Posts Tagged ‘search’

Facebook’s new search functionality

Facebook just announced a new search functionality.

From the Facebook blog about Facebook’s new search functionality from one of the Facebook engineers.

You now will be able to search the last 30 days of your News Feed for status updates, photos, links, videos and notes being shared by your friends and the Facebook Pages of which you’re a fan.

Facebook Blog Post about New Search Functionality

Facebook Blog Post about New Search Functionality

Is this Facebook’s attempt to catch up to Twitter’s current news and information search without the hashtags?   I guess this could be good to see what’s been discussed on facebook recently by your friends or it may be adding some functionality in that’s not much needed as opposed to other features that I could see as more useful.  So far I’m not impressed.

Here’s a simple search suggestion I just made to the people at Facebook that is not solved by their new search functionality –

How about being able to search your friend list by geography?

Let’s say I’m going to San Francisco in a month (which is true) and want to meet up with my friends who live there now.  I haven’t yet found a good way to find my San Francisco friends on Facebook.

  • When I click on Friends, I can see all of my friends. Right now I can filter by network.  This is a pretty useless because not everyone tags themselves by every network with which they are affiliated.  Or I can filter by group.  This is also pretty useless unless I have categorized my friends in a group called San Francisco.  I would more likely group friends based on their relation to me – colleagues, family, college friends, high school friends, etc. if I grouped them at all.  Not useful for my problem.
  • With the new search functionality just announced, if I search for “San Francisco”, I get a ton of results with San Francisco – places, fan pages, groups, and people in San Francisco.  Next, I have to click on results only related to People.  Then, I have to filter by geography by inputting San Francisco, CA in the geography filter box.  But there are still way more results than just the people I know.  (I don’t plan to contact strangers, just want to catch up with some folks).  It looks like the first results are friends, but that’s a bit clunky considering the search results go on for pages and pages.  There’s no way to filter by just my friends.

If anyone knows how to do this easily, please let me know!  I don’t think I’m the only one interested in solving this problem.

Here are my two simple recommendations for Facebook to solve this problem –

  • When I click on Friends, give me a geography filter
  • When I use the new search page, let me filter by my friends

How about letting me search my friends for their stated interests?

For example: friends interested in classical music, so that when I want to invite someone to a Festival Chamber Music concert, I know who are my low hanging fruit?  My Facebook community is a group of some tight and many loose connections, based on different periods of my life.  And I don’t think I’m the only one in this boat, considering Facebook is so good at suggesting friends based on my already made connections.  I suppose searching through the last 30 days of discussion on status updates could help me find some of these friends, but 30 days is limited and most people don’t announce in their status “going to a classical music concert,” they would more likely say “at Lincoln Center” or “seeing Femi Kuti at Celebrate Brooklyn”  This would be hard to search, considering how many venues and artists there are.  Searching byFacebook Pages could help, but what if my friends aren’t tagged as fans?

I know Facebook tested search on a small group of users before they rolled it out to everyone, but I wonder if they thought of real-life situations based on one of the most important reasons for why I believe people use Facebook – connecting with people they know online and offline.


NYPL’s disappointing new catalog search

I have to say the NYPL has disappointed me with their new website.  Their new search functionality was supposed to make it easier to find items because you only had to search in one place across all catalogues.  I have to say it has not only made searches more difficult, it has also shown inaccurate and incomplete results that were not the case with the old system.

For example, I have just been selected to be a Kiva Fellow for 6 months in Latin America, and since it’s been 10 years since I lived in Spain, I need to brush up on speaking, reading and writing in Spanish.  So I have decided to take some workshops by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and classes, read Spanish novels and on the suggestion of my last workshop teach from Spanish Black Belt, I have decided to read El Amor Tiempos de Colera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez while listening to the Audiobook to increase comprehension and listening skills.  I am also planning to attend a Spanish literature discussion workshop about the short story Viaje a la Semilla by Alejo Carpentier.

Of course, the first place I look is one of my favorite places – the New York Public Library.  Unfortunately, I had a lot of issues trying to search the library catalogue.

