Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Short URLs for Scripture: part 1

I have recently found two services that utilize short, predictable urls to address online scripture. Because of their surprising depth in features I have decided to do a two part series (Part 2). They are both really great examples of ministry integrating well with web technology.

Some Basics

It is a simple concept really. Both Ref.ly (Bible.Logos.com) and Read.ly (YouVersion.com) are fundamentally providing the same functionality. They both provide links, verse by verse, to an online Bible. In order to make links to verses easier to share they are utilizing url shortening technology redirecting these short links to their online Bible site. The real beauty is that the format for these urls is so straight forward I can write them without necessarily going to the online source. I can link to Genisis 1:1 for example by just writing http://read.ly/gen1.1 (or http://ref.ly/gen1.1). Choose a specific Bible version by adding a little bit more to it http://read.ly/gen1.1.NLT (http://ref.ly/gen1.1.NLT). The urls makes sense at a glance.

Part One: Ref.ly

Evaluating these services involves two parts, the redirect service and the Bible site you are taken to. Ref.ly as a short url redirection service has one big advantage - the urls are forgiving. Whether you type http://ref.ly/ge1.1;NIV or http://ref.ly/genesis1.1.NIV you are going to arrive at the verse you intended. I think that could be really beneficial. Their suggested format is http://ref.ly/ge1.1;ESV - two character abbreviation of the book then the chapter dot verse semicolon and the abbreviation for the Bible version you would like. Also, their chosen format does make their urls, on average, two characters shorter than Read.ly for those who care about such things.

In terms of their online Bible product that these urls point to, here is a list of stand out features.
  • 30 Bible versions/translations (including some non-english).
  • There is a contributors section. Contributions seemed to be focused on sermons. You need to create an account to contribute, but the accounts are free. The offerings so far seem very professional.
  • Bible.logos.com does coordinate with an offline product you can purchase for further, in depth research.
  • Footnotes and cross-references are available. This was one of the first things I notice when I tried Ref.ly. It made it feel like a more complete service to have these available.
  • There is a blog widget for auto-linking scripture addresses. This widget will turn text like Genesis 1:1 into a link to the correct verse using Ref.ly. Also, a nice addition.
  • Search widget to add to your site. People can search Bible.logos.com directly from your site.
Their (Bible.logos.com) web product is in "Beta" but its initial feeling is of polish. It looks to be a very good resource.

NOTE: I have to admit after poking around Ref.ly for a couple of days I was very impressed. I didn't think Read.ly had the stuff to compare to this. I was pleasantly surprised. Check back tomorrow for part two.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Sign up for my web design class (JRN315)! MU classes start on August 31st so register today.

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