Wednesday, December 10, 2008
  Making a church website
Usually I agree with Mark's technological recommendations, and while sagely agreeing I envy his ability to play with so much cool technology ;)

But not today. In his post Tools for creating your own web site he assumes that "you" will learn to use an HTML editor to make your site. A dozen years ago that was necessary, not long before that we had to hand craft our code in a text editor, five or six years ago using Dreamweaver or a free HTML editor was still the norm. But not today. To make a church website, or a personal site, today just use Wordpress (or if you want to host it on your own domain use Wordpress). It is (fairly) easy to adapt, anyone can edit and update, and it is free. With widgets and such it is fairly easy to do pretty much anything...

I created a simple site for our small church and in just a month or two people are already beginning to write it themselves - and longer term it will facilitate discussion, something a static site will not achieve. The Wordpress "Sermon Plugin" enables complex sermon audio recording archiving, you can even use Wordpress as a mini-social networking site (your very own local Facebook ;)

So, sorry, don't use Kompozer it is so 90s, do the 21st century thing and make the site in Wordpress, or if you need something more complex a full blown CMS... If WP is too techie for you there are loads of online build it yourself sites there is no need for a time machine, really ;) there's even a design-your-own-Wordpress-theme tool for total beginners!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008
  Firefox scrolling problem
PS: Update the comments below show that this strange problem is a "feature" just pressing F7 turns caret browsing on and off, thus for some reason turing the problem on and off as well :)

I have a puzzling problem with my favourite browser. For the last couple of days Firefox has begun to behave strangely when scrolling (especially when scrolling through the new posts on Bloglines. Instead of the down arrow key moving the screen a line or two, and the Page Down moving it down roughly a screenful, what happens is that it jumps to the end of a blog. This is infuriating, I am reading the blog before yours, looking forward to your latest wisdom or humour, I press either Page Down of Arrow Down and behold I am at the end of the last post of yours that is still live, all ready for the next blog :(

It is driving me nuts, if it continues I may have to move to that browser that Microsoft make :( So, if you know a fix please let me know :)

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Thursday, August 07, 2008
  Website backup and restore
You'd think it would be easy, all I wanted to do was backup my website, by downloading it to my PC, and then be able to restore it again. First I asked a friendly guru. We got it working, though it required a bit of fiddling and two different programs. Then my laptop died...

This time I thought I'll use the power of Google. I searched for various terms "website backup and restore", "reviews website backup and restore", "magazine reviews website backup and restore" and the like. I found and installed trial or free versions of dozens (well actually nearer to half a dozen) programs. None worked well. Some backed up fine, but could not restore. Some did both, but only to the same FTP site, so no use if I have to change hosts. Some seemed to have difficulties with my system and kept hanging up...

So, does anyone have a suggestion of a Windows program that makes backing up and restoring a website:
  • simple: don't tell me about Chegwin and the rest of them, twenty years ago I wrote mean batch files, but I have no desire now at 60 to start that learning curve againworks to do incremental backups
  • will restore to another FTP site
  • costs less than US$60
Then please let me know!

One batch file was really mean, we snuck it into a colleague's autoexec.bat without him noticing, on bootup on April 1st it ran another file, his screen fell to bits, characters dropping and gradualy the screen went blank, for one minute nothing worked, then a new screen appeared, like the WordPerfect 5.1 startup, except it said: "a pirate copy of WordPerfect has been detected on this computer, contact the WordPerfect corporation, do not touch any key, do not switch the computer off" since the poor guy was in the middle of Africa this was difficult ;) when eventually heart in mouth he pulled the plug at the wall (nothing else not even CTRL-ALT-Delete did anything we'd piped the console to NUL) his DOS prompt now read "C: Never mind Richard WE love you!" [return]

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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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Wednesday, January 30, 2008
  Dialogue in biblical narrative
I have been working on completing my notes on biblical narrative, in preparation for teaching the course in Sri Lanka (BTW for news of my trip, with I hope photos and videos from both CTS and the refugee camp please subscribe I do NOT expect to be posting here much while we are away). I have just completed the page on "Dialogue" only about 1500 words (not counting the linked pages or notes) and it probably doesn't count for International Biblical Studies Writing Month anyway - but it is another writing task (partially) achieved. Only narrative speed, prose and poetry, omission &, ambiguity to go.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007
Before today I knew e-portfolios were really trendy and important but had no idea why, or even what they were! Mark fixed that... It's dead simple, "an e-portfolio is a webpage for life!"

