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Laridian at BibleTech:2008

Posted on: January 28th, 2008 by Craig Rairdin 22 Comments

Just got back from BibleTech:2008 in Seattle. About 90-100 developers, ministry leaders, academians, content-owners, and end-users met for two-days of in-depth technical sessions on the current state of technical challenges facing Bible software.

I handed out several of our Gold Edition USB Library devices to blog readers who were in attendance. Unfortunately I put the same serial number on all the devices, so they’ll have to contact tech support to get a fresh serial number. Sorry about that.

I did a session late in the day on Saturday on synchronizing user-created data and proposed the possibility that we could exchange notes, highlights and bookmarks (and potentially other user-created data) between various Bible software based on our model. There was some interest, but these things always sound more exciting when you’re right there than when you get back to your desk on Monday morning and there’s a pile of work to do. So it’s hard to say where that will go.

As part of my presentation I demonstrated creating a note and highlighting a verse on my Pocket PC, then sync’ing that to the desktop where it is displayed in PocketBible for Windows. I then edited the note and changed the highlight color and sync’ed to my iPhone over the internet. When I selected the verse number in iPocketBible I saw my note, which I then edited again. While I was there I changed the highlight color yet again, then sync’ed up to the desktop. There was my note, with all the edits from the Pocket PC, desktop PC, and iPhone; along with the verse highlighted in the color I’d chosen on the iPhone.

We made some good business contacts there and perhaps you’ll see something come of those in the future. However, I also took away a number of small points that are worth mentioning here.

  • One publisher admitted that digital rights management (DRM) was a losing battle. He cited several cases where DRM schemes were defeated within days of a new product being introduced. He lamented the opportunities lost by publishers who are waiting for a perfect solution to security of their data. This is something we’ve been preaching for twenty years.
  • The open-source/freeware community was chastised by one Greek professor in attendance for distributing and promoting “classic” commentaries from the 19th century. While her calls for publication of these materials to be suppressed were perhaps over-the-top, she makes a good point: We have so many more manuscripts and archaeological evidence today than we had 150 years ago that it’s a shame that we promote these dated materials just because there’s no royalties on them (they’re old enough that they’re in the public domain). Since the open-source/freeware guys aren’t in business to sell things (and thus collect and pay royalties) they tend not to have the more contemporary resources available to them that are the bulk of what we do here at Laridian and at the other commercial Bible software houses.
  • Crossway gave quite a presentation on the marketing research they have done with respect to the English Standard Version (ESV). It was pretty impressive to see how much time they spend thinking about who their readers are and where, when, why, and how they’ll be reading the ESV. This allows them to better tune their product development and marketing to meet readers where they are instead of where Crossway wants them to be.
  • The Crossway presentation also included a couple quotes from Business Week. One, from 1998, stated that “practical e-book devices have finally arrived”. None of those devices are available today. A second recent quote said the new Amazon Kindle is the “iPod of e-book readers”. We’ll see.
  • The only commercial Bible software companies represented there were us, Logos, OliveTree, and e-Sword. I was disappointed not to see anyone from the major Bible software companies like Findex (QuickVerse) and Biblesoft (PC Study Bible). I realize these companies are not generally considered “leading edge” when it comes to technology, but it would’ve been nice to see them all again.

Ironically, a Logos employee won the prize for answering my trivia question correctly at the beginning of my presentation. Twenty years ago this month I started work on the product that would become QuickVerse. The question: What was the name of that program when I first started selling it in September, 1988?

22 Responses

  1. Eric S. Mueller says:

    Thanks for the report. I’m glad to hear E-sword was represented. Ever since you rolled our your desktop client with synchronization, my finger has literally been on the trigger button to buy. I’ve been using E-sword for years, and I would love the ability to sync between desktop and Pocket PC E-sword.

    Is it possible to run a trial of your desktop client with sync to your Pocket PC trial client notes and highlights?

  2. There’s not a demo of our desktop software, but you can purchase it and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee. There is a demo of the Pocket PC version, and the sync solution should work with the demo version.

  3. Ron Jones says:

    forgive me if I’m out of the loop on this question…I’ve been using the palm version of Mybible for quite a few years and I’ve loved the progress/additions but I’ve always wanted to be able to export my notes to the memo program in my treo (ereader does this and it is great). When you say ‘synchronizing user created data’ in the post above does that include the idea I’m talking about? I don’t use any desktop programs for bible study, only my treo, so I don’t synch anything out of mybible onto the desktop…

  4. Paul Golder says:

    Thanks for the great post, I’ve been looking forward to reading about your experience at BibleTech.

