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Can the review search function be improved?

Old 11-01-01, 03:54 PM
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Can the review search function be improved?

I've noticed that the "review search" function is *very* picky... you have to put in the *exact* title, down to punctuation, in order to pull up a review. If you're off by so much as a comma, it says that "no reviews match the criteria." That means that it's possible -- even probable -- that a lot of people who search for a review of a particular movie will end up thinking there's none there, even if DVDTalk does have one.

For instance: For the movie "Me, Myself, and Irene," I tried:

-- me myself irene (nothing!)
-- me myself and irene (nothing!)
-- me, myself, and irene (Had to include the commas to get the review!)

For "U-571", I tried:

-- u 571 (nothing)
-- u-571 (nothing, even though that's the correct title of the film)
-- u571 (finally got it)

For "Cats & Dogs" I experimented, searching as if I didn't remember whether the title had "&" or "and":

-- cats dogs (nothing!)
-- cats and dogs (got "The Truth About Cats and Dogs")
-- cats (got several titles including "Cats & Dogs" and "The Truth About...")

A decent search engine will pull up "likely" matches that are reasonably close to the actual title, to allow for misspellings, misremembering of names, and abbreviated entries.

It seems that the current search engine requires either the full, 100% accurate title (including punctuation!), or the 100% accurate first part of the title; it's thrown off by anything else. This makes it one of the least useful search engines I've used.

Is there any way that the review search engine can be tweaked to be more functional, ie. returning broader results from an entry?
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Old 11-01-01, 04:24 PM
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http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/search.php offers the most powerful searches of any DVD review site out there, though it's limited in that few reviewers have gone back and edited earlier reviews to make full use of its capabilities.

When I originally wrote the review software, I basically mimicked the old software that was written for Geoff, focusing my efforts on the back-end rather than the front-end. The old software's search was based on substrings, so that's what I did as well. I'm far too busy to do any rewrites any time soon, but when some time frees up, I'll give it a gander. What's up now is more than sufficient, and writing search software is not my particular area of expertise.

FWIW, the statement that the "100% accurate first part of the title" has to be entered is wrong. A search for "irene" turns up "Me, Myself, and Irene", and a search for "571", "57", "71", or "u5" turns up "U-571". It just needs an accurate substring.
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Old 11-05-01, 05:15 AM
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Re: Can the review search function be improved?

Originally posted by ordway
A decent search engine will pull up "likely" matches that are reasonably close to the actual title, to allow for misspellings, misremembering of names, and abbreviated entries.
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The search function you mention here is far more complex than a 'decent' search. The coding for a search like this could become extremely complex, especially if you want to account for misspellings and abbreviated words.

I wrote the original review database code for Geoff. It was very basic (and barely functional at times ) ctyner has done an excellent job with taking the code from a completely different web hosting environment and rewrote it for Geoff. I have to agree with him that he has created one of the best DVD movie review databases out there.
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Old 11-05-01, 07:02 PM
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Re: Re: Can the review search function be improved?

Originally posted by Drew Black


The search function you mention here is far more complex than a 'decent' search. The coding for a search like this could become extremely complex, especially if you want to account for misspellings and abbreviated words.

I wrote the original review database code for Geoff. It was very basic (and barely functional at times ) ctyner has done an excellent job with taking the code from a completely different web hosting environment and rewrote it for Geoff. I have to agree with him that he has created one of the best DVD movie review databases out there.
Hey, I wasn't trying to be overly critical, just wanted to point out a way that I thought the search function could be better. I use both Amazon and the IMDB quite often to call up information on a movie I'm interested in, and the search functions for both of those are very good, along the lines of what I was talking about in my post. Amazon's is slightly better than IMDB's.

Obviously, programming time is the major constraint, but if it turns out to be possible, I do think it would be really useful if the DVDTalk review search were powerful enough that a reader could pull up a DVDTalk review by typing in the same search terms that brought up a listing of the movie on Amazon.
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Old 11-06-01, 10:43 AM
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So how should a title like "Rock 'n Roll High School" be written to come up on searches? If people put in "Rock and Roll High School" it won't come up, right?

The more comprehensive search is cool but is a really long page and I tihnk the casual reader might not scroll through all the options. maybe it could be pared down a bit?
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Old 11-06-01, 12:49 PM
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It's always best to use the "less is more" approach to all web searches. Never put in a complete title. Use unique words like "rock" or "school" to find "Rock 'n' Roll High School."
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Old 11-07-01, 01:05 AM
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That's what I do (When I was researching the disc on other sites I would put in "rock roll high school" to narrow the search) but that's not how everyone does it. I want to make a review like that available to the most people and if they can't find it once it gets bounced from the front page then it's no good to anybody.

Would it maybe be possible to have a meta-keywords type field that could also be found by the title search? That way it wouldn't show up but if someone put in "Rock And Roll" instead of "Rock 'N' Roll" or "Nine To Five" instead of "9 To 5" they'd still find them?
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Old 11-07-01, 09:08 AM
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Originally posted by G. Noel Gross
It's always best to use the "less is more" approach to all web searches. Never put in a complete title. Use unique words like "rock" or "school" to find "Rock 'n' Roll High School."
That's what I always do... which is why it threw me for a loop when I typed in "me myself irene" and got nothing.

