Sep 29, 2010 David Lang

Reflections on the Users' Conference

The Inaugural Accordance Users' Conference is now over, and like the other attendees, I'm still trying to process all the cool things I learned and experienced.

First, let me apologize that my live-blogging of the conference ended after the first two sessions. As I was doing it I found myself thinking, "I didn't take this many notes in seminary!" Beyond that, the sessions were all so interesting I didn't want to miss anything while trying to blog about them.

My spotty reporting aside, those who were interested in what was going on were still able to keep up on Twitter.

If you're interested in hearing about the conference after the fact, here are some of the things that stood out to me.

First, the speakers who were unable to make it were sorely missed. As I noted Friday, Dr. Abegg had to cancel for family reasons. Joe Weaks, Accordance power user and scripter extraordinaire, also had to cancel because of illness. Both were loath to cancel, and both seemed more concerned about our having to make a few adjustments to the schedule than about their own challenges.

Second, we really appreciate Centerpoint Church of Mesquite hosting the conference for us. Pastor Bob Abegg (Dr. Martin Abegg's brother) worked very hard to make sure everyone was comfortable and had everything they needed. He really went above and beyond what anyone could reasonably have asked of him.

Pastor Abegg wasn't the only one who worked hard. The speakers who came did a phenomenal job. Dr. Dan Wallace's description of his work discovering and photographing Greek New Testament manuscripts throughout the world was absolutely fascinating, and the quality of the manuscript photographs he showed is remarkable. Someone compared Dr. Wallace to Indiana Jones, and after hearing some of his stories, I think it was a fitting comparison. Okay, so he doesn't have to escape from angry spear-throwing natives, but he has certainly had his share of adventures and seen ancient treasures few other people have seen.

Another high point of the conference for me was the panel on mobile Bible software. Rick Mansfield did an excellent job of asking thought-provoking questions which sparked a lot of discussion. Nearly every member of the panel had been using Bible software on some kind of mobile device for quite some time, so it was interesting to hear their discussion of how far the technology has come. Drew Haninger of Olive Tree Bible software gave an interesting perspective on how users' expectations have changed over the years. He said that back in 2000, it just had to work. By 2005, users expected accurate electronic texts, but still had fairly low expectations when it came to interface design. In 2010, thanks in large part to the iPhone and iPad, users are looking for a "beautiful user experience." That's one of the challenges we're facing as we near the initial release of our own Accordance mobile app. On the one hand, we know many of you just want us to get it into your hands. On the other hand, we're trying to do all those little things which contribute to a "beautiful user experience."

Speaking of Accordance for iOS, we demonstrated the current state of the app in a plenary session designed to fill in for the speakers who weren't able to make it to the conference. Everyone was very excited to see what the app can do, and we got a lot of positive feedback as well as a little constructive criticism.

We had a few other plenary sessions designed to enable conference attendees to give us feedback and make suggestions for how we can improve. What most impressed me about these sessions was the passion our users demonstrate for Accordance. They're both passionate in their praise and passionate in their suggestions for improvement. It's that passion which continually motivates us to keep working hard.

In addition to the plenary sessions, we offered separate tracks for those wanting to learn more about basic features and those wanting to dig into advanced features. The room for the "heavy" track was much larger than the one for the "light" track, so I was a little worried we might guess wrong with respect to which parallel session would be more popular at any given time. It turned out that the two tracks were pretty evenly attended, and most of the feedback we've heard so far about the parallel sessions has been very positive. We're certainly glad we didn't try to take a one-size-fits-all approach to the training.

There's a lot more I could share about the conference, but this blog post is already long enough. For a first attempt at a users' conference, I think it was an overwhelming success. When we asked the attendees if they would consider coming to another users' conference, nearly everyone said they would. So chances are good this "inaugural" users' conference may indeed become our "first annual" users' conference.

If you'd like to read more about the Users' Conference, Rick Mansfield has posted an even more detailed summary here.


 

Sep 24, 2010 David Lang

Live-Blogging the Users' Conference

I don't do much live blogging, but I'm going to give it a try while at the inaugural Accordance Users' Conference. Check back here throughout the day for brief updates.

Note: You may need to hit the refresh button to see the latest comments.

We're in the introductory session right now. We've got a great crowd. Our company president is introducing each of the Accordance staff members.

Getting the Most Out of Accordance Commentaries

In Greg Ward's session on "Getting the Most Out of Accordance Commentaries." He started working with Accordance as a job to get him through seminary and is still with us fifteen years later.