    Your comment about the Greek professor’s statement struck me:

    “it’s a shame that we promote these dated materials just because there’s no royalties on them”.

    Does “old” always mean “wrong”? I’ve just bought a 19th century commentary from you, and I’m happy with it. I’ll admit that I knew exactly what I was buying, and there are those who don’t know how to judge the worth of of some biblical studies. But if this is of primary importance to the educators in Christianity, shouldn’t they release all of their research to the common good, and not be collecting royalties form those they feel need the information?

  5. Ron:

    The reason you’re not using any desktop Bible software to sync data out of MyBible is that there isn’t any. With the advent of our synchronization technology you’ll be able to do that.

    I don’t use our Palm OS products very much personally, so I don’t know if or how it might be able to get notes into the Memo program. I assume you can just use the clipboard.

    Once your notes are on the desktop you can copy them into Word or other real word processors and use them for sermon and lesson preparation, or whatever.

  6. Paul,

    I don’t completely share the professor’s point of view; I just found it interesting. She said “If I read one more paper that says, ‘Matthew Henry said, …’, I’m going to kill somebody.” :-)

    One of her comments was with the advent of Bible study software over the last 20 years we’ve seen a decline in the number of students who are attending seminary, and an increase in the number of pastors using Strong’s Concordance for their Greek and Hebrew studies. I don’t know if there’s a cause-effect relationship there, or what studies have been done to collect those numbers, so I don’t know how valid the comment is. It seems empirically true.

    To blame the professors for not working royalty-free is a bit shortsighted IMHO. They put a lot of work into what they do, and it’s only fair that they be compensated. Paul addressed this question when some complained that some of the apostles were earning their living from the gospel. He said they had every right to do that, and I would agree.

    We don’t ask anyone else to work for free, such as cab drivers, dentists, plumbers, lawyers, postal workers, etc. It seems inappropriate to expect that of authors, college professors, book publishers, etc.

  7. Susan Karnesky says:

    “Twenty years ago this month I started work on the product that would become QuickVerse. The question: What was the name of that program when I first started selling it in September, 1988?”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’m confused. What WAS the name of the program when you first started selling it? I have both PocketBible and QuickVerse, and for both the Pocket PC and Windows desktop platforms. I actually got QuickVerse for the PPC for my mom (I already had the desktop version), as the text size can be made larger than the text can be made in PocketBible. My mom’s vision problems made the font size the selling feature for QuickVerse. My personal favorite is PocketBible, as it’s faster, and the daily reading layouts are better. However, I occasionally use QuickVerse for a text search, as the logic sometimes seems to be more successful for me. I don’t know when I first purchased either QuickVerse or PocketBible, but I know I’ve been using one or the other since before 1994, the year my husband died, as my first Bible software was a gift from my husband.

  8. “What WAS the name of the program when you first started selling it?”

    That’s the question I’m asking you all. I’m curious if anyone knows. Nobody attending my presentation knew; the guy from Logos just guessed a couple names and happened to get it.

    Remember this was September 1988, before I took the program to Parsons Technology (November 1988). I sold it from home for a couple months under a name other than QuickVerse. QuickVerse was released in January of 1989.

    By the time you were using it, it was a Windows app. Back then it was a DOS app.

    With respect to text size in PocketBible, you need to download the latest update. It goes up to some completely unreasonable size like 48 or 72 points. It’s so big you can’t even get one whole word visible on the screen.

    I’d be interested in your comments on search in QuickVerse vs. PocketBible. PocketBible does a lot more than QuickVerse; perhaps that’s what’s confusing.

  9. Paul Golder says:

    Craig,

    Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that any worker is worth his (or her) wages. And I’m more that willing to spend money for current, as well as older products. Hence my use of My/PocketBible products over others that are available free. It’s just that I find it disingenuous of the professor calling for the suppression of older publications, while at the same time perhaps knowing that the newer ones are not affordable by some.

    The comment on the seminary attendance brings to mind something that I’ve asked every pastor that I have gotten to know. And that is “How much of your education do you use in your ministry?” My experience (as limited as it is) has been that I get the same answer “not much”.

    And again I appreciate the work you do, and will continue to support it with my wallet, and my prayers.

