Why Google Dorks Exist and Why Most Users Do Not Know Why They Are Needed

December 4, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Many people in my lectures are not familiar with the concept of “dorks”. No, not the human variety. I am referencing the concept of a “Google dork.” If you do a quick search using Yandex.com, you will get pointers to different “Google dorks.” Click on one of the links and you will find information you can use to retrieve more precise and relevant information from the Google ad-supported Web search system.

Here’s what QDORKS.com looks like:


The idea is that one plugs in search terms and uses the pull down boxes to enter specific commands to point the ad-centric system at something more closely resembling a relevant result. Other interfaces are available; for example, the “1000 Best Google Dorks List." You get a laundry list of tips,commands, and ideas for wrestling Googzilla to the ground, twisting its tail, and (hopefully) yield relevant information. Hopefully. Good work.


Most people are lousy at pinning the tail on the relevance donkey. Therefore, let someone who knows define relevance for the happy people. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Nice animal with map pins.

Why are Google Dorks or similar guides to Google search necessary? Here are three reasons:

  1. Precision reduces the opportunities for displaying allegedly relevant advertising. Semantic relaxation allows the Google to suggest that it is using Oingo type methods to find mathematically determined relationships. The idea is that razzle dazzle makes ad blasting something like an ugly baby wrapped in translucent fabric on a foggy day look really great.
  2. When Larry Page argued with me at a search engine meeting about truncation, he displayed a preconceived notion about how search should work for those not at Google or attending a specialist conference about search. Rational? To him, yep. Logical? To his framing of the search problem, the stance makes perfect sense if one discards the notion of tense, plurals, inflections, and stupid markers like “im” as in “impractical” and “non” as in “nonsense.” Hey, Larry had the answer. Live with it.
  3. The goal at the Google is to make search as intellectually easy for the “user” as possible. The idea was to suggest what the user intended. Also, Google had the old idea that a person’s past behavior can predict that person’s behavior now. Well, predict in the sense that “good enough” will do the job for vast majority of search-blind users who look for the short cut or the most convenient way to get information.

Why? Control, being clever, and then selling the dream of clicks for advertisers. Over the years, Google leveraged its information framing power to a position of control. I want to point out that most people, including many Googlers, cannot perceive. When pointed out, those individuals refuse to believe that Google does [a] NOT index the full universe of digital data, [b] NOT want to fool around with users who prefer Boolean algebra, content curation to identify the best or most useful content, and [c] fiddle around with training people to become effective searchers of online information. Obfuscation, verbal legerdemain, and the “do no evil” craziness make the railroad run the way Cornelius Vanderbilt-types implemented.

I read this morning (December 4, 2023) the Google blog post called “New Ways to Find Just What You Need on Search.” The main point of the write up in my opinion is:

Search will never be a solved problem; it continues to evolve and improve alongside our world and the web.

I agree, but it would be great if the known search and retrieval functions were available to users. Instead, we have a weird Google Mom approach. From the write up:

To help you more easily keep up with searches or topics you come back to a lot, or want to learn more about, we’re introducing the ability to follow exactly what you’re interested in.

Okay, user tracking, stored queries, and alerts. How does the Google know what you want? The answer is that users log in, use Google services, and enter queries which are automatically converted to search. You will have answers to questions you really care about.

There are other search functions available in the most recent version of Google’s attempts to deal with an unsolved problem:

As with all information on Search, our systems will look to show the most helpful, relevant and reliable information possible when you follow a topic.

Yep, Google is a helicopter parent. Mom will know what’s best, select it, and present it. Don’t like it? Mom will be recalcitrant, like shaping search results to meet what the probabilistic system says, “Take your medicine, you brat.” Who said, “Mother Google is a nice mom”? Definitely not me.

And Google will make search more social. Shades of Dr. Alon Halevy and the heirs of Orkut. The Google wants to bring people together. Social signals make sense to Google. Yep, content without Google ads must be conquered. Let’s hope the Google incentive plans encourage the behavior, or those valiant programmers will be bystanders to other Googlers’ promotions and accompanying money deliveries.

