Finally, a live demo

30 Aug 2012

I am please to say that with a lot of work on a lot of people’s part, there is now a live demo of the Digital Mishnah Project. The demo is just that: a demonstration of possible functionalities.This post will outline some of the features that were always meant to be temporary and some new planned or desired features, and then invite comments.

What will be changed

  • The selection of witnesses. Entering numerals is unwieldy. Ideally, users should be able to slide text “icons” around (as one does with a pivot table in Excel, for instance)
  • Output in browse functions. A single chapter was used for the demo version. Future versions will allow users to select specific chapters and/or specific ms pages and progress by page or chapter. Metadata should perhaps be hideable.
  • Output in collate functions. The demo groups output together; these are actually alternative functions.

Additional basic functionalities

  • Ability to download or print results.
  • Ability to  compare longer texts (whole chapters)
  • Improved collation–and/or the ability to select alternative collation methods


  • Statistical tools, such as multi-dimensional scaling and clustering, to group manuscripts and display results
  • Since there will inevitably be errors in collation, ability to correct alignment and re-run various operations
  • Dynamic synoptic view, in which two or more witnesses can be viewed in parallel columns, with the ability to highlight textual differences or other features.

Please Comment, Please Help

Please use the comment function to this post to note errors, queries, and advice. And please, if you are interested in contributing, please do get in touch

12 Responses

  1. Max

    This looks great! Such a wonderful opportunity to see how the project is shaping up. Congratulations . . . !

  2. The demo looks terrific. I suggest making the “Version A” and “Version B” links at the “Digital Mishnah Demo Page” bigger and brighter. It took me a while to realise that they are the links I needed to follow to see the working app.

  3. desmond

    Rather than building a complex facility to “slide text and icons around as in Excel” why not use a dropdown menu and display the detailed descriptions of each witness as titles to the options? (These would then appear next to the selected siglum as a popup in all browsers). Then allow the user to mark with an “x” the selected witnesses. That would collapse this whole section of the display to a single part-line. I don’t think the order of the other witnesses apart from the base is all that significant.
    I also don’t see the need for the print-style apparatus. There are three possible display types that seem to work in the digital medium: side-by-side, table-view and popup apparatus (a la Peter Robinson). The key problem is how to inform the user about what the differences are.

  4. desmond

    What I mean is something like: Click on the shakespeare example, then the table tab. You can select a set of versions for comparison. I haven’t put the titles in yet.

  5. Naftali Cohn

    This is remarkable! I think it will have a real impact on the scholarly study of the Mishnah. I can’t wait to see more and to be able to use this more widely.

    I also like the different display options; I find the word by word tabular and the paragraph synopsis the most helpful.

    Some constructive comments: I notice that in Geniza fragments what are presumably missing portions of the MS are treated as absent words, and perhaps these ought to be differentiated. In the apparatus view, every single absent word in the Geniza fragments are treated as if the manuscript lacks the word. In many ways, though, the classical apparatus view is obviated by the word by word tabular chart.

    I am a bit unclear on how various manuscript phenomena are marked. They seem to be marked only in the column synopsis (a key would be helpful). Also, are all phenomena marked (including additions above the line, marginal additions, additions in the original hand, in a different hand, change of hand, erasure, dots above words, superscript, partial words that fill the end of a line, and the like)?

    Also, will there be search functionality? That would be quite useful.

    Also in terms of potential functionalities, it might be useful to be able to go into a continuous view of the whole chapter or more (perhaps within a single MS) by clicking on something (as in Bar Ilan, for instance).

    Finally, would there be a way to not need to enter numbers next to the manuscripts (but to just click on a radio button to include)?

    These questions aside, this is really an impressive achievement. Thanks and yashar koach!

    Naftali Cohn
    Concordia University, Montreal

  6. Hayim, this looks great as everyone has said. Naftali’s comments are right to the point. We need a more finely grained distinction between evidence of absence and absence of evidence for those manuscripts with lacunae.
    Then, I still like the old fashioned condensed apparatus that gives the important evidence on a glance such as Göttingen or Nestle-Aland or Lieberman. Otherwise reading synopses of 80 manuscripts gets so cumbersome ( gives 123 fragments for Yoma, definitely not all of them for one passage, but the number will be quite heavy for those who try to figure out the implications of horizontal or vertical tables / synopses). Modern times are suffocating under too much information. So the most important is to find ways to automatically reduce the load of information. Wonder whether we will be able to turn machine’s into good textual scholars. It’s quite complex. You are definitely going into a very useful and laudable direction!
    There is a LOT of work behind all this marvelous tagging as one sees by clicking on the TEI-XML encoding.
    We already mailed about Gen4 giving a weird response in the collation of BM2,1 as it is so lacunary. Just try to take Gen4 as base text and Kaufman as comparison. Some extra tagging should handle this problem.
    Now, you have obviously already put a lot of thought and efforts into this and we all praise you for that. Here are some possible additional features:
    a) distinguish in the collations between CORRECTIONS in the ms, i.e. Kaufman secunda manu, e.g. with different colors or pop ups or some other layout thing in order to understand the history of the complete manuscripts. There should probably to be a distinction between Kaufman passages supplied by the second scribe through overwriting erased letters and those in the margins or in between the lines, but that is a lot of work…
    b) trying automatic stemmatology in order to group mss into families (I think you mentioned that as one of your plans).


  7. Jerry

    When I try to use the Collate function I get this: HTTP Status 500 –

    type Exception report


    description The server encountered an internal error () that prevented it from fulfilling this request.

    What am I doing wrong?

    • Hayim Lapin

      I’ve written Jerry separately asking for a copy of the URL of the collation request.
      Please do send me any error messages like this. In this case, I suspect the problem is an XML error in one of the witnesses.

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