I was just about to write a weblog post about an excellent product that I can't seem to shut up about. In preparing to do so, I thought about the fact that I heard about the product on another weblog but not one I've actually subscribed to. I wanted to give that person credit for this wonderful discovery but couldn't remember who it was.

I thought about this for a minute and realized that I knew the answer all along: Feedster. Since Feedster indexes a lot of weblogs, odds are good that I'd find it there. And I did.

This got me thinking. Why aren't web search engines smart enough to let me provide additional context, such as "I saw this on a web discussion board"?

Feedster clearly fills the void when it comes to weblogs, but think about it. Much like weblogs, I'd bet that 90% of the on-line discussion boards (at least the active ones) are powered by one of a very small set of software tools--maybe a dozen or so. Why hasn't someone spent the trivial effort to (1) detect and recognize them as discussion boards, and (2) index them with that knowledge?

This really isn't rocket surgery. Is it?

I can't be the only one who has wanted this on several occasions...

Posted by jzawodn at February 16, 2004 07:13 PM

Reader Comments
# Alden Bates said:

One problem is some message boards require you to register an account with them before you can even read the messages. I've come across a few ezboard message boards like that. Silly practice.

I guess the search engine could have a login on each board or something.

on February 16, 2004 07:31 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

That's no more a problem than password protected sites? It's just a particular type of password protected site.

on February 16, 2004 07:53 PM
# Jon Gales said:

I'd say the vast majority of message boards are open to read topics (in most sections at least). Sounds like a great idea to me. Even better, if this was the case, there would be an easy way to filter out message boards.

on February 16, 2004 08:03 PM
# Michael Fagan said:

I think BoardReader does exactly that.

on February 16, 2004 08:06 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Interesting. I just played with BoardReader a bit. It's pretty quick but the relvancy seems pretty poor.

It's better than nothing though. Thanks for the tip!

on February 16, 2004 08:29 PM
# said:

Heck if you want to improve the world, fix the pathetic search in the Yahoo stock message boards.

The search feature is a total joke.

Hmmm, I wonder if google will have to index it.

on February 16, 2004 08:42 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

You must be kidding...

The Yahoo Finance message boards aren't worth searching. They haven't been for years--if they *ever* were.

Compared to several other financial discussion sites, they're a joke.

on February 16, 2004 08:58 PM
# Oliver Thylmann said:

I think vivisimo.com goes roughly in that direction. It just goes the other way arround. You search and then you are presented with a kind of sub-topics which sometimes do help to find things faster as they move you into the right direction. Doesn't work all the time but seems to be the more general model of what you are suggesting.

Oliver Thylmann

on February 16, 2004 09:43 PM
# mwd said:

"This got me thinking. Why aren't web search engines smart enough to let me provide additional context,..."
By my count, Google offers context by site, usenet, news, catalogs, uncle sam, webquotes, dictionary, related to a specific site, glossary, assorted univerities by name, and assorted operating systems. It can guess phone numbers, packages, and flight numbers without being told what to expect. Perhaps they just haven't made it around to discussion groups yet.
However, let me ask you this: given the plentitude of contexts available, including quotes that may well have found your citation, how often have you used one of the contexts provided?

I know for me, only desperation drives me to specify a context.


on February 16, 2004 09:49 PM
# Fubar said:

Um, where did you pick up the saying "rocket surgery"?

on February 16, 2004 09:54 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Rocket Surgery combines Rocket Science and Brain Surgery.

on February 16, 2004 10:00 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


Few of the things you listed are the type of context I'm looking for. I'm intested in the type of page/site in which the answer is found: weblog, discussion board, etc.

Many of those you listed are merely shortcuts to other services, such as phone books, UPS, etc. My wish is more along the lines of web search vs. Usenet search.

on February 16, 2004 10:02 PM
# Keith said:

Wait, so what was the product you can't stop talking about?

on February 16, 2004 10:22 PM
# Fubar said:

Yes, I know (no duh!). But surely you didn't coin it (I know because one of my professors liked to say it).

on February 16, 2004 11:26 PM
# dws said:

"Rocket Surgery" is a claimed to be a Helenism.

on February 17, 2004 01:54 AM
# Fubar said:

Well, guess we got to the bottom of the chase and hit the nose on the head. I knew he didn't come up with a cure for world peace (I wasn't born on a turnip truck). Pardon the pun on words.

We're committed to exploiting our own dog food.

on February 17, 2004 02:56 AM
# Peter Caputa IV said:

Amen. A discussion board search engine would be awesome. Weblogs and discussion boards enable people to have conversations via the web. Without Feedster, discussions would be only among small groups that frequently read each other. Since feedster allows people to find out who is interested in the same topics at the same time, it facilitates meeting new people. A search engine for discussion boards may do the same thing. Discussion boards are isolated communities. There is only one member of my favorite discussion board that I know that frequents more than 2 or 3 discussion boards.

on February 17, 2004 06:10 AM
# Charles said:

Lockergnome have rss feeds for their Invision Power Board powered forums...surely it couldn't be hard to do the same for all the major BBs, then Feedster could index them.

on February 17, 2004 03:30 PM
# Hashim said:

I just used BoardReader again today after months of not using it. Seems they are using clustering in the results with helps the relevency a bit. Plus the cache is a life saver.

By the way, the comment above mine is spam.

on September 18, 2004 09:16 PM
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