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"Nah, who needs another search engine?" (reddit.com)
242 points by yurisagalov 2642 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments



Different field, but ...

I'm a novelist. For some reason, folks in the graphic novel biz seem to think that novelists have a usefully transferable skill set. About six years ago I got an email from a guy at Marvel comics. "We're looking for a novelist to take over writing this superhero property we just rebooted, and Warren Ellis, who did the reboot, suggested you. Wanna Talk?"

We talked, I did some recon on the superhero in question, decided I really hated him and life was too short (even if it was an opportunity to make a big break into comic writing) ... and turned down "Iron Man".


At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, thank you. I'd much rather read another book in the Laundry series or Merchant Princes (or a return to the universe of Singularity Sky) than a retread of Iron Man. Even if Downey is brilliant as Stark.


How does a HackerNews user not like Tony Starks? ;)


Tony Stark is Donald Rumsfeld's Mary-Sue.

I am a British center-left -- liberal democrat voting -- Volvo-driving organic-eating media luvvie. (I'm also a self-employed businessman and a sometime dot-com veteran; let's not get too carried away with the socialism here.) Muscular two-fisted violent imperialism lacks appeal. I could have written Tony Stark as an anti-hero, but the risk for pushback from the fans would have been significant.

When you're looking for a project to work on for possibly several years, you should pick something you love. As I was simultaneously looking at two multi-book contracts from major publishers for books that I would have complete creative control over (and retain copyright on -- don't forget, Marvel and DC insist on work-for-hire!) I went with the "do what you love" option.

(The books in question, for what it's worth, were "Accelerando", "Glasshouse", and the last three Merchant Princes books.)


I think a lot of the HN crowd identify less with Tony Stark as an ass-kicker, but more because he's one of the few superheroes that you can truly say is a "self-made man" (pun unintended, but apt). He's amazing not because of some genetic accident, but because of his own intelligence.

I don't remember the character being as much of a jerk as RDJ plays him, but admittedly I only ever watched the cartoons as a kid, not read the comic books.


The difference between "genetic accident" and "intelligence" is not big.


On the contrary, the environment play a strong role in intelligence.

Few, if any, poor families taught their children to be an autodidact. Once people are autodidact, I would expect a rise in socioeconomic status.

Let face it, it's going to be hard to rise up when you're stuck in a poor neighborhood with gangsters and bad influences.


Wait... didn't he inherit a multi-billion dollar company?

That's called being born on third and making it home.


As someone who is reading (and practicing) about story structures and screenplays a lot for the last year or so, I can see where you are coming from with that.

Also, it's a really tough job you have. Props.


I think the only proper response here is: "D'oh!" accompanied by a face palm.


That is pretty sad/funny. But to tell you the truth I actually thought that we did need another search engine towards the end of the 90s. It was around that time that search got totally broken.

I remember usually if I would search for X, I was sure to get a lot of "hot sluts taking X up their asses" links no matter what X was. Right before Google became popular search was totally and completely useless. I remember I actually went back to using the old Yahoo subject matter directory trees to find stuff. It was not very helpful, their links were mostly outdated. And for a while I was trying very hard to bookmark or remember any URL I found interesting because I thought I would never be able to find them again if i closed my browser.

And once I learned about Google it was like my eyes were opened once again. So yeah, if they offered me a job in 1998 and I had tried their website, I would be all over it. But alas they did not.

It was funny, they actually were looking hard for someone in my field (patent attorney). They needed a patent lawyer so much that they actually listed the position in the main Google page, and this was the only time ever that I know of that they have listed a job position on the main google.com page. Unfortunately, I was still in law school then :(.


"search was totally and completely useless"

Often I feel that in recent years the quality of the results are declining again. Now if you search for X, you get a lot of webshops, which tell you the price, but not any other useful information. Or if X is not a product, more and more of the results are pointing to all kind of aggregator sites which are again linking to each other instead of useful content or links. Or the similar case is when all the results on the first page are the same content on different pages.

So perhaps there is a market opportunity again. Anyone? :)


True. I have subconsciously raised my google game over the years to cope.

I use more terms "in quotes" now, include more negative terms, use more site-specific searches, and use inurl as well. I still get what I want, but I wouldn't if I wasn't tech savvy.


