The other day I was in a feature design meeting for one of the new reports in the upcoming 3.0 release of Logos Bible Software, the Bible Word Study report. In attendance were a couple of Logos software developers, a few book designers and information architects, and Bob Pritchett, the president and co-founder of the company. We were going through the Grammatical Relationships section of that report line by line and commenting on the display, the information, the what-have-you.
At one point, I asked a dumb question (as I often do). “Bob,” I asked, “what is this report supposed to do? In a general sense, I mean.” I was getting at the Big Picture issues: Are we trying to find the Single Right Answer to every exegetical question? Are we just listing a bunch of unconnected information? Is this report teaching grammar? Should it?
Bob leaned back and said, “This report is supposed to do what all of our reports do: Facilitate serendipitous discovery.”
Everyone in the room nodded, and with that principle as our guiding star we finished the rest of the meeting pretty quickly. Does it facilitate serendipitous discovery? Put it in. Does it do less than that? Leave it out. Does it have to do more than that? No. Just F-S-D.
Of course, this wasn’t exactly news to the people sitting in the room. We’ve been designing and programming reports for a long time, and we all have a pretty good feel for what makes a good report. On the other hand, it’s always good to be reminded of your core design principles, and besides, I’ve never heard it formulated quite that way: Facilitate Serendipitous Discovery. As my grandmother would say, that’s a lot of ten-dollar words. (About $30 worth, I reckon.)
Okay, so it’s a great slogan, but what does it mean?
Facilitate means to help to bring about, that is make something easier than it otherwise would be. That’s exactly what Libronix DLS reports do: They draw together information from dozens of disparate sources and arrange that information in a convenient format. They help to make whatever task it is that the report addresses simpler to accomplish be it the Passage Guide (studying a particular passage of the Bible), the Exegetical Guide (studying all the individual words in a passage), or in 3.0, the Bible Word Study Guide (studying a particular word in all its contexts).
Serendipitous means of or pertaining to serendipity, which in turn means something like a happy coincidence. Or, in the words of Merriam-Webster, the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. The point is that when you run a Libronix DLS report, you will probably find some piece of information from your library that you didn’t even know to look for (much less how or where) but there it is.
Discovery? Well, that’s why anyone has a library in the first place: to find information.
Facilitate Serendipitous Discovery. Help people find information they didn’t even know they were looking for. Exactly. That’s the sort of thing I want to see on a T-shirt. On bumper stickers. Embroidered on a pillow. I want to change my business cards.
Hello, I’m Eli. I’ll be your Serendipitous Discovery Facilitator this evening …