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Is Bing More Innovative Than Google?

Google may still command over 60 percent market share when it comes to searches, the Microsoft-owned Bing is making steady headway ever since its introduction in June 2009. However, current data shows that Bing and Yahoo search engines’ share in the marketplace is growing – as the expense of Google. Yet due to its smaller size, Bing is quicker to innovate with new features, like the brand-new taxi cab fare calculator, as well as its intuitive answers and shopping engine. In recent months, Bing has continued adding more features – like integrating Twitter and Facebook status updates into its search results.

The change toward making search sites more user friendly (and more insightful with information) is enhancing the search experience for the average internet user.  To give users an idea of what’s going on around their neighborhoods or in interesting parts of the country, Bing has partnered up with Foursquare to provide geo-location based  information about restaurant specials and user recommendations. Bit by bit, these social media innovations help Bing stand out among its competitors – and woo social media junkies away from Google’s grip. Bing is also the official search engine within Facebook.

Further applications – whether it be the Bing Shopping iPhone app (with bar code scanner) or the Bing Health section – continue enhancing Bing’s search capabilities.  Thus far, Bing commands only 12% of the search engine market share – but its rate of growth suggests that big things may be in its future. If nothing else, Microsoft’s innovative use of social media data (twitter, foursquare, and Facebook) shows its understanding of the power that user-generated content can have on search engine traffic.

For a side by side comparison of the two sites, check out – http://www.bing-vs-google.com/

2010 Politics Online: Top Ten Known Unknowns

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.”- Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

With the sheer quantity and overall quality of information presented at this weeks 2010 Politics Online Conference, choosing just 10, or even 20 or 30 of the most insightful or unique comments is no easy task. Although Mr. Rumsfeld was obviously not referring to social media, and his comment here was widely criticized, keeping in mind exactly what you know, what you don’t know, and what you might never know are important principles to keep in mind when designing or managing a social media campaign.

For anyone who could not attend or might have missed a few sessions, all of the panels on track D were covered by CSPAN and are available here. Keynote addresses in the main ballroom were broadcast live via Usteam.Tv and are available on the Politics2010 channel.

Top Ten Known Unknowns

10. One panel predicted that Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon and Google Buzz will not be here next year. I have written previously about the multitude of location based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla and how I doubt that they all will survive.  Is Social Media a zero-sum game? Will the pie keep expanding as access to broadband expands and new users come online?

9. "It doesn't matter how many people you have as fans on Facebook. You only need the right 5." While it is easy to focus on the sheer number of followers and fans one might have on Facebook or Twitter, as this blog has pointed out before, quality always trumps quantity.  Finding those key fans or linchpins is the key. Broadly speaking, there is a certain intangible benefit to social media that is not always easy to identify. What will the new measures of success be?

8. Nic Adler gave an excellent presentation on his experience using social media to help save his nightclub, the legendary Roxy on Sunset Strip. Rather than ignoring or antagonizing his competition, Nick worked with competing venues like The Viper Room to reinvigorate the music scene, even going so far as to organize Tweet-crawls where he would actually encourage his customers to visit other businesses! Will social media make business and society more equitable? 

7. During the Bush administration, a single blog post by an independent blogger was ultimately responsible for pushing the administration to redesign the White House’s website. Another panelist remarked that compared to corporate customer service, the level of customer service people expect from government organizations is unattainable. While technology is certainly streamlining many interactions citizens have with government agencies, how willing should we be to outsource government functions?

6. Given the already explosive growth of the mobile internet, what does the future have in store for augmented reality applications? If you had an application for your phone that showed exactly what your local government has done or not done- potholes fixed, how much that bridge cost would you use it?  How about an application that pointed out a problem? In Washington DC you can report potholes via email or Twitter.

5. “Email is the hub around which Facebook, Twitter and other social media revolve.” – Colin Delaney. Email is still king. Businesses and organizations should focus on having a strong email program before branching out into social media. When and if this will change is still a matter of some debate.

4. “Social Media is nothing less than the reinvigoration of American democracy." -Rod Martin, Founder of Paypal. What exactly this reinvigorated democracy will look like, and whether or not it will improve government services and perceptions of government is tough to say. Considering that a small minority of Twitter users are responsible for a majority of the content, many have noted that the internet and social media tend to amply the loudest and most extreme viewpoints.

3. Microsoft’s Campaign Ready Suite. Despite a rocky demo that was plagued by an overtaxed WIFI system, Microsoft’s TownHall is something to watch. As a veteran of several campaigns, I can attest to the reluctance of some candidates and consultants to embrace new tools. One aspect of their program that was largely overlooked was the fact that it is open source. Does this represent a shift in Microsoft’s approach to designing software?

2. “Very likely to see independent Presidential candidate in 2012 that will make Ross Perot look like a joke.” – Joe Trippi. As we get closer to the midterm elections in November, many candidates are facing primary challenges from candidates whose campaigns would not have been possible without the internet. Will social media lead to a multi-party system?

