What can't you find on the net?
July 19, 2005 1:26 PM   Subscribe

How has the internet failed you? What information are you surprised you can't easily find on this crazy thing?
posted by smackfu to Computers & Internet (53 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm disappointed in the lack of porn.
Seriously, I'm really disappointed that I can't find any old Night Flight episodes for downloading. Come on, somebody out there in magic crap land has to have them on videotape since they recorded every last episode. Please share?
posted by NoMich at 1:35 PM on July 19, 2005

My biggest complaint is that the internet has become a substitute for real social interaction. It is a powerful tool that connects us to a ton of information and vast quantities of people, but the relationships with them are shallow and ultimately leave people more isolated than they were before the internet.

So, I guess in answer to your question, what can't I find on the net? Meaningful human interaction and relationships. For that, we still need the oft-neglected "real" world.

Obsessive Internet use poses risk of isolation, depression
Hope this isn't a derail.
posted by knave at 1:37 PM on July 19, 2005

I was surprised I couldn't find a complete English translation of the libretto for Tristan & Isolde. I found the complete libretto in German, and an English translation of Act I, but not the complete thing.
posted by agropyron at 1:43 PM on July 19, 2005

How beautiful would it have been if nobody had answered this question?
posted by jjg at 1:46 PM on July 19, 2005

1. the lack of any good artsy films available by Bittorrent. No, "ghost in the shell" doesn't count.

2. Inability to look at real-time crime stats, paired with google maps, for neighborhoods I may want to inhabit. Heck, just google maps to perverts and crack labs.

3. Not enough political disintermediation

4. The lack of really good, current data on so many topics, localized geographically.

5. The shallowness of most internet relationships. heck, make that most relationships.
posted by mecran01 at 1:49 PM on July 19, 2005

How has the Internet failed me? The degree to which media and technology companies have been able to exert control over both it and the people who use it is, in my mind, its greatest failing. I guess I was naive enough to believe in the late 90s hype that the Internet would in some way liberate us all from these influences at least as far as the important things (information) were concerned.

People complained about how slow Microsoft and so many other major companies were to recognize the impact of the Internet. I find myself wishing they had been just a bit slower.

OK, and lots of stuff on the derail:

Having lived with my wife for four and a half years now after meeting her on IRC, I have to take issue with knave's contention that the Internet leads to greater isolation. I feel I've developed a much deeper connection to some people online than I ever did in real life, because people aren't afraid to tell you exactly what they're thinking online. They open up to you in ways they never would in real life because it's all effectively anonymous. When I met my wife in real life, it was as if I'd known her forever despite the fact that when I moved in it was only the third time I've ever met her - the other two each being a weekend long. I knew everything that made her tick, her interests, her prejudices, her experiences, and what her intellectual structure was like.

When you meet someone in real life from the start, you don't know them all that well at first. You tend to fall in love with someone who, in a lot of the ways that really matter, you don't actually know. I think this is a terrible situation to be thrust into.

Another great thing about human interaction on the Internet is that when talking to people you have a pause, mute, and rewind button (in the sense that you can go back and review the discussion on the fly and with perfect recall). This is enormously helpful in facilitating communication. I tend to piss people off in real life now because it's very rude to try and put someone on hold for ten seconds when they're talking to you - and I take this ability for granted so completely that not having it is quite distressing. The real problem is that text is a poor medium through which to communicate genuine emotions, but I find that people who are sufficiently determined often manage more than adequately when it's important to them.

As far as isolation and depression go - I'm not sure where you're living, but looking at what's going on in the world around me and the manner in which it's shaping up I don't think it's possible to be anything but depressed without deliberate ignorance of the facts at hand. As far as isolation goes, all I can say is thank God. It's so much easier to weed out and ignore that vast majority of people not worth knowing online.

Has the internet failed me in terms of human relationships? It's made them far more meaningful and honest than they ever were before.
posted by Ryvar at 1:57 PM on July 19, 2005

The other day I was surprised when I couldn't find any butchers in the United States who sell mutton online.
posted by jbrjake at 1:58 PM on July 19, 2005

I really wish that more regional newspapers were digitized and availible for free.

But yeah, the Internet jumped the shark a few years ago and probably ought to be destroyed for the good of humanity.
posted by cmonkey at 2:10 PM on July 19, 2005

I've been unable to find the episodes of Satruday Night Live where Chris Parnell raps. I used to be able to find them, but no more.

