Does Steve Ballmer really not understand search engines?



  • I would like to think that the CEO of the world's largest software company is a pretty smart guy (other than that Developers Developers Developers Developers fiasco).  But this one really made me scratch my head and say WTF.

    @Steve Ballmer said:

    If you go to a search engine today and you say, ‘Print my boarding pass
    on Southwest,’ you’ll get nothing back but chaos. The truth of the
    matter is, computers, search engines, nothing really understands verbs
    today. We only understand nouns. And yet, most of us as human beings
    want to command these systems to do something for us.

    OK.  I get the part about wanting to give a computer a command ("Print my boarding pass
    on Southwest").  But why would you expect to do that with a search engine? 

    "How do I print my boarding pass on Southwest" is a legitimate search query, which ideally should take you to a page where you can print your boarding pass.  But expecting to simply type "Print my boarding pass" into Google or Bing and have a boarding pass come shooting out of your printer . . . . . makes no sense.



  • @El_Heffe said:

    But expecting to simply type "Print my boarding pass" into Google or Bing and have a boarding pass come shooting out of your printer . . . . . makes no sense.
     

    It makes no sense if you know what a search engine does. I'm sure Ballmer does, but I think he may be alluding to the large number of Internet users who do not know what a search engine does or even that Google and Bing are search engines. Many people don't understand that Google is not part of their computers. These people would not think it at all unreasonable to expect that they could print a boarding pass from Google, because they don't understand the distinction between Google and anything else on their computers.



  • @El_Heffe said:

    OK. I get the part about wanting to give a computer a command ("Print my boarding pass
    on Southwest"). But why would you expect to do that with a search engine?

    He's saying that a search engine should do that. Considering web search engines do so much more than seaching now, and that there's at least one "search engine" that doesn't even actually search anything... well, I don't see the issue really.

    Look, I can get Google or Bing to:
    1) Tell me shipping status of a package
    2) Give me a 5-day weather prediction
    3) Do math problems
    4) Find whether a flight is late

    I don't see it being much of a stretch to add:
    5) Print boarding pass

    Now that all said, I'm not much of a Ballmer fan, and I think Microsoft might run better with a different CEO, one who is more of a visionary than a follower. But... he's not all that bad, either.



  • If you look at the list you will find a common property: they are all requests for finding data. But the last entry isn't finding data, it is performing an action with data.

    To use HTTP vocabulary, the requests are all safe, but the last one is unsafe.



  • @Someone You Know said:

    @El_Heffe said:

    But expecting to simply type "Print my boarding pass" into Google or Bing and have a boarding pass come shooting out of your printer . . . . . makes no sense.
     

    It makes no sense if you know what a search engine does. I'm sure Ballmer does, but I think he may be alluding to the large number of Internet users who do not know what a search engine does or even that Google and Bing are search engines. Many people don't understand that Google is not part of their computers. These people would not think it at all unreasonable to expect that they could print a boarding pass from Google, because they don't understand the distinction between Google and anything else on their computers.

    Those people also wouldn't know what you're talking about if you use the expression "search engine".

    And then again, they don't know what kind of things a search engine can find for you. When I was an assistant in the labs at college, I saw a guy searching for stuff like "pictures of my cousing naked"... and then getting surprised when Google did come up with a lot of results, but none involving his actual cousin ("Google should know who she is, dammit", I heard him say to a classmate). In such cases, I would give this kind of people two sermons, one for searching for porn in a college lab, another for being too stupid to be in a college.



  • @henke37 said:

    If you look at the list you will find a common property: they are all requests for finding data. But the last entry isn't finding data, it is performing an action with data.

    To use HTTP vocabulary, the requests are all safe, but the last one is unsafe.

    There are a thousand of news sites that already have a Print button, that use Javascript to execute the Print command of the browser. How is that "unsafe"? How is Ballmer's proposal different than what thousands of web apps are doing right now this instant?



  • [quote user="Renan "C#" Sousa"]When I was an assistant in the labs at college, I saw a guy searching for stuff like "pictures of my cousing naked"[/quote]

    Ah! Good ol' Redneck U!



