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Spreading the word ...


A main assumption behind Snaggle Search is that for any "topic" there are a handful of elite dedicated sites to that "topic" that provide dedicated site-specific search engine. Snaggle Search allows anyone to add these sites to our library and then join them together to create a powerful, specialized, and unified search.

Take this concept and apply it to torrents:



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At first glimpse, SnaggleSearch is a disappointment.

Anyone proposing a site like this has to remember that they are not operating in a vacuum -- that torrent search sites and software have come and gone, that they have been more or less successful, that there is a common set of problems which all of them face, which we've all encountered or will encounter, and that the burden lies on any new search site is not merely to equal what already exists, but to better it, or at least make it materially easier to use.

Let's see how that goes.

The main competitors, at the moment, are speckly.com for web-based search, and Bit-Che for standalone search.

1. SS searches BTJunkie. This is an error, because BTJunkie is a search engine for other sites. Now there's nothing wrong with that, but BTJunkie also searches private, members-only sites. Results from there can be extremely frustrating, viz, the torrent you want is only found at nunayabiz.com, which is for members only, registration is closed, and by invitation only when it is open.

That's a result that a public search site shouldn't report. I suppose that could be argued, but an engine that returns inaccessible results is pretty hard to differentiate from an engine that doesn't return any results.

2. SS's results are organized (but NOT sorted, of which more later) by the torrent site they came from. This is a classic error, emphasizing the aspect of the result that is of the LEAST interest to the searcher. I don't usually care which site the result comes from, only that I can get it from wherever that happens to be. The way Bit-Che and Speckly handle this should be instructive. While being able to sort by site-of-origin may have some small utility to some users, it should not be the main, center-stage organization. It should be hidden away and the valuable screen "real-estate" given to more needed, more used functions.

Does SS show a good collection of results? Let's see. I've been looking for shows featuring failed British restaurateur Keith Floyd, whose early TV series like "Floyd on Fish" were favorites of my youth. So let's ask SS to search

Keith Floyd

Not so good. I will expect a lot of engines to hit on everything Pink Floyd ever did. And sure enough, that happens with SS.

I'd like to restrict things to television shows, but there we hit the first of the common-to-all-searchers obstacles: different sites organize things differently, and there are no standards. Mysite.com calls them "TV shows", Yoursite.com calls them "Television", and theirsite.com calls them "Cooking shows" or "Comedy shows" or "Dramas" but no plain old "Shows".

Doesn't matter, because SnaggleSearch can't do it at all. SS fails to try to tackle the problem, let alone present anything new.

At any rate, the first relevant result I get is way down the line, at BTjunkie. So here's another error: the most relevant results, those that contain the exact phrase I searched for, should be ranked ahead of those that only contain some of the terms.

But SS filters the results by the search engines they came from, but it does not sort them at all, and I cannot resort them by name -- or apparently by anything else. Here, SS falls badly behind Bit-Che. I can't filter the results by seeds or lack thereof (duh) or by category reported, or by date uploaded, or ...

Indeed, it's very hard to tell WHAT order the results are in. There are multiple results from the same tracker that are not grouped together. There are tabs along the top of the results area, named for each search engine. clicking on a tab takes you to a "captured" page from that index site. (Unwise, as blowing a page out of the frame that has captured it via a simple script, is something we all learned a decade ago. If one or more sites decide to start doing that, you're at their mercy.)

I want to assure you that I'm playing with a thoroughly stacked deck here. I've already done these searches and know what to expect.

SS reports that there are no intelligible results on this search, returned from IsoHunt. I happen to know that's not true, and that if I do the identical search on IsoHunt itself, I get many correct returns, starting with episodes of "Floyd Around the Med". Those results should have been returned. SS could argue that they WERE returned, in IsoHunt's tab, but what I've got here is something I would never choose over Speckly, much less Bit-Che

SS is failing to get my concept here, doesn't get the general idea of who Keith Floyd is -- which I thought was the whole point of SS -- and even if it doesn't get it, isn't returning results that it should. But wait, there'ss worse. What SS DOES return for IsoHunt is,

"CategoryAgeTorrent Tags, NameSizeSL" <- literally

and that's all. I can discern from this that SS has incorrectly parsed the results that were sent back from IsoHunt -- whether they were null or not. And here we encounter the second common problem, that there's no standardized format for returning results. SS does not appear to have solved or contributed anything to this problem either.

Let's try a search for exact phrase. Let's try

"Keith Floyd"

and here we have the third common-to-all problem, the treatment of quotation marks. Some index sites treat them the way I meant them, namely , these words in the order I put them in, right next to each other. Some others ignore them completely. Still others treat them as part of the phrase to be searched for. Once again, SS fails to advance the state of the art.

In fact, it returns nothing at all for the exact phrase search.

Hmm. Help.

No, no help button.

"Advanced search", like google, "this exact phrase, this word near that word, not this word".

Nope. No advanced search function.

Almost had enough of it, but let's try one more. It's supposed to be about concepts, so let's try

British chefs

Nope Results include "Kung Fu Chefs", a recent japanese movie, and "The Rosetta Stone v3.3.5 ,a foreign-language teaching application.

Obviously that's not it. I'm not getting it, or it's not getting me. THere's a menu selection up top called "Explain", which goes into an extended, mostly inapplicable metaphor about packs of dogs, then invites me to create my own cluster of sites to be searched.

You pick the sites from their menu. The first site I'd add for my menu is TheBox.com, a major source of BBC-type stuff, the leader since UKNova flushed itself.

No, that's not on their list. I'll add it by clicking "Add site"

Name. Ok, the name is "The Box".

Url, include the HTTP:// or HTTPS://. Lazy boys, why didn't you include that for me? Anyway, http://thebox.bz. Next

Yes, that's their front page where I have to log in. That's it, all right. So you want me to click "next", and the try a search? This isn't going to work, I have to log in first. But I'll try it.

Nope, didn't work, it came back to the login page and told me I had to log in.

(Geeze, even BTJunkie will store and remember my login to the proprietary sites it searches. This is old hat, but SS won't do it.) It says I should highlight the first search result. There aren't any "search results".

There IS a button that says, "Help. something isn't right" (no kidding?) which will send an email to the proprietors, who can respond with what's already self-evident, namely that they're not equipped to do searches for sites that require logins.

If I'm including BitJunkie in my list, for example, then I don't have any control over what sites are being searched -- I can't tell it not to include those private, invite-only results. Indeed, I can't even log in through SS to my BitJunkie account so I can access my logins to the private sites I DO belong to. So why don't I just using BitJunkie directly in the first place?

The only thing at all new here is putting together a custom list of (only) public sites to search. Other than that, it's a poorly-executed and less advanced version of much earlier and less capable search sites. I'm dubious about the concept because I don't WANT to limit my torrent searches by site, I want to search every public torrent index site in the universe, including sites in China, Japan and Tau Ceti IV if I can.

For generic, non-torrent searches which are probably a better fit, I am very doubtful that limiting the results by SITE would be helpful. For most of my queries, I have no idea what sites are out there that may have relevant information, and limiting my search to some few specific sites does not seem like a promising approach unless I already know all of the important sites relevant to my subject. I almost never do, and what if there's a new one I haven't heard of yet? This approach will likely make it harder, not easier, to notice.

Fewer results to comb through? Well, maybe, but I'd rather spend my time refining my search -- must contain this word, must not contain that word, this exact phrase, these words near each other-- as I usually do with Google, but with SS, I can't even do that.

I'm really unimpressed. Can't imagine the circumstances where I'd think this was useful, but SnaggleSearch absolutely flunks at torrent searches.

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