Net net: Finding relevant, on point, accurate information is more difficult today than at any other point in the 50+ year work career. How does the cloud of unknowing dissipate? I have no idea. I think it has moved in on tiny Googzilla feet and sits looking over the harbor, ready to pounce on any creature that challenges the status quo.

PS. Corny Vanderbilt was an amateur compared to the Google. He did trains; Google does information.

Stephen E Arnold, December 4, 2023

Using Smart Software to Make Google Search Less Awful

November 16, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb humanoid. No smart software required.

Here’s a quick tip: to get useful results from Google Search, use a competitor’s software. Digital Digging blogger Henk van Ess describes “How to Teach ChatGPT to Come Up with Google Formulas.” Specifically, Ess needed to include foreign-language results in his queries while narrowing results to certain time frames. These are not parameters Google handles well on its own. It was Chat GPT to the rescue—after some tinkering, anyway. He describes an example search goal:

“Find any official document about carbon dioxide reduction from Greek companies, anything from March 24, 2020 to December 21, 2020 will do. Hey, can you search that in Greek, please? Tough question right? Time to fire up Bing or ChatGPT. Round 1 in #chatgpt has a terrible outcome.”

But of course, Hess did not stop there. For the technical details on the resulting “ball of yarn,” how Hess resolved it, and how it can be extrapolated to other use cases, navigate to the write-up. One must bother to learn how to write effective prompts to get these results, but Hess insists it is worth the effort. The post observes:

“The good news is: you only have to do it once for each of your favorite queries. Set and forget, as you just saw I used the same formulae for Greek CO2 and Japanese EV’s. The advantage of natural language processing tools like ChatGPT is that they can help you generate more accurate and relevant search queries in a faster and more efficient way than manually typing in long and complex queries into search engines like Google. By using natural language processing tools to refine and optimize your search queries, you can avoid falling into ‘rabbit holes’ of irrelevant or inaccurate results and get the information you need more quickly and easily.”

Google is currently rolling out its own AI search “experience” in phases around the world. Will it improve results, or will one still be better off employing third-party hacks?

Cynthia Murrell, November 16, 2023

Google: Slip Slidin Away? Not Yet. Defaults Work

November 14, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb humanoid. No smart software required.

I spotted a short item in the online information service called Quartz. The story had a click magnet title, and it worked for me. “Is This the Beginning of the End of Google’s Dominance in Search?” asks a rhetorical question without providing much of an answer. The write up states:

The tech giant’s market share is being challenged by an increasingly crowded field

I am not sure what this statement means. I noticed during the week of November 6, 2023, that the search system 50kft.com stopped working. Is the service dead? Is it experiencing technical problems? No one knows. I also checked Newslookup.com. That service remains stuck in the past. And Blogsurf.io seems to be a goner. I am not sure where the renaissance in Web search is. Is there a digital Florence, Italy, I have overlooked?


A search expert lounging in the hammock of habit. Thanks, Microsoft Bing. You do understand some concepts like laziness when it comes to changing search defaults, don’t you?

The write up continues:

Google has been the world’s most popular search engine since its launch in 1997. In October, it was holding a market share of 91.6%, according to web analytics tracker StatCounter. That’s down nearly 80 basis points from a year before, though a relatively small dent considering OpenAI’s ChatGPT was introduced late last year.

And what’s number two? How about Bing with a market share of 3.1 percent according to the numbers in the article.

Some people know that Google has spent big bucks to become the default search engine in places that matter. What few appreciate is that being a default is the equivalent of finding oneself in a comfy habit hammock. Changing the default setting for search is just not worth the effort.

What I think is happening is the conflation of search and retrieval with another trend. The new thing is letting software generate what looks like an answer. Forget that the outputs of a system based on smart software may be wonky or just incorrect. Thinking up a query is difficult.

But Web search sucks. Google is in a race to create bigger, more inviting hammocks.


Google is not sliding into a loss of market share. The company is coming in for the kill as it demonstrates its financial resolve with regard to the investment in Character.ai.

