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No Indexing of Short Words

Why MediaWiki's Site Search Stinks, Reason #1

Avi Rappoport
Search Tools Consulting

The MediaWiki search engine defaults to a four-letter minimum word length. Seriously. Not only will it not search for one, two, or three letter words, they're not even in the index: they are completely unfindable. There is no way to search for perfectly reasonable words like fan, lab, qi, or pH. The bartendersdatabase.com wiki can't find rum while Google finds 731 on that same site (though some are duplicates).

    • no-matches page for short wordsTo add insult to injury, the no-matches page does not explain this error, it just looks like there's nothing with that word on the site. For example, on the Cunnan medieval re-enactors wiki, there are no matches for new, despite the fact that they have (according to Google) 947 pages with one or more instances of the word.
    • This problem has been fixed on Wikipedia itself, so users can search for vi, M, REM,etc. Because it's impossible to ignore that those are perfectly good words to search for. Wikipedia is running a version of the MWSearch/Lucene extension, and really, everyone ought to be. Or just switch to Sphinx.
    • If you cannot install a real search, there's a way to change the minimum world length via the instructions hidden on MetaWiki. Although there's nothing about it on the MediWiki distribution site, it seems to be working for people.

on to Stopword hell >>

<< Back to MediaWiki Site Search Stinks overview

Arguments? Questions? Comments? Have you tried to search for a word that should be accessible? I'm curious about if and how this has affected people: please leave a comment on my blog.


Page updated: 2008-10-16

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