Monday was a historic day — I gave my first BingSquee. That is, I read an entry in a Bing blog, looked up the associated content, and my resulting “SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!” was heard for miles around. I’m fairly sure I broke windows.
What was I squeememorating? This recent post on the Bing Community blog, noting that there’s now a guide to Bing query language. Now, there are few things I like more than a good collection of query syntax for search engines. And when I saw Bing’s, I was thrilled. Let me show you some of the highlights, but I also want to encourage you to explore the syntax for yourself.
The guide actually comes in several flavors for but I’m focusing on the HTML version, available at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff795667.aspx. Before you dive into the syntax take a look at the Operator Precedence page, so you can be sure you’re setting things up in the right order. Then click on “Advanced Operator Reference” for lots of fun, including:
contains: — Used with a keyword and finds pages that have links to a specific kind of filetype (as opposed to filetype:, which finds results of a specific kind of filetype.) For example, specification template contains:pdf.
inbody: — Searches for a specified words just in the HTML or metadata of a web page. For example, site:edu inbody:”key performance indicator”.
near: — A real proximity syntax! Use near: with an integer to specify two keywords and how close they should be to each other. For example, “web-based” near:3 dashboard.
norelax: — Apparently Bing has a pretty hard query word restriction: “Bing implements relaxcount for a 5+ word query by default; that is, the fifth word in a query and subsequent appears do not necessarily appear in results.” norelax: used with a query word means it would not be subject to this restriction. You can get a good sense of how this works by trying to query one two three four five snowblower avocado, which gives you about 6200 results, and the query one two three four five norelax:snowblower norelax:avocado, which has 3,920. (That still seems like a lot…)
This list isn’t, of course, all the syntax available, just what I thought was the most interesting. I was also intrigued by feed:, which was supposed to find RSS/ATOM feeds, and hasfeed:, which was supposed to find sites containing feeds, but I couldn’t get either of them to work. Most of the syntax I played with allowed you to stack it together (site:gov contains:pdf “proposed budget” or intitle:news contains:pdf site:edu norelax:autism norelax:study but I didn’t do exhaustive testing.
I knew Bing offered some special syntax but I wasn’t aware it was this extensive. If the feed: option worked I could see myself using that a lot. I will definitely compare the near: operator to the old trick I currently use with Google (“web-based * * dashboard”). Worth a look.
Search engine Bing has been putting up several blog posts this week highlighting new elements of its search engine. I have mentioned a couple of these in Morning Buzz, but I think the recent update about new entertainment content deserves its own post.
If you want to browse through entertainment content, you can go straight to http://www.bing.com/entertainment, but you can also get content as well.
First up is music. You can now get a lot of music information from a simple search. The one I’m most excited about, though, is lyrics. There are about a jillion places online to find lyrics, but many of them are loaded with ads and its’ not easy to tell sometimes which ones are safe and which aren’t. Now with Bing you can do a search for artist songname and you’ll get a result that shows a song with a lyrics link. Click on the link and you’ll get the lyrics to the song with writer credits without leaving Bing. This even works when you’re doing a search for lyrics, though you may have to do some URL hacking to get there. Check out this search: http://www.bing.com/music/lyrics/search?q=sipping+a+cup+of+pity.
A couple of notes on lyric search: it doesn’t seem to be censored, and I didn’t see an easy way to set the filter. Some of the most innocuous searches will get you some pretty wild results — I don’t think I’d let kids use this search without supervision. Also, many lyrics are presented colloquially; if you’re trying to find Dierks Bentley’s What Was I Thinkin’ you’ll have to search for hood slidin’ like Bo Duke because hood sliding like Bo Duke won’t get you any results. Experiment.
You’ll notice this result also gives you a “play” icon for this particular song (Soul Sloshing, by Venus Hum.) When I clicked it though, I got a “coming soon” popup, as I did for Gov’t Mule, Modest Mouse, Jane Siberry, and other searches I tried. I didn’t explore this further.
If you get tired of looking at music you can play a game or two. Bing has information on about 35,000 games, which it notes includes reviews, cheats, and walkthroughs. I had mixed results with this feature. I got results for Final Fantasy and Super Mario Brothers but not for Civ IV or Civilization IV. I didn’t get results for Mario Kart but I did get results for Mario Kart 64. This is another arena where you’ll have to experiment.
