How to come across stuff online.

19Oct12

I often get asked about how do I discover most stuff online. For example alternate search engines, online tools, software downloads, news/articles, etc. Stuff that does not easily surface up in most common networks. The vague and yet to the point answer is that I waste enough time (in years) loitering on the interwebs. Now what I would get specific about is where exactly do you start and how do you go about loitering…erm discovering?

Best time to get distracted and learn anything and everything irrelevant is exam time. Brain is most active as a consumer as long as topics are anything but exams. I have probably discovered and read in detail more articles and sites in exam time than any other time. Not that I would recommend that to anyone, but most kids usually follow suit.

In the present day, you have social networks as your first point of discovering things on the interwebs. Worst place IMO. Your social network’s discovery potential is almost always as limited as your own self. Social networks even filter recommendations based on what you have shared or liked thus further limiting the variety of your discovery. Common examples would be facebook, twitter, google+.

Beyond the mainstream social networks you have sites, forums, communities, etc. that are dedicated towards link discovery and you are not just limited to knowing what your friends share or what the site thinks you may like. You start discovering links or sites based on what is globally ‘voted up’ or by randomly exploring tags and visiting sites that look interesting and finding useful stuff by trial and error. Common examples would be reddit, slashdot, popurls.

Methods besides the above need more time and involvement from you to discover new stuff. There is no one 100% effective systematic way to go about it. You could for example start with a topic that you fancy or something you have come across in brief from any of the previous link discovery methods and then you start reading up more on that. My favorite place to start is wikipedia which will contain links to external references. If you know of any specific search engines that specializes in the topic you are interested, you could try that too to discover more links relevant to that topic. Also if you are reading the article on any popular blog, you might find more interesting content jumping from one “Related post” link to the next. This is just like the youtube addiction where time flies as you jump from one video to the next and the fast internet never lets you complain. Only difference is that articles require most patience from you and less care for the world. The last method is what possibly makes your discovery unique and if you are really good at it, be the first to share for the rest of the second-hand link discoverers.

Discovering the web is novel when you are not stuck with just Googling and Facebooking stuff.

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