Web searching for the researcher, part 2

This is the second part of a two-part article on getting the most out of DuckDuckGo for research. Start here.

Narrowing the search

Excluding a search term can improve results. Let’s say you want to find out about trumps in card games and not about the president. Try this:

trump card -donald -president

That doesn’t get rid of all the irrelevant results; I got a headline that says “China plays Trump card brilliantly.” But most of the results are about cards rather than politics. DuckDuckGo is honest enough to say that the minus sign gives you “less” with the search term, not none.
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Web searching for the researcher

Writers of every kind need to do research. Even if you’re writing pure fantasy, you occasionally need to check on human physiology right or cultural allusions. This often means using the search engines — but they make it hard. They give you popular results instead of accurate matches. They give you recent stuff while ignoring older pages. With some work, though, you can force useful results out of them.

I’ll be focusing here on DuckDuckGo. Google annoys me in too many ways to mention, and I get tired of people giving it free advertising by telling me to “google” something. DuckDuckGo has its own problems, but it least it doesn’t second-guess you based on your earlier Web activity. They’re similar in a lot of ways, so a lot of this advice will work with other search engines as well.
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Border Patrol targets polling place in Maine

The Border Patrol set up a “border checkpoint” at the polling place in Houlton, Maine on Election Day 2017. Agents stole an undisclosed amount of marijuana that was being legally handed out.

It’s hard to unpack all the lies in this:

“No state law can override a federal law,” Hiebert said. “That is just the way it works. Both medical and recreational marijuana are illegal at the federal level. Users of medical marijuana are not shielded from federal prosecution.”

Hiebert said that while Border Patrol agents do not typically conduct operations away from the border, they do have the authority to stop and search anyone within 25 miles of the international boundary to question the individual’s right to be in the United States. Checkpoints, where all vehicles travelling through are similarly pulled over for immigration checks, can be conducted within 100 miles of the border. In the past, for instance, Border Patrol agents have conducted checkpoints on Interstate 95 and have checked the credentials of passengers on buses in Bangor.

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Website flippers and the freelance writer

Doing research on an assignment brought my attention to a type of business called “website flipping.” It’s something like “flipping” a house for resale. A buyer acquires a site which seems to be underperforming and improves it to increase its revenue. The goal is to sell it at a profit after it demonstrates its value.

This is a legitimate practice, and it opens opportunities for the freelancer who understands it. Content is central to increasing a site’s value. Let’s say the site is about tree farming. The flipper isn’t in the tree farming business and may not know anything about it. When you need content about tree farming, who ya gonna call? Ghostwriters!
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Writing

With this post, I’m starting to revive my posting on this blog by talking more about my work as a freelance writer. I’ve been writing full-time for about a year and a half and making good progress in reaching better markets. My technical posts will continue to be in Mad File Format Science.

One of the first things I discovered is that writing on spec isn’t a good way to make a living. For a while I was writing for the Foundation for Economic Education, which accepted most of my submissions. They still list me as being on their Faculty Network, but I’ve stopped writing for them because they’ve stopped paying for articles. I’ve submitted some proposals to Reason, but without luck so far. Maybe I’ll get in eventually, but it’s not an easy way to get a regular income.

Fortunately, I have ample skills for writing about tech topics, and I’ve found a lot of work by request. Read the rest of this entry »

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