How To Become a Search Ninja

Mod Note (Andy): Best of Eddie, this was originally posted on 7/23/12. To see all of our top content from the past, click here.

I came across this about a month ago and I've been meaning to share it with you guys ever since. In our Internet-driven modern world, the ability to effectively search the web has become increasingly important. Sure, anyone can type something into Google and click on the first couple links, but what about real search? How do you go about using the awesome power of Google to answer seemingly impossible questions?

For example:

Daniel Russell stood in front of a crowd of investigative journalists in Boston last week and showed us this picture of a random skyscraper in an unknown city:

Russell posed a riddle:

What's the phone number of the office where this picture was snapped?

Let that sink in. He wasn't asking for a phone number for the skyscraper in the picture, which sounds hard enough. He wanted the phone number of the precise office where the photographer was standing when the picture was taken.

Without reading further into the article, how would you go about finding the answer? Because Russel managed to suss it out in a few minutes using only Google. He then went on to share some of the high-level search techniques he uses to answer virtually any question.

What follows in the article is a cheat sheet of some of the well know search shortcuts, and some of the virtually unknown shortcuts that can speed you on your way to finding exactly what you're looking for.

Did you know about the asterisk in Google Maps? Great way to find a happening bar near your hotel, or just about anything else. Did you know you can specify file types when running a search? Comes in handy if you're looking for something that's already been put in Excel format and you don't feel like scanning 10 pages of search results before you happen on the link.

So how did he find the phone number of the office where the photo was taken? Hint: it involves using 3D layering in Google Earth. Here's the detailed answer.

Pretty fascinating stuff. I find myself using search all day every day, and I used to think I was pretty good at it. But this is some real search ninja shit here. I hope it comes in handy for you.

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