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Struggling with Search ? 5 tips to increase your success.

PeterCase
17-Peridot

Struggling with Search ? 5 tips to increase your success.

Do you ever see the dreaded "Nothing here matches your search" error?

Or do your searches return 1000s of hits when you are expecting just a handful?

 

If so, you're not alone. While Search was found internally to be 84% effective at resolving issues reported to Technical Support, only 50% of customers report the same success.

Surprised by this gap, we had a look at the keywords entered on the portal to better understand why some searches worked, and others didn't. It didn't take long for some patterns to emerge.The good news is, by having a better awareness of how search works, and making just a few small adjustments, it's possible to significantly increase your search success.

 

Based on what we saw, here are the top 5 pitfalls, and how to avoid them:

 

Pitfall 1: "Prolific Pasting"

Everyone likes to copy and paste. It saves effort, avoids typos, and can lead to more accurate search results. BUT pasting a lot of text can harm the relevancy of your results. Let's take a recent example:

Export failed. Problem in export/import process. Nested exception is: wt.util.WTException: get(ECN) failed: Attribute ECN not loaded! The jar file has not been created because no objects have been exported. EXPORT RESULT :FAILED

This gave the search engine 36 words to match. As the default mechanism is a boolean "AND" search, the document would have to contain all 36 of these words to appear in the results. Entering "get(ECN) failed" would, however, return the document needed to resolve this issue.

 

Pitfall 2: "Shooting Wide"

Describing symptoms as we see them is a good technique when searching, however if the description is too high level or generic, search will struggle to bring back something relevant. Take the example below:

Unable to start Cognos after upgrading from 8 to 10

For this query, including a specific error message from the application logs, or the user interface will increase the likelihood of the right hit. In this case, the error was PingChildProcess ping loop: process "catalina" is not active, which would have led straight to CS159226, the resolution article for this problem.

 

Pitfall 3: Including "Inside" Information

Error in wt.vc.views.StandardViewService when moving a part to the library "Alistair's Fasteners"

In the above example, user- or site-specific information is polluting the query, and Search tries to find hits which contain all 15 words, including "Alistair" and "Fastener" (plus derivatives). As Technical Support remove customer-specific information when creating articles, search would not return any hits here.

 

Pitfall 4: Using "One-shots" when qualifiers are required

About half of all searches issued are just one single word. Here are 5 examples from the last few days:

vault

alert

QML

Effectivity

STEP

Using just one word isn't always a bad thing. For example, the first query, "vault", would return the 10 most popular hits, and probably all the fundamentals required to understand and configure Windchill vaulting. The results would be of less use, of course, if there is a specific question or error. If a specific result is needed, a good habit is to always use at least one verb (action) and symptom (error, behaviour), as this is the way most articles are written.

 

Pitfall 5: Non supported languages

With machine translation still in the pipeline, the Knowledge Base search supports just English, Chinese and Japanese today. We'll keep the Community updated with our progress with translation and other native content.

 

Summarising, the first 3 pitfalls have a common theme. Removing any "noise", which could pollute your query, and using more "pivotal" keywords will greatly Search effectiveness.

Also, being aware about when it makes sense to use a single word and which languages are supported will improve your Search experience and success.

 

More Search tips to come soon, but if you have feedback or advice to share with others, please add a reply.

9 REPLIES 9

Peter Case,

thanks for your article.

To see if I understand correctly your suggestions I just tried to run a search for a problem reported by a user.

Last Friday he had an unexpected exit in Creo trying to delete a couple of WTPart from a workspace.

I've tried different combinations of words but I did not find any articles about this issue.

Is correct or may I have to try again with different words?

Marco

Marco,

Thanks for giving us this opportunity to put the guidelines to the test.

Knowing that the search presumes the boolean "AND" by default, we need to focus finding the "pivotal" keywords which will lead to an article.

  • Do you see anything relevant in the trail.txt.#, std.out, std.err, or traceback.log files at the time of the exit ?
  • Was a message presented to the user ?

If so, we're more likely to find the right article if we use most relevant keywords from these error strings.

Also, if you have the Performance Advisor, the traceback.log will have automatically been parsed and you may already have a recommendation waiting for you in your dashboard.

I'm adding a few of our seasoned experts to this thread, as this is an interesting discussion on customers' experience with our technologies

Craig Pater‌, is our Technical Leader for Creo Interaction with Windchill products

@Mike Smith is our Creo Technical Leader

@Dan Nowitz is coordinating Creo Smart and Connected technologies in Technical Support.

Peter.

Peter,

thanks for your answer.

I can't find anything useful in trail and std files.

We are using Performance Advisor from last August and I'm aware of recommendation gadgets as you can see in this discussion.

At the moment it's the only recommendations I've got, even if in the 2601 sessions we did in last 16 weeks we have 267 unexpected exits.

Also I can't see the session I'm talking in my previous comment in our dashboard because, for the third time since last November, no new data appears from last Friday.

