Every now and then I read some article on how the Web is running out of bandwidth, or the government is going to take it over, or the UN is going to control it, or the increase in domain extensions is going to fragmentize it, or the corporations will soon own everything, or any of a dozen scenarios that spell certain doom.
I think, if only.
Personally, I'd be delighted to see a new 'web' spring up. Personal sites only, please. Commercial ventures okay if owned by only one person.
The problem is that the Web has gotten so massive that trying to search for info is becoming exceedingly difficult. Your initial search will probably come up with millions of hits. Refine it and, if you're lucky, it'll get it down to a mere tens of thousands.
When it gets near to impossible is when you're totally lacking in semi-unique 'keywords'. I twice spent over an hour looking for a WordPress plugin that would display the 'last modified' date when listing the posts — and have it be clickable so the posts could be sorted that way (like it does with the name of the posts, author, date, etc).
And I got nowhere fast, simply because there just wasn't any keyword that helped zone in on the answer. I just now did a search for "wordpress plugin list last modified" and came up with the expected 1.2 million hits. I have Google display 20 hits per page, so, at 10 minutes per page tracking down leads per 8 hours a day, that's 3.4 years to go through them all.
If you, like me, simply don't have the 3.4 years available to do a proper Google search, there are some nifty little tricks that can help out immensely.
Aren't there always? xxxxx
What's to note here is that most of these work on quite a few web sites, not just the big search engines.
With that said, these are all Google tricks that I presume will work on Bing, MSN, Yahoo, etc. If not, oh well. Darn the luck.
There are really only three 'tricks' you can employ, but they can be very effective, especially the third one if you know the site the article is on.
1. Quote marks are vitally important. Putting words in quotes tells the search engine to look for only that particular grouping of words. For example, in my above WordPress search, putting "last modified" in quotes reduced the 1.2 mil down to a mere 127,000. That would obviously take far less time to go through than 3.4 years.
2. Also vital is the plus sign. Putting a + directly in +front of a word tells the search engine to make sure the word is actually on the web page, not just part of some hidden 200,000-word 'meta' list full of likely search terms. It can also be used in front of quotes, but the plus sign goes inside the quotes, like so:
maggie's farm bird dog "+hot tractor porn"
That would separate the good stuff from that other crap he posts.
3. If you know the site the article is on, but can't find it using the site's search box, try doing a 'site search'. We'll use a real-life example here.
A while back, I was on some backwater blog site, obviously just killing time in the extreme.
Suddenly, I was shocked to the very core at what I saw. My razor-sharp memory told me this was the second time this picture had been posted:
Wishing to see justice upheld, I immediately right-clicked on the offending pic, selected 'Save Image As', then copied the pic's name to memory with Ctrl-C. I went over to Google and did a site search:
And, sure enough, there was the original post — and by a different blogger! As it turned out, the second blogger had stolen the picture from the original poster and used it for his own greedy ends as he dished out these 'sloppy seconds' to us.
So, apart from exposing certain backwater bloggers as basically being the digital version of used car hucksters, it's also handy on news sites. Their own search routines are sometimes almost worthless. This is doubly-true if it doesn't display the verbiage on both sides of the keyword, as Google does, because if you're looking through 127,000 hits*, those little descriptions are invaluable.
*based on a true story
— Plurals don't count. A search for "huckster" will also yield any page with "hucksters" on it, but not "huckstering" or "huckstered".
— For that, use an asterisk as a 'wildcard'. A search for "huckster" yields 1.4 million hits, only searching for itself and the plural. A search for "huckster*" yields 16.3 million hits.
— Probably the single best general tip is to pretend like you're just a regular person. Go ahead and type the whole question out, just like you were asking it in a forum or blog site comments, and you might get lucky. Remember to use quote marks around any key phrases. Some forum pages are pretty long, so keep Ctrl-F handy for searching through the page for your main keyword.
— If some program's spitting out an error message, include it exactly in quotes. If it looks like it has a specific reference to your system, like "Error accessing memory sector at E4035E93FF223", first try the whole thing, then remove just the part about your system if you come up with zip.