No exact phrase search? That renders the site devoid of usefulness.

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  • Updated 2 years ago
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What kind of site is this that doesn't allow searching for exact phrases?

I want to know EXACTLY what you think users will do with 1,498,064 search results for "Hold Out Your Hand", a song title used by about 6 artists ever in the history of music.

You are obviously giving me results for any text with some unspecified combination of those words. Again - I want to know the EXACT benefits of results containing anything in music that has the word "out", or "your".

I thought I had seen everything when the functionality of Allmusic was destroyed a couple years ago, but this makes my head explode. How is it even possible that anyone could get any job at any website and not understand the importance of exact phrase searches?


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John Smith

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  • shocked at this site's stupidity

Posted 6 years ago

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Andy DeNardi

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Ya know what's even more ridiculous? Returning 13,931 entries and not finding an inexact match. The reason AllMusic gave you a million and a half possibilities is so that inaccurate searches would turn up the right answer. But that doesn't happen.


The discography I was using gave me a Booker Ervin album named Setting The Space.  I was familiar with a similarly named album and wasn't sure if this was a mis-spelling or a different album.  Knowing that AllMusic would return every album with the word "the" in the title, I included the artist's last name to narrow things down - "Setting The Space Ervin"

The #1 answer was Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting 1984-1994.  You'll notice that the only thing that album has in common with my query is the word "the".  Terrific search engine that. The #2 entry was also a Sting album.  The third and fourth choices had "string " in the album name.  The fifth was Miles Away: The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble.

As I had originally suspected, the album was called Setting The Pace, not Space.  But while the search engine can find a match in  Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble or Sting, it can't make an association between Pace and Space even when I give it three of four correct words and 80% of the fourth.  If I counted correctly, the correct album was the 107th suggestionOther Booker Ervin albums were returned before the correct one.

Not only does AllMusic return an unmanageable number of suggestions when you give it an exact match, the reason for that unmanageable number of entries is unjustified because they're search code (apparently purchased from Lycos in 1994) has a fuzzy understanding of fuzzy logic.
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Zac Johnson, Official Rep

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Hi Andy,
That is a pretty jacked up response. I'll see if the search service we are paying money for can give an explanation for how completely oddball that response is.
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Zac Johnson, Official Rep

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In looking, it seems as though the Rovi search algorithm is placing higher value on the text strings (no pun intended) "Sting" "String" and "Space" than on the ~95% character match between "Setting the Pace Ervin" and "Setting the Space Ervin"

This is a lousy user experience and I'll use this example to try to (once again) request that they place string match higher than popularity. 
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Andy DeNardi

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Putting the artist's last name before String and Space has no apparent effect on the search. I counted 109 this time instead of 107.  So something is stepping in and willfully manipulating the raw results.  Stop placing popular above accurate.  Maybe those whippersnappers will learn how to spell for a change.

I didn't mention that I had chosen "albums" after the initial screen because that's a given. I would take the opportunity to rant about the search placing a higher value on songs than artists or albums, but that would be foolish since I glommed onto John's complaint about song searches.

In case you hadn't noticed, search complaints are rising to the top of the pile after many other issues were addressed. Perhaps you need a pop-up with tips on how to get the best results. Things like including an artist's name, or that if you get a 404 page then the server is down because it otherwise always returns a million results. Even when you type in Bryan Adams.

Except for the overview page, Search is the worst feature on the AllMusic site. Which is unfortunate because AllMusic and I often disagree on an album's title or what artist(s) to attribute it to. There are also entries that become disassociated from the discography and float off into the ether. Your database is extensive though not always accurate and I know that you have a listing 99.99% of the time. Search is the only way to find many things and it's frustrating when it doesn't work. Even your advanced search is less robust than the one you had several generations ago.  I use the site often enough to know its foibles and how to massage them.  It must be very irritating to those who are trying to search and merge onto the highway simultaneously.  Think of the children!!
(Edited)
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Zac Johnson, Official Rep

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John: Which "Hold out your Hand" were you looking for? The Chris Squire version? Or another performer? I see about 20 or more songs in the list with that exact title.

http://www.allmusic.com/search/songs/hold+out+your+hand

I ask because I see a ton of songs called "Hold Out Your Hand" at the top of the search results.  Is the issue that you couldn't find the song you were looking for? Or were you surprised by the huge number of things that are not matches (which show up lower in the list).

