Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Short URLs for Scripture: part 2

If you haven't already you should read 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. Otherwise the post was going to be way too long. They are both really great examples of ministry integrating well with web technology.

Part Two: Read.ly



First, the short url redirect service. Read.ly has a strict url format. I think they have chosen the simpliest one (albeit not the shortest one, ref.ly tends to be 2 characters shorter). They have the format http://read.ly/gen1.1.NIV - three character book abbreviation then chapter dot verse dot abbreviation for chosen Bible version*. Although, their url shortener is basic their online Bible offering is where they really shine.

Here are some of the things that make YouVersion.com great.
  • 40 versions in 22 languages!
  • Search widget. This widget is exactly like the Ref.ly one.
  • Contributions seems centered on social sharing.
    • Your account allows for following so you can see what your friends are doing.
    • Hub for likes, bookmarks, journal-ing, contributing, and tagging. They provide a lot of different ways to interact with Scripture.
    • A distinction between contributions and journal(private) items.
  • Mobile apps for all the major players. This is an important web space. It turns your web capable device into a powerful research/devotional tool. Not to mention mobile is the perfect venue for short url sharing.
  • Public facing profile listing you activity (excluding your journal which is private). At this time there are no privacy settings available, however, I am not sure if they are necessary.
  • Adjustable font size. Makes sense to these weary eyes.
  • Reading in parallel. You can lay out two versions next to each other. This is really powerful and they do it well.
  • Audio Bible component.

Concludings

Here are some high points from both services.
  • Ref.ly online has a more flexible redirect service.They connect a user to a online and offline product and seems aimed at the ministry professional. There is a lot of value there.
  • Read.ly is no slouch. The social aspects of scripture reading and the multitude of ways to interact with the Scripture make for a very inviting user experience. Their site is a little more attractive as well. The reading in parallel feature is pretty awesome. Lastly, the audio book option also sets them apart.
I really expected to have an obvious winner. Both services provide a great deal of value. I think it really comes down to the features that would serve you best. It is great to have two online options for url shortening and Bible research.

[*Update: it appears on closer inspection (thanks richschmidt) that the required abbreviations varies by book. ex. Gen is three letters but Exod is four. This is pretty disappointing and kind of a deal breaker for me. By not picking one or the other and since the urls are very strict (it will not search and guess for you like ref.ly) I find the Read.ly service sadly crippled. I think one of the powers of these services is their compos-ability (I made that word up). And I unfortunately will not be able to remember which books require 3 and which require 4 characters. Hopefully YouVersion will fix this.]

The important thing is to get in there and start sharing those great little urls! Please share your thoughts in the comments. I am interested is your take/experience.

You can also follow them on Twitter
@logos and @youversion

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Does anybody build static web pages anymore?

After all, if the future of the web can be divined we will all be building nothing but Word Press sites in a matter of a couple of years anyway, right?

My web class is underway. As I was prepping a few of the assignments I came up against this question, "Which is more valuable: building static pages or building templates for dynamic content?" Personally, as I develop pages for Multnomah University I can't afford to trap that content into one location. The true value of mark up in my opinion is that it frees your content to be re-purposed.

By and by, the development necessary to utilize dynamic content seemed too focused in web development and beyond the scope of my class. But I still wonder if conceptually students wouldn't be better served to see a website's design as just a temporary skin housing external content. For example when discussing CSS and CSS page layout (love it or lump it) one of its tenants is how easily a site is redesigned without changing the (x)html structure, however, another strength is that CSS is agnostic to the content involved. Thus, when building out a design we style a content block with every detail of our style guide and it is ready for any dynamic content that might come its way. In this sense, it might be that a static page is no more than a dynamic page with you as the manual cms.

Just some questions to mull before you scrap it all and do nothing but xslt.
When was the last time you built a static page? Does is still have value and where?