Poll: how to sort search results

June 28, 2009

A few weeks ago I changed the search results page so that books that have the most copies available are displayed first. Most of the comments on that blog entry are negative, but I don’t know if that reflects public opinion, so I’m running a poll. First, I want to explain myself a bit better.

The search results page on BookMooch will always have a tension between:
a) show me the most likely book I want, regardless of whether it’s available or not
b) show most books that are moochable for my search, that’s why I’m at BookMooch!

Amazon doesn’t have this problem, because they’re willing to sell (or backorder) any book, so they can present search results sort like (a) above.

However, my feeling is that BookMooch is about getting books from others, not mainly about buying them, so preference should be made toward books that are moochable.

Part of this problem is that there are two very different kinds of searches people make:
a) general searches, looking for something interesting to mooch (ie, topical or general author)
b) a specific book search, often to add the book to their wishlist

The “best” solution to this problem is to offer a sort choice on the search results, like how froogle does it:

and I think that will be where BookMooch eventually goes.

In the meantime, though, would you prefer I put the search results back to how they were, i.e. alphabetically by author (regardless of moochability) or do you prefer them the way they are now, i.e. with the most available books listed first.

Click the question graphic below to take the survey.


28 Responses to “Poll: how to sort search results”

  1. Would it be possible to have an alphabetical list of what’s available, followed by an alphabetical list of what’s not (or a full list of available and not)…? I do still miss the ease of dealing with an alphabetized list.

  2. lorenmarie said

    I come to bookmooch with books in mind to mooch. I don’t come to bookmooch to find books that I might want to mooch. That may make me the exception. I haven’t had a problem with search in the past nor do I currently have a problem with it, but that may be due to the way I use bookmooch.

    I guess my prefrence is to see the list sorted by relevance.

    • lorenmarie said

      Oops, I didn’t really answer your question. Alphabetically by author because I want what I want and I’ll put it on my wishlist. Then I’ll use the “Show related editions” which is really quite ingenious. This is why I don’t have a problem with the search.

  3. Stephen said

    I love BookMooch, but I was one of the first folks to criticize the change a few weeks ago. Its not that I had any opposition to listing moochable items first (in fact it makes good sense). I was just trying to encourage our laudable BookMooch developer to not limit the search results page to only one type of sorting, but allow the data to be presented in a variety of ways so that each user can get at the data they want in the way that is most efficient to them. For example, I personally find the “browse” feature of BookMooch not that usable, so instead I usually “search” to do my browsing. In that case I’d like to see all titles (not only moochable) because I want to explore and find things to wishlist, and when that is the case I probably don’t care about sorting alphabetically by author’s name or even title but rather by overall relevancy. Yet when I’m searching for a particular title or author to mooch at that moment then alphabetic sorting by title or author is exactly what is called for, and the option to show only moochable items or show them first is a great OPTION. In the end I’m really glad to see this topic come back up, and am very encouraged to see the phrase “I think [a set of choices for search results] will be where BookMooch eventually goes” in John’s post above. And if that’s truly the case, then I would probably advocate no change at present, just leave the last modification in place, just so you don’t have to waste anymore time on what you consider a temporary solution, and by not having to make a temporary change first we hopefully end up with the final solution of multiple search result options sooner rather than later. As always, Thanks for BookMooch!

  4. Margot said

    I am usually looking for a specific book and I just hate the new system. To be able to choose would be the best of all possible worlds, but for now I really want alphabetical. If I can’t find the book I want on BookMooch, I frequently go to Amazon and buy it or, at least, wish list it.

  5. Fern said

    I think it should be by what’s moochable; after all, I’m looking to mooch.

    What I’d like even *more*, though, would be if different editions were all listed under the same title. Then you could go to that page and either pick from a list of anyone with the book or then go for a specific edition. Often the search page gets very cluttered when there’s 20+ editions of the same book, and when you’re trying to choose which edition to mooch, it can get very difficult to compare the condition notes and who will send to your country. The majority of BMers don’t care about the edition as long as we get the book, and this would make life a lot easier for all of us, even if you were looking for a specific edition.

  6. LINDA C. said

    I would like it alphabetical of what’s available. When I conduct a search I first look by the author’s name. I then conduct a different search by genres and it doesn’t matter if it’s moochable or not because I’m look for new authors in the categories I enjoy the most. Hope that makes sense, thanks for all the great work you do. Could we also have a feed for our get later books, that way I can watch both. Thank YOu.

  7. Dara said

    I will say I felt the search got better after a few days of the new system. I think I prefer aphabetical.

  8. Sophie said

    I prefer it the way you’ve done it now, John. Thanks

  9. Lucy said

    I would prefer alphabetical, but could you give us the option of jumping forward a couple of pages, or to the end if we want? (The next page button is cumbersome if you know you want to jump to somewhere near the end.)

  10. Sandy said

    I often come to bookmooch jusst to browse and see what’s interesting. I would love for the topical searches to be more relevant, like when I search my library’s database.

    I’d also like to be able to sort by publication date. Sometimes I’m looking for something from a particular time period.