He was speaking at the University of Auckland "Teaching Showcase" session on e-portfolios. He began by revealling the results of googling himself and the other panelists. Consistently and woefully the prominent results were out of date or inaccurate.

I challenge you. Do it now. Google your name (as it is usually heard professionally, with quotes) and if necessary your country, so I'd look up "Tim Bulkeley" (or: "Tim Bulkeley" nz). What do you find?

That's right, out of date static material! Now imagine, instead of those static pages, a dynamically interlinked collection of your information sorted and revealed differently to different sorts of audience.

[Actually at this point I can preen quietly but smugly, googling me - with or without the nz - brings up my Amos commentary site and a pretty up-to-date academic CV :) ]

Family and friends see one selection, students another, your employer another... From all your material many different views... Update once, use in several places...

A collection of different portfolios, for different people, or purposes, but using or reusing data. I'd upload a scan of my Distinguished Teaching Award, link to selected blog posts (not this one, it's probably terribly inaccurate ;-) a couple of my u-tube videos, extracts from student testimonials... Some of that would be for prospective students, some for users of my websites, some for family ...Mahara Home

And, there's a cool open source tool to allow us to play with the concept, Mahara. (BTW it's not pronounced like the desert, try to give each vowel the same stress - the word means "thought".) It is only version 0.8.5, but usable and stable enough so it has already been used by classes, or version 0.9.0alpha2 for the adventurous. They hope to have version 1.0 out "by Christmas".

The educational possibilities... are endless, but as so often likely to be hamstrung but institutional inertia. But just imagine if the teacher's task was to facilitate the student...

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007
  Writing for screen: Time to rethink?
Two articles I read today raise questions about whether we should rethink writing for screen.

Remember how we learned, slowly and painfully, that writing for screen was different from writing for print? On screen people scan rather than read, so terse writing, bullet points and headings are all desirable. They facilitate scanning... We also learned, first that text is fluid on the web, that everyone's browser is different, and also (paradoxically) that it is really important to make sure the essential stuff gets "above the fold". "Fold" is legacy language, from the world of print newspapers, meaning visible on screen without scrolling.

First, The Interaction Designer's Coffee Break cites Milissa Tarquini "Blasting the Myth of the Fold". She presents strong evidence (from AOL) that users do scroll. Then, she discusses the design considerations that allow us to help them - basically letting them know that they are scrolling for. Actually this post though very sensible and based on good research reorganises stuff we knew and hopefully already practice.Reviving Anorexic Web Writing

Then, in "Reviving Anorexic Web Writing" (on classic web-design blog A List Apart) Whose perceptive and hilarious childhood stories you must read! Amber Simmons argues that if we write well then the scanning rules do not apply. This argument needs more thought.

For a start it is not based on research, rather on some evidence and a lot of gut feeling. Then, while it seems clear her claims are true for some web writing. Her own delightful "stories" are a good case in point, one hardly scans them, rather they are read much as one reads a novel (only they are briefer - vignettes). Evidently also many bibliobloggers finest posts are the long ones that encourage real, deep reflection on a topic.

And yet, if a site basically offers information and/or ideas may it not be better to provide them in easy to scan format? If the writing is not the point might bullet-points and brevity still be good? Even better than finely crafted sentences...

Incidentally, and ironically, the image that accompanied Amber's article somewhat undermined her point. though I am still thinking about it - so this is a partial think I think that some writing is better for finely crafted sentences (the quill pen approach) while other writing is better if it provides a targeted dose of information (the syringe)...

Update: I have adapted this post in the light of Stephen's comment below, putting the asides into boxes. Let me know what you think of this "punctuatuion"...

