One of those changes was finally getting a new laptop. The old Sony Vaio (running Windows Vista!) I’ve had since 2011 worked well enough (even with the squished bug) that I never pursued getting something else, although I always meant to. As I’ve said before, sometimes “well enough” works well enough for me.
As of today, I think maybe I’m going to switch back to Google.
I’ve always had a policy that one bad meal doesn’t condemn a restaurant — one should always give them a second chance, because anyone can have an off day.
Likewise, I’m not going to chuck DuckDuckGo over one disappointing search result, although after a couple of months of using it, I have gotten a sense that it doesn’t always quite return what I’m searching for.
This morning, it really disappointed me. In fact, arguably it let me down completely. And — more to the point — Google didn’t.
There are certainly plenty of reasons to want to disentangle from Google.
They once had the corporate motto, “Do no evil,” which seems ironic (to put it mildly) these days. On the other hand, they’re not Facebook or Twitter, two platforms I despise and will have nothing to do with ever.
(I deleted my Facebook account many years ago and would urge you all to do the same. I never got into Twitter; never had an account; never saw the value.)
There have been some recent news articles about people who’ve tried to eliminate Google from their lives — there are alternative services outside that corporate ecosystem — but ended up returning because Google is just too damn good at what they do.
(It’s like how we have to hold our noses over Amazon Prime, another shit-covered tasty raisin.)
While I haven’t uploaded tons of photos to Google Photos, and I’ve never used Google Docs, I do use Google Maps (over Apple iMaps), I do enjoy Google Earth, I visit YouTube daily, and now I’m using YouTube TV to cut my cable.
So I’m pretty into Google Stuff is the thing. Aren’t we all.
And, honestly, I don’t see them as in the same evil league as Amazon or Facebook, and they seem to be more competent, more useful, at technology than Apple or Microsoft.
(Who’ve both disappointed me from their beginnings and who really disappoint me now given their longevity and experience — how can they still be that bad at what they do?)
((I’ve already written about how I hate Apple. One of these days there will be a matching post for Microsoft.))
So while I get that Google needs a comeuppance, they’re actually pretty far down the list of companies I’d excoriate given dictatorship powers. There are many, many other fish I’d fry first!
Anyway, here’s what happened that got my dander up:
As I age my brain is turning to Swiss cheese, and I sometimes have a hard time finding the word I mean for something. (Which, yes, is kind of terrifying for someone who sees his value as almost entirely intellectual.)
Sometimes I can’t think of a certain actor’s name, for instance.
I started noticing this a few years ago when I couldn’t recall Cameron Diaz’s name no matter how many times I looked it up. It was always ‘that actress who was in Something About Mary…’
I finally seemed to retrain other brain cells, and haven’t stumbled over her name since, but for months, my brain just couldn’t find that name. That’s happened with other words and names.
As I said, it’s a little scary.
Anyway, this morning I was thinking about something, don’t recall what, and my thinking brought me to the idea of those ancient Greek guys who argued for hire. They were logicians who used their skills in aid of arguments they didn’t themselves feel.
There’s a word for them, and it starts with ‘S’. What’s more, long ago I used to sometimes confuse it with another ancient Greek-derived word from philosophy that also starts with ‘S’ — that latter word meaning to think one’s own existence is the only true fact.
The confusion is deeply enough embedded in my mind that I often had to take a moment to mentally review the two words to make sure I was using the right one.
This morning I wanted to recall “sophist” (rather than “solipsist”), and I just couldn’t remember the term. Worse, I also couldn’t remember “solipsist” in contrast. Usually remembering one of them surfaces both.
But this time — nothing. For either word. All I could remember is that they started with ‘S’ (and involved ancient Greeks). I knew their meaning, but not their names!
§So I hit DuckDuckGo, which I’ve made my default search engine.
Several combinations and variations of “ancient Greeks” and “argued for hire” returned nothing. Not even close.
In frustration, I turned to Google.
And got it in one.
Click the image at the very top to see the Google results. Notice how “sophist” is mentioned in the first hit. And “Sophist,” itself, is the fourth hit.
That is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you, Google.
Then I went back to DuckDuckGo with the same search string that had returned exactly what I wanted from Google.
Click on the image here to see the first page of its search results and notice how there is no mention of sophist or sophistry anywhere on that page!
Down on the second page of its results one finds a link for “Was Socrates in Space?” (wait, what?) and a bit later a link for the “Antikythera mechanism” and then finally a link, “Sophists,” at Queensborough Community College.
Further pages fare even worse in the DuckDuckGo search results.
Gotta call this one a complete fail.
Google’s top hit answered my question.
Also note Google wasn’t confused about my question.
It didn’t include “ancient greece who argued for hire” (which is a stunningly bad phrase).
It didn’t ask me if it should only show me the results I asked for.
It just got it right.
Given that the whole point of a search engine is to find the results you want as quickly and effortlessly as possible, this was a huge win (in my mind) for Google.
It fits in with a growing sense that DuckDuckGo isn’t quite on par.
I love having alternatives, and I won’t give up on DuckDuckGo just yet.
(I will say I don’t care for their name, and it’s a real pain in the ass to keep typing DuckDuckGo every time. Ugh. Google did release duck.com for them, so you can use that for a URL.)
DuckDuckGo is definitely quieter than Google. And the lack of tracking is nice sometimes, I guess. (It’s not something that concerns me much, to be honest. I don’t search for things I’m ashamed of.)
The flip side is that knowing you often does return better search results. The downside is missing things from inside the bubble.
There is also that this fail this morning is the first major fail, first major disappointment, in the months I’ve been using DuckDuckGo, and, as I said, one bad meal doesn’t condemn a restaurant for me.
I just found the size of this fail surprising and worth recording.
Stay searching, my friends.