Ben Langhinrichs

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Genii Weblog

Trying to figure out best way to handle searches

Mon 6 Dec 2004, 11:50 AM



by Ben Langhinrichs
A while back, I implemented a hook into the search for both our Midas Help db and our Support Forum that would send a notification of the searches that were made.  I wanted to know what people were looking for, and it has been useful, but it has also been very frustrating.  People search the Support Form for topics that would be better suited to searching the Midas Help db, and vice versa.  This weblog isn't searchable at all, as my daughter pointed out recently when looking for my posts about her clueless date and his tipping ability to show to a friend.  Besides an interest in obscure dating advice though, there is lots in here that is valuable.

So, what is the best way to improve the situation?  I have tweaked things a bit, so that when you do a search in the Support Forum, you get a little message at the top of your search results pointing out that you could search the Help db or contact :

Inline JPEG image

But the frustration remains.  I could make the weblog searchable, but that would only add to the frustration.

An Example
One of the features of Midas that is quite popular is its ability to export graphics from rich text, so it would be reasonable to have a potential user search for "exporting graphics".  Sadly enough, that would not return a single hit in any of the three places, the weblog, the support forum (except the new stub document I added to start populating this sort of keyword in anticipation of this post) or the Help db.  That is appalling!  But even if changing the settings somehow to allow fuzzy searches helped, which I should do, a search might turn up great results in one of these three sources of information, and nothing in another.

NCT Search is one possibility
A fellow Penumbra member, Andrew Pollack, has a company called Northern Collaborative Technologies, and they have a very slick product called NCT Search.  It allows you to search multiple databases at one time and control the presentation of the results using formula language.  (If you want to see it in action away from their website, the DominoDeveloper.net people use it to search through various blogs all at once.)  Given our ability to use @Midas Formulas, we could possibly do some very slick things with this.

More keywords needed
But multi-database searching is not enough.  I have started down one additional avenue by providing a document in the Support DB for each sample database.  These can then be loaded down with every imaginable keyword combination, so that searches will find the samples, as it were.  Similar efforts probably need to be made with the Midas Help db to ensure that people will find what they seek in there as well.  The weblog stands on its own, except maybe the tutorials, which could use some keywords, perhaps.

Other possibilities?
Anybody have other ideas about how to make the searches more productive?  I am open to any ideas, as I really want the searching experience to be a pleasant and productive one.  (I am starting to realize just how amazing Google really is with their ability to produce reasonable results no matter how odd your search is.)  Let me know either by posting here or writing to .

Copyright 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:


242.1. Rob McDonagh
(12/07/2004 07:35 AM)

This is a tough question, Ben, and I think the reason you aren't seeing responses is that nobody has a good answer. If you built your own taxonomy, you could write something to automate the keyword generation (much more easily than most, with your own tools), but I'm sure you've already considered that...