Greater Communion


Viewing posts tagged PhD

So you’re a theologian and a computer programmer?

I’ve always had a curiosity and interest in computer programming, ever since my days in the fourth grade when I made little user-interactive knock-knock jokes using a Texas Instruments computer. Those with analytical minds often have an affinity for the technological as well as the scholarly. But the greatest fusion of academics and technology really came together for me when I was working on my dissertation. I simply needed to collect lots of research, define outcomes, manage and navigate a very complex hierarchical relationship of tasks and obligations—both academic and personal. A former professor of mine introduced me to David Allen’s Getting Things Done book and the workflow he has there for collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and doing things. I needed a way to apply this to control all of the digital elements of my life; and that’s when I started looking into Applescript—a programming language for the mac. It started with just simple curiosity. I picked up a book on the subject, started tinkering with the programming language a bit, and the next thing you know, I was designing a comprehensive system for implementing David Allen’s workflow on my mac. Once I developed a functional system for myself I then gave it a name—Ready-Set-Do!—and began selling it to others who could benefit from it.

In addition to that, I also began thinking of ways to convert text to speech I could listen to on my iPod. My life was busy in graduate school and I had to read just about every major theologian from the second century to the present day for my comprehensive exams. So I made a little script that would mass convert these public domain texts to audio files I could listen to on my iPod. I was able to 5-star rate the ones most important for my exams and could listen to a computer voice reading Augustine’s treatise On the Trinity while I was walking the dogs each morning. To this day, I have serious doubts as to whether I would have ever successfully made it through my Ph.D. without the extra tinkering I did programming these workflows for myself. Today they continue to help me stay organized and get things done.