[[Online reviews are broken]] these days, and coupled with how [[Google search is increasingly worse]] due to both SEO gaming tactics and general [[Enshittification]], it's harder and harder to find quality information. I wanted a way to search my network of friends to see if they have any personal experience I could tap into. Who owns that piece of gear I'm considering, or has written about that place I want to visit, or recently read that book I'm considering buying? I could ask on every social network, but the site algorithms ensure that only some of my followers see the post. Unfortunately, there's no good way to do this. Or at least, I didn't think there was. I looked at a variety of software projects that did something adjacent, but didn't quite work for what I wanted. However, I ended up finding an (obscure?) Google service that allows you to build your own custom Google search engine based on a list of sites that you provide. It's called [Programmable Search Engine](https://programmablesearchengine.google.com/). ## A programmable search engine This feature is primarily aimed at website owners who want to use an embedded Google search on their own website. But again, you can specify a list of site to pull results from—up to 5000 of them—for free. Unfortunately, the free version comes with the same dumb ads that have made regular Google searches suck. But you can pay [$5 per 1000 searches](https://developers.google.com/custom-search/docs/paid_element?sjid=11782762164126182310-NC) to avoid the ads, if you so choose. Since this is a Google search limited to a select group of websites, content is only searchable if Google has crawled the site since it was posted. ### Mostly websites... Social? Not so much. In my early testing, this seems to work particularly well for website content, but it's unfortunately quite limited when it comes to social media content. Mastodon seems to work best, which isn't a surprise, as Twitter, Instagram, Threads, BlueSky—basically all of the *for-massive-profit* platforms—are walled gardens that do everything they can to prevent you from leaving their site. To be crawled by Google, accounts must be publicly available to non-users, obviously. Twitter/X seems to limit results these days, forcing you to log in to see much of anything. Instagram uses a post url that obscures the originating account, so that prevents it from working entirely. It appears that it'll work with Threads, but for only a certain number of posts. Bluesky is still in beta and its posts are still obscured. ## How to use Google's Programmable Search Engine to create your own personal search engine If you already have a Google account, you can easily create your own custom search. [Start here](https://programmablesearchengine.google.com/). The first step is to create a list of the sites you want to include. There are [a variety of parameters](https://support.google.com/programmable-search/answer/12397162) you can use, but generally, you'll want a list of URLs. Generally, you'll want each website in your list to end in "/", followed by an asterisk: `https://rscottjones.com/*` This syntax will search every post/file on rscottjones.com. If you wanted to search only a specific folder on rscottjones, you'd use "rscottjones.com/foldername/" instead. After you create a new programmable search engine, there are a bunch of options you can choose from, but the main ones you'll want to pay attention to are: turning "search the entire web" off, and pasting in your list of websites in the "Sites to search" box. ![[google programmatic search options.jpg]] After you have included your list of sites to include in the results, feel free to peruse the rest of the options. You can either embed the form on [[Your own website]], or bookmark the link. ## Here's mine BTW, here's mine: [Scott's Friends Search](https://cse.google.com/cse?cx=8064ebdd00f14415b), which is comprised of roughly 150 websites of people I "know" on social media, plus a handful of other trusted sources. <script async src="https://cse.google.com/cse.js?cx=8064ebdd00f14415b"> </script> <div class="gcse-search"></div> It's incredibly easy to add additional sites to the search engine, so I plan on doing that regularly. Will my personal search yield results for every query I give it? Unlikely. But it'll be the first place I check before reverting to other methods. I've already added it to my [[Travel dashboard]] for easy retrieval when planning. ***Side note***: *holy crap* is it depressing how few of my travel friends have their own blogs, and have instead spent years and years sharecropping on closed platforms, building a library of photos, narratives, and memories there that they will—at some point—no longer have access to. [[Own your online presence, don't rent it]]! At the very least, use [[POSSE]]. ## A curated search engine—for whatever you want Using this method, you could create a slew of personalized search engines, each tailored for any topic you care about. The one I linked above is mostly focused on travel and outdoor adventures, but I could have just as easily created one on any number of topics. For instance, I'm interested in the PKM/Second Brain/Obsidian space, and could have created a personal search engine focused on that topic. In addition to adding the sites of friends who share that interest, I would have included a curated Obsidian publication on Medium, the subreddits for both Obsidian and PKMs in general, several Substacks on the topic, and the personal sites of a handful of thought leaders in that space. Oh, and probably some Youtube channels as well. Lots of possibilities here! Please [[https://rscottjones.com/contact/|lemme know]] if you've used this and how it works for you! --- Published Nov 29, 2023 Updated Nov 29, 2023 Tagged: #travel #systems