Getting what you want out of search.

Discussion in 'Dollars and Sense' started by devnull, Jan 1, 2010.

  1. devnull

    devnull AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,359
    Location:
    NYC
    As I wander through the various posts I find in Dollars and Sense, I see a recurring problem, one where people are looking for answers on the value of something before they scurry off to collect on a perceived good deal.

    Quite often, this information exists in previous threads already, and can be found with a minor tweak or two of one's search string. For instance, I read a recent thread where someone was looking for pricing information on a Marantz 7t. This person didn't receive the information fast enough and lost out on the purchase opportunity. There is information in Dollars and Sense for Marantz 7t preamps (I believe it's a preamp, but that's irrelevant for this example) that has been posted in the past, but the method of which most people will search for it would not return the information in a short, concise list of threads. I'll use the Marantz 7t search as an example to show how searches can be made more efficient.

    First off, we're going to be using the 'Search this Forum' option, which can be found to the right of the window, just above the thread listing. This is a spiffy picture as to how it appears when you click on it:

    (and yes, I took a partial screenshot, as the images are too large if I use a full browser screen capture)

    [​IMG]

    It's just your regular old search function, but in this case isolated to specifically this forum.

    This is how I'd imagine most would go about inputting their search string in our example:

    [​IMG]

    Which returns this result:

    (and I _really_ had to reduce the width on my browser to get the full width needed to see the result and commentary on the search in the window under the 600 pixel limit for images here -- looks a little strange but works)

    [​IMG]

    Let's take a look at what we are seeing here. First off, there were 1000 hits on our search. I would not think that there would be 1000 hits on 'marantz 7t' in Dollars and Sense! (I believe searches are limited to 1000 results)

    Obviously the search function here sucks!

    Uh...no, that isn't the case. It is doing exactly what it should, it's the user that isn't utilizing it properly.

    The key to this poorly executed search can be found in these two lines:

    Search: Keyword(s): marantz ; Forum: Dollars and Sense and child forums

    The following words are either very common, too long, or too short and were not included in your search: 7t


    The problem we experience with this search is the fact that the search function drops all components of a search string that are two characters long or less. What we see in the results are simply a search for 'marantz', not 'marantz 7t'. We can see the comment about '7t' being dropped from the search.

    If you are having problems with search look at the 'Search: Keyword(s):' comment. This is probably the most informative component in determining if the search function is eliminating words or having problems with them.

    There is a way to get precisely what you want to see. We can use quotation marks to bind the whole string together in a way that the search function will return the results we want.
    Here is how that is done:

    [​IMG]

    Please note all I did was add a quotation mark (") before and after the search string. Now the search function will look up 'marantz 7t' as a phrase rather than two individual words.

    The results are considerably more manageable:

    [​IMG]

    Again, let us look at the results of this search and determine the reason it is far more successful than the previous search. Now, instead of 1000 threads to trudge through, there is a far more manageable 10. This is the specific key to this search:

    Search: Keyword(s): "marantz 7t" ; Forum: Dollars and Sense and child forums

    First, instead of only searching for 'marantz' and dropping the '7t' portion of the search as was done in the previous (and relatively useless) search, the quotation marks we used told the search function this is a character string, not two separate words. It doesn't really matter what is between the quotation marks, it's all just one word to the search function.

    Quotations can be used in combination, such as

    "marantz 7t" "jbl l300"

    which would then instruct the search function to look for two character strings. This is the comment I got in response to the above search:

    Sorry - no matches. Please try some different terms.

    If the search field was filled in without quotes:

    Search: Keyword(s): marantz, jbl, l300 ; Forum: Dollars and Sense and child forums

    The following words are either very common, too long, or too short and were not included in your search: 7t

    Showing results 1 to 1 of 1

    That thread is returned contains the keywords mentioned -- but probably won't be of value. Dunno, didn't look at it.

    These concepts can be applied to just about any search engine. Quotation marks work on Google and the others I've tried. They're relatively standard conventions in the world of search engines.

    These concepts can also be used in the standard search of all forums on AK, or utilized in the 'Advanced Search' feature, too.

    I tried to help someone recently that contends they were getting 23 pages of matches when using 'Search this Forum' -- I got three threads. That's over 50% of the threads in D&S. Uh...I'm thinking user error on that one. Anyhow, I hope some people can find this post useful in achieving more accurate searches. The search function here at AK is considerably better than most people will claim -- but that's mainly because they're not using it correctly.

    John
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2010
  2. Napalm68

    Napalm68 You don't vote for a King

    Messages:
    171
    Location:
    Seattle, Wa
    Thanks!.....You are my new best friend.
     
