David Stark at New Testament Interpretation reports on the (still beta) roll-out of Biblia.com, an excellent web resource for Biblical Studies. Check out the full report here, or if you’d just like to see the goods, check that out here.
WTS Books currently has a super sale on all NICOT commentaries. The sale is running until August 19th, so be sure to check it out!
No, Nerdlets is not dead. It’s just been on sabbatical. But now that I have graduated (so now it’s Dr. Nerdlet), I should have more time to regularly update this blog. Here’s what to expect in the future.
- Faster and better. Some plugins were slowing things down, and those have been removed or replaced. I have also upgraded to WordPress 3.0.
- Cleaner. Nerdlets is in desperate need of a visual refresh. The green theme is gone for now. I have not yet settled on final theme, but I am prioritizing speed and usability.
- More frequent updates. Updates will be shorter but more frequent. There is a lot of good work being done by others on using technology for the Church and the Seminary, and so I will try to be a more faithful linker. I hope to also continue posting guides and original content.
- Leaner. This blog is designed to help church leaders and academics harness the power of technology as they shepherd their flocks and teach their students. I will do my absolute best not to get sidetracked from those goals.
- Easier. In order the further discussion I have removed everything that might require a separate login. Comments are handled by IntenseDebate, which means if you are on twitter, facebook, or gmail, you should be ready to role. And if you’re not, you can still comment. No subscribing necessary. Hopefully this will also cut down on spam.
Suggestions, as always, are welcome! Post ideas? Send them this way. Tech questions? I’ll do my best!
Do you use Zotero? Do you wish that your folder collections showed all the items in their various subfolders? I do. And there is a hidden setting in Zotero to allow you to change the behavior.
Here’s the official explanation:
By default, each of your collections displays only the items you have placed there. When you place a collection inside another collection, the contents of the second collection are not added to the first. If you enable recursive collections, items from subcollections will appear in all higher-level collections.
To change this behavior, type the following into your Firefox URL bar:
Be careful when you are on this special page. Firefox stores all of its settings here, and you can really mess things up if you go poking around without knowing what you are doing.
In the “filter” bar at the top of the page type:
You should see a line pop up that says:
Set the “value” of this setting to “true,” which you can do by double-clicking the line.
Now your folders are recursive! You can find other “hidden” settings, and what they do, here.
I do a lot of teaching and preaching and writing, and often an idea will occur to me at an inconvenient time–that is, when I don’t have pen and paper handy. No problem, though, RTM makes a great idea-catcher! (Ideas can be anything, by the way, like “I need to do such and such of Friday”).
The best way to catch ideas is through your phone. I have a special drop with drop.io that I can call and leave myself a voice message. Any internet-based voice messenger will work, though. I call my voice-messaging service and leave myself a message with my idea. I have it set up so that anytime I get a voice message it sends me a little notification in my email.
So how does this get added to RTM? There are two very easy ways. I use Gmail filters and RTM’s awesome Gmail plugin. RTM lets you automatically create tasks from a Gmail Label, and Gmail in turn lets you automatically label incoming emails based on a set of preconditions. So I have Gmail set to automatically label all my voice-mail messages with the label “Task,” and I have RTM set to automatically create Tasks from any email with that Label. Presto: instant automatic idea catcher.
The second way you can set up independently of Gmail. Your RTM account also has an email address, so alternatively you could set up Gmail (or whatever email program you use) to auto-forward all emails of a certain type to that address, which would then get created as tasks.
Now that I am (interim) pastoring at Christ the King PCA I find that I am spending a lot more time in prayer. I also find it difficult to keep track of all that I am praying for, and for how those the situations were resolved.
I started with a pen and paper prayer journal, but I have found that I never have it when I need it, and since I tend to lose things I worry that it might fall into the “wrong hands” if I try to carry it everywhere. So I am now experimenting with a new system. I am treating prayer like I treat other parts of my life—prayer is something that I need to prepare for, that I need to keep track of, and most importantly, that I need to do. It is a (blessed, glorious, holy) task. So, like other tasks, I have begun putting prayer requests into my Remember The Milk (RTM) list. (For an introduction to using RTM for Getting Things Done (GTD), see this.)
I have a “Pastoring” list where all prayers get added (along with other churchy things). All prayer requests get tagged with the “@prayer” context tag (I use the @ in RTM to create contexts; if you’re familiar with Getting Things Done that probably makes sense to you, if not try here). If the prayer is about a person, I stick their phone number in a note, and if they have a tag in my system (my wife gets a tag, and so do co-workers and other people I interact with regularly) that tag gets added as well. I also add the date of the prayer request to the note. If the prayer has an expected end date (“pray that my stressful event Friday goes well”) I give it a due date, if it is more open-ended I don’t. I use the notes feature of RTM to keep track of how it all develops. When the prayer is answered, I “complete” the prayer, but I can still go back to it later because RTM will let you see completed tasks—all your answered prayers.
This system is secure (RTM’s servers are super encrypted, and my passwords are super weird and long), it is available to me anywhere (I love my new phone!), and it works almost exactly like most prayer-journaling systems I hear about. The biggest downside is… well, it feels weird. Prayer is such a sacred thing, and pen-and-paper seems more personal/appropriate/holy.But is pen and paper more sacred than bits and pixels?