  • @henke37 said:

    If you look at the list you will find a common property: they are all requests for finding data. But the last entry isn't finding data, it is performing an action with data.

    To use HTTP vocabulary, the requests are all safe, but the last one is unsafe.

    If you or I look at that list, sure.

    If your mom looks at that list (or my mom, for that matter), the difference will be incomprehensible.



  • For completeness, I searched "print my boarding pass on Southwest" (Google and Bing, with and without quotes), and three times out of four, the first thing that came back was a link to "Southwest Airlines - Checkin Online and Print Boarding Passes".  (The exception was Google and with quotes, which came back with a bunch of links to the Ballmer story.)


    I wonder what Ballmer's definition of "chaos" is.

     



  • Maybe he is just missing decent CLIs for all his apps?

    Jokes aside, the whole desktop metaphore is meant to cater for the 'print my boarding pass ' scenario. But I think that we will see more cli integration (think win 7 start menu, lauchy etc) for tasks like these, which are more loosely defined, and need some sort of inference engine to execute.



  •  What's really idiotic about what Ballmer said was if you actually search
    "print my boarding pass on southwest" on Google, the first result is
    Southwest's "print boarding pass and online checkin" page. It's not
    "chaos," although if this quote propogates throughout the web, his quote
    will likely become, ironically enough, the top results for "print my
    boarding pass on southwest."



  • @blakeyrat said:

    I don't see it being much of a stretch to add:

    5) Print boarding pass

     

    That's just stupid. Why would any sane airline even consider such an absurd idea? Google would have to forward some sort of "print boarding pass" request to Southwest, who in turn would have to (a) trust Google's authentication mechanisms (Google would, of course, need to collect information in addition to just "print my boarding pass"), and (b) forward boarding pass data back into the ether. Google would then have to respond back to Southwest with a message alerting them that yes, the boarding pass was printed.

    Can you imagine the liability?

    So, yes, it is pretty stupid of Ballmer to even suggest that someone should be able to type "Print my boarding pass" into google and actually get a boarding pass.



  • @henke37 said:

    If you look at the list you will find a common property: they are all requests for finding data. But the last entry isn't finding data, it is performing an action with data.

    To use HTTP vocabulary, the requests are all safe, but the last one is unsafe.

    Semantics.  "Find" is an action.  If the computer had a UserProfile object accessible to the search engine that identified the user to all systems on the internet, then the print my boarding pass instruction - and very many instructions like it - would be straightforward to code.



  • @ShatteredArm said:

    That's just stupid. Why would any sane airline even consider such an absurd idea?
    It's an example.  There is no reason we can't have a COM-style IWebUnkown interface written in WSDL that would contain enough descriptive metadata for google to either hunt down the right method to call, or give the user a list of things it can call in order of relevance.



  • @ShatteredArm said:

    That's just stupid. Why would any sane airline even consider such an absurd idea?

    Way to be open minded.

    @ShatteredArm said:

    Google would have to forward some sort of "print boarding pass" request to Southwest, who in turn would have to (a) trust Google's authentication mechanisms (Google would, of course, need to collect information in addition to just "print my boarding pass"), and (b) forward boarding pass data back into the ether. Google would then have to respond back to Southwest with a message alerting them that yes, the boarding pass was printed.

    Can you imagine the liability?

    I check my bank balance on Mint.com. I don't see much of a difference between what Google would be doing with this hypothetical feature, and what Mint.com does right now with bank, credit card, and investment accounts.

    @ShatteredArm said:

    So, yes, it is pretty stupid of Ballmer to even suggest that someone should be able to type "Print my boarding pass" into google and actually get a boarding pass.

    Jesus. When did you realize you had absolutely no ambition or imagination left? When did you decide to piss all over your (and everybody else's) dreams?

    Screw your attitude. It doesn't belong in computers. We want people who go, "sky's the limit!"



  • @hoodaticus said:

    If the computer had a UserProfile object accessible to the search engine that identified the user to all systems on the internet, then the print my boarding pass instruction - and very many instructions like it - would be straightforward to code.
    And people would still be surprised when someone steals their passwords.

