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Ask PG: What's the deal with search on HN?
159 points by jacquesm on May 8, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 111 comments
Hello Paul,

What is the deal with search on HN?

There isn't a week or some new HN member posts a question about how to search HN, most of the time they are either confused about why there is no search on the site, in other cases they are trying to find some article and can't locate it.

The various fixes (google using the site: prefix and pointers to searchyc.com) have been repeated so often that I suspect some users have programmed function keys to save on the typing :)

I see that news.ycombinator.com promotes 'webmynd' as a search facility, however when compared to either google or searchyc it comes up short.

I appreciate you sticking up for the companies that YC funds, and of course this is your site and you can do with it as you please but what confuses me is that there seems to be no net benefit to webmynd from being listed on YC, whereas there is a significant loss for those that use news.ycombinator and that don't have an easy way to search the site. It makes news.ycombinator look less professional and it confuses people with some regularity.

Why won't you add a box that submits a google site search or a search on searchyc to HN?

Either that or ask the webmynd guys to get their act together and create something that is on par with searchyc, they seem to be able to get it to work, and for free and 'unfunded' no less.

If anything you could throw them a bone and show some appreciation for the work they've done supplying a missing feature at essentially no cost to HN. Or is there bad blood between news.ycombinator and searchyc that I'm not aware of?

Fred has indicated many times that he spoke to you about this, but so far I can't really make soup out of your position, after all, I take it that you want HN to be the best possible site for your users.

The explanation is a lot less involved than your question: what makes users happy is not features, but the quality of the submissions and comments. So I focus on the latter instead of the former. The result is a spartan site with good content.

There's a YC funded startup that may solve the problem. If they do I'll use them. But frankly the issue is not at the top of my list. This is a classic example of how one should give users what they want, not what they say they want. Lots of people say they want search, but I would be suprised if there was a single user who'd left HN because it lacked search. Whereas if I let the frontpage get filled up with crap, or the comment threads filled up with mean or stupid comments, people would start leaving pretty quickly. So almost all the time I spend thinking about HN is spent thinking about how to avoid that.

>> I would be suprised if there was a single user who'd left HN because it lacked search.

While I agree with you, I think you're looking at it the wrong way. No user will leave HN because of search-issues, but a lot of users will be very happy if the site had good search.

imo it makes sense to do a trivial thing and make a lot of users happy. So while you're correct in saying that "quality of the submissions and comments" are more important, I see no reason why quality of content should preclude a decent search feature.

I see no reason why quality of content should preclude a decent search feature.

Because attention is a finite resource. I can only spend attention on minor problems by taking it away from major ones.

For example, right now, instead of wasting my time replying to this comment, I should be working on a new project we're launching soon. And I think I will, so forgive me if I drop out of this thread.

Adding a google or searchyc search box is about the same amount of work as typing that comment, and several orders of magnitude more useful.

    <form action="http://searchyc.com/search/yc">
      <input name="search[id]"> 

I had already added a link to Google site search. See the footer.


That's not very useful. It takes less time to just go to Google and type it there.

- searchyc usually returns better results

- a search box is much more useful than a link

- it should be in the header, or at least not in a place that nobody ever looks at

But by now it's obvious that that's not going to happen.

But it's what users asked for. How could that be wrong?

(See how complicated such matters actually are? Nothing that goes on the front page of the site is ever a trivial matter.)

The link is an improvement over nothing, at a minimum it will cut down on the number of newbies posting 'how do I search' questions, at least, if they scan the footer.

Experience shows that this is probably not the case but then at least we can point them to the link without having to explain site prefixes, which is still a net gain.

If it were in the header (which is pretty crowded) it would be more useful, but I can see that that might lead to complications, if it were a miniature form in the header it would be better still, but I can see that that would really be much harder to integrate.

Searchyc.com probably can't handle the load if they are the 'sole provider of search' for HN, so it looks like that is not an option, when the HN robots.txt file locked out google because you had to crunch the numbers for the applications it was apparently touch-and-go on searchyc.

Now I'm really curious what your secret startup is that may solve the problem, and I hope they roll out soon.

