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This just in! Search Engines help find people, too!
March 13, 2003 10:07 AM   Subscribe

This just in! Search Engines help find people, too! Reuters has apparently just figured out that you can google up old acquaintances. As for myself, I find that google has become less useful than these guys for people-searches. So, what is the most obscure thing/person you have searched for, and how did you find it?
posted by ilsa (31 comments total)

 
I recently had a network card that I didn't know the manufacturer of so I didnt know what driver to use. I simply typed in a number from one of the micro-chips on the card into google, and the first result was the network card manufacturers page with links to the drivers i needed.

Not sure about obscure, but very useful.
posted by jsonic at 10:16 AM on March 13, 2003


My fav people search sites:

Nedsite

PI Record Searches

National Obituary Archive (for dead people)

KnowX
posted by kablam at 10:27 AM on March 13, 2003


"If you think of the needle in the haystack analogy, that haystack has gotten a lot larger," said Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch.com.

Wouldn't this make more sense if he said the haystack has gotten a lot smaller, or the needle a lot bigger? Of course, this quotes probably out of context, so who knows. Just quibbling.
posted by piskycritter at 10:29 AM on March 13, 2003


I was once suspicious that an article I was editing was plagiarized. So I googled two full sentences and bammo there was the original source.
posted by billder at 10:29 AM on March 13, 2003


So, what is the most obscure thing/person you have searched for, and how did you find it?

A missing sock. I looked under the dryer. :-)
posted by nofundy at 10:31 AM on March 13, 2003


most obscure thing
posted by soundofsuburbia at 10:38 AM on March 13, 2003


jsonic - yeah, that usually works great for OEM equipment.. helped me identify a realtek 8129 in a few seconds versus throwing it in the trash.

For bigger pieces of hardware that have been FCC certified, you can look up what it is by it's FCC ID. The FCC provides a search form and docs on finding the ID at this page. it's a great resource too.
posted by shadow45 at 10:59 AM on March 13, 2003


Voice work of Matt Haughey
posted by thomcatspike at 11:01 AM on March 13, 2003


I keep hearing about how alltheweb is better than google, but "they" never say how, and I can't see the difference...
posted by BentPenguin at 11:07 AM on March 13, 2003


thomcatspike: Our master's voice! *sighs; cocks ear curiously toward imaginary victrola*
posted by allaboutgeorge at 11:09 AM on March 13, 2003


This just in! Some newspaper has a story about something on the internet I knew about a long time ago! Maybe I should put a link on the MetaFilter frontpage, since I'm sure they've never seen something like this happen before!
posted by straight at 11:13 AM on March 13, 2003


Although I must admit, the article was worth reading for this hilarious line:

"In paranoia, I Googled him," she said.
posted by straight at 11:16 AM on March 13, 2003


It's the inevitable backlash, BP. Let's keep those Googlenauts honest by pointing to AlltheWeb every chance we get. No harm in it really. And Google doesn't have FTP search, which *is* useful.
posted by xiffix at 11:16 AM on March 13, 2003


With regards to AllTheWeb vs. Google, see my comment in a previous thread about Google.
posted by ralawrence at 11:24 AM on March 13, 2003


My most obscure googling was a guy by the name of Chris Kuivenhoven. I've got a mud and before cable modem and DSL network connections were few and far between. If you were lucky you'd have a wizard at a friendly university who could host you till he graduated or whatever. We were losing our connection and a friend of one of our wizards said that Chris Kuivenhoven would be willing to host us. Well, he did and for a while things were great. Eventually we were
posted by substrate at 11:25 AM on March 13, 2003


this one scares me.
ussearch.com
remember all those magazine subscriptions you filled out? well, someone is saving them.
posted by lsd4all at 11:27 AM on March 13, 2003


[sorry, misclicked post instead of preview]

My most obscure googling was a guy by the name of Chris Kuivenhoven. I've got a mud and before cable modem and DSL network connections were few and far between. If you were lucky you'd have a wizard at a friendly university who could host you till he graduated or whatever. We were losing our connection and a friend of one of our wizards said that Chris Kuivenhoven would be willing to host us. Well, he did and for a while things were great. Eventually we were disconnected for a few months without any means of contacting him. His numbers were dead etc. Eventually he turned up again with a lame excuse and we prepared to move elsewhere. Before we could do this he ran off with our machine. Even his friends didn't know where he went. I tracked him down a few times and found cell phone numbers for him and such and would always get a lame excuse as to why he couldn't send the box back. The most recent was that he couldn't find packing material. I even sent him a box (fully realizing that it was a lie) and packing materials to no avail. The computer was an AIX server, worth quite a bit at the time, but more important was the code we've lost. We've resigned ourselves to the fact that we were scammed (so was another mud who he also stole a machine from) but take every opportunity to attach his name to this type of message.
posted by substrate at 11:29 AM on March 13, 2003


It took the mainstream media, locally in particular, to catch on to full-text search engines as sources for obscure information on non-"public official" individuals... say, someone who'd never done anything before (and thus wouldn't be in their own archives), but suddenly went on a shooting spree.

I remember using Altavista (the old, good Altavista) when I edited the student paper at my university. Every now and then, a name that popped into the news would turnout to have pretty good representation online, and we'd be able to provide more background in our reporting than the dailies. Say, for example, where someone graduated from high school, which was one of the most prevalent types of "personal data" we were finding online then.

I have a webpage on my personal site specifically for 'bot-baiting', containing every single obscure name of people I remember stretching back to kindergarten, in the hopes of reconnecting. For half of them, my page is the only mention you'll find on the web via Google.

