Tag Search could be a bit better... March 5, 2011 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Nitpicky pony request: Tag search

The tagging guidelines state that tags multi-word topics should be written without spaces as a single word. This seems simple and obvious enough. An FPP about Girl Talk would be tagged with 'girltalk'.

However, if I use the search feature to search for posts tagged with 'Girl Talk', it finds a bunch of tags containing 'girl', and 'talk', but does not return a result for girltalk, despite the fact that this tag exists.

It appears as though the search algorithm interprets a tag search for 'Girl Talk' as 'girl' OR 'talk,' and picks the top few results for each. I think it would make more sense for it to interpret the query as 'girl' OR 'talk' OR 'girltalk,' and to continue to highlight exact matches.

I say this because tags are probably the best way to browse old topics on Metafilter.

(Super-pony request: Find some subtle way to visualize the number of pages that correspond to each tag in the results. The numberic count is nice, but not useful for comparisons.)
posted by schmod to Feature Requests at 3:53 PM (13 comments total)

*numeric. Numberic sounds like a Bush-ism.
posted by schmod at 3:56 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Related question: Why must tags be written as single words without spaces?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 4:38 PM on March 5, 2011

Conrad: Call it the Flickr Standard. Goes back to the nascent tagging era on the web. History of the 'semantic web' an' all that. MeFi went the comma-less/CamelCase route and that's just the way it's been.
posted by carsonb at 5:14 PM on March 5, 2011

yeah, we'll give this some thought. (or should that be somethought?)

Of course tags don't have to be written as single words without spaces—people can tag however they want. But it helps if you're somewhat familiar with tagging conventions before you tag so that your post can be grouped with other posts that are similar. Putting two words together without a space is a tagging convention. (Not just here at MetaFilter, it's a convention across many sites that started tagging around the same time in 2003 or 2004.) For example, the tags big and brother on their own have different connotations than the tag bigbrother as one word. You'd always spell the phrase big brother with a space, but a space is used a delimiter in tag spaces. So squashing it together is the hack that sites like MeFi, Flickr, Del.icio.us, et al settled on.

Why isn't the numeric count useful for comparisons? You can see pretty quickly which are used heavily and which aren't.
posted by pb (staff) at 5:14 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, because tags are separated by spaces. Generally speaking, multi-word tagging is tough to do effectively (unless you're talking about a very specific multi-word combination such as a proper name, or something like "cover letter").

Otherwise, if your keywords become too verbose, you end up with multiple ways to phrase a concept (goodRecipes, and greatRecipes are the same thing, but 'recipes' is really a sufficient for either), and the tagging system falls apart.
posted by schmod at 5:25 PM on March 5, 2011

my tagging system fell apart
and now i cannot search
i'm struggling for connections
i've been left in the lurch
these multi-words and spaces
i don't know how to use...
good lord won't someone help me?
got the tagging system blues
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:43 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just assumed my inability to search tags was because I wasn't a back-tagging superstar.

*pops collar*
posted by cashman at 5:49 PM on March 5, 2011

Back-tag Superstar
That is what you are
Tagging from afar
Reaching for the star
Run a search for me
Ignoring the space
We could be spousin' each other, uh huh,
From one profile to another, oh-oh.
posted by maryr at 12:01 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Love it.
posted by cashman at 1:50 PM on March 6, 2011

Call it the Flickr Standard. Goes back to the nascent tagging era on the web.

Sure. I guess what I'm really asking is, why hasn't MetaFilter upgraded to using a different delimiter for tags? I'm sure there are all kinds of technical hurdles, but I think commas are a lot easier, visually.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:25 PM on March 7, 2011

It might be worth reading this past discussion/argument about using spaces from 2006: Tag Guidelines.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:41 AM on March 8, 2011

Thanks, pb. I will.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:50 PM on March 9, 2011

We improved this a little bit today. The search is now looking for the no-space version and returning best matches first instead of scattered through the list. So if you search for something like New York Times, you'll get newyorktimes, new, times, and york highlighted at the top of the list followed by the rest of the suggestions.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:23 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

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