Incidentally, writing this post has reminded me that I need to think about my punctuation - not all the misplaced commas and missing semi-colons, which I know about, but the bigger question of how I punctuate different sorts of parenthesis. I like parentheses, my thinking is a web of very loosely organised parenthetical material. But I need/want to help the reader distinguish parentheses that introduce a new thought (unconnected) from those that explain, or somehow fill out..,. Maybe I should use () for the interruptions and - - for the explanations...

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Friday, April 20, 2007
  Tyndale House and "Snap Shots"
I went to the Tyndale House website to get the URL for the brilliant Unicode font kit to give to some graduate students. Simple enough task... except... it seems the site has a "feature" called SnapShots enabled.

This pops up a dirty great window over the whole area around any link that your mouse strays over with a "pretty" thumbnail image of the page the link points to. All I wanted was to see the URLs... I tried clicking the "Disable" and the "Options: Disable for all sites" buttons on the SnapShots popup.

But to no avail.

I can think of another word to describe this "feature"! But I won't "say" it here ;-) I say the sooner either **apShots enables their "Disable for all sites" button, or FireFox learns to block these wretched popups, or David removes the "feature" the better! David, if you read this, great site, wonderful resources, thanks for the emails, BUT please stop SnapShots and preserve my blood pressure ;-)


Friday, February 23, 2007
  Promotion and Tenure New Criteria for New Media
Mark Goodacre has a good post responding to a document (whose status is unclear to me) from the New Media Department at the University of Maine, headed "Promotion and Tenure Guidelines Addendum: Rationale for Redefined Criteria" and titled more snappily: "New Criteria for New Media".

Mark open his post praising his (past and present) institutions for the support and encouragement they have given him. However, he also writes:
One of the difficulties is that in some institutions, those involved with appointments, promotions and tenure, have not yet realized how rapidly the scene has changed in the last decade or so, and just how valuable it can be to have academics who invest a lot of time and energy in new media.
Which is sadly both true and widespread. The Maine document he cites is more focused on creation of new media like websites, however an MLA report (discussed earlier this year in an Inside Higher Ed article "A Tenure Reform Plan With Legs") may well have more impact on us poor biblical scholars!

The article set the scene, with some ancient history:
In 1998, a group of provosts of research universities circulated a document calling for bold reforms of the tenure process. Traditional publishing was becoming an economic sinkhole, they argued. Junior professors couldn’t get published. University presses and journal publishers were losing too much money. Libraries couldn’t afford to buy the new scholarship that was published. Somehow, they argued, the system needed to change — with less emphasis on traditional publishing and more creativity about how to evaluate professors up for promotion.
How similar things are in 2006! The cloud (though no bigger than a man's hand) on the horizon is "a proposal being drafted by the Modern Language Association to fundamentally change how English and foreign language professors are reviewed for tenure."

A special panel of the MLA is finishing a report that will call for numerous, far-reaching changes in the way assistant professors are reviewed for tenure.

Inside Higher Ed reveals that:

Among the ideas that will be part of the plan are:

  • The creation of “multiple pathways” to demonstrating research excellence. The monograph is one way, but so would be journal articles, electronic projects, textbooks, jointly written books, and other approaches.

  • The drafting of “memorandums of understanding” between new hires and departments so that those new hires would have a clear sense of expectations in terms of how they would be evaluated for tenure.

  • A commitment to treating electronic work with the same respect accorded to work published in print.

  • The setting of limits on the number of outside reviews sought in tenure cases and on what those reviewers could be asked.

Comments by Charles Phelps, provost of the University of Rochester, are of particular interest for Biblical Scholars:
What the association is doing is “right on target,” he said, and from discussions with fellow provosts, he predicted that English departments would receive similar receptions in other administration buildings.

“The thing that is first and foremost to me is that these changes will happen when they come from the learned society in the relevant discipline — and the field buys into the idea of changing things,” Phelps said.

So, perhaps at the next CARG we should be lobbying for SBL to start a similar process?

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