Bing has also embedded about 100 casual games that you can play from the search engine itself including, unfortunately, Bookworm. (Just search for Bookworm and you’ll get a link to the game and an invitation to play. You don’t have to be logged in unless you want your high score recorded.) Drat you, Bing…
If playing games is too much work Bing now offers episodes from over 1500 television shows. You can browse everything that’s available at http://www.bing.com/videos/browse/tv/all?q=browse:tv/all#, which I recommend because it took me a while to find a show doing random Bing searches. I saw soap operas, dramas, lots of reality television, and anime. You can filter by recent or popular items, or narrow down your search to clips or full episodes. There are also a couple of different duration options.
Bing has gathered a good strong set of content here, and also has wisely emphasized the issue of safety. However I wish that aspect of it had been explored a little further with quick filters being available for lyric searches. Definitely worth an explore, though I’m going to try to avoid Bookworm. If you never see another post on ResearchBuzz again you’ll know why…
If you can’t think of anything to search for, there’s a list of hot topics on the left. But I did a search for soccer.
The results are divided into three parts — at least I think that’s how it’s supposed to be, though it didn’t turn out that way for me. The first part is the summary, which shows you a live update of links from Twitter and Facebook (or Twitter and Twitter — more about that in a minute) and shared links. The second part is supposed to be just updates from the social Web but Bing kept telling me there were no results. Um, no results for a search for soccer? I dunno. (Update: Later I tried it and it worked fine.) The third part is the list of links that are being shared. You can see who has shared the link recently, or get a full list of places the link has been shared.
Though both Twitter and Facebook are included in Bing Social Search, Twitter tends to drown out Facebook due to sheer volume. I saw some Facebook updates in my search results, but not many. Bing does give you the option to specify the social network on the left, so you can turn the Twitter updates off.
At the moment the firehose of output is so lopsided between Twitter and Facebook I’m not sure I’d use this — I’d be afraid I was missing some interesting Facebook updates in the Twitterlanche. However if/when Bing Social adds more sources to its search, and I can search between them while leaving Twitter turned off, it’ll be useful.
What’s the opposite of spring cleaning? Spring adding? Spring enhancing? Whatever it is, Bing is doing it, with an announcement last week of new features coming up on its Web site.
The first thing is the Quick Tabs in the Explore Pane at the left of the search results. The links here are sort of a combination of clustered search and context. If you do a search for Dallas, for example, you’ll get general links to Dallas events and Dallas weather and Dallas jobs, but you’ll also see related searches like Dallas TV Show, Dallas Morning News, etc. Bing is testing moving some of this data to the top of the page for better/faster/more obvious access. I’m not seeing this yet, but I hope the results are true tabs (easy to get back to original results.) Bing is doing a good job of helping users easily add context to their searches and get key data from their searches with their left nav.
Bing is also riding that real-time bandwagon. It’s already teamed with Twitter and has started testing “new experiences for real-time results.” Also in its own words: “For example, when you search for a publication such as the New York Times, Bing not only gives you quick access to specific sections of the destination website, but also provides the most popular shared links from that publication.” When I did a search for New York Times I got a first result that looked like this:
In this case the latest links at the bottom were not, as far as I could tell, the most popular. Instead they were the latest items from the NYT feed. The “Latest Posts” feed links to an XML file. Searching for Washington Post and LA Times didn’t find any latest posts. However, searching for Dallas Morning News did find a search result for the latest stories.
From Bing Cool to Bing Pfui. Bing also announced a new feature called Map App. Map App shows real-time data from foursquare on the map you specify. Sounds neat, right? I’ll have to take Bing’s word for it; I can’t get it to run. I’ll hold off on my rant about Adobe Flash and now Microsoft Silverlight… gaaaaah.
The map app aside, I’m looking forward to integration of more shortcuts to important data in search results, and, hopefully, some more credible real-time than a random Twitter stream.
Bing announced last week several initiatives that will tie it in tighter with Facebook. Facebook recently had its sixth anniversary, which is pretty old in Internet terms, but has gotten really hot in the last couple of years.
Bing is the search provider on Facebook. In other words, when you run a search on Facebook and get all the results that Facebook can provide — people, groups, and so on — you get Web results at the bottom, and those are provided by Bing. Bing’s Web search integration will be extended to outside the US, covering all of Facebook’s 400 million users, and Bing will soon be integrating additional features into its Facebook Web results, including (I hope!) its rich search answers. (So I can search on Facebook for red beans and rice and get fan pages, groups, and recipes!)
