Did we not go far enough?
Nov 13, 2009 David Lang

Did we not go far enough?

In Tuesday's post, I described a new feature of Accordance 8.4 as offering "help for the Google generation." Now, if you enter a string of words and hit return, Accordance will do as it always has and assume you want an exact phrase, but if the exact phrase is not found, Accordance will offer to perform an AND or OR search for the words entered.

One user, however, commented that he doesn't think we went far enough:

I think its right to cater for the Google generation, because that's what we are and that's what we expect. It's not about right and wrong and better and worse, its about what we're used to.

Now the trouble is, this Accordance hack is not the right way to go about it. If I search for Son of Adam, Accordance still gives me Lk 3:38, but the Google generation expect to get Ge 4:25 and 5:3 as well, unless it is in double quotes.

I think you need to actually provide two full blown different parsing regimes, switchable in preferences—the Google one, and the one you like. Personally I want the Google one, because I do so many Google searches, this is just how I think now.

This user is right that if you enter a phrase that is actually found, like son of Adam, Accordance simply finds the phrase and does not offer an easy option to switch to a broader AND or OR search. I'm open to the possibility that we could take our "help for the Google generation" a little further, but we certainly have no plans to offer a choice of search syntaxes or of ditching our existing syntax in favor of Google's. Here's why:

First, we disagree with the premise that there is no "right and wrong" or "better and worse" when it comes to interface design. If "what we're used to" is the sole determiner of what is best, then no one would be switching to the Mac and forcing themselves to adjust to a new user interface. Google's ubiquitousness does not mean that its syntax is best for every kind of search. When you're searching millions of web pages looking for anything relevant, Google's tendency to default to a broad search helps to ensure that you'll find something useful. Since it's rare that any of us will click past the first or second page of results, it doesn't really matter to us that Google's broad searches return thousands of web pages. If you want to narrow your search results, Google requires that you do something extra, such as enclosing a phrase in quotes.

When searching the text of the Bible, defaulting to a broad search will often return too many false positives, leaving you to wade through lots of extraneous hits to find the results you're looking for. Accordance therefore assumes you want a narrow search and requires you to do something extra (like entering search commands and symbols) to broaden the search.

We recognize that using a different search syntax can get confusing, but frankly, if you're young enough to identify yourself as part of the Google generation, you're too young to be set in your ways! At 40, I'm becoming more and more of an "old dog" who struggles to learn "new tricks," but I still manage to use both Accordance and Google with little if any confusion. If I can learn to speak two search languages and keep track of which is right for the program I happen to be using, anyone can.

Far from being a "hack," our new option to take a Google-style search and convert it to an AND or OR search is an elegant solution which accomplishes two very important goals. First, it gives you a quick way to get to the search you want without having to figure out how to fix it. And second, it shows you the Accordance syntax for performing an AND or OR search, thereby training you to use that syntax in the future.

Now, let's examine this user's example search for son of Adam. Because this phrase is found in Luke 3:38, Accordance delivers the narrow result of the exact phrase as it was typed. For someone who hasn't cut their teeth on Google, getting a result which matches what I entered is the intuitive behavior. If I find it surprising that the phrase "son of Adam" does not appear in Genesis, I can simply double-click the word "of" to select it, and then replace it with the AND command (which I usually insert using the keyboard shortcut shift-command-A). I could also simply delete the word "of" and perform a search for son Adam. After all, if you expect the "of" to be ignored as it is in Google, why bother entering it? If you leave it out, Accordance will give you the option to convert to an AND search. That AND search will then return the two verses in Genesis which include both "Adam" and "son."

For the die-hard googlers out there, I hope this helps to explain our rationale a bit. We want to make the transition to using Accordance as easy as possible, and when you enter a Google-style search out of habit, we want to provide an easy way to correct the mistake. But the syntax we use in Accordance is not just the one we "like" the best. Rather, it's the one we believe is best—at least where searching the Bible is concerned.

