Boosts Considered Harmful – adventures with badly configured search

During a recent client visit we encountered a common problem in search - over-application of 'boosts', which can be used to weight the influence of matches in one particular field. For example, you might sensibly use this to make results that match a query on their title field come higher in search results. However in this case we saw huge boost values used (numbers in the hundreds) which were probably swamping everything else - and it wasn't at all clear where the values had come from, be it ex...Continue reading

Setting up your first Quepid test case

Quepid is an innovative tool from our partners Open Source Connections, which allows you to bridge the gap between content owners (who really know what's in your search index and how people might search for it) and search developers (who can tweak the search engine to improve relevance, given some examples of 'good' and 'bad' results for a query). We're increasingly using it in...Continue reading

Out and about in search & monitoring – Autumn 2015

It's been a very busy few months for events - so busy that it's quite a relief to be back in the office! Back in late November I travelled to Vienna to speak at the FIBEP World Media Intelligence Congress with our client Infomedia about how we've helped them to migrate their media monitoring platform from the elderly, unsupported and hard to scale Continue reading

Quepid & Flax – if you’re not testing your search, you’re doing it wrong!

Earlier this year an e-commerce company asked us to look into how they should improve how they tested their website search queries. A relatively simple task you might think - but the company concerned has a turnover of over a billion pounds with at least half of this via digital channels, so measuring how well search works is essential to preserve revenue. Like (I suspect) many others, they were recording the results of thousands of test searches, carried out manually by their s...Continue reading

An open approach to tuning search for gov.uk

Roo Reynolds from the GDS team has written a great blog post about the ongoing process of tuning the search for gov.uk which I can highly recommend. We regularly see situations where a search project has been set up as 'fire and forget' - which is never a good idea: not only does content grow, but use...Continue reading

Tuning and improving elasticsearch for the Government Digital Service

The exciting GOV.UK project is getting close to its first release date of October 17th and we were asked by them to help with some search tuning as they migrate from Apache Solr to elasticsearch. Although elasticsearch has some great features there are still some areas where it lags Solr, such as the lack of spelling suggestion and proximity...Continue reading