I am currently part of a start-up, Favetop.com, which offers direct site searching through just the click of a site icon. I've found it to be quite convenient for searching sites directly and much better than constantly adding site prefixes or visiting the actual websites to search. You may want to give it a try and see if it helps you out.

I haven't been here very long but I have never seen a post by PG with no upvotes. This thread has two - something is amiss.

Here's one where PG was actually downvoted into oblivion: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=190451

Because attention is a finite resource. I can only spend attention on minor problems by taking it away from major ones.

I think you've just identified one of the best ways to "break out of the box", or dare I say, make a paradigm shift.

The issue isn't whether attention (or anything else) is finite; it's "how to make it infinite", at least for the time being.

Example: I need to add horizontal scrolling (a critical user need) to my Report Writer. I would also like to add F-Key View Toggling (a nice to have) to my Form Look-ups. As a single founder, I am constantly asking myself, "How can I have it all, even with limited resources?" I have found that the trick is not to focus on what's limited, but on how to embrace my constraints and use them to get clever out of necessity. In this case, I wrote a single program that used the same routines to do both.

This doesn't work all the time, but it's surprising how often it does. You never know until you try. You never try until you have to. You never have to until you realize how limited your resources really are.

This is the craigslist logic. Sticky sites can convince themselves they can do no wrong because really they can't. Users would need a really strong reason to leave in droves (friendster). Even spam comments would not lose users quickly unless they were overwhelming because hacker news has a critical mass of people who would have an impossible time moving en masse.

Just because people still use craigslist doesn't mean they are doing it right. A decent mapping ui and post reply management would make the site so much better, users happy, and destroy the competition. Instead Craig says basically what you say here. It's the complacent mediocrity of monopoly.

No offense. I don't even care about search. But I disagree that you shouldn't add features unless the lack of the feature would lose users. You should add features that make users happy.

There's an opportunity cost for every feature added, and it's not just the time lost in implementation. More features = more code, which means more things you have to consider each time you add the next feature. More features = more interface complexity, which means additional things that your users have to consider each time they use the site. More complexity also tends to scare off new users. And more features = more bugs, which is a further drain on productivity in the future.

Didn't we just have this thread yesterday when Google introduced a few new features that everyone seems to hate? ("Changing crap", I believe PG called them.)

Besides, the argument isn't that you shouldn't add features unless the lack of the feature would lose users. It's that you should be careful which features you add so that you can spend your limited resources on the features that truly delight your users. Big companies usually aren't mediocre because they're complacent (well, perhaps except GM). They become mediocre because their userbase is broad enough that every feature they introduce will piss someone off, so they end up with collections of features such that any given person will love 10% of the product and loathe the remaining 90%.

Ok, but honestly, do you think or not that 3 lines of html code should be added, submitting to searchyc.com? I think most of the users here strongly agree.

This community is already pretty positively biased towards YC, note that there is no added value provided by HN technologically, it's just a matter of community. So it would be wise to avoid pushing hard the YC search startup if users don't like it.

Also the "I'm wasting my time" replying to this comment is the wrong attitude. Paul Graham and everybody else is supposed to just reply or not if he got something better to do, but replying this way honestly is not great.

I think that there should be a link to Search, either Google or SearchYC (I'm biased towards Google because I work there, but SearchYC is a good site too). Which there is, now.

I don't think there should be a search box. The canonical position to put a search box is either top center or top right of the page, but there's no room for it there - he'd have to either remove some of the top bar links or shift the whole page down. Shifting the page down is a mistake; part of the appeal of HN is that the focus is on content. And honestly, I find that all the links on the top row are more useful than search would be.

I agree that "I'm wasting my time" is the wrong attitude. He should have said nothing. It's ironic, though, that this sort of uncommunication is exactly what people lambast corporations for. A lot of corporate anti-patterns arise because they're the best response to an impossible tradeoff, not because corporations are stupid.

I think it's the craigslist logic, but I think you're missing the point about finite resources.

He's not saying that features shouldn't be added period, but that those features aren't worth even the minor resources required to add them.

painkillers and vitamins.

> painkillers and vitamins.

I can't make heads or tails of this comment. Could you please explain?

He's referring to the classic problem in a startup of distinguishing between things users want (vitamins) and those they really want (painkillers). It's critical to concentrate on the latter because you have so little margin for error.