Ward is now explaining the difference between search engines that rely heavily on metadata tagging and the Accordance approach, which distinguishes different "fields" of content and enables you to search those fields in extremely flexible ways.

To search everything in a given field of a tool, select the field you want in the pop-up menu, then enter ?* and hit return. Now everything in that field will be highlighted. Good tip for getting to know what is contained in each of the fields of a new tool.

Ward explains that commentators often go off into wonderful tangents, excurses, etc. At times, these discourses may go into detail about Bible passages in books other than the one being covered by that commentary. How do you find those hidden gems in a large multi-volume commentary.

Ward's example: finding sections of Tyndale commentary which speak on the theme of unity in Ephesians. Obviously, you could go to the section of the commentary which covers Ephesians, but there may be relevant discussions in the other parts of that commentary. By doing a multi-field search for Unity in the English content field and Ephesians in the Scripture field, he finds relevant discussions throughout the entire commentary.

Now showing similar searches in Grudem's Systematic Theology.

 

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible

Dr. Martin Abegg, one of our keynote speakers, was unable to make the conference for family reasons, so Roy Brown is substituting for him in our first plenary session. Roy won't be talking about "finding Elvis in the Dead Sea Scrolls," but his keynote still promises to be an interesting introduction to the impact the Dead Sea Scrolls have had on Biblical studies.

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls? A group of ~1000 manuscripts found near Dead Sea in Israel. Found mostly in 11 caves found near Khirbet Qumran from 1947 to 1956. Later more scrolls found outside of Qumran.

Scrolls were written about 250 BC to 70 AD. Most written in Hebrew, using primarily Aramaic script but some in ancient Hebrew script. Some written in Aramaic and Greek as well.

Most scrolls written on parchment, others on papyrus.

Showing picture of Isaiah scroll. A few intact scrolls but most of the DSS are fragments.

Also one scroll made of copper.

What kinds of manuscripts found?

40% are Biblical texts. 10% are extra-Biblical texts like Enoch. 50% are unique documents found nowhere else.

How were scrolls discovered?

First scrolls found by Bedouin shepherds and sold to antiquity dealers. Others discovered in other caves at Qumran.

Most scrolls now housed at the Shrine of the Book museum. Some in Jordan. Some held by private collectors.

The Biblical Scrolls

Portions of every book of Hebrew Bible except Esther. Multiple copies of Psalms, Deuteronomy, Isaiah.

These were written about 1000 years earlier than Masoretic text, several hundred years before oldest copy of Greek Septuagint.

Accuracy of Biblical Scrolls

Most scrolls very close to Masoretic text.

Showing scroll written in Aramaic script but YHWH written in paleo-Hebrew script.

The Qumran site

All 11 caves found within 2km of Qumran site. Now showing images of Qumran site. Aqueduct, ritual baths, dining room, inkwell.

Who was at Qumran?

A Jewish community. Most scholars believe a strict group called the Essenes. They called themselves Yahad (union).

Essenes were one of three main sects of Judaism, along with Pharisees and Sadducees. Mystical, strong focus on prophecy and coming of messiah.

Contents of scrolls seem to show thinking and way of life of Qumran community. Some scrolls may have been written elsewhere and brought to Qumran for safekeeping.

The Nonbiblical scrolls

Examples:

Rule of the Community (1QS): rules for living in Yahad community

War Scroll (1QM): prophecy and rules of war between sons of light and sons of darkness

Copper Scroll (3Q15): description and map to undiscovered treasure

What's connection between Scrolls and Hebrew Bible?

Believed in Law of Moses, Emphasis on prophetic books as well

Now showing plot showing which books of Bible quoted in DSS. Very different pattern from MIshna's use of Hebrew Bible. Now showing that NT use of Hebrew Bible was very similar to the way the Qumran inhabitants used the Hebrew Bible. In other words, NT writers and DSS writers were concerned about similar issues and used Hebrew Bible in similar ways.

What's connection between Scrolls and NT

Both quote Hebrew Bible and focus on similar issues. Scrolls had strong connection with Hebrew Bible but weak connections with NT, especially where identity of Messiah concerned.

Tantalizing connections between Scrolls and John the Baptist. Also connection between DSS War Scroll and NT use of term "sons of light." Also connection between Scrolls and Paul's use of term "works of the law." Don't find this phrase in rabbinical tradition, but do find it in DSS (4QMMT). Paul uses term to refer to teachings on feasts, food, and circumcision, but not moral issues. 4QMMT teaches that righteousness comes from adherence to ritual law, similar to Paul's opponents in Galatians.

