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LJWorld.com weblogs LJWorld.com Labs

Beta search open for feedback: Seek and (we hope) you shall find

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Originally posted Friday, July 24. Updated and reposted July 27, 2009.

Yay.

We're rolling out a new search framework for LJWorld.com, and we invite you to take it for a spin and give us your thoughts. Let us know how it works for you; what you like; what you don't: anything, really, related to searching and finding content on our site.

Our new search tool is based on a framework called Haystack, a Django project developed by Mediaphormedia's Daniel Lindsley. If you're geeky and wonkishly inclined, do check it out.

If you like, you can comment below on anything you like related to this beta search.

Some known issues:

  1. Search suggestions sometimes aren't as accurate as we'd like. We definitely want to hear if the search suggests something particularly odd. (Say, you search for "Zebrh," and it says, "Did you mean rhinoceros?")

  2. In some circumstances, the number of results returned is incorrect. The page might say "30 results found," and yet only 27 are shown.

  3. You'll likely find certain kinds of search results that are not fully displayed. For instance, an MP3 will match a search, and yet in the results page there'll be no link to the MP3. You'll just see text. That represents a result still needing to be templated.

We hope to have these issues wrapped up by Wednesday (it could be sooner), and we'll make every effort to fix bugs and issues that users report as quickly as we can.

Special thanks to Daniel Lindsley, Matt Croydon and Christian Metts for getting this in shape for everyone to try out.

We're quite excited about how Haystack will allow us to organize and present our content in new ways -- and even more importantly how it will give users new tools to organize and make use of content as you see fit.

So, your feedback is definitely appreciated. You can also follow / converse with LJWorldLabs on Twitter, if you're into that kind of thing.

Comments

notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

"Can we keep the comments in this thread focused on how well or not well our beta search works?"

Pretty sure that's what I was doing when I reported it didn't find what I was searching for.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 8 months ago

Anytime that the techie nerds "roll out" something "new and improved", grab your butt. I have never gone on any site with "new and improved" that was not "screwed and glued" Just check out the "new Ebay".

"If it aint broke, don't fix it"

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Sigmund 4 years, 8 months ago

daniellindsley (Anonymous) says… "As far as the query modifications, that's something we're looking to improve on. The addition of wildcards is a possibility. Near-ness, on the other hand, is less of an option due to underlying limitations."

I can see there will be a few more CPU's cycles but I think the implementation, at least in perl, would be trivial. As there are relatively few searches overall I wouldn't think Dolph would have to buy new hardware to support it even with the increased load.

daniellindsley (Anonymous) says… "And, by the stats, most people aren't looking for a comment when they search. We leave the option there because sometimes it is useful."

Yeah, that makes sense. I must be the only one who searches user comments almost exclusively.

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daniellindsley 4 years, 8 months ago

@SandCoAlmanac Search should cover our complete history, though that may no longer be in our obituaries. Can you provide us with the date or name of the friend?

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SandCoAlmanac 4 years, 8 months ago

How far back does the search go? I searched for the obituary of a friend who died 3 years ago and it didn't come up. His wife's obit was displayed, however. Thanks!

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daniellindsley 4 years, 8 months ago

@supercowbellninja Tuning the author-based results is something we're still working on. Works well some of the time but not others. And categorization of the checkboxes would be a good idea to consider. Thanks!

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daniellindsley 4 years, 8 months ago

@Sigmund: No checks needed (as techinically The World Co. already pays my salary) but Haystack is definitely a labor of love. And please feel free to download it. "Patches accepted" but there's no requirement on that either. :)

As far as the query modifications, that's something we're looking to improve on. The addition of wildcards is a possibility. Near-ness, on the other hand, is less of an option due to underlying limitations.

On comments, they're disabled by default not because we don't love users (we like having people comment). Because comments are usually short, they get skewed in the search results and tend to flood the search with less meaningful results. And, by the stats, most people aren't looking for a comment when they search. We leave the option there because sometimes it is useful.

Thanks for the feedback!

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Sigmund 4 years, 8 months ago

"Special thanks to Daniel Lindsley, Matt Croydon and Christian Metts for getting this in shape for everyone to try out."

I was going to demand that Dolph send a check to support this project, but then I started looking at Django and who is behind this project. http://www.djangoproject.com/documentation/0_90/faq/#who-s-behind-this

Very, very kewl project for a bunch of webmonkeys who work for a local evil corporate conglomerate that we all love to hate! So if I download and play with it will the Haystack people demand that if I want a new feature that I break out my signed copy of "Python and SQL For Dummies" and send them a patch?

Didn't Django perform in Lawrence about a decade ago?

It is nice to know that the LJW continues to use Apache, Postgresql, Perl (I assume) and Python and then give back with Django and Haystack which makes a lot more sense than sending Microsoft and Oracle huge license fees each and every year. Hopefully the World Company continues its innovation and reduces it use of proprietary software in favor of open source keeping its costs and prices lower than their competitors. Makes you wonder how much taxpayer money the City of Lawrence could save if the weened their operations off of Microsoft and Oracle.