I assume it means that some features are "good for you," while others are opiates; and possibly that this is a bad thing because opiates mask pain, and graphing pain is a crucial part of iterating a design, so the more opiates a design has, the more confounding factors there will be to evolving a good core product. (That's not to say that I agree that on-site search is an opiate, but an argument could be made for it.)

EDIT: Oh, wait, I screwed that up completely. It's from here: http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2008/03/does-...

Apparently, painkillers are the good things. Goes to show how weak analogies won't actually carry your message.

I could have sworn that it was posted in a wrong thread, but your explanation makes me doubt.

I don't have a better word to describe "painkillers", as he is trying to convey the difference between want and need. I want candy, but it's also not good for me. What word conveys that, and isn't harmful in some way?

How about adding this to the header or footer?

<a href="http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Aycombinator.com>; Search</a>

Ok, I'll try it for a while. It really doesn't seem like it's worth adding a link for something so trivial though.

Any time I see something valuable on HN I quickly bookmark it so that I can read it later on without the hassle to search it. Search is a hassle on YC. I think we need a solution especially having been used to quick and effective google search for almost anything.

That's what searchyc.com is all about.

Google is a good solution, searchyc.com is even better.

"... searchyc.com is even better. ..."

I'll second that. searchyc is my HN search of choice. Works every time. Why are users complaining about finding things?

In a sense, HN is itself a bookmark site once logged in. That is, by looking at the "saved stories" link from my profile, I see what I've upvoted. Hence an incentive to upvote not just good items, but items I want to look at multiple times. (No such "saved comments" index exists, though?)

Yes, unless of course your 'saved stories' link has more than 210 entries on it.

edit: Hey, wow! This seems to have been quietly fixed, I really missed this and I'm pretty happy it's repaired.

I compulsively bookmark anything interesting I read on the net these days. Nothing is as annoying as wanting to refer to something I've read before and only able to find it again after a huge googling effort.

The easiest way to bookmark HN articles is to leave a comment.

That's not correct, the easiest way to bookmark is to upvote.

The articles then end under your 'saved' list (see your profile links) and you can find them again later.

These lists were limited in length until recently but it seems that that has now been fixed and you can go all the way back to when you joined HN.

Thanks! that was quick!

If it was trivial, there wouldn't be so many questions about how to search the site :) But thanks.

Edit: Or maybe if you're the type of person who can't figure it out, you're not the type of person who should be posting on HackerNews in the first place?

Anyone that has content that's interesting to hackers is "the type of person who should be posting on HackerNews". I love this community (and hacking in general) in large part because it's not filled with that sort of elitism; anyone who's able to contribute in a positive way is welcome.

Would be great if you shared the number of hits to that url after about a month or so.

Since searchyc do such a nice job, it seems a shame to throw the link to google instead.

But, it's not my site...

For convenience, maybe that link should be http://www.google.com/search?&domains=news.ycombinator.c...

For convenience it should be a box with a button posting to searchyc.com, it's much better at searching HN than google. But something is better than nothing.

I think the real thing is that many people would just like a more convenient way to search this site, I've become accustomed to using searchyc but no one really knows that exists until someone points it out.

Even if it is just a link that says Search that points to a custom google search it is far more convenient than the point that it is at now. To be honest a custom google search isn't really a complicated feature, but if you believe that this site does not need a search feature anywhere I'll respect that and continue to use searchyc just threads about how to search will continue to appear.

Whereas if I let the frontpage get filled up with crap, or the comment threads filled up with mean or stupid comments, people would start leaving pretty quickly. So almost all the time I spend thinking about HN is spent thinking about how to avoid that.

I'm afraid that is an excuse; it's a solved problem (almost) because of the users and editors.

Search is also a solved problem: link/form submission to Searchyc - done. :)

(but I get the feeling you have something against searchyc - it always gets ignored despite being a great resource)

Good content is exactly why hacker news needs search. There is a ton of info that would be useful to people after one day. Which is about as long as it stays on the homepage. If content is your number one priority giving people a search box would create more good content.

To which YC funded startup are you reffering?

