Wednesday, April 30, 2008
  Biblical Studies Publishing in an Internet-dominated economy
Sean in a post Unbundling Biblical Studies a few days ago (I'm busy trying to write a paper on Baptist Hermeneutics, so I missed a few days, OK!) starts from discussion on the Britannica Blog related to their "Newspapers & the Net Forum" the first post starts from "The New Economics of Culture" noting that many traditional roles of Newspapers are becoming free services on the 'net.

print journalism is going through a wrenching transformation, and its future is in doubt. Over the past two decades, newspaper readership in the United States has plummeted. After peaking in 1984, at 63 million copies, the daily circulation of American papers fell steadily at a rate of about 1 percent a year until 2004 when it hit 55 million. Since then, the pace of the decline has accelerated. Circulation fell by more than 2 percent in 2005 and by about 3 percent in 2006.
A print newspaper is a "bundle" of services but:
When a newspaper moves online, the bundle falls apart. Readers don’t flip through a mix of stories, advertisements, and other bits of content. They go directly to a particular story that interests them, often ignoring everything else.
This, it is sometimes argued, is promoting an "unbundling" of traditional newspaper services, with some becoming free on the Internet, and other more specialised services being paid for, yet users do not want to pay online, and:
few newspapers, other than specialized ones like the Wall Street Journal, are able to charge anything for their content online, the success of a story as a product is judged by the advertising revenues it generates. Advertisers no longer have to pay to appear in a bundle.
Neither the first article, nor Clay Shirky's followup, which argues that What Newspapers and Journalism Need Now: Experimentation, Not Nostalgia, really offers a clear prediction of the future of investigative journalism, though Clay seems to see blogging filling this role [?] ;).

Sean asks some sensible questions:
If you take as a given that academic publishing must change to meet the new realities of the Internet economy (i do), which parts will become essentially free goods, and which parts will continue to require a high level of professional competence. Even more importantly, assuming some of these services can’t be easily replaced, what are the new economic models that will provide the required compensation for them?
My answers really haven't changed much over recent years. I still see the "content" of tertiary education (textbooks and lectures typically in the current system) becoming free, or at least dirt cheap. See "Gatekeepers, Open Courseware and the future of the University". That others have joined MIT since 2004 just reinforces this view. Nichthus will ask: How will such content be financed? Basically I suspect long term through either advertising or cheap prices and high volume (a sort of iTunes University ;-)

So, what will teachers, like me, offer to justify our excessive salaries: guidance, tuition, the things we have traditionally provided, since time immemorial. See: Tim Bulkeley
to the Future: virtual theologising as recapitulation
" Colloquium,
2005, 37,2, 115-130.

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  Audio Bible
John has a link to an interview Introducing Maureen Girkins, Zondervan’s CEO in which she notes that Zondervan's all singing and dancing celebrity Audio Bible The Bible Experience was the best-selling Bible of 2007. No surprise in a way since our, almost un-advertised, read-by-plain-ordinary-people, PodBible has delivered more than some 40,000 audio Bible chapters every month for some time now.

She was asked:
Can you tease out an example of how publishing will change?

Wireless phones, which didn't exist 20 years ago, have changed not only the way people communicate but also the way they live. People are going to read, and they're going to read paper for the rest of our lifetimes. But I'm convinced that different distribution for content will change the way we live. We have entered the digital world. It's not like we're just stepping our toe into it. The Bible Experience audio Bible was the best-selling Bible of 2007.

I think we can make some predictions today for how further distribution changes will alter the way we live our Christian life. The spiritual journey many of us have will be changed by the Internet and digital technology. But I'd like a little more time in this discovery process before I can vocalize how.

Now, this is cautious, but much less cautious than print-based publishers usually are! It makes projects like David's for mobile phones or our PodBible relevance visible!

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Friday, April 25, 2008
  Blogger slogger
I know you "all" say that I should move to Wordpress, and I know Wordpress is good, but I have used Blogger for a long time, it like a pair of well-worn trainers to WP's pair of new shiny but uncomfortable dress shoes ;) (Even though I have used WP for the last few months, and will keep the blog about the refugee camp and teaching in Asia there.