Let me be clear: Finding actionable information today is more difficult than at any previous time in my 50 year career in online information. Why? Software struggles to match content to what a human needs to solve certain problems. Finding a pizza joint or getting a list of results for further reading just looks like an answer. To move beyond good enough so the pizza joint does not gag a maggot or the list of citations is beyond the user’s reading level is not what’s required.

We are stuck in the Land of Good Enough, lounging in habit hammocks, and living the good life. Some people wear a T shirt with the statement, “Ignorance is bliss. Hello, Happy.”

Net net: I think the write up projects a future in which search becomes really easy and does the thinking for the humanoids. But for now, it’s the Google.

Stephen E Arnold, November 14, 2023

Autonomy: More Legal Activity

October 25, 2023

green-dino_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb humanoid. No smart software required.

Though the UK legal system seems to have lost interest, the US is still determined to throw the book at Autonomy’s founder for his alleged deceit of HP. Now, The Telegraph reports, “Mike Lynch Files Legal Challenge to Have Fraud Case Thrown Out by US Courts.” While their client languishes in San Francisco under self-funded house arrest, Lynch’s lawyers insist the US has no jurisdiction to prosecute. Reporter James Titcomb writes:

“The filing states: ‘At all times between 2009 and 2011, Autonomy was fundamentally a UK-centric business. Autonomy listed its shares on the London Stock Exchange. All major decisions about the strategic direction of the company, its revenue-generating operations, and its compliance with financial reporting obligations were made in England. ‘The “means and methods” identified in the [indictment] – revenue recognition issues, allegedly fraudulent entries in Autonomy’s books, allegedly false and misleading quarterly and annual reports – all comprise conduct that occurred in another country.’ Mr Lynch has long maintained that any case against him should be heard in Britain, but the Serious Fraud Office dropped its investigation into the matter in 2015.”

Will this tactic work? The US DOJ filed charges in 2018 and 2019. Despite all efforts to block extradition, Lynch was moved to San Francisco in May 2023. The article states a judge will hear the request to throw out the case in November. Meanwhile, the trial remains scheduled for 2024.

The saga of Autonomy and HP continues. Who knew enterprise search could become a legal thriller? Netflix, perhaps a documentary?

Cynthia Murrell, October 25, 2023

Kagi Rolls Out a Small Web Initiative

October 5, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Recall the early expectations for the Web: It would be a powerful conduit for instant connection and knowledge-sharing around the world. Despite promises to the contrary, that rosy vision has long since given way to commercial interests’ paid content, targeted ads, bots, and data harvesting. Launched in 2018, Kagi offers a way to circumvent those factors with its ad-free, data protecting search engine—for a small fee, naturally. Now the company is promoting what it calls the Kagi Small Web initiative. We learn from the blog post:

“Since inception, we’ve been featuring content from the small web through our proprietary Teclis and TinyGem search indexes. This inclusion of high-quality, lesser-known parts of the web is part of what sets Kagi’s search results apart and gives them a unique flavor. Today we’re taking this a step further by integrating Kagi Small Web results into the index.”

See the write-up for examples. Besides these insertions into search results, one can also access these harder-to-find sources at the new Kagi Small Web website. This project displays a different random, recent Web page with each click of the “Next Post” button. Readers are also encouraged to check out their experimental Small YouTube, which we are told features content by YouTube creators with fewer than 4,000 subscribers. (Although as of this writing, the Small YouTube link supplied redirects right back to the source blog post. Hmm.)

The write-up concludes with these thoughts on Kagi’s philosophy:

“The driving question behind this initiative was simple yet profound: the web is made of millions of humans, so where are they? Why do they get overshadowed in traditional search engines, and how can we remedy this? This project required a certain leap of faith as the content we crawl may contain anything, and we are putting our reputation on the line vouching for it. But we also recognize that the ‘small web’ is the lifeblood of the internet, and the web we are fighting for. Those who contribute to it have already taken their own leaps of faith, often taking time and effort to create, without the assurance of an audience. Our goal is to change that narrative. Together with the global community of people who envision a different web, we’re committed to revitalizing a digital space abundant in creativity, self-expression, and meaningful content – a more humane web for all.”

Does this suggest that Google Programmable Search Engine is a weak sister?