I have talked to a couple of pastor friends regarding this but have yet to find a system that works for me. Does anyone have any suggestions, pen-and-paper or otherwise? Is there anyone out there who uses technology to keep track of their prayer life? Anyone think that sounds, for lack of a better word, weird? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
I don’t use the software and so cannot comment on it personally, but Mike Aubrey has a thorough review of the new version of the always well-received Logos platform of bible study tools Check it out. I have been particularly interested in the sentence flow diagramming feature of the platform. Someday I will be able to try it out, but those who are already using Logos should comment on your experiences below!
Zotero is free bibliographic software that allows you to easily collect, annotate, and cite bibliographic data. It runs as a plugin for the excellent Firefox browser, which means that you have the web at your fingertips as kyou manage information, and also that it can run on any operating system that Firefox can run on (that is, all of them). It is also open-source, which means that anyone can improve it and develop for it. It is a great alternative to more expensive software, and also has a number of advantages over its more wealthy brethren.
This is a guide to using Zotero effectively in biblical studies, though using Zotero effectively in biblical studies is usually similar to using Zotero effectively in other fields. I will add a couple of remarks along the way, however, especially for those of us in theological fields.
Step 1: Installing Zotero
Your first step in using Zotero is getting everything installed. If you are not already running Firefox (an excellent open-source web-browser), then shame on you. Install that by following the easy steps here.
Open up Firefox and browse to the Zotero site (here). Click on “try out 2.0 beta.” It might seem at first that 1.0 is the better option, but there are SO many new features with 2.0 that it’s really the way to go. I use Zotero daily and have had no major issues with 2.0. The rest of the guide will assume that you are running that version.
Once you click, Firefox will do the rest—download, install, and ask you to restart. Restart Firfox and you are ready to go.
The Zotero website is also a great place for guides and videos, so browse around a bit.
Step 2: Move Your Zotero Directory
The VERY FIRST thing you need to do with your new Zotero setup is change the location where it stores all its data. By default Zotero puts all the information you want it to remember in the same place where all your Firefox settings are stored. This is terrible. It’s like storing your valuables in something that looks exactly like a trash can—someone will eventually forget it’s not a trashcan and throw it away. You’ll either upgrade Firefox, or Windows, or something, and then it will be gone (and backup software may not know to back up this directory). So let’s move it. (Note: if you already have data in your Zotero directory, back it up first using Zotero’s export command. When you move your directory in Zotero it will seem like your data is gone, but it isn’t. It’s still in the old directory. Either move it manually or import the data you just exported).
Create a New Folder. Open up your file browser and go to a directory where you keep important data. Something like “My Documents” in Windows—you know, where you save documents. Hopefully it is also a directory that gets backed-up by your backup software. In that directory create a new (empty) directory called “Zotero.” (For an always-on backup solution that super-secures your data, you may want to put Zotero in a Dropbox directory; see “Securing Zotero” below).
Tell Zotero what to do. Now in Firefox you will now notice an icon in the bottom right corner that says “Zotero” (labeled “1″ in the picture to the right). Click on that to get your Zotero window up. Then look for a gear icon (“2″ in the picture), which you should click, and select “Preferences.” We’re going straight to the “advanced” tab (“1″ in the second picture), then clicking the “Custom” option (2), and then clicking “choose” (3). Select the directory you created and click ”
Step 3: Get Some Data
Alrighty, now that we know our data isn’t going anywhere, let’s get some actual data. You can add books and articles and what not manually, but that is SO 2008. One of the great things about Zotero is that it sits in your web browser, so you can use the web to get data for you. A number of popular sites (Amazon, Google books, etc) support Zotero data. Chances are your school library does as well. Let’s start with Amazon, though. Go here. Now look at the address bar. There should be a little folder icon there. If you click on that, it will bring up all the books on the current page, from which you can select which to add to Zotero. Now go here. Just one book this time, and the Zotero icon in the address bar is now a book. Click on it and it will add the bibliographic data to your database.
A lot of blogs also support Zotero, including this one. See the icon in the address bar when you go to nerdlets.org? That means you can add blog entries straight into your Zotero database.
Play around for a bit. Try Google books. Or the library of congress. Or your favorite library site. Also notice the various icons in the middle section of your Zotero interface. These all allow you to add a variety of things to Zotero, from webpage snapshots, to manual data for books that are not on your preferred website, to files on your computer.
Step 4: Using Zotero with your Word Processor
Install Word Processor Plugins. Now that you have some data you probably want to use it. Zotero has a number of plugins that integrate with your favorite word processor. You can find out more about those here, and the install page is here. Make sure you scroll down for the 2.0 plugins; the 1.0 plugins will not work. The plugins install just like Zotero itself, as browser add-ins. The plugins update automatically, and automatically install all the needed files into your word-processor. Easy. There is one for Microsoft Word (here) and for OpenOffice (here).
