An Obsolete Competition?

Posted by on November 24, 2009 in Blog/Article Watch, General | 6 comments

As I mentioned before, Michael S. Heiser, Academic Editor for Logos Bible Software, has blogged about the past Bible Software shootout at SBL. But what I found really interesting were his thoughts around the “status quo of Bible software.”

In this post I’d like to interact briefly with the first two points he deals with: Syntax and Books.

Let me say up front than I would answer ‘No’ to the question I’ve used as a title for this entry. My reasons for it are the following:

1. Syntax

a) Syntactical databases are just another level of tagging. They do no supersede or render obsolete the other levels (e.g., morphological databases) but rather complement it. Syntax does open new and interesting avenues for doing research, but I would be reluctant to consider it a panacea for all our problems.

b) I’m not sure who exactly is “making light of it” (i.e., syntax databases) or charging syntactical tagging with being “subjective.” The truth of the matter is that  tagging the Greek New Testament, whether it be for morphology, syntax, diagramming or even punctuation, is always a combination of objective and subjective decisions. So, I think the approach adopted by Accordance or BibleWorks at the shootout session is equally valid on this count.

c) I would not be at all surprised to see Accordance or BW (or both) come up with syntactical databases (see, for instance, this forum thread). So the key here will be –sooner rather than later– not so much who’s got the feature but rather what’s the best implementation in terms of intuitiveness and ease of use.

2. Books

a) Logos is a digital library. Accordance and BW are not. So let’s compare apples to apples.

b) At the end of the day, it is quality that matters. More doesn’t necessarily mean better. Standard resources are not that many. If you have what you need to have (the tools of the trade), you are not missing out, regardless of the program you use.

c) I’d like to know more about the “under the hood issues” that apparently make searching Logos’ many titles “superior”. I can say that I find BW’s integration and searching of its secondary resources less than ideal, but the seamless integration and extremely powerful and versatile searching capabilities of Accordance’s tools are quite impressive and, some of them, unparalleled.

3. Final Comments

It seems to me that unless we define clearly the rules of the “game” and what we mean by “cutting edge”  we will be talking at cross purposes. In my opinion, the game of Bible software is all about letting people access and interpret the primary texts. Everything else, including the program itself (and that goes both for the user interface and the secondary texts), should be subservient to that goal. In line with what I have just said, I would consider syntax searching, root searching or cross-version/cross-language searching as examples of “cutting edge” features.

Finally, let us keep in mind that the really important “wow” factor is to be found in the attainment of the original goal (see above) in a clear, unobtrusive, intuitive way. Other things may be the “icing on the cake,” but in my book they are neither cutting edge nor particularly wowing. If this is considered to be the “old way,” so be it.

Update: Check out Rick Mansfield’s post (I’m sorry. The author decided to delete it), and Danny Zacharias’ blog entry.

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6 Comments

  1. Good reflections. I also find it interesting that Logos incorporated new code into their software specifically for the shootout. They solved the most difficult of the problems using features that are only now in beta and were not part of the much hyped 4.0 release.

  2. Tim, we addressed the last two problems with our new “datasheet”. This feature was actually designed for Logos 3, and the core engine shipped. (It was underneath our Search Analysis, Concordance, and other search result views.) In 3 and 4 we also hard-coded displays of this type into the Bible Word Study Guide. (The organization of automatically-run syntactic views.)

    The interactive manipulation, which I demonstrated Saturday, wasn’t finished in 3 by the time we started on 4, and then it got cut in the “triage” to ship v4.0 on time. As you can see, it wasn’t far from done. Yes, we did make it an emphasis in the last few weeks in order to get it to SBL, but it’s the same “Search Analysis” feature listed on the missing-but-coming-soon feature page at Logos.com.

    As for being part of 4.0: 4.0 is being updated constantly (via automatic Internet downloads, at no charge) and we’ve already added many features in response to user feedback. This is just one more that will arrive in an update, automatically and at no charge, in the next few weeks. So I’d call it part of 4.0.

    The shootout was a lot of fun; it did give us some extra motivation to get some things done, and it was great to see other people demo their products. The big take-away for me was that Bible students are blessed to have so many passionate people working so hard to produce so many great tools to study God’s word.

  3. You wrote: “At the end of the day, it is quality that matters. More doesn’t necessarily mean better. Standard resources are not that many. If you have what you need to have (the tools of the trade), you are not missing out, regardless of the program you use.”

    I agree, BUT, if you are involved in theological research, a greater selection of materials means that there is more of a chance that what you need is in digital format. I had a friend give me a real hard time about using Logos as one of my tools. When we started going over some of the required materials that I needed for my studies that wasn’t available in his software software package, his only response after he was finished challenging me was to tell me the benefits of buying print copies instead of owning digital!

    Besides, what is “standard”?!? Who defines what is standard and when do new materials become “standard” and when are old materials considered no longer “standard”? What is “standard’ is a straw man that will easily blow over depending on your theological orientation, which institution you may be associated with and what your particular field of study is.

    I would add that for research, having a large plethora of digital resources available to us means that we can do better research, faster and more efficiently. The days of being constrained physically and practically to having a small bookshelf of well worn books are over thankfully.

  4. See blog article here

  5. Since John has provided a link to a cache of the post I retracted, let me offer the same words I posted over at deinde.org:

    Well, you know what they say– trying to take something off the internet is like trying to take pee out of the pool.

    Too bad the cache is of the earlier less-proofread version. Oh well.

    If anything, I’m glad that the comments aren’t cached. That’s where I felt it was getting ugly and out of hand, including my involvement.

    The whole thing made me take a step back. I decided I was adding to something that I didn’t feel was healthy, and it was certainly divisive.

    I’m going to continue to use both Accordance and Logos, but I’m not going to be the “Anti Logos Guy” anymore. There’s been bad behavior on both sides, but today’s a new day, and for my part anyway, I can choose not to participate in the debate any longer.

  6. Discussion 2 years later http://nt-studies.tumblr.com/post/12605958420/2-years-of-the-changed-status-quo

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