    God Bless,
    Paul

  10. Susan Karnesky says:

    Cool! I already had the latest version of PocketBible installed, but I hadn’t tried resizing the font in this version. At the time I bought QuickVerse for my mom to use on her PPC, PocketBible’s largest font was something like 16 point. Note: I tried out the font sizes in both Windows and PPC version. Works in the Bible on both platforms, but does not seem to work in the Desktop version of the devotional I’ve chosen for this year, “My Heart, Christ’s Home”. It works in the PPC version of the devotional. I have lots of other devotionals, but no time to test if the font size option works in others.

    I think the searches that I sometimes find to be more successful in QuickVerse involve the “near” option, as well as the word forms option. Maybe I just don’t know how to apply these types of searches in PocketBible?

  11. Paul:

    I think your observation about how much of our education we use on the job applies to more than just pastors. I remember thinking after a year of being paid to write programs that I had learned more in that year than in four and a half years of school.

    I think seminary professors may picture sermon prep as spending quality time with the original Greek and Hebrew, whereas most preachers figure the guy the wrote the commentary they’re reading knows more about original languages than they do, so it’s better just to rely on his opinion. That’s part of the reason that we haven’t rushed to produce original language materials for our products. It’s a lot of work and the number of people who can truly make use of it is small. When we released the critical Greek text for QuickVerse back at Parsons Technology, complete with some fairly sophisticated searching that wasn’t being done anywhere else at the time for any price, we were completely underwhelmed by the response.

    This is not to say that we’ll never publish a Greek New Testament, just that the answer to the question of “should we” do it is not as obvious as it might first appear.

  12. Susan:

    Take another look at the screen where you set the font size in the Windows version. You’ll find that you can set the font, size, color, etc. for each type of book separately. So when you make a change to the first screen that comes up, you’re going to change the Bible because that’s the default choice in the drop-down list of book types. If you then select Devotionals, you can change the font, size, color, etc. of your devotional book.

    I honestly thought we had “near” searches implemented in PocketBible. I recall a conversation in which we discussed it, but I must be thinking of when we implemented it in QuickVerse. It isn’t particularly hard. I’ll see if I can get it into a future update.

    The word forms searches are only as good as the dictionary on which they are based, or the algorithm that constructs the prefixes and suffixes that are used. I remember trying that type of search on PC Study Bible years ago and it wasn’t very smart about creating a list of words to search for. We let you use question marks and asterisks to match one or many characters. So if you wanted all forms of the word “love” you might search for “lov*” or even “*love*”. The latter would find “glove” and “clove”, though, which isn’t what you’re looking for.

    A better approximation of a “word form” search would be to search for lov[e|"ed"|"ing"|"er"|"ers"] or something like that. It’s harder to do than just checking a box that says “all forms” but at least you know what you’re searching for. I don’t know if this type of search is documented in PocketBible for Windows. I think it’s mentioned in the PocketBible for Pocket PC documentation.

  13. Paul Golder says:

    Craig,

    LOGOS would be a good name for a bible search program.

    Paul

  14. That’s what I thought, too, though ultimately we changed it to QuickVerse. :-)

  15. Susan Karnesky says:

    Thanks Craig. Found the drop-down menu for selecting the type of book the preference settings act on. I think I had stumbled across this before, but had forgotten, since I use the PPC product much more than the Windows product, and the settings on the PPC product seem to be across book types.

    By the way, one thing I miss from earlier versions of DailyReader is the ability to gage how much more you have for the current day’s reading (by means of the scroll-bar for that day). With the DailyReader now highlighting the day’s reading within the Bible, rather than presenting only the day’s reading, it’s more difficult to gage how far along one is. I’ve been using DailyReader in combination with the One Year Bible for a minimum of 7 years, and had read through the Bible in “paper” form at least twice prior to this, and I still sometimes get stalled in some of the OT readings. It’s just nice to be able to see “I’m half way through”, or whatever. On the weekends, I have started using the Windows version of DailyReader on my laptop computer, as it’s easier to scroll to see one’s progress (fewer “pages” to scroll through, due to display size). Consequently, being able to synchronize between platforms is much appreciated!

  16. Lawson Culver says:

    I realize after reading the comments that I’m too late, but I found the answer to the name of the program with a little help from Google.

  17. Paul Golder says:

    Hi Craig,

    I’ve been pondering what you said about original language materials, and I was thinking what kind of need there is for them. And I agree with you, base on my own experience, I find that a good concordance and word study is more useful in day to day ministry, and study.

    Buy then I started thinking about the other subject that we were talking about, namely academia. Since your now back in the PC software business, it seems like original language materials would open up new avenues of marketing. For example if you could even get one Greek instructor to adopt your software, every student that passes through his, or her class becomes a potential user/customer.

