How do you search AskMe? April 29, 2014 2:25 PM   Subscribe

How do you search through old askmes? I find tags pretty useless because I doubt they catch everything I'd want to find on a given subject. Google search limited by "site:ask.metafilter.com" is my main go-to, but on a broad topic, it is pretty useless as well, also it doesn't seem to always find everything. When I have a question, I'd rather see if it's been covered before rather than ask it again, but trying to find those old threads and sort through them is often overwhelming.

A while ago, I tried asking here for some guidance about useful threads, but that wasn't super helpful.

Now, I'm looking for previous threads about how to act more professional and impress a new employer, which is a subject I know I've seen covered, but which is so broad and vague when described that I have no idea how I'd search previous askme posts for that topic.

So how do you use old askme posts as a reference and resource? And is there a way old posts can be better cataloged or easier to access or search somehow?
posted by latkes to MetaFilter-Related at 2:25 PM (20 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

I Google "[Question?] site:ask.metafilter.com"
posted by Sebmojo at 2:26 PM on April 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


I always mess about in the tags. Often I find that tag combinations or looking at the lists of tags that come up when I look at/for a specific tag can give me ideas. Otherwise, yeah, I just use Google. Sort of depends if I'm looking for something general or something specific. If it's a specific thread I'm trying to recall I'll add the "Posted by ________" phrase to my google search if I remember someone who posted in them. I think just casting a wide net with a lot of synonyms and gradually narrowing it usually works for me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:04 PM on April 29, 2014


The quality you seek is called google-fu, young grasshopper.

How do you determine your search terms? What is your process for searching? I find that I have more luck with searches if I stop to think of not only what would I search for, but what would other people call it. Are there synonyms that I can try? Are there common phrases or expressions that are related to it? What major nouns stand out to me?

I'm looking for previous threads about how to act more professional and impress a new employer

Here is how I would have searched for your question. Here is my thought process behind that search:
-noun: job (synonyms might be employer, career, business)
-common expression: "first impression" - I put that in quotes
I ran this search and saw that there were a lot of answers about dating first impressions, so then I added the '-dating' to narrow things down more.
Then I start clicking the links for my results and then refine or change my search as needed.

That's pretty much my thought process when I search for things. I find that the more I do it, the better I get at it - good exercise for my brain and it feels so good when I do finally find what I am looking for. Good luck!
posted by NoraCharles at 3:35 PM on April 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


I use Google to search, as mentioned, and I add words I imagine might have turned up in answers I would find helpful (i.e., if someone asked me this, what would I say?).

For your thing, I'd search for professional behavior, new job, impress boss, good management, reward employees, help troubled employee, etc. I think my own goal for this kind of thing might be to find out what a boss would appreciate, and then do those things. Finding questions asked by bosses would, to me, be helpful in finding that information out.

I also use the words in the tags of past questions for things that look helpful, as well as skimming through looking for "have you seen this past question" or whatever in the answers of likely-looking questions.

This strategy does not always work, as I missed a really helpful past question the last time I asked a question, but mostly I find what I want.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 4:00 PM on April 29, 2014


I typically append a -"posts tagged with" to a Google search limited to site:ask.metafilter.com.

I also go nuts with the Booleans and do not trust Google to do stemming (selection of very similar words based on their stems, roots, etc.) for me. So I might throw in a (bike OR bikes OR bicycle OR bicycles OR cycle OR cycles).

Getting more specific, Google has an AROUND(n) operator. Say you would like to search for "witches" somewhere near (NEAR was a thing with Alta Vista back in the day) the phrase "black masses." You could add a "witches" AROUND(3) "black masses") to find those two things within three words of each other.

Sometimes you have a memory of the title of a page being something in particular. Google has intitle and allintitle for you.

After you get familiar with the advanced search operators, you will then learn to question two things:

1) Your vocabulary, which is to say, "How do other people talk about this topic? What words do they use?" Look at the topic in general and glean new words if possible.

2) Your need for specificity. I sometimes get overly-specific in my search queries and so I will take out clauses to broaden my results.

I end up with some extremely long queries at the end. Sadly, Google just searches over an entire page so you do not have the specific "within a comment" search which pb has so graciously provided for us as part of the built-in interface.
posted by adipocere at 4:41 PM on April 29, 2014 [20 favorites]


I click the "random" link and hope for the best.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:46 PM on April 29, 2014 [13 favorites]


(I have found a lot of interesting questions that way.)
posted by double block and bleed at 4:48 PM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Actually. This is a much better way than above.

1. Find the type of question you want. You want to be more professional, and all that jazz. You need to look at other "work-money" questions. Click the "work-money".

2. You will be brought to : http://ask.metafilter.com/work-money . This is where ALL of those questions are. You basically filter out all the other types of questions (if you feel u missed some, you can do this to another category as well).

