🔉 The new Voice is finally there!

Hello all those who like to continue in the original oral tradition of transmitting the Buddha’s teachings: SuttaCentral Voice, the listening app for SuttaCentral suttas, is now available in a completely new dress.

The old Voice is long technically outdated and didn’t have any software updates for months, if not years, while we have been working on a new version to replace it. We’ve also tried to learn from previous experience and make the new app even better.

But the old Voice is still there, and you can now choose which one you want to use. When you click on any speaker icon on SuttaCentral, you will now be directed to to the new SC-Voice.net, and the first thing you will see is a dialogue on how you want to proceed:

Screenshot from 2024-02-05 16-38-45

You find speaker icons now

  • at the bottom of the main right side menu
  • on suttaplex cards
  • soon they will also be on individual sutta pages

In case you would like to try out the new version and give us some feedback, please post it in this thread so that we can address it.

Find here an overview of what the new features are

  • When you visit the site for the first time, you will see a small number of little tutorial cards which point you to the main functions and want to assist you for the first steps. They don’t explain everything; for more detailed instructions you may later visit the “study” chapter in the wiki section of the site.

  • The new SC-Voice uses various kinds of cards to present its content. So you can view one or more search card(s), one or more sutta card(s), and/or a wiki card at the same time on your screen; large screens even allow for side by side view of cards, so this is in order to compare several suttas that talk of a similar topic, for example.

  • The audio player is now integrated into the display of the sutta itself, so you can move through the segments and play as you wish, skipping segments or going back to a previous segment, which was rather hard to do in the old version.

  • The new SC-Voice also allows to listen to the Pali text of untranslated suttas, which the old one could not do.

  • The new SC-Voice also has grown into an entire website family with some language specific versions with the same sutta content, but a language specific wiki. The German version Dhammaregen has already been in use for a while and has been our test and experiment field in developing the new Voice. We expect in the near future for French and Portuguese versions to come out too.

  • Another new feature has developed around the key phrases you may have encountered with the INSPIRE ME! button of the old Voice. This is a curated collection of key phrases which connect suttas by topic. You can now find these phrases

    • when clicking the INSPIRE ME! button
    • while reading/listeing through a sutta: as you arrive at new segments, for example by using the “donw-arrow” key, key phrases that occur in a particular segment will be highlighted. You can click on them to open a new search card that shows you all suttas with that same phrase.
    • Sutta cards now also have a “graph” icon in their top right corner, clicking which will open a graph card that shows a visual representation of the key phrase connection network around this specific sutta. For example the graph for MN 44 looks like this:

    mn44

    This is in order to assist comparing suttas by topic.

    One special case here are the suttas DN 33 and DN 34. They both contain long lists of key terms that are explained elsewhere in the suttas. With the help of the key phrase function of Voice it will be easy to find suttas where a particular term in question is explained—something that makes these long and somewhat overwhelming suttas much more useful than they would otherwise be.

  • Let me still mention our latest feature: EBT-DeepL translations. If you select Portuguese translations, you can choose a translator who is called “EBT-DeepL”. This is a AI generated pre-translation meant to be edited by human translators as they find the time. But we included it in its provisional form in order to allow for a broader range of suttas to be listened to in Portuguese.

I think I will stop here for now and leave it to you to visit the new site, play around with it and experiment. And in case you encounter any bug—which is totally not unlikely—please report it here.

What SC-Voice does not have

Voice doesn’t have narrators for all languages that have aligned (= Bilara) translations of the suttas. Languages that are currently supported are:

  • English
  • German
  • French
  • Portuguese
  • Japanese

Voice also doesn’t support download of audio files yet; this is still on the list for future developments.

Thank you!