  3. perchdog

    perchdog AudioDouchebag

    Messages:
    3,997
    Location:
    Livonia Mi
    good tip... thank you.
     
  4. clydeselsor

    clydeselsor Lunatic Member

    Messages:
    10,603
    Location:
    N.W. Indiana
    Cool! Thanks!
     
  5. krlill

    krlill AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    223
    Location:
    South Jersey
    Thanks!

    devnull, maybe you can help me figure this out....

    When I search:

    99a ........no matches

    cs-99a ...no matches

    *99a ......no matches

    99a* ......Bingo! 43 results

    *99a* ....Also 43 results

    How do wildcards work with this search engine?
     
  6. luvvinvinyl

    luvvinvinyl Nikki's gone to the Rainbow Bridge. Staff Member Admin Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,122
    Location:
    Windsor, Ontario, Canada
    Thread stickied, with many thanks!
     
  7. BMWCCA

    BMWCCA AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,175
    Location:
    Virginia
    Or just use Google Advanced Search...
     
  8. devnull

    devnull AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,359
    Location:
    NYC
    It's the result of too much coffee and Chopin!

    krlill, BMWCCA is correct. For whatever reason, the structure of 'cs-99a' in a character string doesn't play well with the search function here. I'll see if I can find out some direction on the search function for this forum software. Haven't really tried wildcard searches here.

    And the Google search feature under the regular search feature did turn up ~4100 hits. When I used this search;

    cs-99a "dollars and sense"

    The number of results returned was ~370, and not all of the threads returned are actually in Dollars and Sense. That, and Google returns posts in threads, so you could potentially see five different results in the search response from the same thread, or more depending on how many entries there are. It is similar to searching for posts rather than threads. This is another search I tried through 'Search this Forum' in Dollars and Sense:

    "pioneer cs-99a"

    That returned this:

    Search: Keyword(s): "pioneer cs-99a" ; Forum: Dollars and Sense and child forums

    Showing results 1 to 20 of 20

    It managed to find 20 threads. Those are exact matches to the phrase, not a combination of Pioneer and cs-99a just happening to be in the same post somewhere, though.

    Sometimes using Google and Google Advanced Search does return better results. To search with Google Advanced Search, go to Google's search engine main page, click on 'Advanced Search' to the right of the search entry box, fill in whatever phrases you are looking for, then at the bottom of that form, there is the field 'Search within a site or domain:', where you would put audiokarma.org. Whatever you are searching for would at that point be limited to singularly this domain.

    That is a hugely powerful feature. Can be used for any domain.

    **Update:

    krlill, the best results I got when searching for CS-99a, was with the string *99a*. (via 'Search this Forum') When I tried *99a, cs*99a, *"-99a", and a number of other searches the results were inconsistent, if anything at all. 81 posts where found, or if searching for threads there were 44. I looked through the first few pages of posts and found them all to be relevant to the search, with some derivative of CS-99a, if not the string itself, in the post.

    I think the key to the CS-99a search failing is having the hyphen in the middle of the string. For whatever reason, whenever that hyphen was involved, the search simply didn't work, or returned very erratic results. This appears to be related to having a combination of 2 letters before the hyphen and three following it. When I have searched for strings with hyphens in them, where there were letters before or after with strings of 4 letters or longer, I have had success. Example:

    A search for 'sl-1500' returns relevant results.

    John

    **EDIT**

    I did some testing and find that any search words that have a minus/hyphen (-) in it are automagically converted to quote encased character strings when run through the search process. I entered this:

    [​IMG]

    in the 'Search this Forum' field, and got this as a result:

    [​IMG]

    I didn't add the quotation marks, the server did that. The problem with that happening is that if, by chance, you were doing a search with a wildcard in a string, like say sl-15*, there would be quotation marks added, making it look like this "sl-15*", which will negate the wildcard asterisk as anything encased in quotation marks is not going to be interpreted, such as the asterisk. It is merely a string.

    While I'm rambling about, I'll add another suggestion that can help isolate your search results to provide more accurate results. One can also add the word 'not' in front of a term, be it quoted or not, to elminate responses to a query. The boolean terms of 'not' as well as 'and' can be used to narrow search results.

    How to remove terms you don't want to see returned in a search.

    Here is an example. Searching for this phrase in Dollars and Sense with 'Search this Forum':

    technics turntable not "sl-1200"

    returns:

    [​IMG]

    The above search will give you all the threads (assuming you're searching for threads, and not posts) with the two terms technics and turntable, but if the thread has the term of sl-1200 in it, it is eliminated from the results.

    It can be taken a step further. Use this search:

    technics turntable not sl-1200 and not sl-1500

    to return:

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the boolean term 'not' is converted into a minus sign by the search function.

