I’ve been alerted through work about the search engine Bing.

I’ve tried it for a few searches, mostly simple “phrase and word” searches like ‘”eastern front” terrain’ and ‘”eastern front” forests’. Then I compared results obtained to results obtained with the same searches in Google.

The results I got in the first 5 or so pages of results in Bing certainly seemed very retail-oriented…not so helpful when I am looking for fact or history-oriented. True, Google also returned many retail-oriented in its first few pages of results but it also yielded plenty of factual results early in results.

I felt even more unhappy with my results when I saw that prominently displayed at the bottom of each results page in Bing is the statement,Some results have been removed.” Clicking on that link does not let me go in and tell it to show me all results, regardless of adult content or not – frustrating. Why tell me they are removing some results and not let me try to find out why and do something about it?

Doing a bit of research into Bing – I was primarily trying to find Media Releases and the like trumpeting its availability to the world –  I found the follwoing two informative articles which I urge you to read,  “Discovering more about Microsoft’s Bing search engine” from The Guardian and “Microsoft’s bada Bing” from The BBC. The quotation from Shar VanBoskirk in the former is revealing – so much so that I went to the source that The Guardian used and reproduced what I consider the important information here:

* Bing focuses on delivering answers, not Web pages.  Microsoft research shows (and Forrester’s research affirms) that users rely more and more on search engines to deliver solutions…hotel reservations, movie listings, gift ideas, newsclip replays…not just a directory of Web sites.  Bing was developed to help consumers make decisions, not just to catalog content.
* Bing organizes content/results by searcher (not algorithm) relevance.  Using research of what types of results have proven relevant to former searchers, Microsoft has organized its Bing interface to deliver the content users are most likely to value, rather than just content that matches an algorithmic formula.
* Bing filters out results that aren’t relevant.  Instead of giving users an overwhelming volume of results, Bing acts as a concierge to help point users to the results most likely to meet their need.

That comes from the May 28 2009 entry on the Forrester Blog for Interactive Marketing Professionals.

My thoughts? 1) It’s delivering answers – but answers to retail-style questions first and foremost. I’m trying to make decisions – but I need lots of reports, observations, memories, photos and so on first. 2) Bing organises by searcher relevance. Who are these searchers? Why trust their judgement about my results? 3) Filtering by what rules/guidelines? Why can’t I turn them off if I’m not getting results similar to those which Google can?

Darren Waters’ article on the BBC website is also well worth contemplating, especially this quote:

But Microsoft is playing smart and is likely to say that it is trying to compete not with Google, but with Yahoo, currently the number two search engine in the US.

The reason is clear: Microsoft is so far behind Google in search that, in many respects, it is not even in the same race.

While Google enjoys more than 64% of searches in the US, Microsoft trundles along with 8.2%. But Microsoft is at least notionally able to compete with Yahoo, which enjoys 20% of the market.

My thoughts? 1) No wonder I’m not happy with Bing – it’s only trying to beat Yahoo! Search. Google has, in my mind, defeated Alltheweb, which was a serious contender, and until late last year I used it for all my wargaming research. Now I’m using Google because it indexes more content and more obscure yet valuable content, such is it’s power. 2) Bing is Microsoft’s search engine, tweaked and revamped. I never used it previously, because of its limitations – for now I’ll leave it alone, too.

On the plus side, Bing did show me Steven Thomas’ “Balagan” website, where I saw and read about his efforts in making terrain templates. Here is his page –  Modelling: Terrain Templates. I hope you enjoy it and it gives you ideas – I certainly enjoyed it. Well done, Steve!

(This post is one of those job-related, ‘Librarian issues’ posts that occasionally pop up here. Normal modelling/gaming/hobby posts will be resumed very soon!)

This is an another aside, but important because it continues what I was discussing in my previous post.

I found searching through Flickr for good photographs for which to examine brick colours, surrounding terrain detail, tree shapes, water course colours, town layouts and the like very time-consuming for the few useful photos I found. This is largely because few people will use the same words as Tags to describe their photographs as you use for searching. Exceptions are the WW2 history buffs, but many photographs are those belonging to tourists and they will use general terms for their subject content, such as “house” +”Germany”, whereas you’ll be looking for “town house” + “brick” + “world war”.

I would therefore advocate using Google or Alltheweb or whatever your favourite search engine is, and just do webpage searches, not image searches – again, because images embedded or linked on webpages often don’t have the sorts of words you’ll be trying to search with (some may just have a number). However, as part of your search, do try using “photo” as part of the search.

Do some searches and do look through at least the first five pages of results. Do try looking at some webpages and have a look at the photos/images there. Once you strike gold, mine the whole seam and if the website has a page of Links, try those links too.

To date, those have been my experiences and these techniques will be what I keep using into the first part of 2009. Hopefully by then, photos in Flickr may have some better Tags.

At a swap-meet this month, I was lucky enough to purchase a now out-of-print Panzer III M by Revell. The box art shows it with schurzen (armour skirts) and they are included with the sprues. I wasn’t aware of Panzer III’s having schurzen at all, so I decided to do some historical research to see how many did, if it was standard issues, etc.

Part of this research involved searching the web, since I spend much of my day online (for my work).

I decided to use a search engine I normally wouldn’t use, KartOO. My search string was as follows:                  panzer iii m schurzen

Fairly reasonable, I thought.

I encountered a number of problems using and navigating in KartOO. These were:

  1. If I move forward through the pages of results, then click on “Back” (in Firefox), I go right back to the start screen and have to execute the search again. Annoying.
  2. My search string of panzer iii m schurzen gets only 99 results in total. In using search engine Alltheweb, I get 1020.
  3. By default, KartOO is set to search pages from the United Kingdom first. This is not good practice, unless a search engine states that it is specifically set for a country/region (like ANZWERS, which is Australia & New Zealand–centric and clearly states this).
  4. “Topics” is a misleading or misnamed feature. Clicking on something listed there limits results further by what you clicked on. With only 99 results to start with, this is unhelpful.
  5. “Image Search” and “Video Search” are just naked Yahoo! search engine searches.

http://www.achtungpanzer.com/panzerkampfwagen-iii.htm has what I want, and it is on the first page of KartOO. This is good.
It’s also on the first page of results with Alltheweb, but on the second page of results for Google.

The visual mapping is too limiting to me. The results gained in a text-driven search engine like Alltheweb are far more meaningful to me, as I can examine all the URLs which offer plenty of guides as to a site being historical/descriptive or a vendor and also I can see other words and phrases on the result page, which again are useful guides.

Visual mapping – is it a passing fad? Time will tell.