The Search for Search

Where Are You Searchmas?

Where are you Searchmas?
Why can’t you find me?
Why have you gone astray?
Where is the data, you used to bring me?
Why can’t I find naught but hay?

At the top of my Christmas list this year: good search mechanisms.  The ability to find the right thing quickly is a large part of what has made Google and Amazon such valuable companies.  I will talk about some software that falls short of the Searchmas dream.


I can’t search across the documentation of multiple private repos in an organization on GitHub.  It’s hard enough to get anyone to document anything in the first place.  Not being able to find it afterwards is sad.  I did find a GreaseMonkey script to do this once, but I think it stopped working.

Windows 10

Sure, most people only have at most one printer, so it’s easy to select that printer from a list.  However, I recently had to find a printer in a list of at least 500.  Windows provided no search option in this case.

Also, if you want to change a file association in Windows, it provides no search mechanism for this.  You have to scroll through a list of hundreds of them.

Windows Explorer has no regular expression based search capability (at least last I checked).  This is a crime against humanity.

I am absolutely sure these are not the only two places Windows 10 has miserably failed to provide search capabilities when needed.  You’d think all the spyware they added would clue them into these issues.

An Online Directory

I recently used a directory service to try to look up my own name.  I entered “Jeff”, but it could not find me because I was in there as “Jeffrey”.  Fail.  A good search needs to know about common aliases and do some level of fuzzy matching.

IntelliJ Search Everywhere

Some aspiring-to-be-helpful IntelliJ tooltip said I could press shift twice to “search everywhere”.  This was great, I thought, because I needed to find some file in an unfamiliar project I had seen once.  I knew there was a particular string in that file.  So, I searched everywhere for it.  Got back some obscure method call in some library, but not the file in my project.  Eventually navigated to the file and found the string.  Even with the file open in IntelliJ, “search everywhere” could not find it!  Now, maybe I don’t understand what that feature does, but if you are going to call something “search everywhere”, it should search everywhere, dammit.


While I do love me some Launchy, it drives me nuts that I can’t set exclusion rules for specific directories.  If they ever fix that, I do pledge to finally donate some money to their cause.  Certainly not a whole Bitcoin.  Maybe a tulip or two’s worth.


Decades of software development, talk of AI taking over the planet, and we still struggle with the basics.  Even giant companies with billions of dollars struggle with the basics.

Miniature Rant Against the Entire Global Software Industry

A large part of this is because these giant software companies want to hoard cash robbed from their engineers (hello Apple), collude to bring developer wages down (hello Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, etc.), try to convince everyone that software development is easy (hello Hour of Code and other such shallow nonsense), and import/export from/to whoever they can (hello India) instead of paying the real talent what they’re worth.  Don’t call people rock stars and then pay them like roadies.  I certainly feel, as I’m sure many do, repeatedly stabbed in the back by the entire software industry after devoting the real, long, hard time necessary to becoming a decent software developer.  The effort is on par with becoming a doctor, but the pay certainly is not.  Though cheated, we get no sympathy from the public because we are “well paid”.  Silicon Valley tech bros sneering at the homeless and building robots to shoo them away does not help things.


And so, the search for search continues.  Let us demolish all bad searches so that we, as all restaurants in the future, can finally say: Search Mas.




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