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How to find stuff

"Seek and ye shall find" ... well it's not true. You have to know HOW to look for stuff to find it. The methods which are best used for finding different types of things will be explored. One of the best ways to find something is to ASK. Your Mum, your Dad, your friends, complete strangers, search engines... all may have a chance of knowing the answer. Or, (and this is another important fact about FINDING STUFF) they may be able to give you a clue which you may then use to improve your search.

If you're driving around lost, stop and ask someone. There's no shame in it, and people like being asked! It gives them a sense of fulfilment to know they've been able to help someone by imparting knowledge.

If you're looking for the lyrics to a song someone wrote a while ago, go to www.google.com and type in the name of the song followed by the word "lyrics". 95% of the time the answer will be instant! If you don't know the name of the song, see if you can remember any of the words at all. Anything unique, such as "hubcap diamond star halo" will pretty well narrow it down!

Be determined and unwavering in your quest, and don't be distracted by irrelevant items that have been placed to lure you away. Although lyrics are easy to find, MP3s are difficult to find, and many of the sites in search results for "download mp3 [whatever]" do not actually have any relevant mp3 files, but instead just have huge amounts of splat advertising. Some of them even have annoying pop-ups. Avoid.

Another thing about searching on a search engine, especially Google, is to know how to REFINE a search. As well as looking for things you want, it's worth knowing how to eliminate things you don't want in the search. Use "Advanced Search" and use the "without" option, or put -[whatever] on the line. Particularly useful is the elimination of eBay and YouTube from search results, for example: map of the jungle -ebay -youtube ...should return results of jungle maps but without silly ebay ads and YouTube videos appearing mixed in. Similarly you can Eliminate Facebook by a similar technique. Some people also prefer to eliminate Amazon from the searches! Information about the game of Go was found by this method of successive elimination, because you can't just put "go" in, and other Go terms such as "Atari" and "stones" tend to find results for other things. The technique is to do some initial searches and then use the results of these to do further searches now you know better what you're looking for.

When doing a geographically specific search for something in a particular country, for example "houses for sale in Belize" or "night clubs in Costa Rica", it has become increasingly problematical that a huge number of irrelevant search results come up, in which the country part of the search is approximately ignored. This problem occurs because some websites routinely list all of the countries of the world on a page for no particularly good reason, the result being that they attract visitors and increase their number of hits. You can easily avoid this problem by a simple method: Add to the search request a "without" (minus) for one or more countries which are unconnected. So, to use the examples given already, "houses for sale in Belize" becomes "houses for sale in Belize -benin -belgique" and "night clubs in Costa Rica" becomes "night clubs in Costa Rica -algeria -angola", or any such exclusions to eliminate sites that have all world countries listed on pages for no good reason. (the quotes are illustrative). You can put almost any countries in the exclusions, but for preference it's best to go for places which have no connection with the actual country you are looking for.

When you're searching on a search engine, you can do a search and find out some things and then use those things to do another search. If you can do this, then you are cleverer than most people were found to be in 2009 when searching.

It helps if you can spot what terms are unusual, for example someone's name that's a rarity. Sometimes putting a phrase in quotes helps because it narrows the search to results which only have that exact phrase in. if someone's name has a space in it, you can put the whole name in quotes, and that produces a sharper search. Any relevant unusual words or terms are good for making a search better.

A search for a make and model of a machine is usually quite good. Old makes and model numbers of machines going back a long while often produce results which are quite helpful. Device components sometimes produce results.

Another good technique of finding just about anything is to bookmark www.zyra.org.uk and then use it to find stuff,Zyra's A..Z index or to find a clue to help you find stuff, or failing that, you can write in and I'll see what I can suggest. Use the SITE INDEX where everything is listed in the A..Z alphabetical index

If you're looking to buy something, the idea of bookmarking www.zyra.org.uk is well recommended, obviously!

If you want to know where somewhere is, use a gazetteer (the index at the end of an atlas), and if you want to find where to get a book, try several different bookshops and the library too. Again, it's clues which will help you find more info which will then find the answer.

Another way to find stuff is to put up an advertisement... WANTED: <whatever it is>. This is very good for acquiring items on the buying and selling market, and on the Internet it will usually get results after a few months (takes a while for the search engines to find it).

If you're looking for people you used to know, try People Finders/Tracers, or to find someone you don't know yet, then dating ?

Full of good ideas here. You can e-mail if you can't find something by these methods, or if you know of methods which need to be added.

Also see How to Find Stuff at Zyra's Website