I wanted to let you know that we have been listening to you. We are in the process of rolling out a test to evaluate whether or not the following default behaviors on new search are the correct default behaviors. These include:
1) Whether Soundex should be included by default on new search. For this first step, we will be comparing how successful searchers are under the current default behavior (with Soundex on) vs. Soundex off (but phonetic on). I know some of you would advocate not even including phonetic, but we wanted to take a babystep on this first test. Depending on the outcome of this test, we will evaluate later tests with other configurations.
2) Whether there should be some degree of first name matching. Currently the website does not require any matching on first name at all. This is why you can get results for Mary Smith, when you search for John Smith. For this test we will compare successes from the current default behavior to one where the results must match exactly, or phonetically, or similar, or because of initials.
We will be analyzing performance of the different experiences across different user types and deciding upon the configuration that works best for the most users. (I think I have a pretty good idea about what configuration you all will be pulling for.)
I hope you appreciate that this test reflects our commitment to taking a reasoned approach to significant changes to the user experience. Along the same lines, we will be gradually rolling out the test groups, so it may be a few weeks before you (potentially) see one of the test groups with the different default experience.