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Google Wins. Wikipedia Wins.

I'm at the end of my informal one-week search engine comparison. My conclusion? Google wins. Overall, it provided more relevant links, higher up the search page than did Microsoft. I'd approximate that for about 60% of searches the quality of the results were equivalent, Google provided better results in 30% of cases and 10% went to Microsoft.

Google was also more likely to provide relevant advertisements and only to provide them when they were useful - Microsoft placed ads directly above the search results nearly always, and they were of lower relevancy.

The other thing I noticed was the 'Wikipedia' effect. For a lot of my more general searches, the search engine that placed the Wikipedia link higher in their search result was the one that provided the better result for that search. Sometimes I find myself adding '+wikipedia' to my searches - and I notice Wikipedia ranking highly for many searches irrespective.

For technical information, I think I'll always want a full web search - but I wonder if a general search for me will gradually evolve into the best way to find what I'm looking for on Wikipedia.

Posted by Alexander on July 18, 2008 | Google Wins. Wikipedia Wins. | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Search Engine Taste Test

I changed my homepage from Google to Microsoft last week. I've been thinking about the Microsoft-Yahoo deal and I wanted to test my contrarian hypothesis that there's not much difference in the quality of search between Google/Microsoft.

I tried http://www.msn.com first - this seems to be the page that Microsoft suggests as a homepage - but it's unusable. There are too many distractions and the seach box actually moves as the page loads in. http://www.live.com is a much better for direct comparison.

I found out that I prefered the interface for Live image search, and that the search results for 'Flash Player' from Live are suspiciously bad. I didn't find out much more. Mostly I was wondering if the results from Google would have been any better without bothering to find out.


This week I've used my HTML and Javascript skills (circa 1998) to put together a search page that loads up results from both searches side by side. For every search I do for the next week - I'll see both sets of results and get a general idea of which is producing better results for me. You can play along too if your monitor is wide enough!

Posted by Alexander on July 09, 2008 | Search Engine Taste Test | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vista is Killing My Productivity

I've been using Vista for several months now. I thought I'd give it a try because I resisted XP for a long time, but I quite liked XP once I started using it. I thought it would be the same story with Vista. But there's one thing that's killing my productivity and turning my habitual zen-like calm into apoplectic fury.

Folder View.

I spend a lot of time working with files. I thought everyone did. Well, every time I try to open, save or otherwise interact with the file system, I have those files displayed to me in some god-awful random fashion, contrived to cause me the most frustration.

Sometimes I get giant icons, too big to view many in a small 'file open' dialog. Sometimes I get the files in two, or three columns, alphabetized horizontally! Sometimes I get a list of artists, ratings and genres. I nearly never get what I need - Filename, Size, Date modified. In other words 'Details View'. Always. You keep the rest of all that other nonsense until i ask for it.

Fisher-Price icons here are user-hostile, not user-friendly

Don't say it. 'Apply to Folders' doesn't work. 'Reset Folders' doesn't work. 'Apply this template to all subfolders' doesn't work. Hacking the registry doesn't do it. And I don't want to. I use Windows because I hate configuration. I don't want to spend an hour hacking the registry to view my files the way I've viewed them for the last 15 years.

215 people agree me with enough to register and vote on this -

Are three columns alphabetized horizontally
the best way to view an ftp directory?

I'm annoyed enough about this to rant about it online and completely blow the cool, calm, collected persona that I've been cultivating. That's frustration. Microsoft! Fix this.

Posted by Alexander on July 08, 2008 | Vista is Killing My Productivity | Comments (3) | TrackBack