I’ve written before about my browser history and getting put on lists (That Google Search Just Put Me on a List). However, my gripe now is a mixed one. I am sure I renewed my list memberships, but instead of coming away satisfied with my efforts, I found myself frustrated.
Yesterday I needed some historical facts on medieval lore and knowledge, but ended up with links that provided nothing of use to me. The vast majority redirected me to drug treatment centers and places to go for help. Others tried to sell me products.
I understand the reasons Google would curate their results in such a manner. Someone else doing similar searches may definitely need assistance and should read those articles. The trouble is, I could not easily find a way through the “helpful” articles to get to the historical facts I wanted for reference purposes.
True Historical Facts Research
When Google fails us, there are alternatives (ironically found using Google) in a multitude of academic search engines with different specializations. Google even has one call Google Scholar. Unfortunately, for my needs, this leads me down the rabbit hole and I can consume hours (days) digging through detail papers trying to pull out the specific facts I want (like population density as I mentioned in Fjelldal City Map). Often I want a factoid or confirmation something I “know” is true. The deep “academic” dive into the topic is usually overkill, a distraction, and a consumer of time.
The other problem is some academic options require enrollemnt in specific schools or the need to fund the service through a paywall. Again, I get the reasons behind doing that. Maintaining search engines are not cheap and we don’t want to contaminate academic research with profit motives and/or you won’t find many advertisers who would fund it like they fund Google. I just wish these engines also had a mode that would boil down the facts to a quick sound bite when needed and let me dig deeper only when I wanted.
Fortunately, I write in the fantasy genre and when I can’t find a specific fact, I can make it up and can get away with it. However, that is not always satisfying to me. I love history and understanding the human condition. I have an entire shelf of reference books dedicated to the viking era and medieval history (no, I’ve not read them all, but they are on my list of things to read…yeah, yeah, I know).
Now back to making stuff up, but before I do, I’ll leave you with one link I have stumbled across a few times because of my love for maps: David Rumsey Map Collection