Feedback Wanted: Unicode (Greek / Hebrew) Allowance

Earlier this week we received a tech-support email that raised a point that we had not addressed in a long time.

The issue had to do with using "unicode" fonts to allow the ability to post Greek and Hebrew.

It has been a really long time since we addressed this issue and felt it was time to invest some time (once again) into trying to solve the issue.

After a few hours of trying and trying and trying to get it to work, it has yet again got the best of us.

Well, technically speaking, we can get it to work.

But, we cannot get it to work, and get other things to work that are a problem for nearly every Blog Service Provider on the internet.

Here is the problem:

We can get unicode to work, but, we cannot get unicode to work AND get the other weird things people try to do to work together - sigh - things like weird symbols that people use when they type up their blogs in MS Word or Apple Write or such writing tools.

In the world of the internet, and trying to deal with different people in different countries, with different keyboards, and different languages, we internet developers have to try to agree on some "base format" that we convert everything to so that we can have a base format from which to work with, to try to solve these type of issues.

Most internet websites choose to use a format called "UTF-8" - and it is what we use.

But, for whatever the reason, as soon as we enforce a UTF8 format, it totally wacks out unicode.

If we don't use UTF8, we can get unicode to work.

If we use UTF8 we can get unicode to work, but than all the other languages we try to support get messed up.

sigh

There are ways we could get around it, but it would be ugly (on our end as developers)... and we do not like ugly.

An Example:

A good example of this we can show you...

Go here and copy this text:
http://www.greekbible.com/index.php?font=p&b=7&c=3

Than go here and past it into a form I've built to test this...

http://www.christianblog.com/testbed/unicode.php

This will allow you to see the process of where things get messed up.

What this will show you is:

(a) that the text gets submitted correctly.
(b) that we can convert the text to unicode properly
(c) that when we process it through our 'clean-up filter' it get's messed up
(d) that if we attempt to de-UTF8 it, we can almost [but not totally] get it to work correctly

So, Feedback Time:

So, here are the options on the table... and like we typically like to do, we are going to let our community have a chance to give their feedback on what they would prefer.

Option #1:

We continue to not allow unicode and continue to support MS Word and Apple Write and their funky non-unified gibberish that those two companies have chosen to use... that are completly non-standard.

Yes, it would make things much easier for those of you who use those software programs to pre-type and/or save your blogs in.

Yes, it would not cause a number of our members to become frustrated trying to solve why their blogs have a bunch of wierd symbols in their blogs. (the solution is easy... stop using stupid symbolds and other stuff when you type your blogs. Use a-z A-z 0-9 and the problem is solved. But, it's not what people do... they like things fanzy and there is very little chance this is going to change.

Option #2:

We convert over to using pure international standard formats. UTF-8 and Unicode.

Yes, this would allow our members the ability to publish Greek & Hebrew via Unicode format within their blogs. This is very awesome for those of you who like to publish bible study style blogs.

Yes, this would cause a great deal of our members who use MS Word & Apple Write to become frustated because they have used totally un-uniformed, totally non-stanard 'stuff' within their documents. Copying stuff from other of those programs into our website (and nearly every other website on the internet) is almost always going to cause problems. Yes, we have solve 99% of those problems over the last year. We have gotten pretty good as solve these "MS/Apple problems" to be honest. But, they are problems we should not have to solve. Bloggers should be responsible for making sure their blogs are not littered with weird symbols, and they should be responsible for fixing it - not us. But, at the end of the day, bloggers feel it is not their responsiblity... after all, "websites should just work" is the motto for many. We totally understand that. We have a hard time agruing against that motto. It is just sort of the 'norm' these days.

Option #3:

Honestly, there is no 'option 3'... at the end of the day, it all comes down to: Do we want to support the idioscynic weird symbols that are caused by MS Word and Apple Write, or, do we want to support true international standards?

