Many Pies

Many Pies

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Coffee and the internet - full circle

Back in the early days of the internet when web pages had a grey background by default (really), I came across the Trojan Room Coffee Pot. It was a (what we now call) web camera pointing at a coffee machine. The idea was that you could see if there was any coffee in the pot from your workstation (this was before PCs were mainstream) without having to go to it. In fact the setup predates the World Wide Web.

Fourteen years later when my Firefox browser starts I see this message from Phil, a colleague, on Twitter:
Phil Prior Phil77 morning all, going to see if water's now boiled for coffee. Didn't notice boiler was off on first attempt #wycliffeuk
7 minutes ago
and I know that if I go to the kitchen I should find that the water boiler has reached temperature.

So the internet has come full circle, our need for coffee (well, not really a need) has been met with technology. The difference between twitter and the Trojan Room Coffee pot is that twitter is more versatile. For example, our Wycliffe UK twitter account can tell you things like
Wycliffe UK wycliffeuk Engage summer teams are almost full. If you're still thinking of applying please contact us immediately!
Like the coffee technology, it's very time sensitive information, so if you're reading this anytime after mid-March then you are probably too late.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Using media wiki for internal documentation

Many months ago I did an update on my quest to find a wiki for doing internal documentation.

Here's another update, following an installation of media wiki.

Even though I've edited pages on wikipedia, which runs on the media wiki software, it was useful to do an installation to get a flavour for what it might be like using it for real. The system I'm moving away from is a Lotus Notes out-of-the-box "document library". When I started editing wiki pages it made me realise what Lotus Notes gave me as standard:
  • WYSIWYG editing
  • ability to paste from formatted Word documents and retain formatting
  • automatic compiling of table of contents
  • easy linking of documents
  • easy embedding of images
Apart from the internal reasons for switching away from Lotus Notes I had to remind myself of why I was doing this:
  • easier access for remote users
  • email notification when a page changes
  • version history maintained
The problems with embedding pictures is something that web applications haven't overcome as far as I've seen.

Our corporate wiki software has good help with linking and allows the creation of child pages, and can do a resulting table of contents of child pages. It also does WYSIWYG editing.

Pasting from Word documents is a double edged sword. I've seen another WYSIWYG editor that allows it, but gives you the resulting horrible HTML that goes with it. Wikis don't tend to do that because of the difficulties in converting to the underlying wiki format. Why don't I use our corporate wiki you may ask? Among other things, its because procedure manuals don't fit with what the wiki is for.

One thing that I have got working with media wiki, is linking the logins to our Active Directory, to save people having yet another login.

So the question is, can I put up with a couple of shortcomings for the good things it does? Time to see how other wikis compare I think.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

So what does Wycliffe actually do?

I've been thinking about how to present what Wycliffe UK (aka Wycliffe Bible Translators UK) does to the world. As I'm not a marketing/PR/communications person you're not going to get a polished answer, but my thought processes. One of the reasons for thinking about this is because of the recent change ("Vince's change") that Google introduced recently in the way they work out what to give you when you search. It's a problem because we aren't as high in the search results for things like "bible translation uk" as we used to be

The thing is, although our aim is to translate the Bible into every language that needs a translation (with partners, to start by 2025), in practise not a lot of our people are actually doing translation. The best people to translate a language are those that have it as their mother tongue, and we can help the process. So when we're recruiting we need a lot of other skills other than just being good at learning a language and then translating.

As well as the Google problem the other thing that got me thinking was our weekly "Centre fellowship" at which we heard from people who work on what we call "Scripture Use" worldwide. One of the reasons we do more than translation is that our aim is transformed lives, and a translated Bible can't change anyone if they can't read it (so we do literacy work). Other materials also help people with the Bible, like Bible reading notes, songs etc. Developing this material is part of Scripture Use.

One of the things we heard yesterday was the very practical work of help people who have undergone traumatic events to apply the Bible to their situation, which we call Trauma Healing.

So bringing these things together, our problem (fortunately not just my problem) is that a) we want people who think we just do translation to realise that it's part of a bigger picture and
b) we want to present that bigger picture in such a way that when people look for "Bible Translation" in Google, they still find us!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

CauseWired review

CauseWired, subtitled "Plugging in, getting involved, changing the world", is a book about online fundraising by Tom Watson. Here's a two minute review, not because I think you don't want to spend more than two minutes reading it, but because I don't want to spend more than two minutes writing it.

(If the name is familiar Tom Watson is the name of a blogging UK MP, but the book is by another Tom Watson.)

Lots of stories and examples. Well researched. Nothing startling in there if you've been following the stories about fundraising organisations through blogs. Lots of people, say, signing up to a Cause on Facebook doesn't mean lots of giving. In my opinion the whole thing is too young to draw any conclusions that will stand the test of time.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sign Language Bible translation

The Sign Language Conference that was held here at the Wycliffe Centre is over, but some of the delegates came to visit our weekly "Centre Fellowship" meeting yesterday. It was quite a multi-lingual experience as we had three translators, all speaking English as well as a different sign language, and the Swedish sign language speaker had to speak American Sign Language as her translator didn't know Swedish sign language. They emphasised a few basic facts about sign languages:

1. There are many sign languages around the world, maybe over 400, that are as different as any two spoken languages.
2. There is no British Sign Language Bible, although work is in progress. If you're reading this then you speak English. Imagine if your only Bible was in French.
3. Sign Language translations have to be done in the context of the culture they will be used in.

There is more material on Sign Language translation on the Wycliffe International site:
Sign Languages FAQ
Innovations in Sign Language translation
The Silent Language