3. Go to google.com. Search: impress site:ask.metafilter.com/work-money.

This is the result I got. I'm sure this is what you want.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:12 PM on April 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


In addition to all the other advice above, I also take advantage of the peculiarities of MeFi's own site search; particularly the way it searches the HTML of each post, not just the text. If I think the answers I'm looking for are likely to link to a particular website (often one I've discovered links to in the first few threads I read on the topic in question), I'll plug in the most pared down version of that site's URL into the search box to get the broadest number of hits.

Obviously, this works best for questions where the answers are likely to point to specialized, rather than generalist, websites.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:39 PM on April 29, 2014


Google just searches over an entire page so you do not have the specific "within a comment" search which pb has so graciously provided for us as part of the built-in interface.

Would a -"comments total)" in the Google search take care of that?
posted by klarck at 4:01 AM on April 30, 2014


Um. No it wouldn't. Sorry.
posted by klarck at 4:03 AM on April 30, 2014


I'll second the search, learn and re-search method, with an added bit of tag hopping.

Search for the terms you think could be helpful through the MetaFilter search itself, and see what turns up. Then check the tags of the most relevant posts, and possibly the tags for the less relevant posts, too, to use as "not this" filters. Browse the related tags to see if you can find any other good terms to use for browsing by tags or broadly searching. If you haven't found anything/enough yet, then search MetaFilter through Google with newly expanded list of terms, adding and removing them in various combinations.

For topics with a TON of posts that cover a lot of ground, like interview, you can limit the use of that tag to interview+other_term, like interview+clothes or interview+etiquette. You can manually add terms with term_1+term_2, or click on the + next to these terms in a term search. (Sadly, I just learned this fact.)
posted by filthy light thief at 4:28 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I google-search with a few different terms and skim through the responses to see who's consistently giving good answers, then I look at their comment history.
posted by headnsouth at 8:27 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Use this link. Statistically speaking, there is a chance it will take you directly to the page you're looking for.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:25 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I find tag searching really useful if I have a concrete question that I'm pretty sure has been asked before. For instance when I wanted to know if there was some convenient aftermarket car stereo thing that could add an AUX-in port, I searched "carstereo", saw a bunch of questions about car stereos, and yeah, I think my question was one of them.

Tag searching is also nice for if I want to read old questions just for fun, and am looking for something about "dating" or "pets" or "music".

If I want to know something extremely specific or check if a question I want to ask has already been done, I usually just do a google search for the thing I want to know about. If there's been an AskMe question about it, that'll often pop up right away without needing to restrict the search to metafilter.
posted by Sara C. at 4:13 PM on April 30, 2014


adipocere: After you get familiar with the advanced search operators...


Holy shit. This has literally changed my life.
posted by cacofonie at 2:52 PM on May 1, 2014


Google lets you limit searches by date. I can't find it on the advanced search page or the main search page, but if you do a search, the "Web Shopping Images Video..." line under the search textbox and above the results will have a Search tools button that will let you enter before & after dates.

Great for searches about technology because similar questions are repeated over the years, but the answers change.
posted by morganw at 6:26 PM on May 1, 2014


Google search limited by "site:ask.metafilter.com" is my main go-to, but on a broad topic, it is pretty useless as well, also it doesn't seem to always find everything. ...

Now, I'm looking for previous threads about how to act more professional and impress a new employer, which is a subject I know I've seen covered, but which is so broad and vague when described that I have no idea how I'd search previous askme posts for that topic.


I Googled:

how to act starting "new job" site:ask.metafilter.com

That turned up these threads on the first page of results:

Starting job, how do I establish good relations with my new coworkers?

new job, new dynamic

You'd get those same threads without using quotation marks. I put quotes around "new job" since the phrase seems almost sure to be used in any thread on this topic, and they're very common words that might show up together in lots of irrelevant threads. But apparently it doesn't matter if you use quotes.

Notice that I specifically didn't search for some of the words you used, like "impress." I can easily imagine a whole thread on the topic that doesn't happen to use that word (even though that's what it's about — how to impress coworkers).
posted by John Cohen at 7:06 PM on May 1, 2014


*group hug, jumps up and down in excitement, throws confetti, etc.* I love all of you! I wanted to post this exact question recently, so, thank you, latkes! This has been driving me crazy for a while now and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to ninja-search MeFi. Now I see that I just needed to up the search operator google-fu. I am facepalming myself over not thinking of some of these!

This thread deserves an "achievement unlocked" tag, heh.
posted by cardinality at 6:20 PM on May 7, 2014


Yeah, these are helpful suggestions so thank you.

It seems there isn't a huge upswell of people having the issue I do (you and me cardinality!) but I do think policy-wise, it could be something to look at in the future, how to make the archives more easily searchable for the majority who won't use complex google tricks.

Anyway, thanks folks.
posted by latkes at 9:03 AM on May 9, 2014


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