Search is the answer. Now... what is the question? RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • Start with this one observation: Search is the killer app.  It unlocks content that would otherwise be lost, invisible, useless.  You just have to accept that as a truism.  If you have ever spent 45 minutes looking in your garage for a specific particular mini-screwdriver for your eyeglasses, you have an intrinsic understanding that search is the killer app. 

    A couple key things on how that applies to this site:

    There is some good content here on the forums, nothwithstanding some other feedback to the contrary.   But I cannot find that content.  I cannot search by date (or constrain by date, so I do not search posts from 2004), or by forum,  or by language (maybe I speak spanish as well as english), or by relevance, or by anything except keyword.  And when I do a search, I'd like to sort my search results by date.  or group by forum, or etc.  but I can't do any of this - the results seem to come back in a completely random order, from all different forums.   I'd like to search within results - like say, search first for "Encryption" and then search in those results for AES.   But I cannot do this.  As a result, the search feature here is not really useful, and the content that is here, remains locked up.   It is frustrating.   It is honestly better to use to search this forum, than it is to use the built-in search.  Google does date-based indexing!!! And I can even search BY FORUM.  Yes, using I can search the Visual-C# forum here on MSDN, and sort the results by date.

    Second:  On the main site, there are SO MANY forums it is overwhelming.  Here again search is your friend, or should be.  I'd like to meta-search for a forum to ask about "VB on Smartphone" and I should get the VB forum as well as the Smartphone forum.  If I know exactly the forum I want, then I don't need this.  But what if I am asking a question on a novel topic and I am not sure which forum it should go to?    But right now to find an appropriate forum, I resort to using - no joke - the browser Ctrl-F search on the page itself to find forums by keyword.  This is horrible.  To be clear - for this second item, I don't want to search IN the forum posts.  I want to search ABOUT the forums.   I want to search the meta-information on the forum - the forum name, the topic keywords.

    If you build the right search indexes, this forum site could become really valuable for developers, and of course it would "create its own weather".  It would hit a virtuous cycle of more users, more answers, more value, more users, more answers, etc.    Search indexes are the thing that could make this happen.

    The tagging is cool and useful.  (from my point of view, clicking on a tag is really just a specialized search) .   And I'm sure there are other web2.0 features I could ask for, to make the experience more engaging and usable.  RSS feeds, maybe twitter, or MSN mobile alerts, etc.  But without better search, the site is much less valuable than it could be. Search is fundamental.

    • Moved by Mike Kinsman Monday, January 5, 2009 4:41 PM off topic (Moved from MSDN Site Feedback to Suggestions and Feedback for the Forums)
    Sunday, January 4, 2009 1:07 AM

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