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Saturday, July 04, 2009

UK Bing Roundtable - Just My Opinion

It is probably too late and I did not check other guys blogs, but I would like to bring here my impressions about this Bing event I have been invited few days ago.

How Did It Start

Hi Andrea,
I'm writing on behalf of Microsoft to invite you to a discussion about Bing, the new search engine that recently launched in beta in the UK.


Colin Mercer, a member of Microsoft Life Without Walls initiative group, is a truly nice guy. Spontaneous, friendly, exactly that kind of guy that could let a group of foreigners feel comfortable since first meet up minutes. Being glad to have been invited without asking, and without being a Microsoft fun as well, of course I was there: to understand what this initiative was about and why they called me, raising my doubts from this high geek technical blog.

Bing Round Table, The Good Part

To be honest, I am not going to be that nice about this event, but I have to admit that seeing Microsoft trying to be closer than before with people that make Web live, any topic blogger in this case, was a nice surprise. The organization, the choose place, and the catering was excellent, even if there were only about 10 guests and there was no time to eat and drink. It is a good start point from a company famous to be closed for its selling purpose only. Good Stuff, please keep doing it, it can only brings benefits from different points of view.

Special Moronic Guests, That Is What We Are

The presentation started with a lovely woman and a sort of jingle: "Bing"! OK, that was to make us comfortable, that was to have a quick laugh, that was to break the ice, that was ... only the begin!
The entire presentation showed us stats, those stats were retrieved from God Knows which tool bar present only in Internet Explorer, and those stats, even if from IE world, put Microsoft search engines in third position, I can't imagine what could come from Mozilla or Google, if they present stats based on their own products ... I guess Bing would not even exists ...
Since those stats were not that pro-bing, they stopped into a slide with classical promises a la "it's simple, it's friendly, it's new, it's brand, it's something you should use, it makes your life better" ... no comment.
Fortunately, some guy started instantly to ask what was new, what was interesting, what was the missing piece that other well known search engines do not have ... and every question had behind a though like: why are we here and what are you showing us? We are not dummies and we know what we want, what other offer, and what we are looking for.
Were we interested about TV ad like presentation? NO
Were we interested about promises other search engines maintain since ages? NO
Were we interested about U.S.A. verion, being in London, where Bing is still beta and smells like Live from miles without bringing a single new feature and positioning bing itself in the second place when you search for bing in the uk version? NO
So what were they showing us? Did they think we do not know what is a search engine? Probably

Missed Expectations

At least that what I think,everybody was looking for that genius thing that nobody else have ... it did not happen! Apparently, the most innovative thing is the live video preview for video results ... OK, I want to be honest, I think everybody over 18 has seen some xxx search engine and everybody knows that a quick preview in a video link is not a Bing idea ... isn't it?
The second most important innovation is a vertical focused lateral bar, something that simply remove spaces fr mobile devices, something useful because with that kind of layout and images behind white links people could even not notice top links so here they are with an innovative lateral menu ... is this wow?

Bing UK, I Want Developers Name!

First of all, for a company that sell enterprise software a la Visual Studio Team System, I wonder how it can be possible that whatever country version is different from every other ... merge projects and use one big development team? Naaaaaaaaa, they prefer to delegate search engine development in each country ... what a waist of money! The UK version is a new graphical version of the search engine, same weird results (Bing itself in second position after a link called News about Bing ...), not a single lateral bar, nothing useful in the home page ... and about this, 110Kb of home page because of course if a user needs to search something he has to wait the castle, the building, the big sized image in home page. Moreover, with 13 inline JavaScript files, when you chose a different search type switching from Web to Image, the entre page is reloaded and the only difference is the form action, using /images/ rather than the main path ... I mean: Are You Serious?
Design wise, as I said in some other post I am partially color blind. I perfectly recognize red and green, but slight gradients make my life truly difficult.
Google, in its simplicity, studied a lot color contrasts to make everything clear, now try to read the disclaimer, or links bottom right ... oh really? You did not even know there were links there? I am not a designer, but you do not need a PHD to understand that bright text over a bit brighter background does not make sense ... now put white text over images loads of details ... and now tell me how long you spent to read that text, and how much all these problems do not exists in both Yahoo and Google. Is it all about design? Does it make sense to create a 100Kb home page just to add noise and confusion? Did they truly need 13 inline JavaScript for a page that has no functionality rather than a field? Where is the simplicity they are talking about?
Google, 25Kb, you write, you press enter, that's it, that's why they are the number one search engine ... no confusion, not a single waist of time or bandwidth, optimized for mobile devices and even if Microsoft has more than one HTC device, they do not care ... try to surf Bing with iPhone or Android ... are we still in 2000 or in the netbook/small screen devices era? A splash in the past, and still nothing new!