So now still a few words on who “we” are, all those who contributed to this development:

  • @karl_lew: who came up with the initial idea, did all the programming, the testing for assisted users, was always open for suggestions and feedback, and supportive in every way you may imagine
  • Sabbamitta: who seems to be very good at getting herself and Karl confused with any new features, so that we had to have lengthy discussions in order to get things clear and find better solutions; and who tried to keep the overview
  • Venerable @Vimala: who gave feedback on styling and helped out with the light theme which is truly hard to work on for a visially disabled developer
  • @michaelh: who advised on questions of IT and connected Dhammaregen with its custom domain
  • @Gillian: who excelled as the world’s best guinea pig, and also did a thorough proofreading of all the wiki content
  • @Bloom77: who has also given very helpful feedback that improved the functionality
  • @HongDa: who did the final steps for us, namely linking the new site to the SuttaCentral speaker icons
  • Finally all the Bilara translators who produce all the content without which Voice simply would have nothing to do!
  • And of course the entire team of SuttaCentral; everyone is always kind and supportive for any question we might have, and the cooperation is working very well!
  • Most likely there’s still one or the other I just forgot, so please forgive me and help my memory out if you can.

Let me close with a big Sadhu to everyone! That the old Voice may still live in peace for a while, and that the new SC-Voice may be of help to many in order to get a better understanding of the Buddha’s teachings and come closer to ultimate peace!

The gift of the teaching surmounts all other gifts;
the taste of the teaching surmounts all other tastes;
the joy of the teaching surmounts all other joys;
the ending of craving surmounts all suffering.

Dhp 354

:pray: :pray: :pray:

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This is amazing! Thank you to the entire team! :pray:

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Amazing @karl_lew and @sabbamitta! You’ve really put in so much hard work and it paid of. Well done!

:pray: :pray: :pray:

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Fantastic! Kudos on the latest release. I’m eager to experience the new features and extend my gratitude to everyone for this impressive accomplishment. :clap: :pray:

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Wow, I am already super impressed :astonished:

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Although the new sc-voice.net has many new features, it still has not caught up to the existing voice.suttacentral.net.

For example, as Ayya Sabbamitta mentions, sc-voice.net does not yet have Voice’s download capability. What sc-voice.net does have is cached sound in local browser storage. So if you listened to a sutta all the way through, you’ll be able to hear the same sutta again even if your phone loses internet connection. Just don’t refresh the page because the internet may not be available in that tunnel your bus is driving through. We’ve already been asked to bring Voice’s audio download capability over, so that’s on our feature backlog.

Ven. @Snowbird also has explained to us that there are existing content links out in the www with hard-coded voice.suttacentral.net URLs. So we are also investigating how to keep those links working

As you can see, we ourselves are still exploring the world of sc-voice.net, and we invite you all to come explore with us, sharing what works and doesn’t work for you so that we can come up with the best solution for all.

Thank you,
:pray:

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Congratulations to all, especially Ven. @sabbamitta and @karl_lew!

I always hate to post bugs in these lovely announcement threads. Could we perhaps have a Voice Bugs thread?

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Given the new audience for sc-voice.net, we anticipate a lot of new use cases that we hadn’t considered. Those use cases typically center around individual experiences and patterns of usage. For example, my own needs as a multilingual assisted student of the Dhamma are quite different than Ayya @Sabbamittas needs as a translator and website maintainer. Because of this, I think it may be important to understand individual experiences in depth so that we can understand how one person’s usecases connect with each other for that individual. As we learn more from individual usecases we’ll probably be able to sketch out solutions that handle multiple usecases across different users.

Perhaps we can have, for example, “SC-Voice Snowbird’s Usecases” public thread where you can simply type as you wish and we can all follow that one train of thought about an individual experience with sc-voice. For each missed use case, we would need a post that explains what the use case is so that we can all understand the problem that requires a solution. I think it critical to start with a shared and well understood problem statement.

“I’m trying to do X, but can’t figure out how to do that quickly and efficiently”

Once we all agree on an understanding of the use case and problem, then we can all brainstorm on solution within that thread.

This proposed process is quite different than “File a Github Issue and we’ll get back to you”. :laughing: As a software engineer, I well understand bug processes–but I’ve always found those formal processes a bit stifling. I much prefer a more personal almost bespoke approach for understanding Voice users and what they need. For the past few years, Ayya Sabbamitta and I have taught each other about our individual usecases and the result of those discussion has always proven fruitful. At some point that individual approach will likely be overwhelmed, but I think we are early in this process and so can afford the time required for individual engagement.