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Archived Comments

Guntis

November 13, 2009 12:53 PM

Still you could close one eye and add Google search style in options… ;-)

If that's how people think, why not give them what they want? Anyone can switch back to the best search syntax at any time, can't they? I'd be using Google style in my daily searches as well. Actually you could use one checkbox below the search entry field "Accordance sytax". It'd be checked by default, but it it's unchecked, Accordance would use Google syntax. It's all about choice. Why can't I work the way I like? And if I can't get desired results, I can always switch to Accordance syntax by clicking one checkbox.


Brian

November 13, 2009 12:58 PM

I love this feature! I would prefer to not have to know special codes to always get the results I'm looking for. A google option would make Accordance more useful for quick things and general searching. Please continue the google idea.


Robb

November 13, 2009 1:17 PM

I have to disagree with the Googlites. I find Google's search syntax generally unhelpful. I almost never want to search for a bunch of keywords in random order, so I usually am typing quotes or having to go to Advanced Search to get halfway decent results. The only exceptions are when I am searching for the most trivial of things or popular sites that with urls I don't remember.

As for putting an option in the preferences, I think the Accordance preferences already have enough options to wade through. I count 20 different preference sections in Accordance already. While it might seem as simple as just "adding a check box," you have to consider how many checkboxes and options already exist and what adding another would do to the overall learning curve and ease of use in general with the app. I don't think it's worth the trade off, especially for implementing an inferior search syntax.

Also, anyone who has been on the Mac platform for any length of time realizes that, for Apple products, it is most certainly not "all about choice." How many color choices do you have in OS X? Two. How many in Windows? Practically unlimited. How many other options does Apple give for customizing the appearance and functionality? Very few compared to what Windows users get. Yet why do so many people switch to the Mac? Because it works, and it's not complicated. The more choices you add, the more complex it gets. Apple's approach (and I think it's the right one) is to give fewer choices but make it simpler. User's simply do not need to be able to make the desktop look like a million shades of green-colored glass. Apple gets it, and so does Accordance.


Sacha

November 13, 2009 3:45 PM

I do not know if you want 'the google generation' as a customer. If they want it the 'google way' then they are not really using Accordance in any way other than the most basic searches. The power of accordance goes beyond that. It gives me as an user really powerful tools to make most out of my bible studying.

If that means that I have to learn someting new, so be it. Just go on making accordance an even better study tool than it is already. Keep on with the good work. 


Erik

November 13, 2009 7:40 PM

First of all, I really like Accordance. It's one of the reasons I switched to OSX :)

But search is something seems to get in the way sometimes. Perhaps use cases can be split into two categories. One is research oriented where you need the precision of predicates. You want to know all occurrences of something very specific and you want full syntax search. The other could maybe be called devotional. For this a more natural language search seems suited. Now the second group might be younger and less serious, but they might be future serious users and shouldn't be dismissed. I am one of them :)

Often I don't have the specific thing I am looking for right away, but search results give feedback as to what I am looking for. Then I can iterate to find more specifically.

It does mean that there is more results to sift through, especially if you don't just go to adding ANDs or ORs but if you also do some kind grammatical normalization (person, tense, etc) and even check for misspellings. Google works well because it does all this and somehow manages to usually give you something good on the first page. For Accordance, I'm not sure you would want to change the sort order. Maybe it would be possible to call out better/closer matches somehow, or provide a slider for more and less results where less would show you only the closest matches (the least being exact matches...what we have now).

Now the idea of natural language search can be taken father by looking for keywords to modify the search. Wouldn't it be great to search for 'son of man in the gospels' and not need to go to the drop downs to limit the search?

A relate aside. Would it be possible to not have to specify if I am searching for a passage or words? If my search query looks like a passage, then I am looking for a passage, if it looks like a phrase, then I am searching for a words.

This might be pie in the sky or of limited usefulness in the end, but since it's on the table...


Dennis M Callies

November 13, 2009 10:23 PM

Sacha reflects my sentiments.


John

November 13, 2009 10:54 PM

I don't think Google users have any idea that "of" is ignored by Google. That's something they probably need to do when indexing a zetabyte of information. What googlers expect is an AND search.

But you see, its not just Google. It's iTunes. It's iPhoto. It's Finder. And by extension, pretty much EVERY Mac application is starting to acquire search boxes with AND implied. So you could call it the Mac generation too. Oh, and Windows Vista and 7 have acquired the same search boxes. So its now the Windows generation. You might as well say its the computing generation.