The first option will obviously cater a great deal more towards those who just want to write their blogs in very popular document software, the second will obviously cater a great deal more towards those who want the freedom to post things that the vast majority of our members do not post - but who still want the freedom to be able to do, regardless of what others use that cause problems.

So, that explained:

This is one of those decisions that we are not going to make all on our own.

We know that a LOT of you use MS Word & Apple Write (and others) to write your blogs before publishing them here at the ChristianBlog.Com website. We know that a lot of you over the years have complained about why "weird symbols" show up when you copy-and-paste from those programs into ChristianBlog.Com - and, we realize it is not our fault but we have tried very very hard to solve those problems.

Yet we also know that many of you are very much into hard-core Bible Studies and theological blogging - and the ability to post Greek/Hebrew text to support the textual facts is very important - if not down-right vital most of the time. Yet, if we start to allow Unicode format, it will causing those who use word document programs to become frustrated (because they have choosen to use non-standard a-z 0-9 characters) and they cannot seem to solve the issues from their end.

Thus, it is time for the CB Community to come forward and voice their options and desires on this matter. We have tried to present the negative aspects of both sides... in full fairness. Both have their issues, neither option will make everybody happy. We don't want to be the bad-guys anymore regarding this... time for you guys as a community to be the bad guys :mrgreen:

photo credit: nyello8

@billyb
Billy Beard @billyb ·

Keep it simple, is my vote. I trust the word-for-word translations fully, many well educated panels of greek and hebrew experts of different theological backgrounds have given us those translations. I am not too partial to the 'thought' process personally, especially from only one person theorizing. Some words have several meanings, and the more liberal will at times go out further on the limb, trying to import another thought. Stay word-for-word, and leave all the rest for the professional panels, not individuals, my vote. God Bless.

@greybear
Rob Henson @greybear ·

I am relatively certain that the general population here is not going to use or value a Greek/Hebrew feature. Great idea, not sure of the real use to the site general population, yet may be of value to the owner or programmers...it seems like a step in a direction that is a step in a new user group, which may not be all bad...

the copy and paste issue was a fix not a part of the website...that becomes a user "fix" not really a tech support fix. (does this happen with notepad?)

one small point...the site currently is English only so that it can easily be "user moderated", who will be reviewing the Greek/Hebrew text???

@childofjesus
Laurie Gustafson @childofjesus ·

I'm not sure, I like how things are now. (I'm kinda confused with this whole process it's too much for me too understand) I use MS WORD to pre-type my blogs but I don't use any symbols the only symbols I use that get all messed up in my blog are when I try to use quotation marks then that's when my blogs get all messed up. So whatever is the easiest and simple way. So keep it simple sounds good to me! =]

@childofjesus
Laurie Gustafson @childofjesus ·

thanks PB! =]

@abelajohnb
John B. Abela @abelajohnb ·

[i]I would just like to share my own personal thoughts on this...[/i]

Personally, I think the website should allow Greek and Hebrew and just about any other language.

Having the ability to share Hebrew in it's native Semitic language would be awesome!

Does it mean that we will not be able to 100% of the time know what others are saying? Sure, but you know what, I visit websites every day where folks are saying things I do not know or understand.

We "english" people forget that the Bible was not written in the almighty "English Language" way too much.

As a former minister I came to learn the advantages of using pure Hebrew and Greek in studying the Bible. And, while I am not saying we should just all go out and learn two new languages [i](technically, it would be three, as Arabic would have to be learned too)[/i] this does not mean that those of us who have learned it - or even part of it - should be forced to not be able to use it when we want too... for no other reason than to allow those who use "MS Word" to not be responsiblie and fix their own issues. Issues that (i personally feel) should be the responsibility of the person posting their own blogs to fix on their end.

