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I was very frustrated with 401s the other day and did a search on SO for 401.

I got (How do you migrate a large app from Visual Basic 6.0 to VB.NET?).

Not a list of questions about 401.

This appears to work for any number entered into the search.

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I consider this a feature. Maybe this is what J&J use on the podcast when they share question IDs? –  Kyle Cronin Jun 30 '09 at 18:22
    
I would buy the feature thing if entering 401 brought up question 401 not answer 401 on question 395. My guess is the just do a little URL manipulation when giving out question IDs (stackoverflow.com/questions/[ID]). –  KP. Jun 30 '09 at 18:34
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i wasn't saying that anything was bogus about this question. i just thought it was funny to point out. :) –  Kip Jun 30 '09 at 18:39
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@KP Post and Questions share the same Identity column - so there is not question 401, only a post 401 (that's an answer that happens to be on post 395 (which is a question)). –  Tom Ritter Jun 30 '09 at 18:54
    
@ Tom I realize that....I have listened to all the podcasts. I consider this a Usability bug, everything I put in the search box is treated like a string except for the one time I only put in an int. I found the behavior odd, thought is was worth Meta-ing about. –  KP. Jun 30 '09 at 19:04

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Not sure if it's a bug or if it's by design. It returns the post number 401, which could be useful for tracking down specific posts.

Searching "401" (with quotes) will return what you're after.

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I'm not sure either, I should have mentioned I was able to find the list of questions, using other search terms. I just wanted to express and odd experience I had on the SO site last week(Meta). –  KP. Jun 30 '09 at 18:17
    
not a bug, so will not "fix". this should be the accepted answer. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 1 '09 at 1:06
    
@Jeff, you actually treat all searches as string except in the case that it is only an int? (Accepted as directed) –  KP. Jul 1 '09 at 13:27

I had some ideas for improvements. Now we...

  • only do this if the number is 4 or more digits
  • only redirect if the number is a valid question id in our system

.. that should free up a lot of other numbers for searching.

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Then thou must count to three. Three shall be the number of the counting and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count.....And the people did rejoice and did feast upon the lambs and toads and tree-sloths and fruit-bats and orangutans and breakfast cereals –  KP. Jul 27 '09 at 14:16

This behavior makes sense to me. A search for "Browser 401" or "HTTP 401" or "IIS 401" (or even "error 401") will get what you want.

But just the number is so vague as to be meaningless. Do you want the error code 401? Or do you want to know what protocol uses port 401? Or do you want to find a routine to factor 401?

You shouldn't blame the system for responding to your own lack of precision.

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Tom, I am not blaming the system, I am discussing a user experience (Meta). Maybe I will re-tag the question as "unexpected_UI" so as to not call bug on what could well be oddly by design. My guess is it was not. I was able to find the list I was looking for on second search "http 401", regardless thanks for joining in my discussion. –  KP. Jun 30 '09 at 19:08
    
I am pretty sure that this behavior is by design. Perhaps "blame the system" is too strong, but you clearly think this behavior is either an error or not appropriate. –  tomjedrz Jun 30 '09 at 19:32
    
it was a fair point,and highlighted some ways we could do this smarter –  Jeff Atwood Jul 27 '09 at 14:34

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