    Paul

  18. Matt says:

    I’ve been using PocketBible since my first PocketPC (mine was a HP Jornada 545) back in 2000, (When was PocketBible launched, was it really that long ago?) and find it a great asset. Originally I used it “redeeming the time”, snatching times in the word during busy days. Now I use it more for study, particularly the new PocketBible for windows.

    I appreciate that the poor uptake on a Greek NT would give a poor return, however the NASEC/strong’s is limited. Adding tense, voice, mood (TVM) data would make PocketBible more useful for sermon prep, how much extra work would be involved?

  19. PocketBible was launched in October 1998. We’re in our tenth year, believe it or not.

    While TVM data would be helpful, it’s still just an approximation of the Greek text (which is an approximation of the original autographs). The problem is you’re still thinking like a Greek scholar and not like the typical Bible student. If we rule out the Greek New Testament (which we haven’t; I’m just saying if we accept the fact that it’s not currently available for PocketBible) and ask the question, “How then should we do sermon prep?” the answer isn’t to try to approximate the Greek text but rather turn to those experts in the Greek text who have recorded their thoughts in the form of commentaries.

    There are some very good resources available for PocketBible that don’t require an intimate knowledge of Greek but which still allow you to extract information from the text that isn’t readily apparent to the reader of the English Bible. Among these are Robertson’s “Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament” and “The AMG Complete Word Study Dictionary”. In addition to these, any of our commentaries would be useful for someone who wants more insight into the text.

    I like our IVP New Testament Commentary Series and the Ancient Christian Commentary Series. The one-volume commentaries are nice, too, but the multi-volume series have room to treat each verse in more depth.

    I’m in a Sunday School class that is discussing the life of Abraham. It was interesting this week to compare the position taken by the ancient commentators, who tended to see Abraham’s “lie” about his wife Sarah being his sister in a positive light, to the modern commentators who universally condemn Abraham’s actions as being motivated by a lack of faith. One ancient commentator went so far as to say that this is an illustration of the greatness of Abraham’s faith. That is, he did what he could to protect his wife’s purity while in Egypt, but when push came to shove and Pharaoh took Sarah into his harem, Abraham trusted God to protect her. Without personally knowing any Hebrew, I gained some insight into some of the words that Abraham used that might indicate that his use of apparent deception was part of God’s plan.

    Anyway, I’m not ruling out a Greek NT or some additional original language materials in the future. I just like to explain why we’re where we are now and how to best work with what’s available.

  20. Matt says:

    I appreciate that commentaries are useful tools. They are however limited: $129 for the IVP set is a great price but still a lot more than a NT. Additionally not every commentary comments on each word/phrase, so you need multiple volumes. Now that sounds like a good excuse to multiply books… :)

    Thanks for responding and continuing to provide a great product.

  21. Renate Hood says:

    Hmmm . . . months later . . . .
    I googled myself into this discussion as I was preparing a presentation. So . . . I am the Greek/NT prof who made the statement about the outdated sources. I stand by it. It dumbs down our audience and our serious Bible students. Should we settle for mediocrity juts because it it the Word? Should it not be the other way around? Thanks, b.t.w. for the one who made the comment that we do not all have to work royalty free–I have mouths to feed. Unless, of course, the Church would wish to have professors live of gifts . . .. Until that day, it won’t be possible–sorry. Idealism is great; it just does not feed families. Rather, those who are serious about studying the Word will be willing to invest (just like they are willing to pay for hobbies and eating out). It is our job to keep prices as low as possible and not seek to get rich of the Gospel. Let me assure you that professors are not well paid:-) We teach out of a sense of calling. But back to the outdated sources. Those 19th century commentaries were written and printed when Greek was deemed “a Holy Ghost language,” we had not found the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Nag Hammadi Library, etc. So if one was to write a paper on computer programming or simply wished to become informed about the subject matter, why purchase or read an open source book from the 1980s? Besides for reasons of nostalgia, why settle for mediocrity? Why do so when we deal with the Word, or put differently: Why would we spiritualize matters of the Word? Perhaps think about that.

  22. I’m with you on this issue. My only concern was the call for access to such books to be limited or banned. While I think that’s a bit much, I understand your frustration.

    One of the problems of the freeware/open-source movement as it pertains to Bible software is that it perpetuates this public domain reference material not because it’s good and valuable, but because it’s free.

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