Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Search results that are too large will no longer be partially displayed



In the past, when a Doxpop user submitted a query that resulted in too many records to display, we showed some of the returned records with a warning at the top saying that the displayed results were incomplete.

Recently a researcher pointed out to us that displaying partial results is misleading. Even with the warning, a person might think that because the records appear to be in order, they are complete list of the first "chunk" in whatever order they appear. This is not true. The list really is incomplete, sometimes containing a gap in the records displayed. Therefore nobody should depend on it. We just displayed it because we thought it would feel better for people to see they were getting some results.

That was a bad idea. We're sorry and we're fixing it.

From now on, if you submit a query that would return more than 500 records, (for Recorded Documents) or 1,000 records (for Court Cases & Tax Warrants) Doxpop will just display a message explaining that the query was too broad. You'll need to narrow down the results by adding constraints to decrease the number of records returned. There are several good strategies for narrowing down results:

  • On the court side, consider looking only for the type of case you are interested in, or searching only for pending or disposed cases. 
  • Searching for one county or region of counties at a time will significantly narrow results. (Here's how to search a region.)
  • On the recorded document side, consider only searching for a particular type of document or group of types. 
  • Searching for date ranges is useful if you really want to sift through thousands of results, and want to break it into chunks. 

 Why do we even put limits on the size of searches? It's simple enough. We charge by the search, and just like you, we need to make a living. We think providing 500 or more results per search is good value, and allowing more would invite abuse of our system by people using automated "screen scrapers" to gather data. In addition, the government offices we source the information from require that we not make bulk data available through our web site. This is a reasonable concern to prevent data mining efforts by people who are up to no good. For these two reasons, we have a policy limiting results to what we think a human can reasonably scan visually.

As always, let us know if this change has affected you in a way that we didn't intend.  We're always trying to make this system better, and your feedback is our best test of how we're doing. You can comment below, or better yet, just call 866-369-7671 so we can talk about how to best support your business processes.

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