I like not having a search option. It keeps me learning things at random. It keeps the site simple and constantly fresh.

Do you use the web the same way ?

When on the web, I pretend to be a Markov chain that has some nonzero chance of stopping at each step.

>The result is a spartan site with good content.

Umm, yah, content that users constantly gripe they cannot access (search) easily

it's 2010, search on a link aggregation site is, imo, fundamental, not "crap"

Shall we put it to a vote ?

Even if people said they'd prefer I focused on adding features like search rather than the quality of submissions and comments, which is unlikely, I still wouldn't.

I find it hard to believe that a programmer of your caliber would make it seem as though an off-site submission is such a big deal that it would take away significant time from working on the quality of the submissions and comments.

I'm not 1% the programmer that you are and it wouldn't take me more than 15 minutes to put a search box (after all, it's just a piece of static text) in the HN footer.

See, all those 'quality submissions and comments' are pretty much useless if you can't find them, what's the use of having this amazing body of content if there is no easy way to peruse it?

The content goes by so quick now that if you look the other way for three days that you'll have missed tons of good stuff, an easy way to search would make all of HN accessible, not just what is current right now.

What you don't get is that attention is a zero sum game. There are an infinite number of minor things that would be pretty good to do that would "just take a minute." The only way to do good work is to ruthlessly blow them off and to focus only on the few things that matter most.

Ironically, this thread, though a complete bike-shed waste of time in itself, is not entirely bad, because it's also causing me to spend time thinking about the kind of problem I should be thinking about. One of the big questions I've been mulling over is what to do about points on comments. I'm increasingly inclined not to display them, because an upvote or downvote is equivalent to a very inarticulate comment. And this subthread is an argument for doing so, because the only reason I felt obliged to respond to you is the number of points your comment got. If points weren't displayed I wouldn't have felt I had to respond.

Basically, points exacerbate the "someone is wrong on the Internet" trap.

Apologies for the frankness. I keep trying diplomacy but I suck at it.

A less informed person might think that since you got your clock cleaned by popular vote, you seem much more inclined to discount popular vote than you did a month ago.

I have lost much of my admiration for HN. But I have an awesome appreciation of what you think is important to spend your time on. I have to admit I am mostly wrong and I am still trying to learn as much as I can from you, but why the hell do you think here that Jacques is giving you a bad requirement for your site? You sound pompous and disconnected.

EDIT: And am I to understand you monitor the voting records on HN? That sounded crazy, but I just heard it via email. The internet is crazy. Can't be true.

Comment and community quality are such hard problems to solve, and are orders of magnitude more important for a site like this than features like search. Sure, it might be easy to add search. Or rankings. Or a million other things a small minority would appreciate. But that's not how you make a good site that is optimal for the larger population. An option should be very useful for a large percentage of users to make it worth adding to the complexity of something. Users say they want every feature under the sun, but after a lot of that, when they see something well designed like the iPad, and they're generally struck by how nice it is to be free of that grabbag design philosophy.

Speaking anecdotally, I've tried to dig up a past item maybe 5 times in the past year via search, and none of them were very important. Compare that to the maybe 300 times I've been back to the site, solely for the content quality. I could do without HN searchability altogether very easily, I very rarely reread things. I would venture that this is a common usage pattern of a news site with ephemeral content.

You sound like an entitled and disconnected user, asking why he's not adding something so simple that you personally want, rather than thinking about what would make this site better for everyone. Search is not going to make the site better for most, and people that respond to a vote about the subject are not going to be the apathetic majority.

The argument PG brought was that it would take time away from the other work. But as it is it incrementally takes time away from all of us, and all the time.

The spending of that one or two minutes at integrating searchyc.com or google.com would come back 1000 fold over the life time of the site, and probably much more than 1000 fold, and if he's that busy he maybe should pass the torch to people that can fully concentrate on making HN, the best site of its kind right now even better.

I personally find it very hard to believe that the trade-off is as stark as is portrayed here, working on a site like this is not in 'absolutes' like that, you simply do stuff because it has to be done. If a YC funded start-up would display that attitude to their users they wouldn't stand much a chance, in fact it is exactly opposite to what Paul says in other places to how one should deal with users.