Interesting that many of the issues of the scrolls are still with us today.

Demo of Accordance scrolls modules

Showing tagged text of non-Biblical scrolls with English translation and index explaining what is contained in each scroll.

Now showing tagged text of Biblical scrolls with English translation and Dead Sea Scrolls images. Accordance is the only program with Qumran Biblical manuscripts.


 

Sep 23, 2010 David Lang

Users' Conference Starts Tomorrow

The Accordance team has arrived safely in Mesquite, Texas and is making final preparations for the Accordance Users' Conference. If you're in the area, you can still register at the door to attend one or both days. Attendees will get a jump start on learning to use all the new enhancements in Accordance 9, and will be among the first to see the upcoming Accordance app for iOS. It's not finished yet, but it's really shaping up and we're excited to show it off.

Whether you're able to attend or just interested to know what's going on, we've dedicated a section of our User Forums to information and discussion about the Users' Conference. If you want to discuss the Users Conference on Twitter, we ask that you include the hashtag #AccUsersConf in your tweets. That way, anyone who clicks the hashtag can easily follow all the tweets about the Conference.

Our official Twitter account will certainly be tweeting news about the conference, and I'll be doing the same at my own personal Twitter account. I imagine you'll also be able to keep up with the Users' Conference on Facebook.

I'm excited about tomorrow, and look forward to meeting many of you face to face. It promises to be a lot of fun.


 

Sep 21, 2010 David Lang

Attend One Day, Pay for One Day

Want to come to the Accordance Users Conference but can't commit to both days? I've got great news for you. You can now register to attend one day at half the full registration price. And since Saturday is a shorter day, registering to attend Saturday also entitles you to attend Dan Wallace's plenary session and the open discussion time on Friday evening. To take advantage of this single day registration offer, simply register at the door Friday morning (for all day Friday), Friday evening (for that evening and all day Saturday), or Saturday morning (for all day Saturday).

By the way, Saturday is the day we'll be showing off the iOS app and having the mobile computing panel, so if you're interested in Accordance for the iPhone or iPad, that's the day you won't want to miss.

Remember, the Accordance Users Conference is this weekend, so hurry and register for the entire conference, or show up at the door to attend one day only. I hope to see you there.


 

Sep 10, 2010 David Lang

The Number One Reason to Attend the Users' Conference

Over the past few weeks I've been counting down the Top Ten Reasons you should plan to attend the Accordance Users' Conference in the Dallas area September 24-25. I'm now ready to reveal the number one reason to attend the Users' Conference. But first, let me list once again reasons 2 through 10.

10. Hang Out with Other Accordance Users: See here for more.

9. Get to Know Accordance Developers: See here for more.

8. Go Light or Heavy: See here for more.

7. Get Personal and Practical Help: See here for more.

6. Try Before You Buy and Buy at a Discount: See here for more.

5. Get Up Close and Personal with the New iOS App: See here for more.

4. Discuss the Future of Mobile with OakTree and Olive Tree: See here for more.

3. Get Inspired by World-Class Scholars: See here for more.

2. Get An Insider's Perspective: See here for more.

And now, the number one reason to attend the users' conference. . .

1. Become an Accordance 9 Power User: No, that's not a misprint. The 9 is there on purpose. The next major version of Accordance is nearing completion and should be released very soon. It will feature numerous interface enhancements and powerful new search capabilities, and the users' conference will be the place to learn about everything that's new.

That's especially the case if you want to learn how to use Accordance 9's new Syntax search capabilities. Dr. Robert Holmstedt, Associate Professor of Ancient Hebrew and Northwest Semitic Languages at the University of Toronto, has taken a lead role in the development of our syntactical databases, and will be teaching a workshop on how to use them. I'm so looking forward to attending that workshop that I made sure I wouldn't be leading a session at the same time.

Even if you don't plan on doing syntactical searches in Greek and Hebrew, there are a bunch of new goodies in Accordance 9 you'll want to learn how to use, and the Users' Conference will be your first and best opportunity to become an Accordance 9 power user.

So there you have it: my top ten reasons you won't want to miss the Users' Conference. It's only a couple weeks away, so if you haven't registered yet, be sure to do so now. I hope to see you there.


