Software Study Journal

So you have the BIG idea that the Church or community needs to develop. Discuss that idea here. Maybe you just want to make a suggestion on a new forum topic. Let us know.
rmrichesjr
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Post by rmrichesjr »

That's a good point about wanting access to your notes wherever you are--at least, wherever you have internet access.

My reason for wanting a local application rather than web-based is I want instant response to clicking on something, not 1 to 3 to 10 seconds later. For example, I have the standard works in plain text (with leading reference ID) from the floppy-based product the Church used to sell. I can grep for words, phrases, combinations, etc. with instant response. Unless you're running your own web server, response times are likely to cause a noticeable slowdown of the kind of jumping-around study I'm envisioning.
thegordo
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Post by thegordo »

I see the value in both approaches. I use Google notes (still in labs) to take notes while in class. sometimes the wireless signal disconnects and I can lose up to a whole class worth of notes. In situations like that it would be nice to have a stand alone app that I can use offline, and be able to sync once online. That is why I would like a program that can sync with online resources, so you can use it any computer, but still be able to use it when you can't connect to the internet.

After thought -

In order to use it offline I would have to get the Churches permission to store the HTML stripped files locally since the material is copyrighted. I'm not sure if that would happen. If they didn't allow it, the project might as well be an online only thing - if we can take the files and store them locally, we could make both offline and online, at least after an initial setup of getting all of the scripture text from the website online.
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WelchTC
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Post by WelchTC »

thegordo wrote:I am wondering if anything has been done as far as developing an open source solution to this. I would be interested in starting a project. My tools of choice would be eclipse and java - java for the ability to be cross platform and eclipse because that is what I am used to and I don't have a lot of experience programing. I have thought of a simple design, but would be very interested in some help to develop a program to accomplish at least some of these goals. I also wouldn't mind trying to learn C#, so long as it can be complied by mono - I run Linux as my desktop of choice so making something incompatible is not something I am interested in, but I would also like it to be compatible with windows and mac, since I know others have differing opinions about what they feel makes a good computer.
Cross platform is good!
My idea would take the online scriptures (and possibly anything on the church's gospel library site) and format it such that it would be easy to read, study, and record thoughts with. It would strip all of the original html. It would allow for highlighting, underlining, and bookmarks, with each of these being able to be organized in a few different ways. I haven't thought of a particular way of having persistent online storage of customizations, or of sharing these with others, but I would want to have the design such that this would be a possible solution. As far as persistent storage of the customizations, I don't know if a database backend or xml files would be better or easier. It would also be possible to create your own footnotes to reference other scriptures easily.
I recommend some type of DB schema. I've used H2Database a lot in the past and found it to be free, fast and easy to use. It is an embedded DB and so the user does not need to know how to install a DB server, or establish connection parameters, etc.

Tom
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WelchTC
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Post by WelchTC »

rmrichesjr wrote:One thing the Church could do to help with such a project would be to make available an API or other mechanism to allow downloading of the full scriptural text, footnotes, and such.
This is being discussed by the scriptures committee. Although MUCH good can come from providing an API, unfortunately there is some bad that could come and so those issues have to be discussed and decided upon before anything can happen.

Tom
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Post by llama-p40 »

I have a similar system using mediawiki on my webserver, or when I am offline I use tiddlywiki (http://www.tiddlywiki.com/). It makes collecting thoughts and notes during study very easy, and items can be tagged or placed into categories. Having them in mediawiki is great because I can get to my data from my blackberry etc if I need to.
rmrichesjr
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Post by rmrichesjr »

tomw wrote:This is being discussed by the scriptures committee. Although MUCH good can come from providing an API, unfortunately there is some bad that could come and so those issues have to be discussed and decided upon before anything can happen.

Tom
That's great that the committee is discussing the possibility of providing an API! The difference in emphasis in your capitalization looks like an encouraging indicator, too. Thanks.
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Comprehensive List of Functions for a Scripture Study Journal

Post by darin-p40 »

A very interesting thread... I too look forward to a computerized scripture study journal. Over the years, I have had several ideas for the functionality of such a program, which I'd like to share with everyone in this forum. For your particular applications, feel free to "pick and choose". I understand it is difficult to have a simple quick program with extensive functionality, so there may not be one single solution.

