As a programmer I regularly need to look up solutions to problems. Some problems, however, defy lookup. I call these situations Google-proof. Sadly they are not limited to programming, as I will illustrate below.
Some of the problem is that the terms we use often overlap with completely unrelated fields. If your search necessarily includes “Windows”, you’re likely to find many results about the actual in-your-house small-w variety. Not all searches can be narrowed down to the point where this problem goes away.
If your problem pertains to UNIX, your best bet is to give up after two minutes. The Internet is littered with copies of copies of documents that haven’t been updated since Bush was in office—the first one. UNIX articles on Google are not unlike that patch of floating trash in the Pacific that gloms together by natural currents. What you’re looking for may be in there, but you need pretty significant luck and savvy to find anything at all in that mess.
And then there are the aggregator sites. When I become a supervillain, I’m forcing these to redesign or else face utter destruction. One of the banes of my existence is Bigresource, a site that takes results off of valid forums and brings them all together in a format where you’re likely to find bogus results and waste hours clicking through multiple levels of buttons (many of which uselessly launch in a new window) to get to the original posts. The most maddening part is that their landing page basically has snippets of a hundred different search results included, so if your search terms appear in different articles, Google’s gonna flag their landing page as a possible match.
The reason this comes up today is not because of my work, but because last night I tried to get into our dehumidifier to clean off the fan, which is making some pretty awful noises. After removing eight screws (four on top and four in back) I still had no idea how to get the panels off. I found one site that offers generic advice and mentioned you need to press some release tabs after removing the screws; I could find none. A Frigidaire manual online (not necessarily for our unit, since I’m not sure of the model number) has no mention of how to open the unit at all.
There has to be a way to get into our dehumidifier, but this too is Google-proof. If you try to look up how to disassemble the unit, you’ll just find similar units for sale, or sites like Fixya. Fixya is like Bigresource for hardware, only more frustrating because to check it you’ve probably had to run up two flights of stairs first, and you have a machine partially taken apart that you need to do something with now. (They may not be quite as bad as Bigresource. I think their results might actually be on their own site. But their landing page is every bit as useless. So maybe they’re not parasites, just inept at letting Google index their site properly. But some of that ineptitude is probably deliberate, since it drives in more traffic.)
I’m not buying a new dehumidifier if I can help it. Been there, done that once already; we had a Whirlpool a few years back that just up and quit. But right now I can’t afford to buy a new unit, so a fix is mandatory. I fixed the washing machine when we moved in—me, mechanically non-gifted—needing only a little help from my father-in-law to pull a very tight metal bracket back into position during reassembly, and it’s worked great now for five more years. That was the single manliest achievement of my life. If I can do that, I can clean a freaking dehumidifier fan; I just have to get the stupid thing open.