 

Sep 8, 2010 David Lang

Top Ten Reasons to Attend the Users' Conference: #2

Over the past few weeks I've been counting down the Top Ten Reasons you should plan to attend the Accordance User's Conference in the Dallas area September 24-25. Here again are reasons 3 through 10, along with reason 2.

10. Hang Out with Other Accordance Users: See here for more.

9. Get to Know Accordance Developers: See here for more.

8. Go Light or Heavy: See here for more.

7. Get Personal and Practical Help: See here for more.

6. Try Before You Buy and Buy at a Discount: See here for more.

5. Get Up Close and Personal with the New iOS App: See here for more.

4. Discuss the Future of Mobile with OakTree and Olive Tree: See here for more.

3. Get Inspired by World-Class Scholars: See here for more.

2. Get An Insider's Perspective: We've built a couple of sessions into the schedule which are designed to give you an insider's perspective on your favorite Bible software. Ever wonder how a small company focused on developing for a minority platform could have such a far-reaching influence on the industry as a whole? Would you like to know just how small we were at the beginning, or just how big we are now? Are you curious how we've been able to make so many unique resources available? If so, then you'll enjoy hearing our story.

The final session of the Users Conference will give you an opportunity to Ask the Accordance Experts. We'll have a panel of developers, employees, and power users whom you can ask just about anything.

In addition to these two sessions in which we'll give you our "insider" perspective, the end of the first day will feature an open discussion time in which you can share your perspectives with us. Essentially, we're inviting you to become an "insider" and tell us about your Accordance experiences. Dr. J will ask a few questions to help get the discussion started, but we trust that once the ball gets rolling, we'll all learn a few things. If you'd like to be part of the conversation, be sure to register now.

We've now covered nine of our top ten reasons to attend the Users' Conference. Look for the number one reason to attend in an upcoming post.


 

Aug 31, 2010 David Lang

Top Ten Reasons to Attend the Users' Conference: #3

Over the past few weeks I've been counting down the Top Ten Reasons you should plan to attend the Accordance User's Conference in the Dallas area September 24-25. Here again are reasons 4 through 10, along with reason 3. Remember, today is the last day to pre-register at a 30% discount!

10. Hang Out with Other Accordance Users: See here for more.

9. Get to Know Accordance Developers: See here for more.

8. Go Light or Heavy: See here for more.

7. Get Personal and Practical Help: See here for more.

6. Try Before You Buy and Buy at a Discount: See here for more.

5. Get Up Close and Personal with the New iOS App: See here for more.

4. Discuss the Future of Mobile with OakTree and Olive Tree: See here for more.

3. Get Inspired by World-Class Scholars: As I explained in the interview I did for the Fort Worth Evangelical Examiner, our goal for the Users' Conference is not just to offer Accordance training, but to inspire you to go deeper in your study of the Bible. Toward that end, we've enlisted the aid of two cutting-edge Bible Scholars who also happen to be gifted communicators (and Accordance users, of course): Dr. Martin Abegg and Dr. Daniel Wallace. Even those who don't happen to use Accordance will find the conference worth attending just to hear them speak!

Dr. Abegg is the Ben Zion Wacholder Professor of Dead Sea Scroll Studies at Trinity Western University. Although discovered in the 1940s, the Dead Sea Scrolls remained largely unpublished as late as the 1980s. A doctoral student at the time, Dr. Abegg was able to reconstruct the text of these unpublished scrolls from a concordance of words in the scrolls. The publication of his reconstructed texts helped open up scrolls research to a much wider body of scholars. In the 1990s, Dr. Abegg saw the potential for computerized study of the scrolls and partnered with Accordance to develop electronic texts of the various Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts. He will give a presentation on the relationship of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, and will be present during the entire conference for anyone who would like to meet with him.

Dr. Wallace is Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and has written one of the standard textbooks on New Testament Greek: Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. (Available as an Accordance module, of course!) As the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, Dr. Wallace has led expeditions throughout Europe and the Middle East in search of New Testament manuscripts. He will give a presentation describing the Center’s work of discovering and photographing New Testament manuscripts in order to further New Testament textual criticism.

As I said, both of these men are extremely effective at talking about their scholarly interests in a way "the rest of us" can easily understand. You won't want to miss the chance to hear them speak and get to know them personally.

We've now covered eight of our top ten reasons to attend the Users' Conference. Look for the last two reasons to attend in an upcoming post, and be sure to pre-register today.