For another trial, I just typed in "me myself" and got "Me Myself I" returned, and nothing else. After those two tries, it would be natural for me to assume that "Me, Myself, and Irene" was *not* in the database. (Even though it is.)

Similarly, it's quite natural to type in "cats dogs" for "Cats & Dogs," but it doesn't pull up *anything*.

Is it just me, or does anybody else see how the search results can turn out kind of oddly?

It would be helpful if the search engine disregarded punctuation at least, which would help in cases like the ones I just mentioned.
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Old 11-08-01, 10:12 AM
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I've noticed that in the last couple of months, the Search function in general has been very ineffective for me.

Here's a specific example. Just to confirm it this morning, I decided to see if I could "find" the thread about the Heathers tin glitch in the DVDtalk forum.

I searched for "Heathers" (without the quotes)
In the DVDtalk forum
Titles only
A week ago

The search comes up with nothing, and yet the thread is there right on the front page.

If someone can tell me what I did wrong in that search to miss this, I'd sure like to know. I even had Heathers written exactly as it is in the thread title, capitalized, although the search engine should not be case-sensitive.
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Old 11-08-01, 10:18 AM
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Originally posted by dvd2001
I've noticed that in the last couple of months, the Search function in general has been very ineffective for me.
We're talking about the Review database search engine ... the forum software has its own excentricities.
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Old 05-23-02, 04:57 AM
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without ruffling feathers again, i still find the review search feature hard to use at times. it's very frustrating to know someone has written a review and be unable to find it. i know it would take time to go back through reviews and add extra search info, but would it be possible to add at least a little more info for the search, such as director or star name? Or maybe search the full-text of the reviews? there are some great reviews on your site but it's almost like you keep them hidden.

(a recent example: i was looking to see if there was a review of "I'm the one that i want," Margaret Cho's concert film. I couldn't remember the exact name so I searched "margaret cho" and got nothing. then i tried "I'm the one I" (thinking the name was "I'm the one I want") but got nothing. i normally would have given up then and assumed there was no review, but luckily i searched IMDb for the title, put the whole thing in and there it was. If people have to search other sites to find this site's reviews, they're not going to read your reviews very often.)
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Old 05-28-02, 08:40 AM
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I don't post much, I visit DVDTalk almost exclusively for the reviews, but here's my opinion anyway (maybe that makes it even more important since I'm using the search feature all day long).

I have to agree that the review search feature needs to be improved. Or at the very least explained better.

I never have any trouble finding movies in Amazon or the IMDB; I just type a few words of the title and here it comes. Or at worst I get the choice of a few movies.

99% of the time, the DVDTalk search feature finds no matches and brings me to the full search screen. For example, I wanted to find a review of Star Trek: The Next Generation DVD set. So I searched for Trek Generation. No good. Nothing returned. Searching for Next Generation brought it up.

So, that leads me to believe that the search engine is doing full substring searches, while what I wanted was Trek AND Generation. The engine was searching for "Trek Generation".

I understand if you don't have time/resources to change it (although it would be *really* nice). But can you at least put a "help" screen that explains what the rules are. I still don't know how to search for two words that are not adjacent in the title.

Cheers.
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Old 05-28-02, 10:59 PM
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Yikes. I planned on implementing a change a while ago, but like most off-hours programming tasks, I never got around to it. I'll give it a gander this weekend.

The current plan goes something like this -- replace any non-alphanumeric character with a space and split the string at the space. I'd then search for titles containing those substrings. So, a search for "U-571" would return all reviews that have "U" and "571" in the title. "Star 2" would return results like "Firestarter 2" and "Star Trek: Next Generation (Season 2)". It's not a perfect solution -- with the previous example, titles like "Star Trek II" would be overlooked, and a search for "A*P*E" would return the very large number of titles with those three letters at any point in the title -- but I guess it's better than what's up now.

As I mentioned earlier, my area of expertise is not in writing search applications. I might go to the effort of creating a special 'search' table like the forum uses and take advantage of soundex to help account for misspellings, but that's quite a way off.
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Old 05-29-02, 04:25 PM
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Eeyore, that information (director/star) must be entered into the database to search for it, and to make use of that would require someone to go back through every review and enter it in, which is not going to happen.

Just do a replace for roman numerals in both search text and titles, an exact match, and tokenize the search text for possible matches. Easy.

Last edited by Breakfast with Girls; 05-29-02 at 04:50 PM.
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Old 05-29-02, 08:35 PM
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stuff like director was more of an idea for subsequent reviews, not a serious recommendation for someone to go back and update the database for each review. ctyner's outlined changes would be greatly appreciated by many, i'm sure.
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Old 05-30-02, 12:37 PM
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OK, we've established that the "title" search has issues, but I'd really love it if the content of the actual reviewers were searchable. Seems that'd also address the whole issue of not being able to find specific titles. Maybe that's already doable and I'm just not finding it in the interface.
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Old 05-30-02, 12:59 PM
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The only reasonably fast way I can think of to search the body of each review would be to structure it in the same way the forum handles searches...and we know how spotty that is...
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