Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wanted: A Better Search String

I routinely use Google to look for people talking about me, in part out of curiosity, in part because, like other people, I like to feel important, and in part because they may be saying things to which I want to reply. 

In the old days, it was pretty easy—most of the hits were people actually saying something about me. As the Internet has grown, the search has become more complicated, both because there are more other David Friedmans online—including another law professor who blogs and an economic journalist—and because a lot of the hits I get are simply web pages that have a link to this blog.

I expect some of my readers know more than I do about the construction of search strings. Ideally, I want one that will not produce a hit for a page whose only mention of my name is a link to this blog. I would also like one that will not return multiple hits for the same reference appearing in multiple places, something that also often happens. Is there a way of doing that? Alternatively, is there a better search engine for the purpose than Google?


Leonard said...

It might help to specify how you are currently searching.

I just searched for "David Friedman" (quote marks included) on google blogs, for the past month, and got lots of likely-looking hits. (Exact search is this.) Of course there are other David Friedmans, and we see some of them. There is no way Google or any other search engine is going to know who is who.

I can't do better than that, but maybe it helps. If not, well, maybe I can learn something useful here too.

Alex J. said...

You might try adding negatives to the search like so:

""david friedman" -photographer -composer -art -capturing -jazz -chiropractic -daviddfriedman.com

Xerographica said...

Not sure if this would work but...you could create a Google Alert feed for your name and then try to use Yahoo Pipes to get into the feed's html to filter out any patterns that you might identify in the results.

For example...over on the Overcoming Bias blog you're listed in their blog roll with a "< li >*" in front the link to your website. So yahoo pipes would allow you to filter out this pattern "< li >< a href="http://daviddfriedman."

Regular expressions drive me kind of nuts though. But yahoo pipes is a pretty neat idea and definitely worth playing around with a bit.

While you're at it you might as well just create your own search engine by taking the upcoming class from those Stanford guys who started an online university.

*had to add the spaces because the comment system blocked it

David Friedman said...


I do add negatives (and positives with OR) to the search, which does help some. I'm looking for something better.

Mike Fleming said...

Change your name to something more obscure perhaps?

Jon Leonard said...

It seems non-trivial to turn that into a precise request. The part about suppressing duplicates seems like a good search quality improvement, but distinguishing between different David Friedmans seems pretty hard. (Or have I misunderstood?)

jdgalt said...

The only way I can think of is to change your name to something there's only one of.

Unknown said...

Xerographica beat me to it.

The only way to get a quality set of results is to get your hands dirty with some regular expressions. It's a filtering problem, with a unique set of required tweaks to get it working the way you'd like.

I'd be looking at some way to convert a broad search (say for "david friedman") then use a cascading set of parameters to whittle the list down to something useful. How much pruning of this list is required will be subjective.

Chris said...

Use the filters on the left too to filter old stuff you've probably already delt with and to make newer stuff float to the top e.g. change "any time" to "past month"

happyjuggler0 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
happyjuggler0 said...

(The) David Friedman,

I don't have the answer you are looking for. Here is what is effectively a manual on how to use google to refine a search. I have only browsed it, but perhaps with your goals you might find something useful, I don't know:


Or perhaps it will be a waste of your time, which is what you are trying to save...

Fearsome Pirate said...

Search for (with quotes) "David Friedman wrote," "David Friedman said," plus other tenses of those verbs.

Garg Unzola said...

People talking about you? As in on blogs?

You can search blogs specifically by using this:


Then the literal string "David Friedman" plus a topic like, AND "global warming" for example.

You may also set up email alerts once you find a search that works well.

Alternatively use google advanced search features:


This has the same functionality as mentioned by other commentators, but it has a user interface that offers more guidance.