Should search prioritize recent topics over older topics?


(David Maxwell) #1

Can we please please PLEASE get search added as priority number one after V1 is released? The discourse search is frustrating (politest way I can phrase this).

I’ve been searching both here and at our instance for threads and the chances of finding results are like trying to hit a clown face at a carnival - it might happen, but odds are not in your favor.

For example, searching for heatmap doesn’t return this thread even though it’s last activity is only two days old: Consolidating Activity field

Searching for coldmap or activity returns it under the “Show More”, even though most of the threads are “colder” :wink: than this thread (last replies on some of these are six days vs the two for what I was looking for it…)



(Jeff Atwood) #2

It sounds like you want more recent topics at the top of your search results?

Remember that search heavily prioritizes words in the title. The reason you are not seeing that topic earlier on is because the word “heatmap” is not in the title.


(David Maxwell) #3

I can accept your reasoning for coldmap, but activity IS in the title, but isn’t returned in the primary results - in fact, it’s now fallen much farther down the list (there are threads that last posted in May and earlier showing before it)

and heatmap doesn’t show at all - notice the lack of “show more”?

EDIT: Just ran it now, and your explanation doesn’t jibe. While the thread I was looking for now shows under the “show more”, this thread now shows for heatmap, (which is good). Only one other thread in that list shows the word heatmap in the title. Two of those others still on that list are older than the original thread I was looking for…


(Jeff Atwood) #4

Yeah, single word “generic word” searches are kind of the holy grail, so be aware what you’re asking for. What I call the “I search for rain” problem.

(alternately, scope your search to a user or to a category at least – enter search from a category page, or a user page and click the checkbox that appears when you do.)

Can you try adding 1 or 2 more words?


(TechnoBear) #5

[quote=“codinghorror, post:4, topic:19099, full:true”]
(alternately, scope your search to a user or to a category at least – enter search from a category page, or a user page and click the checkbox that appears when you do.)
[/quote]That assumes that you already have some idea of an actual post or thread that you’re looking for, which is frequently not the case.

And even where it is, there are often several different areas where a post might have been made, and if I could remember exactly in which one it had been made, I’d probably have less need of a effective search function. :wink:


(Jeff Atwood) #6

Sure, just pointing out that search is one of the most difficult problems in computer science. Google does it great with their billions of dollars and millions of servers. We have somewhat less resources. :wink:

Not that it can’t be improved, but the magical perfect one word search is one of the hardest examples to cite. How many single word searches do you do on Google, for example?


(cpradio) #7

This is off topic (a bit) so I apologize in advanced.

This is where a dedicated search page with an excerpt under each title would greatly help. It gives me a better idea of whether or not this topic is the one I want, as there is an excerpt there to help me make my decision.

Back on Topic:

I struggle with the current search implementation. I spend way too much time trying different search terms/multiple terms to try and find what I want. Then I go to the category I thought it may be in, and search only that category. Keep this going for several minutes until I either 1) give up, or 2) find what I was looking for.

New users won’t spend as much time as I do.


(David Maxwell) #8

If I was getting too many results to find what I’m looking for, I’d agree with you. But I’m either a) not getting enough, or b) getting them in an order which don’t seem to have a logical order.

The result thread is in UX. I never would have thought to look for it there (in fact, I looked for it in feature manually thinking that’s where I saw it).

Sure - results still aren’t good…

OK, heatmap & activity - not there

heatmap & coldmap - not there (but this thread is)

coldmap & activity - there


(Jeff Atwood) #9

Again, it seems like what you are really asking for is to have search prioritize recent topics. Perhaps that should be the title of your topic here?

I say that not because search currently prioritizes titles heavily :wink:


(David Maxwell) #10

No, the title shouldn’t be that. That’s only PART of the problem. The other (and more problematic) issue is not finding results. I’ve searched for terms (again both here and in our instance) which I KNOW should be there, and don’t get the threads I’m looking for. Heatmap is just one example.

Like @cpradio says, new members are NOT going to stay if they have to go trudging for threads if search isn’t working as they expect. And it will chase existing members away if they have to work harder to find what they are looking for.


(Jeff Atwood) #11

Depends on the words?


(cpradio) #12

Seriously, you don’t get frustrated by the number of times you have to alter your search to find what you are looking for? How many times do you close a topic stating: “This is covered elsewhere” and don’t provide a link? Is that because you don’t want to search or you took a shot and couldn’t find it quick enough?


(Jeff Atwood) #13

I’m not saying it can’t be improved. I’m saying single word searches are a particularly tough case, and not really a fair example.


(cpradio) #14

Okay, point received. But he went the extra mile to show multiple word searches performed just as badly. The search is really what kills the experience of Discourse for me. I’d love to see this improved (I just wish I had the skills right now to do it)


(TechnoBear) #15

I’m having difficulty locating posts on our instance of Discourse, when I know roughly where they are and where there are actually very few topics at the moment because we’ve yet to import our old threads. But again and again, things I’m searching for don’t come up in the results.

Once we’ve imported those threads, what hope will a new member have of locating anything?

I’m as hacked off with vBulletin as the rest of us, but I have to say, this is one area which works pretty well for me in vBulletin and I’m going to miss it sorely when we migrate,


(David Maxwell) #16

Could be, but shouldn’t be.

Single word searches should be the easiest since they should show too many results. But considering the examples I’ve shown you don’t show the “show more” link, there aren’t too many results to be found. They’re just not there.

Like cpradio said, I did provide examples that showed multiple word searches, with the same result. And in my searches in our instance, I’ve used multiple words with no luck.


(Jeff Atwood) #17

Also, sometimes I don’t want to do that work on behalf of a lazy user. I absolutely can find things, but I don’t like incentivizing laziness.

For the record I get the best results from search when:

  • scoping to a category (I remember it was a bug that…)
  • scoping to a user (I know John said…)
  • scoping to unique, technical, specific words vs general words (rather than searching for “feature”, I think it mentioned “IDE”)
  • remembering that search heavily prioritizes title matches, so ensuring that topics have good titles with the correct words, and hitting them when possible

(Michael Downey) #19

Somewhere around 70% of the time when you inform me about a duplicate on meta, I can never end up finding it after searching. (Maybe about 30% of the time I can, but it’s definitely in the minority.)

I’m not lazy. The search feature is. :slight_smile:


(cpradio) #20

I don’t blame you, but I just wanted to make a point that when I come across some of them. I just simply give up trying to find it. It isn’t due to laziness, it is because I couldn’t find it in a reasonable amount of time.

How will New Users know to do that? It isn’t user friendly, it is for the tech-no-geek and unfortunately that is the wrong audience.


(Jeff Atwood) #21

Well, you can search via google as well… try that, the easiest shortcut is to go to the 404 page:

https://meta.discourse.org/t