speak chinese like a native

Better Search Functionality for Lessons

Posted by calkins January 29, 2009 in the Group General Discussion .

Tags: search feature, lesson tags, metatags, metadata, shoes, does this tag function really work? :)

I've recently changed my study habits on Cpod.  Before, I used to study lessons as they were published.  Lately, I've been looking for more specific topics that apply to a future situation I'll be in.  With more than a thousand lessons, it's not always easy to find that lesson we want to study, without the help of a good search engine.

When it came out, I think everyone appreciated the new search function in the top banner of the website.  Unfortunately, it's not very functional. 

I'm not sure how it's setup, but many of the lesson tags, when typed into the search box, don't produce a result for that lesson.  I'm referring to the "Topics" and "Functions" tags listed under "Lesson Information." 

For instance, today I'd like to go out and buy a pair of shoes.  I remembered a while ago studying a lesson on buying shoes.  So I went to the search box:

- I typed in "shoes" and got the following results:

  • Newbie - No Need to Take off Your Shoes
  • Elementary - Don't push that button
  • Intermediate - Buying a Plasma TV
  • Upper Intermediate - Officially Pregnant

- I typed in "shopping" and got the following results:

  • Intermediate - Shopping
  • Upper Intermediate - Online Shopping
  • Intermediate - Not So Silent Night

- I typed in "store" and got the following result:

  • Upper Intermediate - The Big Deal about Shenzhou 7

- I typed in "buy" and got a list of 32 lessons, none related to shoes.

- I typed in "clothes" and got a list of 12 lessons, none related to shoes.

I tried other "related" keywords with no luck, but you get the point.  Note that all of the above searches were done using the following "Advanced Search Options" checked:

Incidentally, I think these should be automatically checked when someone does an initial search.  Only the "Lesson Title" and "Lesson ID" are checked, if you don't expand the search.

Anyway, I finally found the lesson I had been looking for.  The way I found it was by searching through lesson sets.  I found it in the Newbie-Shopping set created by Vera (thanks Vera!).

The lesson I was looking for is called What size?  There's a nice photo to go with the lesson...it's a photo of shoes!  I was wondering why I couldn't find this lesson with all the searches I did, so I looked at the "Lesson Information":

Topics: shopping, clothes
Functions: buying

Of my searches, I had searched for all three of those.  Why didn't this lesson come back in any of the results?

Again, I'm not sure how the metatags are setup, or how the system works.  But I hope that there are more (specific) tags than just a few for each lesson.  There should be obvious tags (like "shoes" and "size" in the above example) and less obvious tags (like "feet," "sneakers," "clothes," "shopping," "store," etc.).

Now the "Community Search" function, that's another story.  It almost never works.  It's not nearly as important as the lesson search, but still it would be a good thing to have for finding posts that are buried in the Conversation Abyss.

My limited knowledge of search functions is that they aren't very complicated and difficult to setup properly.  Anyway, I know it's been talked about before, but as more and more lessons get added to the archive, it's essential to have a good search engine.

It's probably already in the works...but as always, thanks for listening Cpod!

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