Interview with Bob Pritchett: Innovation at Logos

This isthe fifth installmentin a series of video blog posts (introduced here) sharing the story and culture of Logos Bible Software. Other posts in the series are archived in the Video category.

Bob is asked to choose the top innovations Logos has offered the world, describes his role in the development of Logos Bible Software, and discusses some of the ways ideas become product features. You’ll also hear how Logos appropriates the best research and technology from other fields such asgene sequencing visualizations and applies it to the task of digital Bible study.

Note: All videos are in Windows Media format. Mac users may need to download the free Flip4Mac plugin for playback within QuickTime.

Getting More from Library Builder, Part 2

Arecord number of customers took advantage of the insanely great “Library Builder” Christmas special this year and added 330+ books to their library in one fell swoop, so we’re taking a look at how to maximize the value of those new books. Even if you don’t own the Library Builderproduct, this series will help you get the most from the books in your electronic library.

In Part 1, I encouraged you to begin exploring the new books added to your library and pointed you to a few tools that assist in said exploration. We also paused to think about some of the helpful things you didn’t have to do…because the digital library did them for you!

Now I want tofocus on a few different categories of book that arrived in your library via Library Builder, and consider how you will encounter individual books within those categories in the course of your study.

VIP Books

Some categories of book enjoy a “privileged” status within the Libronix DLS. They are privileged because we have built specialfeatures or tools that help you get the most value from them. A few examples are commentaries, sermonillustrations, music, maps, and devotionals.

Today I’ll focus on commentaries. The Logos Bible Software homepage has a feature that enables you to open a favorite commentary and Bible directly to your desired passage. And Passage Guide is programmed to find all the commentaries that address your passage. We’ll look at how these features work, a few tweaks to optimize things for your owen preferences, and pause to discuss a few individual books along the way…

Commentaries on the Homepage

Remember the list of Library Builder contents on the wikimentioned inPart 1? A quick glance at the list shows that Library Builder included three single-volume commentaries:

  • Evangelical Commentary on the Bible
  • Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
  • The 365 Day Devotional Commentary

I like to specify a single-volume commentary as my preferred commentary on the homepage. To change your preferred commentary to one of the new commentaries in Library Builder, just click “Customize View” on the homepage, then select from the list. Walter Elwell’sEvangelical Commentary on the Bible would be a fine option.

If you also check the box next to “Show Study Options” you will now have a “Bible and Commentary”option on the homepage, in the Study Passage section.

Now when you select Bible and Commentary, enter a passage, and click “Go!”, your favorite Bible versionand Evangelical Commentary on the Bible will open straight to your passage. Simple. Quick. Smooth.

Commentaries in Passage Guide

Commentaries also show up at the top of the Passage Guide report. Library Builder included one OT commentary series (Wiersbe) and four NT series: College Press NIV Commentary Series, IVP New Testament Commentary Series, Crossway Classic Commentary Series, and Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament.

You would expect these commentaries to automatically appear when you run Passage Guide, and they do. But you may notice some pleasant surprises as well…

The pastor of the church I attend is currently preaching through Revelation, a book that could be described in terms borrowed from Winston Churchill: “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

When I run a Passage Guide report on Revelation 2:13,in addition to all the expected commentaries that appear, two in-depth studies on the book of Revelation show up: Back to the Future – A Study of the Book of Revelation by Ralph Bass and Revelation Explained by Lerry W. Fogle. I’m grateful that my digital library summoned these books in response to my passage search, because I might never have thought to look for them.

Passage Guide was smart enough to find two other books that are not traditional commentaries but rather brief surveys, organized by passage, and intended to provide “helps” to the ordinary reader or the pastor who needs information fast.

The People’sNew Testament , written in 1891,provides a sentence or two for each verse…like a margin note to provide background on people and places, or help interpret easily misunderstood phrases.

The Bible Guide , published in 2001 by Augsburg, is a fantastic resource for concise comments on a given passage of Scripture. Its commentary on the letter to church in Pergamum in Revelation 2 begins with a description of the city that makes it seem like an actual, living place:

Pergamum is an important city — not for trade or beauty, but as a seat of government (2:12–17). It has been the capital of Asia for nearly 400 years — ever since the break-up of Alexander the Great’s empire, when it became the centre of the Seleucid kingdom.

Pergamum has a famous library of parchment scrolls, and parchment gets its name from the ‘Pergamene sheet’. The culture and religion is strongly Greek, with an emphasis on the worship of Asklepios, a god of healing. His temples are something like hospitals. For many people Asklepios is the saviour. Also at Pergamum is a huge temple dedicated to Zeus. It is built on three sides of a square, to make a giant chair or throne.

