Bookshout – book studies for e-readers!

A little while back I was talking to my friends about doing a Bible study with them even though I live in Ohio and they are back in Maryland. Time constraints and platform were the major issues and probably the main reasons nothing ever happened. It is hard to get a group of people to have the same time available and some place to keep conversations private.

I recently saw a blog about an app called Bookshout and from what it was saying, this would solve my main concerns. Here was an app where you could create book clubs, share highlights and notes and have a conversation together about what you read. That sounds pretty good to me.

I haven’t really had a chance to check out the app much seeing as I just downloaded it while I was typing this blog, but I would love to hear other’s thoughts on this app if you have used it.

Next Wednesday I will have a review of this app and how applicable it can be for our own interests, churches and missionaries too.

 

Glo Bible: My thoughts and reflections

I opened up the Glo Bible the software for the first time and I was immediately amazed. It was pretty, it flowed well and it had a plethora of resources available to check out. I was excited to really start studying the Bible with my new study tool. The next day I started in my study of Ecclesiastes and I immediately became slightly disappointed. I wanted to do an in-depth study of the book of Ecclesiastes and unfortunately there wasn’t enough there for me to do that with the software alone. I still like the program, but I was hoping it was going to be a more inclusive software bundle than it is. Let me highlight a few of my favorite things and a few things I’m hoping get added either by paying slightly more or in a free update (obviously my preference). Glo Bible has a series of lenses that allow you to look at different aspects of the Bible. There are five lenses: Bible, Timeline, Atlas, Topical and Media.

Favorites:

1. Glo Bible has a very intuitive interface. It takes a little getting used to, but after you watch the tutorials it shouldn’t be too difficult even for technology newbies. No matter what you want to find it is just a couple of clicks away.

2. Very specific searching allows the user to find exactly what they are looking for. An example from the tutorial shows how to search for the words of Jesus found in John in the city of Jerusalem during the Passion Week. I know for me, I would have no idea how to find that unless I flipped through the whole book of John and that is a little annoying. With this software you can do just a few clicks and let the software do the “flipping” for you. In order to do this all you would need to do is click on the Topical lens. Then you zoom in a right click on Words of Jesus and “send” it to the Biblical lens. This shows you all of the words of Jesus throughout the whole Bible. You then zoom in to the book of John and drag a box around the book of John and “send” it to the Atlas lens and select Jerusalem and “send” it to the Chronological lens and select the Passion week. Trust me it is a lot easier to do than it sounds. The last tutorial video shows you how to do just that. This is a very powerful tool that will make finding specific verses much easier.

3. Custom reading plans allow you to pick exactly what you want to read and then either pick how many days you in which you want to read or how many minutes per day you want to read. Then when you read it counts down how many minutes you have left to read for that day. There are also some pre-set plans that give you a variety of options as well.

Not-my favorites:

1. The software does include the NIV study study so while you read the notes are at the bottom and you can sign in with your YouVersion account and see notes written by others as well. Those things are nice, but what I really want is some in-depth commentary. I would be willing to pay for an additional update with a full commentary that way this software was all I would need for in-depth study. I wouldn’t care if it was each book of the Bible that I had to purchase an add-on for or one add-on with the Matthew Henry Commentary or something like that. Additional resources like Bible Dictionaries or Word studies would be nice too.

2. On slightly older computers the software runs a little slow. I know they have the option of running the media off of the discs, but that is cumbersome if you are traveling.

Overall I really like the software. It allows me to have a Bible study tool unlike any other where I can search for very specific topics or find out where certain events happened or pieces of art that relate to stories or verses in the Bible. There are many tools in the software that I am still investigating and will probably be investigating for a long time. I would recommend this software to any one I know, but if they are looking for commentary I would tell them to buy one of those in addition to this. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this is something that they are looking to expand upon in the near future.

7 billion people, 6 billion phones

As you might know I was at a mobile ministry conference last week down in North Carolina. This was my introduction into one of the many ways that GEM eDOT is trying to spread the Gospel throughout Europe so I was very excited to learn as much as possible. I quickly learned that there is much to learn about media in missions. The other people there were throwing out letters like it was an advanced lesson in Sesame Street. I was so confused most of the time, so I wrote down a lot of acronyms and other things that it was assumed everyone knew and I have been delving into them slowly trying to get a handle on what I will be doing.

The point of this blog though is the stat from the headline. One of the things I pulled from the training was the number of mobile phones in the world compared to people. We just recently passed 7 billion total people in the world and we also passed 6 billion mobile phones too. Now you have to assume that some of the 7 billion are a wee bit young to own a mobile phone and that some people own two phones, but even if 1 billion people own to mobile phones that still leaves us with 5 billion people in the world who own a mobile phone. That flat out shocked me. I was completely surprised that there were that many mobile phones out there.

In the conference they were excited about this because it meant that if we can deliver content to all types of mobile phones then we can reach more people for Christ than ever before. We spent a lot of time talking about different techniques to get content to the phones, but the main idea was that with the increasing number phones out there the more we could do. The number of phones are only going to increase so developing a strategy to get the Gospel into the phones now will only decrease the time in which it takes to get the Gospel into the hands of every single person on Earth.