Bing U.S.A. You Click Rather Than Scroll!

Again, I did not get this "feature", the vertical oriented menu on the left suppose to make everything simple because in Gogle you have to scroll ... What?
The scrolling operation with a mouse is extremely natural and it can be performed everywhere in the page while it is still natural with mobile devices where with a finger or a dedicated button you just ... scroll! The search, point, and click is a boring, slow, tedious, operation, even more difficult with mobile devices and whatever "finger-pad" panel we all have in our mobile devices. In few words, in UK Bing presentation they showed us how simple is to find Washington map ... you search for Washington, the engine is so clever to understand that you are looking for a city ( again, moronic stuff, we all know that this is the abc for a top ten search engine ) and if you click Map in the left side menu, you will find the map. In Google, you have to scroll ( weird, I always found maps in the top of the page ) to find information, so they organized everything, with a response page which average is again about 70Kb VS 30 to 35 for Google, where in the latter one you can find everything you need in one page, quick, simple, that is simple!
I do not want to comment the fact they proposed U.S.A. related searches, and non UK images in the home page for the UK Bing version ...

There Will Be Time For Technical Question?

After any sort of question and hundreds of good points about missed interesting news for this new Microsoft search engine, I simply called time to ask technical question. THey said yes but thre was no time, and you know what? I got time blowing out loudly and quickly my points producing non-sense sentences cause I lost number of things to ask or say ... but one thing I will never forget: I asked about 13 inline scripts and the reason if in the UK version I click images I have to reload the page just to change a form target ... the answer was: I do not know what you are talking about ... OK, probably misunderstanding, probably not DB related, but at the end of the day, the only though in my mind was this one: Why on earth they called me? Did they think I was a web troll? Did they think I was a teenager with a lot of time to waist behind the PC? Did they ever consider me as a 10 years experienced web developer with deep JavaScript knowledge, server side certifications, and studies that not a single young Phd person have unless he/she has not my same passion?
Disappointed, partially humiliated, and still load of doubts about how the presentation supposed to be and the reason they called us.

Is Everything That Bad?

One thing I truly appreciated, which does not come from this meeting, is the Bing API, in my opinion well done and flexible enough to let us create interesting applications or web gadgets. If you'll stay tuned, I am planning to create a bookmarkable script that will make searches nice, simple, and friendly, exactly how Bing should, in Microsoft mind, be.

Finally, this post is only my impression, my opinions, and nothing else. I may have misunderstood a lot of words/questions, specially after a couple of fresh beers, but I still wonder why I was there ... and if I would like to be there again. Let's see how things will be.

Post Scriptum

All my opinions come from 30 minutes analysis in place, during the meeting, I've never had time these days to investigate the search engine itself so I may have missed something ... again, take carefully what I said about Bing, thanks.


Valentino Aluigi said...

I agree: why on earth they called you?! biiing mistake! ^__^

seriously, my point about Bing is that it's a good product, but not enough to persuade anybody to switch from Google...

Andrea Giammarchi said...

It was not just me, the feeling they though they were dealing with dummies came from almost everyone. Somebody officially disapproved the SE choice, not a single one was enthusiast about the product, the presentation was so moronic that it could have not been showed ... we already knew what to ask, all of us!

Phil said...

Can't really disagree with much of your post to be honest. (I was the guy who started asking the difficult questions, sat to your left.) The colourblind thing was really important and they kinda glossed over it.

If they do it again, and I hope that they do, it needs to be a day long event and we need to be in the capacity of paid consultants IMO.

Andrea Giammarchi said...

Phil, I truly appreciate all our questions, the problem was the time and we (they) need an entire day without silly presentations and more talks, that is what I think.
About being paid consultants, can you even imagine how much Microsoft is paying they internal extra-cool consultants? And that is the result, something nobody got so far.
Apparently they are spending a lot of money for this product, but the problem is in the source: which criteria do they use to select designers, consultants, developers, etc etc?
I am sure there is a "best of the world" division there, but it is probably only in USA and it is probably only behind the scene, producing data, rather than showing it to the world. The rest ... I am still thinking who can be payed a Microsoft salary for that home page were 10 of 13 JavaScript files are mainly useless ... but this is my technical point of view, hopefully I'll demonstrate what I mean soon with a less than 10Kb application able to bring a search engine as Bing is into every browser. Stay tuned ;)