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Innovation in Software Design

Contributed by guest blogger Ken Ristau

Rubén recently identified one of the areas that he felt needs real improvement in bible software: greater attention to being pedagogical. Personally, as my response in the comment thread indicates, I'm not so sure this isn't already being done as well as it can be done by, at least, three of the leaders: Accordance, BibleWorks, and Logos. For me, the real area of deficiency I see is innovation.

When iLumina emerged on the market, it was a breath of fresh air. Finally, a program that dispensed with the prevailing paradigms and went for a completely different, interactive experience. Albeit it was different only in the bible software market; it's been done before with Encarta. Still, it was exciting to see a company think outside the paradigm that is QuickVerse, Pradis, Logos, BibleWorks, Accordance, and the like. Now, it's time for these companies to step up.

Perhaps, one of the best products on the market by the traditional software makers is Accordance's Bible Atlas. Though best is actually relative... and seeing as no one has actually produced a competing product, there's reason to wonder. Still, it's potential is awesome. OakTree did a lot of things right with this product: cool layers that provide information about roads, empires, and such; actual coordinates and measurements for the entire map; an excellent "Find" feature; and so on. At the time it was produced, the program was truly remarkable. Sadly, its development remains stagnant--though I've heard rumours--and no company has anted up with something even remotely comparable. Yet, think about the potential: Imagine an Atlas that incorporates satellite technology; includes an array of archaeological and topographical maps or picture and video of important sites; or, uses 3D imaging as deployed in iLumina. Imagine zooming in on Jerusalem in an Atlas and a city map emerges with possible configurations of the city in various biblical periods. First, click on parts of the city to see where important archaeological discoveries were made, drawing on, e.g., the City of David excavations by Shiloh or the Jewish Quarter excavations by Avigad. Then, click on the temple mount and see a 3D model of the First Temple or Herod's Temple. Imagine being able to do similar things at other biblical sites throughout the Mediterranean. Now that would be a resource!

There are also a host of other areas that bible software producers could explore. I desperately want to see innovative products that far outdo the multimedia encyclopedias and edutainment software available in other subjects. I want to see products that rival games in terms of ingenuity and graphics. iLumina was a definite step in the right direction but more can and should be done. Plus, quality of information needs to remain forefront because, in the end, that is what makes the product usable for a long period of time. So, innovation... that's my take.

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