Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

An Open Letter to Christian Media Outlets

Where is David Winer when you really need him? The reason I ask is because he was recently named the 16th most powerful person in IT this year. No doubt in part because of his work of going into all the WWW and baptizing diciples in the name of XML-RPC. Something I wish he’d do for those running large Christian-related media outlets such as Crosswalk and Gospelcom, as well as major resources for Biblical publishing such as the International Bible Society and the American Bible Society.

Winer? Whining? Whatever! I personally feel that we as Christians are once behind the curve when it comes to things Internet. In this case, those of us running church web sites and intranets are stuck with having to resort to some dated mechanism, such as my VerseScraper, to access syndicated materials. I feel so strongly about this issue that yesterday I took time to e-mail the aforementioned organizations along with a few others. 24 hours later, still no response. As an example, here is what I sent to the good people a the BibleGateway:

Greetings in the Lord Jesus Christ,

I’m the code-monkey who runs http://www.HealYourChurchWebsite.com. I am always looking for technologies that will help church web servants provide more compelling content on their sites. I recently wrote an article about using HTTP to “screen-scrape” the International Bible Society’s Verse of the Day – with full attribution and respect to their copyrights and terms of use – and a link to the BibleGateway.

That said, what I would truly like to see – and write about – a tool such as the BibleGateway delivered in XML formats. Better yet, to provide access to your translations via an application-programming interface (API) similar to those offered by Google (http://www.google.com/apis) and Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/webservices).

Does the BibleGateway.com offer such a web service? If not, do you have one in the works? If not, would you give it consideration? Such a system would not only be a great aid for church web sites providing compelling content, but an excellent means of marketing for both the International Bible Society and BibleGateway.com since none-such service exists and because such APIs get massive technical press attention.

Dean Peters


I suppose I could have worded the letter better. But when I’ve written properly in the past, I’ve generally been ignored as a sales person. I’m hoping some manager is compelled to hand this over to someone who speaks geek for translation. From there, hopefully my brother/sister-in-arms will handle the rest of the pitch from the inside.

I’ll keep you posted on what happens, though don’t hold your breath. What will more than likely happen is that I’ll either hear from a lawyer about the VerseScrape. Or I’ll recieve an e-mail from a nice low-to-mid-level person who doesn’t have a clue of what I’m talking about, who will apologize and then go on to pitch me their latest ad campaign. Pray that I’m wrong.


  1. Interesting that you mention this: on Monday I sent a similar letter to RelevantMagazine.com because I’d love to syndicate their content. (Check out their eminently syndicatable stuff at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/)

    As of yet, I’ve received no response. They even say they’re in the midst of a site redesign and are asking for feedback.

  2. Dean, I can’t agree with you more. I emailed the Bible Gateway a long time ago and asked about putting the bible into XML and they replied saying that was in the works. Since then, they’ve redesigned without any word about XML.

    So I’ve recently email them again about the XML (probably about two or three months ago) without any response.

    I’m very interested in what you hear.

  3. Yeah, I’ve been thinking the same thing for a while. All these outlets should make their content available as an RSS feed, at the very least.

  4. Glen:

    Although we at RELEVANT would love to syndicate content and get quite a few requests for it, we have not taken the steps to bring syndication into scope for the redesign. Although it maybe hard to understand why, it simply comes down to using our resources for site upgrades that are desperately needed to make the site more functional for all involved. It’s quite possible that when we have staff in the double digits and our own full-time programmer, we’ll introduce these type of functionalities, but for now, I’m gonna have to request that you sit tight.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I wanted to make sure your response didn’t go unreplied to.

    Kyle Chowning
    Marketing Director
    Relevant Media Group

  5. Dean, you mentioned not having the ability to ssh to your host as a hinderance…although I can, I ran into some other problems. Anyway, here’s an alternative in a few lines of php. I though it might help someone out there.

    $address = “http://www.gospelcom.net/ibs/dm/syndicate/scripture.txt“;
    $fh = fopen($address, “rb”);
    $verse = fread($fh, 1024);
    $verse = substr($verse, 18);
    $len = strlen($verse)-4;
    $verse = substr($verse, 0, $len);
    echo $verse;

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  7. Just found your site–it’s interesting so far. I emailed Relevant last month about using their Slices section (www.relevantmagazine.com) as part of my page, with appropriate credit and links. I’m new to RSS and haven’t gotten too deep into newsfeeds and the like–I had simply linked a frame on my page to open their slices page and it looked SMOOTH (for me at least–I’m a web design-rookie). It was VERY simple to do. So I had it all running and emailed them the next day asking permission and pointing them to my site. They did respond saying that “it takes a lot of time and resources to generate the amount of content we do, and we can’t endorse people taking it and using it on their sites for free”. I dutifully removed it from my site. I’m not quite sure if this would be the same thing as ‘syndicated’ material, but overall it seems kind of contrary to the viewpoint expressed earlier in this string. It doesn’t seem to me that simply linking to one of their pages would put that much more of a strain on their resources…Am I wrong about this?

  8. Jeff, there is a difference between the three:
    1) Linking – this is how the internet works. It’s not rude. Rather, this is very appropriate.
    2) Framing – this is what you described (I think.) Some consider this rude. I have javascript on my sites which breaks out of frames if someone tries to frame my sites.
    3) Syndication – this is where a site intentionally makes content available for other sites to use and is the most rare.

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  10. Dean,
    I’m wondering if you have any updates on BibleGateway’s stance on screenscrping their site. I’m in the process of building an asp.net scrper for my church. I figured I would include the search results and the sponsor links at the bottom to assure they get maximum exposure.

    Oh, I tried to use the term scrping but your spam filter thought I was trying to use a word referring to forcible intercourse. It also rejected my email “mguiling@philanj.com”.

    Thanks for your work.