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This is really cool! I've been reading a lot of cookbooks on dessert/watching elementary baking videos for fun lately, and knowing why every ingredient does what it does is extremely interesting as well as useful.

I wonder, if more baking books emphasised all potential spanners in the works early on (climatic factors, different oven temperatures, etc), whether your approach to baking would be more widely adopted? Would a reframed focus on difference, rather than sameness, encourage independent understanding on the part of the cookbook owner?

Off the top of my head, I can count three broadly-defined reasons I've used search engines, or objectives for which I've used them:

1. Looking for an answer to a question with a definitive/'finite'/narrow* answer, e.g. "What movies are showing in [cinema near me]?" or "where can dogs be sunburned?"

2. Seeking any and all information about a particular known topic, with a plan to collect and collate that information. My undergraduate dissertation was about three films released between 1999 and 2007, and I used Google a lot to visit the films' official sites and get a sense of what film journalists thought of them. This is also how I search places like JSTOR and Google Books.

3. Trying to name/define/delimit a topic or idea I don't know much about, almost always with the goal of moving that topic into box 2; e.g. naming a specific programme or advert I saw on TV, finding online forums or communities with a culture that appeals to me.

For 1, I generally search in full sentences without capitalisation or punctuation. In particular, I often use the "that film where X happens" or "that book with X character" formula, because I once read that Google deals with those questions very well: an observation borne out by my own searches, even for obscure media. This is definitely inefficient, but it's usually so easy to find results that the extra work is negligible. I also love going to the movies, and wonder if the "what films are showing in X" search is part of that ritual for me.

For 2, I usually search for two to four words (very rarely more), and will often go through several results in depth looking for useful information before going back to refine search terms. Say I wanted to read about Chaucer's dream visions - I'd type "chaucer dream poems" first, probably read one or two articles on general Chaucer poetry to check for useful links or small pieces of info I could grab, and then search something like "chaucer dream visions macrobius" to get more specific. Usually, I'm balancing breadth of potential results with specificity of topic, and trying to filter my keywords to get authoritative and/or trustworthy information. Usually the syntax in these searches goes broad topic --> subset --> subset of subset.

For 3, I will often be working off fragmented memories, and will use quotes a lot - find an identifying feature the object, idea or group I'm talking about must have to be the same as what I am looking for, and quote that in as many different wordings as I can think of. I will aggregate with more and more key words decreasing in perceived relevance as I continue to search, and will put in minuses if a result I don't want keeps coming up.

I will definitely be checking out Gwern's writing on this topic. Sorry this is ridiculously long.

*is there a term which precisely conveys this idea?

Hello! I've been a lurker for a few weeks and promised myself I'd actually make an account after my university exams finished.

I'm 22, from England, and technically still an undergraduate student of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford (though I did do an A-Level in philosophy). Since my final exams finished, I'm finding myself with much more time on my hands to learn new skills, and I was drawn to the rigour of discussion here. I took the fact that I was so intimidated by every single discussion point as a reason to jump in. Truthfully, I feel a bit of an outsider as an arts/humanities student on this forum, but also have a suspicion this feeling will prove unfounded.

I'm a newbie to almost every major topic of discussion at LW, but my main goals are: to absorb as much new knowledge as I can; to improve my writing style, which I dislike; and to define, and refine, my worldview based on hard thinking.

It's great to meet everyone!

I'm pretty new here and can say that, as someone who had done a bit of philosophy before at school before arriving, I was familiar with the definition of rationalism you link above but not with the rationalist community in the LessWrong sense.

Aware this is very anecdotal evidence, but thought it might be vaguely useful in some way.

I will, though, point out that you're effectively conflating two different questions here: "What would it be easier for other people to call us, or how should we self-identify as members of a certain community in the public at large?" and "How should we self-refer within the community?" The answers to these questions do overlap, but the factors to consider when arriving at each answer are markedly different.