November 28, 2005

SBL: Exhibit Hall Booths Demonstrate There's One Clear Choice of Bible Software for Macintosh

I ran across a link today and was shocked to hear Pastor At Large Blogger Matthew Johnson say,

I've had some ongoing discussions with people about Bible software for Macs... I keep thinking about Bible software for Macs and in the process of asking a couple of questions of Doc Stone, I mentioned that I thought the software [choices] for Macs was terrible to which the good Doc replied:
"Bible Software for the Mac is terrible? Geeze Louise, guy, I know people who switched to the mac just so they could run Accordance. It is the slickest thing I've ever seen."
My shock is that I can hardly believe there are ministers and bible students out there who haven't heard of Accordance. The program is superb, in interface, in search power, in module offerings, in development, in support, and on and on. If you are a bible scholar and/or a pastor (which as best I can tell comprises the vast majority of The Macintosh Biblioblog audience), there's really only one choice.

The other options are simply lacking for bible scholars and ministers. I am pro-gnu license projects, but MacSword simply prevents the use of any modern translations/texts, but along with OnlineBible is just too far behind the times in development. I still can't figure out what QuickVerse is for. I suppose if you want to look up "love" in the bible, and in some decades-old reference it would suffice. For an edutainment, multimedia app for lay folks or the Sunday School classroom, iLumina is a real option. But Accordance software has nearly every option you could possibly want, nearly every module you could want (with the exception of the elusive modern, mainline scholarly commentaries). And with version 7 coming next year, there's no end in sight.

And what about the SBL Exhibit Hall Booths? Accordance had as usual it's ridiculously busy booth of some 7 or 8 Macs with nearly as many staffers, for folks to try things out and get any hands on experience. A DVD tutorial also spanned a screen on the back wall. And then there was LOGOS.

Updated for clarity (as per Ken's good suggestions):
I was anticipating getting a chance to see their Mac app, but then they announced they are half a year behind the schedule they announced half a year ago. But what is worse, is it seems they had planned on being ready for SBL; their display booth had a lone peecee on one end and then a solitary Powerbook on the other end, void of any traffic or attention or staff, sitting beneath an enormous "Logos for Mac is Here." banner. Problem is, it wasn't.
It really looked like they had already bought the banner, so they went ahead and put it up. More embarassing is that they also set up a Mac, running the most minimal shell of a User Interface with no real functionality. It was just a small collection of menus, 90% of which did absolutely nothing, and it was running in "Safe Development Mode" at that. From what little was there to see, I was not filled with confidence that their project was in the hands of competent Cocoa coders. From the size of the package, some work has been done other than what was showing, but why didn't they get something ready to show? I could put together an app with more demonstrative potential and functionality in Project Builder in less than an hour. (Ask me and I might let you have a look at "Conformance," my specialized Bible software program streamlined for fundamentalists.) I haven't the foggiest idea why the folks at LOGOS put this embarassment up on their table, for it served only to demonstrate that they basically had nothing. They already have a slight reputation of vaporware, which is the unfortunate result of the pre-publication announcement business model they use ("We announce we're going to do project X, if enough of you pre-pay."), which I think is a good model. But I really can't overstate that the scene at the "Mac" end of the booth just looked pathetic, so I'm puzzled why they did it. Seriously, they need to replace whatever coder they hired if she/he was given even just one afternoon to get something ready for display at the conference, and also perhaps whoever made the decision to put that out on the table for folks to see. It couldn't have had the effect of causing someone to say, "Oh, I'll not buy any Mac products for 6 months, so as to wait for LOGOS' product." It surely did more harm than good.

As I stared at the "demo" at their booth watching it do nothing, an employee came up to me and simply said, "Sorry."

LOGOS made their money, and achieved their large size, in the popular market. This is why they've not been the choice among scholars in particular. But in the last couple of years, they've been trying to enter the scholarly market, and good for them. But the performance in the Exhibit Hall at SBL only solidified that if you have a Windoze box, it seems to me best to stick with BibleWorks (unless Libronix carries a module you must have) or Accordance (which has a PC install disk as well); and if you have a Mac, there really is one clear choice of bible software.

