forward to a great day of talks. Hopefully mine will be one of them: here’s my abstract.

Using the Bible Knowledgebase for Information Integration

In 2009 I reported on the Bible Knowledgebase (BK), a machine-readable collection of semantically-organized data about people, places, and things in the Bible. This talk will describe how the BK now functions as an essential information resource for Logos, tying together information across the software. In addition, I’ll discuss the continued work on the data over the last two years, including:

  • building a database of Biblical Events
  • adding unnamed entities to the database
  • coordinating information about these entities with the Logos Controlled Vocabulary

I’ll also present prototypes for visualizing BK data to enhance discovery and exploration in the Biblical text.

I’ll be live-blogging a few talks during the day to give a quick-take on the subject for those who can’t be here. You can also follow on Twitter via #BibleTech.

March 17th, 2011

Taking the Twitter Plunge

I know, i know … all the Cool Kids(tm) were using Twitter way back in, like, 2008, so i’m very late to the table (and therefore not very cool). But at long last, i’ve decided to take the Twitter plunge and try it out.

Why did i hold out so long? I’ve long been convinced that attention is one of my most precious possessions: it’s one of the few things that’s uniquely under my control. I’m already highly prone to distraction, so it’s not like i need any help in that department. I’ve been afraid Twitter might prove endlessly distracting without providing enough value in return. The danger of continuous partial attention is being perpetually shallow (and there’s plenty of science to suggest that multitasking is just a myth: our brains don’t work that way).

So what pushed me over the brink? Well, @TimOReilly did. I went to the Strata conference last month (still hoping to blog a summary at some point), and they were giving away his book on Twitter (#TwitterBook, @TwitrBook: he was co-author with Sarah Milstein). It’s a very practical, easy read, and they made a convincing case that Twitter is really a new communications medium with a lot of advantages: those don’t come along too often. They also described a three-week Twitter test-drive:

  • follow a few promising accounts and check into Twitter at least once daily for 5-10 minutes
  • check trending topics every couple of days
  • spend 30 minutes one day running a few searches

After three weeks, you’ve only spent a couple of hours, but you’ve given it a fair try. So i figured that’s a reasonable experiment (and that’s basically the approach i plan to take).

Other motivations:

  • I enjoyed blogging, and still hope to get back to doing that more consistently. But there are too many things for which i want just a quick capture-and-spray, even if i don’t have the time for my usual full, clever write-up. Twitter makes that possible by forcing the length constraint: say it in 160 characters, or don’t say it  at all.
  • One of our sons-in-law has started  a new business called Social Synergists which helps companies with their social media marketing  (hi Jordan!). I want to have a better feel for Twitter culture so i understand his challenges, and you have to be on the inside to get that. (I’d encourage you to follow and like them on Twitter and Facebook)

I still view this as an experiment: i may decide it’s just not worth the effort, and i don’t expect to go hog-wild (particularly since, in another display of non-coolness, i don’t have a web-enabled phone, so i can’t easily tweet-out-and-about).

So if you’re a Twitternaut, feel free to follow me (@SeanBoisen), and suggest the people you think are most worth following: with @TimOReilly’s tutelage, i’ll try to make it worth your attention.