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Dorking Your Way to Search Results That Don’t Suck

I recently needed to find an image that I didn’t have saved on my computer in order to share with a group chat. For laughs. Naturally, I did the first thing most of us do when that happens: I typed the query into Google’s Image Search.

To my dismay, all of the first results were hosted on Pinterest’s webservers, which is a miserable user experience.

Fortunately, I was able to employ a simple trick that’s very well-known among technologists… but apparently not that prevalent to everyone else.

(The responses to my tweet convinced me that nobody teaches this stuff.)

The tweet above employs a technique hackers have called “Google dorking” since the earlier days of the World Wide Web.

Dorking is one of those fundamental technology skills that everyone should be taught. If you’ve never heard of it before today, that’s a failing of technologists to educate everyone rather than something you should feel bad about.

Search Engine Dorking 101

Dorking employs the use of advanced search operators and boolean search operators to narrow down the search results to something you actually want.

For example, if you want to find every post on my blog that contains the word “hug”, you would need an operator to limit the scope of the search engine results to my blog’s domain name. Adding site:soatok.blog does the trick.

Here is a short list of operators that you can use with Google (and, often, other major search engines).

Dorking is also called “Google hacking”. (Art by Khia)

Search Engine Dork Cheat Sheet

OperatorDescriptionExample
site:[domain]Filters search engine results to a specific domain namesite:soatok.blog
“quoted literal”Searches for an exact string.“soatok dreamseeker”
ANDRequires whatever is on the left AND what is on the right.furry AND blog
ORChainable. Can be used to search for pages containing one of multiple strings or keywords.soatok OR soatokdhole OR “soatok dreamseeker”
inurl:[snippet]Used for finding webpages that match a specific URLinurl:about-soatok
intitle:[word]Only return results where the desired keyword or phrase exists in the webpage’s title tagintitle:fursuit
type:[ext]Only return results that match a specific file extension.fursona type:pdf
-[word]Negation. Removes results that match whatever follows the minus sign from the search results.furry -hate
Table: Some of the most common and useful search engine operators supported by Google in 2020. Permalink

You can combine most of these operators together. If you don’t want PDFs, you can specify -type:pdf instead of type:pdf, and your search engine results will reflect your choices.

For websites like Pinterest that own their name with a lot of TLDs, you can do -site:pinterest.* to block them all rather than only pinterest.com.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it. There are other operators, but these are just the ones I get the most mileage out of.

Soatok
I hope you find it helpful! (Art by Khia)

Why Is Dorking Even Necessary to Find Good Results?

There are actually two answers to this question. The first is that natural language has a lot of ambiguities (especially with homophones, homographs, and naming collisions) and inferring the user’s intent isn’t always straightforward, especially without context.

The other problem is the vast world of search engine manipulation (often called “search engine optimization” by its proponents, or SEO for short).

As alluded to in my tweet above, Pinterest is a particularly pernicious example of search engine manipulation–in their case focused on manipulating Google Image Search.

As always, @SwiftOnSecurity drops the wisdom.

There’s an ongoing cat-and-mouse game between search engines and the people who would pollute them with crap for their own financial gain. (Namely, ad revenue.)

If you’re ever frustrated by the low quality search results from your favorite search engine, you can almost always blame some SEO consultant for collecting a paycheck in order to make your experience terrible (but increase their client’s sales).

Financial incentives, the attention economy, and surveillance capitalism shape a lot of the decisions we make every day. If you understand the incentives inherent to a system or industry, the behavior of for-profit companies becomes incredibly transparent.

Which is why, at the end of that thread, I made a mention about virtually no large, commercial pornography websites supporting boolean search operators.

Why You Can’t Dork Your Favorite Porn Websites

I will elaborate.

Porn websites increase their revenue (and, therefore, their profits) by conditioning their viewers to keep coming back, and serving advertisements.

They accomplish users returning through a seemingly-endless stream of novelty that also exposes you to content you’re not explicitly interested in–thereby training you to pay attention to the entire screen rather than just one part of it, and thus making advertisements more effective.

If a major commercial porn website added support for search operators like Google offers, it would do two things:

  1. It would undermine the novelty stream and instead allow users to only be presented with a very narrow subset of content they’re explicitly interested in viewing
  2. It would encourage habits that are not conducive to increasing ad revenue

And that is why these operators do not, and probably never will, work for major porn outlets. It doesn’t help them. They aren’t interested in that.

Conversely, indie and community-driven media galleries (i.e. e621 for erotic furry art) invert this model entirely. You can search for content that includes a union of several distinct tags and the exclusion of undesirable tags with no effort. Since they tend to serve a community’s interests rather than profit-seeking or a popular appeal, the value proposition is the exact opposite.

In Summary

Search engines are more powerful than anyone taught you. A lot of people try to game them for selfish reasons (usually financial gain). The pursuit of profit can even incentivize some industries (i.e. adult entertainment) to neglect the features that make search engines powerful to begin with.

It’s often stated that “knowledge is power”, but it’s the asymmetry of knowledge that actually counts. If you’ve understood the information on this page, you can level the playing field between you, the adtech-powered search giants, the SEO scammers, and the industries whose profitability depends on cultivating habits in viewers.

Also, fuck Pinterest. Pinterest sucks. If there were ever a website worthy of Pi-Holing, it’d be Pinterest.

(Header art by Kyume.)

By Soatok

Security engineer with a fursona. Ask me about dholes or Diffie-Hellman!

One reply on “Dorking Your Way to Search Results That Don’t Suck”

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