:pray:

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Oh, this was a straight up bug. Something is wrong with browser history so when I click on the voice icon on SuttaCentral, then get to Voice, the back button won’t take me back to SC. I can see SC in browser history if I drop down the back button, and if I click it there I can go back. But something about the way you are working with history seems to keep me stuck on Voice. But maybe that’s by design!

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This can only have happened with a speaker icon link on a sutta page (which is currently only on staging). These are the only ones to show this behavior. All the other ones open in a new tab.

But I’ve reported it to HongDa. This is his field. Thanks for noticing! :pray:

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We just chatted with HongDa, who will open sc-voice.net in a new tab by design. A new tab allows the user to refer back to the existing SC tab or proceed with sc-voice.net in the new tab.

However, to be clear, browser history is stored by browser tab, so the backtab in the new tab won’t actually go anywhere since sc-voice.net will be in a fresh new tab with the left arrow grayed out. The bug that we are fixing is that SC will no longer disappear. SC will be retained in the original SC tab with all of that tab’s browser history.

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Yes, now it is opening in a new tab. I think that is a much better behaviour since it’s a totally new website without any indication back on SC that you will be taken to a new site. I know that new tabs are discouraged, in general, however I think this is a good use case.

Keep in mind, though, that people may be including links to SC-Voice on other webpages so the back button should always work (within the same tab, of course.)

Different issue (and I don’t think this is a Snowbird use case) but it might be good to offer some kind of “click to copy permalink”. Currently you can be viewing a sutta but because of all the cards the sutta viewed is not the sutta in the URL bar. Normally one would be able to copy a url and give it to someone to see what they see.

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Indeed. Sc-voice.net has a new feature. Click any segment and it will be copied. For example, I clicked on the following segment and pasted the result below:

an1.140:1.1 “Ye te, bhikkhave, bhikkhū adhammaṁ adhammoti dīpenti te, bhikkhave, bhikkhū bahujanahitāya paṭipannā bahujanasukhāya, bahuno janassa atthāya hitāya sukhāya devamanussānaṁ.
an1.140:1.1 “Bhikkhus, aqueles mendicantes que explicam o que não é o ensinamento como não sendo o ensinamento, estão agindo pelo bem-estar e felicidade de muitos, pelo benefício, bem-estar e felicidade de devas e humanos.

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When you have several cards open, there is always one of them that is in focus. This one is highlighted with an orange border, its tab in the tab menu is underlined, and its URL is in the URL line.

To take a particular card into focus you can

  • either click on it
  • or select its tab in the tab menu.

Then you can share the URL to exactly this card.

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No, I’m talking about click to copy a permalink to the sutta, not to copy text. In this shot you can see that the browser thinks that sn35.119 is the “active sutta” both because the tab seems highlighted and that’s what’s in the url bar. But the mixing of the tab paradigm with the card paradigm complicates this. (unless instead of tabs they are “shortcuts”.) In any case, there is no obvious way for me to get a link to MN1. I guess I’m supposed to click the tab to “focus” on that sutta and then copy the link in the url bar? I believe this would normally be solved by having a :link: icon somewhere in the top/title row of the sutta card.

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Venerable, you may have missed my post above.

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Yes. We could do that on wider screens but a phone is a bit cramped. Having to copy the URL bar is a little bit clunky. I actually only copy segments (which have the permalink to that segment and therefore also the sutta), since in this TLDR age, people don’t really like document links. But if that is useful for you, we can certainly add that. We tend to shy away from adding features for hypothetical users and are enthusiastically supportive of helping actual users.

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I did, sorry. I see that is what a user is supposed to do. I just don’t think it will be clear that is what the have to do.

Really? People aren’t sharing document links? Links to individual suttas? We’re doing that all the time, aren’t we?

Of course! I share a link to the voice version of a sutta every day in the Daily Sutta Emails. And my citation helper app will share a link to a Voice sutta if it exists. But I don’t get those by clicking on anything in your app; I do them programmatically. So as long as I’m still able to do that, I’m good.

Thanks for all the hard work and care!

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This app is rather complex, and you are right that there are many things that aren’t obvious. This is why we gave it an extensive user documentation.

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When my father worked in IT in the 80’s he had a sign on his wall that said, “Never write documentation for pigs. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.” (A play on the old saying “Never teach a pig to sing”)

I suppose I’m the :pig2: now, lol.

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