Expert to Expert: Harry Shum - General Purpose Search, Decision Engines and Bing

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Harry Shum is the VP of Engineering for Bing, Microsoft's latest search engine offering (well, it's more than a search engine - it's a so-called Decision Engine, but what does that mean, precisely?). Harry has a long history in the world of complex algorithm design and implementation. Before joining the Bing team (at Bill Gates' request), Harry was a reseacher in MSR specializing in computer vision, which is an algorithm instensive discipline rife with machine learning principles, statistics and in some sense artificial "intelligence" in terms of autonomous pattern recognition capability. At any rate, Harry is a developer and scientist through and through. We're very fortunate to have him running our search engineering efforts. General purpose search is an incredibly fascinating area with a great deal of potential, challenges and opportunities.

Erik Meijer, programming language designer, knight of the lamda calculus and Expert to Expert host, sits down with Harry to learn, at a high level (though deep in context), how Bing works, what, exactly, a decision engine is, what really happens when you Bing something and various topics related to the computation behind both general purpose search and accurately interpreting user intention. Of course, being an E2E, we take the conversation in many directions and Harry was a real sport. Thank you, Harry!

If you want to know the past, present and a little bit of the future of Bing technology, well, tune in and meet Harry Shum; a computer scientist, software developer and vice president.

Enjoy!

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    The Discussion

    • User profile image
      Jan​Kratochvil

      Erik must really love those batik-printed t-shirts (but every time different colours) Big Smile

    • User profile image
      Grendragon

      colours, easy,fast seach i like is startpage Tongue Out nice new picure to enjoy everyday.  better then the old live.dead.link.com it become Tongue Out

    • User profile image
      sylvan

      I tried bing, set it as my default search provider when it came out. Switched back to google a few days ago. I really wanted it to be good, but the fact is that it just doesn't provide nearly as relevant search results for my usage.

      It pained me to have to admit it, but using Bing for a few weeks I frequently had to go to google's home page to try my search terms again after Bing failed to provide anything relevant and it almost always produced better results so eventually I just had to admit that Bing, even though it may have a bunch of extra fancy stuff that google doesn't, simply doesn't stack up for plain old search so there was no point in making my life harder by not having google as the main search provider Sad

      If bing, which is beta, had a "these result suck" link that you could click to easily report crappy results I'm sure you could learn a lot.

    • User profile image
      Charles

      Thank you for the candor. The Bing team appreciates any and all feedback. Just so you know, at the bottom right of the search results page there is a feedback link. When you click it, you're asked "Did we find what you were looking for? Yes | No". That will provide the context for the Bing team to investigate why Bing didn't get your intention based on the supplied query terms.

      C

    • User profile image
      SteveRichter

      good question by Charles regarding including a domain in the search text. Just as SQL has a semi natural language syntax, why not allow keywords in the search string?  "full name John Doe and location Baltimore".  "code FlowLayoutPanel and MenuStrip" returns web pages with source code containing both text strings. Bing then has to be smart enough to guess what text on a web page contains source code and which does not. Rules for what is a keyword and what is text in the search string could be learned from user to user with Bing showing how it parsed the search string.  If the concern is mass market useability and casual users being confused by search string syntax, let me tell Bing what my useability level is, that I want to use keywords in the search text or not.  

      Another suggestion, let me tell Bing up front what I am trying to look for.  A place to eat, recent news about Honduras, planning a vacation, looking for examples of how a win32 api is used.  Remember what I was looking for in the past and give me a drop down box of these recent search categories.

      -Steve

       

       

    • User profile image
      joechung

      Live Search used to do the daily picture, too.

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