Thursday, August 31, 2006

I've moved to a new blogging platform (goodbye Radio Userland, hello WordPress).

But if you read through an RSS aggregator (this is really important, so pay attention):

If you read directly from the website, everything will work as before at my preferred URL, The new site includes several syndication buttons that make it easy to add Blogos to your Bloglines, MyYahoo!, or other readers.

If you have any problems with this, please send me (sean) an email at semanticbible daht com. I don't want to lose any readers in the transition (there aren't that many to start with!).

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 Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Catching up on some posts ... Tim O'Reilly has a great post on Web 2.0 and an interchange with Doc Searls, co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto. Searls sees Web 2.0 as fundamentally deriving from morality as generosity. If you read down to the bottom, Searls has a link to an earlier post about how he learned this lesson from a Nigerian Christian minister named Sayo Ajiboye.

I love the idea that we're finally discovering (in the networked systems domain) the beneficial outcome in our own lives of following a fundamental principle: God gives generously to all (James 1:5), so we should too.

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 Friday, March 24, 2006

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"... it is important that we know who Christ is, especialy the chief characteristic that is the root and essence of His character as our Redeemer. There can be but one answer: it is His humility. What is the Incarnation but his heavenly humility, His emptying himself and becoming man? What is His life on earth bu humility; His taking the form of a servant? And what is His atonement but humility? 'He humbled himself and became obedient to death.' And what is His ascension and His glory but humility exalted to the throne and crowned with glory? 'He humbled himself ... therefore God exalted Him to the highest place.' In heaven, where He was one with the Father; in His birth, His life, and His death on earth; in His return to the right hand of the Father -- it is all humility. Christ is the expression of the humility of God embodied in human nature ..." (reflections on Phil.2.5-11from Humility, by Andrew Murray)

Oh, for the humility of Jesus in myself and around me! 

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 Saturday, March 04, 2006

If you've wondered exactly how Google evaluates their actions in light of their "do no evil" corporate policy, wonder no more.

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 Saturday, January 28, 2006

New York Times piece (free registration required) on a conference examining the ethics of spying provides some interesting insights into everyday moral reasoning (albeit in a somewhat exotic profession). Some of the issues seems like traditional wartime dilemmas: are civilian deaths justified in a Predator missile strike to kill terrorists (and if so, how many)? One participant "came up with her own ad-hoc ethical checklist" (including what her mother would say about an action). Another, a 33-year retired veteran, explicitly disavows the whole endeaver: "Depending on where you're coming from, the whole business of espionage is unethical." How does he sleep at night??

The NYTimes points out how one of the speaker's comments weren't approved for public release, "gutting" her paper. Security from one angle always looks like censorship from another, especially when you're a major media outlet. Does it all matter? "My feeling is that every problem with the intelligence in the run-up to the war was an ethical question," said a 24-year veteran analyst.

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 Saturday, January 21, 2006

Following up my post about End of the Spear, i found this incredible 1998 Christianity Today article by Nate Steve Saint about a group of American college students who visited the Waodani and learned first-hand about both cultural differences and personal transformation. A teaser:

As the students unloaded their bags at the campsite, I could see the rapport between them and their guides—they were enjoying the camaraderie. So much so, in fact, that as we settled around a campfire that evening, a student asked me who the "savage Huaorani" were that they had read about before leaving the United States.

Sitting on logs under a star-studded sky and with a jungle of insects singing in the background, I explained that the very people they had been traveling, eating, sleeping, and hunting with were, in fact, these savages. (read the rest)

This story provides a clear response to those who think that missionaries somehow impose a foreign and unwelcome way of life on unwitting victims.

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 Thursday, May 05, 2005

I've been reading some material at work on faceted browsing, a different paradigm for searching large information collections. Rather than trying to find just the right keywords to retrieve just the right documents, . You can see a nice demo of this at, where they show browing a collection of information about wines ("resources" in their parlance) via facets like type of wine, region of origin, and price (using a slider interface).

Faceted browsing has some significant advantages:

  • The continual exposure of the next level of detail helps you understand the nature of the data more than the sodastraw view of keyword retrieval. I don't need to figure out what subcategories of wine types are, or how they're named: i can see them and select them directly
  • Adding information about how many resources fit in particular facets reduces blind alleys
  • Even an enormous collection can quickly be reduced to just the items of interest through the intersection of several facets

I posted previously about a prototype browser for New Testament Names using Longwell from the Simile Project, a nice faceted browser that runs off RDF.

So now i'm thinking more about the Composite Gospel and what facets would enhance search. Once i finish NTN (alas, still a work in progress, and too slow progress at that), person and location names are two obvious facets that will then be easy to add. There are some obvious top-level categories as well:

  • historical periods in the life of Jesus (birth, ministry of John the Baptist, Holy Week, his Passion, etc.)
  • parables, other teachings
  • a collection of imperatives, that is, commands that Jesus gave, whether general or specific (another yet unfinished project). Once i've got an initial catalog, i'd like to organize these in an ontology: imperatives about prayer, about our relationships with others, about our attitidues, etc.

This really comes back to a deep and fundamental issue: why do we read Scripture? The basic factual tasks are to understand the history of God's interaction with people and his revelation in Jesus (as well as the history of the early church). But beyond this, it's really about change: learning a different cognitive framework or worldview, adopting new attitudes, and changing the way we behave. How do we structure this information in a way to make it easier and more transparent for disciples to grasp and internalize, resulting in their own transformation, and subsequent teaching and training of others? That's a cognitive and learning challenge behind the task of making disciples in the 21st century.

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Everything in the Scriptures is God's Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live. The Scriptures train God's servants to do all kinds of good deeds. (2 Tim 3:16-17, CEV)

I'd really like to know more the interaction between the content of Scripture, and the psychology of learning, to understand more deeply how Scripture supports our growth in character and spiritual discipline. Just off the top of my head, i can see the following roles for Biblical instruction:

  • We learn facts we didn't know before, and taught basic principles about spiritual life
  • We're directed to specific thoughts and deeds, and warned against sinful living.
  • We're given motivation and encouragement to do what's right
  • We see examples of how to (and how not to) live out godly principles, in the lives of the characters described there
  • We're invited to worship God through psalms and poems

and no doubt others. Surely somebody has put together some clear ideas about this? Let me know what you think.


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Today is the National Day of Prayer. Our Lord told us to pray, and taught us how to pray (Pericope 73: Jesus teaches about prayer, and others): take some time today to do it. 
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