    I wonder if ShatteredArm's criticism is the reason why Ballmer mentioned this in a speech, and didn't announce that it's now available for selected airlines through Microsoft's search engine.

    It may be easier to sell this sort of information sharing to banks, simply because they already share this information in order to let their customers access their accounts at other banks' cash machines.



  • Yikes, I would hate to search future-Bing for how to format a hard drive...



  • Or you could make it site-specific, like a cookie.



  • @El_Heffe said:

    I would like to think that the CEO of the world's largest software company is a pretty smart guy (other than that Developers Developers Developers Developers fiasco).  But this one really made me scratch my head and say WTF.

    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/why-microsoft-ceo-steve-ballmer-is-so-bullish-on-bing/9978?tag=mantle_skin;content

    @Steve Ballmer said:

    If you go to a search engine today and you say, ‘Print my boarding pass
    on Southwest,’ you’ll get nothing back but chaos. The truth of the
    matter is, computers, search engines, nothing really understands verbs
    today. We only understand nouns. And yet, most of us as human beings
    want to command these systems to do something for us.

    OK.  I get the part about wanting to give a computer a command ("Print my boarding pass
    on Southwest").  But why would you expect to do that with a search engine? 

    "How do I print my boarding pass on Southwest" is a legitimate search query, which ideally should take you to a page where you can print your boarding pass.  But expecting to simply type "Print my boarding pass" into Google or Bing and have a boarding pass come shooting out of your printer . . . . . makes no sense.

    Print my boarding pass on Southwest

    I don't know, that seems like exactly what I want it to do.  Sure, it doesn't know who I am and doesn't actually print my boarding pass, but even Joe Shmoe who knows nothing about computers would have a decently easy time printing their boarding pass given that query.  Most definitely not chaos.



  • I'm sure I'm feeding the troll, but...

    @blakeyrat said:

    I check my bank balance on Mint.com.

    Mint.com is a website specifically designed for checking bank balances. You've opted in, gave them your bank account info, and signed an agreement to give them access to it. When I go to google.com, I expect it to search how to print my boarding pass (which it does, contrary to Ballmer). I do not expect it to actually print my boarding pass no more than I expect it to automatically show golf videos when I search "golf videos" or divorce my wife when I search "divorce wife." It can lead me to websites that will show me golf videos and divorce. That's what a search engine is designed to do. It has nothing to do with imagination.

    Now, if I was a salesman who travelled a lot, and had a dozen itineraries per month which I wanted to organize and keep track of, I would love a service that would print out my itineraries, boarding passes, and maybe even order which entre I want based on my previous choices. But that's something I'd use a website specifically designed for that to do, not Google.

    And seriously, what the hell is the difference between this thread where you rant about Google knowing where your Twitter friends have been and Google not only knowing you are boarding a plane in a few days, but being able to print a legitimate, genuine boarding pass?



  • @RHuckster said:

    When I go to google.com...I do not expect it to actually... divorce my wife when I search "divorce wife."

    TRWTF is google being married to your wife.



  • @boomzilla said:

    TRWTF is google being married to your wife.
     

    I know it. It gets really awkward when she's on her laptop in bed surfing the web. Well, that's what you get when you meet someone from Vermont.



  • @RHuckster said:

    I'm sure I'm feeding the troll, but...

    nom nom nom

    @RHuckster said:

    You've opted in, gave them your bank account info, and signed an agreement to give them access to it.

    Why do you presume this hypothetical Bing feature wouldn't require opting-in?

    @RHuckster said:

    I do not expect it to actually print my boarding pass no more than I expect it to automatically show golf videos when I search "golf videos"

    But Google does automatically show golf videos when you search "golf videos". Try it. Look at the second result. (Bing actually does not, unless you specifically hit the "Videos" tab.)

    @RHuckster said:

    It has nothing to do with imagination.

    Yes it does. Now I know it also has something to do with strangely unwarranted assumptions (for example, that this feature wouldn't require an opt-in.)

