Why is searching the manual so hard

As a consultant I often use the MySQL Reference Manual to provide additional information for clients. I am very happy to recognize the quality of the content in the MySQL documentation, but why is the searching of the manual so, so bad?

While reading the General Security Issues section of the MySQL 5.5 manual, I performed a search for “CREATE USER”. I was not asking for anything abstract, this is an actual SQL command. I was rather horrified to find that the results could not even list the appropriate manual page in the first page of results.

I am not an expert in full-text search, however it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that a SQL keyword, the title of a page, in the language of the current page (English) and the current version of the Manual (5.5) should be an easy result. This is a simple weighted result right? Wrong.



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11 Responses to “Why is searching the manual so hard”

  1. George says:

    Yeah totally agree, long given up on using their search. Better just to use google for

    site:dev.mysql.com/doc/ “CREATE USER”

    :)

  2. Medbob says:

    It’s kinda like when HP swallowed Compaq…. Except in reverse…

  3. TehShrike says:

    The MySQL documentation search has been horrible for as long as I can remember.

    I set up a quick-search in my browser so that I could search the documentation easily with Google.

    Searching Google for “site:dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/5.5/en CREATE TABLE” works pretty well.

  4. Twirrim says:

    I don’t do things in MySQL often enough to have everything memorised so it’s quite often I’ll be dipping in to the documentation to confirm or refresh my brain. For a long time now I’ve used google as my launching point for the MySQL documentation for precisely this reason. I can almost always get to exactly what I want with just a single search.

  5. Mark Callaghan says:

    I share your experience and always search via a search engine. Results are much better:
    http://www.bing.com/search?q=site%3Adev.mysql.com+%22create+user%22

  6. I’ve flat out given up on using the search on mysql.com – Google has a good knack of putting me where I need faster – sad!

  7. justlooks says:

    because of this, i never use the search ,good thing is this make me more familiar about the MySQL manual

  8. Art van Scheppingen says:

    I can remember the search being much better before and actually giving proper results in the past. For some reason the search got changed (?) or _improved_ about a year ago and I stopped searching on the MySQl site around the same time.
    Searching on Google for the command (plus the proper MySQL version) is about 10 times as fast. ;)

  9. C├ędric says:

    Welcome to Oracle !
    For some commands you can search directly in the URL for a direct access to the documentation : http://dev.mysql.com/select

  10. William says:

    It used to state the search engine it used to get the results, back before the Sun purchase. I think it might have been Apache Lucerne or maybe Solr. I think they’ve merged since then. Its been a while, but at a time we were looking for an in house search engine and an engineer brought up Solr/Lucerne and noted that it was used for the mysql documentation as a positive trait. We immediatly removed it from consideration.

  11. Maarten says:

    Some other WTFs:
    1 There’s also another search form at the top right of doc pages, which gives a different result…
    2 The title of the search results page starts with ‘Oracle Secure Enterprise Search – ‘. Ok, so it’s Oracle. But why bother some poor soul with the ‘secure enterprise’ nonsense? Or at least improve your search engine if you want to brag about it.

    The content really is great, and is an example for a lot of other platforms. The site and user experience however are abysmal.