Bing It On

Bing

Bing It On BullshitDefinitely one for this year’s ‘the horse has bolted‘ award – Microsoft in their wisdom decided to run a Search Engine taste test. The so-called BingItOn campaign looks like it’s finished now (BingItOn links all redirect back to Bing – with 302s no less) but not before Microsoft managed to announce the amazing result that people prefer Bing results 2 to 1 over Google. I was hoping for some further updates, but the (perhaps ironically named) Search Quality blog is yet to deliver…

It’s a sad day when Bing wastes money like this, especially when Michael Kordahi did the same thing so much better back in 2009, and RustyBrick did a similar thing back in 2005. Back then things like personalisation and location were much smaller influences on search engine results. These days, search experience is so personalised that different people see vastly different results for the same searches. Not only that, but the additional snippets that show in normal search engines are excluded (as Darren notes well here). When I was testing with it a few days back the results from searches (both Google and Bing) were all disappointing – I felt as though search technology had gone back in time… which of course it had, with its vanilla, limited results. Bing It On results did for search results what the Geocitiesizer does for web design. By the way here’s Bing after they’ve received the Geo treatment :-)

Which makes this kind of blind search test such a useless exercise. The Bing team knows this of course, so you have to wonder why they bothered… One can only imagine it’s a combination of desperation and KPI madness – somewhere, someone is getting a nice KPI status report this month after the hungry tech sites lapped it up yet again. Every day is a slow news day it seems.

The only positive from this is that Microsoft is getting better at marketing and PR. They can take a tired, unoriginal idea, and manage to make a campaign out of it that gets traction in the tech press. Their contacts and timing are improving.

I’m looking forward to Microsoft doing something really inspiring with Bing one day and having that get the coverage it deserves. We live in hope.

Microsoft Street Slide

Street SlideI love the stuff Microsoft is doing with it’s mapping technology lately. This latest one from Microsoft Research is particularly impressive.

It’s called Microsoft Street Slide (not to be confused with Microsoft Streetside) and takes the whole photo stitching paradigm another step forward. It’s best explained in the following video, but in a nutshell it allows you to navigate maps via ‘immersive 360 degree panoramas’. You ‘slide’ up and down streets via a very smooth panorama interface:

The obvious question is whether this will make it into mainstream inclusion in Bing. I hope it does. It was unveiled at SIGGRAPH this week (perhaps as part of this) but that doesn’t necessarily confirm any future release – there’s been plenty of exciting internal Microsoft projects that never made it through to mainstream release. That said though, other Microsoft projects (including ones from Microsoft Research such as Photosynth and Photo Fuse) have made it into the product cycle. Fingers crossed.

Bing with Mark Vozzo at SBTUG

It’s going to be interesting to see what the Bing team have been up to lately – this Wed at SBTUG Mark Vozzo is going to be covering all the new stuff in Bing. He’ll be on after the pizza break (remember we have Gary Hayes talking about Augmented Reality in the first session).

One of my frustrations with Bing is that most of their new stuff doesn’t show in Australia – it is US only, meaning you have to change your region in order to view it. And even then it won’t always work – for example, I still can’t get the Bing app on my iPhone. It’s a strange move by the Bing team, and I hope they change their approach because it’s really hurting them – just take a look at the search engine usage in Australia (Google: 92%, Bing: 3%) compared to the US (Google: 63%, Bing: 12%) and you’ll see what I mean.

So, whilst it’s hurting Bing in Australia, it’s also disappointing for you and me –by default we miss out on some of the really cool things Bing is providing. Mark’s session is aimed at bringing us up to speed with some of these tools. Mark is an online analytics lead with the Digital Marketing Group at Microsoft in Sydney (and a passionate speaker – I had the pleasure of hearing him present last week). He’ll be covering the following, amongst other things:

  • Wikipedia integration
  • Wolfram Alpha integration
  • Image Search (infinite scroll & filtering capabilities)
  • Visual Search
  • The ‘new’ Bing Maps
  • Photosynth integration within Maps
  • Street side photos (How Microsoft is integrating with User Generated Content from Flicker)

On this last point, you may be interested in the following video from Blaise Agüera y Arcas (one of the Architects on the Bing Maps team). Here’s the quick overview:

And here’s a longer video from when he announced a ton of updates at TED2010 in February this year:

If you are interested in what the Bing team has been up to, then I recommend you get along to SBTUG this Wed (that’ tomorrow night) to hear Mark speak, along with Gary Hayes. Fortuitously, some of the Bing stuff is a nice follow on from Gary’s Augmented Reality talk – the Street side view is a great example of reality being augmented with additional data.

Here’s the details:

Where: Microsoft, North Ryde (map)
When: Wed 30 June 2010, starting at 6pm
Web: Full details on the Sydney Business & Technology User Group (SBTUG) site
RSVP: Please RSVP here so I know you are coming

I hope to see you there.

Bing Webmaster Blog

Bing Webmaster CenterIt’s good to see the Bing Webmaster Center Blog picking up. I’ve been following Rick DeJarnette’s posts more closely lately – he’s putting out some good stuff. I thought it worth highlighting a few examples:

It’s not all good though – try to avoid any posts that refer to ‘discussions’ on the Bing forums – there’s so much bad advice and busy work getting pumped out there it’s not funny (example).

Oh, and be careful not to confuse the Webmaster Blog with the more general Bing Community Blog of which the Webmaster Center Blog is just a part. The general blog is swamped lots of noise – mostly travel related tosh. No, make sure you just stick to Rick’s posts (RSS here).

Finding decent SEO and SEM related resources is getting harder and harder these days – simply because the good stuff gets lost in amongst all the regurgitated and out of date stuff (of which there is plenty). So,if you are interested in some reputable SEO resources you might want to browse my SEO Resources page – I try to keep it as minimal as possible (eg of the hundreds of SEO related blogs I regularly read I’ve only listed 4 – if you’re new to SEO they’re the ones to read).

Oh, and finally, I’m sure the irony of the Bing Webmaster Center blog’s complete lack of SEO isn’t lost on Rick – even though they were explaining the importance of unique title tags back in July 2009, you’ll notice that they haven’t implemented it themselves – every post has the same Title (and meta description)! Even Bill Gates got that sorted (after a little advice from Danny Sullivan <- recommended reading btw).

Search as an Experience

It’s easy to think of search (ie searching on Google or Bing) as simply a (boring) research activity. And in turn, to think that all the innovation in search is about providing a ‘better’ result. But what does ‘better’ mean when it comes to search?

Joseph Pine’s TED talk on what consumers want is a good insight into how the search game is changing (and hat tip to Michael Gray for the link and thought). Joseph’s talk is from 2004, but his point is relevant now. It’s essentially this: people want an experience. And they want an experience with authenticity.

Consider how the UX and designer communities have grown in the last few years and you’ll have in an insight into how people want to interact with their programs/gadgets/sites… even their line of business (LOB) apps. They want a pleasurable experience. Something that they can relate to.

Why should search be any different? When searching, we want an experience. It’s why Bing added pretty pictures, flyouts and visual search, and why Google is pushing things like personalised search and social search (to name just a few examples – the rate of innovation in the engines is huge). It’s more than just the results. It’s how we relate to the results that matters.