Archive - December, 2005

Look, in the air, it’s Logos Bible Software!

One of my favorite sales stories is about the Logos salesperson who sat next to someone reading their Bible on a plane. Our employee took out his laptop, opened Logos to the same passage, and nudged his seatmate. After an in-air demo the Bible student pulled out a credit card and placed an order right there.

At a company meeting we awarded our flying sales rep a small airplane model as a sales trophy. Not be outdone, two other sales people “earned their wings” in short order.

Statistically, it is not too hard to find someone interested in Bible study sitting next to you on a plane. But people carrying paper Bibles still outnumber Bible software users, so I was really impressed when Scott Lindsey came back to the office to report that the person sitting next to him on the plane was actually using our software during the flight. (Scott, of course, showed him what he could do with more books and sold him an upgrade.)

We are flying all the time and we love to meet our users. So when you are on the road, keep an eye out for the Logos logo on shirts and luggage tags and say hello!

Space Walk at Logos

Our guest blogger today is Dale Pritchett, co-founder of Logos Bible Software. And my father. But not in that order.

When I got back from the SBL meeting in Philadelphia I had this sense that Logos Bible Software had changed in some substantial but indefinable way. The demonstrations and conversations were of a different nature than the past. We have always demonstrated new titles and new features at conferences but yet somehow this year felt very different. As more and more people asked about my experience at the conference I began to sense why this conference was different. We at Logos had taken our first “space walk”.

Logos Bible Software has changed a lot over the years but it has always followed a simple formula of better and better computer enhancement of familiar manual tasks. You work with a paper library, you work with a digital library; familiar tasks refined and enhanced through innovative software. And now there is Logos Bible Software 3.0 and suddenly it is like “Star Trek” going where no man has gone before. It is like the first time man walked in space. There was no earthbound walking experience with which it could be compared. Space walking is a whole new experience with its own rules, equipment, challenges and rewards. This is the analogy I was looking for. Logos Bible Software 3.0 is like your first space walk.

For the first time, the software is not mimicking a manual process. There is no print-based equivalent to our new syntactical databases. There is no published printed edition of a Greek, Hebrew or English text with every clause identified and tagged. There are no preachers, teachers or Bible students searching for “functional” relationships as opposed to “form or morphological” tags. We have never had the ability to look up in a book, or for that matter, a Bible software program, the answer to the question, “Who or what is the object of God’s love?” Not only is such a functional search now possible, the results, though derived in the original languages, may be displayed in English as well as Greek and Hebrew. The amazing thing to me is that the most complex linguistic functionality that has ever been featured in Bible software will have immediate practical value to the English Bible student through the use of reverse interlinear Bibles which allow Greek and Hebrew search results to be accurately displayed in English, Spanish or any Bible for which we have a reverse interlinear edition.

This is a space walk.

The challenge ahead will be to describe the new features in Logos Bible Software 3.0 without the comforting analogies to manual systems. In trying to explain syntactical data bases to a user the other day I suggested that viewing syntax was like seeing the Bible in sentence diagrams with exposed subjects, verbs, objects, indirect objects, etc. Searching syntax would be like having the ability to circle a section of the diagram and look for other matching structures with or without the words attached to the diagram. That’s my best attempt so far in describing the concept. I will keep looking for analogies that help. This is the problem of space walking.

Sometimes It’s The Little Things

I love the work of Edward Tufte, a data design guru who writes beautiful books that also serve to illustrate his ideas about design.

I was first introduced to Tufte’s books shortly after I graduated from college, and immediately asked for one for Christmas (they’re not cheap). I find that his ideas challenge me to pay attention to design in everything I do, and help me think about how and why design matters.

That’s why I was excited to see that a new feature in Libronix DLS version 3.0 (the first beta release was recently posted, and all I can say is WOW!) is rooted in one of Tufte’s ideas for conveying a lot of information in a compact, unobtrusive form.

In the second-generation Exegetical Guide, there is a small graph next to each word from the passage. It’s called a “Lemma Density Graph” and it’s an example of what’s known as a sparkline.

Sparkline is a term coined by Edward Tufte to describe “small, high-resolution graphics embedded in a context of words, numbers, images. Sparklines are data-intense, design-simple, word-sized graphics.” You can read all about sparklines in this draft chapter from Tufte’s new book, along with a lengthy series of posts on how sparklines are being used in various contexts.

In the example below, taken from the new Exegetical Guide, the Lemma Density Graph sparkline indicates the density of the lemma ὅτι across the New Testament. The more a particular biblical book uses ὅτι, the taller the bar is for that book. Of course, the height is proportional to the total number of words in each book so that the graph is not skewed toward long books like the Gospels.

As you can see, the word occurs 1296 times in the New Testament. Each category of Bible book (Gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles, other epistles, Revelation) gets its own color and you can see that a yellow bar near the end is the big winner.

So which book is it dominating the graph here? By hovering the mouse over the bar in the chart, I can see that it’s 1 John and the word is used 76 times.

This is not a surprise to anyone who has studied 1 John and noted the tight, logical progression employed by the author. The sparkline provides a great visual illustration of this rhetorical characteristic, and it’s viewable at a glance, inline with the rest of the information.

I can even interact with the graph in ways that take me a step deeper in my study of ὅτι…If I click the 1 John bar, Graph Bible Search Results opens and I can choose any number of graphs to tease meaning from the data (e.g., Number of Hits in Chapter / Number of Words in Chapter) or export it to Excel and work with it there.

These sparklines can draw out all manner of word usage patterns such as hapax legomena, words peculiar to a single book or author, or words that appear more often in certain genres.

I think it’s a very nifty little feature, one that I trust our users will find to be a helpful addition to version 3.0. I also think it’s very cool that this feature is rooted in solid design principles from one of the leading minds on the subject. One of the things I appreciate about our application is that the developers pay attention to “small details” of design so that it not only functions well but looks great, too.

(Note: If you get excited by this post and decide to install the beta, please note that our beta releases are unsupported and be sure to read the warnings first.)

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