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Forum search improvement

Travel Forums System Talk Forum search improvement

1. Posted by Peter (Admin 5492 posts) 1y

I added a couple of small improvements to the forum search interface today.

1. It now shows you the date the thread was started and the date it was last added to. This should help decide whether it's worth your time clicking on it.
2. By default it will now only show results that have at least one response. In the "advanced options" you can also increase that threshold so you can only get threads with at least 10 responses for example. Should help find the really active ones when you're looking for them.

Hope it helps

2. Posted by KellieBarnes (Admin 686 posts) 1y

Great work!

3. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1044 posts) 1y

What's the default ordering of the search? The dates seem to jump around (both start date and last post date), and there doesn't seem to be an option to order by date (or anything else) in the advanced search options?

4. Posted by Peter (Admin 5492 posts) 1y

Sorting is by relevance which takes into account various parts of the forum thread but mainly the title and entries There is some boosting for fresher pages and those pages with more responses.

Sorting by date would actually just throw up any thread with the word in it regardless of context. And it actually doesn't generate very good results at all.

I actually have built a way to sort by date - it's just not in the interface. Try it by adding &sort=date to the url after doing a search. An example, compared to the default. The default is in my opinion a far better result.

Don't forget - if you want to find a recent post then you can use the date filter option to only show those threads active in the last week for example.

5. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1044 posts) 1y

In the default example that you linked, the first five are all irrelevant due to date as such:

  1. OP is travelling KL in September 2012
  2. OP had a 9 hour stopover at KL in January 2013
  3. OP was in Malaysia in December 2012
  4. OP was in KL December 2012
  5. OP was in KL in August 2012 on way to Thailand

The concern I have is that a travel forum is very temporal by nature, therefore a search in my view should give a bit more weight to date of thread/last post in a search. Even having the date filter option visible in the default search view would be better than not at all as not everyone may notice the advanced search option or know they should use it.

Adding the dates to the search results certainly help, but I'm just wondering if there's any way to nail down the relevance even further?

6. Posted by Peter (Admin 5492 posts) 1y

The older travel companions ones would definitely be nice to downvote somehow because they do lose relevance quite quickly. But at least the first and third result there still seem perfectly relevant to me. Advice on what to see, etc.. doesn't change that much in a year.

Do you think you would use an option to sort the results? I can basically allow sorting by creation date, last update and post count. I'm sure they can all have their place. You can try the others with ?sort=update and ?sort=posts

One thing I do also notice with some results, the number of results can be pretty low due to the filtering (only the past year + only if there's a response). Example: Sarajevo. I'm kind of tempted to increase the time span somehow in those cases to bring in more information. There's some good older threads on the topic and it's a shame not to surface them more easily. Some sort of logic like "if there's less than 20 results, then search again with a 5 year time span" might work.

7. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4410 posts) 1y

I don't use the forum search a whole lot, but when I do, it's generally because I remember reading or writing something that'd be helpful to link in a new thread; and the longer I've been here (8+ years already, wow), the further back that tends to have been. So I'd be all in favour of increasing the timespan from 1 year to something much higher. :)

8. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1044 posts) 1y

Quoting Peter

The older travel companions ones would definitely be nice to downvote somehow because they do lose relevance quite quickly.

It may be an idea for any results from the Travel Companions forum to be restricted to something like 4 months (from last post) by default.

Quoting Peter

Do you think you would use an option to sort the results? I can basically allow sorting by creation date, last update and post count. I'm sure they can all have their place. You can try the others with ?sort=update and ?sort=posts

I think it would be useful for anyone searching the forum... however forums are notorious for not being searched before posting something that has previously been answered, even recently answered.

Quoting Peter

One thing I do also notice with some results, the number of results can be pretty low due to the filtering (only the past year + only if there's a response). Example: Sarajevo. I'm kind of tempted to increase the time span somehow in those cases to bring in more information. There's some good older threads on the topic and it's a shame not to surface them more easily. Some sort of logic like "if there's less than 20 results, then search again with a 5 year time span" might work.

Something along those lines would probably be a good idea.

Perhaps it may be possible to add extra code to narrow in on particular forums - e.g. if someone searches Sarajevo (or another city in Europe), then the European and Travel Companion forums get searched, and an option to remove that restriction is given. Could work quite well on searches involving geographic places, although there should also be consideration for the Round the World forum.

A further example, if key words like camera or photo(s) is used then search the Travel Photography forum, as well as any geo forums if a city/country is mentioned.

9. Posted by Peter (Admin 5492 posts) 1y

Quoting mojorob

]I think it would be useful for anyone searching the forum... however forums are notorious for not being searched before posting something that has previously been answered, even recently answered.

Looking at our search history, it's something like 1700 unique searches per month at the moment. The forum gets about 250,000 unique views per month. So it's not really a large percentage.

The majority of searches are also very destination focussed. Almost all the top ones are one word queries like "Bali" or "Australia". So it can indeed be worth it tailoring the searches to cater to geographic ones.

Post 10 was removed by a moderator