Seriously, anyone know where I can find those? That dude cracks me up.
posted by bDiddy at 2:10 PM on July 19, 2005

Mutton. "Our lamb and mutton carcasses are very lean and yet remain tender and tasty. Please consider our mutton and lamb when you are ready to fill your freezer." Paonia, Colorado.
posted by beagle at 2:12 PM on July 19, 2005

THIS is how the internet failed me. That robot image haunts me to this day because I know the information is out there on it's artist.
posted by freudianslipper at 2:13 PM on July 19, 2005

BBQ Mutton.
posted by beagle at 2:15 PM on July 19, 2005

A lack of song lyrics. No, really - the vast majority of lyrics sites these days are ad-ridden clones. Whenever a song lyric goes up on one of them, it's copied, errors and all, to the rest. Unfortunately, for indie [and other non-mainstream and not hugely hyped] bands, there are often no results at all. It's the internet - shouldn't there be hundreds of fanboys and fangirls sitting in their bedrooms with headphones on, listening to each song over and over to figure out the lyrics?

Like mecran01 says, few artsy or indie films tend to be shared. Given that I'd probably buy DVDs of movies I'd enjoyed, in order to see some of the extras, this is unfortunate for both me and also for indie filmmakers, who could probably use more money and press.
posted by ubersturm at 2:17 PM on July 19, 2005

i have long wished the internet would bring down publishers, music companies, and movie companies to their knees and expose the utter lack of value that they bring to the equation. I don't see the value of book publishers if you can publish online, or the value of music companies if you can publish online. I would like to see these companies bankrupted. and the worthless garbage they (for the most part) produce ceased. And while that has seemed possible at times, it hasn't yet occured.
posted by alkupe at 2:18 PM on July 19, 2005

The mapping and GIS situation on the Internet is atrocious. Sure you can go to Topozone or MS Terraserver and get interesting graphics. But there's no decent cartographic PDFs or AI files of basic country shapes suitable for educational or small-fry use. And a severe shortage of map data like shapefiles, thanks to the ESRI monopoly (they yanked the data off their site a few years ago and now only provide it in ArcView packages). Also GISDataDepot accumulated a smorgasbord of free data, then a couple of years ago they locked the door and went to a pay-based format. Some data's out there, but it's very hit or miss; just a handful of sources like this and intensely localized and specialized GIS clearinghouses. Glad I don't have to deal with GIS on the net regularly; it's a mess.
posted by rolypolyman at 2:23 PM on July 19, 2005

Everythings in English. And so English authors, writings, thoughts are given even more skew than they had before.

Most topics, at least those out of the domains of math, science or technology, are treated extremely shallowly. I recall wandering through the library stacks at Harvard's Widener and randomly plucking out a huge old volume titled something like 'The History of Germans in Brazil' written in the early 20th century. Page after page of Detailed stories, maps, accounts etc. And this was just on this one narrow topic - the bibliography referred to other works whose scope seemed to overlap this one!

I'm afraid that there are people who shun libraries, thinking everythings on the Internet and, if so, are woefully underinformed.

Privacy is more and more starting to be considered some wierd fetish. The internet with its satellite maps, archived images and conversations, weblog, webcams etc. is a useful resource no doubt - but its also bringing with it a generation who thinks of this as the norm.
posted by vacapinta at 2:27 PM on July 19, 2005

There seems to me to be a reliability on the Internet as the final answer in all matters. In other words, people read something "on the Internet", and claim it as gospel. Yes, there are many valid sources of information online, but there's also a lot of crap. (the anti-Spurlach thread kind of set me off on this)

Also, I have no first hand experience, but have heard that many students (high school and college) seem to rely on the Internet as their sole source of information - very little use of books, magazines, periodicals, etc. as references. Are people, generally, reading less?
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 2:29 PM on July 19, 2005

I was confused and angered on the lack of information about many shorts that ran on Liquid TV. I remember a while ago, I was trying to find information about one called "Mr. X and Dr. Y" (or maybe the other way around? Dr. X/Mr. Y?) and no one had _anything_ on this. It was pretty cool, and I'd like to see it again -- 3rd Season of Liquid TV, it was about a guy who saw his Arch-Enemy everywhere and kept trying to kill him and IIRC, ended up killing innocent people since he was insane. I think it was sort of like a more moody Spy vs. Spy. And there's a few others. If I had tapes of all the episodes, I'd probably do what there really needs to be: A site that goes through all the episodes, gives synopses/creator information/credits/etc. on all the shorts and reviews and maybe screen caps (maybe not).

