We’ve just gone live with the new update for SuttaCentral. Check it out!
For this edition you won’t notice much change on the front end. But that is as planned. When we finished the newly designed site, our IT monks said, “Actually, now we know how to do it properly…” They (being Vens Jhanarato and Nandiya) found working with the previous incarnation, written in PHP, to be cumbersome, and they love Python. So once we finished, they started rewriting the whole thing in Python 3. This was a fantastic contribution, as it means the whole site is streamlined and optimized under the skin to a far greater degree. Running benchmarks on the full Samyutta Nikaya parallels table, we rendered the entire page on the old version in 38 seconds, while the new version stomps in at 1.5 seconds.
But it’s not just about speed. Python is the preferred language for natural language processing (NLP), and is heavily used by Google for that reason. This has already allowed us to create a fantastic, rich search engine: check it out! We already have title search, multiple full text searches, dictionary lookup, and even, for place names, automatic generation of locations on Google Maps. This is only the beginning of some powerful tools for analysis and comprehension of the texts.
More prosaically, we have resolved the former problems with Vietnamese fonts, and in fact have sponsored the design of a special version of Skolar font for Vietnamese. I’ve worked with the font designer, David Březina, to create the special Vietnamese diacritical marks. This is part of our push to use the highest possible standards of web typography in the demanding, multi-language environment of Buddhist texts. These are the words of the Buddha, and they deserve the best.
In addition, there are several new translations online, including additions to the Digha Nikaya and Samyukta Agama. However, our in-house translations are still limited. I hope to complete the corpus of original language texts this year, including Vinaya and Abhidhamma in all versions. Once this is done we can focus on gathering the translations.