    The boolean term 'or' is not accepted by the search function here.

    I am sure there are a number of various factors coming into play insofar as how the search feature works here at AK, such as scripts that clean queries of potentially harmful content such as sql injection attacks. Advanced search engine queries actually start looking somewhat like Structured Query Language (SQL) queries when they're more advanced.

    John
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2010
  9. cdfac

    cdfac AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,068
    Location:
    Iowa City
    3-character searches are also too small, although it doesn't come out and tell you that. the quote trick helps with some of those if you have a longer string to go along, but that still leaves out the results which do have both strings but not together. i agree that Google is the way to go, plus you don't have to wait 10 seconds just for mispelling something.
     
  10. devnull

    devnull AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,359
    Location:
    NYC
    The thing that is a drawback for Google searches is they hit on signatures, too, or least I believe that is the case as I recall.

    John
     
  11. Goodwill_HiFi

    Goodwill_HiFi Super Member

    Messages:
    2,350
    Location:
    Michigan
    Searching AK is just awful. The forum search won't do multiple terms effectively, and the Google search returns too many hits that have nothing to do with what I'm looking for.
     
  12. devnull

    devnull AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,359
    Location:
    NYC
    I've had a fair amount of success in using the search feature here on AK. It's a decent tool, if one takes into account some of its limitations, and also pays attention to the 'Search: Keyword(s):' comment. You get clues as to what might be confusing it, or what words are being dropped. It's easy to not look at that line, as it is pretty small and doesn't stand out.

    Goodwill_HiFi, if you have a search that isn't working the way you would have expected, post something here and we can take a look at it.

    John
     
  13. Goodwill_HiFi

    Goodwill_HiFi Super Member

    Messages:
    2,350
    Location:
    Michigan
    Nothing right now, but it's usually a make and model. The forum search either searches for the only the make, or the make OR model, not the make AND model. I end up with tons of results that have nothing to do with what I'm looking for....... mainly information on other models.

    I've brought this up before, and was told to use the Google search....... horrible. Like was mentioned before, I think it grabs onto tag lines and signatures.
     
  14. moinau

    moinau Je me Souviens

    Messages:
    6,360
    Location:
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    Thanks devnull, I've tried searching using your method, and now have better results than ever.
     
  15. Redikilowatt

    Redikilowatt Audio Understudy Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,410
    Location:
    RTP, NC
    Thanks for the excellent tips :thmbsp:

    And I would add that the search function problems on AK are not a failure of AK, rather vbulletin. I'm sure most members visit multiple vbulletin sites and realize the built-in search function is weak despite it's many positive features.

    Roger
     
  16. jimbofish

    jimbofish for TRULY GREAT MUSIC

    Messages:
    3,416
    Location:
    NW lower penninsula Michigan
    I understood what was posted about using the " " marks to keep words connected. However I still seem to not get the results posted. For example, if I want to search D&S for Yamaha CR-620, I've tried "yamaha cr620", "yamaha cr-620" and yamaha cr 620. I seem to always get the same results and the highlighted words in the posts are 'Yamaha' without the 'cr-620'. The 'Keywords' bar shows that it's looking for "yamaha cr-620" but the threads it finds only have Yamaha. What am I missing here?
     
  17. ghazzer

    ghazzer Sansui addict Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,697
    Location:
    Sykesville, MD
    Tags

    Is there a way to get additional model number(s) added to the tag list?
     
  18. nelsress

    nelsress AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,150
    Location:
    Lancaster County, PA
    Need the search tool for dummies book...

    I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong,:dunno: when I entered "Marantz 7t" in the "Search This Thread" window, the only hit I get is to this thread on using the search tool!:scratch2:
     
  19. devnull

    devnull AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,359
    Location:
    NYC
    ok, I was contemplating getting rid of a hosting service I use, which isn't really being used at all. I thought I had links from that hosting service to this thread, but after looking at the OP, it looks like I must have transferred the images to AK. The images aren't showing up, so I'm thinking the pictures might have been moved, or I'm hoping that is the case.

    If I do find those images on AK, I very well might be shutting down that hosting service faster, although I need to dig through and confirm that there aren't other threads where I did add links for that external service.

    I might create new images, dunno. The concept behind searches isn't really any different than it was. The graphics are going to be slightly different as they're different than they were, but that is the only change of which I am aware.

    I'll spend a bit of time and fix the OP.
     
  20. devnull

    devnull AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,359
    Location:
    NYC
    Uhmmnn...I have three images stored here on the AK server. I thought there were more?

    I need to figure out what is stored on the hosting service I have. It might be easier to generate new images.
     

Share This Page