Sara Ford, MSFTie, reports on visiting hurricane zone

Sara Ford is visiting her hometown which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. She raised money and brought supplies. But now she’s writing about what life is like in the hurricane zone. She works as a tester on the Visual Studio team. This is powerful writing. Emotional. Raw. And muddy. You’ll get what I’m talking about the mud when you read her.

Day 1.
Day 2.

What a day with the Target Racing Team

Yesterday I lived the dream of thousands of race fans: I got to hang out behind the scenes at the Target Racing Team. I interviewed Jacques Lazier, driver of Target’s #10 car. You’ll see him on ESPN on Sunday in Toyota’s Indy 400 race.

I had no idea what went into racing. Jacques spent a lot of time with us. The car he drives costs about $1 million with $100,000 worth of electronics alone. It’s amazing the amount of telemetry data they can get off the dozens of sensors that come off the car.

Ever drive 218 MPH? Jaques does. But, you ever do it with dozens of other cars just inches away from you? You ever do it knowing if you make a single mistake it’ll be the end of your life (or worse?)

I learned that there are actually two different sports going on. One is a physical one. That’s Jacques’ world. It’s one of eye hand coordination, of picking the best line, of having the smoothest hand, of having the best technique.

But there’s another sport: the geek sport. See, Jacques led us into the garage. There we met with teams of geeks who had Dell laptops plugged into the car. They were testing out the dozens of sensors.

As they drive around the track these sensors report all sorts of data back to their laptops and Tablet PCs. They get to watch EVERYTHING going on with the car. There are even laser sensors inside the front wheel that measure distance from the ground and tilt and rake of the car.

The team — most of which has advanced college degrees in physics or engineering — told me how races are determined by who has written the best algorithms to figure out things like gas mileage of both them and their competitors.

The team wouldn’t let me shoot three things: their suspension systems, their engine and gas line systems, and their algorithms.

By the way, I want to shout out to one of my readers: Joe Berkemeier. He wrote me and said he’ll be at the race this weekend covering it for

Oh, and, yes, the team bragged about how they use Microsoft stuff including Tablet PCs, Windows Messenger, and OneNote. More when I get the videos up in a couple of weeks.

Doc Searls says Microsoft doesn’t get it

Doc Searls says Microsoft doesn’t get it. This is a very astute post. It’s actually a smaller part of a bigger post that makes the point that companies can’t change their DNA.

Doc calls me a voice in the wilderness. Oh, there are other voices, believe me. MSN this week did something spectacular. They had Raymond Chen (one of the world’s top Windows programmers) spend a day with some of the top bloggers.

Yes, MSN is working on time-based search. Will it be any good? Well, we sure told them how to make it good. And if MSN doesn’t do it, someone else will.

Michael Arrington is telling us all about Sphere. Says it’s blog search done right. I can’t wait to see that!

And, Doc, I’m not the only voice here in the Microsoft Web World. We’re increasingly getting listened to. Watch what happens with, for instance. I can’t tell you what’s coming, but the Microsoft ship is starting to creak and moan again as powerful forces are pushing on our rudders.

Oh, and all it would take to completely remake Microsoft’s image? One acquisition. I hear we have $60 billion in the bank. I don’t want all of it. Just a small percentage. In fact, it’ll cost far less than it cost us to settle with Real to get in this game.

Meet the inventor of the Wiki, I’m off to the races

Whew, just got done answering a bunch of email. Hundreds of emails. I’m tired of typing so this will be short. Tomorrow I’m off to meet the Target Racing Team and interview them for Channel 9 (and watch the Toyota 400 on Sunday). Thanks to Eric Maino for getting us access and all that. Yes, the Target team uses Microsoft technology. But that’s a video for a future week. It’s going to be a fun weekend with not very much blogging.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I met Sam Gentile and Ward Cunningham at the GotDotNet Code Slam (which was part of the MVP Summit festivities). Anyway, I cornered the two of them and we talked about the early days of the Wiki. Among other things (programming for the Radio Shack TRS-80, aka the “trash 80” came up.).

 Oh, heck, let’s get a few quick blogs in.

Don Dodge continues posting real interesting stuff. Tonight’s post is “Innovate or Imitate … Fame or Fortune.” Don was an exec at AltaVista, Napster, among others, and now works at Microsoft.

It was nice seeing Halley Suitt, among others this week. She writes about the experience.

Wanna see a killer new search engine? Previewseek is it. Here, do a search for Target Racing Team. Compare that to your favorite search engine. I like it a lot. Thanks to Stefan Constantinescu for sending me that.

Congrats to the Podcast Network for signing a sizeable advertising deal with Motorola.

