Monday, January 09, 2012

New (and improved!) search options!

Once again, I'm pushing the envelope
known as progress.... =)
If you wander over to the Advanced Search page, you'll notice a couple of minor changes. It doesn't look like much, but it's a lot trickier than you might think. I spent the better part of a week getting these changes to work properly. =)

Okay, admittedly, I haven't exactly been working "full time" this week, but these updates probably took up a solid 20 hours of effort on my part.

But I digress....

The updates are remarkably complicated, but I'm throwing out all technical jargon, simplifying my explanation, and completely overlooking certain subtle points completely. So, in a nutshell:

  • Everyone should see a new checkbox under the location labeled "Use exact locations." If you used to use "0 miles" in order to search for all boxes within a specified city, you should now use this checkbox instead. It also should be used in area searches when you want to see all mystery boxes within that area.
  • The mystery box icon looks exactly the same as before, but it works slightly differently than before. It now will match any letterbox that has the mystery icon on it. It used to check the location of each box (either the owner-supplied location, or your custom location if you had one), and if that location was a mystery location, the box would match. I had wanted a search that allowed you to get a list of all unsolved mystery boxes in an area. Understandably, this caused confusion, and long story short, now the mystery location icon simply matches boxes that actually have a mystery icon attached to them and the listed location of the box has no bearing on the results.
  • And the last new option only premium members will be able to see--right next to "use exact locations" is "use original locations." Premium members can enter custom locations--a nice little perk! And once you added a custom location to a letterbox, AQ returned results as if the box were at your custom location. By checking this option, you can tell AQ to ignore your custom locations and force the site to use the original locations supplied by the owner of the box. I'm not really sure how this could possibly be useful, but more than one person has asked about such an option, so I've made it available. =)
There are a few other tweaks I made to the search--AQ runs a mean "Northern California" search now with a slick new technique I'd never used before. (The code applies to more than just Northern California, but that's the test case I was checking the most.) You don't really have to know all of the nitty gritty details except that the search results are much improved over the previous incarnation.

There's also a new "0 mile" hack, which The Vs stumbled onto already by accident. It's another feature that's available if, for some reason, you really want it, but honestly, I can't think of a single reason why you would. Consequently, I don't really recommend using it unless you really know what you're doing. It doesn't hurt anything to use it, but you might not get the results you were expecting if you aren't sure about how it works.

I'd also like to give extra kudos for Eidolon. Over the years, he's been one of the best bug finders on AQ, finding tiny little problems that others have overlooked for months or even years. I'm sometimes quite impressed with his eye for detail and things that just don't "seem right." And he always takes it one step further by including all relevant information about how he generated the error condition including links to searches and boxes so I can recreate the problem easily and fix it.

While this update may not seem like much, it actually was rather complicated involving a lot of moving parts, and I was more than a little concerned that I had overlooked some important problems, so I fired off an e-mail to Eidolon explaining some of the changes I made and asked if he'd like to kick the tires. Then I went for lunch. =)

Wassa Jr partied a little too hard during New Years.
He's finally getting over his hangover....
...his next court appearance is scheduled next month.
When I got back, he had already located two substantial bugs in the update (although he didn't seem to realize one of them was a bug at the time!) A few more tweaks, a few more bug fixes, and now I'm feeling good about the update. Solid work. Thanks, Eidolon! It's nice when I can announce a new feature and have it working correctly right out of the starting gate. (Disclaimer: This in no way implies that there aren't anymore bugs to be found--but any that are still lurking will be a lot more difficult to find due to Eidolon's efforts!)

And Happy New Year!