 

Aug 27, 2010 David Lang

Top Ten Reasons to Attend the Users' Conference: #5 and #4

Over the past few weeks I've been counting down the Top Ten Reasons you should plan to attend the Accordance User's Conference in the Dallas area September 24-25. Here again are reasons 6 through 10, along with reasons 4 and 5. Take note, iPhone and iPad users, these latest two are for you:

10. Hang Out with Other Accordance Users: See here for more.

9. Get to Know Accordance Developers: See here for more.

8. Go Light or Heavy: See here for more.

7. Get Personal and Practical Help: See here for more.

6. Try Before You Buy and Buy at a Discount: See here for more.

5. Get Up Close and Personal with the New iOS App: As I mentioned in yesterday's post and in the interview I did for the Fort Worth Evangelical Examiner (henceforth FWEE), the Users' Conference will be the ideal place to learn about Accordance for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Not only will we be showing off what it can do, but you'll get to meet and talk to the programmer responsible for it. After you thank him profusely for all his efforts and lost sleep, you can be among the first to offer feedback and help shape the app's future direction. How cool is that?

4. Discuss the Future of Mobile with OakTree and Olive Tree: As I explain in the FWEE interview, our goals for the Users' Conference are much broader than just training you how to use Accordance. Among other things, we hope to spark discussions about how to study the Bible in general and how to use technology to do it more effectively. Toward that end, we've scheduled a panel discussion about "The Impact and Future of Mobile Bible Software" and we've enlisted the help of our good friends at Olive Tree Bible Software.

Olive Tree is one of the leading developers of Bible Software for handheld devices and their Bible Reader app for iPhone and iPad consistently receives rave reviews. They've been developing for a dizzying array of handhelds for a long time, so they've seen it all and have a much broader perspective on handheld computing than we do. We're therefore very excited to have them lend their expertise to the discussion.

Beyond that, many Accordance users are also Bible Reader users, so we expect many of you will be interested to meet developers from both companies, learn how both apps can be used to complement each other, and hear the direction each developer is planning to go in the future. Next to hearing our keynote speakers, I'm personally most excited about this handheld Bible study panel. Can you tell?

We've now covered seven of our top ten reasons to attend the Users' Conference. Look for the last three reasons to attend in upcoming posts, and be sure to pre-register before the end of this month.


 

Aug 26, 2010 David Lang

Fort Worth Evangelical Examiner Article on Users' Conference

The Fort Worth Evangelical Examiner has posted an interview with yours truly about the upcoming Accordance Users' Conference in the Dallas area. Be sure to check it out!


 

Aug 24, 2010 David Lang

Top Ten Reasons to Attend the Users' Conference: #7 and #6

Over the past few weeks I've been counting down the Top Ten Reasons you should plan to attend the Accordance Users' Conference in the Dallas area September 24-25. Here again are reasons 8, 9, and 10, along with reasons 6 and 7:

10. Hang Out with Other Accordance Users: See here for more.

9. Get to Know Accordance Developers: See here for more.

8. Go Light or Heavy: See here for more.

7. Get Personal and Practical Help: I mentioned this in passing in my previous post about the Users' Conference, but the user's conference is designed to give more personalized help than is possible with our more lecture-oriented training seminars. We want you to come in and tell us how you study the Bible, about your sermon prep workflow, and how you're researching your dissertation. We want you to bring us the projects you're working on and ask how you can better utilize Accordance to accomplish your goals. There's no way we can do that in a seminar, but the workshops and extended break times are designed to give you that opportunity in abundance.

6. Try Before You Buy and Buy at a Discount: Accordance offers an incredible library of resources, such as huge commentary sets (Word, Hermeneia, NIGTC, NAC, NIVAC, etc.) and original language resources found nowhere else (Göttingen Septuagint, CNTTS Apparatus, Qumran Biblical Manuscripts, etc.). Some of these resources represent a substantial investment, and you naturally want to be sure you'll use them before you plunk down your hard-earned cash. If you're mulling over a major purchase, the User's Conference will give you the chance to grab an Accordance staff member and say, "What's all the fuss about Göttingen about?" Or perhaps you'll want to ask other users, "What commentaries do you prefer?" Check things out until you know exactly what you'll be getting, and when you're ready to make a purchase, you'll be able to take advantage of substantial conference discounts.

We're now halfway through our top ten reasons to attend the Users' Conference. Look for even better reasons to attend in upcoming posts, and be sure to pre-register before the end of this month.