Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Watch out for changing defaults

Many software applications require you to make decisions while using the software. Some decisions are of the "yes"/"no" variety, while others are more complex. In many (but not all) cases, the software will suggest a default response among the possible choices. For example, if you are going to delete data and the software presents an "Are you sure?" response, more often than not the default response would be NOT to delete the data.

But new versions of software applications are released all the time, and there's always the possibility that the default may change - and you may not even know it.

The example that I am providing below is not a typical business example, but it certainly illustrates the possible problems when defaults change.

One of the more popular online Bible websites is Bible Gateway, which allows you to search a number of different Bibles. This allows you, for example, to compare John 3:16 in the King James Version to the same passage in Martin Luther's 1545 German translation.

In the past, the default translation offered by Bible Gateway was the New International Version, which was originally released in 1984.

But there has been a subtle change to the default translation that is offered.

Yup, there's an even newer New International Version, and the 2010 version includes some differences in text from the 1984 version.

And that causes some issues in some churches, according to Sandy Grant:

Everyone on our reading roster knows we use the NIV.

But last week some of the readings were different from what we had in front of us. And others noticed too. What was going on?

As you know, rather than using their own Bible, or the large lectern Bible at church, people sometimes like to print the Bible text when they read in public. This allows them to use larger font size for ease of vision, or to add marks to aid their expression and emphasis.

In every case where there was a variation from what we expected in our NIVs, and only in those cases, it turns out the person concerned had chosen to print off the reading. And they had gone to that most helpful website for multiple Bible translations,

There, the default translation for English users has always been the NIV.

And it still is … sort of.

As you may know, the NIV has been updated by their Committee for Bible Translation (CBT). So far the 2010 NIV text is only available electronically.

So what if you want to print out the same NIV version that you have at home?

Then you need to let your readers know that if they use BibleGateway, they must manually select the 1984 version of the NIV, rather than 2010. In the drop down menu of English versions, the 1984 NIV comes right at the bottom, just after the TNIV.

The TNIV, incidentally, is yet another translation from the NIV family. Without getting into theological and political issues, suffice it to say that the default behavior of the Bible Gateway application changed, and many people have not yet realized this.

And in this particular case, the former default may be removed from the software altogether at some point, based upon what Trevin Wax has written:

The problem I see with the NIV 2011 is that the publisher (Zondervan) seems to be putting churches and church leaders in a position where they are forced to make a choice. A few years ago, upon considering the resistance from some evangelicals toward the TNIV, Zondervan assured Bible-readers that the 1984 NIV would remain available. But no such assurance is given now. In fact, the publisher has expressly indicated the desire for the NIV 2011 to replace both the original NIV and the TNIV.

Now I don't know if that means that Zondervan or Biblica will prevent Bible Gateway from having the 1984 NIV translation online in the future. But people don't like it when software features are pulled from an updated version of the software - and in the case of websites, you can't just say that you'll continue to use the old software.
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