Isn’t it about time that SAP reviewed the SDN search engine? It is obvious that there are some (serious) shortcomings, which transform the search functionality into a burden instead of a helpful working instrument. I would appear that I’m not the only one that has this feeling about the search engine.
So what exactly are the painful areas within the search engine?
- First of all, it’s rather slow. In fact, I’ve not seen a single search engine (within a site) that performs as badly as the SDN search engine. I know what I’m talking about since I’ve been monitoring things for the last 6 months now in a controlled way and have an average response time of 19 seconds. On only 3 occasions did I get a result in less than 15 seconds and I have even had peaks of 29 seconds a couple of times. I guess this won’t improve with the growing amount of content.
- The performance would certainly be improved if it stopped indexing and showing results based on URLs instead of content. What do I mean? Well, try searching on BSP e-mail. The first page will show links to help.sap.com. The problem is that only two results are valid within those first ten links. All the rest refer to the same content, but because it has different URLs, it is shown multiple times in the result list. The fun thing is that it is only a subtle difference in the help.sap.com URLs that engenders this clutter. Compare e.g. http://help.sap.com/saphelp_webas620/helpdata/en/5c/9be13a1522a441e10000000a11405a/content.htm with http://help.sap.com/saphelp_webas630/helpdata/en/5c/9be13a1522a441e10000000a11405a/content.htm
Yes indeed, only one digit causes this to happen. In the first page of 10 results we get in total 6 variations of this without there being any difference content wise, in which case only 1 link is really useful. Clustering results would be more than advisable.
- Expanding on the same theme, the search engine is even able to index non existing content. I don’t know how it is able to do this, but apparently the engine discovered the words BSP e-mail in http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/servlet/prt/portal/prtroot/com.sap.km.cm.docs/help/sdn_nw04/sapdocu/netweaver/webas/630/helpdata/en/5c/9be13a1522a441e10000000a11405a/content.htm. Yet another search result that shouldn’t be there. I know by now how to avoid clicking on them (there is no size indication for this help.sap.com document), but it is very annoying when you click on something and get a 404 in return.
- The search engine should only index the actual forum thread content and not the surrounding links. Let’s use the same BSP e-mail example again. You get forum threads like BSP & HTMLB tutorials back. You will discover that this thread has nothing to do with sending e-mail within BSP. Something stupid is causing this problem: in each forum post there is a link called E-mail this post. That means that the search engine will find 6900 results where only a few are effectively relevant. No logic operator will help you to avoid this.
- Speaking of logical operators. It is far from logical (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist it) which operator’s do apply. I regularly see remarks on the AND operator and whether it works or not. But what if you want to search on AND itself. Should one use + instead? And what about the rest of the logical operators for e.g. excluding things? It also seems that the general search works differently from the forum search.
- Why are there 2 different engines anyway? It makes things even more complicated and painful to search. Bhanu Gupta asked me something the other day via a forum thread. I didn’t have the time to reply immediately and when I did have time to compose an answer I couldn’t find the thread back again in the forums, since I didn’t set a watch on the thread. “No problem,” – I thought – “I’ll just search via user id in the forum search”. Well that seems to fail and the search engine gives me “More than one user found. Please refine your search.” as reason. To my knowledge, there is only one Bhanu and if not, why doesn’t it give me the threads of all those people with the same user? So I tried the general search engine indicating that I only wanted forums results. Surprisingly, it doesn’t grumble over the user, but it also retrieved the things that Bhanu isn’t even the author of.
I guess that our lives would be much easier without the above problems. Being a full Grumpy however I won’t be satisfied until the following features are included too:
- Full MyCroft standard compatible in order to show the results in the Mozilla/SeaMonkey search bar. This is something I’ve been Foxy ISO SDN 4 LTR > 1.5 years for.
- Speaking of which, Opensearch compliance is needed in order to be MIE 7 search bar compliant
- Search suggestion compliancy via JSON is needed for Firefox 2. Wouldn’t it be nice if one could see what the most used search terms are?
It might not be the core business of SAP, but an industry leading company can’t afford to lag behind on such matters.