It seems more like a stubborn 'I'll do this my way' kind of thing, Paul has kept the door solidly locked to others contributing to HN, but then goes and makes a big case about how he has only so much time to spend. It's hard to be arguing both of those at the same time.

Anecdotally, I've used search 100's of times to find a comment or an article that I'm pretty sure I read on HN but at the time didn't have an application for so I didn't bookmark it. This happens all too often in the tech sector, after all you can't know in advance which technology will land on your plate 3 months from now.

"Paul has kept the door solidly locked to others contributing to HN"

Does he? If you send a bug fix or feature patch to the HN arc codebase, he tosses it without looking at it? Or does he look at it and then take a decision whether to include it or not? I would imagine the latter (please correct me if I am wrong).

That he refuses to consider some suggestions, no matter how much sense it may make to the person making the suggestion (or even bystanders) is the exact same behaviour that every open source project's BDFL exhibits. I think you exaggerate with the "door solidly locked to other s contributing". If you send in a bug fix patch for example, I am sure he'd incorporate it asap.

Now the complaint reduces to "but PG refused to consider this feature though I (and many others) think it is a must have"

The traditional answer to "but the BDFL refuses to incorporate my suggestions which were liked by all the users I spoke to" is "then fork the code, and/or build something better".

My view, fwiw, is that we (users of HN) have the right to request features and present a logical case and PG (as the chief programmer/owner/BDFL etc of HN) can accept or refuse those requests for any reason whatsoever. If he explains the rationale that is a bonus, but he doesn't really need to. It is his project.

If he refuses to incorporate our fixes/suggestions, we (the hacker users of HN) can either go along with his decision xor fork the codebase (or start a new project from scratch using our preferred tools) and build something better (and I know a couple of HNers who are trying exactly that).


'nough said. I've been asked 'from on high' to stop this thread and others like it so I will.

I read HN multiple times a day and have for a while now. I do not care about search at all. This site doesn't really have any features, and I don't care - I come here for the community. Just another data point fwiw.

Keeping a vision intact often does require absolutism. It's helpful to experiment, but in the end, I think a maintainer has to stick to his guns to keep anything from devolving into crap. Guidance from users is often stunningly wrong when taken from a higher vantage point. I hate to keep running back to Jobs, but if he listened to popular opinion and let them guide what he wanted, his products would end up reverting to the mean. Instead he keeps his door "solidly locked".

To implement search well is not a trivial task at all, and distracts from the much, much more important task of making the community self regulate towards quality. If all you want is a link to site:news.ycombinator.com, then a bookmark should be fine for you and others who do it frequently, and typing it in should be fine for those of us who search infrequently. No additional site complexity needed. If people ask how to search it, then they'll learn a neat and generally useful trick when someone tells them about site:xyz on Google.

Edit: And in response to "he should bring on more people if he's so time-limited", bringing on more people frequently causes more of a time drain than it solves.

Does it really take more time to type "site:news.ycombinator.com my query" into the OmniBar than it does to find a text box on the page and type "my query" into it?

I've used search 100s of times as well to find a comment or article that I previously read, but I just Google it. I don't see how having a dedicated search box would be any faster. (And if he used Lucene or a custom algorithm instead of offloading things to Google, it'd probably be significantly worse.)

"And am I to understand you monitor the voting records on HN?"

As revealed here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1278680

From that post, you can't conclude that pg "monitors the voting records" as a general practice, only that he's willing to look at them when someone specifically complains about the ranking algorithm. Read the parent comment to that one -- the guy complained about what type of stories were on the front page; pg made the point that the complainer wasn't doing his part to get other stories up there.

I don't think that Mahmuds' point was about the ranking algorithm, it was about the submissions themselves. As I pointed out in that other thread the fact that he didn't vote for those stories was his whole point, to quote his voting record back in public to chew him out is imo really below the belt and was - at least to me - totally unexpected.

I'd be careful about messing with points on comments (and with karma more generally).

You might enjoy imagining a forum where smart people anonymously engage in civilized discussion without need for the kind of lowbrow pleasure-center-stimulation that the current karma system provides, but I doubt such a thing could exist; if it did, it would probably be much less exciting than HN. Smart people who enjoy good discussion are still people, and most of what people do is seek out easy rewards.

