2004 Mac Bible Software Survey

This was posted by David Lang to the Mac Ministry List:

It’s hard to believe that a year has already passed since CMUG ran its first Mac Bible Software Survey, but it’s now time for our SECOND ANNUAL Mac Bible Software Survey! A lot has changed in the Mac Bible Software landscape since last year, and a lot has changed in the way CMUG is handling the survey. This year, we’ve set up a web form that you can fill out and submit, and this new approach should make it a lot easier to process the data. This is all new territory for me, so I really need all you Mac-Min’ers to try this out before I publicize it more widely. So please, be the first to voice your opinion, and help me work out any kinks, by going to http://www.cmug.org/articles/Survey04.html, filling out the survey as completely as possible, and clicking the Submit button. I appreciate it, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

If you are a Macintosh user, there you have your opportunity to share your opinions on the subject. It would be good to have another survey for Windows users, and I wouldn’t mind setting up one, but I’m just buried in work right now :-( Maybe later…

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Interface versus Data

Sean Boisen recently announced the release of a semantic knowledge base called New Testament Names. It basically consists of a multilevel categorization of almost every name that appears in the NT, including a whole grid of relationships between them.

Since this is not really an application geared to end-users, but rather a structured data (best viewed with editors like Protege), I did not comment on it initially. However, yesterday he blogged about a prototype graphical interface, under the name of NT Names Explorer, that he is hoping to develop for it. This in itself is good news, but there’s a comment that caught particularly my attention, since it is something I have been giving some thought to lately:

Of course, data isn’t all that exciting (unless you’re a serious geek). I could make a good argument that, in the long run, the data is actually much more valuable than individual applications (and i hope to get around to writing that argument down one of these days), and it’s arguably much harder to come by as well. But most people can still appreciate a good application more than the data behind it, though of course the data is what makes the application possible. The best evidence of this is the NT Hyper-concordance. This continues to be the one thing on SemanticBible that brings most people around (according to the server logs), even though the data behind it is a pretty minor transformation of an OSIS-formatted New Testament text.

I think he’s got a point here. When most people think about a Bible program, they do it in terms of the interface, not the data. I’m afraid we won’t be able to change that. In a day and age where even Linux has taken on a friendly face (e.g., KDE, Gnome), we all (and that includes me!) expect to work with an appealing and intuitive graphical user interface. This is not bad in and of itself — after all, we cannot expect every user to be a computer geek! — but we must never lose sight of the fact that the “bells and whistles” of a user interface are not necessarily a mark of the quality of the data contained in the program. I am all for nice and advanced interfaces, but data must come first. Without good data, everything else will be a waste of time. However, having said that, I think it is fair to expect that quality data will be matched by an equally well-designed and visually pleasant graphical user interface. Software developers face the challenge of having to strike the balance between the two. Do give us some attractive, easy to use (yet powerful) interfaces, but don’t forget to pay special attention to the content you offer. Will you do that for us? Please? Meanwhile, Sean, I will be looking forward to that article on the value of the data…and to the finished NT Names Explorer.

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