But, does anyone else have, or know how to fix the problem of Blogger timing out regularly on publishing. It seems to re-"publish" every file, every time, and for a blog now over five years old that is a LOT of files, and often a lot of timeouts. With messages like:
215 files completed
8M uploaded
Your publish is taking longer than expected. To continue waiting for it to finish, click here.
So, does anyone out there have a fix, except "move to Wordpress"?


Thursday, April 24, 2008
  Bible Society in NZ website
bsnz-blog.jpgMark Brown has announced the launch of the new look Bible Society in NZ website. It is a nice looking (see right), and fairly easy to use, institutional website.

I'm less than excited though. I had hoped for something more interactive. The Vision Network site seems a much more exciting way forward, which has the potential to allow ordinary people to join in "talking about" the organisation and the issues it is interested in, it also makes it easy for the "institutional types" to disseminate information, but THAT is not ALL it does. Now, you may think that I can't talk, the website of the institution I work for is less good looking, and just as "read only". However, most of our communication with our "punters" is done on the CareyOnline site, which (sadly? but for good reasons) is only available to registered students and staff.

So, Mark, what plans do you have to let us punters in pews start to WRITE as well as READ your web?
(PS: that last remark may be badly phrased, Mark's blog - naturally - invites comments etc. by "your web" I mean your institutional website... even a prominent link to your blog would be a start!)

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  Bible Mapper Help
Mark has set up a wiki to provide help for the free Bible mapping tool Bible Mapper. The idea is that (since BM comes free but with no support or help files) the community of users could help each other. I noticed exploring his wiki that David Barrett the creator of Bible Mapper has already chipped in with an answer - this seems a good way for David to be able to provide assistance for users, but without being committed to offering organised regular help, for which surely he'd have to charge!

There is an RSS feed, for compulsive Bible Mappers (like me) to keep up with all the questions and answers or new maps that people upload.

I have only one problem with the system, since I was already a PBWiki user I cannot seem to get added to the BibleMapper Wiki to actually write anything, even a plea for help! And I have one... Somehow, even though I have un- and re-installed the program I cannot select things like rivers, I just get an hour glass and the program hangs for a few moments before continuing as if I had never tried to use the select tool. I wanted to use it to (a) try out David's helpful answer and (b) once I had mastered it document it with screenshots to make it easier for beginniers... Now I'll just have to ask the question here, and email Mark to see if he has a magic key to let me in to the Bible Mapper Wiki ;-)

< wicked > I wonder if Jim will overcome his Wiki phobia enough to use this one? < /wicked thought >

BTW if you do not subscribe to David Instone-Brewer's superb Tyndale Tech Briefings - DO! This time he covers Bible maps and mapping with a really useful summary of much of (the best of) what is available.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008
  Epicure: Auckland Cafe Review
Today we tried Epicure in Upper Queen Street, not least because they have a deal for the rest of April so when you buy one breakfast you get another free! Otherwise the prices are "city-centre" and allow for extras like 50c for a long (not short) black or 70c for soya milk.

The parking is, even on a Saturday early, not good. Though as it was before 9:30am we managed to score a spot round the corner (just as well as it was drizzling). Inside the cafe is well designed and feels spacious. I am not sure why they also label it as a delicatessen, it does not seem to stock much in the way of sausages or cheese to buy and take home. The menu is restricted, and we stuck with the Big Breakfast. It was pretty standard, except: the bacon was good, the potatoes needed longer in the pan/oven to make them different from boiled spuds, the mushrooms would have been better with just the herbs (rosemary and thyme - no sage I think ;) and not a basil pesto as well (OTT). The eggs were great! The biggest surprise was the sausages, they tasted strange, almost as if they were going off :( So overall a very mixed reception.

The coffee was bitter - even through the soy cappuccino despite all the milky stuff - though they did make the long black not too long and serve hot water to add. It was so bitter that I am sure the average cup from our home machine is noticeably better.

The coffees came quickly, but our food took a long time (I think we must have got lost, or the cook had popped out for a smoke when we arrived, everyone else seemed to get theirs quicker).

