There have been several times where I have used the mailing list archive search facility to try and find older messages so I could help to answer someone's question. I am almost never able to do so successfully and I feel that's because the search feature either doesn't work properly or because it's just really difficult to understand how to use it properly.
Let me give an example. On February 19, 2009 I sent an answer to Florian Brunner's question on the dev@openide mailing list. Since I know the specific date I sent it, I was able to locate it by navigating through the list chronologically, and the original message is here (for your reference):
I tried to locate this via the mailing list archive search feature, but failed in all attempts. Here are the specific steps I took:
1. I went to the main page for the 'dev' list archive:
2. I selected "Message" in the combo box and typed "persistence" in the text field, then clicked the "go" button, but none of the results were for my February 19, 2009 message even though the message body clearly contains the word persistence.
I will also note that the result page said "Search field : 2011-02 - 2011-01" on the results page, but there is no obvious way to change those parameters so I could search messages from say, 2006-12 through 2007-09 or to exclude the date range as a search criterion.
3. I then clicked the "advanced" link and tried a search on the phrase "persistence" in the subject or body, but again did not find my February 19, 2009 message among the results.
4. I finally tried searching for the phrase "via the NbPreferences class" in the message, but this produced no results at all.
I would like to suggest that an example of a good, easy-to-use search interface for lists can be found and Google Groups. For example, the Eclipse Go group:
can be easily searched for a phrase such as "cmd source folder" and as far as I can tell, all messages containing that phrase show up in the results list.
assigning to the kenai team as the mailling list infrastructure is part of their backend