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How can I search Bob?


 
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Eileen King
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2002 12:52 pm 
Post subject: How can I search Bob?

How do I search Bob?

Bob has a search system that will allow you to find specific topics you are interested in. To get to the search page, click the small Search link at the top of any page.

Type a word (or several words) into the search box on the Bob Search page, and then hit the "Search" button (or the "Enter" key on your keyboard). Bob will search to give you relevant matches that are a combination of results. Choose search terms based on the general subject you're interested in.

Search Query

Search for Keywords
You may search for words in the content of topics. Enter the words to search for into the text field.

If you select "Search for any terms or use query as entered" then topics containing ANY of the words you entered will be displayed. You may use the AND, OR, and NOT operators to indicate which words you want to search for.

Use AND to indicate that multiple words MUST be found.
Use OR to indicate that a word is optional/alternate.
Use NOT to indicate that a word should not be present in the topics displayed.

If you select "Search for all terms" only topics containing all of the words in the query will be displayed. Selecting this option is comparable to using Search for any terms or use query as entered, with the AND operator between each term.

Wild Cards

You may use the asterisk (*) wildcard character to broaden your search. The asterisk will match any number of characters. So *uni* will match universe, UNIX, or tuning. Likewise rep* will match report, reporter, or repository.

To increase the speed and decrease the overhead of the search utility, only words may be searched for. Phrases (such as "user object") may not be searched for, except by their component words. The minimum size for words is three characters, and the maximum size is twenty characters. Any non-alphanumeric character (e.g. white space and punctuation) is a word boundary. A search for "XP" or "5.1.3" will return nothing. We are working on a modification (a "mod") that will allow you to search for a phrase, and will update these notes when it is available.

Search for Author

You may search for posts by post author. Simply enter the author's username into this text field. You may use the asterisk (*) wildcard in author's names to broaden your search. Again, the asterisk will match any number of characters. Putting in *Dav* will return Dave Rathbun, slimdave and DavidP.

Search Options

Forum

You can limit your search to a specific forum. The advantage of this is that you will only be searching a specific forum. The disadvantage is that if the post was not put in the right place, you may not find the post you're looking for.

Select the forum you wish to search in, or All available. To search multiple forums, you can search by category. All available is the default.

Category

You can limit your search to a specific Category. The advantage of this is that you will only be searching a specific Category so you will get a narrower set of results returned. The disadvantage is that if the post was not put in the right place, you may not find the post you're looking for.

Select the category you wish to search in, or All available. There are currently three Categories available: BusinessObjects Software, Regional User Groups and Conferences, and General Topics. All available is the default.

If you want to search and don't want posts returned from the Regional User Groups or General Topics, you would select Business Objects Software from the pull down. This allows you to exclude any posts from the User Groups and General Topics forums even if they meet your search criteria.

Display Results as

By clicking the Posts radio button, the search results will display a list of specific posts that meet your search criteria. For each post there is a link to the forum it is in, the topic itself, and the author of the topic. The portion of the post that matches your query will be displayed and the search term highlighted. Clicking on the subject will take you directly to the post.

By clicking the Topics radio button, search results will display a list of Topic titles that meet your search criteria. For each topic there is a link to the forum it is in, the topic itself, the author of the topic, and the last post within that topic.

Search Previous

The dropdown box will allow you to specify the maximum age of posts to display as results of the search. Options include All posts, 1 day, 7 days, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and one year.

There are also radio buttons that allow you to specify whether to search the subject and the body of posts, or only the subject (title) of the posts. The default is to search the subject and the message of the text.

Sort by

Sort by allows you to specify through a drop down box how search results are organized. You may sort by Post Time, Post Subject, Topic Title, Author, or Forum. The sort may be in ascending or descending order alphabetically (or chronologically where appropriate).

Return first

Return first allows you to control how many characters of the post is displayed in the search result when Display Results as is set to Posts. The option can be set when Display Results is set to Topics, but it has no effect.

Select a Search

Select a Search provides a dropdown box with options of what topics you would like to see. These options include Activity since last visit, Your Posts, Your watched topics, Recent Topics (all forums), Last 24 hours, and Unanswered posts.

Activity since last visit

Activity since last visit is available only when you are logged in. It will provide a list of topics that have had activity since your last visit (based on your login time). Each time you logout you mark all posts as "read", even if you have not read them. Even if you don't log out but simply leave BOB for a length of time, the same thing will happen.

Your Posts

Your posts are available only when you are logged in. It will provide a list of topics that you have participated in.

Your watched topics

Your watched topics are available only when you are logged in. It will list any topic that you have set to "notify".

Recent Topics (all forums)

The Recent Topics search provides a reverse chronological listing of topics with activity here on Bob. This search will show a maximum of one week of activity for all topics, all forums, in descending order by last post date.

This search is available in two places: the Search Box (list of drop down options for canned searches) and by clicking the ">>" button on the "Most Recent Activity - All Forums" on the Forum Index page. Both of these options will display up to one week of activity.

Last 24 hours

Last 24 hours is available whether or not you are logged in. It will provide a list of topics that have had activity in the last 24 Hours.

Unanswered posts

Unanswered posts are available whether or not you are logged in. It will provide a list of topics that have had no replies.

Which Forums To Include / Ignore for Searching

Registered users have the option to ignore forums when searching. These settings are configured via the user control panel or "My BOB".
By adjusting your profile you limit all searches, whether you enter keywords on the search page or use one of the canned options from the drop-down box, will either include or ignore those forums, based on your user preferences.

This is a user profile setting. Only logged in users are able to use this feature.

Quick Tips and Examples

Do a search. Review the results. Click a topic. If it's what you want, fine. You can reply, edit, quote, etc. But at that point, it is assumed you found what you are looking for, and there is (admittedly) no easy way to return to your prior search. Click a topic. If it isn't what you thought, you can use the "back" button to return to your search results.