1. The biggest threat to the future of the internet is filtering or censoring by governments, otherwise known as 'vulcanization'. Although pretty much everyone agrees that actions taken by China and Iran to censor content and limit access are egregious afford to freedom of speech, there was a surprising amount of disagreement among panelists about the potential fallout from the FCC’s recent attempt to force Comcast to stop managing its customers bandwidth on the per-per service Bit Torrent. Are regulations preventing ISPs from prioritizing internet traffic an unnecessary intrusion or necessary reform?

The Magic Is In the Makeup

In the world of website and graphic design, image is everything, and with it, the art accompanying the project just as significant. While businesses frequently face the challenge of finding images that appropriately represent their organizations and/or services, it is not to say that success will be found 100% of the time. Surprisingly, the most important aspect of their presentation can often times appear rushed, or other times under cooked.

The entire concept of image retouching is similar to that of a magician: The viewer should never be in on the trick.

Image manipulation is truly an art, and nowadays when a 15 year-old can remove a lingering pimple before posting party pics to Facebook, everyone is in on the act, albeit with mixed results.

I am always on the search for examples of what I’d like to call "photostopping,” where both the photo and reality end, leaving you wondering why an effort was made at all.

I find myself endlessly entertained by the website Photoshop Disasters, featuring examples of poorly implemented designs that actually make it past the cutting room floor. Viewing the site, you would be surprised at the epidemic of models missing limbs in advertisements.

microsoft-capture-FINAL

This example comes from the Polish edition of the Microsoft website. While it is not uncommon to come across websites using the same stock images, it would seem that there are only so many of the standard “diversity” business shots available.

In the image, one businessman is clumsily swapped for another, going as far as neglecting the color of the replaced man’s hand. While you could potentially excuse other companies for shoddy design, please remember— this is MICROSOFT!

And I haven’t even touched the subject of the obvious white MacBook prominently featured in the center of the shot.

Source: Photoshop Disasters

Further reading: Joe Wertz: The Politics of Photoshop — 10 Historic Doctored Photos

Bing vs. Google — One Anecdote

My daughter's math class needed to find examples of periodic behavior and estimate a sine curve to fit the data, both manually and by using a TI-83 calculator.  Obvious examples of periodic behavior are average city monthly temperatures and low/high tides.  My daughter wanted something a bit more unusual; her teacher suggested looking at data for live births by month in the U.S. prior to the introduction of contraceptives.

 So off to Google we went.  She typed in "live births by month in the U.S., 1954" and got this search result page.  We clicked on several of the links, ending up at this page about the US census.  Data is yearly, we needed monthly.  But there is a URL at the bottom of the page that we followed to the Center for Disease Control.  And with a few more clicks, we found what we were looking for, Yearly Vital Statistics Reports.

We downloaded various PDFs, found the monthly numbers, and my daughter used Excel to plot the graphs, fiddled with the constants to come up with a good approximation, and used her calculator to get the best sine curve fit possible.  About an hour and a half in work.

While she was finishing up, an advertisement for Bing was running on the TV.  So I gave it a try, and typed in exactly the same thing:"live births by month in the U.S., 1954."  I didn't know what to expect, but here's the page, and look at the fourth result.  Bing-o! Not only the data, but various graphs and explanations for the seasonal variation in live births.  All in two clicks.

This is only one anecdote.  I don't know yet if Bing is a decision engine, but in this case it was a powerful discovery engine that beat Google hands-down.

Microsoft's Azure: Cloud Computing, The Internet, and You

There has been some discussion of cloud computing recently as Microsoft revealed Azure, their attempt to chip away at Google's unyielding grasp on the hosted services sector. Centralized computing changes the way people compute their data, simplifying the process and reducing the need for desktop software. Is this the new model for generating revenue in an increasingly connected global marketplace?

The concept of hosted solutions has been around for quite a while. The web itself can be seen as a massive bank of hosted "solutions" from static pages to the latest database driven AJAX utility. Our own ImpactWatch is a hosted platform, as are many subscription-based offerings from access to databases to hosted MMO gaming.

I see several advantages to hosted and semi-cloud based services:

  • Data in the cloud means optimized devices. With the device itself computing less and more being crunched on the central servers, devices don't have to be as powerful and will consume less power.
  • $$$. With torrents, file sharing, and peer-to-peer networks in wide use, hosted solutions ensure company revenues are secure and act to protect against piracy and security threats. Hosted also means less cost than real-world deliverable goods such as installation media and unnecessary packaging, as well as a tendency to reduce administrative costs in the long run.
  • Real-time updates. When your bleeding-edge code finally matures into a release worthy snippet, it feels good to show the world as soon as possible. This also applies to the whole security issue.
  • Anywhere, anytime. Cloud computing means being able to access your information and GTD wherever you are, as long as there's a compatible (and connected) device in the immediate vicinity. Road warriors take note.
  • An increase in compatibility. Not too long ago, the software market found itself choosing between two sides of a compatibility war, and to this day these agreements dictate much of what is available for various platforms. No longer are these clashes going to occur, as cloud computing runs as native on any OS compared to any other.

Cloud services are changing (and will continue to change) the way the internet works. As web and desktop technologies go through this awkward phase of flirtation, I eagerly await the next generation of truly integrated cloud applications. Any other obvious advantages I've left out? Or how about any glaring disadvantages to this model?