That 1.4 million results number is pretty daunting and once you are through the first batches the lower results are not exactly helpful, I agree, but hopefully you were able to find the song you were looking for.


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John Smith

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Please answer the question. Again: who is being served by not having exact phrase searches? What makes you think that if I said I wanted an exact phrase match (by putting quotes around it) I didn't really want an exact phrase match?
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Zac Johnson, Official Rep

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We've received your feedback John and we're hoping to make improvements to our search service in the upcoming months.   I think there is a lot of work that could be done to the search service we use, and enabling exact match is once of those things.


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Zac Johnson, Official Rep

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This may feel like too little too late, John but our recent search beta does a much better job of finding exact matches.
"Hold Out Your Hand"
http://www.allmusic.com/searchtest/all/Hold%20Out%20Your%20Hand

More info about our beta search is available here:  http://www.allmusic.com/blog/post/allmusic-search-beta
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I'm not Futz Hookah

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I continue to be flabbergasted that advanced search cannot look for ARTIST + TITLE, which is what I am personally looking for 99% of the time. I mean, I'd probably have to go a hundred years or so to want to search for live recordings of a folk nature that got a 4 star review.

Why no ARTIST and TITLE?

(And yes, the lack of an exact search drives me crazy, too. However, in fairness to AMG, nearly everyone's search algorithms are deteriorating horribly, including Amazon, YouTube and Google. If the 'close' matches appeared at the top it wouldn't be so bad, but I usually have to scroll to the very end to find many of the best hits.  That's inexcusable!)
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Zac Johnson, Official Rep

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The simple answer is that Artist is the only text-based filter that is available to us in the search service we use for Advanced Search.

More detail is available here (under filters):
http://prod-doc.rovicorp.com/mashery/index.php/Search-api/v2.1/filter-browse

You can however look up album title + artist name via our regular search:
http://www.allmusic.com/search/all/love%20forever%20changes



I guess my question would be: What is the use case where a user would want to include Album Title + Artist Name in the Advanced Search?

Based on your example would you be looking for "Pete Seeger"+"Live" (as part of the title of the album) + "Folk" + "4 Stars"?

It seemed to us when we initially developed the advanced search filters that if you knew the artist name and the album title, you wouldn't need to use this filtering tool. You could just look up that album.

Please let us know.
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I'm not Futz Hookah

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I don't need ARTIST + ALBUM TITLE... I agree that would be pointless. (Gotta love those 1,346,036 hits for Forever Changes, btw!)

What I badly need is ARTIST + SONG TITLE, because I'm usually looking for places where I could find a particular recording. Forex, this weekend I needed to buy a copy of “Cerisier Rose Et Pommier Blanc” by Andre Claveau (if I didn't already have one on some obscure import comp I've forgotten about). After scrolling through dozens of pages of hits I found around 10 or so for this recording. All but one are blocked/hidden! So AMG was no help.

If "artist" is your only available text-based filler, I'd like to humbly suggest that you look for a better search service!
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Zac Johnson, Official Rep

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Ah, that makes a ton more sense.

Yes, we would also like to see improvements to the search service. As it is now, this search is the only one tied into all of the metadata available to us so we're hoping to get more functionality out of the existing service.
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I'm not Futz Hookah

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So much bad code accumulating, so many unemployed progrmmers (like me) with nothing to do.  It's a shame, really.
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Zac Johnson, Official Rep

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Many of our users have asked for more exact results in search and we've recently rolled out some functionality that enables exact string matches on AllMusic.

By putting your word or string in quotes, we try to find the exact match within search results.

More detail here: https://getsatisfaction.com/allmedianetwork/topics/exact-match-in-search-results