[tiny]Disclaimer: I am not saying any of this as the owner of the website, or the guy who has to go through the trouble of trying to fix those stupid MS Word issues. I am saying it as a fellow blogger and user of CB. Just voicing my own opinion here, like everybody else has the chance to do.[/tiny]

John

@mathetes
·

I would prefer the Greek and Hebrew myself, as I am not a "weird characters" type of person. One concern mentioned was monitoring what we being taught by those who use the original languages. Personally, I dont think this would be much of an issue. Of course people can misuse Scripture regardless of the language, and quoting a Greek or Hebrew word may help clarify things linguistically, but generally does not provide ironclad theological arguments. Another mentioned that few would actually utilize Greek and Hebrew. This may be true, but I think as people are able to start using it, it may encourage bloggers to do more research in their study of God's Word (which is always a good thing in my book!).

Here are the benefits I see of the ability to use Greek and Hebrew. Sometimes being able to break down a particular word by revealing how it relates to other words around it can help others understand the discrepancy between various English translations. Also, word studies generally do not change how people think about a passage but may give a fuller and deeper understanding and appreciation for what is being communicated. I find this to be the primary benefit of studying the original language. Finally, the original language can be helpful in explaining key differences between orthodox view of Christianity and dangerous teachings. For instance, if I wanted to write a blog explaining why John 1:1 teaches "and the Word was God" rather than what some cult groups teach "and the Word was a god" this would be very difficult to do without being able to point to the original language.

I understand that most will not utilize unicode, and I dont want to take away the fun of the many for the benefit of the few. I just think it would be really neat.

John, I am pretty ignorant when it comes to how this stuff works. But my question is how does Word and other word processing programs utilize the Hebrew and Greek fonts when not incorporating unicode. Would that be an option... to have specific Greek and Hebrew fonts that are not unicode based, but are drop down options? This may be a really dumb question, so just dismiss it if so. :)

@harkrider
·

I know folks on other sites that take little pictures of the Hebrew, Greek, etc. words an post that to get around those funny little symbols.

I have several different tools for writing in the mentioned languages and can't copy and paste here. So I use the stand by English spelling for the word/s. Difficult if your arguing a point of spelling or emphasis in the orginal but then not often done here.

Example in Greek - UTF, Unicode, and Ascii.
'Žº'Ž±'Ž (kai) = now - in this sentence.

Hebrew
('— '–·'——'–²'—¨'–µ'—, nakharem) = "we put them under the ban (judgement)"

Then again, if the symbols are always the same here we could learn a fourth language. It is alright the way it is.

@blessings2you
Kirk M @blessings2you ·

WOW, what a topic. Back a year or two ago I would have been standing on the soapbox yelling YES to the idea of being able to write in Greek or Hebrew. That is because I was naive enough to believe I really knew much of anything about those languages. The day I realized that I have major problems with English is the day I decided that since I am NO Greek scholar and have no formal training in the language; I no longer want to write Greek words and try to define them etc. I simply am not qualified to do such a thing.

Having said this, I realize there are those within the community who ARE genuine scholars of these languages and have actually taken classes in them and know what they are talking about. As tempting as it sounds to open the door to blogs full of Greek and Hebrew, I can't imagine that many people who would want to sacrifice the present system to do it.

Yes, I was one of those whiners who whined the most about those symbols that us novices in computer software have no clue lurk in a program such as MS-Word. When this subject came up awhile back I started writing my blogs on MS-Word as I always have and transferring them to Notepad as suggested above. Except for having to manually put in paragraph lines, it has solved the problem. Of course I still must delete the original quotation marks and add them in Notepad but that is a small problem.

If indeed you are looking for votes, I cast mine to leave things alone for now with the option left open to revisit this issue down the road. Something tells me that the majority of users of this site at the present time are quite content with the status quo. Of course I have been known to be dead wrong on things as has come to my attention quite often recently.

