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INGENIOUS: Central Focus on Search, in the style of

edited September 2007 in Vanilla 1.0 Help
I stumbled upon a new Web service called Get Satisfaction which offers a hybrid between an FAQ and a forum, with the main emphasis upon search: you cannot simply make a post, you must first type in a question and are shown a few search results based upon existing threads that might already answer your question. If the 3 or 4 results provided do not address your question, you can just continue with your post on the same page, with the question you typed automatically inserted as your title.

This is ingenious because it tackles head-on a problem all forums have: the same questions being asked again and again because people are too lazy to search. Having been an early advocate of forums, I eventually came to the conclusion that this was their fatal flaw: that good posts, containing valuable information, slip out of view too rapidly.

By building an awareness of existing threads right into the posting process, the Get Satisfaction interface allows everyone to build upon existing knowledge rather than start from scratch every time.

Get Satisfaction are primarily aiming their service at companies, using the slogan "People Powered Customer Service", and you can see a good example here:

Timbuk2's Customer Support Forum/FAQ, powered by Get Satisfaction

As you can see, companies are forced to have their Forum/FAQ appear within Get Satisfaction's website and, obviously, that's going to be a sticking point for most. Get Satisfaction want to become the main destination people think of when they need answers regarding any company - it's an ambitious aim and makes sense for a company desperate to recoup their investment but, unfortunately, it cripples the wider potential of this interface innovation.

If someone could find a way to replicate this interface in Vanilla, I believe it would give a huge boost to forums on every subject, not only because it cuts down on duplicate questions and increases the shelf-life of existing content, but because, more importantly, it significantly lowers the barrier to participation: getting lurking users to post is a problem we all share, I believe that this interface is the ultimate encouragement, fundamentally changing the way users perceive forums.

Would it be difficult to apply this interface to Vanilla? It seems to me that Vanilla's underlying engine would be the perfect platform.

Opinions please, what do you think?


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    I must say I was using one of the only 2 other forums I use (both car related, one running iB, the other vB) today and the vB one has a feature whereby when you start a topic, it ajax's up a box with search results based on the contents of your topic. I tried starting 2 topics and didnt bother starting either because i either found the answer I was looking for or just picked up on a slightly older topic of the same...err..topic. I'm not one to advocate (generally) ugly looking disfunctional forums so packed with features they're impossible to use, but I did find it an extremely intuitive feature. I guess something along those lines as an addon, possibly mixed up with something along the lines of the 'default page' addon which just popped up would give you roughly what you're talking about. Great idea.
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    Love the sound of that vB forum feature Mini. Feel up to it? ;) I don't suppose it could be hacked out of the live search extension could it?
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    Wow, great to hear that, at least, the idea is out there in the wild, not just on that one website.

    Mini, I'd love to take a look at it in action, what is the vb site you use?

    From your description, it appears the main difference is that Get Satisfaction refashions "creating a topic" as "asking a question" and makes it the first thing you see on every page - I like that in the same way that I like Vanilla's high-profile placement of the "Start a new discussion" link.

    Apart from the neatness of having previous relevant threads ajax'd up, I do have concerns about hard it would be to adapt existing forum search engines to sensibly parse natural language questions rather than individual search terms.
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    edited September 2007 You'll have to sign up though.
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    Nice, very nice - a neat, unobtrusive feature that effortlessly alerts the user to useful posts, discourages redundant posts and increases the lifespan of existing content but which does not insert any extra steps into the what the user has to do. This is almost a perfect feature and I bet it will eventually become part of the core vb app.

    I'm going to do some digging, find out what add-on they're using and try to learn what is involved under the hood - perhaps something similar could be applied to Vanilla, what do you think? I think it would fit right into Vanilla's stream-lined sensibility.

    Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.
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    I very much doubt something like that would go in the core, but as an extension that would rule :)
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    Indeed. I was pleasantly surprised when it popped up tbh. Of all the xBB's out there vBB seems pretty nice.
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    I took a look at Jazzman's LiveSearch add-on and it is pretty cool. I'm surprised I never looked at it until now. I don't think it could be modified to do the kind of search on Timbuk2, but I will look at it further since I am taking a javascript class now and it would be good practice for me.
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    I love two things about this website. The first is the design. It rocks! Expecially how the question is in a blue quote box. Secondly, If you see on the page it has like a little digg button type of thing going on. Apart from showing the number of replies it also shows the number of followers (I'm presuming number of times people have bookmarked the post).
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