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Search Champs Non-NDA Session

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I’ve seen some great stuff at Search Champs, and heard some even better ones (for instance did you know that ________ rumor is completely accurate, and that _________ happened because ________ said ________?)

Problem is, so much of it is under NDA. Personally, I’m grateful for the opportunity to see these products and do what little I can to help out, but I still wish I could share more of it. Well, late today, we finally had a session we could blog about. Well, mostly, since every so often a speaker paused and said, “Oh, this isn’t bloggable”.

At the top, we saw a demo of what Windows Local has, basically a familiarization with the service, then go off NDA (arghh). I already know all about Live Local, but I did learn a few things about Local I hadn’t noticed, all of them useful. The NDA stuff? Well, it looks good. As did most of the NDA stuff. I didn’t get demos of any crap, is what I’m saying.

After that, Live.com Program Manager demo’d Live.com’s current and some future feature. He described Live as a sort of desktop for the web, and that they are bringing in user experience expectations to the web, like right-click context menus and drag and drop.

The Live.com gadgets were shown off, and we get full confirmation that the Windows Sidebar will run the Live.com gadgets, and that Windows XP will get that functionality, likely before Windows Vista ships. We’re informed that you will be able to drag Live.com Gadgets off Live.com and put them on your desktop instead, which makes the whole system a lot more useful. I could see people loading up their Live.com page with every interesting Gadget, dragging Gadgets back and forth from the desktop depending on whether they needed them there more often. Lets see OS X / Yahoo do that.

One thing that looked great was a TV recommendations Gadget, which will launch eventually. It talks to your Media Center PC, takes what you watch, shows you what you’ve watched, lets you rate them, and recommends other shows for you to watch/record. If you agree with it or just see a show you want to record, you can tell the Gadget and it’ll schedule a recording.

Take a look:

There’s another Live.com feature launching tomorrow. Its a minor one, but nice. Basically, when you have an RSS feed, if the feed has pictures in it, it shows a rotating view of the photos within the feed box. Looks nice.

Now, we see MSN AdCenter, and we’re shows how you target ads to an audience. You can choose regions or specific cities to target, specidifc days of the week, times of day, target men or women more than the other or certain age groups more than others. AdCenter pulls data from Passport or Hotmail to determine what type of person you are, and then Microsoft “uses third party sources to verify the accuracy” of the data. Hmm That’s something I want to hear more about.

You can enter a keyword and see how often bleach is searched for (and other searches with bleach in it), and what demographic group was searching for it. You can then see queries searched for around your target search and learn even more about your target audience, so you know what other keywords to buy related to the searchers you are trying to reach. Like, if you’re targeting bleach, and people searching for bleach also tend to search right before it for a similar keyword, it’ll expose that for you so you can better target the ad campaign.

Next, we look at Windows Live Expo (code-named Fremont), which I got to see earlier in an NDA session. Expo is designed, like Craigslist, to sell stuff to people in your area, or, unlike Craigslist, to people you know. If you are part of a company or group with an email domain, you can verify that through your email and become part of that group on Expo. This means you can maintain a level of trust, selling to coworkers or people at your school. You can browse without signing in, but can’t contact or sell items without signing into your Passport.

There are categories for Cars, Events, Housing, Jobs, People (including “Activities”), Pets and Services. You can filter all results by a location radius and by group (people you know, everyone). You can, using an AJAX popin, change your search radius or group quickly. Every page has the option of an AJAX popin to show you where things are, including search results. You can send double-blind messages (neither side sees an email address), or through MSN Messenger (not blind, but otional).

One cool thing: When typing in a search, you see suggested categories automatically to the right of the search box. That means, that if you type in “Honda”, it suggests cars and bikes, and clicking on either runs the search with the category, making things more specific and faster. Using AJAX in subtle ways to improve search queries while you are typing the search query is a great way to make search better.

Basic listings are free, ad-supported, although if someone wants to use the tech for their own service, there are ways to negotiate that.

There are other things I want to touch on, like the large amounts of discussion on the DOJ stuff and just my experiences at Microsoft’s campus, but I’ll blog that when I get back. If you want more, I’ll be bookmarking every single other Search Champers posts, so watch the del.icio.us posts.

Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

Visit the InsideGoogle blog.

Search Champs Non-NDA Session
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