A World of Search
After writing that sentence in my previous post, it occurred to me that there probably is an audience, although not a large one, that would be interested in the explanations—while the book was not a success, some readers clearly liked it a lot. Unfortunately, most of them don't read my blog, so if I had let myself go on at greater length it would have been to the wrong readers. That is unfortunate, since it prevents a conversation that both sides would have enjoyed, an exchange in our mutual advantage.
There is a solution, and it is one that may be very gradually taking form. I routinely do searches of both Usenet and the Web, using search strings designed to spot references to me while filtering out at least some of the references to other people with the same name. The current term for the practice is egosurfing, the older term, named after an early Usenet practitioner, "kibozing." With the search already set up it takes only a single click, although I then have to spend a minute or so looking through the results to find the ones that are actually worth looking at.
There is no reason why the practice could not be extended. I am a fan of various writers, including Heinlein, Kipling, G.K. Chesterton, Tolkien, Orwell, and others. I could have a search string that spotted any online reference to any of them. Extending it further, one could imagine a (very long and complicated) search string designed to spot any reference online to anything of interest to me—for example, an author going on at length about a book I read and liked.
There is, however, a practical problem. The string "economist OR anarchist OR harald OR libertarian "David Friedman" -rec-arts-sf-* -concerned-scientists" turns up some hits irrelevant to me, but filtering them out takes only a minute or so. A string designed to locate everything of possible interest to me would produce an enormous volume of hits, and looking through them each day for the tiny fraction I actually wanted to read would be a more than full time occupation.
Which means that we need smarter searches, procedures that will do almost all of the filtering in advance, providing me each day with links to the ten or twenty new online items that it is actually likely I will want to read.
Google, are you listening?