Searching the Documentation

Matthew East mdke at
Thu Jun 14 21:02:10 UTC 2007

Hi Phil,

* Phil Bull:
> I thought I'd provide an overview of the current state of searching our
> docs, and suggest some possible improvements for discussion.

Thanks for this careful and helpful review.


> Ideally, we would unify the way we search the documentation, rather than
> making users visit a load of different websites and making a load of
> different searches. This would probably be difficult to do in the case
> of the (offline) system documentation, but should be easy enough with
> the others.
> Google offer a service called Custom Search Engine [4] which would be
> able to search all of our documentation at once. We could also integrate
> it into the documentation websites and give it Ubuntu branding. There is
> also the possibility of weighting and categorising search results.
> Results could be weighted on the basis of which source they come from
> (e.g. 4 for official docs, 3 for community docs, 2 for the forums and 1
> for external docs), although I don't know if this approach would serve
> users the best.
> Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

That's basically a pretty good idea, I think. I'm slightly wary of a
tool that searches resources outside the actual site that the user is
searching from, because I think that it will increase the confusion that
we already see about users not knowing which part of the Ubuntu
ecosystem they are in. I think there are lots of small improvements we
can make to the individual areas - for example, the wiki search could be
improved so that (a) the Title search is removed by default; (b) the
search results formatting is improved, etc. I don't think that would be
a lot of work for the right person. For the system docs, we can improve
the search results by introducing keywords to the various sections of
our documentation (in the actual code, they don't appear to the reader).

However, outside of those improvements, there are clear advantages to
having a unified search system which you have set out really well and I
think it is definitely worth trying to work through the various issues.
I know that the two Matts, newz2000 and mpt are interested in developing, so they might help draw up a battleplan, as it were.

gnupg pub 1024D/0E6B06FF

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