Setting the Record Straight: Why Bing’s Rebuttal Makes No Sense

Yesterday Google kicked off the mother of all pissing contests by saying MS is copying their search results. You might as well have told them that santa doesn’t exist. I read google’s post and mulled it over and frankly it makes a lot of sense. Today the “bing team” (whoever that is) posted the rebuttal by “Yusuf Mehdi, Senior Vice President, Online Services Division”. I read that and… I don’t think it adds up.

So Yusuf claim is that Google engaged in click fraud. The problem here is you have to then believe that Bing is either so badly tuned it relies on the users to direct it to relevant results (which are impossible to assess before actually visiting the page) or you have to buy into the idea that bing uses google as the last ditch.

I think the explaination is somewhere in the middle. I think both sides have points. And I really think that I’m going to stick with google.

Google is smart. If bing were really querying google, google would have noticed. Maybe they don’t read their referral log, but surely on web analytics someone would have noticed a metric ton of queries coming from somewhere inside microsoft. I believe MS when they say they aren’t querying google. But this also means there’s a much bigger problem with Bing. Yusuf also says google engaged in click fraud. This is only click fraud by some weird definition of click fraud where the pages don’t actually link to each other. Conventional, or traditional click fraud requires trusted pages to link to each other to improve their rank, then the users click around each page going to each others page to improve the search results. What google did was create what basically amounted to an orphan, a page no-one would ever link to nor link from, and click on it 100 times, and they did it within google.

Does bing copy search results? Not in the sense that they query google for each question you ask. However what bing does watch is what you’re typing and what you click on. This is the only possible explanation for how they got the google search results. Now, google said they got here by installing Windows, installing IE8 and accepting the defaults (which would include the bing bar). Lets assume that someone took the time to read the end user license agreement (EULA). What’s the text of this? In the privacy section it says:

Suggested Sites is an online experience designed to show you which websites you visit most, and to provide you with suggestions of other websites you might be interested in visiting. When you turn on Suggested Sites, your web browsing history is automatically and periodically sent to Microsoft, where it is saved and compared to a frequently updated list of websites that are similar to ones you visit often. Suggested Sites also turns on automatic background updating for Web Slices and feeds so that you can receive up-to-date suggestions in both Suggested Sites and the Suggested Sites Web Slice.

You can choose to pause or stop the Suggested Sites feature from sending your web browsing history to Microsoft at any time. You can also delete individual entries from your history at any time. Deleted entries will not be used to provide you suggestions for other websites, although they will be retained by Microsoft for a period of time to help improve our products and services, including this feature. Any websites you visit while InPrivate Browsing is active will not be sent to Microsoft.

When Suggested Sites is turned on, the addresses of websites you visit are sent to Microsoft, together with standard computer information. To help protect your privacy, the information is encrypted when sent to Microsoft. Information associated with the web address, such as search terms or data you entered in forms might be included. For example, if you visited the Microsoft.com search website at http://search.microsoft.com and entered “Seattle” as the search term, the full address http://search.microsoft.com/results.aspx?q=Seattle&qsc0=0&FORM=QBMH1&mkt=en-US will be sent. Address strings might unintentionally contain personal information, but this information, like the other information sent, is not used to identify, contact or target advertising to you. In addition, Microsoft filters address strings to try to remove personal information where possible.

Statistics about your usage of Suggested Sites will also be sent to Microsoft such as the time that websites were visited, which website referred you, and how you got there (e.g., by clicking a link or one of your Favorites). A unique identifier generated by Internet Explorer is also sent. The unique identifier is a randomly generated number that does not contain any personal information and is not used to identify you. If you delete your browsing history or if you turn Suggested Sites off and back on again, a new unique identifier will be created. There is no way to correlate an old unique identifier with a new one. This information, along with the website addresses and past history, will be used to personalize your experience, as well as improve the quality of our products and services.

