Happy to see Microsoft working on doing its thing with Bing. I’m referring of course to the new Bing Reference page, which was launched earlier this month. The new page, at http://www.bing.com/reference, aims to provide visitors with information about what’s/who’s in the news, as well as easy access to Wikipedia articles.
The front page has an “on this date” feature, an article from Wikipedia, and a feature that probably wasn’t intended to make me laugh. The reference page has a “People in the News” feature listing, well, people in the news. The first one was Lil Wayne. The second one was Shakira. The third was … Dave Barry? I don’t know what Dave Barry did to be in the news — clicking on the name took me to his Wikipedia article which didn’t have any current information — but I love that he ended up on a list with Shakira and Lil Wayne. You GO Dave Barry.
So anyway. You can also use Bing’s reference page to ask natural language questions ala Ask Jeeves. I asked my usual Why is the Sky Blue?
Bing returned the first nine of over 46,000 Wikipedia results in a 3×3 grid that I quite liked. The pages in the grid contain title, sometimes an image, and a brief snippet that serves well for context. The results page also has the option to turn off the highlighting for your search terms, as well as get the results in a much more boring list form — no thanks. Clicking on article title takes you to the Wikipedia article, but the content is contained on the Bing site.
I tried a different search: What is the best cabbage roll recipe? The search results page said, “Searching Wikipedia and Freebase” but I still got results only from Wikipedia. This set of search results didn’t do as well — Bing seemed to get hung up on the word “roll” and the first page had results like “Spring Roll” and “Jiaozi.”
I like this grid layout! I think though I’ll have to do more searches to get a better idea of what Bing’s semantic search is looking for. The results were okay — and presented in a far more usable format than I’d get searching Wikipedia itself — but I might have to adjust my questions a little.