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No, just give me what I searched for! 

Sunday, December 05, 2010 2:29:00 PM

This is the first of probably many articles about how stupid computers are.

Of course, the only reason computers can even begin to appear smart is because programmers (like myself) try to program smart things into the software, which we think will assist the user.

The problem is... What is smart in one situation is incredibly stupid in another situation!

For example:

I buy eBooks from, and it is an excellent and easy to use website that I really enjoy (mostly because it is one of the few who sells popular English eBooks to people living in Denmark - most others I tried does not offer the books I want because of some license rule).

Now they of course have a search functionality, and when I was searching for "Anne Mcaffrey" it was very smart that it listed all books by "Anne Mccaffrey" - with an extra "c" that I forgot.

But when I searched for "R.A. Salvatore", it tried to be smart again, and gave me all books written by anybody called "Salvatore" - and R.A. Salvatore's books was spread out over several pages!

In short: I had to find another website (who did not want to sell me books because I live in Denmark) that allowed me to search for specific author names in order to find all the books with him, and to find the first book in the series, and now on kobobooks I instead search for the title of the book I want to read next, which usually would appear on the first page of the search result.

Showing a message like "Sorry, no books written by Julian May was found" might not give any straight sale, but it will make me search for the other authors I know and like. While showing 500 books by people called "Julian" or "Maybe" will definetly piss me off, so I will not even try to search for other authors!


What did I learn of this?

Making search-functionality smart can be useful, but you really need to always include a way to search for specifically what the user needs, because when he actually knows what he is asking for, all "similar looking" result is pure garbage!

Of course I do stay with kobobooks because they actually sell many of the books I want to read. When there is only one place to buy, you have to live with it.

Just please don't call the search functionality for "smart" or "intelligent" because it is not!

Allan K. Nielsen, Kindbergs Program Udvikling
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