Bob Pritchett of Logos Bible Software has offered this helpful, public response:
We have many person years into the Macintosh port already. I think the reason that it does not yet match 'what you could put together in Project Builder in less than one hour' is that we aren't aiming for a pretty demo, we are aiming for a useful product. Our porting has been from the bottom up, and our first priority has been reading the eBooks, not designing the icons.

The software we showed at SBL reads more than 5,000 reference works we have already released on Windows. Without changes, without recompiles. While we want to have a great looking product, and plan to, we believe the real star of any Bible software release is the content...

The banner was made for the conference the week before; it even said "Spring 2006" right on it. The "It's Here" meant you could see it working right here, which you could. I'm sorry the demo wasn't prettier.
As to the vaporware charge, I think it's patently unfair. The pre-pub program is clearly explained, and more than 95% of pre-pubs actually make it to publication.

I agree with Bob and said as much that I think the side effect of the pre-pub program is unfortunate. But, my impression at the booth was in fact my impression, and I don't see why if you're going to demo something, why not take at least an hour to put together something that might make a positive impression? If the banner was to imply, "you could see it working right here," it seems a good strategy would be to have something working right there.

And one final bit of advice, as for "5,000 reference works we have already released... we believe the real star of any Bible software release is the content," I suggest taking a harder look at the high priority placed on User Interface standards we expect to see on our beloved Macs. Some 80 to 90% of the works in every bible software package is out-of-date crap fluff, so don't try and impress me with numbers. We want content we should be using, not just what we can get our hands on or what is cheap, and we want it in a beautiful, intuitive interface.

November 27, 2005

On the SBL Bloggers Discussion

Prior to SBL, I said in a post, that it's fine (and probably necessary) to ask the academic question of what is a biblioblog, "but in the end it doesn't prove entirely helpful." Wow, I mean it all the more now.

It was clear from the discussion at the CARG section that no sole mission of a Biblioblog need ever rise to the top. One panelist pleaded for folks to post only field-related material. Another got up and said he didn't know why he was there since he almost never posts field-related material.

As a linguist interested in the way a term is being used, as opposed to concerns for prescriptively classifying a group, I'd simply point out the two ways the term is being used. A biblioblog(er) as

  1. a blog that focuses a fair amount of time to issues related to the scholarly study of the bible, and/or
  2. a bible scholar who has a blog
I think the combining these two notions has contributed to confusion and even ill-will. The funny thing is, I don't think much debate is happening around dissecting this notion of "scholar(ly)" that distinguishes from "Godblogs".
The two main concerns have centered around the amount of personal, non-field related material and the clublike nature of "the group" that excludes others such as women. The first concern does come out of a misguided need to define a group, but it also includes a plea, really. There are some blogs I'd like to read, but it's just too muddled with other topics for me to invest the time to include it on my feed. For instance, I took AKMA off my feed list earlier this year. His children sound really great, but I have two of my own kids and it's hard enough for me to keep up with them.

The second concern came in the form of accusations of exclusivity. This seems to focus entirely on the person behind the weblog, and the desire to be accepted (or noting the exclusion) by the network of these peers. In the inaugural post of the Macintosh Biblioblog I asked,

Does the format necessarily emphasize the personality of the provider? Does the messenger become as important as the message? And, is that really a bad thing?
I'm starting to think yes. I think the use of the term 'biblioblog' is a common denominator, a convenience. We can always contrive otherwise. Have a look at It is a directory of bible scholar related blogs, but listen to the self-description:
...this site functions as a place which ties together biblioblogs in a single definitive list. A bibliobog, in short, is a weblog that focuses on biblical studies and similar studies. The column on the right displays a list of all the blogs (it's in progress) that we consider to qualify as biblioblogs and are worth persuing.
A single "definitive" list? A list of "all" the blogs that "qualify" and that are "worth" perusing? Well, if I were to judge this web resource in the context of this discussion, it's editors come out looking like tyrranical monsters interested in subverting all things not them. But you know what? They were just trying to be helpful. They didn't mean "definitive" as much as they meant "comprehensive". And by "worth perusing", I suspect what they meant were some combination of blogs kept by major bible scholars and/or or well-established blogs done by bible scholars and/or blogs that focus primarily on some aspect of biblical studies. In other words, a list of blogs that are most likely to be of interest to those interested in Biblical Studies.
And guess what? My blog isn't on their "definitive" list. Why not? I've no idea. It is probably for no real reason, but who knows and who cares? But I bet if I asked them to, they'd put it on the list.