Andrew Knowles, The Bible Guide, Includes index., 1st Augsburg books ed., 697 (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001).

You can be sure that I’ll be returning toThe Bible Guide as my small group works through Revelation.

Bonus Tip #1: Show More Commentaries

In Logos 3, Passage Guidelists only 15 commentaries when the report is first run. To see more commentaries, click the “More >>” link.

Bonus Tip #2:Cream the Commentary Crop

Sometimes you want to see fewer commentaries in the Passage Guide report ratherthan more. Or more precisely…you want to see more of the commentaries you use most and fewer of the ones you use least.

Logos 3 has a nifty feature that keeps track of how many times you use each commentary and promotes the most used commentaries to the top of the list. Notice in the screenshot below the space between A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory… and The Apocalypse of St. John. The Passage Guide report has grown smarter over time and now reserves the top 5 slots for my most-used commentaries.
Honestly, how cool is that?

If you prefer your own smarts over the built-in smarts, you can always create a defined collection of your favorite commentaries (learn how!)and then limit Passage Guide to searching those commentaries. Once the collection is created, simply click the Properties button in the Passage Guide report, and select your collection from the list.


Looking Ahead

Today we focused on your new commentaries to see where they show up in the library,get some pointers on how to promote the ones you like best, and introduce a few of the new titles on a first-name basis.The nextpost in the series will look at books in other categories such as illustrations, music and devotionals. In the meantime…happy exploring!

The Serendipity Curve

Note: Creating Passionate Users is a secular blog, unrelated to Logos, and as such may use terms or images we wouldn’t choose.

Creating Passionate Users is a seriously smart and interesting blog on user-oriented product design. A recent post on the site entitled “Add a little more random to your product” encourages product designers to consider ways to boost the serendipity quotient of productsby adding randomness. Give users more opportunities to be surprised and they will enjoy the product more.

The article uses the example of the iPod Shuffle, which forces users out of a listening rut and exposes them to more of the songs they own.

Think about all the music on your (non-Shuffle) iPod, computer, or vintage CD rack. Now think about the subset you actually listen to regularly. For most of us, it’s a pathetically small set. By literally forcing people to listen to randomly-chosen songs, the Shuffle was constantly delighting, surprising, rewarding, stretching users. And users loved it.

Here at the Logos Blog, we’ve shared some of our thinking on this very topic, encapsulated as “Facilitate Serendipitous Discovery.”

F-S-D serves as a description and guiding principle for the way we design Logos Bible Software to invigorate, refresh, suprise and inspire users in theirBible study.

F-S-Dalso speaks to the approach we take to ensure that users receive more value from their electronic library…even as the number of books in that library grows into the thousands. That is, we design features and automated reports that help people find information they didn’t even know they were looking for…often in books they didn’t even know they owned.

Now I’m eager to hear feedback from you, the Logos user…

  • Do you have a story to share about your own serendipitous discovery?
  • What’s your favorite serendipity-producing feature in Logos?
  • Have you used or seen someone using Logos in an unusual way?
  • Where does Logos fall on the Serendipity Curve?
  • How could we boost the serendipity and randomness of Logos in ways that would make you happier?

Using Reference Search With Lexicons

One feature I use frequently is right-click reference searching within a lexicon (specifically, within BDAG). I typically keylink into BDAG and note the sense under discussion, usually by a reference citation (which in my setup is highlighted by the Active Bible Reference visual filter, which maybe I’ll blog about in the future). From there, I right-click on the reference and search the active resource for more instances of that reference.

In lexicons, this generates a list of all articles that contain a direct citation of that reference, which can come in handy when working through a reference. Since this is hard to convey in writing, I made a video.

Oh, yeah. This works for all reference citations, not just Bible references. So you can right-click on an Apostolic Fathers reference, do the same exact right-click functions, and find all the places that the Apostolic Fathers reference is cited as well.

Or a Josephus reference. Or a Philo reference. In any resource. At any time.

How cool is that?!

Interview with Bob Pritchett: Creating a Digital Library

This isthe fourth installmentin a series of video blog posts (introduced here) sharing the story and culture of Logos Bible Software. Other posts in the seriesare archived in the Video category.

Logos Bible Software pioneered the digital library concept. In these video clips, Bob describes the original vision for a “massive” 12-volume digital library, explains how new content and book-specific features drove platform redesign, and answers the commonly posed question, “Where did the name ‘Libronix’ come from?”