Here is a (nearly) comprehensive summary of abilites desirable for a scripture study program (some of these are already mentioned in previous posts) which I describe in more detail below:

1) Set reading goals and track progress
2) Easy to enter personal commentary about a verse (or chapter or book)
3) Easy to record audio commentary about a verse
4) Creation of new "topical guide"-esque topics (and supercategories and subcategories)
5) The ability to create new personal footnotes
6) The ability to categorize or "type" footnotes
7) The ability to display related pictures
8) Read-to-me: include (already-available) audio files so the program can read the scriptures
9) Scripture Memorization Tool (e.g. Softlore's Scriptorian)
10) Automatic compilation of materials for preparation for Sunday lessons
11) Verse Comparison Tool (identifies differences between two verses)
12) Searchable by scripture text, footnotes, personal commentary, etc.
13) Highlighting in multiple colors
14) Automatic display of footnotes for the currently active verse
15) Word Processing Ability for writing (linkable) talks, essays, etc.
16) Easily save-able, downloadable/transferable, and even merge-able with other people's scripture journals and/or mutliple-user ability (e.g. for families)
17) Easily printable in desirable formats
18) Scripture Background: single-click ability to see background and contextual information behind a verse (e.g. who is speaking to whom, when, where/map, etc.)
19) Side-by-side display of different passages, including multi-lingual comparisons
20) Inclusion of the scriptures.byu.edu scripture reference database to easily see modern's prophets interpretation and use of particular verses
21) Inclusion of a dictionary for confusing words

Here are some examples of what I mean:

1) I can set reading goals (e.g. 5 pages a day, 10 chapters a week, Bible in a year, or 30 minutes a day) which are tracked by the program. If I fall behind on my goals, a reminder should pop up informing me of my progress and what I need to do to catch up. There could even be a family goal tracker which shows progress of all family members.

2) GospeLink had the ability to add comments to all documents, but I had two main problems with it. First, it was a little slow and it wasn't very easy to just type my comments. Second, it could only associate comments with a single paragraph or verse... I would like to be able to add footnotes at specific places in the verse and also be able to make comments on Chapters or Books as a whole.

3) Even though I'm a fast typer, I think the ability to simply express my comments vocally would be so useful. It would also be great for personal history reasons to record my actual voice about my testimony of such-and-such verse or how reading this chapter helped me make an important decision. This should also be effortless to use.

4) As mentioned in previous posts, many of us like to make our own topical guide-like entries. I also like the idea of being able to put several entries into a single category or divide up a topic into subcategories.

5) This is basically the same as number 2, but I mention it again for emphasis: the user should be able to create new footnotes that link to scriptures (etc.) just like normal footnotes. I also agree that one should be able to easily add or remove all the standard footnotes (and topics, etc.) found in the scriptures today.

6) I think this is an exciting new idea, related to the ability to highlight in different colors. Let me give a few examples based on Alma 32:21, where footnotes are in parentheses and x, y, and z are my personal additional footnotes.

"And now as I said concerning faith—faith(a) is not to have a perfect knowledge of things(x); therefore if ye have faith ye hope(b,y) for things which are not(c) seen, which are true(z)."

(a) EG John 20:29
SC Hebrews 11:1(1-40)
(b) TG Hope
(c) ESC Ether 12:6
(x) ME I should keep the commandments even when I don't know the outcome.
(y) MTG Faith, Hope, and Charity Connected
(z) COM Faith must believe true things, see BD Faith

each of the two-three letter prefixes are the "type" of footnote, some of these are already present in our scriptures:

EG References an example of this principle
SC References a Similar Concept
TG Topical Guide
ESC References a Similar Concept which is more Extensive
ME References a point of action for ME
MTG References a topic in My personal Topical Guide
COM References a comment
HEB An altenate translation from the Hebrew
JST References an difference in the Joseph Smith Translation

of course the list could go on and on:

EXP References a previous EXPerience that is relevant to this situation
CIR References a story in the scriptures which has similar CIRcumstances
PER Reference referring to this same PERson
DEF Reference clarifies the meaning through a DEFinition

Immediately, a whole new way of studying the scriptures emerges. More than just creating footnotes, we can easily create a way that we remember what the footnote is telling you. It allows you a brief insight without forcing you to go to or read the entire footnote. The online scriptures already allows you to mark footnotes that are of a particular type (e.g. JST or HEB), so it would also make sense that the inline footnotes could denote the type of reference (e.g. by color).

Perhaps the greatest promise of this concept isn't so much in personal study. I think an awesome project for the online community would be to create a set of footnote types and then go through the scriptures and give every current footnote a type. I think this would enrich all the participants and the finished product would make navigating the scriptures much more powerful.