What bothers me about the exclusivity debate at the CARG session and the ensuing conversation has been the tone. If one has a concern while at the CARG session, participate in the session and share the concern. But instead of throwing accusations at the CARG panelists, how about beginning the conversation by recognizing their attempts to get a woman blogger panelist. And instead of coming at this as colleagues, we throw mud at a panelist for using a 3rd person pronoun, with no graces offered for him speaking in a non-native tongue? And I see Tim has made a comment in reply to Jim comparing the naming of a Biblioblogger to the naming of Klansmen. Why are people being so nasty?

In a less incidiary moment, Tim of SansBlog is right on when he points out that, "by naming we create a group, by discussing who is in (and therefore by implication who is out!) we create exclusivity." So, I again conclude that it's a non-discussion, defining what qualifies as a Biblioblog, or more importantly, who qualifies as a Biblioglogger. But that doesn't mean that we need to make sure we never use a term as a common denominator for the sake of convenience. For Tim has also said, "Biblioblogger is simply a convenient name for a bunch of bloggers who read each other's stuff and comment on it!" He went on to warn not to make it a club hard to get into, and that warning stands. I loved Stephen's comment at the CARG meeting regarding the selective process of who becomes aware of which bloggers: If you link to my blog, I will check out yours. Weblogs were at their inception and continue as a network of connections made by linking into the network.

I think Mark's closing reflections serve as good advice. Blog what you want to blog, and read the blogs you want to read.
And I would add, any academic discussion of web resources should focus on the substance of the resources themselves, and not the person behind the resource. A valid "categorizing" or "limiting" or even "excluding" discussion in an SBL section might focus on the substantive contribution made to or with biblical scholarship. In contrast, a valid discussion about the people behind web resources could be something like surveying, "What are the kinds of things bible scholars are doing with their scholarship on the web?" and/or "How are scholars choosing to contribute to the field through their web resources/logs?"

November 21, 2005

SBL (Sunday) - Revenge of the Totes!!!

I hadn't planned on posting about my experiences each day here at SBL (the professional bible academy conference), but it seems to be working out that way.

I started the day at breakfast with Disciples of Christ scholars and then went straight to the CARG Biblioblog session. I don't feel a need to discuss that at iength, knowing that others will take up that task. But I will say that what was clear was that we have different folks with very; different motives/missions doing these blogs.

The papers I heard today have been unremarkable (no pun intended here, Stephen, regarding the Mark section).

Best so far would be the special session on the new Tel Zayit inscription. I saw Jim there, so am sure he'll cover the story. I'm waiting to luck into that session that wows me. It definitely did not happen when this afternoon i wandered into a random paper with my new friend Ken Olson, only to be met with the assertion: 'A necklace of foreskins is not the best situation.'

One over-arching reflection is that in the presentations I've attended, the presenters aren't taking the time in their arguments to explain to me why I should care. Scholars, tell me what's at stake.

And speaking of what's at stake--what power of the universe insists on me having a tote bag? I registered... they offered me a tote bag. I had my name badge reprinted today... they tried again. And just when I thought I had avoided the cult, I went to buy Stephen's book at Baylor and before I knew what was happening, they handed it to me in a-you guessed it-a tote bag. Give me a nice shoulder strap any day.

