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Technical pros impressed with MSDN & TechNet Search

Technical pros impressed with MSDN & TechNet Search

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After several releases focused on improving our site search's usability and usefulness (see posts here and here), and after seeing both the reaction to demos at TechEd and a few positive blog posts (like this one), we felt like our search app was ready to be put through the gauntlet. We asked 12 IT Pros and developers, both from within our MVP ranks and from without, to use our search engine as their default search for 12 days. For any Microsoft-related search, they used http://search.msdn.microsoft.com or http://search.technet.microsoft.com instead of Google or Live.com and let us know how it went.

(Note that MSDN and TechNet search is powered by Live Search results, but with added features.)

So how did they react? Here are a few blog posts and quotes...

  • Zubair Alexander was pleased enough with it to show us all how to add MSDN/TechNet search as a provider in IE and Firefox.
  • David Longnecker provides a detailed analysis of his search results and of how the performance of the app could be improved. I'm happy to report that we're addressing many of those issues in our release at the beginning of September.

Cindy Meister, moderator of the Visual Studio Tools for Office forum, had this to say:

"Since I work a lot researching answers in the MSDN forums, it’s simplest for me to place my queries within the same browser window as the question I’m working on. Now that I have the new enhanced MSDN Live search available through the IE7 search box, I will be more likely to use that. I especially appreciate the “Refine by” and advanced query capabilities that allow me to quickly create a targeted search."

Stephen Boots, moderator of the OneCare forums, has changed his default search engine to MSDN Search:

"I am now a regular user of MSDN/Technet Search for Microsoft related content. I’ve been using it when I need to locate a KB or information on an error encountered by customers coming to the OneCare forums for help and it has proven to be a great resource.

It gave me the results I need to answer posts in the Windows Live OneCare forum more efficiently. I am able to cut through the noise very quickly to narrow the results to what I need to find."

Daniel Nerenberg had this to say in a forum discussion between participants:

"So far I have to say that I'm pretty impressed. I have been searching all my error messages and so far TechNet has come up with the right stuff. I haven't had to drop a search term into the other guy's search engine when it came to searching. And that is definitely a first. When I search www.live.com I often have to switch to find good results."

As great as this was to hear, search is one of those functions of a web site that's simply never good enough. There were plenty of suggestions for improvement, including:

  • Speed, speed, and more speed.
  • Provide date/recency information and perhaps sorting options for that.
  • More data or a preview for each result to help in evaluating the results.
  • Change the page titles from "MSDN Search - searchterm" to "searchterm - MSDN Search"
  • Ability to select more than one source refinement (e.g. "forums OR blogs").

All of these items were discussed in detail in forum threads, and all are things we've discussed as a development team and in many cases are working on now. Overall, I was encourage by the positive response and grateful for the new insights. I can't wait to see the response to some things we have planned for next month that I can't even talk about yet... <insert evil laughter>

If you've got feedback on MSDN or TechNet search, you can chime in here, on our search PM's blog, or in the Search forum.

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  • But the forums doesn't have a good print feature until now!

  • About time! Since Microsoft in their wisdom has not, in most cases,  never assigned error numbers to error messages. Searching with the text of an error message resulted in pages of irrelevant associations.

  • More than once, I have searched Microsoft's web site for a Windows error message using Microsoft's search engine and gotten "*no* hits, but when I searched the same site using Google, there *were* hits.  This is equivalent to a 1500 meter runner being disqualified in the first 100 meters.  It was *game over* before Microsoft got out of the blocks.

    I really have two major issues with using Microsoft's engine to search a Microsoft web site:

    #1.  It is (or was) a lousy search engine.

    #2.  Microsoft doesn't document all their error messages at their web site.  For any support person, this is a real aggravation.

    At least they now do spell-check and make suggestions, even being so bold as to auto-correct a spelling and search on that without asking.  

    I just searched on my name at the Live site and got 5130 hits, but at the Google site I receiveed over 14,000 hits.  Is Microsoft weeding out duplicates or is Google twice as good?  Who knows?

    Microsoft reminds me, at times, of the American car companies.  They have used up so much goodwill over the years, that my interest level in them is non-existent or least veru small.  I have been burned too many times by them.

    Mr. X

  • Mr. X - appreciate the candor in your feedback, but I'd love to hear some examples of that kind of disparity between Google and MSDN Search today.

    The only thing I'll say to attempt to win you back isn't that I think Google won't get you good results, but that MSDN Search should get you as good or better results more efficiently because of the features we've built in that are designed specifically for technical searches of our content.

    As to the error messages comment, that's an issue we've been hammering on for some time, and without going into the gory details, we've finally got Live Search indexing more error message content.

    So once again, while I understand the "used-up goodwill" comment, I'd just ask you to give us another try, and come back with some examples if you get no joy.

  • Your search engine doesn't work very well as google or others because when you try to register a website to your engine - it never picks it up.  I have even uploaded a site map for your organization to use and you still don't pick up our website.  Our website is a financial institution and I have submitted over and over again for more than 6 months trying to get registered in your search engine.  My admin page shows that you can see our website and I can even see you look at our website.  I have never had any issues registering with any other search engine and our site is always on the first page when searching.

    I give up on live search, it doesn't work well probably for that reason in particular.

  • TD, I'd like to clear something up, not to make excuses or minimize your concern, but because many people seem to be under the impression that my team owns Live Search. We don't. We've built a custom search engine for MSDN and TechNet using the Live Search API, just as any of you can do. What sites are picked up by the Live Search index is up to the Live team. Granted, being inside of MSFT, our team has a little more pull with them to get our stuff indexed in a timely way, but not as much pull as you'd think :)

    If you have feedback for the Live Search team on their indexing of your site, I'd encourage you to submit it here https://feedback.live.com/default.aspx?productkey=wlsearch or leave a comment on their blog here http://blogs.msdn.com/livesearch/

    Thanks for the comment, though, and please keep talking to us! Any feedback on MSDN Search? Would love to hear it...

  • Sure I can certain post on another board, just pointing out a main breakdown.  Even though you don't 'do' that part your departments have to work together.  To me, it is one of the major malfunctions and if one isn't working - it doesn't matter how good your search engine is.  The entire picture needs to be looked at.

    I certainly like the improvements of the search page itself:)  The drop down as you type selection is nice.

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