Wild card

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Wild card

Post by dalehileman » Fri Sep 30, 2005 5:20 pm

Anyone know how to simulate a wild card in the exact phrase box

Eg, suppose I'd like to learn how many different dogs' names often appear in since ? was a pup
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Sep 30, 2005 5:40 pm

Dale,

The search function currently does not allow wildcards or placeholder characters. I believe that a revamping of the search function is one of the technical issues that Phil plans to look at in due course. It's actually a more complex programming problem than you might think, so I imagine it may take a while.
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Post by dalehileman » Fri Sep 30, 2005 5:56 pm

Erik: Thank you I can well believe it. However, I was floored to learn that after all these years Google hasn't incorporated the feature as it would be invaluable to many of us

Incidentally, very minor point and hardly urgent at all; but it would be nifty if refresh were automatic as in WO
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Post by haro » Fri Sep 30, 2005 6:06 pm

Dale, you are right. Google made it to the top because it was the fastest search engine when it was launched, but the fact it doesn't allow wildcards is its biggest drawback. The sad thing is, these days almost all other search engines except a few pretty peculiar ones are Google-based. Even search engines that had been around for years before Google appeared, most of them allowing wildcards in the 'nineties, now are using Google behind the scene, and the wildcards are gone. It's a shame.
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Post by Phil White » Fri Sep 30, 2005 8:46 pm

It's possible. I've just been working on the search functions for the new site incarnation, and I think I can see a way. It will be a while before it goes up though, as I'm not doing anything else on this version of the forum, and the slightly modified version will go up with the new site.

Originally posted by dalehileman
Incidentally, very minor point and hardly urgent at all; but it would be nifty if refresh were automatic as in WO
Pardon?
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Post by dalehileman » Fri Sep 30, 2005 9:43 pm

Phil: Don't hurry on my account as it's not such a critical issue with WW. It's Google that needs the wild card, in the worst way

Refresh--to update a page you have to click on the icon with the wiggly lines, kind of a minor nuisance

I would like to entrench WO = Wordorigins WW = Wordwizard PF = Phrase Finder
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Post by Phil White » Fri Sep 30, 2005 10:36 pm

Wildcard searches already work on the forum (always have done, it's just undocumented).
Use an underscore for a single letter or a percentage sign for any number of letters. Thus, your query would need "since % a pup".
It only works on the forum (and on the promised new site) though, not on Google & co. In the final version, I'll also allow the more traditional asterisks and question marks.
On forum searches, this is very useful for looking for words which may or may not be hyphenated, such as "bona-roba": Simply enter "bona_roba" or "bona%roba" (the latter will capture spaces as well, but may give some unexpected results).

Still not clear about your last question. When do you need to refresh a page? I can assure you, automatic refreshing of this page, for instance, would drive you dotty.
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Post by Phil White » Fri Sep 30, 2005 11:33 pm

Okay, you've just cost me an hour of my life!

The only major search engine I can find that uses wildcards is AltaVista (http://www.altavista.com). It only seems to support the asterisk (any number of characters), and it's not documented. Thus, your sample search would be "when * was a pup", which sadly returns 119,000 hits, because it finds such things as a page from the script of Dead Poets' Society which has the word "when" no less than 127 words before "was a pup". Other searches, however, work pretty well; for instance, the exact phrase "wheelbarrow * rain water" finds only eleven hits, nearly all of which refer to one of my favourite poems. A search for the individual words turns up a quarter of a million hits. The trick seems to be to use phrases as distinctive as possible before and after the asterisk.

It doesn't appear to support the wildcard to complete a word (i.e. "geographic*" to find "geographic" or "geographical". It does, however, support complex Boolean expressions.

I stopped using AltaVista years ago, but I suspect I shall be using it more often now that I've discovered that it handles wildcards to some degree.
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Post by haro » Sat Oct 01, 2005 12:22 am

Phil, HotBot still supports wildcards, both asterisks and question marks. The asterisk may be used at the beginning of a word too.
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Post by dalehileman » Sat Oct 01, 2005 1:25 am

Thanks all

By "refresh" I mean for example the algorithm that automatically inserts your thread, bubbles up your followup, or updates no. of replies without having to click on the icon. In some sites this happens automatically without having to call it up. To be sure not a major issue
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Oct 01, 2005 3:35 am

Dale,

On the right side of the 'Active Topics' page, exactly opposite the box with the drop-down options that is preceded by 'Active Topics Since', you will notice a second box whose contents read either 'Reload page every XX minutes' or 'Don't reload automatically'. The XX relates to a time interval anywhere between 1 minute and 15 minutes. If you select anything other than 'Don't reload automatically', the Active Topics page will refresh itself as frequently as you have specified in the drop-down options, and does everything else you mentioned in the posting immediately above this.

It would be more useful and more accurate to call this facility a 'function' rather than an 'algorithm'.
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Post by Phil White » Sat Oct 01, 2005 9:19 am

Hans Jörg,
Those were the days, when HotBot was an insider tip and by far the fastest engine on the Web... All of ... errr ... six or seven years ago!

I tried the wildcards on HotBot last night and it seemed to be ignoring them. Perhaps I just tried it with some poor search terms. Mind you, I was as tired as a newt when I did it.

Unless I'm mistaken, HotBot uses the Lycos engine by default, so Lycos should also support them, at least in theory.
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Post by russcable » Sat Oct 01, 2005 11:05 pm

Sometimes I worry about you people...
* works just fine on Google. I put in "since * was a pup" with the quotes in the main search box and get sites with since Hector was a pup, since I was a pup, since she herself was a pup, etc. Am I missing the point?
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Oct 02, 2005 3:52 am

Russ, please don't worry on my account. ;-)

Wildcards are evidently more pupular search engine tools than everyone else here had reckoned. But what the point is in the forum code supporting wildcards whose existence the users of the forum are likely to discover only through happenstance lies beyond my wit.

To read about another concealed search function that ought to be public knowledge, see Microsoft reinvents its own wheel. Additional detail on this topic appears at http://lee.org/reading/computers/Search ... ervice.htm .
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Post by haro » Sun Oct 02, 2005 11:23 am

Phil, you are right. HotBot ignores cards - now. I swear I successfully used wildcards on HotBot two months ago as the only means to find info on some malware files that changed their names on every system start but left a part in the middle of the names unchanged. I fed HotBot with ???yb7* (or the like) and found the relevant pages that helped me solve a problem on my little brother's computer. However, now it seems HotBot has dropped wildcards too. How long will it take for AltaVista to drop those rudimentary wildcards too? What next? Will we have to pay for wildcard search? And will the money - again - go to Redmond?
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