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Here's the suggestion, approaching the issue of question area51 question overlap from the reader's side:

1) Create a search feature on stackexchange.com which allows searching of all the SE sites simultaneously.

2) Create a ninja search operator to pull up the same list from within an individual SE site.

Why would this be better than a Google search? Well, google searches the whole internet. This would only search the stackexchange community of sites. The advantage of that is it limits results to sites with the same trusted formats and reliable user-base. Though User IDs might not be useful, presumably, tags would be related to a limited range indicated by the question.

Last, and most relevant to the original issue, which was exploring multiple SE sites and how overlapping questions might play between them, this search would let you see where questions had already been asked. For example, a search about an online database application could explore Webapps, the SQL Q&A, and whatever other sites share an interest. Without having to visit each site separately, you could see which community has info on your query already, as well as which one might be the best place to ask it.

Background: The inspiration was this post, which raised the issue of what to do with questions which would fit on multiple SE sites. It seemed unlikely that the ability to automate cross-posting would happen any time soon, since each site has a different perspective which a questioner could individually decide was worth the extra effort to manually cross-post or not. But there's still some untapped functionality regarding harnessing questions which already exist on multiple sites.

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I'm not sure I see the point. What's the advantage to this over a Google search? You wouldn't be able to use any of the advanced options like user IDs (since they're different on each SE site), and other aspects like tags may be the same in a technical sense but mean completely different things (consider [storage] on Web Applications vs. [storage] on Cooking). –  Aarobot Aug 19 '10 at 14:01
    
@Aarobot Responded in the question. Note: during beta, this is not a big deal, because all of the sites share the same domain (search example: ipod site:stackexchange.com). But once each site has its own url, this won't be the case, right? –  Ocaasi Aug 19 '10 at 14:12
    
I just don't think that anybody but a handful of hardcore geeks would use it. SE questions usually make it to the top of the Google results anyway (if the questions/answers are any good). Why would I want to search the Gaming site when I have a question about Gardening? What good does it do me to search the entire SE network (but not the entire web) when I'm not even registered on most of those sites? It's rather like wanting to run a search on all forums everywhere powered by vBulletin, but not phpBB. It's silly; either I want results from a specific community, or I want them from anywhere. –  Aarobot Aug 19 '10 at 14:43
    
@Aarobot. You wouldn't want to search gaming and gardening. But SE sites are expanding rapidly enough that you might not know which one covers your topics, and which one already has info on a question. Consider a question about interest rates, which might be fielded by [Quantitative finance] or [Economics] or [Personal finance] or [Math] or... It just seems natural that the SE community would be searchable as a unit. Even if it was just an integrated google search with prepopulated modifiers. Also, anybody but a handful of hardcore geeks? You know where you are, right? (No offense geeks!) –  Ocaasi Aug 19 '10 at 15:02

5 Answers 5

implemented at http://stackexchange.com

search all sites

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1  
Hehe, I see you 'went shopping.' :P Looks good. –  jjnguy Oct 7 '10 at 21:29
    
This is great and I wonder if it would be useful to do this automatically when a question is being asked. It could help identify questions that are likely to be migrated as off topic. By tracking the migration patterns of questions you can decide which sites to include in the search. e.g.: If there are a lot of questions migrated from SO to programmers you can search programmers when asking a question on SO. –  benrifkah Aug 16 '11 at 22:15

This could be useful.

I'd honestly just like to see a "you might also be interested in these questions on related sites" in response to relevant searches. For example, it could really help prevent me from asking duplicate questions which have been answered on one of the other forums with overlapping topic areas (superuser, ubuntu, or serverfault, for example). It would help tie the communities together rather than duplicating and fragmenting content.

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That's a neat idea. Agreed on all points. –  Ocaasi Aug 20 '10 at 3:24

Not an exact science, but you can use this app here - add the relevant stack exchange sites you want to search and then... do a search.

The search is a little bit buggy in that sometimes the exclude operator (-tagname) doesn't work with tags the way it should, but the title keyword search works well.

Update: for those looking for multi-site search, I'm in the process of overhauling the site alltogether, but it's taking a lot longer than anticipated due to my young family. Anyway I promise it'll get better eventually.

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That's a neat site. And also good evidence that this feature should probably be implemented directly. –  Ocaasi Aug 19 '10 at 12:11

To achieve the same effect, go to Bing.com or Google.com

Type: site:meta.stackovlerflow.com query abc123 then press Search or Enter!

Sure, a little work, but it works! :)

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To be valuable as something beyond just Google or Bing a Stack Exchange network search would likely need to take advantage of the Q&A sites knowledge of the individual users.

That is, an active Stack Exchange user will be a registered user on one or more of the sites. These sites have data on how often users visit, the topics for which they ask questions and which they answer, and the kinds of questions they tend to vote up.

It seems likely that it would be possible to build from that data profiles of individual users of which sites and which types of question on those sites they are most interested in. Equipped with something like that, a Stack Exchange search engine ought to be able to sort its search results to favour the sites and questions an individual user is likely to value.

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