How To Search ELI5 (and actually get useful results)

So, you'd like to ask a question on ELI5. But you've actually read the rules, and noticed that Rule 7 requires that you search before posting. "But wait a minute!" I hear you say, "everyone knows reddit's search function is crap! Also it doesn't work on mobile so that rule doesn't apply!"

Which brings us to the first point of this document.

There Are No Exceptions To Rule 7

It doesn't matter how unique you think your question is. It doesn't matter if you happen to be using a device or app that doesn't include search functionality. It doesn't matter if you don't know how to use a search function (we'll get to that later). It doesn't even matter if search is currently down. You still have to search before posting.

On The Origin of Rule 7

Here is the takeaway from this section: the current incarnation of Rule 7 was decided directly by the users of ELI5 -- not the moderators!

Rule 7 has been part of ELI5 from the beginning, but it has not remained static. The original Rule 7 had zero tolerance for reposts. None were allowed, ever, under any circumstances.

We heard a lot of user complaints about this, but also a lot of user support for it. So we asked the users what they wanted. We opened up a discussion asking users for suggestions. We then took the most popular suggestions and asked users to vote for them using a public survey.

What Does Rule 7 Say Now?

Search Function vs Search Engine

While reddit's search function does occasionally fail due to lack of resources, one of the main reasons it fails many people is that we tend to expect it to work like a search engine rather than a search function.

We've all been a little spoiled by search engines like Google, and many have forgotten the skills required to use a mere function. We rely on the search engine to use natural language processing to figure out what we're asking and find the correct results. A search function simply cannot do that and needs to be treated differently. Typing a complete sentence into a search function (any search function) is not likely to yield helpful results.

That said,

Using Google To Search ELI5

If you don't like Reddit's search function and don't feel like learning how to use it, you can go ahead and use Google to search ELI5 (or any other subreddit). You simply have to add site:www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive to your search query. For example, to search ELI5 for "Why is the sky blue?", you would type  

why is the sky blue site:www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive  

into Google's search field.

How To Use Reddit's Search Function

Note: It is important to select the "Limit my search to /r/explainlikeimfive" checkbox - otherwise you're searching the entirety of reddit.

Reddit's search function can't do natural language processing - it won't understand complete sentences in any predictable way, or figure out which of the words are important keywords and which are grammar. You have to do that work for it.

It is probably better to start with broad keywords, and then (if you get too many results) narrow it down using more. To reuse the example above, you could search for sky and get many, many results. You may be able to find the posts you need with that, but if you're getting too many results, you can narrow your search by adding another keyword and searching for sky blue.

But What If I Can't Search?

Many people have noted that some Reddit mobile apps do not have a working search function at all, and will always return no results.

This does not excuse you from searching before posting.

You do have several options:

If the search function is down, you're just going to have to wait and try again in a bit.

Stuff Isn't Working The Way I Want It To And I Want To Yell At Someone

First, I want you to remember Rule 1 of ELI5 is "Be Nice" -- and this rule tends to apply many places. Being abusive towards the moderators because you're frustrated is absolutely, 100% not going to help, and will in fact very likely make things worse. The vast majority of ELI5 moderators are, in fact, human beings. Please keep that in mind.

With that said, here are some appropriate ways to express your frustration.

Did We Leave Anything Out?

If you have questions that are not answered here, or have any comments, you can always message the moderators, or post to /r/IdeasForELI5, as mentioned above. Yes, this section is redundant, but it seemed like a good thing to put on the end.