The topic of zero-result search queries comes up from time to time. The
logic is generally this: if we can see the top queries that got no results,
then we can figure out what users are looking for but not finding, and add
it to the encyclopedia. Wonderful user-centred thinking, and it sounds
great! The problem is, sadly, the data doesn't help us achieve this at all.

The sheer volume of requests means that a lot of the top zero-results
queries are junk. Trey Jones, an engineer on the Search Platform Team,
wrote a comprehensive analysis
few years ago of the top zero-result queries based on an analysis of a
500,000 multi-lingual sample. It was quite enlightening in some senses—we
found out a lot about the things that people are doing with the search
system, found some bugs in other products, and so on—but it didn't actually
help us understand what people were looking for and not finding.


On Tue, 12 Mar 2019 at 23:12, Leila Zia <> wrote:

> Hi Gerard,
> On Sun, Mar 10, 2019 at 2:26 PM Gerard Meijssen
> <> wrote:
> > but really
> > why can we not have the data that allows us to seek out what people are
> > actually looking for and do not find..
> Please open a Phabricator task for this request at
> . Please add Research as a tag and
> add me as one of the subscribers. I'd like to work with you on a
> concrete proposal. A few items to consider as you're expanding the
> description of the task:
> * We won't be able to release raw search queries as they come to
> Wikimedia servers. That is for privacy reasons.
> * You also likely don't need raw search queries. If you can be
> specific about what you want to have access to, as much as possible,
> that can help us get started with scoping the problem. I'm looking for
> something along these lines: "I want to be able to see a monthly list
> of top n search terms in language x that result in 0 search results or
> results where the user does not click on any of the search results
> offered." The more specific, the better. If you are in doubt, put some
> description and we can iterate on it.
> Best,
> Leila
> p.s. The goal of this exercise is to have an open question ready (with
> all the details one needs to know) for the next time we will have a
> volunteer researcher to work with us.
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