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Bing – Microsoft’s “Decision Engine”

Posted by    |   June 15th, 2009   |   No responses

Last month Beth posted a blog discussing the new search tool named Wolfram Alpha.  While the book is still out on this new search technology, an old player in a new guise has come upon the scene and likes to be called Bing. Bing is Microsoft’s new search tool (replacing Live Search), and in an attempt to distinguish itself from Google and Yahoo, it is being touted not as a new Search Engine but rather a Decision Engine. What exactly is a decision engine? I'm not sure, but I found some clues in this article. Apparently, this Decision Engine is going to provide three main elements:
  • Quality search results
  • Organized search experiences
  • Simplified tasks and insight
Keeping these newly discovered points in mind, I took another look at Bing and came to this conclusion: Bing operates just like any other search engine but with a nice photo in the background. I suppose the real test of a search engine (or decision engine) would take place late Friday afternoon just moments before the end of the day when we suddenly remember needing to find the address of where we are meeting our significant other(s) after work. We begin searching for this information attempting to not be distracted about missing the bus but still remembering to turn on the office alarm while trying to remember our banking password so we can check if we even have the dough to go out for dinner. In this all-too-real scenario, the search engine is an integral part of the process and if it works correctly, we'll hardly even notice it. But if it fails, and we end up across town at the wrong restaurant with no money, we'll notice and remember which search tool to blame. Since I am not going to complete the test outlined above (I don't ride the bus), please accept the following observations:
  • Bing has a good a look to it and seems to provide good results.
  • Once past the paid rankings, Google usually leads us to where we want to go.
  • Yahoo is that old "portal" friend providing news and email with its search returns.
The truth of search on the internet is that the technology has not really changed much over the past decade. Yes there have been improvements with the control of spam, search results do provide more localized information and everything is faster, but can we say a current search return is far superior to those we got years ago? I'm not sure we can, and so I say it is time for search to improve in a big way. Perhaps the increasing reliance upon search returns acquired from Twitter, Facebook or a blog will result in some new search paradigms. Maybe a new technology is being developed right now and within a year's time we'll be more satisfied with our search returns. Or maybe we have reached the apex of search and right now is as good as it gets. In any case, give Bing a look and let us know what you think.
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Congrats to our client Applied Trust on winning the Apex Award

Posted by    |   June 10th, 2009   |   No responses

One of our newest clients, Boulder-based Applied Trust Engineering, Inc., was awarded the 2009 Apex Award for Distinguished Professional Services last night during a ceremony also known as the "academy awards of Colorado technology." Applied Trust provides IT security and network/systems infrastructure consulting services in the areas of security, performance and availability. The award -- given by CSIA, Colorado's Technology Association -- recognizes the company whose professional services enable its customers to conduct their businesses more effectively and efficiently. Huge kudos to Trent Hein, Ned McClain and the rest of the Applied Trust team (which includes former Insight Designs summer intern Zack Sanders)! We're proud to work with such an esteemed bunch! Our connection to Applied Trust? This spring, we designed and implemented their new custom website using a Joomla backend. Be sure to check it out.
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Professional Photography – Consider It.

Posted by    |   June 4th, 2009   |   No responses

Whoa there. Just because you snap photos all the time doesn't make you a  professional. Sorry, it's the truth. There's no doubt in my mind that you've got a hard drive full of great shots. Little Johnny at Halloween, Debbie building sandcastles on the beach, a first birthday party, the family reunion... they're all amazing. However, when it comes to your business, you've got to step it up a notch. True: Every business can benefit from professional photography. False: Professional photography costs millions of dollars and is only an option for large-budget projects. Let it shine. Whatever your business, as a company, you believe in your product. If you're an architect, you spend years and months on a single project. After all the hard work, you owe your work a glamour shot. If you're a clothing company, you obviously want people to see how great your clothes are. You need models and a professional photographer to make them look their best. These are obvious examples, but every website can benefit from quality photos. Whether it's a stunning image on your home page that illustrates the concept of your business or a simple shot of your office building on your contact page, professional photos give the impression of a professional business. Who doesn't want that? Say cheese. There's no better way to make your staff look like the put-together, presentable bunch that they are than to hire an experienced, skilled photographer to take their pictures. You'll be amazed at how wonderful everyone looks in a professionally-composed shot... sans red-eyes and with a well thought-out background. Can't afford to hire a photographer for a custom shoot? No need to sulk in the corner. Try using stock photography. It's an inexpensive way to get quality photos for your website.  Sometimes a stock photo search can lead to a concept you didn't even know you were looking for! Examples of sites we've built that use professional, custom photography: Examples of sites we've built that use stock photography:
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We took a stab at video production….