B2Y

@metamorphosis
·

When I taught communicative skills in the Air Force, we had one fundamental rule for both the written and spoken words. Communicate to the basic level of your audience/readers. I have enough schooling in Hebrew and Greek to know my way around my Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, and my Wigram's concordances of the Old and New Testaments. But I am no Hebrew or Greek scholar. I have a responsibility to communicate to the majority of those who will read my blogs. My gut hunch is that means primarily English skilled readers and writers. I stand in agreement with B2Y on this one.

With brotherly love in Christ--Ron

@kreynolds
K Reynolds @kreynolds ·

I am [i][b] not [/i][/b] a Greek scholar but I am married to one :wink:. Out of curiosity, I showed him this blog without showing him the comments. Actually I didn't have a clue as to what unicode was but that didn't matter because he did. LOL! While he definitely loves to write in Greek, he brought up the valid point of the need to consider who your audience is. He said that to most readers the Greek words written in the Greek alphabet would mean nothing. It would be of more value to them to actually be able to read the word. If he were blogging here, he would use the English spelling so that everyone could read it.

As Hark said [quote]Difficult if your arguing a point of spelling or emphasis in the original but then not often done here. [/quote]

Metamorphosis wrote: [quote]I have a responsibility to communicate to the majority of those who will read my blogs. My gut hunch is that means primarily English skilled readers and writers. [/quote] I couldn't agree more.

John B. Abela (@abelajohnb)
[quote]Personally, I think the website should allow Greek and Hebrew and just about any other language. [/quote]
Perhaps but I shudder at that idea. Not because I think English is so great but because I think it is asking for trouble to allow different languages to be used here unless some members who speak those particular languages are willing to act as moderators of some sort. It would be nice if every single person who became a member of this site truly was a Christian and always had the best of intentions. They don't. We have minors on this website. We have people misunderstanding one another even when they speak the same native language. If the truth be told, whether we like to admit it or not, people get uneasy when they don't understand what is being said and it can cause distrust and division. Walk into any public school in America where a variety of native languages are spoken and you will see what I mean. I've seen horrible things happen simply because someone made an innocent comment in a language someone else didn't understand... and I've seen those things escalate. I just think there should be a common language (whatever it is) which all members use. Just my thoughts on the matter. It would be interesting though to hear the thoughts of non-native English speakers here on this site. Many of them live in areas where unlike in America, it is very common to speak several languages/dialects.

K :princess:

@aliveintheword
Art Schnatterly @aliveintheword ·

John,

I am just beginning to learn to use the original resources for terms in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. In all cases, I've found that there are definitions in English that can be understood by the majority, while the words in the original languages are much less so. So, I go with leaving things as they are and keeping things simple (relatively, anyway)

Shalom, Art

@galahad
Benjamin Foulks @galahad ·

As someone who has frequently referred to Greek and Hebrew in many of my blogs, I will say I have never had the desire to post an entire text or passage in either language. It would certainly look cool and scholarly, but for me to do so would be a horrible jolt to the demanding standards I place on myself...resulting in a need to explain every word in the text...which would result in about a 10,000 word blog! I find converting the Hebrew or Greek into the English alphabet to produce the same sound is quite sufficient. What is important to me is the meaning of the Greek or Hebrew and how to explain that to the reader in English. I would vote to keep things the way they are.

@marjorie
Marjorie Albertson @marjorie ·

I enjoy trying to read Hebrew, & would like to learn some Greek. Maybe this can be a future endeaver. Technoledgy is changing so fast, there might be a simpler solution on the horizen...

@eschator83
William Stephens @eschator83 ·

Possibly a third alternative for the present time might be the method of english-letter "equivalents" for Greek and Hebrew letters used by NetBible, which have numeric codes to tie to both Strong's and the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. This would help to ensure CB stays far ahead of competition, and would also help in so many blogs, like the recent outstanding blog by Metamorphosis, on judging--or condemnation. The ever-increasing number of deviant Bible translations undermines our Christian credibility. We appreciate your continuing evaluation and comments.

Do not include honorifics.
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