Exactly right - though Google's innovation was not just in search, but in clarity of presentation and clean visual style. The web used to be so ugly. Now it is mostly ugly again, but like a sulky fashion model.


"Hey, what was the name of that site that let you download one windows installer, and it would install a bunch of really useful apps?"

"Hey, what was the name of the site for buying plane tickets but they organized the flights in a useful way so the one you most likely want to buy is on top?"

Now; find Ninite & Hipmunk on the internet; via Google, unless you have something better (if so, I'd like to hear about it), but pretend you've never heard of them. Ninite's findable via an Ask Reddit, which actually spells out there is a problem. Hipmunk eventually shows up in the right-side ad-word gutter if you use the right Google query comination of flight, plane, airplane, online, and ticket - but in the gutter why would you pick them over any of the other sites.

Telling other people where to buy things from can be lucrative if you've got pull, but how do you displace Google as a nexus for "I'm searching for a site that..."


Fully agree. It's been getting worse. It's a lot worse in certain verticals, too, like health and travel. Finding useful information is becoming a needle-in-haystack thing again.


Seems to me like the quality of search results is declining too; the SEOs are winning.


It seems that with Google owning Adwords, it may put them in a situation where their most profitable option would be to link to these aggregator sites to collect more ad impressions and clicks.


I'm guessing Gabriel Weinberg, among others, sensed there was a looming market opportunity here as well. :)


I turned down a meeting with Bill Gates in 1982. It was a personal connection, and we were going to meet at his house; maybe his dad's house, maybe he was still living there, I don't recall. MS was ~150 employees at the time and hiring like crazy. Bill had my cv.

I was visiting from the UK with my girlfriend who was raised in Bellevue. I think I instead opted to jam with a band called Myth in a barn in Redmond. Myth morphed into Queensrÿche soon after, so I guess I missed two chances!


I met a guy who had a double digit Microsoft employee number. He ended up taking another job for like a $5k/year pay raise in the mid 80's.


Do you often think about those "what if"?


No, never, honestly.

Life is a sequence of half chances. You make your choices, and you make them for good reasons at the time.

Looking at the past doesn't mean that the present would be as it is if you'd made different choices. That's a theme used in almost every time-travel movie.


In a choice between joining Microsoft or Queensryche, I would have joined the metal band too.


The first time I tried Google I did a search for "foo bar" and it returned web pages that only contained the phrase "foo bar", and I promptly deleted my Alta Vista bookmark. What's funny is that I remember it so vividly, like how someone would remember where they were the day Kennedy was shot.

It would be really great if Alta Vista kept their old search engine and search index circa 1999 on-line, so we could periodically remind ourselves what the web used to be like.


I just remember being struck by how fast Google was. I literally couldn't believe it was possible to search an index that size in less time than it took to load most static pages.


I still have trouble believing it, and I have a pretty good understanding how it works.


But in Altavista, you could have searched on foo bar, "foo bar", or foo NEAR bar; I still wish Google had the latter option.


This feature is similar: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22google+****+barc... One star will fill in any number of words. If you use two or more stars, the number of stars is the number of words Google will fill in.


I think it does!

You probably know that an asterisk stands in for a single word in a query, but if you add more asterisks then it stands in for more words. However, there's not a one-to-one correspondence between asterisks and words skipped. A "few" asterisks means skip a "few" words, and more asterisks means the words can be farther apart. So you can search for foo NEAR bar with something like foo * bar.

At least, that was my understanding, but I can't seem to find that spelled out anywhere online after a quick search just now, so I could be way off.


Bummer, I was just about to point you to the Google page of their index from 2001, but it looks like they took it down - http://www.google.com/search2001.html


And, sadly:

www.archive.org:

>0 pages found for http://google.com/search2001.html

>Sorry, no matches.


I remember vividly when I first learned about Google, too. In the New Yorker, of all places. But then I was a lit grad student at the time and thinking a lot about ways to optimize research. And I was similarly underwhelmed by the competency of existing search engines (anybody remember Northern Lights?)

As a matter fact (5 minutes of tortuous Google search later...), here the article is:

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2000/05/29/2000_05_29_088_T...

A neat little time capsule.


I was searching for an OCX control that was missing, and after 15 minutes on yahoo and no useful download pages, someone suggested Google, which I had never heard of before.

I search, first result, OCX download. Never used anything since.