Posted by    |   May 15th, 2009   |   No responses

We've obviously made websites. We've designed logos, brochures, t-shirts, banners and more. But until today, we've never made movies. Feeling adventurous and a little egotistical, we set out to show the world what a creative, talented and - at times - completely unskilled bunch we are. Check us out. And it's okay to laugh. [youtube][/youtube] [youtube][/youtube] [youtube][/youtube] [youtube][/youtube]
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NCWIT turns 5!

Posted by    |   May 12th, 2009   |   No responses

Congratulations to our friends at NCWIT - the National Center for Women & Information Technology! Executive Director Lucy Sanders and the rest of the NCWIT team are at the Google Campus in San Jose, CA, this week hosting their semi-annual meetings AND celebrating the organization's 5th birthday. (Not bad to have the world's coolest company throwing your 5th birthday party, huh?) NCWIT - a non-profit established in 2004 with the goal of increasing women's participation in information technology - today boasts a coalition membership of more than 170 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies and non-profits. And based on the numbers, they have a huge task ahead:
  • In 2008 women earned only 18 percent of all CS degrees. Back in 1985, women earned 37 percent of CS degrees.
  • Women hold more than half of all professional occupations in the U.S. but fewer than 24 percent of all computing-related occupations.
  • Only 16 percent of Fortune 500 technology companies have women corporate officers.
NCWIT's goal isn't just about parity for parity's sake. It's about ensuring that the information technology that this world creates is the most innovative and useful it can be. And having women involved in the IT creative process makes it better: A study on U.S. technology patenting reveals that patents created by mixed-gender teams are the most highly cited (an indicator of their innovation and usefulness); yet women were involved in only 9 percent of U.S. tech patents. In January, I attended a talk by NCWIT Communications Director Jenny Slade at the Chicks Who Click social media conference in Boulder. Jenny's talk about "Enlisting Women in Tech" was informative, eye-opening, clever, funny and accessible. She used the right mix of data with real-world examples of why women's participation in IT matters. The example I loved the most was about the first voice-recognition software used in answering machines. When a woman tried to use the system, it hung up on her because the machine hadn't been programmed to recognize female voice octaves; the creators - all men - had only tested it using men's voices. When I recently asked Jenny about the creation of NCWIT, she recalled this of the organization's initial plenary discussion in 2003: "A huge snowstorm blew in the night before and it snowed all the next day, but almost everyone showed up anyway - many from out of town. There were industry folks and academics and researchers and marketing types and several people who had been single-handedly working to attract and retain women in computing for decades. We gathered in a conference room at the UMC. ...In the afternoon we split up into groups to brainstorm what solving the "problem" of women's lack of participation in IT would look like, and when we re-gathered it turned out that every group had proposed creating some sort of united, national organization. Originally we called ourselves the National Center for Gender and Information Technology, but then that seemed opaque when it was clear our focus was to be on women (why not just say what you mean?)." A year later, NCWIT was on its way, with funding from the National Science Foundation and others. At NCWIT's board of directors dinner at the end of April, Brad Feld - NCWIT Board Chairman and well-known venture capitalist - told the audience that NCWIT had always considered itself a two-decade organization. It had spent the first five years figuring out why there's a derth of women in IT, and now it will spend the next 15 years changing that. Let's wish them luck as we all will surely benefit from NCWIT's success.
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