This is what our goal at GEM eDOT is. It is not always with mobile phones, but we are trying to get the Gospel into as many peoples hands as possible. This is what I am going to be a part of, and that excites me…..now I just need to learn what they heck they were talking about at the conference.

goTandem.com, a pack of tools for your spiritual growth

If you are a friend of mine on facebook or twitter you may have seen a comment from me about trying out this new website that is geared towards helping people in their spiritual growth. The service bills themselves as the following: “If spiritual discovery is a journey, then goTandem is the pack of tools you’ll need for the trip. We’ll equip you with everything you need to be the person you want to be, and we’ll do it every day.”

Let’s start with the video that Tandem uses to introduce themselves to you.

 

 

Let me go over what the service offers and then give you my opinion of it. When you first sign up you have to share some basic information like name, location, how many times you read the Bible last week, e-mail and phone number (not required). Once the basic information is done you fill out a spirituality questionnaire (only one non-multiple choice, don’t worry I don’t think you can fail) that asks you questions about your beliefs like “What do you think happens after death?” and “How well do you know the Bible?” The questionnaire takes around 10 minutes to complete and the only painful part about it is when you realize that you would like to change what you are doing, but that’s why you are using Tandem in the first place, right? Once you are done with the questionnaire Tandem takes you to the subscriptions page where you decide how involved you want Tandem in your life. There are many options. There are five options they give you to choose from. They are: “Encourage Me” phone call, “Hear from God” non-topical phone call or e-mail, “Respond to Him” non-topical text or e-mail, “Take a Step Closer” topical e-mail, and “Relate to Others” topical e-mail. I’ll explain each in more detail later. For each of these options they ask you to choose specific times to receive these and what days as well. Once you are done making those selections is takes you to the dashboard where that days e-mails are displayed for you to check out. For each subscription you can go into your account and make a comment to share with the Tandem community, make it a favorite to look at later when you need an extra pick-me-up or write a journal entry for your own private thoughts.

Alright here are my thoughts. I know you have been reading this blog with baited breath for me to give you my thoughts, so here they are. I have been a member of Tandem for just over a week now and so far I like it a lot. Well, I hope you liked my review, that’s all……….Alright so I guess I can get a little more detailed in what I like about the program and what things I think could be improved. I’m going to break it down into Love, like, not-so-excited about and dislike just to break it down a little.

Love it!

1. The variety of ways of contact. Phone call, text and e-mail make this usable for just about everyone. The best thing about the variety is that they are each optional too. You don’t have to have the phone calls if you don’t want them, or maybe you are still not a big fan of texts, either way you can choose what you want.

2. The Encouragement phone call (completely optional). I had my first one last Thursday and at first it was a little strange since a stranger was calling me, but it ended up being very nice. I answered the phone and the guy on the other end sounded like he genuinely cared about my spiritual growth. He asked me how many times I read the Bible in the last week, what he could pray for me about and then he literally prayed for me right then. There was no judgement and I truly believe he is praying for me this week, maybe even right now. That’s cool to think!

3. The randomness of it all. I chose to be contacted at random times. I don’t know how random it is, because I don’t pay attention to things like that, but it seems like sometimes I am getting a text with a simple verse and question (makes you think about the verse) right when I need it. I got a text while at a men’s breakfast that was from Romans 12:5. It said “With Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Then it asked “So you act like that? It was perfect timing. I’m sitting in a room of over 200 guys trying to be better men and we were talking about mentoring and being mentees with other men. It was so cool to get this text at that moment, reinforcing what the Christian community should really be about.

Like it

1. The e-mails are brief for the most part. That allows my short attention span to read it right away and not wait for later (we all know what that means sometimes).

2. Some of the e-mails are topical specifically geared towards me based on my answers in the questionnaire, but not all of them are. I like that because I don’t want to be inundated with e-mails only on specific topics. The non-topical e-mails and texts are kind of like opening the Bible to a random page and reading whatever is there. It doesn’t always hit home, but when it does it is oh so nice!

3. The Bible reading e-mail is nice because if I missed the phone call or wanted to hear it again the e-mail has a link to the audio so I could theoretically save it forever.

Not-so-excited about it

1. The journal and comment parts don’t get me too excited, but honestly I think that is just me. I am sure some of you would love to journal about some of the entries. It’s just not my thing.

2. Linking Tandem to Facebook or twitter so you could share comments or your journal entry would be pretty nice. That way, if you wanted to, you could share with other people what you are learning. I guess I could use copy and paste to create a note on Facebook, but sometimes I’m just lazy and would rather click a share button and have it done for me.

Dislike

1. The Bible reading phone call is nice overall, but if I miss the call and want to hear it on the voice mail sometimes it cuts out the very beginning. Not a huge deal, but I had to have something I disliked, right?

2. The only other thing I dislike is the lack of community beyond the comments. Honestly I am not sure if I would like more community, but it would be interesting to see something where you could have conversations with other people who are maybe on the same topical e-mails as you or something to that effect.

Overall I like Tandem. Like I said, sometimes the texts, e-mails or phone calls seem to come at the right time or have the right verses and words for whatever I am dealing with that day. The bottom line is that Tandem does what it says it is going to do. It helps you get in the Word on a daily basis which I know is something I struggle with sometimes. If you are like me, then try it out. The worst that could happen is you absolutely hate the service then you deactivate it and look for something else that meets your needs. The best that could happen is you love the service and continue daily to grow closer to God. There is definitely more of an upside than a downside.