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.

Aaron Linne: the Road to

Core goals:

  • create an environment for studying the Bible
  • maintain feature set of
  • 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 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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

Review: The Productive Programmer by Neal Ford

This is a great grab-bag of detailed tips (“Mechanics”) and general approaches/philosophies (“Practice”) for helping serious programmers be more productive (this isn’t a book for the average user). Most programmers know that the difference between an okay developer and a great one isn’t fractional, it’s an order of magnitude or more. The ideas here are part of that body of knowledge that makes for great programmers.

Many readers will find sections where they say “yeah, I know this stuff”: if so, pat yourself on the back as a seasoned developer. But more likely you’ll find at least a few tips worth trying, or be reminded of something you never took the time to try out (but should have: how did I miss multiple desktops for Windows?). Those little gems are worth the price of this book, and you can easily skip the rest. The key to books like this is to set aside a little time each day for improving your craft.

Along the way, Ford’s notes supply zen-like snippets of programmer wisdom:

  • “Search is faster than navigation”
  • “Don’t spend time doing by hand what you can automate”.

and dozens of others. You’ll even learn a little history about Aristotle, Occam, and other subjects. Definitely recommended (if taken as directed).

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program [Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as part of the O’Reilly Blogger Review Program. But i would have read it anyway. ]

Hyperlinks to Logos Resources

A few years back i blogged about links into Logos software as a kind of knowledge resource. This style of richly-hyperlinked information is increasingly becoming the standard way i try to communicate: it couples the basic textual content with doors that open into related areas.

With the release of Logos 4 (now a year ago!), there have been some significant changes both to how those links get expressed, and what kind of information can be linked to. So i recently wrote a post for the Logos Blog explaining how this works and why Logos users might care:  Logos 4 Information Has an Address. If you’re a Logos user, i encourage you to check it out!

Weekly Roundup – 2010.11.12

From time-to-time i find things of interest: blogging them here helps me hang on to the data and conclusions, and might be of interest to others too.

“… the  death of the printed book, at least on campus, has been greatly exaggerated …”

According to a study from the National Association of College Stores (not necessarily an unbiased source):

  • only 13% of college students purchased an electronic book of any kind during July-Sept
  • just over half of those were primarily for required class materials
  • 92% of students indicate they don’t own an e-reader
  • of those who had purchased an e-book, 3/4s used it on a laptop or netbook

Google Books “About this book” Feature

This post about the Books in Browsers conference pointed out a feature of Google Books that apparently many folks, including me, haven’t paid much attention to: the “About this book” page. That page for DeSilva’ “An Introduction to the New Testament” includes, in addition to the reviews and related books links (which are also on the main page):

  • a (noisy) contents list with hyperlinks
  • a word cloud of common terms and phrases, which link to full-text search
  • popular passages that appear in other books (here they’re all quotations from the Bible!)
  • References to this book from other books and Google Scholar
  • A Google Map of places mentioned in the book. It clearly has some smarts, but placename extraction and normalization is a very hard problem: for example, “Emmaus” is linked to a city in Pennsylvania, not the appropriate place in Palestine.
  • Links to other books by this author, and with the same subject index terms (e.g. “Religion/Biblical Criticism & Interpretation/New Testament”)
  • Buttons to export the citation in several formats

That’s quite a wealth of information! (Apparently you only get it for books with previews?)

Leadership and Influence Summit

I admit it: i’m a junkie when it comes to information about leadership and influence. Ultimately, my life’s productivity comes down to

  • what i can accomplish all by myself: that can be substantial, but there are always limits
  • what i can accomplish through others, which is effectively unlimited

So if you care at all about getting things done, i’d argue you need to learn everything you can about how to lead and influence others (along with motivating them, training them, equipping them, etc.).

With this background, i’m looking forward to the Leadership & Influence Summit. Rather than requiring the time and expense of traveling to a conference, this is a free virtual event. They’ve captured brief videos (6-20 minutes) from about 30 leading authors and speakers, several of whom i recognize as having material i’ve heard or read, or have been interested in.  From now through Nov. 15 you can access the videos at your leisure, and get a quick-take on this speaker’s message. This seems like a very useful way to overview a lot of speakers and materials, with links to more.

Disclaimer: you have to register, so they get your email address, and i expect they’ll use that to offer you other material and opportunities. I don’t know anything about the organization behind it. But this seems like an innovative approach to bringing together a great collection of material in bite-sized pieces.