Why doesn't the search textbox return searches from all the different Stack Exchange sites? There are so many of the Stack Exchange sites that are very similar, for example a question may have been answered under Server Fault, but the user is looking under Ubuntu because they happen to have an Ubuntu server?


You can search across all sites at http://stackexchange.com.

(source: stackoverflow.com)

The reason that search doesn't return results from all Stack Exchange sites is because there are many site-specific operators in search. For example, I may search for user:22656 on Stack Overflow to see Jon Skeet's posts. However, user 22656 on other sites is a different person, or may even not exist. Also, when searching a site, for example, cnn.com, it is traditional and expected on the internet to only get results from CNN, and not other Time Warner properties, and a departure from that standard tends to throw people off.


It should be noted that, for example, a question from English.SE should probably not appear on searches from, say Ask Ubuntu (although I can't easily think of one that would).

Given that, however, it would be nice if questions could be tagged as spanning multiple sites. So the question being referred to in the request could be tagged as on Server Fault, and should show up on Ask Ubuntu.

Also, as waiwai933 pointed out, user queries cannot (or should not) span multiple sites, but in this case would be unaffected, since the search engine would only look at questions tagged with a specific tag.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that it could be a great feature. Maybe add a section below regular results, or even a "search all Stack Exchange sites" option...

EDIT: Okay, I see that the Stack Exchange search box says that. I should have said "search all Stack Exchange sites for related questions"

I really don't know how to phrase it, but the general idea is that searching for servers on ubuntu will also search for ubuntu on Server Fault. Searching for programming on Ask Different will also search for mac and iphone on Stack Overflow. etc. etc.

  • but its unlikely that search results from English would appear in ubuntu because of the contexts of the searches. Like if i search "Whats a participle?" in English there are no matching search results from ubuntu. The things people would be searching for would be entirely different except in the case in which they are similar in which it would be could to show results from multiple sites Feb 2 '11 at 2:22
  • Okay. Maybe not the most relevant example, but it is possible that passing the same query across all sites may yield a large number of unrelated questions. Hence the tagging idea.
    – Soumya
    Feb 2 '11 at 2:24
  • @Lets: But if you search for "particle" you might want to find particle physics, grammatical particles or particle effects in computer graphics, depending on which site you are on. I don't think mixing those results will really help.
    – sth
    Feb 2 '11 at 3:42
  • what if there was a way to toggle between the results, like by default it shows results only for the site your in but if you click like a little switch in the auto search dropdown it shows results for all sites? Feb 2 '11 at 3:47
  • 1
    @sth Thanks for providing an awesome supporting example :)
    – Soumya
    Feb 2 '11 at 4:06

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