I suspect there will be a closer tie-up with Facebook appearing in Bing’s search results, but after a few tests searches I’m not seeing it yet. As Bing mentioned in its announcement, it’ll take several weeks/months for all this to shake out.
This is good for Bing. They’ve got a big role in one of the hottest properties on the Web. Twitter has an API and is appearing in all kinds of search results. What are the other hot independent Web properties that haven’t teamed up with a major player? Yelp, maybe? Foursquare?
Cooking with Bing! Bing announced last week that it is now offering a recipe feature. And beyond just listing recipes in the search results, you get images and reviews and much of the recipe itself.
This feature does not have its own URL; instead you do a search within Bing itself. I went to http://www.bing.com and kicked off with one of my personal favorites, red beans and rice. The results I got included links to recipes, but not the recipe feature itself. If you’re not getting recipes, add recipe to the end of your search result. I tried that and my search results included links to recipes in the middle of the page:
You’ll note that in this result three of the results came from the same place. Bing is pulling its data from specific recipe Web sites, not the entire Web. This is something to keep in mind — if you’re looking for more esoteric recipes, you might have to do a regular Web search. Summary results in the main result include an image if its available, and a star review. The page of recipe-only results gives a bit more data — mostly a brief sentence about the recipe — and the ability to narrow down your search results.
Now, looking at this part is where I have to say, “Aw, c’mon Bing!” You can narrow down your recipe search by star rating. You can narrow it down by cuisine. You can narrow it down a variety of other ways, including cooking method, occasion, main ingredient, or how convenient it is. But I couldn’t find a way to narrow results by special diet needs. Wouldn’t it be useful to have a way to easily find the vegetarian or vegan recipes? Or low-sodium or diabetic friendly? It might be difficult to parse, but is more difficult than figuring out which recipes are appropriate for a baby shower? I would really like a special needs option for this sort.
Individual recipe pages have a lot of detail:
You have the ingredients and the nutritional information. Looks like the only thing you don’t have are the assembly instructions, for which you have to click through to the original recipe page. You also have to click through to the original source to get details on the star reviews.
On the one hand I like that Bing put this together; the images and level of detail that you can get from the recipes make it more than just a “me-too” search feature. On the other hand, the inability to look for special needs recipes is a big hole in this feature.
Even if it’s hard to parse that level of detail from a recipe, how about adding a few more sources? There are plenty of vegetarian/low sugar/gluten-free/etc recipe repositories on the Web.
You can now search for health related information and get information boxes at the top of the page. Did you know January is Thyroid Awareness Month? I did a search for hypothyroid and got the following at the top of my search result:
Note that Bing is giving me the results for hypothyroidism, and not hypothyroid. There is a result box for the word hypothyroid but it’s much less extensive.
Anyway, this search gives you an overview of what hypothyroid means, as well as pointers to data about related disorders, drugs, and procedures; it looks like most of the content is brought to you by the Mayo Clinic. You can get a more extensive overview of hypothyroidism by clicking on the word at the top of the summary box, or do more extensive searches by clicking on one of the related drugs, conditions, or procedures.
I was kind of surprised by the related drugs list; I would have thought that Levothyroxine would be on the list. That was a bit of a problem with Bing’s box of results — the related items didn’t have enough context. Maybe the links to other searches could include content from the Mayo Clinic at the top of the results, with an overview of the drug?
I know this kind of information is available because I did a search for Levothyroxine, which gave me an information box like this:
This information box looks similar to the conditions box except you get pointers to basic information about the drug as well as pointers to related drugs and a list of conditions that the drug is used for. The basic information pointers link to an article, while the conditions and related drugs link to Web searches again.
You can do searches for conditions in the vernacular (Tennis Elbow) but I had mixed results in searching for symptoms like runny nose, headache, and fever. Sometimes I’d get a brief information box, sometimes I’d get nothing but the regular Bing results. The search male-pattern baldness did not get me an information box result, while the regular search baldness did — and listed “male-pattern baldness” as a related condition.
In addition to getting information on health conditions, you can also get results about medical facilities. I did a search for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and got a little box of information:
Here you can get contact information for the medical facilities, including ratings from HHS.gov and links to nearby facilities. But there’s no map, and the URL that Bing denotes as the “official” URL for the facility isn’t on the Web results page until about halfway down!
These quick information boxes will help you get to the basics of a medical condition or a medical facility quickly. But wow, I wish there was more guidance — a list of important vocabulary words or a package of useful Web sites — to take you beyond the basics into more extensive searching.