Cynthia Murrell, October 5, 2023

This Dinobaby Likes Advanced Search, Boolean Operators, and Precision. Most Do Not

August 28, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I am not sure of the chronological age of the author of “7 Reasons to Replace Advanced Search with Filters So Users Can Easily Find What They Need.” From my point of view, the author has a mental age of someone much younger than I. The article identifies a number of reasons why “advanced search” functions are lousy. As a dinobaby, I want to be crystal clear: A user should have an interface which allows that user to locate the information required to respond in a useful way to a query.

8 24 sliding board

The expert online searcher says with glee, “I love it when free online search services make finding information easy. Best of all is Amazon. It suggests so many things I absolutely need.” Hey, MidJourney, thanks for the image without suggesting Mother MJ okay my word choice. “Whoever said, ‘Nothing worthwhile comes easy’ is pretty stupid,” shouts or sliding board slider.

Advanced search in my dinobaby mental space means Boolean operators like AND, OR, and NOT, among others. Advanced search requires other meaningful “tags” specifically designed to minimize the ambiguity of words; for example, terminal can mean transportation or terminal can mean computing device. English is notable because it has numerous words which make sense only when a context is provided. Thus, a Field Code can instruct the retrieval system to discard the computing device context and retrieve the transportation context.

The write up makes clear that for today’s users training wheels are important. Are these “aids” like icons, images, bundles of results under a category dark patterns or assistance for a user. I can only imagine the push back I would receive if I were in a meeting with today’s “user experience” designers. Sorry, kids. I am a dinobaby.

I really want to work through seven reasons advanced search sucks. But I won’t. The number of people who know how to use key word search is tiny. One number I heard when I was a consultant to a certain big search engine is less than three percent of the Web search users. The good news for those who buy into the arguments in the cited article is that dinobabies will die.

Is it a lack of education? Is it laziness? Is it what most of today’s users understand?

I don’t know. I don’t care. A failure to understand how to obtain the specific information one requires is part of the long slow slide down a descent gradient. Enjoy the non-advanced search.

Stephen E Arnold, August 28, 2023

Academic Research Resources: Smart Software Edition

August 8, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

One of my research team called “The Best AI Tools to Power Your Academic Research.”  The article identifies five AI infused tools; specifically:

  • ChatPDF
  • Consensus
  • Elicit.org
  • Research Rabbit
  • Scite.ai

Each of the tools is described briefly. The “academic research” phrase is misleading. These tools can provide useful information related to inventors and experts (real or alleged), specific technical methods, and helpful background or contest for certain social, political, and intellectual issues.

If you have access to a LLM question-and-answer system, experimenting with article summaries, lists of information, and names of people associated with a particular activity — give a ChatGPT system a whirl too.

Stephen E Arnold, August 8, 2023

AI-Search Tool Talpa Burrows Into Library Catalogues

July 19, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

For a few years now, libraries have been able to augment their online catalogue with enrichment services from Syndetics Unbound, which adds details and imagery to each entry. Now the company is incorporating new AI capabilities, we learn from its write-up, “Introducing Talpa Search.” Talpa is still experimental and is temporarily available to libraries already using Syndetics Unbound.

7 15 biijwirn

A book lover in action. Thanks MidJourney. You made me more appealing than I was in the 1951 when I got kicked out of the library for reading books for adults, not stuff about Freddy the Pig.

Participating libraries will get a year of the service for free. We cannot know just how much they will be saving, though, since the pricing remains a mystery. Writer Tim Spalding describes how Talpa works:

“First, Talpa queries large language models (from Claude AI and ChatGPT) for books and other media. Critically, every item is checked against true and authoritative bibliographic data, solving the problem of invented answers (called ‘hallucinations’) that such models can fall into. Second, Talpa uses the natural-language abilities of large language models to parse and understand queries, which are then answered using traditional library data. Thus a search for ‘novels about World War II in France’ is broken down into subjects and tags and answered with results from the library’s collection. Our authoritative book data comes from Syndetics Unbound, Bowker and LibraryThing. Surprisingly, Talpa’s ability to find books by their cover design isn’t powered by AI at all, but by the effort of thousands of book lovers who have played LibraryThing’s CoverGuess cover-tagging game since 2010!”

