Retro Recomendo: Alternative Search

Recomendo - issue #414

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Our subscriber base has grown so much since we first started seven years ago, that most of you have missed all our earliest recommendations. The best of these are still valid and useful, so we’re trying out something new — Retro Recomendo. Once every 6 weeks, we’ll send out a throwback issue of evergreen recommendations focused on one theme from the past 8 years.

Better Reddit search

Reddit is often a more reliable source of information than Google, especially for product reviews, restaurant recommendations, and how-to instructions. Unfortunately, Reddit’s native search engine is clunky and leaves a lot to be desired. I started using Giga, a site that returns relevant Reddit posts and summarizes them. I used it to find out how to cook chicken breasts so they don’t become tough and dry. — MF

Visual style replicator

The coolest thing I’ve seen in many years is Same Energy. This is a beta-version of a visual search machine. You give it an image and it returns more images that feel exactly like the one you started with. Some images may be the same subject, some may be the same lighting and coloring, or some have the same visual style. It works uncannily well. I can start with a piece of furniture, or a fabric design, or an album cover, or an Instagram travel photo, and I’ll get an endless mosaic of images with the same energy. Like Pinterest, I can select one of the offerings and then get more images similar to that one, and so on. Unlike Pinterest, I can also create a collection of images and use that to train an AI to find images that share qualities of the whole set. I find I could spend hours watching the endless results recreationally, like staring into ocean waves or a campfire. It’s also a brilliant design research tool, a stunning creative prompt, and a total inspiration. — KK

Find vintage clothing fast

Gem is a search engine for vintage and used clothing and jewelry. You can quickly search eBay, Etsy, Poshmark, TheRealReal, and more, and the results are displayed in a large gallery view with prices to save time. You can also set email alerts for hard-to-find items. — CD

Best used book finder

The best online source for used books is BookFinder. Its bare bones design is unchanged from 1997 and feels like a Craigslist for books. It’s an aggregated meta-search engine that simultaneously looks for a book on Amazon, Ebay, Abe, Alibris, Bibio, and 100,000 indie booksellers. It will find all copies available and arrange them by price, and supply the link for purchase from the source. (In other countries and languages it is known as JustBooks.) It reliably yields the least expensive option for a used book. — KK

Free Smithsonian images

If you need to use an image for your art, product, project, or any other reason, check out the Smithsonian’s vast collection of Open Access images available under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. I searched “cat,” and it returned over 7,000 images, and every one I looked at was terrific. — MF

Instantly search 2 million recipes

This search engine pulls from more than 2 million recipes that you can filter by ingredients. I’m not a step-by-step recipe follower, but this is great for discovering variations of a recipe and inspiration for ingredients I hadn’t thought of. I’m also impressed that it found two different recipes for my parent’s homeland dish: Sopa Tarasca — CD


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