Search Engines and Common Queries

I’ve noticed that search engines, especially Google but also DuckDuckGo, seem to be optimizing for common types of queries, at the expense of less common ones. So if I want to find an Indian restaurant in a specific city, that works great. But if I want to find a restaurant with bench seating, that’s a much harder query to get answered. Google will fight you with your terms, replace with similar words, or ignore search terms, even if you use the plus operator, even if you put quotes around the term you don’t want dropped. Based on so much search data, Google’s algorithm now has a very strong opinion about what it thinks I want, and if the exact combination of words I’m looking for falls outside that scope, my query is internally munged to fit a more common pathway.

The Expert Locksmith’s dilemma

I’m going to call this the Expert Locksmith’s Dilemma, or just Locksmith’s Dilemma for short.

Suppose you decide to become a locksmith because you enjoy picking locks. It’s, challenging, fun, a nice mix of problem solving and manual dexterity, that ends with a nice endorphin rush when you “win”.

As a novice to journeyman locksmith, your job is a lot like how you imagined it to be. Maybe there’s more sitting in traffic than you expected, as you drive from one client to another, but there’s also lots of time spent puzzling out how to get people back into their cars and houses, fiddling with locks, learning new techniques and hardware, and getting to use cool tools like the Slim Jim (that long metal that slides into a car door to pop open the lock).


Clearing out the canon

Maybe it’s time to clear out the canon. The old and the new standards. Adios Homer, auf Wiedersehen Vonnegut, fuck off Orwell, Ellison and Morrison. Don’t even mention Shakespeare. All gone. Let’s start from scratch, wipe the literary slate clean, start anew. Make room for new voices and new ideas. The conversation has gotten stale.