My brother, over on the ComputerWorld blogs, has a list of features and fixes he’d like to see in the next Windows.

Anyway, have a good one. I’m off to the airport to watch some racing!

The race to time-based and blog search

OK, MSN is late to the party again. Hey, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, how’s that acquisition I recommended coming? That’d get us into the blog search market right now. Among other things. But, since I haven’t been given a check to go company shopping yet, let’s talk about what the state of time-based search is.

In a phrase: it sucks.

No one is doing it well.

I can just hear everyone saying “huh? I thought Feedster, Technorati, IceRocket, Bloglines, and Pubsub, among others, are doing time-based search?”

Yes, but they all are unsatisfactory. Why? Well, for one, they’ll never have the traffic of MSN Search, Yahoo, or Google. Most of the “normal” people around me never will use a search engine other than these three. Heck, most of the people in the world have never even clicked on “advanced search” and you’re gonna try to get them to visit something like ? Yeah, right.

But, before I dive into the state of time-based search today, let’s look at Yahoo, Google, and MSN first so you can see just how bad those three are if you want to find something that was added to the Web yesterday.

We have a great case study. Yesterday Microsoft and Real settled their anti-trust case and announced a new partnership. It was written about on hundreds of blogs and hundreds of “pro” news sources.

 We also have today’s Apple announcements. So, let’s search on both of those.

Apple Video iPod on Google; on MSN; on Yahoo.
Microsoft Real Settlement 2005 on Google; on MSN; on Yahoo.

Now, Google does the best, but is far from satisfying (and, when I did the same search earlier today had no results, so you can see that Google is reacting pretty quickly and they have links to their news service at the top of the page). First of all, there’s a LOT of noise to dig through (most of the links, even on Google’s page, are old from previous annoucements).

Anyway, let’s just say that the current “big” search engines don’t do a good job with things that just happened and they are totally missing any blog voices (even the big traffic folks like Engadget).

Quick, which gives you the better result? Google/MSN/Yahoo or Memeorandum’s cluster of results for Apple’s announcements? Memeorandum’s wins hands down. How did that happen? After all, Google/MSN/Yahoo index billions of pages and Memeorandum only indexes a few thousand blogs.

Hint: it’s not who indexes the most, but who indexes and brings back the best stuff that matters.

So, let’s go over to the blog searches and try these queries there and see what comes up, shall we?

Apple Video iPod on Google’s blog search, on Yahoo’s blog search, on Feedster, on Technorati, on IceRocket. Unfortunately I can’t link to NewsGator’s blog search (need to register), or Pubsub’s blog search (only exports to RSS feeds).

Now, what do you get on all of these blog search engines? LOTS of time-based lists of blogs. But, is this useful either? No. No. No.

Why? Cause I don’t know where to start. I don’t know the reputation of any of these results. I don’t know which ones are being linked to, which ones are being viewed, which ones write about Apple a lot, or which ones are people who never write about Apple except for today. There’s no context. No help for me to figure out what’s going on. At least Technorati shows me inbound links (but you don’t know what those inbound links were for — what if they were all for a Paris Hilton video that that blog had on it, would that blogger be as interesting for you to read about Apple as, say, Engadget or an Apple-focused blog?

Not to me.

So, what are we left with? Two things: titles and names of blogs. My new favorite? IceRocket. Why? Cause it shows both, and how many links, but it also lets you exclude and refocus your search. And, it shows you how long the post is (longer posts probably are more interesting, unless they are too long, like this one. Heheh.).

Which, brings me to another thing wrong with blog search.

The search for great blogs is way too hard, especially when using a blog-search engine.

Here’s a homework project. Search any of the engines for “scrapbooking blog” and find me the top five scrapbooking blogs. I went to Technorati and searched for “best scrapbooking blogs.” Technorati brought me tons of results. But, they aren’t the right ones. I’m thinking of something like Technorati’s Scrapbooking page, but this is just woefully incomplete and can be gamed very easily (I could go straight to the top of this page if I added the Scrapbooking tag to my blog on Technorati).

Anyway, I thought about going on. I tried various scrapbooking searches at Feedster, Bloglines, Technorati, IceRocket, NewsGator and they all left me wanting.

What do I want? An engine that mixes both time-based searching with relevancy.

How can the engines do it? Well, they should study Mary Hodder’s “social gestures” writings very closely.

Mary, I wish Mary would be in charge of building a new kind of search engine. I hope MSN listens to her, she’s done the best thinking on this topic I’ve seen (and her ideas come out of real user research).

Anyway, what would you like to see in blog search? Time-based search?