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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stand Aside, Google -- These Search Engines Are the Shizz

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 8:00 AM


I love Google as a search engine, but I wonder lately if its popularity and tendency to cull data from your previous searches has hindered its awesomeness. Sometimes, for instance, I'm not looking for anything San Francisco specific, but that's all that comes up just based on my location. Bing seems, well, BorING. Are there other search engines that can compete? Am I missing out on search engine awesomeness because Google is easiest and biggest?

~Breaking Up?

Google is the default sugar daddy of searches. It's not going to lose its rank anytime soon, but I have noticed some similar declines in its usefulness in recent months, possibly due to everyone and their mom's kitchen sink trying to SEO the crap out of their websites. Or maybe Google really does want me to get all my relationship advice from Yahoo! Answers, which is always some variation of this:


Pop! U can't even afford barley. And that is a sad, sad occasion indeed.

It's easy to blame search engine algorithms. Lawd knows I search for weird sex things all the time and then wonder why my ads are littered with herpes medications. Thankfully, my badass friend and colleague, Maddie Oatman, assistant research editor at Mother Jones, just gave a presentation on all the different tools for (re)searching at our fingertips. Below are some of the tips, tricks and resources.

First, Google's advanced search tool is incredibly useful. (It's that little link below and to the right of your search bar). Click on that and you can filter by language, format, and even reading level, which would exclude all Yahoo! results immediately.

A few other nifty Google search features that you may not have known about are:

Math problems: If you're anything like this Miss USA parody video, then you're not so good at adding and "times-ing." But Google has a built-in calculator that will do math for you. The example it uses is: 5*9+(sqrt 10)^3= which I'm pretty sure is the formula for female ejaculation. You can also convert units of measurement, which is insanely helpful if you are like me and buy cookbooks from the 1970s. A jigger of milk, you say? Grooooovy. To convert units, simply type in "jigger in teaspoons" and bam! Not only do you learn that a jigger is a shot, but it also equals nine teaspoons.

Public data: What's not improved by a chart or visualization? NOTHING. See this Rickroll pie chart if you don't believe me. Cue Google's Public Data Explorer, which houses data sets on national and international demographics, which you can adapt, tweak, and share in an embeddable format. For example, some friends of mine are trying to persuade me to move to Georgia. But will I contract an STD, I wondered? In less than five minutes, I was able to create a graph of the instances of gonorrhea across the U.S., in California, and in Georgia.

Thus proving that the South really is as dirty as its reputation.

But enough about Google. What else is out there? Here's the Hem and Ho-down.


This is a search engine that finds results from Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and real-time updates from Twitter all at the same time. It also lets you know where it got said search result, which might help you compare engines over the long haul. It's also got a clean interface, which I found to be aesthetically pleasing. I did some crush-stalking on it and found it to be pretty comprehensive. It even turned up an embarrassing MySpace photo, for what that's worth.


This is just for computations, but it's so geekin' amazing. For instance, because I can never get family tree shit straight, I typed in "first cousin twice removed" and WolframAlpha gave me this:


How cool is that? Also great if you're one of those disgusting couples who wants to know how many months, days, and seconds you've been together. Because I'm single, I calculated how long my vibrator and I have been in cahoots. (Twenty-eight weeks, three days). WolframAlpha also works for standard stuff like units of measurement and demographic info, but don't underestimate its propensity for ridiculousness, like word anagrams, your odds of winning the lottery, and name statistics. One out of every 311 people in the U.S. is named Anna, I found out. Also, the name was vastly more popular in the 1890s.

Duck Duck Go

I am a chronic self-Googler and even I was surprised by all the information this site turned up that I'd never seen before. I found out one of my drag bar reviews in Chicago is featured in a Groupon, and several bloggers and websites linked to my bisexual stereotypes post at AlterNet. All of that should have turned up in the Google Alerts that I set up for my name, but it hadn't. Color me impressed. Duck Duck Go also has a cool zero-click feature that shows up above the standard search results. For instance, if you type in "age of Justin Bieber" you'll see a red box at the top with a computation from our friends at WolframAlpha. (He's still underage, perverts.) There are fewer ads and clutter to contend with on the site as well. I didn't get a chance to really play around with it, but in my brief time exploring, I found Duck Duck Go to be all it's quacked up to be.

This is just a brief sampling of some of the alternative search engines out there. There are many others, of course. I could do a whole post on search engines that help you dig up dirt on people, for instance. Would you like that?

What are some of your favorite non-Google search sites?

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook

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