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BUSTED: bing defender is Microsoft employee – and have they deleted my post on bing’s usability from bing?

June 6, 2009 6 Comments

<update>Well, in the light of the comments below, I've edited this. I hadn't originally intended to suggest that anyone actually had acted illegally (though I probably should have written it slightly more clearly). I was trying to convey that this sort of behaviour (commenting without revealing your interest) was serious and could be illegal.

Still, probably not as serious as possibly accidentally libelling a global brand, so I've removed any mention of possible breaches of the law. And of course I have no way of knowing who the poster was or whether they were using their real name. And I'm sure that Microsoft as an organisation had no knowledge of the comment.

Oh, and I don't really think they manually removed the post, either.

I might as well just delete this post now! But I'll leave it here as a record of how you (I) need to be more careful ... Still, the whois record is correct.</update>

Microsoft seems to have reacted badly to my post on the usability of bing - someone left a comment defending it without revealing they were a Microsoft employee.

And they've either manually deleted the post from the bing search results or it's taken them more than four six days to index it ...!

1 The blog comment

Yohan left this comment over on my original post, defending bing and giving me a bit of a slagging off.

Whois record for Yohan's comment

Whois record for Yohan's comment

However, a check on the IP address used to post this comment, reveals ... that it is owned by one at 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond.

2 Did Microsoft delete my post from bing's results?

If you search Google for 'bing usabilty', my original post comes top.

If you do the same search on bing, you get my homepage on page 2 of the results but no sign of the post itself.

If you do a search on bing for 'usability bing nightmare' (so using more words from the post's heading), again you get my homepage but no sign of the post.

And finally, do a search on bing for the full heading in quotes, and you get a couple of other pages from this blog (where you can see the heading in the recent posts list).

So, either bing hasn't indexed the post 4 six days later (= rubbish search engine) OR they've taken it out the bing index.

<Update> Thinking about it some more, maybe bing does that annoying thing google does of indexing a page and then making it vanish for a day or so while it moves it from one database to another one. Either way, not an impressive result not to be even showing the URL exists 4 days later - now 6 days later ...</update>

3 I know they're watching

Am I attributing too much importance to this blog (probably;))!?

One other oddity is that I tried to get @bing to talk to me about it. Although @bing is happy to reply to other people on twitter, they ignored my tweets to them.

Although I did notice via my statistics that shortly after my message to them, 3 people clicked on the link to the post.

According to intertwitter, @bing and I share just 16 followers. It could be that, of those 16, 3 were online at 11pm-ish when I sent the direct tweet to @bing and clicked the link.

Or it could be that the bing employees actively using @bing at that time to reply to people uisng @bing or #bing in their tweets saw it, clicked on it, but refused to reply.

What do you think?

Much of this evidence is circumstantial. Am I paranoid, or is Microsoft out to get me?

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  • Andy L says:

    "I suppose he's in the USA and Microsoft there is a different legal entity to Microsoft in the UK, so he probably isn't covered. But if Yohan had done it as a UK employee, he'd be acting illegally."

    No he wouldn't. Sorry, law isn't that simple. And you've Tweeted that he has broken the law despite having no evidence of where he is, which is probably libellous...

    I would strongly advise some redrafting on this one.

  • I'm afraid you're wrong: It's not illegal for him not to reveal he's a Microsoft employee.

    The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (which is the law you're referring to) outlaws "misleading commercial practices". These are defined thus: "A commercial practice is a misleading action… if it causes or is likely to cause the typical consumer to take a transactional decision he would not have taken otherwise, taking account of its factual context and of all its features and circumstances."

    So I'm afraid you're wrong on two counts. First, there's no evidence that he's acting on behalf of his employer, which he would have to be in order for it to be illegal (he's neither "acting for purposes related to his business" or "acting in the name of or on behalf of" his business, to use the terms from the The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which is the UK law which enshrines the EU directive.)

    Second, his comment contains nothing which would constitute a "misleading" statement (by the definition in the Regulations) in what he's said. He simply doesn't agree with you about how usable Bing is (or isn't). There's nothing which could (again, the words of the Regulations) "appreciably... impair the average consumer’s ability to make an informed decision".

    The intention of the Regulations is to prevent companies from organising campaigns which intend to mislead consumers. It's not designed to force everyone to disclose every potential conflict of interest in every commment, or to stifle the free speech of employees.

    Seriously, Malcolm: it's one thing to point out that he's a Microsoft employee - and he *should* have mentioned it, for form's sake. But it's entirely different to then claim his comment is "illegal". To do so errs dangerously close to claiming Microsoft *itself* is organising an astroturfing campaign, which I'm sure you wouldn't want to say.

  • Thanks for the comments both - I've removed the mentions of hypothetical illegality and added an explanation at the top of why.

  • GaGaTak says:

    I still can't believe that they will purposefully delete that... Did they?

  • nomalab says:

    "According to intertwitter, @bing and I share just 16 followers. It could be that, of those 16, 3 were online at 11pm-ish when I sent the direct tweet to @bing and clicked the link."

    ... or could it be that someone (anyone!) saw it in and clicked on it to see who this raving maniac is? ;)

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