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:
newerthan:YYYY newerthan:YYYYMM newerthan:YYYYMMDD olderthan:YYYY olderthan:YYYYMM olderthan:YYYYMMDD
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):
date=:YYYY date>=:YYYY date>:YYYY date<=:YYYY date<:YYYY (and the same for YYYYMM and YYYYMMDD)