I mean, its quite common for me to search Google AND Accordance for a topic. I might search Google for 

vows "Jewish Wedding"

and my starting point for searching Accordance would be to cut my search out of Google and paste it into Accordance. Then probably forget that the syntax is different at least once, and fix it up. Then I might modify it a bit to be "wedding ceremony Jewish" or something. Then I'll paste it back to Google, and have to reverse translate it.

 

I come back to the point that intuitive is not purist logic, but it is what we are used to. It's not probably what a computer programmer expects, because AND and OR are part of their bread and butter. But if you can get Apple and Google, and all the other developers of programs to change to your way of thinking, that would be just fine. Good luck.

I don't know why you would say "it's rare that any of us will click past the first or second page of results" in Google. If it is rare, that's because Google is doing a wonderful job of putting the result you wanted at position #1, even WITH their supposedly imprecise search syntax. If its so imprecise, why aren't people clicking past the first page?


John

November 13, 2009 10:54 PM

 

While we are on the topic of the Google generation, I think searching could learn a lot from Google. When I search Google I get results ordered in terms or relevance, with an excerpt of the bit that matches, and some summary information. When I search in Accordance, I've got to navigate all those tiny expansion triangles. Then I don't get an excerpt. If I click them to see the context I end up with a zillion tabs. There is no ordering results by relevance (e.g. in a title is better than in the text.) And it would nicer if you didn't have to wait for the entire search to finish before you could start scanning excerpts of the results.

This situation is made worse, because of the way Accordance splits things up. The Church Fathers are split across three modules. The Greek bible is split up across separate NT and OT modules, and the way of navigating from a search of one module is very different to the way of navigating from a search of multiple modules. I find the multi-module search annoying enough that I'd rather just search 3 books of church fathers separately.

The same goes for searching bible versions for a phrase. If I think I remember a verse but can't remember what version it is in the way I remember it, I'd like to see the results of search all bibles with the matching verse without having to open tabs for every result, close the tab, etc etc. Give me the Google generation.

 


B Tan

November 13, 2009 11:47 PM

In reply to John's frustrations with searching across modules, why not create a search all group as taught by David Lang here: http://www.accordancebible.com/Whos-Your-Daddy and here: http://www.accordancebible.com/Whos-Your-Daddy-Part-2.

To throw in my two coins: there's definitely a learning curve with searching in Accordance, but once I got the hang of it (practice makes perfect, and Dr J's Lighting the Lamp podcast was a huge help: http://www.accordancebible.com/site/resources/multimedia/podcast/), I could appreciate the power that flows from the logic. Because Accordance is meant for a range of users, the Accordance logic of search forms the core of its strength, I think. If I wanted to search a Bible version Google-style, I just switch over to Google to get the verse reference, and plunge back into Accordance again. Maybe I don't need to do that now with the latest Googlian tweak.

I think learning the Accordance logic has also helped me in my Bible study -- it's important to see Scripture not as a resource you dip in and out of (like the Internet), and more than a collection of words and phrases and sentences, or even verses (hence the joke that John the apostle would have no idea what we're talking about if we ran up to him to discuss the import of John 3:16.).

So that's why I think Accordance logic is great for BIble searches. There was yet another learning curve for searching tools, which was a bit discouraging, but I've come to appreciate the usefulness of choosing between Titles and English content, for example.


David Lang

November 14, 2009 12:16 AM

John, you'll get no argument from me regarding your criticisms of the Search All. I'm happy to report that major improvements are already planned.

As for why most of us rarely go very deeply into Google search results, that is due in part to how well Google ranks the results, and in part to how impatient we are with wading through lots of hits. If we don't find what we want in the first couple of pages, the subsequent results usually become much less relevant, and we end up tweaking the search. Unfortunately, Google's syntax is actually pretty arcane for anything beyond simple searches, and few people bother to learn its intricacies. As you yourself noted, few people even realize that common words are ignored.

Now, with respect to having to translate back and forth between Google searches and Accordance searches, I'd recommend you actually try the searches you gave. If you paste vows "Jewish wedding" into Accordance, then click the All words option, you'll get vows "Jewish wedding". Accordance ignores the quotation marks, so this search will actually work without further tweaking.

