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Add date range to “Advanced Super Ninja Search Options”

The feature I miss most when using the otherwise efficient stackoverflow search has always been and still is a very simple date filter. Something like "date:>2011" or "date:=2010" would be sufficient in most cases.

I am aware that it is possible to filter and then sort by date instead of relevance, as described here and here. But it is by no means the same: I'd like to keep the "ordered by relevance" view and simply limit those to, let's say, this and the last year, instead of needing to browse through a list with the newest but mostly irrelevant entries.

I am also aware that it is still possible to narrow down the result list by making the search terms more exact. But do I always want to do that if I could save the work by adding a simple date filter? Most recent example: as a non-Apple developer, I wanted to know the differences between iPhone and iPod regarding app development. Searching "iphone ipod app development" yields a lot of good results, but most of them are more than two years old. How great would it be to hide those by adding a simple parameter...

Not knowing too much about the search algorithms employed, yet I have a feeling that this shouldn't be too difficult to implement. The gain would be immense.

Or am I unaware of an already existing feature?

Update: I gave Code Grays comments below (let me paraphrase them as "dates in SO should generally be irrelevant") some thoughts, and while I disagree - I believe "date" to be a valid, important, abstract parameter -, I do not want to question basic Stack Overflow philosophies here. If date is not supposed to influence the content of questions and answers as such, it would still be a handy tool for searches. The only point in not letting the users decide how they search - beyond the effort of implementation - would be not to encourage them to "think in terms of date and time", which in my opinion would be too weak a criterion.

In a way, we have two types of date here which should not be confused: a) the date that refers to "forum type events" (when did one post a question, answer, update) which is and should be irrelevant because of the wiki nature of SO, and b) the date that is a truly technological parameter of the question. Ideally, b) should be found somewhere in the question (for example in a version number of a software product that is mentioned), but in reality a) is a good pointer to b), from a practical point of view. And isn't the search feature meant to be practical?

Update 2 (Proposal): How should a search by date be formatted? Most of the time searching for a year will be specific enough, but since we are at it, why not implement a more flexible way that's still simple enough? The initial idea above (date:>2011) would add an operator and thus not be aligned with the format that already exists. So maybe two different parameters would be in order, followed by a date that can either be year only, year and month, or year, month and day, which would yield the following six variants:


However, "newerthan" doesn't tell us whether it's inclusive or exclusive of the date, in addition to not sounding very poetic. An alternative might be (although it introduces an operator, sort of, but as part of the parameter name, not the value, which keeps it in synch with the existing format):

(and the same for YYYYMM and YYYYMMDD)


  • Part of the point of Stack Overflow is that dates are irrelevant. Why do you want to narrow down by date in the first place?
    – Cody Gray
    Feb 19, 2012 at 9:29
  • @Cody Gray: I thought I explained that in the post. Because it makes it a lot simpler to filter for new releases, software and hardware. And how are dates irrelevant in such a fast paced world as software development? Again, no one has to use it, but if it's there, it offers people another option.
    – Olaf
    Feb 19, 2012 at 9:34
  • If the old questions actually have answers that are no longer relevant, you should update those answers with new information. The whole point is that dates are not relevant here. Stack Overflow is not like a traditional forum. If the question has already been asked once, then any new questions asked on the same subject are likely to be closed as duplicates. Therefore, it seems unlikely that you'd find anything at all if you filtered by date.
    – Cody Gray
    Feb 19, 2012 at 9:37
  • @Code Gray: Why, then, is there an order by "newest" tab at all? I am not asking to change the basic philosophy of SO here (which I really like a lot) - just add a tiny new way to filter that may simply save time, nothing else.
    – Olaf
    Feb 19, 2012 at 9:44
  • @Code Gray: Then please would you care to explain why the "newest" tab exists? If SO follows it's philosophy in such a strict manner, shouldn't it be removed? I'd say no as it's simply not my hands-on experience that date doesn't matter when searching. Even if theoretically it shouldn't, it just does.
    – Olaf
    Feb 19, 2012 at 10:02
  • I use it to go back and find questions that I remember just reading an hour or a day or so ago, but to which I didn't save the link.
    – Cody Gray
    Feb 19, 2012 at 10:29
  • Would this be "date of question asked" or "date of last answer"? I agree with @Cody the former would be useless, not for ideological reasons but because there are questions from 2008 that are totally up to date (because they were updated, like, last month). The latter would make sense though IMO
    – Pekka
    Feb 20, 2012 at 11:52
  • CreationDate, LastEditDate, LastActivityDate, CommunityOwnedDate, DeletionDate, ClosedDate, LockedDate, ProtectedDate, MigrationDate, MutexDate...we have lots of dates, kidding aside, I'm not sure what input format works best here, open to suggestions though. Feb 20, 2012 at 12:16
  • @Nick Craver: how about "Last relevant activity date"? "Relevant activity" could be - debateably - defined as "either last answer or last edit"...
    – Olaf
    Feb 20, 2012 at 12:53
  • @Olaf - an edit triggers the LastActivityDate to update as well, so that'd be simple enough. A ton of search improvements are next on my list, propose a spec for this in terms of how the date is specified as a search option and we'll go from there...searching on date seems perfectly reasonable to me. Feb 20, 2012 at 12:55
  • 2
    @Nick: Done, see body. And thanks for being open to the idea!
    – Olaf
    Feb 20, 2012 at 13:39
  • I am maintaining a few legacy apps and it would be GREAT to be able to limit the search results to questions asked before a certain point in time, either a year or a date cutoff (e.g. "year < 2010") so the responses would be less likely to relateto the newest API but to the old API the legacy app uses. The API has changed a lot. The particular software toolset does not have tags for each version, is very popular, and so the signal to noise ratio is quite poor if one is looking for answers relating to older versions.
    – Tim
    Feb 3, 2013 at 18:27


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