It’s the fuzz

Which is more annoying, fuzzy searching that is excessively fuzzy, or searching that is painfully literal?

A fine example of the first is the default search on our incident logging system, TopDesk. Operators can search all the incidents, and the default (which can only be switched off in advanced mode) is a fuzzy search. This is so fuzzy that it is almost useless, returning several times as many results as actually contain the term you’re searching on. Furthermore, the search term is not highlighted in the result , and as interface doesn’t display all the text in a record at once, and the text is distributed among several boxes, you cannot easily find whether a given result contains your search term or not. The database of records is now many thousand in number, so if you are not careful you will get several screens of records which you will have to sift through to find the one you want.

The opposite problem, over-literalism, can be found with Diigo. It will search only on the words you give it, no plurals or other inflected forms. This means many searches have to be done two or more times with other possibilities and I’ve taken to filling the descriptions of my bookmarks with likely search terms.

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