Search results ridiculously incomplete in iOS app

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Many searches in the iOS app completely fail to yield even the most obvious or popular results. Example: Search term "persuasion" fails to find the 1995 movie Persuasion, starring Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds, but does include results for a number of unheard of shorts. This is the case even with United Kingdom set as Region in the app. Utterly ridiculous and inexcusable for an app connected to a site which purports to act as a comprehensive database of movies. Get this fixed, IMDB. It's shameful.
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Otto Plunkett

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Posted 3 years ago

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Mark Svendsen, Employee

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Persuasion (1995) is a TV episode from the series Screen Two (1985), which explains why it doesn't show up in the search results. On the IMDb website, this episode will only appear in results when doing an Exact Title Search, which the mobile apps don't yet support.
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Otto Plunkett

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I'm sorry, but that's patently absurd.

The fact that Screen Two has presented standalone movies as "episodes" does not make all of those films episodes of Screen Two any more than Columbo movies were episodes of NBC Mystery Movie.. Screen Two was in effect the "theater" in which the BBC presented Persuasion to its audience upon release. Screen Two is not an episodic series, however much its misuse of the word episode may have been foisted upon audiences.

Persuasion has been recognized by IMDB as a standalone film since it was listed, until this recent moronic change. If anything, it should be found under its own name, and under Screen Two, in the same way that Inspector Lewis exists in IMDB as its own series and as part of Masterpiece Mystery.

Downton Abbey can still be found under its own name, even though it is part of the Masterpiece franchise in the same way that Persuasion was delivered by Screen Two.

But all of that is entirely beside the point of my initial post.

Even an intentional misspelling of 'The Trouble with Tribbles' DOES bring up the Star Trek episode. This is the way a modern database should work.

So the IMDB app is indeed capable of finding episode titles without any special somersaults, even with inexact matches... except when it doesn't.

This, again, points to the complete unreliability of the search mechanism.

Let's try another example of search:

True Crime: Safe House

Why do all these results, some of them clearly less relevant, come up for a search query for "true crime", but not the 2012 New Zealand film 'True Crime: Safe House? I thought perhaps it was because the original title of the movie was just Safe House. But then why does Once Fallen make the list? Other movies which originally had different titles can be searched in IMDB by their new titles. Try 'Bread and Tulips' which was released as Pane e Tulipani. That comes up, no problem.

How about another movie which was aired by Screen Two: 'The Snapper' Why is that the first search result in the app for "the snapper"?

IMDB's search algorithm is just plain broken. 
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Mark Svendsen, Employee

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I've forwarded your feedback to the team responsible for search results. From the perspective of the iOS app, one more problem is that it returns too few results and should probably be increased in cases where a valid result doesn't make the cut. I'll also forward this request on.

In the meantime, it appears that using a longer search will locate the title you are looking for: "true crime safe house" and "screen two persuasion" work while the shorter queries fall short.
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gromit82, Champion

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Mark: I recommend that the search results that include television episodes place some weight on the number of votes received by an episode where two or more episodes have the same title.

I don't use the iOS app, but on the desktop site, a search for exact title results for "persuasion" has the Screen Two version listed third among the television episodes (and 13th overall). But the episode immediately ahead of it is "The Pursuers" (1961) {Persuasion (#1.31)}, which has fewer than 5 votes and is part of a TV series with only 9 votes overall. Even ahead of that is "English Composition: Writing for an Audience" (2001) {Persuasion (#1.17)}, which isn't even open for voting because it lacks a release date, and which is part of an educational TV series with only 7 votes overall. Meanwhile, the Screen Two version of "Persuasion" starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds has 8,984 votes.

I think IMDb can assume that if people are looking for something called "Persuasion" among TV episode, they are much more likely to be looking for the Screen Two production than the episode of "English Composition: Writing for an Audience", based on the number of votes received by each episode.
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Otto Plunkett

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Mark, thanks for taking the time to pass this on. I apologize for the tone of my previous message. I tend to get too quickly annoyed when a company representative seems to be telling me that I'm using their product wrong, and it seems to me that there really is a problem. I understand that you are honestly trying to help me have a better experience with IMDB.

I'm realizing that my frustration with the iOS app in particular is misplaced. My core problem here is with changes that IMDB has made to its categorization of films and its ranking and filtering of search results, among other things. Should I raise these topics in another part of this community, on their own merits or lack thereof?

There is something systemically wrong here. IMDB has lost track of its raison d'être. Search results are currently not ranked well for either relevance, popularity, or usefulness. This corruption of esoteric classification has even affected the "Known for" feature and bio information on actor/actress pages.

Take a look at the mini bio on Amanda Root's page.

"Amanda Root was born in 1963 in Essex, England. She is known for her work on The Iron Lady (2011), The BFG(1989) and Jane Eyre (1996)."

The Known For section shows four titles, The Iron Lady, The BFG, Jane Eyre, and The Robber Bride.

In the scrollable Known For section of the iOS app, Screen Two if the 53rd result, and rather than showing the thumbnail image of the film Persuasion, it shows an unreadable crop of a Screen Two logo.


Try typing Amanda Root into Google, and look at the instant results:

1) amanda root persuasion

2) amanda root height

3) amanda root private life

4) amanda root ciaran hinds

Then turn to Wikipedia:
"Root is known for her starring role in the 1995 BBC film adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion, her role in the British TV comedy All About Me, as Miranda, alongside Richard Lumsden in 2004, and for voicing Sophie in The BFG."

How does Wikipedia have an actress pegged more accurately than IMDB?

Did Amanda Root star in Screen Two? No, she starred in a movie called Persuasion. This is how users of IMDB recognize her. It's how the world recognizes her. Screen Two is a vehicle, and it should be billed as such in title lists, secondarily, in small print, under the bold movie title Persuasion. Think about the very purpose of IMDB. Is someone more likely to ask "Who was that actress who was in Screen Two?" or "Who was that actress who was in Persuasion?"? The answer to the former question includes almost every British actress who has stepped in front of a camera in recent decades. It's not useful.

To the subject of search results, the way a database should work is to offer all results for a given query, in order of relevance, and then narrow that search once additional terms are entered. Requiring the words "safe house" in addition to "true crime" to force a search to include True Crime: Safe House is just not how search is supposed to work. Users don't always know all the words in a title. Furthermore, in this particular case, they might be looking for the other tittles in the series of movies Netflix recently released under the series name True Crime, such as True Crime: Siege or True Crime: Bloodlines, neither of which come up in a search for "true crime"

I wouldn't be going on an on about this if it were not for the fact that IMDB used to just work in this regard. It pulled up every result.

All of this came up recently when I was watching the Netflix series Paranoid, starring Robert Glenister, and thought I remembered him as Captain Harville in Persuasion. So I opened up the IMDB app and looked him up. I scrolled down through his filmography, and came to the conclusion that I was mistaken. Now that I've discovered the Screen Two nonsense, it all makes sense. Look at the result in Glenister's filmography for his appearance in Persuasion:

No mention at all of Persuasion. Should I have caught the character name as I scanned the filmography? What if I didn't remember his character's name?

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Kyle Bashore

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I'm also having this issue. The movie Life(1999) with Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy. The movie is found in their catalog, but an IMDb search comes up with garbage. I've included a screen shot.

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