So, in conclusion -

Service: Variable

Food: Variable

Coffee: Fair


Wednesday, April 16, 2008
  ... but the impossible takes longer!
Well not impossible actually, but the highly desirable (for biblical scholars) and unexpected, Zotero add-in that "does" SBL stylesheet citations and bibliography. There is a bug using the style with version 1.0.3 as Mark noted in his post Zotero: SBL style beta now available it crashes if you try to add a page number to the footnote :( However, it is said to work with the Beta version 1.0.4 of Zotero, so not long to wait...

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  When NOT to read the Bible
Kevin Wilson has been reflecting on the difficulties of cramming too much into introductory courses. In particular the conundrum that if you ask students to read the Bible (in an Intro to the Bible course) there is no time to read a textbook too.
Photo by fitaloon
Duane Smith demonstrated that this was equally an impossibility in ancient times, after having claimed that "we read most of the Hebrew Bible (in English)" he then admits: "1 and 2 Chronicles and Esther were not assigned and we only read about half of the minor prophets and just selections from Leviticus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Job. Only a few of the Psalms and parts of Proverbs were assigned
." so even back in the "good old days" when men were men and everyone a speedreader with no TV to watch or Internet to play with they only actually managed to read some good chunks of the Bible, and I bet less good students (even back then) managed to scrape by reading only bits of the books actually assigned ;)

Charles Halton also chipped in, admitting: "I don’t have good resolution yet." to the problem of "the ratio of primary and secondary readings".

I do!

Do not set the Bible as required reading. If your students do not read the Bible for themselves, or at least listen to the podcasts, then they really have little interest in the subject, so leave those students to flounder!

Actually seriously, there is no way to set reading the whole Bible as required reading, so set and use only small chunks, and make talking about them so interesting that students will want to read more... as always in teaching we need to remind ourselves that "sugar catches more flies than vinegar."

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008
  Shift NO
Thanks to Lifehacker (just when I was about to dump it from my RSS list because there is too much junk to nugget ratio nowadays, and far too many posts per day) they come up with a gem of a Windows Tip.

You all (except doubtless smugger than thou Mac users) know that annoying Windows dialogue box, when you are copying a load of files and some exist in the target directory already:

If you really do want to take "Yes to All" it is fine, but what if you want as I often do to say "NO to all"? Bill Gates refuses you permission, so you'll just have to click "No" till your clicker falls off... except, apparently if you SHIFT click "No" then it acts like the long awaited, but never offered "NO to all" button. But only, they say in XP - Bill must have dixed that bugin Vista, so all you Visterians will still have to click for your lives, he, he!


  World Famous!
It seems that the culinary skills of Sansblogue are famous all over the world. Not only are my reviews of Auckland cafes read with pleasure (apparently, so they say) in North America, but my description of how to prepare Gravlax is being quoted in Turkey.

Maybe I could moonlight as a celebrity foodie, and make enough dough to semi-retire!

Photo from Kent Wang.

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Monday, April 14, 2008
  Brevity and the Bible
In a post below Writing differently I went on at some length to extol the virtues of writing briefly. Especially online. My attention has just recently been drawn to a Wall Street Journal (you see it is not on my usual reading list) article about a new presentation of biblical texts: "High-Design Bible Draws Attention" in the article (back in February!) Andrew Losowsky describes the project called Bible Illuminated, thus: "The Swedish-language Bible marries the standard text to glossy magazine-style design."

He provides a description, but also a photo, and as we all know a picture ≈ 1Kwords:

Now, as well as not reading the WSJ, I also do not read this sort of Magazine. The mags I do read I scan, when I meet a full page of text, like this, I scan it for nuggets and then flip on - incidentally forwards, since I read mags, like Hebrew Bibles from right-to-left ;) If this Bible's intended audience read mags the way I do, they won't get quite (what I'd assume) the intended effect of
the opening of Joshua! Andrew links this to the Samuel
Pepys blog

The Bible Illuminated is an example of a range of classic texts that are attracting new audiences through modern methods of storytelling.The diary of Samuel Pepys has been turned into a blog, with daily entries corresponding to the 17th-century original, at The creator, British actor Phil Gyford, says the site gets around 35,000 unique visitors each month. "I thought I'd like to read the diaries, but the 10 volumes were a daunting prospect,"he says. Transmitting it as a blog "seemed obvious," he says.
Now, it seems to me too, "obvious" that Pepys diary would make a good blog, the form and medium "fit". But I am not convinced that either the new Swedish Bible Magazine, or the earlier Teenage Mag versions, do fit form and medium to the content and genres of the Bible. Now, Joshua is not a good text for my argument, since narrative can perhaps be effectively transposed into very different forms and still "work", but imagine one of Paul's letters... One big glossy picture, and one page of Pauline prose... Yawn! As you know I prefer the audio route... (to check it out try some of the recent Romans from PodBible).

