There’s absolutely NO technical reason why, in 2011, a search of a website’s database should be limited in the results it displays and in the search terms entered. There are plenty of free and paid search and indexing services that allow full text searches of databases without such limits.
So why does one of the only public sources of Australian music have a
really crappy sub-par search? The site is the official site of the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS), and its search capabilities are frustrating, to say the least.
Here are some examples from some recent searches I tried, highlighting some of the issues I found in the first five minutes. I gave up after that…
Issue 1: You can’t search for a writer without a title or performer
I searched for an Australian songwriter, Ross Wilson, and got this result:
Cannot search for a songwriter alone
I got the same result whether I searched for Wilson, Ross, Wilson*, Wilson Ross or Wilson combined with any other name, and with all other songwriter names I tried. So, you have to know a performer or title or a songwriter’s works to be able to find the songwriter in the database. That’s just crazy!
By the way, their own 5-point Help says that I can put in a writer (first point) and doesn’t tell me I have to also enter a title or performer:
Issue 2: Search results are limited to 750
I put in Rolling* as the performer and got this:
Search stops if more than 750 results
But instead of showing me the first 750 results found of these 802, I got no results list at all. With only 802 possible results in this search, there’s a good chance that what I want is in the first 750, so why can’t the system allow me to see those 750? Sure, I got a message about narrowing my search results to get a better result, but let me at least have the option of viewing the 750 found. Better still, show me ALL results and let me decide if there are too many for me to deal with. Google does this all the time with results sets in the millions.
Issue 3: Wildcard searches have a 5-character minimum
This one is just crazy. There are plenty of performers and bands that have fewer than five characters in their name but you cannot search for them using the asterisk wildcard. What if you know one name of a performer but not the other (e.g. you know that one of the first Australian Idol winners was called Guy but you can’t remember his surname)? You can’t search for Guy* without generating an error message:
Five or more characters are required for a wildcard search
Issue 4: Searches for a 4-character performer take ages
If you enter a four-character performer’s name with no wildcard (e.g. Barb), the search takes forever and eventually you get a 25-item result list. Other searches of longer names or with wildcards generate many more results (or error messages) and are shown in a few seconds. But not when the performer’s name is short.
Issue 5: Symbols in a search term generate an error
There’s no excuse for this one — if non-alphanumeric characters are not acceptable as the first character in a search term, why not have the system strip them out or ignore them? Instead, you get get an error message and have to re-enter your search term:
Non alphanumeric characters aren't stripped from a search term
Interestingly, a Google search for $64000 question came up with this APRA web page, which is NOT found via APRA’s own search: http://www.apra.com.au/cms/Documents/AMCOS_Control_List/AMCOS_ControlList_December2010.txt
As I said, I gave up using this database after a few minutes. I didn’t try any sort of Boolean searching as I suspect that would just have raised my blood pressure.
If you’re keen, you can search this database yourself here: https://www.apra.com.au/cms/worksearch/worksearch.srvlt
[Link last checked June 2011]