Interesting. If you don’t happen to be part of a library using Syndetics, you can try Talpa out at one of the three libraries linked to in the post. The tool sports a cute mole mascot and, to add a bit of personality, supplies mole facts beneath the search bar. As with many AI tools, the functionality has plenty of room to grow. For example, my search for “weaving velvet” did return a few loom-centered books scattered through the results but more prominently suggested works of fiction or philosophy that simply contained “velvet” in the title. (Including, adorably, several versions of “The Velveteen Rabbit.”) The write-up does not share when the tool will be available more widely, but we hope it will be more refined when it is. Is it AI? Isn’t everything?

Cynthia Murrell, July 19, 2023

Amazon Is Winning the Product Search Derby… for Now

July 12, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Google cannot be happy about these numbers. We learn from a piece at Search Engine Land that now “50% of Product Searches Start on Amazon.” That is even worse for the competition than previously predicted. In fact, Google’s share of this market has slipped to less than a third at 31.5%. What’s Google’s solution to this click loss? Higher ad pricing? Or maybe an even higher ad-to-real content ratio?

7 9 search race

The search racers are struggling to win traffic related to products. What has Amazon accomplished? Has Google’s vehicle lost power? What about Microsoft, a company whose engine is Bing-ing?

We also learn just 14% of respondents start their searches at retail or brand websites, while social media and review sites each capture a measly 2%. But that could change as Generation Z continues to age into independent shoppers. That group is the most likely to launch searches from social media. They are also most inclined to check online reviews. Reviews with photos are especially influential. Writer Danny Goodwin cites a recent Pew survey as he writes:

“Reviews and ratings can make or break a sale more than any other factor, including product price, free shipping, free returns and exchanges, and more. Overall, 77% of respondents said they specifically seek out websites with reviews – and this number was even higher for Gen Z (87%) and millennials (81%). Ratings without accompanying reviews are considered untrustworthy by 56% of survey respondents. Where people read reviews and ratings:

  • Amazon: 94%
  • Retail websites (e.g., Target, Wal-Mart): 91%
  • Search engines: 70%
  • Brand websites (the brand that manufactures the product: 68%
  • Independent review sites: 40%

User-generated photos and videos gain value. Sixty percent of consumers looked at user-generated images or videos when learning about new products.

  • 77% of respondents said they trust customer photos and videos.
  • 53% said user-generated photos and videos from previous customers impacted their decision whether to purchase a product.”

So there you have it—if you have a product to market online, best encourage reviews. With pics, or it didn’t happen. Videos are a significant marketing factor. What happens if Zuck’s Threads pushes into product search, effectively linking text promotions with Instagram? And the Google? Let’s ask Bard?

Cynthia Murrell, July 12, 2023

Scinapse Is A Free Academic-Centric Database

July 11, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Quality academic worthy databases are difficult to locate outside of libraries and schools. Google Scholar attempted to qualify as an alternative to paywalled databases, but it returns repetitive and inaccurate results. Thanks to AI algorithms, free databases improved, such as Scinapse.

Scinapse is designed by Pluto and it is advertised as the “researcher’s favorite search engine. Scinapse delivers accurate and updated research materials in each search. Many free databases pull their results from old citations and fail to include recent publications. Pluto promises Scinapse delivers high-performing results due to its original algorithm optimized for research.

The algorithm returns research materials based on when it was published, how many times it was citied, and how impactful a paper was in notable journals. Scinapse consistently delivers results that are better than Google Scholar. Each search item includes a complete citation for quick reference. The customized filters offer the typical ways to narrow or broaden results, including journal, field of study, conference, author, publication year, and more.

People can also create an account to organize their research in reading lists, share with other scholars, or export as a citation list. Perhaps the most innovative feature is the paper recommendations where Scinapse sends paper citations that align with research. Scinapse aggregates over 48,000 journals. There are users in 196 countries and 1,130 reputable affiliations. Scinapse’s data sources include Microsoft Research, PubMed, Semantic Scholar, and Springer Nature.

Whitney Grace, July 11, 2023

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