You've built something almost impossible here: a place where it's very rewarding to say interesting things and very unrewarding, generally, to say uninteresting things. Don't look this gift horse too directly in the mouth. If you kill the point display on comments I think you'll kill a lot of the content on this site.

Not to mention that, though it's easy to make fun of people who get too sucked in to internet arguments, there's frankly nothing wrong with people going out of their way to correct other people and that kind of behavior is pretty fundamental to crowd conversations like HN. It's probably annoying that jacquesm's popular approval forced you to respond to him, but I (and others) enjoyed reading your comment; I think you'd be hard-pressed to show that you writing it was a net loss activity.

LambdaTheUltimate? No points there, and it's resisted the influx of trolls better than most.

I think the points helped you gain a more accurate idea of whether responding was worthwhile. The more people support an idea, the more response it calls for.

Furthermore, an upvote or downvote is equivalent to a very concise comment.

The base case of concise and inarticulate are identical.

The second most concise form of comment would be to say simply "yes" or "no." Do you feel such comments add to a discussion on account of their conciseness?

Comments like yes, no, agree, disagree, good post, and lame are concise, but also boring wastes of time which add little to a discussion. The aggregate measure of those sentiments (as expressed in a point total) is both more concise and of some value, as it serves to encourage and highlight good posts and discourage thoughtless or pointless comments. It also provides a relatively unobtrusive outlet for those who wish to voice appreciation of thoughtfulness; this is preferable to the sea of "agree"s and "disagree"s that might spring up in the absence of a point system.

I feel such comments when presented like news.yc votes or FriendFeed likes add more value because of their conciseness.

  (define (value conversation-element)
    (- (benefit conversation-element)
       (cost conversation-element)))

  (define (cost conversation-element)
    (- (conciseness conversation-element)))
I'll leave the definition of (benefit conversation-element) as an exercise for the reader.

Basically, points exacerbate the "someone is wrong on the Internet" trap.

This absolutely squares with my experience. I wouldn't want to lose visibility into my own comment scores, but I could do without seeing everyone else's.

Found using searchyc.com:


(google doesn't work well when you search for words in the UI of HN)

> There are an infinite number of minor things that would be pretty good to do that would "just take a minute."

The search link is at least as relevant as the bookmarklet link and certainly more relevant than the webmynd and mixpanel links with images.

> Basically, points exacerbate the "someone is wrong on the Internet" trap.

While i am not sure about that, I suggest that voting for comments should be delayed like the temporarily hidden reply link, that may reduce some reflexive voting.

I like the idea of getting rid of points. I dislike the idea of losing the ability to quickly scan for comments the community thinks are good. Because of the clever way new comments are briefly at/near the top of the page, something should stand in for "this is probably worth reading".

Make something people want, right?

If the majority of folks here want search, and given that it wouldn't take much time to add a link to SearchYC, why not do it?

The reason I wouldn't add a link to SearchYC is the same that I don't add a link to one of the HN iPhone apps: I don't know the authors or the app well enough to anoint it as official. I don't mind if people want to build stuff on top of HN, but I have a much higher threshold for making something part of HN.

Bravo: this is the first time I've seen you publicly acknowledge that they exist. Baby steps!

You know them well enough to invite them to a private party at your office. Do you know the CO2stats people better, given that you're including a cross-site web-bug javascript from them that frequently blocks the site's page rendering?

It's a few hundred bytes of <form>, you could remove it later if they flamed out with the same ridiculous ease with which you could add it.

Searchyc is at least as reliable if not more reliable than HN, I think you'd be in pretty good hands there.

In all the time that I've been using it I think I've seen it down only twice, HN over the same period numerous times.

HN handles considerably more traffic than SearchYC.

Well, that's a difficult one: Either PG is right and nobody needs search, then we'll find it doesn't matter, or I'm right and we do need search and then the searchyc guys will need to beef up their system.

But then at least we do know for sure we need that search.

As it stands, SearchYC doesn't get enough daily uniques to justify beefing up the system. Frankly, SearchYC was an experiment in how quickly I could learn a new technology (RoR) and build a system. I was completely expecting someone to come along a few months later to make SearchYC obsolete. It's been 2.5 years, and I don't think that's happened yet.