Note: All videos are in Windows Media format. Mac users may need to download the free Flip4Mac plugin for playback within QuickTime.

Windows Vista Keyboards for Ancient Languages

The Logos Greek, Hebrew, Syriac and Transliteration Keyboards have been updated to run on Windows Vista. Follow the link for more information and installation instructions.

General information on compatibility between Logos Bible Software and Windows Vista is at this link.

Converting the Pastor

I received the following story from Rob Suggs, a reviewer and enthusiastic user of Logos. I share it with Rob’s permissionbecause of how well itillustrates the “aha” momentwe love to provide for new users.

If you want an easy way to help your friends and family discover Logos Bible Software, check out the Refer a Friend program. –Daniel Foster

I’m attending a Saturday morning meeting of Bible study leaders. Since the topic is biblical interpretation, I’m planning on taking my laptop and doing a Libronix System X demonstration. I had lunch today with my pastor and told him my plans, asking, “By the way, are you a Logos user? What do you use to prepare a sermon?”

He gave me rather a blank look and said, “[Major Bible study site]on the Web.”

I said, “No kidding. How is that working out for you.”

He looked a little embarrassed and said, “Well, I click the passage, then wait for it to load. Then, if I want to compare another translation, it takes about six more clicks and waits to get to that screen . . .”

I said, “No kidding.” This pastor is not a remnant of the old days—he’s younger than I am.

I began to tell him about Logos. He asked, “Is it a Web site?”

I said, “No, it’s right on my hard drive.”

“Wow!” I’m seriously trying not to laugh here. This is my pastor.

I spent about ten minutes describing the things that take place within ten or fifteen seconds on my Libronix desktop; the quick reports and passage studies; the quick links to original language research. I happened to know that he studied at Trinity and his mentor was D. A. Carson. “Logos has a whole disk of D. A. Carson resources,” I said casually. “Most of his major writings, all of them searchable and fully integrating with the rest of your 25 or 30 Bible translations, commentaries, dictionaries, and other resources.”

By this time there was a serious line of drool extending from the lip of his mouth almost to the surface of the table. Other diners were beginning to stare at us.

As we left, he said, “Bring your computer. Show it all to me. I’ll bring my credit card.”

Visualizations are Cool

I’m not a programmer but my geek streak gets fired up by new visualizations of data, especially visualizations that are interactive. Logos 3 includes a ton of neat-o (and useful) visualizations—from wee, data-dense sparklines tothe “word wheel” graphs in Bible Word Study,and Timelines of biblical people and events.

So last week I was excited to come across three different sites with creative and useful visualizations—one exploring data of a political nature and two biblical.

Following President Bush’s State of the Union address, The New York Times website offered an interactive visualization that makes it easy to explore vocabulary usage trends across the president’s 7 State of the Union addresses.

Then, at the Blogos blog (whose author Sean Boisen now works here at Logos), there was this interactive treemap that makes it easy to see which pericopes are common or unique among the Gospels.

The ever-interesting ESV Blog lit up the blogosphere with their visualization of New Testament social networks based on proximity within the text.

As the ESV Blog aptly notes,a more reliable map of actual relationships between biblical people could be produced via semantic tagging. This involves identifying or “disambiguating”each person in the Bible and describing the relationships between them.

The Biblical People addinin Logos Bible Software 3 is a first pass at portraying these relationships, though at this point the data is limited to explicit family ties expressed in the text. You’ll see a richer data set at some point in the future.

For many of us, exploring biblical information in such a visual way is a new experience. Here at Logos, we strive to incorporate stunning new technologies and visualizations into our products in a way that demands little or nospecialized knowledgeon the part of the user. In other words, we want to hire people who are super smart about linguistics, library science, programming, and visualization…so you don’t have to be!

That said, you might be inspired, as I have been, to grow your familiarity with the concepts and basic vocabulary of visualization. So here’s one final link to some “knowledge maps”—visualizations that help explain visualizations—at Visual-Literacy.org.

In particular, besure tocheck out the very cool Periodic Table of Visualization Methods, which provides examples of visualizations such as the “iceberg,” the “hyperbolic tree” and “mintzberg’s organigraph”.

Getting More from Library Builder, Part 1

If you woke up on Christmas morning to findLibrary Builder volumes 1-3 in your stocking (even if you had to put it there)…this article is for you.