November 19, 2005

Here at SBL

Here at SBL (Saturday) Well I am here. I made it. I missed my 6 a.m. flight (who wouldnt?), so they put me on the next flight which was non-stop so I ended up landing in Philly earlier than I would have otherwise. As such, I was able to make the gathering of internet-active, email list types. The annual group photos were taken, & I learned about a listserv Ive never even heard of. Highlights so far have been: Overhearing great conversation over lunch. So often thats the case-no? Carolyn Osieks presidential address where she spoke of ancient texts, historical faith interpretation, modern historical method, and post modern methods as a rich network of interpretations. a productive conversation with my dissertation director. This is all I can muster for now. Writing a blog from my smart phone (Samsung i500) is not the easiest thing. Oh, and by the way, I did find a place to stay (on a golf course). Thanks for those who wrote me with concerns/ideas.

UPDATE: I'm here on the CARG Biblioblog session computer right now... rather surreal.

November 17, 2005

When researching at your desktop, don't forget the Drag-n-Drop

Whenever you find yourself doing this: highlight, copy, switch windows, click, paste, switch back, repeat...
Don't forget that often an easier workflow is to arrange your windows so that you can drag-n-drop text from one window to another. Rob of macosxhints fame has just posted an article at Macworld that surveys all kinds of great inter-application goodness you can accomplish by with drag-n-drop and a chunk of text.

One behavior he explores is to drag-n-drop text onto different applications in the dock. Start trying it out and see what happens.

November 12, 2005

Looking forward to SBL (If I can find a place to stay)

I have decided to change my mind at the last minute and make it to SBL. (Anybody know anyone who needs a roommate?)

It seems some of our established bibliobloggers and the topic of biblioblogging in general will play a prominent roll, particularly in the CARG session. Mark Goodacre sets up panel discussion of the session with a list of good quesions.

A couple comments on them:
Question #1 is a tough one. It's great to explore the phenomenon of "just what is a biblioblog," but in the end it doesn't prove entirely helpful. Some biblioblogs really aren't (perhaps mine), but they are depending upon one's point of view. (Was The Macintosh Biblioblog the first biblioblog to use the name biblioblog?)

As for Question #2, I would just note that, not surprisingly, there is a disproportionate number of PhD students counted. (Present company included.)

As for Question #3 and #4, I maintain The Mac Biblioblog because it's something that I can contribute. The emails I get are mostly from professors and ministers who often learn quite a bit about tools for practicing their vocation. I have been a (adjunct) professor and have been a church pastor for over a decade, so I have some insight into both perspectives.

As for #6, I for now resist blogging on topics that are off topic. I consider from time to time other solutions, such as Category RSS feeds.

As for #7, #8, and #9, I think the definition for #1 has something to do with the interrelatedness among bibliobloggers and a vocational field. However, I think we have already long passed the state where "everyone" can (or should even want to) keep up with "everyone". I have a dual-purpose blog... I read a horde of technological blogs along with a sampling of biblioblogs. Quite some time ago, I reduced my blog feeds to those of greatest interest and help to me. (I would note that blogs with a large amount of personal blogging were the first to hit the trash can.)
I do think that an increase in team blogs is a good thing. They can offer much, they emphasize the connection among scholars, and they do best at staying on topic.
Wouldn't it be great to see a Historical Jesus blog by 3 scholars who represent different schools? I call for a Synoptic Problem team blog by Eric Eve, Leonard Maluf, and [insert 3rd name here]. (Well, you get the idea.)

My 2¢.

November 10, 2005

Free Open Source Word Processors Compared

NewsForge has done a comparison of Open Office Writer, AbiWord, and KWord, the three primary Open Source word processor alternatives for OS X. (KWord only runs in X11 mode and only after great headaches, so not so much worth it.)

The alternatives to Micro$oft Word keep getting better.

November 07, 2005

National Geographic Channel: Science of the Bible

The schedule for new episodes of National Geographic Channel's Science of the Bible has been released. Dr. Carolyn Osiek is consultant/participant in the following:

The Last Supper11/2
Jesus' Arrest11/16
Jesus' Tomb11/23
Mary Magdalene12/21
The First Christians12/7
I often find it difficult to accept the sensationalism in these TV programs, but I suppose in general I have to be glad that there's some good stuff in there.