    @RHuckster said:

    Now, if I was a salesman who travelled a lot, and had a dozen itineraries per month which I wanted to organize and keep track of, I would love a service that would print out my itineraries, boarding passes, and maybe even order which entre I want based on my previous choices. But that's something I'd use a website specifically designed for that to do, not Google.

    That pretty much already exists in the form of TripIt, except perhaps the ordering your favorite meal part.

    @RHuckster said:

    And seriously, what the hell is the difference between this thread where you rant about Google knowing where your Twitter friends have been and Google not only knowing you are boarding a plane in a few days, but being able to print a legitimate, genuine boarding pass?

    Well, for one thing, the Bing feature Ballmer is proposing doesn't already exist.

    But if you're trying to paint me as a hypocrite, just as a reminder, I never claimed not to be a hypocrite. "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman



  • Wolfram Alpha amusing trick: ask it if it's Skynet.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    But Google does automatically show golf videos when you search "golf videos". Try it. Look at the second result.
     

    So I have to click something to actually show it? Apparently we have differing definitions for "automatic." Yes, I searched "golf videos" on Google, and Google gave me a result set with links to golf videos, just like a search engine is supposed to do. Apparently Ballmer doesn't think that's good enough for some bullshit reason.

    @blakeyrat said:

    That pretty much already exists in the form of TripIt

    Then Bing should buy TripIt if it wants to print my airplane tickets. My point is not in so much the idea of printing tickets from a site owned by Bing. It's the notion and the mindset that Bing should be able to do everything for you on the web, which basically contradicts what Bing is really supposed to do: provide me the means to an end: I search "print my airplane tickets", "buy Dodgers tickets", "Modern Family episode schedule", "do my taxes" or whatever, and Bing or Google provide me the webpage that satisfies my query. That's what search engines have been doing since the birth of the world wide web and it's been doing a decent job of it. I don't see how Google or Bing actually printing my airplane tickets is a vast improvement over them providing me a link to a website that does the same exact thing.

    Balmer's quote is really business fluff that transcends every Dilbert comic strip combined: He's proposing a solution to a problem that doesn't exist by trying to convince the public that it does exist.

    @blakeyrat said:

    But if you're trying to paint me as a hypocrite, just as a reminder, I never claimed not to be a hypocrite.

    Prosecution: "Your honor, this person is being accused of larceny."

    Defense: "Yes, but my client never actually claimed not to be a thief."

    Judge: "Oooh, good defense. I hereby acquit the defendant of all charges!"



  • @RHuckster said:

    Then Bing should buy TripIt if it wants to print my airplane tickets. My point is not in so much the idea of printing tickets from a site owned by Bing. It's the notion and the mindset that Bing should be able to do everything for you on the web, which basically contradicts what Bing is really supposed to do: provide me the means to an end: I search "print my airplane tickets", "buy Dodgers tickets", "Modern Family episode schedule", "do my taxes" or whatever, and Bing or Google provide me the webpage that satisfies my query. That's what search engines have been doing since the birth of the world wide web and it's been doing a decent job of it. I don't see how Google or Bing actually printing my airplane tickets is a vast improvement over them providing me a link to a website that does the same exact thing.

    So you and Ballmer disagree on what a search engine is. Fine. No biggy. It happens.

    Why the venom?



  • @blakeyrat said:

    So you and Ballmer disagree on what a search engine is.

    You're saying this as if the definition of a search engine is a matter of opinion. A search engine is supposed to search. That's its definition. If it prints airline tickets, it's no longer a search engine. It's an airline ticket printer. If Microsoft launched a website called "Bing Airline Ticket Printer" and it printed my airline tickets, then kudos to Steve Balmer and the gang for accomplishing that. And if I searched "print my airline tickets" and its top result was the "Bing Airline Ticket Printer" even with options of which tickets to print according to my logged in session, then good for them. What it shouldn't do is actually print my tickets out.

    If I search "print my airline tickets" and, because I have an account on Bing's hypothetical partner, TripIt, it decided to automatically print my airline tickets, then it has failed its definition of a search engine. What if I was, for example, not giving a command, but was simply searching for this very thread we're discussing right now?