That’s pretty straight forward to me. I think the google team overstated the problem, but I think it really cast some light on what microsoft is doing, how they’re doing it and how their moral compass works collecting this information from you.

I’ll stick to google.

WikiLeaks

I’ve been following the live wikilinks thing with some detached amusement. Assange, if the allegations aren’t fabricated, committed at least one count of rape by US standards (having sex with someone unable to give consent due to intoxication). By Swisse standards, he’s up to six counts of rape, two of the first degree which is a mandatory four year sentence for each. He’s going to jail for four years at least, eight if he’s nailed on both the first degrees. Don’t ask me for the specifics of the justice system over there, I have no experience and I only know what I’ve read.

All the usual suspects came out, b-tards attacked paypal and various credit card processing gateways. Goons made MS-paint pictures. K5ers blew enough hot air to fly the Hindenburg back in time to Nazi Germany. The cries were all about the same which was “if you give into the US government we’ll do bad things over the internet”. This is why we don’t give kids guns and ask them to make moral judgements. Mastercard and Visa both had a point – Assange misrepresented where those donations were going. Paypal said he provided a false address. Both of those reasons are entirely valid and raise the important point that when you made a donation to wikileaks, you were actually simply sending Assange a buck or two. There’s no “wikileaks, LLC”.

The one I got the most lulz from was the people outraged that ICANN would can his domain. Protip – don’t use taxpayer developed resources and not expect THE INTERNET POLICE to come by. The roads too are public works funded by tax dollars, and the roads have police dedicated to policing them for things which are “wrong”. It doesn’t really matter that speeding is wrong and that it’s a victimless crime, the point is that someone in some government agency said speeding was wrong and so it’s wrong. I’m not here to particularly debate the morality of victimless crimes, but the point is that he kicked the governments puppy with spin and the government acted appropriately. Wikileaks offends me not because it brings transparency, but because it claimed to bring transparancy while adding Assanges own spin and politics.

What’s not appropriate has been the wikileaks side of this. Somehow it’s morally justified to release government documents about things which aren’t resolved yet (as though war in the middle east ever would be, but whatever) which includes commentary between soldiers and their families under the banner that it’s topical to the war, but when it comes to Assange himself and the coming trial he smokescreens the media and wikileaks themselves. Wikileaks should be asking themselves some really hard questions about personal rights when yours and my conversations might be republished just because they’re on a government desktop somewhere but when it comes to the topic of Assange raping two women and possibly more, he works to prevent a “media circus”. Is this not all that wikileaks is?

Foxfire

I touch on these every now and again because they’re cool. I’m talking about the Foxfire Books.

My great uncle (I would love to know his name if anyone has the family history) was apparently the last or one of the last coal engineers in pennsylvania. One of these years I mean to take my kid to Strasburg for the rail tour and pick their brains to find out who he is and what sort of strange cancers I can expect to get. But anyway, the family has been living and working in Pennsylvania for the last few generations and while not all of us are rail engineers or police, we at least can say we contributed something to the landscape.

I will link to the first three books, the remainder of the text is available online or sold online. The introduction is long but the relevant part follows:

Many older people in this area, for example, still plant today by the signs of the zodiac and the stages of the moon. I had heard them mention it, but I didn’t know what it meant. Rather than interrupt a con- versation to find out, I figured I’d get my students to tell me. They’d probably know since it was mostly their parents and grand- parents who were doing it. But my kids didn’t really know what it was either, and soon they were as curious as I was. Why not find out and turn the information into an article?So they went home and talked—really talked—to their own rela- tives, some of them for the first time. From those conversations came superstitions, old home remedies, weather signs, a story about a hog hunt, a taped interview with the retired sheriff about the time the local bank was robbed—and directions for planting by the signs.

In short, it is appalachian history and makes for a wonderful read. Please enjoy the first, second, third, fouth and fifth issue. Another fun book in the same vein but less folky is the American Boys Book of Camp Lore and Woodcraft.