[sword-devel] Sword Project at BibleTech

Karl Kleinpaste karl at kleinpaste.org
Sun Jan 27 22:19:17 MST 2008

I thought to write just a couple notes on what happened at BibleTech
this past weekend that was specific to Sword Project matters.

Troy did his first presentation early Friday on Sword internals.  I
wasn't there (I was listening to/participating in another presentation)
but from others' comments I heard repeatedly, it went over very well.

Olive Tree people spent time talking with Troy about using Sword
software internally.  It wasn't clear to me from what I heard whether
they had any further expectation that their use would extend to end
products that would be seen by their consumers.

Wycliffe/SIL are taking strong interest in Sword software generally,
insofar as they are already generating Sword-format modules out of their
existing reference materials.  Also, they are taking specific interest
in GnomeSword, both generally as it is already useful on laptops, and
more specifically for potential use on the OLPC, in which SIL is
investing significantly for forthcoming field trial use.  The big deal
there is whether the necessary libs exist on the OLPC, and if they
don't, how much trouble it will be for SIL to bring the needed libs
along for an OLPC-specific custom build of GS.

SIL have commentary modules in which there are large blocks of text --
dozens of paragraphs -- providing considerable overview of long series
of verses, following which is single-verse-keyed specific breakdown and
comment.  Neil Mayhew of SIL wanted to go over in some detail how this
could be viewed with GS, and after some good bit of discussion, we came
around to the idea of producing pairs of commentary modules out of such
resources, in which a "fast" commentary would be the verse-keyed
content, expected to track immediately by verse as the user navigates,
while a "slow" commentary would be comprised of the larger overview
section, that being in turn range-keyed to the entire series of verses
under consideration.  For viewing in GS, the scheme would be to open the
"fast" commentary in the usual integrated commentary window while the
"slow" commentary would be opened in a separate dialog commentary
window, with its synchronization button enabled.  Thus, both
commentaries would track as expected, but the "slow" one would be kept
at hand without ongoing change until the entire section under
consideration had navigated into the next range boundary.  Frankly, it
was lots of fun to hang out in the hotel lobby with 4 or 5 other guys to
talk over and debate this sort of interface.

New users of Sword software like SIL present a lot of interesting new
lines of thought to consider.  Having completely new insight into their
problems is hugely useful.

One possible configuration file addition was debated during this: A
"Companion=<module>" specifier, so that one could automatically induce
the opening of a second module when the first is accessed.  There is no
expected implication of any change to the Sword engine by this; it is
entirely a UI implementation issue.  But it has good application here,
so that opening the "fast" commentary would also induce the "slow" side
to come to life as well, and in some other areas, such as NET Bible,
where its notes module is properly considered a companion module to the
text-only Bible module itself.  Multiple companions are possible, too.

On Friday, Troy opened his second session on Sword stuff by demo'ing
some of the new web tools he's been working on, and I demo'd both the
Windows UI and GnomeSword, and I believe we were quite well received all

One criticism that we heard as we began to demo was from a woman who
teaches Greek at a Dallas university, who complained of module
repositories like ours offering old resources, specifically naming
Matthew Henry Commentary as one she objects to.  Troy offered response
to this along the lines that we'd be happy to offer any modern resources
we can get our hands on, but that content providers prefer restricted
access via copyright.  I spent lunch with her and part of our
conversation included observations on having tried to contact content
providers regarding access to their materials, but (often as not)
failing even to get the basic respect of acknowledgment from them.

I find this whole issue peculiar in light of having attended ABS'
presentation on how they view the changes to the net.landscape which
include their recent release of 28forGod.org, in which one can get the
entire Contemporary English Version in 28-minute audio segments over 40
days to hear the entire NT.  They're just giving this content away, and
they consider what they've done to be revenue-neutral overall.  This was
reinforced when I spent an hour or so talking with a representative from
bible.org, producers of NET Bible, regarding matters of their internal
political landscape and how it affects the wider availability of their
materials.  They are neither gaining nor losing much by having
distinguished their free Sword module (with limited notes) from their
"premium" $20 version (full notes).  I guess there's some uncomfortable
reality to be wrangled with there, too.

Let me finish by saying that it was especially cool to meet Troy and
others like Daniel in person and spend a couple days with them.
Community is much improved when it is at least occasionally done


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