Dynamite Circle

The Dynamite Circle (DC) is a large social network for expat entrepreneurs around the world. It’s a fantastic community with a wealth of actionable information, but much of that information had become ¬†difficult to find because the site’s search was so poor. Because the DC is a private membership site, Google Site Search wasn’t an option. What’s more, the DC is built on Ning, a hosted white label social networking platform. Because Ning is a SaaS, I couldn’t dig right into the code and rework the search from that angle. The only solution, then, was to collect the site’s content independently, build a custom search engine around that content, and inject the new search experience into the site via JavaScript. So that’s what I did.


  • Global Search
    • Searches forums, members, groups, events, and status updates.
    • Members, groups, and events conveniently appear in the right rail to¬†accelerate the search experience.
    • Results from private groups only appear to members of those groups.
    • Results for Status Updates include the complete Status Update, along with excerpts from matching comments.
  • Simple filters and sorting
    • Drill down by time
    • Sort by relevance or date
  • Forum Search
    • Search across all forums.
  • Forum Category Search
    • Search within an individual forum.
  • Group Forum Search
    • Search within a group’s forum, restricting access to group members if the group is a private group.
  • Member Search
    • Search across all members.
  • Member Discussions Search
    • Search for discussions to which the given member has contributed.
  • Group Search
    • Search across all groups.
  • Event Search
    • Search all events.


  • Happier members. Transforms e-mails complaining about the quality of the search function into glowing reviews.
  • You have your data
    • In order to drive the search, the search app collects all the content from your Ning network using a variety of web scrapers. This effectively means that you have all your member data, forums, groups, events, and status updates. The archives that Ning gives you are both corrupted and incomplete. Having your own data gives you a huge leg up, should you wish to migrate from Ning in the future.

Technical Highlights

  • Lucene running in an ElasticSearch cluster
  • Rails 4
  • Postgres