I recalled there was this ridiculously insightful answer describing the current state of unicode support in Perl 5. So I tried to find it, went to SO and fed the site search the three terms "perl utf8", "perl utf-8", "perl unicode". The question doesn't show up on SO's results pages for the first and third search term and only as the 25th result for the second one. Using Google ("site:stackoverflow" added to the search term), the results are: 3rd, 2nd, 1st hit

Why is it that questions with a lot of views and points aren't placed more prominently in SO's search results?

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    Searching for perl utf-8 is not doing what you think it's doing. It's actually searching for the phrase "utf-8" inside questions which are tagged with perl. Overall, the phrase perl utf-8 is very unspecific. Searching instead for perl avoid utf-8 yields your question as the first result. – animuson Apr 15 '12 at 22:54
  • @animuson It is the definitive answer on SO regarding perl and utf-8, so although the search term is very unspecific, this single answer is the most relevant one. The Google ranking pretty much seconds that. – al. Apr 16 '12 at 13:01

The thing is, the tagging system works very differently than a normal "Google-like" search. And really, that's what you're doing. The "perl" part of your search is being converted to a tag search for . By default, tag searches will sort by whatever tab you had selected (for me, that's newest). Then you mix in the "utf-8" search term, which is the only piece that's actually being sorted by relevance. So all you're doing is searching for questions which are relevant to "utf-8" which also happen to be tagged with . On Stack Overflow, that's very unspecific and probably won't get you very good results.

Google, on the other hand, doesn't understand our tags. It's not going to convert "perl" into its associated tag, so it searches by relevance on both terms. You can do that on Stack Overflow, too! A simple search for "perl" "utf-8" yields your expected result on page one, result nine, which is much more consistent with Google. You could also push your expected result t number one in any of these queries by sorting by votes.

Just understand that Google and Stack Overflow are not the same thing. Understanding each one takes different knowledge. Therefore, you can't expect them to both yield the same results.

  • Also - if you are logged into your GMail / Google Docs / whatever, Google has your browser history, so it knows where you've been and will add that to your search fesults. – fritzfromlondon Apr 16 '12 at 18:07
  • I think that's very counter-intuitive and onerous, but thanks for the concise explanation. (And result #9 still really isn't very high up.) – al. Apr 17 '12 at 19:19
  • though technically correct it is a cop-out on our side, we are going to work on search and we are going to make an awesome search ... one day – waffles Apr 20 '12 at 2:56

Google: hundreds of engineers, hundreds of servers indexing data, and years of expertise. SO: two blokes in a janitor somewhere. OK, maybe three.

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    To be fair: our janitor is VERY smart, he actually writes all of the code. – Geoff Dalgas Apr 15 '12 at 21:07
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    unlike me, who mistyped janitor's... – fritzfromlondon Apr 15 '12 at 21:08
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    I don't even want to ask what "two blokes in a janitor" means. – user102937 Apr 16 '12 at 2:16
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    @RobertHarvey: you could Google it...but I wouldn't recommend that. – user7116 Apr 16 '12 at 17:12
  • @GeoffDalgas guess the question should be "Why not implement Google Site Search like so many other sites" - not the OP but that's what I would have asked. :) – Shadow9 Apr 17 '12 at 8:36

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