In the past we have talked at length about the Internet and the power of the repeated truth, FUD, misleading facts and titles as well as how many technical journalists now feel the Internet is a place to vent their personal opinions and feelings with impunity.  Well today I read an article that truly takes the cake.

While browsing around and getting my fill of morning FUD [one of the food groups I think] I found a link to an article that is calling Bing a Bust before it is even a quarter old. The article talks about a survey [one of the most misleading tools in journalism  as we all know there are only sex, lies and benchmarks] and how it shows that 98% of people that tried Bing won?t be switching.

The author starts off by insulting the media for having positive things to say about Bing and that Microsoft may finally have a competitor to Google. Then he explains in flat tones "Keep dreaming".

According to him the search war was won by Google over five years ago and that is simply that. I wonder if he is willing to tell all of the Linux and OSX fans the same thing, after all MS pretty much won the OS war well over 5 years ago [by his method of determining victory] and if you think any other OS has a chance ?Keep dreaming?.

The next line of condemnation comes in the form of the ?understanding comment/compliment? this is where the person doing the bashing says something nice just to show they are being fair.  In this case we see a line saying that MS has added some cool features but nothing Google can?t do.

Again, I would like to see him drop that one on OSX fans that prize the innovation shown in many of Apple?s products. They often condemn MSFT for copying Apple; So I suppose we should condemn Google for not thinking of this first and having to copy MSFT. Then again, we all know that Apple copied every UI aspect and hardware itself [software mice driver anyone?] from Xerox PARC, but what is truth in the FUD wars, right?

The next three paragraphs go on to explain why Bing has grabbed market share. The author blames a large marketing campaign, curious users [saying "People are naturally curious" "Why wouldn't people check it out?"], and even saying that Bing really only took traffic from Ask and AOL.

Another interesting thing he says is that people are happy with Google, and then goes on to say this is because they are familiar with it. Interesting, the majority of people are familiar with Internet Explorer so I guess by this argument they are happy with it. Google has become a habit, I know of many people that use Google every day [myself included] but are very unhappy with the results that it gives. The same is true for IE; people use it every day and are unhappy with it.  Saying that the majority uses something so it is the best in a world where is there is not a better option [or the better option is not widely known] is borderline insane.  Making statements like that reduce the credibility of any article.

What follows after this is one of the most blatant cases of misleading information I have seen.
The author appears to quote information from the Survey and highlights the "Important" bits in red. This is a tactic known as leading the eye. By using a color associated with danger and warning he draws the eye to the parts he wants you to read while actually giving you the majority of the information.  In reality the red text will cause most to skip over the rest and conentrate [and usually only remember] the highlighted portion. If you ave ever studdied for a test using a highlighted text book you kow how this works.

If you read the whole article you will see that the survey was in no way conclusive and the numbers used to show that Bing is "going to be a bust" we the opinion of the person sorting the data.

Here is an example:

"Now that a month has passed since the launch of Bing, we completed a nation-wide survey to over 750 people above 18 years of age to assess the impact of Bing on their search habits. In our opinion, the results showed that although roughly a quarter of survey respondents were willing to try Bing, the vast majority (~98%) will not be switching to Bing as their primary search engine. Following are the key results:"

If you read this paragraph as formatted here it shows that 750 people above the age of 18 were asked if Bing impacted their search habits. Then it says, quite clearly, that in the survey taker’s opinion they feel that roughly 98% will not switch to Bing. This opinion is stated without giving any basis or reason. Also there is no geographical information on where the sampling was taken [nation-wide does not really count] nor was the specific question/questions listed. You can also argue that 750 people is not a representative number in the world of statistics and can hardly be used to show a global trend.

The Author of the damning article formatted the text like this:

"Now that a month has passed since the launch of Bing, we completed a nation-wide survey to over 750 people above 18 years of age to assess the impact of Bing on their search habits. In our opinion, the results showed that although roughly a quarter of survey respondents were willing to try Bing, the vast majority (~98%) will not be switching to Bing as their primary search engine. Following are the key results:"

As you can see the highlighted and bold text draws your eye to the statement that 98% won’t be using Bing. Unfortunately this is what a majority of people will see and they will equate it to a warning. This goes on as he pastes in a great deal of information from the survey.

The funny thing is that while the author takes great pains to highlight [in red no less] the parts of the text he wants you to read, he does not tell the whole story. The article comes off as angry and given the author’s history of anti Microsoft articles it should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Unfortunately this article has already been used by many other sensationalist media outlets to describe the death of Bing as already a done deal.

Survey?s, statistics, and numbers are all tools that can be manipulated. This is why they should always be looked at with a suspicious eye. It is not uncommon for survey companies to target specific areas, age ranges, etc to get the results they are looking for. Questions asked can also lead to skewed results, without the actual questions asked and other data there is no way to qualify the results. The exclusion of this type of information is used in the survey and statistical world to hide inaccuracies in the data. After all if you knew that the questions did not provide for proper answers to show real usage or habits then you could [and probably would] discount the survey right out of hand.

As we have told you, the Internet is a dangerous and misleading place? Be careful out there kids?