There's other things, too, but that's one that really gets my goat.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 2:41 PM on July 19, 2005

I don't think that search-engine technology has kept pace with link farmers and other SEO types--that disappoints me.

(Ubersturm, if you happen to be looking for hip-hop lyrics, ohhla is unparalleled.)
posted by box at 2:44 PM on July 19, 2005

I remember back in college I was using google to come up with explanations for some esoteric topics that my statistics textbook didn't really explain well and I really couldn't find much on the internet on those topics.
posted by gyc at 2:44 PM on July 19, 2005

Inability to look at real-time crime stats, paired with google maps, for neighborhoods I may want to inhabit.

Funny you should mention that...I was recently at a presentation for a new web-based municipal GIS app thingy that will be going up in my area. Lots of fun info--but the one huge gap is crime stats. For some reason that was not defined at the meeting those stats were not being provided by local law enforcement.
posted by gimonca at 2:46 PM on July 19, 2005

A source for a video of the 1967 TV show "T.H.E. Cat".
(Supposedly they're out there, after a long period where all copies were thought to be lost.)

Also, a holiday ticket home, on Independence Air.
posted by Rash at 2:48 PM on July 19, 2005

I totally agree with the lack of song lyrics. I guess everyone got really scared (with good reason) after lyrics.ch got shut down long, long ago.

But the internet really failed me by not having a really good, plain English, non-elitist, totally comprehensive Linux support site. That's one of the reasons I quit Linux in 2001.

I haven't completely dived back in since then. I figured that a lot of the problems I hated would disappear, but like I feared, new ones appeared in their place.

Man pages still suck. People on help forums still just tell you to read those shitty man pages or ignore your questions. Answers are still difficult to find. And(!) Linux is still a mess that isn't tempting me to give up Windows.

BTW, I think OS X is rad, but I can't afford a Mac. I'm just talking about the non-existant ultimate, easy-to-use source for all Linux help for all the world's people.
posted by redteam at 2:51 PM on July 19, 2005

"Also, I have no first hand experience, but have heard that many students (high school and college) seem to rely on the Internet as their sole source of information"

My husband works at a museum putting together reference files, and he tells me that it's not uncommon for the Library of Congress to cite Wikipedia for certain information. The museum figured that if the Library of Congress can do it, it must be okay, and so now he freely uses Wikipedia in doing his research.

Maybe I don't have enough trust in the internets, but I found that a little scary.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 3:03 PM on July 19, 2005

The mapping and GIS situation on the Internet is atrocious

Add nautical charts to the list of useful things that could easily be made available to everyone on the net, but aren't.

Also, the "instant messaging" situation is very sad. All that MSN, AOL, ICQ bullshit. It's no more complicated in principle than is email, yet even after ten years we're still stuck with 8 different mutually incompatible networks, of which the most popular, through the magic of mass marketing, are also the ones that suck the most.
posted by sfenders at 3:27 PM on July 19, 2005

More texts of well-known and semi-well-known poems. I can usually find three or four poems by any given poet, but that's about it.
posted by hamster at 3:36 PM on July 19, 2005

While writing about Harry Potter, I was recently looking for a very particular Far Side cartoon. Someone eventually found it for me, but I was surprised by how few Far Side cartoons there are online. I guess if art is created before the Internet, there's far less impetus to illegally post it.
posted by dbarefoot at 3:41 PM on July 19, 2005

agree with the research component. student have used the look inside this book feature on amazon in my class many times. i wondered why there was so much reference to this one book, and finally figured it out. that and trying to not have the browser open all day. real productivity killer. (redteam - have you looked at the mini??)
posted by grimley at 3:59 PM on July 19, 2005

"The lack of really good, current data on so many topics, localized geographically." I echo this complaint

"More texts of well-known and semi-well-known poems." While this doesn't bother me in particular, I noticed this especially when I was taking an English class trying to find material by W.E.B. Du Bois.
posted by fourstar at 4:01 PM on July 19, 2005

Not really that visceral. I can generally find what I need, but can't feel or see it in a way that doesn't waste my time.
posted by sled at 4:13 PM on July 19, 2005

I wish there was a way to facilitate asking questions. I am constantly stymied looking for technical solutions and not having the exact right word (whether it be Usenet, Microsoft support or Google) just kills you - You know the answer is out there, if you only knew what questions to ask. I want something that can point me to algorithmically probable answers without relying on my exact phrasing of my questions.