I reopened a case about this issue https://support.ptc.com/apps/case_logger_viewer/auth/ssl/case=12837883

Marco

Marco,

Our team has looked into this, and also examined your recent tracebacks. The error is pointing to the article 192324‌ which is associated to an open SPR. You're using Creo 2.0_M160, and we're checking with R&D whether this was addressed in M180. Could I please ask that you open a case and mention this article and community thread ?

Although we would have liked to announce that a solution using just an article would be possible in this case, unfortunately we can't, but at least it will be for the next customer. As to why article 192324 didn't show up in your initial search, the article was missing the symptoms you describe (happens when WTParts are deleted as well as EPM content), and lemmatization was not applied on the word "delete" (more about lemmatization in an upcoming blog).

Neither of these are things you could have done anything about, and we are working to make changes to both the article and search lemmatization to continually improve the self-help experience for our customers.

Peter.

Peter,

thanks for your clarification and for pointing me to the right article.

I'm sorry but after talking with the user, we decided to not open a case, because the issue is not reproducible.

I no longer use Creo since 2001, because now I'm a Windchill admin, so I can't help you further.

Thanks again.

Marco

What I would find useful is to have -all- the error messages, menus, and prompts extracted from the various applications and separate pages created for each one with an explanation of why the message, menu item, or prompt is being presented to the user. It's clear that this would already exist or the software could not have been developed (or you have programmers making undisciplined changes.)

Actually, these should be delivered as part of the application Help files.

It would be interesting to look at the stats on repeat visits to the same pages or pages with similar content by internal users. A high success rate may be based on familiarity with the material and not on better searching skills.

Hi David,

Your response surely mirrors what many customers are thinking about search. Entering keywords, configuring search filters, scrolling through and reading different documents all require effort, and there is a degree of unpredictability ("Will I always find what I need?").

PTC is highly driven to reduce effort associated with the ownership of our software, and it's with this in mind that we have been gradually increasing the "Smart and Connected" capabilities of our products. Today, Creo and Windchill have some S&C capabilities, and our Integrity and Thingworx product families will soon be brought into the fold.

With powerful recommendation engines, Knowledge is presented from within the product to enable customers to proactively head off problems, and optimise their experience. Furthermore, data sent back from connected products is already influencing our product roadmaps, and this will continue to expand as the S&C capabilities mature.

Search, and in particular the articles in the Knowledge Base will always have a vital role to play, as getting the most out of software is both art and science.

Articles often have a wider scope than a single product error (see for example the overview on upgrading Windchill Products, or the initial Windchill performance tuning article). Furthermore, supplying recommendations with content that is 'live' and constantly evolving as opposed to help center content, which tends to be more 'static', means we are able to better help our customers stay ahead of the game as the world changes around us.

We'll keep updating you here and elsewhere in the Community as we add further S&C capabilities to our products.

Peter.

Thanks for your response. I am looking forward to an explanation of how not describing the way the software is intended to function in the help files is going to allow me to proactively head off problems and to optimize the art and science that I apply to getting the most out of my Creo and Windchill experience.

Using Search won't help because it depends on my knowing what to look for, and Browse won't help because it's not curated.

In the end, when I have a problem I don't want to read articles that don't deal directly with the problem at hand. I want to know what triggers the error. And before I run into errors I want to have a browse through all the errors, so when the do crop up I have a mental model of the architecture. I don't expect that the delivered software is going to evolve so any deltas can be supplied as they arrive.

I get plenty to read. The present job required nearly 1000 pages of reading material as part of training - not a guess, I have a spreadsheet to keep track of new revisions. And about 1000 for Windchill Business and Administration. I think there were almost 500 pages in the Team Center management docs. Hard to believe that Team Center was based on the Sherpa product I used before they got absorbed.

But, if the pay-walled Knowledge Base is all there is going to be in the future, then at least add a spelling checker. Many times it's been difficult to find the correct result because the keyword of interest is misspelled.

Hello David,

Help Centers will remain very much a part of our products, continuing to cover (amongst other things):

• Conceptual information on product usage

• How to use all core product functionality and perform tasks

• Comprehensive UI-related info including menu picks

• Configuration options

My apologies if the wording above gave the impression that this is being replaced with articles.

Knowledge base articles typically have a different role to play (although there is sometimes a blurring of the lines).

In the main, they deal with: 

• Specific problems with a specific solution

• Troubleshooting techniques

• Information about defects and workarounds

• Clarifications about platform support and compatibility

• Technical deep-dives and specific use-cases which complement Help Center content

Using the Help Centers will provide model to understand the software. (The density of those documents is a separate discussion).

Technical deep-dive articles, usually recognisable by the "How To.." at the start of the title, address the needs of users like yourself, who like to be armed with greater upfront knowledge before a problem occurs, for example "How to troubleshoot Windchill replication", or "How to use xconfmanager". We have started in fact already to reference some of these of articles from the documentation, as a way of providing curated content in context.

This will evolve as we continue to build a greater "knowledge network".

The kinds of articles served up by the S&C recommender are more in the "specific problem and solution" category.

Lastly, on the spell checker, we are working with our CRM vendor to have this implemented. In the meantime, our engineers use inbuilt browser spell checkers when working on articles. We welcome any feedback on errors spotted, so that we can correct and avoid the problem you mention.

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