    Good lord, I thought I only had to debate what a search engine is supposed to do with SpectateSwamp.



  • Ballmer is a visionary. Here he's envisioning a grand unified web which fades away the boundaries of different services and where you can do everything from a single interface. Many people already use Google as a frontend to the web; as noted earlier, some of them don't even understand that Google is not part of their browser (and some likely don't understand what a browser is and just "go on the web"). I've seen people type "some site" on Google when the site's address is simply somesite.com and they've visited it dozens of times before. Hell, I've even seen people type somesite.com into Google and then click on the link rather than type it in the browser's address bar.

    It's true that search engines today only search for information, and perhaps that's what a search engine should do. But Ballmer is clearly aware of the way the masses are using them, and taking it to the next step. When and if the vision becomes reality, it likely will not be called a search engine anymore but will have an entirely new term coined for it.



  • @tdb said:

    Ballmer is a visionary. Here he's envisioning a grand unified web which fades away the boundaries of different services and where you can do everything from a single interface. Many people already use Google as a frontend to the web; as noted earlier, some of them don't even understand that Google is not part of their browser (and some likely don't understand what a browser is and just "go on the web"). I've seen people type "some site" on Google when the site's address is simply somesite.com and they've visited it dozens of times before. Hell, I've even seen people type somesite.com into Google and then click on the link rather than type it in the browser's address bar.

    It's true that search engines today only search for information, and perhaps that's what a search engine should do. But Ballmer is clearly aware of the way the masses are using them, and taking it to the next step. When and if the vision becomes reality, it likely will not be called a search engine anymore but will have an entirely new term coined for it.

     

     

    Is that you bill?

     



  • @tdb said:

    When and if the vision becomes reality, it likely will not be called a search engine anymore but will have an entirely new term coined for it.
     

    And that term will be called... Zombocom.



  • @RHuckster said:

    @tdb said:

    When and if the vision becomes reality, it likely will not be called a search engine anymore but will have an entirely new term coined for it.
     

    And that term will be called... Zombocom.

     

     

    FTFY.  (Standards, man!)

     

     



  • I think most likely he is not expecting the search engine itself to print the boarding pass; but rather return instructions on how to do so and ideally direct you to the page that starts the process. He wants to make the transition from search to function more seamless.



  • @emurphy said:

    FTFY.  (Standards, man!)

    A Zombocom that works on my iPhone! Nice!



  • @BlueKnot said:

    I think most likely he is not expecting the search engine itself to print the boarding pass; but rather return instructions on how to do so and ideally direct you to the page that starts the process. He wants to make the transition from search to function more seamless.
    Maybe.   But that's not what he said.   And I would expect someone in his position to be a little more articulate.



  • @El_Heffe said:

    @BlueKnot said:
    I think most likely he is not expecting the search engine itself to print the boarding pass; but rather return instructions on how to do so and ideally direct you to the page that starts the process. He wants to make the transition from search to function more seamless.
    Maybe. But that's not what he said. And I would expect someone in his position to be a little more articulate.

    I AM ROBOT AND ALL HUMAN COMMUNICATION SPIT-EXCHANGE MUST COMPLY WITH ROBOT STANDARDS METAPHORS AND OTHER ABSTRACT CONCEPTS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEY DO NOT COMPUTE FOR ROBOTS LIKE I.T. GEEKS WHO ARE ROBOTS.

    BEEP.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    I AM ROBOT AND ALL HUMAN COMMUNICATION SPIT-EXCHANGE
     

    Personally I prefer my human communication to not include spit-exchange, but maybe that makes me a weirdo.



  • @BlueKnot said:

    I think most likely he is not expecting the search engine itself to print the boarding pass; but rather return instructions on how to do so and ideally direct you to the page that starts the process. He wants to make the transition from search to function more seamless.

    As emurphy said, that's pretty much what good search engines do now. If you enter 'Print my boarding pass on southwest' into Google and select "I feel lucky" (which admittedly isn't as easy as it sounds), it takes you to a page on [url]southwest.com[/url] which contains instructions for acquiring a boarding pass and actually is the page which starts the process.