Ask Jeeves? Utter crap. ("Now automatically removes the 'How do I' portion of your sentence!") I have been similarly unimpressed by Google's synonym feature ("~").
posted by BleachBypass at 4:17 PM on July 19, 2005

A TV Guide that doesn't suck, works for where I live in Canada, can be searched, is totally customizable, and most of all, is faster than hell.
posted by shepd at 4:42 PM on July 19, 2005

Things I can't get off the Internet:

- literary criticism. I run a fan site for an author and people write me all the time saying "Can you give me information on this-or-that story...?" and the answer is usually "no, not unless you go to the library and use the Reader's Guide"

- old news. I'd love to be able to go through old news content, even 10-15 years ago. I find that it's either "pay for our archives of last week!" or free pdfs from 100 years ago.

- indexing. People think having a search box is your only obligation to people trying to find content on your site and so tend to eschew sensible site design and/or any other sort of indexing.

- sourced quotations. There are a zillion quotation pages out there and almost none of them that tell you where a quote came from. People doing real research often can't just settle for a 1000quotes.com cite.

- a break from the big sell. I try to teach adults who have never touched a computer how to interact with the internet. This would be a ton easier if it weren't for ads everywhere, ads designed to look like content, spammy ads disguised as content, opt-in/out options everyplace, registrations for free content, pull-down menus with every country in the world on them, and spam. Also, what alkupe says

- laws. It seems really important for citizens to have usable access to their legal system, it's appaling that we don't. laws, transcripts of elected officials in session, updates, cases, outcomes, etc. We pay them, we should get to know what they're up to.

- interoperability generally
posted by jessamyn at 5:02 PM on July 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

Metafilter: What Can't I Find on the Internet(s)?
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:26 PM on July 19, 2005

Smells. The Internet is too visual/auditory. I want smells. I want to go to google, type in "Salma Hayek toe cheese", then click the odors.google.com link and actually smell Salma Hayek's toe cheese. I can't be the only one.
posted by tiny purple fishes at 6:28 PM on July 19, 2005

College students definitely cheat on using the Internet as a research tool, and I can't (as a TA and soon professor) can't decide how I would like to handle it. I want students to use the Internet, but you have to understand how to find good information first. Sources like Wikipedia are good for information that might not otherwise exist, at least in a condensed form. For instance, I began and occasionally update the entry on the comic artist Paul Pope. I don't know of any biographical source for him otherwise, although maybe something has appeared in Comics Journal. I think the Internet is useful to help you begin to understand a topic by comparing a variety of sources, but then you must take your work to books, which always beat the Internet for depth.
posted by Slothrop at 7:09 PM on July 19, 2005

For the longest time, all I wanted in the world was a sound clip of Joey Lawrence from "Blossom" doing his trademark "whOa!". I know, doesn't sound like a hard bill to fill, but I can't for the shits in me find it. ANYWHERE.

Stupid pop culture.
posted by rabble at 7:25 PM on July 19, 2005

Just to respond to the above: I agree that dependence on wikipedia seems dangerous. And also, there isn't a good book review equivalent of allmovie.com or metacritic.

But for laws: you can try findlaw.com
posted by kensanway at 8:27 PM on July 19, 2005

I am desperately searching for a complete image of a whole body scan (scintigraphy) after a thyroid cancer patient has been administered radioactive iodine (I-131). Seriously. And I need it by Thursday! The closest I can find are the segmented images from this article. If anyone can point me in the direction of a better image in the next couple of days, I'd be ridiculously grateful.
posted by scody at 8:36 PM on July 19, 2005

I've been running around in figurative circles for about an hour trying to find a decent source for gun death statistics in the US for a research project. I finally found some through the National Center for Health Statistics via the NRA’s website.

So the broader answer is "More easy to access statistics from presumably unbiased resources."

Oh, also, I wish I could download bit torrents of history channel documentaries, particularly one I saw about 15 minutes of on the French Revolution. I don't have cable and I find their documentaries nice little intros into various subjects.
posted by jennyb at 8:36 PM on July 19, 2005

tiny purple fishes:
you're not the only one.
posted by pg at 8:40 PM on July 19, 2005

there's two things that i can't seem to find ...