If you got a lot more traffic because YC would anoint you the 'official' YC search engine would you be able to handle it?

Would you commit to beefing up the system to whatever it took?

Well, no. SearchYC has no revenue. I maintain SearchYC and host it out of a box in my closet as a service to the community. It doesn't make any sense for me to commit to do "whatever it takes".

That being said, with a few hundred dollars worth of hardware and some software changes, SearchYC should be able to gracefully handle a couple orders of magnitude more traffic.

Consider yourself funded if it should come to that.

In all honesty, I have never even noticed that HN didn't have search. Coming from reddit, I'm used to googling with "site:" and I've always done that with HN as well. My point is that HN does not need search.

I think you mostly want search when you decide to submit a link. Since you don't want to submit a duplicate article, you have to check searchyc first.

I think it very much depends on how you use HN, if you use it just for the consumption of 'news' then I can see why you would not need search as much, but HN is much more than that.

It's an awesome resource, there are plenty of comments that are literally gems when you're stuck on something or starting with some new tech and that's when search comes in really handy.

For instance, how to start with clojure: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1033503

tell me how you'd ever find that without a search?


First, I'd stare at the Clojure webpage, and try some examples in the REPL. I'd feel like I'm not grokking idiomatic Clojure, so I'd try some Google searches, but find nothing compelling. I'd hit random Clojure links on Hacker News and Reddit for a few weeks, but give up and move to a language with a more active community.

A year later, I'd accidentally find it at the bottom of an unrelated post and yell "If only I had that a year ago!"

I concede that search is sometimes useful for any site, but google does a pretty good job and I respect pg's reluctance to mess with it. I do keep a list of HN articles that I want to be able to go back to.

If you submit a duplicate link, it counts as an upvote. That is assuming the url is exactly the same.

Plenty of times though, the same subject will pop out in a number of different locations, searching before posting helps a lot in avoiding getting the same content on the homepage twice.

This is exactly the reason why we need search on YC.

Having a search button would simply "officialise" the default mode of searching on searchyc and then coming back here to submit the story.

Just on the general topic of site search, this is what I use on my site (names changed):

    <form action="http://www.google.com/search" method="get">
      <input type="hidden" name="sitesearch" value="news.ycombinator.com">
      <input type="text" name="q" size="20">
      <input type="submit" value="search" name="submit">

From another thread, here's an explanation of what WebMynd actually does: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1329398

There is a misconception that it is somehow competitive or equivalent to searchyc - it is not. And that the reason that searchyc is not linked to from HN is because WebMynd is - that is not the case.

I think the confusion stems from the fact that the button at the bottom reads 'hn search'.

And here's my snarkier version: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1194542

> It's less useless than the 5 IE toolbars your annoying relatives live with, but just as obnoxious.


That's a funny bit of writing, but really, when you think about it the searchyc guys deserve a round of applause for what they've built and that they did it without being funded or any kind of profit motive makes it even more impressive.

I just added a SearchYC plugin for the Firefox search box if anybody else wants to use it: http://mycroft.mozdev.org/search-engines.html?name=searchyc....

google: search term site:news.ycombinator.com, it's very good, and it could be better than anything pg et al. can throw together in a hurry :D

From experience, it's not as good as a tailormade search like searchyc.com, they store a lot of meta data about stuff on the site and that helps narrowing down your searches considerably.

PG: How about creating a competition for making the best search for news.ycombinator.com?

Potential way it could be arranged: E.g. require that participants have their yc name as part of the user agent string while crawling and that they are allowed to maximum crawl 1000-10000 threads(with all comments) and create search for that. Or perhaps create a recent dataset with stories/threads so all participants have the same data.

Potential price for the winner: Serve search on news.ycombinator.com for one year?

site:news.ycombinator.com on google?

A crude solution: Google "site:news.ycombinator.com QUERY-STRING".

If you make something, and it works really well, and lots of people love it, and you own it, well, you can do whatever the hell you want with it. The people who complain about this or that about it can shove off.

I turned HN into a Fluid app. Problem solved here.

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