I remember Hot Bot used to have this feature. I switched to Google, though, once Hot Bot's front page stopped being the search page.


Similar thing happened to me in 1999.

I realized Google was way cooler than alta vista and better at finding unknown things rather than Yahoo's directory. Truly the future, I thought. I sent in a resume to do some kind of work not development related; data center & sys admin stuff. They called me twice but I convinced myself that they would not have hired me anyways so I never called back.

I was probably right, though, given how their interviewing process is (or was).


“You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.” - Gretzky

In my experience all it takes is just one success to turn it all around and get a on roll.

But that's not going to happen if you never shoot for something.


Quitters never win and winners never quit, but we're not all born with Gretzky's talent and also: if you never win and never quit what does that say about you?


Gretzky wasn't born with that amount of talent, his talent grew out of doing nothing but spending as much time as he did practicing on the rink his father made him, day in and day out. Practice, practice, practice.

Get the idea out of your head that people are on the outset better than you. You're always going to lose with this kind of attitude you have, though. Even if you won I don't even think you'd know it.


That's nice, but you're ignoring the rest of my post.

What if Gretzky never got better? What if no matter how much pushing and training and practice he never scored a goal? I'm sure there are many people out there like that. I happen to be one of them.


"What if Gretzky never got better? What if no matter how much pushing and training and practice he never scored a goal? I'm sure there are many people out there like that. I happen to be one of them."

Then he's doing something wrong. If you spend hours upon hours doing something, you will get better at it.


What if someone was born with no legs? Or even a minor change in a single gene somewhere else that affects their stamina or whatever? Are they going to get to Gretzky's level? Never. Not without a radical alteration to their biology.


Kyle Maynard, a man born with no legs and only stumps for arms, became a champion wrestler. He wrote an interesting autobiography aptly called "No Excuses".


When it comes to a real world fight, he lost his first MMA fight.

If he had legs and arms he probably would have won and gone much further.


Even if you think you might not end up doing something totally profound, why live life as such a pessimist? That's certainly no fun at all.


The trick is balancing this against knowing when to change direction.


And those who never win and never quit are idiots. (from one of those de-motivational posters).


Talent is a myth. It's also a cop-out for those who think that they don't have it.


Come on now, at least let THEM reject you.


Reminds me of a timeless quote from @shitmydadsays:

"That woman was sexy...Out of your league? Son. Let women figure out why they won't screw you, don't do it for them."


My whole life is pock-marked with failure and rejection. I can't imagine they would have been any different.


Whose life isn't?


"The only thing stopping you from getting what you want, is the excuse you keep telling yourself about why you can't have it." - Tony Robbins


I don't know what to say to that. It seems like uplifting but empty advice, the kind of stuff you'd expect from Tony Robins. Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut.


My father-in-law was an astronaut. He's a smart guy, but he grew up in some podunk town in Virginia, his family was decidedly middle class, and he went to a public high school. But he worked hard, got accepted to the Air Force Academy, and eventually became an astronaut. Then the Challenger blew up and NASA and the Air Force parted ways, so he was no longer an astronaut. Instead, he's spent the last 25 years reaching his current position: 3-star general who will most likely be promoted to 4-star and end up running Air Force Space Command or something similar. The trait that I've observed most in him since I met him ten years ago is his unshakeable belief in his ability to get the job done. He's probably the most quietly confident person I know.


Agreed. Sometimes being borderline delusional about your ability to accomplish complex things is crucial to actually getting them done.


Agreed. Self-doubt has gotten me nowhere.


Well...not everyone can grow up to be a 3 or 4 star general, either.


I think you're missing my point. He didn't "grow up to be" anything in a passive sense. He worked his ass off and earned it.

And yes, not everyone can do what he did (as there's not room for n generals in a world of n people). But can anyone do what he did? How do you know that anyone can't be an astronaut or a 4-star general or a fortune 500 CEO or a Senator, or whatever?

Or is this some bizarre form of pessimistic trolling?


No, I'm just being realistic. Not everyone has what it takes to do just whatever they want.

For me, dealing with people who think they can do anything (vs people who really do) is like dealing with religious people: it's a process of non-thought and faith almost.

Your father-in-law is one of those rare people who can make it happen. If it was as simple as working hard at it or being determined then everyone would be doing it. This is why it's so hard to find good programmers.

