Monday, June 15, 2009

Auditioning a New Search Engine Day 2

June 15, 2009

Auditioning Bing

Woke up early today and now sipping morning coffee. Living in Palm Springs we appreciate the cool time of the day. Time to check email, and a Surprise!

When starting IE8, after years of seeing the Google home page, I was pleasantly surprised to see a richly detailed full screen photo of a country village in the Swiss Alps. I experienced a nice feeling in that moment.

Search Engine Personal Interface as a Quality of Life Issue

Oh Yes, of course! Yesterday I installed Bing as my IE8 home page. So that‘s it. The Bing home page features a professional quality photo as the page background. Hmmm… interesting … the search input field is a central and prominent large white rectangular box. I need to start a search. But wait, before getting to that all important first search of the day, I want to finish my first coffee of the day, and Why not? continue my exploration of Bing.

It occurs to me that the search engine home page is a constant companion and a non-trivial part of my home and work environment. Therefore, my emotional and subliminal responses to the search-engine personal-interface are contributing factors to my quality of life. So perhaps it is valuable to devote some thinking to this.

Organizing Concept: Data stuck to pictures like post-its

I am detecting an interesting feature of Bing. It’s emphasis on data organized onto pictures or maps. I believe this concept originated in the field of land use planning and city management. There is a thing these guys use called GIS (geographic information systems) that turns out to be very powerful.

In GIS, a background map is displayed and data sets are associated with particular points or areas on the map. That is, each point on the map has an attached data set, like sticking a post-it onto a wall map. It may not be an initially obvious idea, but in practice it was revolutionary. GIS was revolutionary to the profession of city planning. Bing GIS for more on this.

Now the nub. Data organized in bundles attached to points on photos or maps is a surprisingly powerful concept. Interesting that Bing seems to emphasize this to a larger extent than Google does. At least that is my first impression here.

Enough first-coffee-of-the-morning abstraction for now, and back to exploring the Bing home page.

More cool mouse-overs
Remember the cool text balloons on the results page? I am finding scattered over the Bing home-page-background-photo several (four or five) mouse-over regions that generate little square windows. If you then mouse-over the square, you get a one sentence text balloon of info related to the photo. A few of these regions are scattered over the photo, so it gives a kind of a virtual tour of the region featured in the photo. Well that’s interesting, and I’ve not finished my coffee so let’s look a bit more.

EXPLORE categories
To the left side of the screen I see a black rectangle titled “EXPLORE.” Below the title a list of categories: Images, Videos, Shopping, News, Maps, and Travel. I get the idea. Categories and kinds of information, ok. Want to click now? Not yet. That would lead me to more exploration than I want to do now.

More on EXPLORE later.
Now, back to examination of the Bing home page. Across the top of the page I see pull-down menus titled: Tour Bing, MSN, Windows Live, Steven (my first name), United States ,and Extras. The last has a little down arrow icon.

Getting to Bing Settings and Preferences
The top line menu titles are mostly self-evident except the Extras arrow. Clicking the Extras arrow I pull-down a menu having the following items: Preferences, Your cashback account, Blogs, Advertising, and some other stuff. Hmmm…ok…what’s under preferences? Click. Ah Ha! We jump to a new page titled “Bing Preferences: General settings that apply to all of your searches.“ It looks like the preferences and settings are important. The settings include the “SafeSearch” offensive-sites-filter settings. Choices for SafeSearch are: Strict, Moderate, and Off. Ok that’s important to know.

More Preferences
Another interesting preference is the /location city and state/ for search results relevant-to-your-desired-location. It seems to need my home or office zip code to help focus searches. That sounds ok, so I change this setting to Palm Springs, CA. Quickly scanning over the other settings, language, language for pages, … etc. Looks ok, now click /save settings/ and we pop back to the Bing home page.

Four more things to go
A bit more time left before getting to real work. Hmm … across the bottom of the Bing home page are three more titles: Swiss precision (relevant to the background photo of a Swiss village), European vacation (relevant to the global region of the background photo), and Popular now (listing currently popular searches). These are links to more info, and the meanings are relatively clear. Finally, at the bottom right of the page photo are two small arrows. Clicking sends you to other background pictures for a little variety.

Well, that’s enough for today. Now we have looked over everything on the Bing home page. Time to refill my coffee and get to work.

Thanks for viewing Auditioning a New Search Engine Day 2. See you next time.

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