I get at least one or two messages a month because of that page -- some of the time from the person listed, but strangely enough, mostly from other people looking for that person.
posted by pzarquon at 11:36 AM on March 13, 2003


I'm interested in the doppelganger effect of ego-searching. I've been tracking the life course of another "Ryan Schram" from about 18 years on. We're about the same age; freaky!
posted by rschram at 11:39 AM on March 13, 2003


I can't find any of my old friends on Google. I get so used to the blogging world that it sometimes seems that everybody has a site. So, I'm always surprised when I go to google somebody I met in real life only to find they have zero presence on-line.

It can be really annoying. There are people halfway around the world whom I've never met or spoken with, but I feel like I know them better than the people working in the next office over.

It feels as though over time, more people will naturally conduct more of their lives on-line. Maybe that won't happen. Maybe it will. Either way, it will be interesting to find out.
posted by willnot at 11:49 AM on March 13, 2003


I've been Googling all my old girlfriends' names a lot lately, just to see if anyone's found the bodies.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:52 AM on March 13, 2003


Personally, I think googling for people's names is useless.

Here's my name. Can you find me?

Betcha can't!
posted by shepd at 11:57 AM on March 13, 2003


I missed the subscription reference up above. Can somebody spell it out for me?

Also, I'm quite proud of the fact that googling me yields few results. I don't like the idea of living in a fishbowl, with anyone being able to find out everything about me.

If people were less judgemental, I might feel differently.

"There are people halfway around the world whom I've never met or spoken with, but I feel like I know them better than the people working in the next office over."

This problem can be solved by getting out of your chair, walking over and striking up a conversation. I won't even address the idea that you can "know" someone just because you can dig a ton of stuff out of Google on them.
posted by Irontom at 11:58 AM on March 13, 2003


Wouldn't this make more sense if he said the haystack has gotten a lot smaller, or the needle a lot bigger?

To stretch the analogy as far as it will go, I think he meant that somebody invented a magnet.
posted by toothless joe at 12:04 PM on March 13, 2003


I have a rather unusual name, and occasionally I google to see if I'm on the net anywhere. I do keep finding this one website, www.bethanyrae.com, which is good for a laugh. This woman (NOT me but interestingly just three weeks younger than me), styles herself as an actress and has prudently set up a fan site for herself in anticipation of the day when she actually has fans. The site features one good picture of her and one really bad one, lots of dead links, no updates in recent years, and gems like this one in her point form bio:

Positives: Her stunning beauty, a genuine flair and talent for acting, and a devilishly charming personality.

I want to email her and tell her she's disgracing the name.
posted by orange swan at 12:28 PM on March 13, 2003


I once got a call here at the library from a woman in Galveston, Texas, inquiring about "a librarian or someone who died, like, 40 years ago or something somewhere around that area."
I went down to the city and did a paper search on death records, and then went Googling. Armed with her name and time of death, I was able to locate her surviving family members by doing a search on Google for her mother's maiden name. (her grandfather had donated a stained glass window to a church in Atlanta, Texas, which was profiled on a website for collectors.)
Using info from the site, I then googled the names of the people in the article, and came up with a phone number for a residence of one of her siblings.

I found the search to be impossibly easy. What was intriguing about the whole situation was this - the dead librarian turned out to be a distant relative of mine.
posted by bradth27 at 12:55 PM on March 13, 2003


i don't think i've ever searched for anything truly obscure, unless you count out of print music and in that case i've been incredibly successful at finding what i want. oddly enough it's almost always someone in denmark who has the vinyl or cassette i'm looking for.

i too have come up with nothing when trying to find old childhood friends and it's really frustrating since i really would love to find a few of them. and if any one of them is looking for me they're going to be just as frustrated... so maybe it's internet karma bopping me on the head for having purposely made myself anonymous. i don't use my real name for things like usernames or whois info and so far i've never found an instance of any database that includes my real name, address, cell phone, etc.
posted by t r a c y at 1:00 PM on March 13, 2003


I googled a friend from childhood who had a very unusual name and found her, working for Apple in Paris. She replied to my email the same day, I scanned and emailed a photo of us as kids, she printed it and had it on her desk moments later.

Freaked me out. I felt like I was on a commercial.

More economical than some is publicdata.com, though I'm not sure what laws apply.
posted by sparky at 1:52 PM on March 13, 2003


One time my boss had the ISBN of a Chinese cross-reference book for electronic components but didn't have the title or the publisher. None of the ISBN searches yielded any results, I guess because it was from a foreign publisher. But I looked up information on how the ISBN system works and learned that the first part of the ISBN signifies the country of publication and the second part indicates the publisher, and I was able to find some web references to works by the same publisher that way, which then led to a web page and an email address.

Another time my boss kept getting overbid by someone on eBay for electronic components and wanted to know who the it was. One of my co-workers and I realized the guy was probably a member of an online service that allows semiconductor brokers to list their inventory, so we searched it for some of the parts that had been sold in the auctions and found that one particular company had all of them in the same quantities that had been for sale.
posted by alphanerd at 2:21 PM on March 13, 2003


...and wanted to know who the it was.

If you would like a corrected copy of my post for your records, please leave your email address.
posted by alphanerd at 2:30 PM on March 13, 2003


I had someone from France (I'm from the US) contact me because we share an obscure last name and she was doing a geneology search. After talking with the elders, I found out that I am partly French, but we could never connect the relation lines. Still quite amazing.
posted by luyon at 4:32 PM on March 13, 2003


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