7) It would be nice to be able to footnote-link to scriptural pictures, especially if the church granted permission for all of its gospel art (e.g. Arnold Freiburg pictures).

8) No need for speech-to-text since the church has already made available the audio files for all the scriptures. It should be easy to incorporate a function that reads the desired chapters, verses, etc.

9) I think Softlore's Scriptorian program (http://www.softlore.com) could be incorporated into the journal as well. During one of my readthroughs of the Book of Mormon, I marked 365 scriptures that I wanted to learn. Automatically adding to a "memorize" list would make this easy. This should also be incorporated into the goal-tracking tool.

10) Often the Sunday School lesson materials that we are supposed to read in preparation for the lesson are disperate collections of verses. A simple tool would be to compile all the necessary verses into one place (which can then be studied, read aloud to the user, etc.)

11) I would like a simple tool like UNIX's "diff" command to be useful in comparing two (or more) scripture verses (i.e. compare Nephi's quotation of Isaiah to the biblical version).

12) One should be able to easily find the verse needed, so a search tool that can find words in the comments or footnotes would be necessary.

13) For more traditional scripture-marking, highlighting in multiple colors would be nice. (I found this slow and cumbersome in GospeLink.)

14) The easiest way to display footnotes is probably just an active frame/window in the program that automatically shows them for the active verse. (With a change of preferences, the active window could show just the footnote, the footnote and the type, the text of referenced verses, or other options.)

15) Of course, short verse-by-verse commentary is not enough. Like GospeLink, there should be a word processing part of the program where one can write talks, essays, etc. Of course it should be easy to link to these talks from the scriptures (via a footnote) and vice versa.

16) All of the additional input given by the user is valuable and should be able to be saved and easily transferred as well as synched for online/offline solution as mentioned above. It would also be awesome if multiple people (e.g. family members) could easily merge their commentary and footnotes and goals, etc., together for the edification of all.

17) Also as mentioned above, there should be intelligent ways of printing texts with and without commentary, with and without footnotes, etc.

18) I think it would be valuable to have a single-click ability to show background information on a verse. Perhaps clicking on the verse number would bring up, for Alma 32:21 above, "Alma² teaching the poor of the Zoramites in Antionum, in about 74 BC." The capitalized words should be linked to a further description and locations can be shown on a map (e.g. where is Emmaus?). It should also be easy for the user to add her own background information.

19) Related to the verse comparison tool, it goes without saying that functionality should include side-by-side display of different passages either in the same language or in different languages. (It would also be nice if the program could scroll both of languages simultaneously.)

20) At scriptures.byu.edu, there is an extensive database of conference talks (currently from 1952-2007) that reference the scriptures. Using that database (perhaps via internet connection) would be a very profitable addition to a scripture study journal. Here is another example where giving footnotes (to a particular conference talk) a type would be useful, e.g. suggesting the user to go to the conference talk only if the talk clarifies the meaning of the verse. Of course, the immediate extension is to be able to link to more and more church materials (although there's no need to duplicate GospeLink), such as teachers manuals.

21) I enjoyed how GospeLink would automatically take you to an 1830 dictionary to help clarify confusing words.

Sorry this is so long, but I had to get all these ideas out of my brain and out into the community. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about these ideas.
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mkmurray
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Post by mkmurray »

This is a terrific list that could be prioritized and voted on. I think this could be a great foundation from which an open source project can be started.
rmrichesjr
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Post by rmrichesjr »

darin wrote:A very interesting thread... I too look forward to a computerized scripture study journal. Over the years, I have had several ideas for the functionality of such a program, which I'd like to share with everyone in this forum. For your particular applications, feel free to "pick and choose". I understand it is difficult to have a simple quick program with extensive functionality, so there may not be one single solution.

Here is a (nearly) comprehensive summary of abilites desirable for a scripture study program (some of these are already mentioned in previous posts) which I describe in more detail below:

1) Set reading goals and track progress
2) Easy to enter personal commentary about a verse (or chapter or book)
3) Easy to record audio commentary about a verse
4) ...

Sorry this is so long, but I had to get all these ideas out of my brain and out into the community. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about these ideas.
Wow! That's quite the list of requirements, evidently the result of much deliberation on the topic. Thanks.
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bhofmann-p40
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Post by bhofmann-p40 »

Yes, that is a great list. Any ideas on priorities? It would be good to group ideas into must-have and nice-to-have categories.
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