First off, let me thank so many of you who responded both in public comments and private email to my post this past Friday entitled “What About Christian Web Services?” I believe it will have the desired effect on some individuals who can make things happen at some well-known Christian online media outlets. Even if it doesn’t, it has inspired some emails from some of you on projects you are either planning or are working on right now. Tomorrow, you’ll see one of them in my post. Good stuff!
But now to practice what I preach and answer my own questions as promised. Again, your mileage (and opinions) may vary:
- How excited would you get over a SOAP or XML-RPC interface to your favorite online Bible? Do you think it would catch on?
- Yes, yes, yes and yes. The Internet has changed. It has become industrialized. Meaning the tools we use to get the done are becoming more automated and standardized each day. Those that don’t will go the way of the candle-maker and the buggy-whip. The real issue here is which of the few major players will have the guts to do it first. Take for example the BibleGateway vs. CrossWalk. Both offer a daily Scripture verse. However, neither do so in XML. The first one that does will see their content syndicated on web sites and blogs around World — with links back to them included. Once that happens, other contenders will have a difficult time making equal penetration.
- combining the web services such as my Scripturizer module to programmatically push scripture into sermons posted online.
- provide analytical tools that could quickly produce relationships and cross-references to a given verse or query
- create online games to teach Scripture
- associate common phrases out of works of literature or news media with their Scriptural origins.
- programmatically categorize areas of topical interest, such as great women of the Bible
- provide DHTML or CSS based quotes that appear when you hover over a particular word or phrase on a web log
- No. One can already use simple tools such as Perl’s LWP::Simple in combination with HTML::TokeParser, XML::Simple and PDF::Create to quickly screen-scrape existing services such as that offered by the BibleGateway. Please see my VerseScrape 0.2 for an example.
- For newsletters or download, that makes sense, so no, not a problem.
- Caching it, yes and no. Yes, because it would be a pain to have to re-hit the service’s server every couple of days to get the same exact item/search. It would also make my page less search engine friendly in issues where Scripture is incorporated. No, because if a service really want their resources abused that way, that’s their call.
You see, the real dirty little secret here is that I think these Christian media outlets are afraid someone is going to download the entire Bible then sell it as their own and/or roll their translations into some other software. A legitimate fear, that reminds me of a story my wife told me. A childhood neighbor of of hers came into her parent’s yard and stole some plants — only to put them about the feet of a statue/shrine of the Virgin Mary! The point is, as long as you offer such content out there in ANY format, it can be downloaded and abused. What I would contend is that anyone savvy enough to implement SOAP or XML-RPC is not likely to be of a criminal mind. That’s just too much work. Moreover, they’re certainly not going to rip anyone off using those channels. Its just too easy to get caught and convicted that way.
One other thought. Content syndication has been around for a few years now. So has obtaining the data in a stateless fashion (web services). If it were that detrimental to business, I doubt it’d be getting all the attention it has in the technical press. Yes, there will be abuses, but that’s what registration keys, user agreements and log parsers are for. Past that, I guess its just an issue of faith knowing that such tools will aid in getting the Gospel into countries with closed doors.