1) local information of many kinds

2) reviews of non-auto, non-geek type products and goods ... not to mention businesses and services
posted by pyramid termite at 8:56 PM on July 19, 2005

rolypolyman: I thought the Seamless Map was pretty cool.

ubersturm: I have found Chordie to be a superior lyrics site.

mecran01: is Seattle a locale that appeals?
posted by mwhybark at 9:10 PM on July 19, 2005

-Full video of any or hopefully all episodes of the TV show
"Square One." You remember it. PBS, math, awesomeness.

-A more functional image search. Like, I want to be able to put in someone's name and find all the embarrassing photos from the website of their high school debate team. People need to label their pictures better, I guess.
posted by mai at 10:41 PM on July 19, 2005

The Internet has failed me by insulating people into their own little thought-cliches rather than exposing people to new ideas and changing and rearranging minds.
posted by drezdn at 11:15 PM on July 19, 2005

More full-text-indexed books. More non-English texts and web pages, including from dead and dying languages. More books available for download as PDF's. More content, period, and the ability to pay for it all with micro-payments. More government documents warehoused online, even old ones--our taxes paid for them, so why not stick them online and save the paper? In fact, anything written or collated with federal and state funds should be made available online. More stuff that it usually takes an FOIA request to get should be online in the first place. More cities' and states' vital records (birth, marriage, death, divorce)--the California Birth Index 1905-1995, for example, is online at ancestry.com, but what about New York's?

More, more, more!
posted by Asparagirl at 11:33 PM on July 19, 2005

Oh yes, and more local newspapers and their FREE text-indexed archives. I'd love to read copies of the Scarsdale Inquirer from the 1960's-1970's, find out how my town reacted to all the big events of the day, local and national.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:35 PM on July 19, 2005

  • The complete works of Rene Descartes in English
  • High resolution images of public domain art especially old book illustrations (by hi resolution I mean a minimum of 600 dpi with lossless compression and embedded color profiles
  • images as above but more ephemeral
    • maps
    • book and magazine covers
    • advertisements
  • Not enough things are in English I'm only half kidding
  • High quality educational materials
  • employment
  • Happiness, emotional fulfillment, wealth, and longevity
I think that about covers it. If you happen across any of these things drop me an email
posted by Grod at 1:18 AM on July 20, 2005

Publication dates. Not a problem with news sites or blogs, of course, but huge numbers of otherwise respectable commercial or academic sites seem to be remarkably bad at labelling their pages with a "first published", or even a "last updated", date. It's a simple small thing that's nevertheless valuable and immediate ammunition when trying to assess the overall relevence of the information provided.
posted by normy at 4:32 AM on July 20, 2005

I just hate that a lot of the good stuff (google maps, craigslist, etc.) is so America-oriented.

(Both of them do a bit of Europe, but it's all so... feeble.)

Also this is the internet but there's this giant canyon between "us" (the west) and Japan.
posted by Skyanth at 5:47 AM on July 20, 2005

The sound files from the game Blasto.

I mean, how can it be that I'm the only person who wants a sound file of Phil Hartman saying "Damn! I'm dead" ?


posted by Irontom at 7:16 AM on July 20, 2005

ubersturm writes "It's the internet - shouldn't there be hundreds of fanboys and fangirls sitting in their bedrooms with headphones on, listening to each song over and over to figure out the lyrics?"

Yes!. Thank you font of evil RIAA.

normy writes "Publication dates. Not a problem with news sites or blogs, "

Lots of local news sites don't put a year on their stories, it's very irritating. Also if your running the local weekly for DarkHole Idaho, put your location in your mast head. "The Weekly Broadcast" doesn't tell us where you are.

The thing I find weirdly missing is information on any car that isn't a mainstream enthusist car. Trying to find information on say a 90 Buick is impossible between the lack of information and all the SEO gibberish.
posted by Mitheral at 8:17 AM on July 20, 2005

Response by poster: Sales figures on music, historical or present. You can find rankings but actually getting numbers is quite hard. Contrast to movies, where the numbers are widely available every Sunday and can easily be archived for historical use.

Three letter keywords. It's amazing how many programmers just give up and won't search for keywords under four letters. How lazy do they have to be to not just exclude the common ones?
posted by smackfu at 8:56 AM on July 21, 2005

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