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.)

Syntax Papers from 2005 ETS Conference

As mentioned earlier on this blog, Eli and I presented papers at the meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) describing how Logos is moving beyond the word level into syntax of the original languages.

Eli’s paper (approx. 350 KB PDF) discusses our approach to issues of syntax in general, using examples from the Andersen-Forbes database to illustrate major points of implementation.

Rick’s paper (approx. 1.4 MB PDF) provides information on both Greek syntax datasets that are being worked on and short examples (and screen captures) of how this information can be used.

Syriac-English New Testament Interlinear

Syriac SlideAt the recent Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Philadelphia, George A. Kiraz, president of Gorgias Press, presented a joint project with Logos Bible Software to create an interlinear to the Syriac New Testament in electronic and printed forms. The electronic interlinear will become part of Logos Bible Software and the printed version will be published by Gorgias Press. A team of international scholars have already committed to producing the interlinear in the next three years.

Gorgias Press publishes a number of Syriac Bible resources. For more information on the project, including an overview of the specialized tools Logos built for editing the interlinear, download Dr. Kiraz’s PowerPoint presentation (226 KB).

Greek Syntax: Searching OpenText.org Material

I’ve briefly discussed searching OpenText.org material at the word level; this post discusses searching at the clause level, with word group level stuff in the mix.

There’s even a groovy video of the search I describe so you can see exactly what’s going on (see bottom of this article). One take, no cuts. This is done with the current beta version of Logos Bible Software (3.0 Beta 1) and an extra syntax searching component currently in development.

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Where Do You Live?

Our blog stats show that we get visitors from all over the world. Just for November, I see visits from Hungary, Israel, Singapore, Bahamas, Denmark, New Zealand, Brazil, Spain, and Japan, to name just a few.

Rick Brannan recently pointed me to a cool new site called Frappr (“Friend Mapper”) that’s a Google mash-up: it combines Google Maps with group labeling features.

I created a map for Logos Blog readers so we could meet one another. To add yourself, go to the Logos Bible Software Blog map and click “Add Yourself” in the right-hand column. You can add a photo and short message, if desired.

If you get a moment this weekend, stop by and say hello!

ETS/SBL Booth Signage

The ETS and SBL meetings wrapped up yesterday and the Logos team is heading home (perhaps some will make it back in time for our big Thanksgiving lunch at noon today). It sounds like the meetings were very fruitful, with a great deal of buzz around our current and future products.
For those who weren’t able to attend, I thought it would be fun to show off the signage that adorned our booth at both events. Click any of the thumbnails below to pop up a larger version.



National Bible Week Essay Contest

In honor of National Bible Week, which is this week, we’re sponsoring an essay contest on Logos.com.

You are invited to write and submit a brief essay on Bible study. If we display the essay on the site, you’ll receive a $30 book unlock credit. The sign-up form is here.

We’ve posted 30 essays to date, with a nice variety of themes and perspectives represented. The essays give a flavor of all the different kinds of ministry going on among Logos users. I find this to be a real encouragement amidst the day to day grind; I’ll highlight below a couple of my favorite selections (you can read them all in their entirety on the Essays page)…

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Novel Use of Sentence Diagrammer

So, the other day, I had printed out a sentence diagram of Mark 1.16-20 and was evaluating it while making coffee (triple americano, no milk or sugar messing it up) at the Logos espresso machine.

Heidie from accounting walks by. “What’s that?” she says. I reply, “Sentence diagrams.” “Oh” Heidie says, “it looks sort of like playoff brackets.”

I hadn’t ever thought of that. But you could use the sentence diagrammer to make playoff brackets for whatever. I hear the NFL season ends in a month or so; now you’ll be ready to chart your team’s path to the Super Bowl!

(If you have the Sentence Diagramming Addin you can download the file for editing! Just unzip it to “\My Documents\Libronix DLS\SentenceDiagrams”.)

Overflow Crowd

Yesterday at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Logos bloggers and Information Architects Rick Brannan and Eli Evans presented our new syntactic databases. (Their presentation was part of a larger session which also included a presentation on how Logos Bible Software is used in the classroom at Moody Graduate School.)

This photo was taken while Eli presented the Andersen-Forbes syntactic database. We were flattered by all the interest and only wish the session had been in a larger room.

If you are with us here in Philadelphia, be sure to check out other Logos-related sessions at AAR/SBL.

Logos for the Mac: New Ship Date & Screenshots

Yesterday we announced a new release date for Logos Bible Software for the Mac: Spring 2006. We’re confident that the product will be shipping by the time June 21 rolls around, and we know it will be worth the wait.

Work is progressing steadily with no major obstacles, and the application looks great in the current build. Our artist-in-residence (who is a Mac devotee himself) turned out some very nice visuals for the interface so that Logos Bible Software would feel right at home on the Mac.

We get a lot of questions about how to participate in beta testing the Mac product. We’ll announce all public beta testing from the Logos for the Mac email list so sign up and stay tuned…

Disclaimer: Screenshots are from the prototype; the interface is subject to small or massive changes before we ship.