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  Zotero does SBL
Just a note to any Bibliobloggers currently hesitating before starting to use a real and really simple bibliographical tool instead of EndNote, and thus reclaim the power they thought their PC had from that engulfing monster from the deep.
Zotero has begun to work on supporting the SBL Manual of Style as one of the many stylesheets it can output. At present it is "dev", but on a short test seems to be working pretty well...

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Sunday, April 13, 2008
  Writing differently
Writing online needs to be different from writing destined for print publication. (Unless it intends merely to use its online existence as a delivery medium, being printed out once the reader has downloaded the text. For the purposes of this discussion I do not count such hybrid publication as "online".) This is no less true of academic and "literary" writing than of the more commercial writing in which the online world abounds! Two thinking bloggers have addressed this topic recently. Since it is one that I've been thinking and experimenting with since the 90s I'll add my 2c here and hope to garner some interesting discussion.

Sebastian Mary begins a post "on writing less" with the famous Pascal quote:
Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parceque je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte." Pascal, Lettres provinciales, 16, Dec.14,1656.
It is a cliche among preachers too that 'less is more', to speak shorter takes more preparation but is usually more effective. There is a virtue in brevity.

It is, however, a virtue that belles lettres and scholarship have largely ignored or deliberately flouted. Among scholars (particularly in the German and [hence?] American traditions) it has become the norm to act as if to write incomprehensibly is a sign of profundity. It has also often been assumed that length is equivalent to quality - as if one bought ideas by weight, like potatoes!

In the scan and click mental world which most of us inhabit online prolixity is hardly productive. Numerous studies have shown that in an online hypertext environment writing less - if one can do it while still saying the same things - is more effective. SM attributes this, in part at least, to readers unwillingness to scroll "below the fold". Yet that web folklore idea (which SM cites unthinkingly) has been shown to be untrue. If they are interested readers will scroll.

The problem is that if the writing is verbose, readers are not interested. They click elsewhere. To retain readers' interest in this environment one must write differently and firstly one must write more briefly and simply. This is not the same as saying one must "write down" to the audience. The audience of Sansblogue (at least judging by the audience I know through comments and links) is highly educated and articulate. To write down would be to loose readers. What is required is to write, discussing complex and interesting ideas, simply and briefly. That's harder. One does not always - or even ever - hit the target, but such a goal is necessary in academic writing online.

The second "problem" with academic writing online is that coherent sustained argument is not easily conducted in this medium. (As I have argued in my "Form, Medium and Function: The Rhetorics and Poetics of Text and Hypertext in Humanities Publishing", International Journal of the Book 1, 2003, 317-327.) Ian Bogost, more recently and more clearly expresses much the same points in his "Reading Online Sucks: Reflections on scholarly writing on the web". In the paper I argued that coherent sustained argument (such as the monograph form) probably "works" better in print than in a hypertext environment.

I would like to qualify that somewhat, in the light of experience. In the Amos commentary I had some points that I wanted to argue that would more usually be presented in a monograph style publication. Sure enough most readers have failed to spot these arguments. They have mined the commentary for the information they needed, and moved on. But one academic reviewer spotted and commented on these arguments. The difference was (I think) not that he was an academic reviewer, but that he is preparing to write a commentary on Amos himself. For him my theories about the book's construction and about the place of the Day of the Lord in its composition were not extra, unneeded details, but rather the reason he was reading this work!

