How to deep dive for information

Most people think it’s easy to search with Google. The problem is most people can’t perform good searches. Why you ask? Because data takes many forms, and just performing a simple search will most often not get you exactly what you are looking for. People will then complain that they “can’t find it”, and my retort is that you didn’t actually look for it properly.

Let me provide a couple of examples. The first scenario is information that doesn’t exist on the net, and believe me there is a *lot* of it. First let’s search for information about Japanese woodworking saws, using the phrase “Japanese woodworking saws”. This actually produces a bunch of hits, a mix of places that sell saws, and blog posts about saws. But the problem here is that they are all in English. This is great if you want to buy a Japanese saw, but what about if you want to know more about them? For that you actually have to perform the search using the equivalent Japanese phrase. So “japanese woodworking saws” when translated using Google translate gives:


Note, that Google translate always gives the English-based Japanese option as well, in this case “Nihon no mokkō nokogiri”, but it doesn’t work well in the search engine because most Japanese websites are in Japanese script. These days translating these websites is quite trivial. Of course if you are searching in Japanese, you really only need to specify “woodworking saw” in Japanese, and the mere fact that the search is being performed in Japanese means that it will find the most appropriate information. Of course information on the internet is somewhat deficient sometimes – real information can still only be found in books, and I’m not talking about digital books, I’m talking paper ones. It turns out that real information on the historical context of Japanese saws is found in historic books that aren’t digitized.

It is no different when trying to find something like vintage camera lenses from Germany. For example to search for vintage “Meyer Optik lenses”, you could search for the string as shown. However this will only find English results. It may be more beneficial to search using the equivalent German search string: “meyer optik objektive”. Even better is set the domain to “de”, to restrict searching to German domains. Because there is sometimes a lot of lens information on Japanese sites, it is also good to try searching using the Japanese phrase “マイヤーオプティックレンズ”.

The bottom line is that sometimes you have to use every possible trick in the book to find information online, knowing that in some cases, it doesn’t matter how you search, the information just does not exist in a digital form. We are of course very lucky that so much knowledge is available.


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