“IsNull – IsNotNull” or “Funny Words Geeks Use”

What does that even mean – NULL? Just when I think it makes sense, I realize there is more to it (or is it, less?) than one might think. I suspect most of you feel the same way. Admit it!

For most people (myself included), using phrases such as Equal, Does Not Equal, Contains, Does Not Contain work just fine. Well, it does if you have an uber-geek working magic behind the scenes, returning the results that normal people expect.

But using the term IsNull is just plain confusing, intimidating, if not downright scary. Furthermore, for the normal user, there is just no figuring out why it returns the records it does (or doesn’t). But until now, you just had to have it in order to get an accurate picture of which records had missing data. My resident uber-geek convinced me that it is all working correctly, even though I could not prove it myself. Sometimes, you just need to keep the database geekery hidden from us normal people.

What is all this about? After years of philosophical struggle, we have removed the word Null from our vocabulary, at least from our Search Builder vocabulary. And while we were at it, we also kicked out IS NOT NULL.

Seriously, you will no longer have to use those comparisons to find people who are missing data (or have specific data) on their people record – such as an Age, a Street Address, or a Date for something or other.

“But what about my Saved Searches that used those Comparisons?”

Never fear – we have adjusted every Saved Search in every BVCMS database, substituting the appropriate Comparison. So, all of your searches will continue to work. They will just no longer use IsNull or IsNotNull.

In a nutshell in layman’s terms, here’s an example of how it works now:

Using Equal as the Comparison and putting nothing as the Value, you will find records that –

  • have nothing in that field
  • have spaces (that you can’t see) in that field
  • are truly NULL (Google it, if you really want to know)


Rather than make this post any longer than it already is, we will blog in a future post about ways to get good results in Search Builder without using the dreaded word NULL.


Search Builder by default excludes the deceased from the results. So, it is not necessary to add Deceased Date is empty. If you need to find deceased people, you can add the Condition Include Deceased.

PS We have a lot of help articles relating to Search Builder that still reference IsNull and IsNotNull. These will be cleaned up as quickly as possible. Please bear with me.

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