Weeklong experiment: Bing vs Google

In the interests of science, I've undertaken various first-hand user testing experiments over the years. I haven't gone as far as did Cullen Murphy, then the Atlantic's managing editor, when he demonstrated that one could write an entire article without using the words "is," "are," or any other form of the verb to be.* But, as a similar experimental stunt, I once wrote an article without touching a keyboard, relying strictly on voice recognition software to see how well it worked. (The software worked fine; unfortunately, I discovered that I couldn't think without using my fingers.) And I let Air Force pilots wring me out in a deliberately-nausea-inducing mock-combat drill in an F-15, just for the hell of it.

Results of the experiments: Cullen still uses "is"; I still use my fingers; and I have stayed far away from F-15s.

Spurred by this report on the Atlantic's site about a new Bing-vs-Google flap (previously here), I have resolved to try another experiment. I will spend the next week, during which I must finish a "real" article, using only Microsoft's Bing to track down facts online, rather than my usual Google. After-action reports will appear here once I've turned in the "real" article. Necessary disclaimer: I have close friends at and various entanglements with both companies. Watch this space.

*Actually, now I have, at least on mini-scale.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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