I've posted two bug reports that seem to be related to this:

but I'm also interested in getting a direct answer to what I'm trying to do. In the Scheme tag, it's a common mistake that people misplace parentheses by writing something like

(factorial(n)) ; tries to call n with no arguments, and then call factorial 
               ; with the result

instead of

(factorial n)  ; tries to call factorial with the value of n

and they get an error message which includes the text "application: not a procedure". There are a number of these questions, and I've been trying to point new instances back toward the old ones, and I've pointed out that searching for specific error messages is often a good way to find answers. Here are some of the relevant questions and answers:

Some of these include "application: not a procedure" in the title, and some of them in the body, and some have quotes, and some don't. When I see a new question with this problem, I want to find these older questions (and not just using this Meta question).

Searching for "application: not a procedure" returns no results:

I finally get some results with

but I'm starting to get a lot of noise there, too.

I've got a specific error message for this question, but shouldn't, if Stack Overflow asks for specific programming problems and for users to include results (including error messages), it be a bit easier to search for specific error messages?

How can I search for these messages?


Other questions spotted in the wild

Using Google

As mentioned in the comments, I can (and do) use Google with site:stackoverflow.com to find some of these things. I hope to be able to do it from within Stack Overflow, though.

Lots of results don't appear in the Related sidebar either

These results don't appear in searches. I've also just noticed that not many of them appear in the Related sidebar links for these questions. This means that users who manage to find these questions don't get the benefit of easily finding related questions either.

Can't search for technical terms that people have quoted

There's a concept of "locative" that's not in Common Lisp that was present in Lisp Machines. The term is mentioned in the accepted answer of a question, Common Lisp, reference to value and actual value, which is the only Google result for:

Searching in Stack Overflow turns up nothing:

It shouldn't be surprising that people might quote relatively uncommon technical terms, but the SO search makes it impossible to find them.

  • 1
    I assume you call this cheating? (approx. 351 hits)
    – rene
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:23
  • @rene That's pretty much how I found the list that I included here. It's not “cheating”, but if I'm looking for duplicates in Stack Overflow, doesn't it seem more natural to search from within Stack Overflow? part of the point that I'm trying to make when I point users to search results is that an answer can already be found on Stack Overflow. It's frustrating to have to go outside of Stack Overflow to do that. I also expect that this has something to do with why most of those questions don't appear in the Related list for each other. That's also frustrating. Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:29
  • I support your point. I've seen previous question with regard to the search functionality on SO and from that a reasoning emerges that the limited development hours are not likely to go to search engine improvements given the fact that the world has a good one.
    – rene
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:34
  • I do agree that the SO search engine will probably always be somewhat limited; there are higher priorities. This one, though, seems like it would help the system present very relevant possible duplicates to users who are asking questions with specific error messages. I'd guess that this wouldn't be a huge change (famous last words), because it looks like it'd be fixed by treating two characters as punctuation. Fancy search is for Google, but exact string matching should be for everyone. Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:39
  • This is especially important when searching with SO specific operators, e.g., "error msg" hasaccepted:yes, which, as far as I know, we don't get to do (easily) with Google. Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:40
  • 3
    Yes it does honor specific operators
    – rene
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:50
  • @rene Egads! How came ye to possess such knowledge of these dark arts? Is that documented somewhere? Are all the operators supported? Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:51
  • I'm not sure if all are supported but I do know that Google offers integration for affiliates which stackexchange appearantly is. Maybe some development time has been dedicated to the Google vs SO search integration. Hours well spend I would say...
    – rene
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:56
  • @rene By the way, if you add "is:question" to that search, this question is now the top result. (Which is neat, but points out that site:stackoverflow.com includes meta.) Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:57
  • You can surpress meta. This discussion now looks more like a google search training :-)
    – rene
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 21:03
  • Patient: "Doctor, help! It hurts when I do this!" Doctor: "Don't do that!" —— Well, @rene, if the answer to "how do I search for this using SO's search" is "don't do that!", then Google trainings are in order. Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 21:07


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .