Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In the shower after my last post on Web 2.0 concepts and Bible study,  i had an epiphany: i already have a great potential Web 2.0 application in the Hyper-concordance. One source of popularity ranking is built in to the navigation: when you select a term, you're indicating that it's something you're interested in. Collect those clicks over time and users, and you have a shared measure of which terms are most interesting: based on server logs, for December that seems to be God, Say, and Man (all of which will now probably see a small bounce!).

Furthermore, this format, where you present a list of verses that include a given term, provides a nature mechanism for folksonomy tagging a la del.icio.us: select a verse, then add your own tags describing whatever you like (a topic it represents, your applications of it, etc.). Given sufficient participation, this could be a really interesting experiment in collaborative Scripture exploration.

By the way, i'm getting close to replacing the current hyper-concordance with one based on the English Standard Version: stay tuned!

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I'm late to the party as usual, but i decided last week to start using del.icio.us. Despite some misgivings, Jon Udell's blog got me thinking about this (again) at a point where i was already experiencing the frustration of looking at lots of sites but lacking a manageable way to track them. Udell says so many smart things i usually pay attention. My del.icio.us tags are here: one key benefit is this approach is the ability to discover what those who are reading what you're reading have already discovered: a total end run around Google-style keyword search, and one answer to "how do i find things i'm interested in if i don't know what i'm looking for and i don't know they exist?"

Like many, i'm still trying to figure this whole Web 2.0 thing out: O'Reilly's piece is probably the canonical reference. But it includes things like

  • your data under your control, but out on the web where others can get value from it
  • the "right to remix" and re-use things in ways the originator didn't envision
  • the ability to address pieces, not just wholes

Blogs are where this has happened most for me, and now del.icio.us. Amazon references and Wikipedia are others examples. So yesterday i was reading Dion Hinchcliffe's blog on Web 2.0 and offshoots like Identity 2.0, Library 2.0, Media 2.0 etc.: basically how these attitudes are affecting user and professional communities. Which got me thinking: if there were a Bible Study 2.0, what would it look like?

I suppose one answer is biblioblogging (though my interests are more practical and devotional than academic). The challenge of blogs, however, is that the post and comment mechanisms (the basis of collaboration) are too rich to scale well. The only way to know what half a dozen people think about something i blogged is to read their blogs, or the comments they left on my blog. That takes a lot of time, and it's one of the main reasons my RSS reading has actually declined over the past year: i just can't keep up! del.icio.us-style tags, on the other hand, are semantically impoverished compared to prose, but that's just what makes them scale better. You and i may not mean exactly the same thing by the tag "bible" (the #2 most popular item tagged with "bible" at present is a scathing video attacking the Bible by Penn and Teller, and similar items are high on the list). But it's easy to tag things this way, and so over time (and quantity), a lot of things come out in the wash. I've certainly found several new and interesting sites simply by looking at the tags of others who have tagged things i care about.

So here's an experiment: what about a web site where people could simply record and share their responses to and applications of Biblical passages, in simple, tag-like ways? For example, yesterday i read Pericope 171: Jesus tells a woman about obeying God's word. In response, i read some other passages, prayed, and thought about what it means to keep God's word. So i might tag this passage with reflect, pray, honor God's word: verbs, with some modifiers. When others read this passage, they would record their responses as well. Over time, you find out both what passages others are reading, and what their responses are: that might encourage you to think of new ways you could respond.

I don't think Blogos has a big enough corner of the blogosphere to pull this off: value increases proportional to readership, so scale matters. But i'd be really interested to see where something like this could lead.

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