Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why is Gmail search so crap?

Why is Gmail search so crap? I can never find anything with it... For example today I was looking for my sisters phone number which is in an email conversation that is fairly unambiguous. So I search for "sarah phone", "sarah number", "sarah phone number" etc. These all come up with a few or no results but not the conversation that actually has the number. Finally I found it with "sarah's phone number".

I really expect Google to be a lot smarter with search - an apostrophe shouldn't stop it from matching a word! And ideally the search would be fuzzy so I could at least look through a list of conversations to find this one (thus training their search algorithm). I would even expect GMail to know/learn that "phone" and "number" should match conversations with long numbers in them. Perhaps the GMail team needs some of the core search guys to really spice things up.


Joel said...

since google seems to do this already, i suspect it is because of computational limitations.

usually "sarah's" in both the lexicon and the search term would be truncated to sarah, and then if you actually were explicitly searching for "sarah's" it'd to a manual search through the document.

but linking the "phone number" term to longish numbers should be simple enough

Squirk said...

A lot of the intelligence of the Web search comes from observing links between documents, as well as patterns within the documents themselves.

That's not to say that there aren't other things that can be done with e-mail searching (such as the phone number format you mention).