    To answer your question, I like the change that shows us what’s moochable or not.

  11. Dan said

    I just voted for “sort by most books available to mooch” because I’m here to mooch, here to give, and here to find things that I wasn’t necessarily looking for. If I want to add a specific book to my wishlist I can look it up on amazon and then copy the isbn # into the search here.
    However after voting I was shown the pole results: 35% for the old way, 35% for the new, and 30% for other. Which just goes to show the usefulness of polls.

  12. Jacquie said

    Could we please add a sort for the most wishlisted by language? The default here is alphabetical and English language books account for most of the list, but as I live in France, I’d like to be able to extract a list of wishlisted in French, so if I’m anywhere where I could pick up a book that might be of use to someone else, I’d know whether I have a chance of having that book mooched before I buy it.

    Whatever the sort, I’d also like some means of extracting the list to a file (for example CSV) that I could print and take with me. We don’t all have i-Phones, and with web access costs from mobiles here in France, I wouldn’t connect to check a BookMooch list!

    If BookMooch wants to be more international, it needs to offer functionality for non-English books too.


  13. n8ux said

    I like the new Bookmooch search over the classic…


  14. bec said

    I search by author or title so alphabetical is best for me. If the book is not available, I place it on my wishlist. I search other wishlist for books to place in my inventory. I rarely search by subject. I like the old way just fine.

  15. Eva Marie said

    I like alphabetical but I understand some people only come to mooch what it available so I would understand it being done that way.
    I come for books that can be mooched but also to find new books I can wishlist or order from amazon. In fact, that happens far more often now than actually mooching something.
    Is there a way like someone mentioned above, that we can have the best of both worlds?
    To be fair, I haven’t really tried out the new system yet so I can’t complain.

  16. DominicT said

    I am an avid reader and the sorting system seems good to me.

  17. Tria said

    I can no longer mooch from my cell phone. Why is that? It worked before the recent changes – now I keep getting messages that I haven’t entered the right captcha details or – in the case of email to owners – haven’t entered a message or subject line. I lost the chance to mooch a wishlister this morning because of this, since I’m temporarily without home internet. I’m actually really upset about it, because it was on the top of my list too… Any news on why that might be? Java works fine on my phone, and so do Gmail and other sites, just not BM.

  18. Minkdreads said

    I always am here with a specific book in mind. If it comes up by author a-z, and is NOT available, I wishlist it. Every day when I check my wishlist, I look under “related editions”, which is how I mooch almost all of my books- I love that feature. I never browse, ever. (When I try to browse the results are rarely categorized correctly or relevant.) The only way I ever wind up finding anything of new interest is by looking at the books that other moochers have on their inventory after I’ve mooched from them, usually because we have common interests. I second a previous moocher’s suggestion to automate the related editions feature, because I agree that bookmooch is a recycling concept, and is therefore not focused on procuring specific editions. (Heck, they’d all show up anyway, even if someone’s motive WAS to find a signed first edition of Alice In Wonderland.)

  19. RuLaRue said

    John, I think your new sort system for search results is good for the primary BookMooch function, which is trading books.

    I have often wished that the search by topic or keyword worked better – more like a public library search, or perhaps a LibraryThing search. All in all, though, I am very happy with BookMooch. I appreciate your efforts to improve and fine-tune its features.

  20. Rosemarie (Freecyclor) said

    My most frequent search is by author rather than by specific title, and I am finding many more moochable books under the new system. Been spending points like a millionaire! I love it.

  21. Brendan said

    Short answer: the drop-down to select search type is an excellent idea.

    Long answer:
    I think the end of your post fits the needs of the whole community best. Looking at the current vote tallies, its about 35% for each of the first two options. That fits my experience: about half of the time, I’m looking to add a specific book to my wishlist. In that case, this new search would be really annoying. If I’m browsing, though, I’d love this mode.

    The one caviat should be ISBNs. Any time a search is just an ISBN, the results should be the book that matches that number.

    Thanks for all your hard work!

  22. Joan said

    I’d love to have a choice when I search, with default being the new system of showing the moochable books first. Other options should include alphabetical by title, and alphabetical by author.

  23. Chikoy said

    Hi! I’m not a techie so I wouldn’t know if this is feasible for BM but I always thought the most useful way to display search results is something like this: http://www.adb.org/Water/PDA/pda-status.asp. If you click on any of the headers (author, title, copies), you can automatically sort in ascending or descending order. Hope you can consider this. Otherwise, I support the drop-down search option suggestion.

    Long live BookMooch!

  24. Caitlin said

    I would really like multiple sorting options. I don’t see why these could not both be provided.
    I will also tangentially say (again) that the browse or search by topic features here really need improvement, much more than the search results need better sorting. There is very little ability to discover books by genre or subject for which you don’t know have a specific title. This means inventory gets backed up with lesser-known fiction works and non-fiction that is too difficult to find amidst all the irrelevant records.

  25. Jessica said

    I’m a usability practitioner by trade. You guys should consider conducting usability testing on your site. It’s great that you’re asking users for feedback, but the input you get from conducting usability testing can be invaluable for determining what needs improvement.

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