I’ve been writing and thinking about search engines and Web search since 1996.

The writing has not been incessant but the thinking has. For a long time I’ve privately pondered questions like:

  1. How do you search when you’re just starting? How do you ask for what you don’t know?
  2. How can one use commonly-understood metadata to inform and direct a user’s search in a transparent way?
  3. How can we put the same amount of care in developing a data pool to explore as we do into developing a search query?
  4. What are ways we can ethically take real-world data like location and blend it into a Web or social media search?

In the last four or five years I’ve tried to explore some of these questions using Google Sheets as a platform. But that platform is hard to share and expand.  If you’d like to read my thoughts on search and opportunities which could be explored, I’ve written a series of articles at ResearchBuzz: 

In the spring of 2022 I looked around and realized that if I really wanted to make search things I needed to learn JavaScript. So I signed up to SkillShare and took a Kalob Taulien course (that is NOT an affiliate link.) I got through 50 of the 59 lessons before getting distracted by all the things I wanted to make. And since then I’ve been making Search Gizmos. In October 2022 I started this site to share them with you.

Some Gizmos here require that you get an API key, but the keys are always free. I try to keep the requirements on your side as simple as possible – few keys, using the most Open APIs I can. These are limiting requirements, but I have over 25 years’ worth of thought experiments to build and I think I’ve made at least a few slightly interesting things.

Look below for ten random Gizmos to try and some guidance if you know what you’re looking for. Look over on the left for a list of popular Gizmos, a search box, and a tag cloud. An RSS feed link is at the very bottom if you’d care to follow along. Thanks for visiting.

What are you looking for?

I’m looking for information about people famous enough to be in Wikipedia: try MegaGladys or Gossip Machine or Contemporary Biography Builder.

I want to explore Wikipedia itself: try Wikidata Quick Dip or Sheet-Shaped Wikipedia or Category Cheat Sheet or the Wikipedia Page Count Checker or Wikipedia GenderScanner or Wiki Page Backstory or Wikidata Property Peeker.  

I want to try different ways of searching Google: try Non-Sketchy News Search or Shuffle Search or Smushy Search or Sinker Search or Clumpy Bounce Topic Search or No Shop Sherlock.

I’m doing genealogy searching: try Obit Magnet or Carl’s Name Net or The Anti-Bullseye Name Search.

I’m doing location searching: try Pam’s Pin or Pam’s University Pin or Super Edu Search or Backyard Scholarship.

I want RSS: try CountryFeed or WikiRSS or JOOC Box or Kebberfegg.

I want Mastodon: try MastoWindow or Mastodon Web Search.

This isn’t even close to a full list of Gizmos. Explore to find more.


03-25-2023: New Gizmo — Wiki-Guided Google Search  — Use Wikipedia page mentions of a topic to build Google and Google News searches around related content.

03-24-2023: New Gizmo — Wiki Bunch  — Group Wikipedia categories by age, gender, or place of education.

03-18-2023: New Gizmo — WikiRSS  — Search Wikipedia for pages with RSS feeds.

03-17-2023: New Gizmo — Sheet-Shaped Wikipedia — Export Wikidata to a carat-delimited text file.

03-16-2023: New Gizmo — Wikidata Quick Dip — Get lists of Wikidata by Wikipedia category.