Format your citations in the correct style. Now Zotero will work with your word processor, adding data into footnotes as needed, and all in the proper format. Speaking of proper format, you may want to add bibliographic styles not included by default. For theology or church history you’ll probably want to use what Zotero calls “Chicago Manual of Style (Full Note with Bibliography),” which is included by default. For biblical studies you’ll probably want the SBL style, which is not installed by default, but fear not! Because Zotero is open source anyone can create their own style, and a number of users have done just that. Most likely your preferred style is out there somewhere. Let’s install the SBL Style as an example. Go to Zotero preferences and click on the “Styles” tab. Then click on “Get additional styles…” This will take you to a webpage with a whole list of styles; just click “install” to add it to Zotero. The SBL style guide is in that list, or you can install that by clicking here.
Back in the preferences dialog click on the “Export” tab. Select the style you prefer in the “Default Output Format” box.
Cite, my friend, cite! Now open up your favorite word processor. I’m using OpenOffice, but the process is the same for Word. You should notice a new toolbar. If you don’t see it, go to “View” and “Toolbars” and look for one that says Zotero. Once you find it, hover over each button to see what they do.
Let’s assume you want to add a citation that is SBL compliant. Create a footnote. Now add a citation (“1″ in the picture). If this is the first Zotero citation you have added a window will pop up asking about how you want to format this document. Make sure SBL is selected and click OK. You will notice that a field has been added to your footnote (2), and a new dialog window has popped up (3). Now search for a citation you want to add, either by browsing through folders or by using the search dialog (4). Select your citation (5), and add page numbers (6). You can also choose “Multiple Citations” if necessary (7). When you’re done click OK (8).
Once you are done with your document you can automatically generate a bibliography (3rd button). You can edit citations with the second button. Have fun!
Step 5: Helpful Hints and Best Practices
Zotero is pretty powerful software, but you have probably already encountered some problems. Here are a few tips on how to use Zotero effectively.
- Use folders sparingly, use tags generously. Folders are a great way of organizing information, provided you don’t have too many and the hierarchy doesn’t go too deep. I create folders for each major topic that I am studying. Every paper I write or class I teach gets a folder. This allows me to have a kind of record of research. But if you get to specific this can get unwieldy. Instead, use tags for the specifics. Tags are search-able and non-hierarchical. You can add as many as you want and it won’t junk up your database.
- Every paper your write gets its own folder. Again, this allows you to retain a record of research. Anything you cite in a paper goes in that folder.
- Stick to a standardized naming scheme for authors and publishers. One of the major problems with Zotero is that it does not store author and publisher names in a hierarchy. So if you add Calvin’s Institutes under “Calvin, J.” and then later one of his commentaries under “Calvin, John,” Zotero will think it is two different authors, which will mess up your bibliography. Rather than making lots of piddly changes down the road, stick to a standardized naming scheme now. Make it work with whatever bibliographic style you are using. For authors I stick to last name and 1-2 initials. For publishers I always exclude the words “Publishing” or “Press” unless its a university (“Oxford University Press”). If the book contains a number of articles, I always have a separate entry for the book as a whole, then “copies” of that entry for various articles. Find a system that works for you and stick with it.
- Always type out quotes you want to use in Zotero first, then copy and paste into your article. I like to do research “on the fly”; that is, I like to research as I write, and write as I research. This means that my papers are always in process. It also could mean that my research is less easily reusable. In order to find that quote I need to find that paper in which I typed it out. To avoid this, type out all quotes as notes in Zotero. Right click on the book from which the quote is taken and select “Add note.” On the top line type two or so words that identify the topic of the quotes (think: “how will I search for this in two years”) and the page number. Then type out the quote (Zotero has a handy “quote” style), then any comments you might have. Notes like this will always be associated with their respective books, no matter where you drag and drop that book, and notes can be tagged like anything else.
Step 7: Syncing Zotero
The latest version of Zotero allows you to sync multiple databases, and also sync online. To set that up, follow the directions here. That will allow you to sync your data. To sync files—like all those PDFs you have saved—things get more complicated, but all is explained in the aforementioned link.
Please remember, though, that SYNC does not mean BACKUP. Sync means that everything you do is synced between multiple computers. If you do something idiotic, your idiocy will then be replicated 10 fold. A mirror doesn’t make your face any less dirty. You still need a backup, so keep reading.
Step 8: Securing your Life’s Work
I now use Zotero as my bibliographic database, as a document library for all my PDFs, as a web bookmarking database, a recipe book, an interview manager, and a job-search tool. If it fails, I’m sunk. You need to back up your Zotero database. How do you do that?
Zotero is just a collection of files. Place your Zotero directory somewhere that gets backed up every day, like your My Documents folder (see above for how to do this). Better yet, use Dropbox. Dropbox is an application that you can install that creates a folder, and then automatically backs-up and syncs any data you put into it. Dropbox is free, works on any OS, and provides you with 2gb of storage. You can install it by going here. Once you have your dropbox folder up and running, move your Zotero folder into it.
You should also have a local backup. That is, every night your computer should back up all important data onto a separate hard disk. By an external harddrive (newegg.com) and backup your data to it daily (using something like the free version of syncback.
When your research is searchable, re-usable, and secure, life is good.