Search Tricks

One effect of all the great content creation is the long-tail effect. Most of what’s created, from business breakdowns to that seventies show, will only be consumed by a small number of people. The long-tail idea is also true for an individual. Any given day my consumption is family news, then local and regional, then a national service or two, my favorite feeds (related: The Three Ways to Spend Your Day) and then the long tail stuff.

I used to feel bad when good episodes appeared in my feed and I skipped them. That’s fine, it’s just a query away. Which brings us to today’s point: a few of my favorite internet tricks.

Twitter search is not great, but with a few search operators it gets better. Mostly this is from:@mikedariano “jobs”, which returns tweets mostly about jobs-to-be-done. This is especially helpful to do before tweeting at someone to see if it’s been addressed already.

Wikipedia. Google (IMO) has suffered due to the incentives. It’s not a big deal, but rather than having a higher trust threshold I now go right to Wikipedia for Wikipedia-style searches.

Reddit. In 1994 I was twelve and one of the best feelings was visiting a video rental store. There were super-interesting sections I could plumb all day, there were areas I had no interest (at that time), and a restricted section I did not investigate for fear of what was behind the beaded curtain and whether or not I could unsee what I saw. That’s Reddit. The best Reddit communities might be the best places on the internet.

Listen Notes. Nowhere is the long-tail evident more than Listen Notes, a podcast search engine. Recent deep dives into Sears, DTC, MTV, and behavioral science all yielded results I could not have Googled. After creating an account, add your query results to the Listen Later playlist and add that RSS to your podcast app. If that sounds complicated it was a bad explanation rather than a difficult process.

Crudely the future of work will be some dichotomy of I give computers instructions or Computers give me instructions. During the Sears research (via Listen Notes) I found out that their first mail-order system was terribly bad. One customer wrote to Sears asking for the sewing machine she’d ordered, she’d received four wrong ones. It was only when Sears centralized their operation in Chicago that the mail order businesses succeeded. In 2021 there are companies like Locus Robotics.

In the future Cal-Newport-Style-Work will be doing things computers don’t do. Computers solve predefined problems really well.

But computers aren’t creative. Computers can’t handle a bunch of conditionals. Computers can’t frame things. Computers don’t in Bob Pittman’s words, understand when this is another one of those. Using the internet well is using computers to do non-computer work.

There is a 70’s show, The Long Seventies Podcast, that’s pretty darn good. I listened to the oil crisis and MPAA episodes.