#NYPLFail #1

My first search was for the short story.  I searched by Keyword which gave too many results.  I then narrowed my search to Title and found the short story by Alejo Carperntier, but when I put it on hold, I didn’t see it show up in My Holds.  I refreshed the page a couple times and still didn’t see it.  Since this is the first time I put something on hold through the new interface and there have been a lot of bugs, my first thought is that it didn’t work.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who placed this book on hold, but it’s time sensitive since I have to read the book before the book discussion.  Did it go through or not?  I guess I’ll have to check back to see.   The worst thing is that I don’t remember this being an issue when I used the old system.  I guess fixing certain things breaks other things…

#NYPLFail #2

I then searched by Title for El Amor en Los Tiempos de Colera.  The search results looked like this:

NYPL search results for El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera

NYPL search results for El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera

What are those weird looking question mark characters?  And why does it ask say “Your entry el amor en los timepos de colera would be here — Search as Words”  What does that mean and why do I have to go to another page for the right search results?  What ever happened to anticipating what the searcher meant?

When I clicked on that link, it gave me 11 results for El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera, the last one being an edition of the Spanish language version of the book.  Even the Portuguese version came up before the version I wanted.

When I searched by Author for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera
came up as the first several books many times in Spanish and other languages. I understand that I wouldn’t find the Italian version when I searched by Title, but I’m still confused as to why the multiple Spanish versions didn’t come up.

I think the new NYPL search capability needs work and a whole lot of usability testing before it’s ready for primetime.

Sorry NYPL, I had to comment on my disappointment because I expect better from you.

Online Search – 311 online

I met Chenda Fruchter, Assistant Commissioner at 311, Dept of Information Technology & Telecommunications, City of NY at the SVA Interaction Design Lectures Dot Dot Dot several weeks ago.  She spoke at the event called “The Service Designers” <- link to video.  The event was enlightening.

I am a huge fan of 311, New York City’s information phoneline.  Now there’s 311 online so people can find answers themselves.  I’m interested to see if people will use the site as much as Chenda said they call.  I am used to the efficiency of the 311 phone operators.  Perhaps a bit of laziness sets in when one can easily get an answer without waiting long 😉  I do most everything over the internet, so if 311 online works as well as 311 by phone, I will change over to the online version going forward.

Let’s try out the site.

Since I recently started a block association, Cumberland Block Association, I am interested in finding out information about  Tree Guards (for protecting the city trees from dogs, etc), Bike Racks, and the like.

My first search was for tree guard since I would like find out how to install tree guards in my block.  See results below.

311 Online Search for Tree Guard

311 Online Search for "Tree Guard"

None of the results fit my inquiry.

The search must be a broad match, because it found a result with the word “guard” but not the word “tree.”  In the Dog License entry, it says “Register a guard dog…”   Clicking through the Domestic Animals & Pets entry, the article also contains info about guard dogs.  Clicking through ther Lead Law Guide entry, there’s a link to download the lead and window guard notice.  Clicking through the Oil in Waterway Complaint entry, there is a comment about the Coast Guard.

I didn’t find what I was looking for, but it’s interesting that “guard” was the dominate search term in the results.  I wonder if that is because there are too many entries related to “tree.”  I know that the Parks department is integrated into searches.  And I know I found info about tree guards on the Parks Department website.  Seems there is a gap in information between the Parks Department and 311 online…

I’d probably pick up the phone and call 311 for this one.


Let’s try again.  This time I searched for bike rack since I would like to request a bike rack on my block.  See results below.

311 Bike Rack Search

311 Bike Rack Search

This search is more fruitful.  It’s great that the search knew to change “bike” to “bicycle.”  It would be frustrating to get no results for searches related to “bike” since they were only liked to a search for “bicycle.”  The first link summary tells me that my search is over!  Good news.

I click on the link and see information on bike racks. I find the bike rack application and voila!  Easy peesy.

Bike Rack form

Bike Rack form

Incidentally, the 311 operator I called about this issue sent my a PDF form to fill out or mail.  Had I used 311 online, I would have been able to fill out this form more easily over the internet, and not had to worry about envelopes and stamps.

Search is obviously important on the internet, and it’s important that your site search works well so the user can find what they are looking for, especially when your site is focusing on imparting information.