13 February 2010

On Selecting Bible Study Software

This is an addendum to the blog post at http://www.bibletechconference.com/blog/selecting-bible-study-software/ .

Bible Study Software can be reasonably divided by:
  • Platform;
  • License;
  • Number of resources;
  • Type of resources;
  • Functionality;
To make a distinction on the basis of commercial/non-commercial is nonsense:
Additionally, there is the issue of how "non-commercial" is defined. And, contrary to the press blurb, the Creative Commons Foundation does not have a functional, viable definition of "Non-Commercial".

Platform: No additional comments.


For users, the issue is what the license permits, and prohibits. It is all too easy to click through a license, when installing new software. US Courts have consistently upheld that click-through licenses are legally binding.

Do you want to have to parse a clause such as the following, and decide if using the program at a Bible Study at your home is permitted? Or, for those in the emerging church, deciding if it permits usage for a Bible Study at a local bar, or eating establishment?

ADDENDUM. The Software may be used for educational purposes in schools and Churches for teaching and instructional purposes only. (Complete license can be found at http://www.abu.nb.ca/ecm/products/copyrigt.htm.)

I do not know the history of the following clause. It did give me cause to wonder what was purchased that could result in what taxes the State of Washington levied on residents, that would encourage the inclusion of a clause like this.
You are responsible for payment of any taxes, including personal property taxes, resulting from this license. (Complete license can be found at http://www.gramcord.org/ftp/Doc/license.doc.)
Whilst I question the legality of the following clause, it is an example of "unexpected" clauses in Bible Study Software.
The Terms of Use of The Watchtower Library CD states
2. Who may have a copy of Watchtower Library? This is a research tool for Jehovah's Witnesses, not for the public or for institutions such as schools or libraries.
The following clause is an example of an "expected" clause. (This is from the Libronix License.)
I'd question what "trade secrets" an end-user can divine, simply from using the software. Especially due to the existence of Libronix Tools, Libronix Santa Fe Translator, or Theme Discovery Report.
The Software contains trade secrets and proprietary know-how that belong to us and it is being made available to you in strict confidence. ANY USE OR DISCLOSURE OF THE SOFTWARE, OR OF ITS ALGORITHMS, PROTOCOLS OR INTERFACES, OTHER THAN IN STRICT ACCORDANCE WITH THIS LICENSE AGREEMENT, MAY BE ACTIONABLE AS A VIOLATION OF OUR TRADE SECRET RIGHTS.
Virtually every software license that end users have to agree to, that I've read, has contained one more clauses that are either ambiguous, obnoxious, or both obnoxious and ambiguous. Then there are the licenses that are toxic. One example would be a license that turns over your work product, and all intellectual property rights relating to that work product, to the company that developed the software.


Type of Resource:

Two things to pay attention to:
* Does the Bible Study Software offer the type of resources you use?
* Are the resources consistently packaged for the type of resource it is?

For the first question, the resource type can be broken into two parts:
a) The content of the resource matches your interests. If you like using a dozen or more translations of the Bible in your Bible Study, and the program only includes on Bible translation, it does not match your interest. Likewise, if you are an Aramaic primist, and it only offers Latin texts, if doesn't match your interests;
b) The resource types that are offered are appropriate for the way you study: If you primarily do textual analysis, and the majority of the resources are commentaries the program probably is not suitable for your needs;

For the second question, I'll use e-Sword as an example. The Book of Mormon, offered at http://e-sword-users.org/users/node/2107 . e-Sword does not support The Canon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Using the Scripture search bar for 2 Nephi won't come up with any matches. This content is very inconsistent with the Bible Resource Format Specifications. It was, needless to say, created by a user. AFAIK, that resource, and The Book of Mormon cast as a commentary resource ( http://e-sword-users.org/users/node/2132 ) are the only two resources for e-Sword whose content does not match the e-Sword Resource Format Specifications for the specific resource type. (Oddly enough, e-Sword-users.org does not offer a copy of the Book of Mormon as a topical file, which is the appropriate resource format.) For one or two known resources, one might be able to overlook it. When there is no way to know the content type, until after the resource is opened, such dissonance can be extremely unsettling. Consider the effect of opening a resource that you think is text, say, for example, a history of Egypt, and discovering that it is nothing but images.


If your Bible Study resembles Melissa Scott's Bible study lesson's that are broadcast on late night TV, then does the software package have the tools to do that type of markup?

If your Bible Study resembles the videos from Rick Warren's The Purpose Filled Life, does your Bible Study software enable the creation, and display of audio files, video files, and graphical images?
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