You can also right-click and select "Open in new window" from your search results list. If you don't like right clicking, hold the SHIFT key down while you click on a link and it will automagically open the link in a new window.

Got too many results?
Try eliminating some by using NOT word settings in your search string.

Topics too long?
If the topics that matched your search criteria are too long, try displaying the results as Posts instead of the default Topics. That will show you the specific posts within the topic that met your search criteria.

Searching for a phrase?
As already mentioned, we don't have this capability just yet. For now, enter as many words as you can think of, and make sure that the "ALL Words" setting is checked. (It is by default.) That will at least ensure that the results have all of the words you asked for, if not in the correct sequence.

Some words not found?
Common words like "the", "and", "but", and so on are automatically ignored in any searching. It may be that the words you are searching for are on the "ignore list" of words.

Search Mechanics for Geeks

The search algorithm used by the forum software is actually really cool. If you are searching for a phrase try using the word "and" between each word. In other words, instead of searching for "long search phrase" try searching for "long and search and phrase". When you do, here's what happens...

As each post is stored into Bob's database, the text for the post is scanned for every word 3 letters or longer. Those words are stored in a "word" table, with a word_id value assigned. Existing words are noted but not stored a second time. Next, each word in the post is stored in a table with a combination of word_id and post_id. So storing a post takes a little extra time.

But how does the search work?

If you search for "long search phrase", the first step is to perform a (unique key) lookup for the word ID for long and search and phrase. Let's say the results are 15, 2403, and 92341 for the word ID values. Since you said "And" your query becomes:

Code:
Code:
Select post_id from word_post_table where word_id = 15
INTERSECT
select post_id from word_post_table where word_id = 2403
INTERSECT
select post_id from word_post_table where word_id = 92341


That's not the actual code, but you get the gist. An Intersection is one of the fastest "exclusion" techniques you can use in a relational database... much faster than Not In, or Not Exists, or other negative conditions. After returning a list of posts, it is a simple matter to roll that up to a list of topics if requested.

If you select OR instead of AND to combine your search terms, you get a UNION instead of an INTERSECT operation. Very neat and clean. I like it. Wish I could take credit for writing it. It certainly beats a brute force text search of every post here on Bob...

There is also a checkbox that you can select to search the "subject only", which further reduces the amount of stuff to work through.

What we don't have, as I pointed out earlier, is any measure of "relevance" based on either the number of words found or the number of occurrences of a word in a post. To fix that the wordcount would have to be added to the "word_post_table", a sum of the wordcount values could then be used to assign a weight to the search results.
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Bob
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Joined: 06 Jun 2002

Posts: 1335
Location: I Live Here



PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2004 12:41 am 
Post subject: Re: How can I search Bob?

The search algorithm for BOB's forum software includes "stop words". These words are words that do not appear in our search database, generally because they are too common. The more common the word is, the more posts you will find with those words, and the less useful your search results will become.

We want the search results to be useful so that folks will use the search facility. icon_mrgreen.gif

Our search tables are the biggest tables in our database, and are a factor in the recent sporadic server issues that we have been experiencing. As a result, many common BusinessObjects terms have been added to the search stop words list. For example, you will no longer be able to search for "designer" or "reporter" or "webi". Why?

If you want to look for a Designer answer, simply search in the Designer forum. There were almost 20,000 posts with the word "webi" in them. Who is going to read 20,000 search results? So "webi" is no longer a search term, but you have two specific forums to search in.

Since we've been taking search features away it only seemed fair that we add one as well. We've taken the risk of moving this feature straight into production as it seems to be working fine, but please report any problems or errors in this topic.

Search This Forum
While you are viewing a forum there is now a small search box on the top right corner of the screen. Sample:
Image link
This box will allow you to enter up to 150 characters (meaning multiple words, much longer than the displayed box size) and search only that specific forum that you are viewing. We hope that this will encourage folks to search, but also provide efficient searches as you will be using only one specific forum as your search criteria.

By default the results are returned as topics, all words are included in the search, and both messages and titles are included as well. If you click the "Go" button without entering any search terms you will be taken to the standard search page. Clicking the Search link provides the original search capabilities.

For your reference you may review the list of prohibited search terms by looking at the stop words list.

[March 31, 2008 Edit: The link to the Stop Words file has been removed as we now have our stop words managed via a database table rather than a text file. The logic is the same, but it's much more efficient. Thanks.]

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Bobarella
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Joined: 11 Feb 2004

Posts: 1079
Location: BOBville



PostPosted: Wed May 14, 2008 2:27 pm 
Post subject: Re: How can I search Bob?

Do not forget that another option for searching on BOB is to use the Google search box at the bottom of each page.
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Bob
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Joined: 06 Jun 2002

Posts: 1335
Location: I Live Here



PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2009 10:37 am 
Post subject: Re: How can I search Bob?

Our search index was rebuilt yesterday (September 19) and many formerly blocked key words like "report" and "universe" were added back into the index. It should be noted that searching for these keywords by themselves is going to be useless. icon_smile.gif These words appear in far too many posts to be useful as search results. We have added these back into the index to help people look for combinations of words, not these individual words.

We have also added a "full text" search index to our board and are monitoring server performance. At this point we do not have a way to search using this index. We are just monitoring to see if having this extra index is impacting the ability to enter and query posts for now. If we determine that our server is keeping up with the load we will be working on several new features for the search page, including the ability to search for an exact phrase.

_________________
It is not enough for a handful of experts to attempt the solution of a problem, to solve it and then to apply it. The restriction of knowledge to an elite group destroys the spirit of society and leads to its intellectual impoverishment.
-- Albert Einstein
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