Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Frustrated with Google.

Ok, here's a rant. I try not to do this too much, but tonight I've got to. Maybe because it's 18 degrees outside, or maybe because my cat just bit me... I don't know, but I'm in a ranty mood.

As I'm waiting for the completion of my 1988 Score set to arrive in the mail I've been updating my checklist, organizing my doubles and really just getting everything ready to put this one to bed. While going through some doubles I came across two extra copies of card number 297. Terry Francona and Terry Franconia. hmmm. Something's not right here.

Ok, so I've come across an error card. The well known error in the set is a version of the Greg Walker card number 98 of 66, where the actual card number is 93 of 660. So I did some digging and came up with two errors in my box of doubles. The "Franconia" card and an error version of John Christensen (card #419) where the last name is spelled Christiansen. There may be more, and instead of taking the time to look at every card I figured there's probably a list somewhere. Beckett used to be a pretty good source for error cards, but the section containing 1988 Score fell out of my latest edition of Beckett (1990) and is nowhere to be found.

So that leaves me with the internet.

I'll admit that while I probably spend more time than I should online, I'm not obsessed and I'm not an internet junkie. There are certain things I do while I'm online. I check my email, look at the weather, read baseball card blogs and check the knife forums. I don't search all that often.

That said, I've been using the internet for at least fifteen years now and I think (thought?) I know what I'm doing.

Back in the mid-90s I used Yahoo to search for everything. Usually it was helpful and I found what I was looking for. Then when the internet turned into big business Yahoo turned into a giant billboard. You couldn't find anything without sifting through page and page of links to online stores. But hey, it was the late-90s, things were good and everybody and his third cousin was making a buck selling shit online. Sure it was frustrating, but I didn't really need the internet for anything.

Then in 1999 I started college. I attended Western Carolina University, which in 1999 was one of a very few schools in the nation that required all incoming freshmen to have a personal computer. It seems silly now that every school does it, but it was a big deal back then. As part of freshman orientation there were a few days of computer training before the semester began.

These training sessions assumed that we knew the basics of operating the computer, so they focused on using the school's network and using the internet as a research tool. One of the first things we were shown was this relatively new search engine called Google. Since that day nearly ten years ago, I haven't seen Yahoo once.

Google was great. If you needed to find something you typed it in, hit enter and nine times out of ten the first link on the results page was exactly what you were after. If it wasn't, then you had several pages of good information before the search degraded into uselessness.

So Google became a habit, and a pretty good tool.

But several years have passed, and like I said, I don't do a lot of searching, but I've become increasinly annoyed with Google. Some years ago I picked up a Buck model 501 pocket knife on ebay. The blade is marked with a + next to the model number which means the knife was made in 1991. I was curious about the knife.

I knew from prior research that at some point in the early 90s Buck switched from 425M to 420HC for their blade steel, but when exactly was that and what steel was used in my 501? Off to Google, only to find that it's become another huge advertisement.

The first five pages were nothing but links to store trying to see me a Buck 501. Not at all what I wanted. No combination of search words I could come up with would get me anything else. I wanted some history on the knife, nothing.

In the end, I sent an email to Buck to get the information I was after. I probably should have done that first and saved myself some time.

Interestingly enough, that old Buck 501 is sitting on my desk right now. Despite my frustrations learning its story (by the way Buck made the switch to 420HC in 1992, so this knife is 425M) it's one of my favorite knives and cuts things like a little lazer.

Tonight when I discovered those errors I was curious how many more there were. I've encountered a lot of typos, but I want to know how many corrected errors there are in this set. What was my first instinct? Go to Google.

So once again, I spent an hour looking, trying different combinations of search words and nothing. In fact the only useful information I uncovered was a link to this very blog and logic would assume that if I'm asking the question, my site isn't going to have the answer.

I've concluded that, at least for me, finding anything of value with Google is frustrating at best, usually useless and in the worst cases impossible.

Am I doing something wrong? It's not just Google, it's every search engine these days. This set has been around for twenty years, I know that the information I'm looking for has to exist somewhere in the depths of the internet. Why isn't it first on the Google (or any other search engines) results?

Are there any search engines that don't flood you with ads? Or is that all there is now?

Any ideas?