Of course, this search is not really what you want, since your quotation marks indicate you want the phrase "Jewish wedding." To get the search you want, you can double-click the second AND and delete it. Now, perhaps we can improve the Google translation so that it does not add AND between words within quotation marks. We'll see.

Regardless, you can then take the search vows "Jewish wedding" and paste it right into Google. Remember, Google ignores common words like "and" so you don't need to reverse translate it at all. I think you'll find that the improvement you initially dismissed as a "hack" will actually make it much easier to do what you want to do.

Hope this helps.


Alan Kurschner

November 14, 2009 1:30 AM

David,

Your post was well said.

EXACTLY --> "When searching the text of the Bible, defaulting to a broad search will often return too many false positives, leaving you to wade through lots of extraneous hits to find the results you're looking for."

 


Chris Echols

November 14, 2009 1:47 AM

Personal Testimony:

I started out with the $49 starter version of Accordance a few years ago to be able to search the bible for stuff that I heard Christians say, or stuff I knew I read before, but didn't know where it was.   That's when I learned that Accordance was really for the "Bible Scholar" or serious bible student and not for guys like me who just wanted to find their favorite verse of scripture to share with a friend.  Of course now, I've had to learn to use the different symbols and search arguments, for which I'm grateful, but if I'm just looking to find what verse I'm looking for, but can't remember the exact KJV phrasing, I try Google first.

From a ministry standpoint, it would be good if Accordance offered that kind of search flexibility, but if not, it's okay the way it is, because there are other tools like "Google", "BibleGateway" (which only searches the particular version you have open at the time), and "YouVersion", which by the way returns Luke 3:38Genesis 4:25Genesis 5:3, and Genesis 5:4 for the "Son of Adam" search.  Google on the other-hand returns 63,600,000 webpages.

That's my opinion and I am an Accordance user.


John

November 14, 2009 2:10 AM

David Lang

November 14, 2009 7:41 AM

John, I don't believe I ever said that Google's syntax is "imprecise," or that anyone who prefers it is somehow sloppy in the way they construct searches. Rather, I said that Google defaults to a broad search rather than a narrow one. I believe I also indicated that a broad search is best for web searches, but not necessarily for Bible searches.

As for whether Google really does ignore common words, I get mixed results. I get what appear to be the same results for both vows "Jewish wedding" and vows Jewish wedding, but you're right that if I enter Jewish and or Jewish of it seems to search for phrases including both words. Perhaps when common words are used by themselves Google treats them as part of a phrase. I have learned that with Google, I can't always predict the results, because no one outside Google really knows what all the rules are. 

By the way, using for in Accordance should still translate well into Google. "A" is a common word too.

Finally, the point you and others have made about trying to find a vaguely remembered verse and finding Accordance too narrow is certainly well made. We certainly could do a better job of giving you approximate matches when you want them. The challenge is to do that in a way that does not confuse users who want to find exactly what they've entered.


Jason B

November 14, 2009 11:13 PM

This is my first post on the forums. My thoughts resonate with Chris because I always go to Google first when I know a certain translation of a verse but can't remember which one.  In Accordance it's much more difficult.  Sometimes I use the search command but I'm not sure if that's the correct way.  I do not know Greek/Hebrew nor do I use the various search commands the way they are intended.  I wish there was a "dumbed" down way of executing searches for folks like me. Perhaps the 8.4 update will help.  Overall I love the speed of Accordance and ability to keep all of my user tools/references in the same window.


joelf

November 20, 2009 7:12 PM

Jason-

I have had the same issue-as a child, I learned KJV scriptures. The archaic language combined with (shameful) disuse results in imprecise scripture searches.

So I always had gone to google to look up, "study to show thyself approved", then plugged the reference (2 Timothy 2) into Accordance.

Irritating but doable.

However, this afternoon I read the "Who's your daddy" post on this blog and immediately created a "Search All - English - All Bibles" tab. Now, looking up "study to show thyself approved' locates the scripture. Unfortunately it found the NET version... not KJV... but at least it was found!

Not perfect but better.

 

joel




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