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Using forum advanced search and RSS to monitor questions

While the move to the new forum software last year brought new and more modern capabilities, we also lost some (like news reader compatibility). While you can get RSS feeds from the forum, unless you use the advanced searching capabilities, the feeds can seem more like fire hoses than drinking fountains, splattering you with more data than you want and making it easy to miss items you want to see.

What? You didn’t realize that there was an advanced search capability for the jazz.net forum? At least for now, you can’t see the advanced search options until you actually run a search (they only show up on the search results page). So just throw something in the search box and hit Enter, then click on the Advanced search options link.

That adds a variety of useful search options, allowing you to build a search tailored to finding the questions you care about. Unfortunately, there’s no way to save your searches yet, so your best option is to create the searches you want to follow as RSS feeds. We’ll look a bit more at the advanced search options, talk about how to turn them into RSS feeds and close with some examples.

Advanced search options

Firstly, you can just throw some text into a search (as in “jlip” in the example above). If you add other search terms, they should come before the free-text part unless you are doing a title search (in which case the title: search text must be the last option). Let’s build a ridiculous search as an example of using the various parts (you can type this into that small search box, it will work, it will just be hard to read and edit):

[oslc] askedby:millarde user:arburns views:100 isanswered:1 isaccepted:0 dcterms title:attachment

Decoding this, we’re looking for questions that are tagged with oslc, were asked by me (millarde), have an entry of some kind by my friend Aaron (arburns), have been viewed at least 100 times, have at least one answer but no accepted answer, contain the text “dcterms” somewhere in the summary or content and have the text “attachment” in the summary. I’m not surprised that there are no such work items, but it’s a valid search using most of the available options. [votes: works like views:, so I didn’t include both.] Other than the free-text and title options (which should be at the end) the other terms should work in any order.

So the shape of your query will be:

{search options separated by spaces} text-anywhere title: text-only-in-summary

Where search options can be zero or more of these:

Search option Example Description
[tag] [rational-team-concert]

[oslc]

[configuration][administration]

Finds questions that have been tagged via the forum’s tagging mechanism. Each tag value is surrounded by square brackets. If multiple tags are specified, e.g., [tag1][tag2], questions that carry at least both tags are retrieved, not one or the other. No space is required between the tag elements.
isanswered:{0,1} isanswered:1 Finds questions based on whether or not they have an answer. Use isanswered:1 to locate question that have at least one answer and isanswered:0 to locate unanswered questions.
isaccepted:{0,1} isaccepted:0 Finds questions based on whether or not they have an accepted answer (or are closed1). Use isaccepted:1 to locate questions with an accepted answer and isaccepted:0 to locate questions that do not yet have an accepted answer. This setting does not imply the existence of an answer – isaccepted:0 will also match questions that have no answers.
user:userid user:arburns Finds questions where the specified user has participated in any way – asked, answered or commented on the question or answers.
askedby:userid askedby:millarde Finds questions where the specified user asked the question.
views:integer views:250 Finds questions that have been viewed at least the specified number of times.
votes:integer votes:5 Finds questions that have received at least the number of votes specified.

1 isaccepted:1 also matches closed questions. So to find questions that were closed without an answer, you can use isaccepted:1 isanswered:0 – a combination you might expect to return no results.

RSS feeds from forum queries

Since you can’t save and reuse this cool query you just built, you need another option. Fortunately, when the query is displayed (even if there are no results at this time), the forum software creates a matching RSS feed that you can grab.

If you right-click that icon and copy the link address (or whatever language your browser uses for that operation), you get a perfectly formed RSS Feed URL that will let you monitor this query from your favorite RSS Reader.

https://jazz.net/forum/search/?type=rss&q=[usage]%20user:millarde%20isanswered:0

Totally sweet!

Almost. Unfortunately, the default behavior is to return only 30 items. To get it to return more, you’ll need to add &length=NNN (values over 999 are ignored). So to get up to 99 items, we’d use:

https://jazz.net/forum/search/?type=rss&q=[usage]%20user:millarde%20isanswered:0&length=99

In the readers tested, you can just add that option on after pasting in the URL you get from the feed link (or if you forget, edit the feed URL and add it later).

Question Radiator (hat tip to Alistair Cockburn)

In case you didn’t know, RTC provides feed reading capabilities in the Eclipse client and a News Feed widget is available in all CLM web client dashboards. So you can setup one or more feeds on your team or personal dashboard to track forum questions. What a great way to stay on top of questions about your component (if you are in support or development) or to track questions asked or contributed to by your various practitioners if you help manage CLM support for your company. Here’s a sample I made on my RTC Personal Dashboard (using some of the samples described below):

You can have lots of different feed widgets populated with different queries. Hovering over an item produces a popup window with details from the question. Clicking on the question in the widget or the question summary in the hover window takes you to the forum post.

You can configure the links to open a new tab or window so you don’t lose your spot in the CLM client (this is the edit settings panel):

By default, you’ll get “Questions matching [query options]” as the title for the feed. To update that, use the Appearance option from the widget toolbar:

I know a couple internal teams have started to add these to their dashboards. How will you use this to keep track of questions that matter to you? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email at millarde@us.ibm.com.

Extra credit: Doing it on your own

And now that you know how it works, you can create your feed URLs directly, too, if you don’t want to type them into the search box first. This may just be faster if you have a feed you like and just want to change an option to create a new feed (or edit an existing one). Rather than go back to the forum, enter the terms in the search box, then copy the feed, just start with:

https://jazz.net/forum/search/?type=rss&q=

then add your search options. The only trick with this approach is that you’ll have to URL encode the spaces yourself (replace them with %20 – spaces aren’t valid in URLs). If you need to put your search text in quotes to make sure it is treated as a single string (rather than a collection of search words), you need to change the quote characters to %22:

https://jazz.net/forum/search/?type=rss&q=[usage]%20user:millarde%20isanswered:0%20%22story%20dependencies%22

which is from this query: [usage] user:millarde isanswered:0 ‘story dependencies’

Just paste your candidate RSS URL into a browser and see if it comes back with a bunch of XML (which means your feed worked!). Then drop it into your favorite RSS client.

Some sample queries and their RSS URLs

Here are some sample queries and their RSS URLS I created while testing this out. They are intended to illustrate how to create URLs for questions you care about and show the structure and how to use the different options. Hopefully they’ll give you some ideas for queries of your own (and you are welcome to use any of these). The links work (but return RSS XML, not a normal web page). Results may vary by browser.

Query: Unanswered questions with tags rational-team-concert and extending

RSS URL: https://jazz.net/forum/search/?type=rss&q=[rational-team-concert][extending]%20isanswered:0

Query: Unresolved questions with tags rational-requirements-composer and configuration

RSS URL: https://jazz.net/forum/search/?type=rss&q=[rational-requirements-composer][configuration]%20isaccepted:0

Query: Answered but not resolved questions tagged rational-quality-manager

RSS URL: https://jazz.net/forum/search/?type=rss&q=[rational-quality-manager]%20isanswered:1%20isaccepted:0

Query: Unanswered questions that have been viewed at least 100 times tagged oslc

RSS URL: https://jazz.net/forum/search/?type=rss&q=[oslc]%20isanswered:0%20views:100

Query: Unanswered question asked by Dave Thomson “dave”

RSS URL: https://jazz.net/forum/search/?type=rss&q=isanswered:0%20askedby:dave

Query: Questions tagged oslc and including the text “quality center” (as in HP Quality Center)

RSS URL: https://jazz.net/forum/search/?type=rss&q=[oslc]%20%22quality%20center%22