Here the differently that one must write is not to dispose of large ideas or sweeping arguments, but rather that one must write so that readers who are not interested in these particular big ideas need not be troubled by them, while readers for whom the ideas are significant can follow the thread that allows you to sustain the argument. Again the hypertext environment requires writing differently. Sadly most writing online (except that which sells) is shovelware. Even when written for the web, the author has not troubled to adapt to the new medium.

Writing differently, according to rules that are as yet only half-baked is difficult and requires experimentation. It is great to see that at last some of the "traditional" print publishers have begun sponsoring such play. The Penguin Books We Tell Stories site is a prime example.

See also: my Writing for screen: Time to rethink? from August 2007.

PS: Judy has now posted the response she mentions below "Writing for the web vs writing for print".

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Saturday, April 12, 2008
  Gym Junkie
This You Tube clip shows the opening of Brian Krum's session from the Careymedia DVD on Leadership then and now he calls it "The gym-junkie" for obvious reasons, his text was 2 Peter 1.3-11, go figure!

If you like it you can now buy the DVD here.

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Friday, April 11, 2008
  Nichthus and Open AccessScholarship
Nichthus was kind enough to reply to my post, replying to his post, with a post. So, at long last because a refugee camp was not the ideal place to formulate a good reply, here is my reply to his reply to my reply.

His concern, reflected in the title "Can we have the cake, and eat it too?" basically seems to be that "open" scholarship does not generate income, and so leaches on the work of others.

I have dealt with some of these broader questions in earlier posts like:
But my post was concerned not with the whole Education 2.0/Open Scholarship field (or in view of the ill defined, and indeed unbounded, nature of these expressions perhaps "worlds") but with the particular case of scholarly publishing. And even perhaps within that of the scholarly journal. There Nichthus' examples, like big budget movies, are simply not appropriate.

Nick Montfort on Grand Text Auto recently made several of the points that I'd make in reply to Nichthus:
Scholarly and scientific journals differ from many other sorts of publications. Authors are not paid - in some cases, they pay in the form of per-article fees or fees for color illustrations and extra content. Articles are reviewed by other academics who determine if they should be published; these reviewers are also not paid. The work that people do as researchers, writers, and reviewers is effectively subsidized by whatever institution supports these people as faculty, staff, or students. In the case of pay-for-access journals, the same institutions that indirectly pay for important labor on a journal also must pay the for-profit company that runs the journal in order to gain exclusive access (that is, access not available to the public) to the final outcome. This access doesn’t typically come in the form of a print journal these days, of course.

This process is one that I characterize as anti-publication.
I like it! Traditional "for profit" scholarly articles and books are not "publications", but "anti-publications" since they artificially limit their readership.

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  How might scholarship and community interact online
Bob Stein on if:book asks stimulating questions about the interaction of scholarship and (online) community:
  • what are new graphical and information design paradigms for orienting
    readers and enabling them to navigate within a multi-layered,
    multi-modal work?
  • how do you distinguish between the reading space and the work space? how porous is the boundary between them?
  • what do readers expect of authors in the context of a "networked" book?
  • what new authorial skill sets need to be cultivated?
  • what range of mechanisms for reader participation and author/reader
    interaction should we explore? (i.e. blog-style commenting, social
    filtering, rating mechanisms, annotation tools, social
    bookmarking/curating, personalized collection-building, tagging, etc.)
  • how do readers become "trusted" within an open community? what are
    the social protocols required for a successful community-based project:
    terms of participation, quality control/vetting procedures, delegation
    of roles etc.
  • what does "community" mean in the context of a specific scholarly work?
  • how will scholars and students cite the contents of dynamic, evolving
    works that are not "stable" like printed pages? how does the project
    get archived? how do you deal with versioning?
  • if asynchronous online conversation becomes a powerful new mode of
    developing scholarship, how do we visualize these conversations and
    make them navigable, readable, and enjoyable?
He raises these issues in his post "where minds meet: new architectures for the study of history and music" as part of the planning for two colloquia that they are organising around "multi-layered, multi-modal digital publications" so it is no surprise that they are facing many of the same issues that we must address in envisaging the future of the Hypertext Bible Commentary and Dictionary.

Their projects include a repurposing of music commentary CDs:
and a networked version of a history text:
How I'd love to be part of their conversations! I wonder if the colloquia will themselves have a networked/virtual component?

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