    I don't know what Ballmer's goal is with this idea, but search engines' language skills clearly aren't the stumbling block.



  • @El_Heffe said:

    I would like to think that the CEO of the world's largest software company is a pretty smart guy...

    What did Steve Jobs do now?



  • @Jaime said:

    @El_Heffe said:
    I would like to think that the CEO of the world's largest software company is a pretty smart guy...

    What did Steve Jobs do now?

    Uh...are you saying he got a new job with a software company?



  • See, to me this type of stuff isn't enhancing the technology, its enabling user laziness and inexperience. There is nothing wrong with the current process, other than you have to actually use some grey matter to make it happen.



  • @Master Chief said:

    See, to me this type of stuff isn't enhancing the technology, its enabling user laziness and inexperience.

    That's kind of the point of developing all this technology in the first place.

    You're welcome to live in a cave and hunt&gather for your meals if you like. After all, that damned "agriculture" technology does nothing but enable laziness and inexperience!



  • @blakeyrat said:

    You're welcome to live in a cave and hunt&gather for your meals if you like.

    This isn't doing it for me. Fail.



  • @boomzilla said:

    @Jaime said:
    @El_Heffe said:
    I would like to think that the CEO of the world's largest software company is a pretty smart guy...
    What did Steve Jobs do now?
    Uh...are you saying he got a new job with a software company?

    No, I'm saying that Apple surpassed Microsoft in revenue, profit, and market capitalization last year.  Steve Ballmer runs the second largest software company.



  • @Jaime said:

    @boomzilla said:

    @Jaime said:
    @El_Heffe said:
    I would like to think that the CEO of the world's largest software company is a pretty smart guy...
    What did Steve Jobs do now?
    Uh...are you saying he got a new job with a software company?

    No, I'm saying that Apple surpassed Microsoft in revenue, profit, and market capitalization last year.  Steve Ballmer runs the second largest software company.

    Not because any software they made (I don't think iOS should count)



  • @serguey123 said:

    Not because any software they made (I don't think iOS should count)

    What about the iTunes Store? Final Cut Pro? Mac OS X? Quicktime Pro? iLife? The App Store? Developer Subscriptions?



  • @dohpaz42 said:

    @serguey123 said:

    Not because any software they made (I don't think iOS should count)

    What about the iTunes Store? Final Cut Pro? Mac OS X? Quicktime Pro? iLife? The App Store? Developer Subscriptions?

    For some of them, not enought marketshare.  But my point is that most of Apple money does not come from their software because almost all the ported versions are shit and Mac is not that common.



  • @dohpaz42 said:

    What about the iTunes Store? The App Store?

    Advocating for the devil: Amazon sells digital books, music, and applications-- does that make Amazon a "software development company?"

    To me the real argument is that 90%* of what Apple sells is hardware. 90%* of what Microsoft sells is software. That's what makes comparing them across-the-board kind of a fuzzy situation. If you compared only Apple's software business with only Microsoft's software business, you'd come to the conclusion that Microsoft was much larger. Similarly, if you compared Apple's hardware business with Microsoft's hardware business, you'd come to the conclusion that Apple was much larger.

    Recent articles have stated that 50% of Apple's revenue comes from the iPhone alone. I'd link to the article, but apparently TechCrunch broke all their archive links when they did their stupid redesign a few days ago.

    *) NOTE TO PEDANTS: THOSE NUMBERS ARE ASSPULLS. DO NOT BOTHER TO LOOK UP THE ACTUAL PERCENTAGES BECAUSE I DON'T CARE AND I HATE YOU AND WILL IGNORE IT



  • @dohpaz42 said:

    What about the iTunes Store? ... The App Store?

    So, would that make your local software brick and mortar store a software company? Or the bookstore a publisher?



  •  You guys are slipping.

     "My internet browser heard us saying the word Fry and it found a movie
    about Philip J. Fry for us. It also opened my calendar to Friday and
    ordered me some french fries."


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