November 27, 2007

What I like to do

I had considered not attending SBL this year... busy schedule, other travel, lots of projects in the air at church. What tipped the scale for me was that the folks at Accordance Bible software invited me to join their booth to help demo software. I thought it would be a great experience so that settled it for me.

The conference was good for me. I had good face to face's with folks I wanted to. I had opportunities to discuss my work with scholars that were interested. I rushed to make the e-lister's gathering and photo op, which I arrived at just before the shutter went off.

Christian Brady has been having biblioblogger gatherings at previous SBL's which I wasn't aware of, and enjoyed seeing & meeting more folks I knew from online presence.

I tend to go to a lot of papers, but that was slashed this year because of my working at the Accordance booth. This experience was fantastic. I'm pretty good at using Accordance (which is of course why they asked me) and so it was great fun to sit down with folks and show them what they can do in their work. (Here's a pic of me in action.) The Accordance booth is just nearly constantly crazy busy (hence the recruitment) with folks adding tools to do their work. And, Accordance leader Roy Brown is like a rock star with all the top scholars who pass through the booth during the show to check in with Roy and the work they're doing together. Again and again, I'd look over and say things like, "Is that so and so?" When I'd be doing a demo, it was such great fun to sit with a scholar and say, "Tell about your work." And then show them how they can do things to enhance/improve/quicken/expand their work. This experience really clarified for me what my online church/bible/mac hobby is. For years, I've been active online in capacities such as B-Greek, the Accordance e-list and forums and The Macintosh Biblioblog, and I now have some clarity why its such a hobby.

I have certain skills/experiences which include ordained pastoral ministry, Biblical languages, elite Mac skills, Applescript, Accordance, some dabbling in XCode, Perl, PHP, XML, and just tech interests in general, and I really enjoy using that background to help folks doing bible work or pastoral work to discover ways to improve their work. 

The number of digital tools available to us these days is staggering, and I just enjoy assisting colleagues discover how to make use of them. The regular emails I get from folks with a pretty wide array of solicitations for help are really opportunities for me to contribute to religious studies, pastoral efficiency, or biblical research in specific ways. And while I don't always have the time to give equal attention to them all, I do count it a joy. I love to see a colleague say, "I wonder if it would be possible to..." and to brainstorm "Here's one way you might be able to do it."

Last week, at the Accordance booth, a scholar came up to and said, "In my work, I read through the text and when I find a feature that matches this certain criteria, I do this, and look up this, and compare it with this. It's great that these tools can enable what I'm working on." But in my thinking through his workflow, I had a couple suggestions. We sat down at a computer and I said, "Notice you can get this same result with a simple change to the Text display, and furthermore you can make it the default format, and even better, you can set it as the default Details window, and then back in the Search window, notice how a simple click here and then here brings it up that much quicker..."  and the guy broke down in tears. He said, "You have no idea how much time you have just saved me in my work."
That's a satisfying role to play, and if you'll allow, I'm happy to do it in the name of Jesus Christ.

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