Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Index of Blog Scripture Posts

Posted by Matthew on August 13, 2007

I’ve been messing around with the idea of creating an index of all the LDS writings on the internet related to scriptures organized by the scripture under discussion. And I put together a VERY rough draft to help me think through the right way to do this. Here it is:

As you’ll see there are a lot of problems with the approach I took. The most obvious is that there are a lot of links that look a little different but essentially take you to the same place. Why blogs bother with providing links to say “everything written in July of 2007” is beyond me. But anyway the results is that text from the same post can appears on several different pages. So then when I index it, it gets indexed several times.

Anyway, I’m looking for your help. Though I don’t promise anything in the near-term I’m thinking of maybe trying to make this a bit better than it is. So I’d like some feedback and suggestions.

Here are a few questions to get the you started:

  • Do you see links that I missed?
  • Any suggestion on how to integrate this better with the wiki? As you can guess, that’s my goal.
  • What additional information would you like to see up-front (before you click to follow the link) that would be most helpful?

Also, anybody out there that can provide some technical help? I honestly have no idea what I’m doing here. I just pulled some open source python code together and tweaked it until I could get it to do sort of what I wanted. I don’t have experience writing much code at all (except a bit of SQL stuff) and certainly no experience in python–so I’m hurting for help.

Example

Here’s an example of how this compares to other ways you might look for information on the Internet related to a certain scripture. (PS I picked this example because it is pretty popular in the bloggernacle. So, fyi, most scriptures wouldn’t have this much information on them. )

Say your are reading the sermon on the mount in Matthew and you’d like to find out what other members think about this. You try

  • searching Matthew 5 with no success
  • search “LDS Sermon on the Mount” with some success
  • you look on Feast and find some good stuff
  • you ask Google advanced search for a list of pages that link to Matthew 5 with no success (not sure why this technique never works for me; probably there is something easy I’m doing wrong)
  • then you turn to the blog index for the NT. There you find 38 links. As noted, a lot of those are really the same links all over again.

When you sift through the links you get 21, some of which are only tangentially related to Matthew 5. (I very quickly and subjectively organized the more related one’s first.)

Suggestions?

PS the Feast wiki has been a bit slow in the last couple of weeks. Take a minute and post something over there.

6 Responses to “Index of Blog Scripture Posts”

  1. Jim F. said

    Good luck with this, Matthew. Like you, I think that in the long run the most important thing at Feast will be the wiki rather than the blog (though I’ve not been very good about contributing to it). This index would be a nice addition.

  2. Robert C. said

    Fascinating, Matthew. I’ll have to give this some thought. Have you tried comparing your results to searching using Mormon Archipelago‘s “Search the ‘Nacle” feature?

  3. TT said

    I think that this has excellent potential and it is definitely nice to see something like this available. I have two initial thoughts:
    1) One limitation is that this only focuses on the mention of specific passages rather than broader claims. For instance, none of the recent posts about Song of Songs are included.
    2) The problem with incorporating this info into the wiki is that there is no filter of good from bad. We can’t change or update other people’s posts like we can in a wiki.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. brianj said

    I have the same question as Robert (2). That’s a feature I commonly use for the very purpose you propose (“you’d like to find out what other members think about this”).

    Also, I noticed that all of the blogs that failed to index were on blogspot, though not all blogspot blogs failed. The only pythons I know have vestigial limb buds, though.

    I think blogs organize posts by “everything in July 2007” because they were originally meant to be time-relevant (travel log, captain’s log, web log).

    I wonder if there is a way to sort the links to get at TT’s concern. Ranking them by page-views would be one way, but you wouldn’t have access to that info. And even if you did, it would favor posts on “big blogs” over potentially much better stuff on a solo blog. The hardest part with using an index like this is sifting through it all.

    I haven’t put my finger on it yet, but there is something about the LDS General Conference Citation Index that I really like that your index is lacking. I’ll try to think through that….

    By the way, you will also have to determine which blogs to index. This can be quite offensive to some people if their blog isn’t included (just ask the admins of the aggregators).

  5. Matthew said

    Robert and Brian, I wasn’t aware of the “Search the ‘Nacle” feature. I like it. Given that that feature works pretty well, I probably won’t bother working on this. Still, before I drop it completely, I’ll maybe think through a little bit about how things would work if something were tailored specifically to the task of finding and organizing LDS information on the Internet related to the scriptures.

    TT,
    1) Agreed. I don’t know how information about broad scriptural questions should be organized. Sounds like the kind of problem librarians are good at thinking through: how do you categorize stuff in a way that makes sense.
    2) Good point. Maybe ideally the index would simply add the link to the wiki–just like any other users. Future editors could then re-order, remove irrelevant stuff, etc. Not sure though how that would work in practice.

    Brian,

    blogspot. Good eye. There must be something funny there causing my program problems.

    General Conference Citation Index. I am interested in hearing what you like about that site better. You’re right to compare the two as it really is the same thing. The point of course posting the pages I did wasn’t to present a thought through user-interface, but rather to throw something out there so people could comment on it before I invested a lot of time. So it is this type of feedback (what you like better about the General Conference Citation Index) that I’m particularly interested in.

    On a related note, it would be very simple to add general conference talks as well (unlike blog posters, those who post the general conference addresses do a very nice job of linking each reference to the scripture site without fail). And I’m half tempted to do that because I don’t like how hard it is to link to the General conference citation index. I can’t figure out how, for example, I can create a link that takes the user to all the talks related to Matt 5, or a particular verse in Matthew 5. One thing I like about that site is how it goes to the trouble of taking you to the specific spot in the talk where the citation is given. You don’t see that type of functionality on any search engine. I think it is an example of the nice things you can do when you are focused on solving a very narrow problem.

    And related to its narrowness, it is too bad that there is no similar citation index for other material on lds.org. No doubt the Church will fix this pretty soon (I hope) when they improve their search. I know of no easy way to find out all the stuff on lds.org that refers to a specific scripture (i.e. there’s no easy way to see for example, all the ensign articles that cite Matt 5). Is anyone else aware of a way to do this?

  6. BrianJ said

    Well, now you got me started on the lds.org search engine. Ugh! Perhaps there is a good reason, but I don’t know why it can’t work like the search at Highwire Press (http://highwire.stanford.edu/cgi/search). If you go there, you will see that one can search for any number of words in specific fields of an article: Title only, title plus abstract, or anywhere in the article (and that includes footnotes and references!). One can also specifcy the author, year, and so on. Then one can sort the results by date or relevance.

    I know the lds.org search appears to have some of this functionality, but we all know it doesn’t work. (A friend suggested that this may be partially on purpose: a limited search engine makes it more difficult to find old talks, leaving members to focus on the words of current leaders.)

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