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I expected a naive search for a term in the search box on a SE site would look in tag names as well as other text. It appears to ignore the tags during the search.

Here's a sample of a search for all posts tagged with an uncommon tag (e.g. not in the top 40):

http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/dentistry

I get 13 results.

Here's a sample of a search for all posts containing the same term:

http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/search?tab=relevance&q=dentistry

I get only 4 results.

I expected the second query to get at least the initial 13 results of the first query, plus possibly more. I perceive this as a bug, because I think a newbie would not expect this behaviour.

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2 Answers

In order for a search term to be auto-converted to a tag:

  • it must be in the top 40 tags

  • there must be at least 100 questions in that tag

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In the case where those conditions are NOT met, I'm not expecting it to be auto-converted to a tag (which will ONLY return results in the tag) but to search BOTH tags and text. You are expecting it to search text only? (I'm worried that you are talking at slightly lower level than me. I think I understand this internal rule, but I am sure the casual visitor won't expect that.) –  Oddthinking Jul 1 '11 at 6:33
    
Why not just add the text of the tags (converting '-' to space) to the end of the plain text version of the post that is indexed for the serach? (Keep doing all the auto-converting to a tag seach as done at present.) –  Ian Ringrose Sep 29 '11 at 8:20
    
The first case makes some sense. I'm with Oddthinking that it should return both tags and text when the first condition is failed. However, the second one only serves to make search harder on SE 2.0 sites. On Stackoverflow, the 40th tag has 16,000 questions. On Skeptics, the 6th tag fails the second condition with just 66 questions. –  Kevin Vermeer Sep 29 '11 at 11:13
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@kevin we generally get complaints either way, so... pick your poison –  Jeff Atwood Sep 29 '11 at 11:22
    
@JeffAtwood - Based on the fact that the question, which proposes including tags in the search, has a net 5 upvotes, and both answers, which propose not fixing it, have a net 4 downvotes between them, I choose the more verbose poison, at least for SE 2.0 sites. –  Kevin Vermeer Sep 29 '11 at 11:27
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I think this would be too broad.

If you search for a common term that may be in multiple tags as well as topics, like SQL which is present in several dozen tags, do you want the search engine to search the content of all posts for that string, and the content of all posts in tags containing that string as well?

EDIT:

To clarify something, you are saying "search the tags as well", but unless the actual post or title contains the word being searched for, how do we know it's relevant. If a search term is a tag, do you want ALL posts for that tag to show? That's what will happen.

You are already searching the content of every post, so if something gets filtered out that is in what you would consider a relevant tag, it's because it doesn't contain the search term! I think this would be confusing, especially for newer users who don't fully understand the tagging system. I imagine their internal dialogue going something like this:

I searched for dentistry and the top hit is about electronic toothbrushes? The second hit is about sensitive senses? The third hit is about acne? The search on this site is borked, nevermind.

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Trick question! SQL is one of the top 40 tags on SO, so magic tag search happens. But, if that wasn't the case, then: Yes, that is exactly what I would expect. –  Oddthinking Jun 30 '11 at 18:01
    
@Oddthinking - So you want all terms to be autoconverted to tag searches? –  JNK Jun 30 '11 at 18:13
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"do you want ALL posts for that tag to show?" YES! Someone who searches for dentistry and finds hits on efficacy of electric toothbrushes, sensitive teeth and alleged side-effects of toothpaste should be happy! You consider the data in the tags to be meta-data and not part of the post. I consider them to be part of the post, just like the title. –  Oddthinking Jun 30 '11 at 18:41
    
@Oddthinking - it doesn't make sense though. How often do you expect to google something and have the top 3 hits not even contain the word you searched for? It's counterintuitive and would provide too many results. –  JNK Jun 30 '11 at 18:43
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Google does PRECISELY this. It includes meta-data in the search that doesn't appear in the text because most of the time it gets the best results that way (except when people take advantage of it! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_bomb) –  Oddthinking Jun 30 '11 at 18:48
    
It's different when the pagerank is based on the whole of the internet and the volume of links to a site, and the SE search is based on tag(s) that individuals apply to a question which may or may not be accurate at all. Suffice to say we disagree on this :) –  JNK Jun 30 '11 at 19:01
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