BoardReader: Google Alternatives

Introducing BoardReader, an alternative search engine directory with focus on web forums and discussion topics

Perhaps our detective's yet to try BoardReader.

I suppose he’s looking for a 7″ single with the catalogue number ARI 8326. If he entered “Thompson Twins” in BoardReader, he might have the answer*. Photograph by Paurian, 2009 (Creative Commons License – Some Rights Reserved).

Search Engine Myth: Google is the only game in town.

Search Engine Fact: there is several competitors and niche search engines.

Everybody knows about the power of Google. Many of us take Google’s results as gospel and treat the search engine as their only source. With the exception of China and Russia, it has a near saturation presence around the world.

Even the greatest search engines have trouble finding a solitary staple in a patterned carpet. One search engine, BoardReader, has a particular niche itself. It focuses on discussion forums and topics. Not only forum posts (like ours for example) but also Facebook entries.

BoardReader has been going for quite a while. It is only two years younger than Google and has its roots in the University of Michigan. Created by its students and engineers it allows users to search multiple message boards at once. As well as being a search engine, there is also details of posting activity.

At the right of its results is a little Trends Graph. This displays the amount of posting activity on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. With BoardReader, you can:

  • Choose whether to display the results in order of relevance or freshness;
  • Filter posts in order of the last day, last week, last month, last 3 months, or last year;
  • Toggle the results by post or forum thread;
  • Narrow results by language setting.

Here’s a screenshot of the BoardReader user interface:

GreaterManchester-BoardReaderScreengrab

Using BoardReader

BoardReader enables you to search for a given subject area by forum posts, topics or forums. For the purpose of this article we entered the search term “Greater Manchester”.

At the bottom of each result is two or three little boxes marked “S”, “F” and “T”. They denote the following:

  • Site (S): details the site itself. Includes reference to the 10 most active posts, domain name, posting activity daily reach and most prolific forum posters;
  • Forum (F): slight to the site profile with details of the most active threads and most prolific forum topic creators;
  • Thread (T): refers to the activity of a given forum thread on each forum.

1. Searching for forum posts

Forum posts can be searched for in terms of relevance or freshness. Under relevance, which is the default filter, our first result details lively discussion on the Elected Mayor for Greater Manchester.

After switching our filter to freshness we go to the most recent post on anything of a Greater Manchester nature. Top of our list is a post on the Northern Airline Hub (which at the time of writing was posted 8 hours ago).

Within this section, each search result details the age of post. Clicking on “More Site Info” details the forum itself and the section each given post is seen within.

The graph on the right hand side details our posting activity. This could be useful in planning future blog posts or forum entries. With our default search set to last 3 months and the line chart set to posts by day, we notice a marked drop in the number of forum posts with ‘Greater Manchester’ in the subject area.

Owing to the time of writing, a seasonal variation being on the cusp of peak summer holiday season. This is evident when we change the view of the line chart from posts by day to post by month. Hence there being roughly 1,200 posts in May compared with 623 so far in July.

When we search by thread instead of individual posts, the screen display is tidier. Though our results on Tony Lloyd and Liverpool Airport top the rankings under relevance and freshness criteria, the most obvious bit is results are by thread only.

On the line chart, the pattern seems to be similar: down to 330 threads so far this July from 580 in May this year.

2. Searching for topics

The bulk of the Topic area screen is split into two columns. Our Trends graph is seen above the fold on our screen, left of centre. On its right is a BoardReader Trendy box which enables you to search for three topics. A bit like Google Trends.

Below is the Related Topics box with a selection of subject areas based around our search terms. This spans two columns. Immediately below is two sections. On the left, the amount of times that our desired search term is discussed. Topping the list for Greater Manchester is the Skyscraper City forum. Which comes as no surprise as the said forum has its own sections for Greater Manchester.

The Related Items box refers to anything with some connection to our subject. Though not about the area specifically, just general information about (for example) dialling codes.

3. Searching for forums

Where this screen differs from the previous two is the lack of a line chart on the right hand side. As would expect, a listing of the top forums with the Greater Manchester subject area.

Introducing BoardReader Trendy

Given as BoardReader Trendy permits another two search terms, we opted for ‘West Midlands’ and ‘South Yorkshire’ as our sister two terms. Trendy results can be displayed in line chart, bar chart, pie chart or tabular fashion.

As with the main BoardReader results, these can be broken down by Posts, Topics and Forums. Results can be collated over the last week, last month, last 3 months, last 6 months or any time. They can also be grouped by day, week, month or year.

Our results see Greater Manchester leading the charge with 1,071 posts recorded in the last month. West Midlands is second with 970 monthly posts with South Yorkshire on 718 per month.

All three urban areas saw a drop in forum posts after May. The West Midlands’ just as marked as Greater Manchester’s. In South Yorkshire, only a slight fall to 658 from 864 in May. June saw a modest rise to 872. What is most apparent is how seasonal variations affect the frequency of forum posts.

Adding Your Site

BoardReader’s results are dependant on webmasters submitting their forum. Doing so requires stating the Bulletin Board Topic and Bulletin Board Software, which enables BoardReader to spider your forum properly. Add your forum to BoardReader is free of charge.

Next in the series of Google Alternatives:

We shall be looking at Yippy.com, a search engine which has its roots in Clusty.com.

The Manchester Business Forum, 21 July 2015.

* We Are Detective, The Thompson Twins (1983)