It's also a good way to lead people on to guaranteed failure, deluding them into thinking if they work hard enough or try hard enough they can accomplish something.

Most of us are not physically capable of understanding certain things that others do understand, are able to work at, etc. I happen to be one of those people who can't understand.


If it was as simple as working hard at it or being determined then everyone would be doing it.

Ummm, no. Most people seem to be determined, but only to do as little as possible to get by.

We clearly just disagree, but I reject your premise that most people are not physically capable of greatness. I don't know you but you're on HN and you express yourself well in writing, which already puts you ahead of 99% of people. The main thing holding you back is that you're determined to not succeed.


What if Gretzky had been born with no legs? Or an aspiring physicist wants to invent a grand unification theorem but was born with an IQ of 90?

I think my situation is obviously not so extreme. See my reply to rick888.

I don't think you know what it means to be a failure with no real recourse -- NO recourse short of a radical alteration to my biology. Have some compassion for people for whom things simply don't work out. Everyone seems to think that if you aren't the best it's 120% your fault and in a way it's true. However, sometimes people just get bested and it's just the cards that were dealt to them with the biology they're given.


"Most of us are not physically capable of understanding certain things that others do understand, are able to work at, etc. I happen to be one of those people who can't understand."

I don't believe this. Most people aren't willing to put the time and effort into understanding certain things others do understand.

"This is why it's so hard to find good programmers."

It's hard to find good programmers because many just want a paycheck and they don't care about the quality of code they are churning out.


> I don't believe this. Most people aren't willing to put the time and effort into understanding certain things others do understand.

I disagree. Let me give an example. I remember my networking course in university. The professor had a sort of teaching method by asking questions and then giving logical conclusions. I never could logically explain engineering decisions in networking protocols like my classmates. He would ask a question about some feature or design situation and ask a random person. They always got it. It was not in the book or any where readily available.

He could ask crazy design questions, that to me seemed more like a parallel thought puzzle, and my class mates got it. Always. Professor learned to not ask me after a while because I never could do it. I'm like a dog, everyone else was like a human. They have insight that I don't and I never could get it; a potency in their mind that I lacked. I never got it like they did. I flunked my way through that class at dead last but passing, just like I had done for all the years I spent in school since I was a child.

Maybe I could recite things by memory about network protocol design but I could never really understand it like everyone else in that class did.

I don't think you know what it means to be a failure with no real recourse. I mean NO recourse short of a radical alteration to my biology. Have some compassion for people for whom things simply don't work out. Everyone seems to think that if you aren't the best it's 100% your fault and in a way it's true. Sometimes people just get bested and it's just the cards that were dealt to them.


If it was as simple as working hard at it or being determined then everyone would be doing it.

No, this is precisely why almost most people are not doing it: they don't want to work hard and keep at something that isn't easy for them.


"It's also a good way to lead people on to guaranteed failure, deluding them into thinking if they work hard enough or try hard enough they can accomplish something."

There is only one route to guaranteed failure: don't try.

"Most of us are not physically capable of understanding certain things that others do understand, are able to work at, etc. I happen to be one of those people who can't understand."

That attitude is precisely why you can't.


I met someone who says, Every time people ask me for career advice, I tell them they shouldn't ask me. I had the opportunity to be in the first 5 employees at both Yahoo and Google, and finished my PhD instead of doing either.


Hindsight is 20/20.


Ouch.

I think you've got to judge opportunities largely by the people executing them. Lots of pedestrian opportunities with great execution do well. Lots of great opportunities with pedestrian execution go poorly.


Ha, I know that guy. He is completely awesome.


Nah, who needs another search engine? Nah, who needs another groupon clone? Nah, who needs another social networking site? Nah, who needs another virtual currency based game?

Seems like there's always room for innovation, if you're willing to ignore the nay-sayers.


At least for Google, Facebook (and MySpace) and Groupon, their products became popular because of how they implemented it, not because of what they built.

Making a better product, successfully, is what sets apart clones from revolutionaries.


Whether we like it or not, chance plays big role in major decision making in life.


Perceptiveness and luck are all you have in a situation such as this. You would need an extremely rare caliber of at least one.


Reminds me of how i screwed up my recent interview with a big internet company. Every morning i wake up and regret it! #FML




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