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Sigmund 4 years, 8 months ago

Damn your non-standard markup! My NEAR example had nested parenthesis and was dropped.

The NEAR operator looks like: ecomentalist (NEAR/5) mutant

and not near looks like: ecomentalist !(NEAR/5) mutant

or looks like: ecomentalist (NEAR/5) -mutant

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Sigmund 4 years, 8 months ago

The search section of the LJW needed feature updating and I like the negation feature where the terms (ecomentalist -mutant) yields content where the word ecomentalist appears but mutant does not. This feature addition alone has doubled the search feature usefulness.

Suggestions include wildcards (*, ?) and a usage page with examples. Additional suggestions includes a NEAR operator, users could search for items that appear within a number words of one another. For example, the search (ecomentalist 5> mutant) yields only content where the search terms appear within (NEAR) a number of words (5) from each other. Finally why are user comments not included in the default content type?p>

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kusp8 4 years, 8 months ago

But, But, But, But!!!!! I thought Bing (formerly Live, formerly Microsoft Search) was going to save us from bad search engines!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jMt6saTqq4

Can't wait to actually try and use the new engine!

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supercowbellninja 4 years, 8 months ago

Love the new search and will keep using this all week for feedback - one thing I noticed right off the bat is that I can't just search a reporter's name (tried First Last and just Last) and it gives me inconsistient results. Some I got stories that were a year old as the top result, others I got only videos even though I know there have been printed stories the video accompanied.

Keep up the good work, guys.

Also, you may consider parsing or condensing your search parameter "content types" check boxes. Seems like an overwhelming amount of filters and choices for the average user. Why not something simpler like Classified/Sports/News/Features/Multimedia to condense a few categories?

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 8 months ago

I got over 1000 hits for "racial profiling" and found out a lot of things about Lawrence in this area that I did not know. I know now that I made a mistake typing in race in Lawrence. I got an article about Wilt Chamberlain because the Hawks were in a race for the title. Makes sense when you think about it. I would say that mistakes in the returns are more likely to be when there are mistakes in the question. I just read bicycle guy, forgive me.

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davidryan 4 years, 8 months ago

Howdy --

Thanks for trying out our beta search. Can we keep the comments in this thread focused on how well or not well our beta search works? That'll be a great help to us in terms of responding to search feedback, and a greater help to other users trying out the new search and seeing if what they're experiencing might've been encountered by someone else.

Thanks kindly!

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notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

Multi;

To search for multiple-word terms, put it in quotes. That is, search for "Mike Miller" not Mike Miller. That should return only those items that match those words together in that order. If you need something besides that leave it outside the quote, like "Mike Miller"+beer.

(Was going to e-mail you back but this was just as fast.)

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Multidisciplinary 4 years, 8 months ago

Ditto notajays comment.

Perhaps instructions for putting first and last names together so you don't get every article with word Mike or the word Miller. Which in this college town gets you 2,383 initial results. I wasn't looking for this name, just plugging in some tonight to get something to show the profound amounts a simple name search can give. The first thing listed is a photo of Jeff Miller. Handsome lad.

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notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

I submitted a photograph of my daughter last year that was published in the print version and online, and also a picture I submitted for one of the holiday collections (don't want to be too specific, sorry, I AM an anonymous user). A search in photos for our last name did not find either of them, and that name was in the caption for both.

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notajayhawk 4 years, 8 months ago

"In some circumstances, the number of results returned is incorrect. The page might say "30 results found," and yet only 27 are shown."

The other three were removed for violations of the LJW's terms of service.

But don't worry, they'll appear again at some future time as an OTS question.

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beatrice 4 years, 8 months ago

Irish, I wasn't talking about you. I am referring to posters, like Marion, who have had more posts removed by the staff at the LJWorld than anyone else, not about bloggers who yank their own blogs.

Marion, ocd? Lame.

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 8 months ago

Bea, I have removed two because I was huffy. You can still find my blogs if that is what you are talking about. I couldn't find a way to remove the blog so I just deleted the contents. Silly now in retrospect. Not making any promises but I will try to do better in future. I love doing research so this is going to be really handy. Maybe I can use it to help me find hidden treasure.

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 9 months ago

beatrice (Anonymous) says…

So how would one go about searching the number of posts removed by a certain non-anonymous poster?"

Marion writes:

Oh, bea, your OCD is showing.

By the way guys and dolls at the LJW:

I notice that moving between threads sometimes requires logging in again.

My box or a glitch?

I'm set to receive cookies on both IE and FF.

Not really an issue but weird, I think.

Search seems to work well so far.

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beatrice 4 years, 9 months ago

So how would one go about searching the number of posts removed by a certain non-anonymous poster?

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 9 months ago

I checked out Haystack and found out I am going to have to check out a few things before I know enough to check out Haystack. But, that is my next project.

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 9 months ago

Oh, I am loving this. This is possible the best thing that the Journal World has done. I am an information junkie and this is heaven to me. Thanks, Daniel, Matt and Christian, whenever I have a question about Lawrence, I can find the answer. Now.

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