Like a lot of users, you may have started out December owning only the Logos 3 version of Scholar’s Library. Adding the Library Builder Christmas special literally doubled the number of books on your digital bookshelf. Wow. Start off by congratulating yourselfon not having to clear out furniture to make space for more shelving!

Now we want to help you maximize the value of those additional books.This is the first ina short series of blog posts that will help acquaint you with what, specifically, you’ve added to your library (knowledge is power) and then provide some tips for deriving ultimate benefit from those new books.

The Things You Don’t Have to Do

Not only did you not have to build shelving to accommodate doubling the number of books in your library…there are lots ofother things you didn’t have to do!

Indeed, the developers of Logos Bible Software have taken great pains to ensure that new books merge seamlessly, painlessly,and optimally into your digital library. That means you’re probably already enjoying many of the benefits of a larger library without having to do a thing. Let’s hear it for not having to do a thing!

  • My Library automatically discovered and categorized your new books by title, author and subject.
  • The bibliography report (Tools | Library Management | Bibliography) was updated to include your new titles.
  • Passage Guide has identified your new commentaries, illustrations, devotionals and books on music and will include them in searches whenever there’s relevant data inside.
  • Your new books are indexed, topically tagged, and ready to be instantly and thoroughly searched.

Whew, I’m going to step out for a glass of iced tea and be back in a moment.

Hello Books

The next step is to get to know some of your books on first name basis. The more you know about an individual title or series the better you can evaluate how much you plan to use it, in what contexts you’re likely to use it, and whether you’ll want to add it to any special collections or otherwise promote its status in your library.

So how do you identify all your new books? The Library Builder product didn’t ship in a fancy box with a contents liston the back, and since it was a limited special the webpagehas been removed from Logos.com.

But I’ve posted to the Logos wiki a list, by category,of all the books that are in the Library Builder product. You may want to bookmark the link and keep it handy as you spend time with your new books. And you may fairly ask, “What’s the Logos wiki?“.

For now, start by taking a look at the list and identifying the books you’re most interested in based on title. Then spend a few minutes with My Library, opening and browsing those books to become familiar with their structure and contents.

A couple of articles may be helpful in this area:

Next up: Part 2

Bible Study on the High Seas

Today’s guest blogger is Landon Norton, who works in ministry relations at Logos and is a veteran of the 2006 Bible Road Trip.

Logos in the “bar”

As a member of the Ministry Relations team whose privilege it is to present Logos Bible Software to large crowds at conferences around the county, I am sometimes tasked with traveling to remote andcold places (sorry if you’re reading this in one of them!).

This past week made up for a lot of those trips as I was granted an opportunity to present these amazing Bible study tools on the January Bible Study Cruise to the Bahamas hosted by Templeton Tours, a Christian Cruise vacation company… In fact, you may remember receiving the email offer to join us! If you are not one of the nearly 80 Logos users who turned out for the cruise, let me tell you what an awesome time in the Word you missed!

Landon and Jerry Vines

On the M/S Celebration, I shared the stage with speakers like Dr. David Jeremiah, Dr. Jerry Vines, Phil Waldrep, Johnny Hunt and others, presenting people with tools to study and teach God’s Word. Moreover, each night, Logos users gathered in a large “bar” (there’s no alcohol on board for this Christian cruise!) for orientation on the essentials of how to use Logos Bible Software. Each night our little “family” grew as people heard and saw what amazing things they could do using Logos. This is where my passion for equipping people with the tools and tutoring needed for better Bible study really kicked in! People were just blown away at what this software does for personal study. I like to think Logos brought the “Bible study” to the Bible Study Cruise!

“Driving” south

The boat left Jacksonville on Monday and headed to Freeport, then to Nassau on Wednesday and Half Moon Cay on Thursday before returning to Jacksonville by late Friday night. The sights were amazing when we headed into town. Everywhere I went people were pointing me out as the “Logos Guy”. (Guess all those Logos shirts really paid off!) Seriously, though, it’s great to be known when you’re known because of the awesome tool you show people how to use! As I’ve said many times, it’s not about me, it’s about what I show people for better Bible study.

So now that I have my land legs back, let me be the first to invite you to come along next time! We just finalized booking a March 5-10 trip back to the Bahamas – this time with In Touch Ministries and Charles and Andy Stanley!

What’s more – learn about the awesome deal Logos is offering for $300 in “Logos bucks” when you join us for the cruise! Check out all the details here...

I hope to see you next time Logos takes Bible study to the high seas! Actually, you can’t miss me…I’ll be the one in the Logos shirt…