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Msdewey Phil Bradley reported a few days ago about his experiences with Ms. Dewey, the avatar front-end of a search engine with results from MSN.  Her overall personality is that of a snotty vixen.  She’s all sultry when she likes what you’re doing, but when you’re slow she gets all pouty and impatient.

You have to try it to see for yourself.  Because nothing Phil or I say will make you believe how horrible this is.  Make sure your sound is on.

If you begin typing into the search box, she looks all happy, like "yay, I have something to do!"  If you take too long with this, or anything else in the process, she purses her lips, looks all impatient, raises her eyebrows and eventually does something else–like read a magazine, tap on the screen, or talk on her cell phone.  She’ll even yell out Valley-Girl style "Hello!!! Type something here!"

My search for "librarian in black" resulted in a semi-audible speech about the golden years of Hollywood, except for the lack of black actresses, etc.  Then some search results came up that I could barely read.  Why?  Because they show up on a semi-transparent white background through which you can still see the cityscape behind the beautiful Ms. Dewey.

My search for libraries resulted in her saying "Sorry, I can’t talk about that–my hands are tied" (and then turning around to show that they literally were tied.  A search for "library" resulted in her saying "Sorry, I can’t make any sense of what you’re asking.  Wait…have you been at the pub all afternoon?"  Searches for "children," "art," and other terms brought back similar snarky responses, though search results showed up once she was done being difficult.   

It turns out that it doesn’t really matter what you search for, it seems, you just get some random clip.  I once got her holding a bull-whip and striking it menacingly toward the screen.  Wish I’d gotten a screenshot of that 🙂  It almost became a game, more than a search engine, to see what I could make her say…  But yes, as a search engine, totally useless.

That poor woman actress who agreed to be Ms. Dewey.  I wonder if she’ll ever live this down.

“Ms. Dewey – a new search engine from Microsoft”

  1. joshua m. neff Says:

    As a heterosexual male, I’m fairly insulted that someone actually thought, “Let’s take a hot woman, have her make dumb ‘jokes’ and act like a halfwit, tie her to an abysmal search engine, and guys will totally eat this up!” I tried searching with the term “libraries,” too, and got the same stupid result. “Ms. Dewey” is earthshakingly, embarrassingly lame.

  2. Sarah Houghton (LiB) Says:

    It’s interesting that you bring up the male angle, Josh. Because interestingly enough, twice Ms. Dewey made comments to me assuming I was male. Something about “this didn’t work with your last girlfriend, dude, so why do you think it will work with me” and “now showing, the most lonely man in the universe!” It _is_ as though they assume the audience will be male.

  3. walt crawford Says:

    I got entirely different and typically random results for the same questions, but I’d already tried this and knew how awful it was already. Twice, “she” “asked” me to rephrase the question while that ghostly search result was coming up. Twice, she shot a rubber band at the screen while “thinking.”

    In two minutes of trying (as long as I’d give this), the one good verbal response I got was when I asked “why microsoft paid good money for this miserable search interface” (actually, I rather like Live Search itself, but not MsDewey). She responded: “It’s amazing how much money people get paid for doing stupid things.”

    Which I think answers your question, Sarah. The actress got paid good money for doing stupid things, and I doubt it will do her career any real harm.

  4. chrisf Says:

    I agree with you.

    But she has one redeeming factor: she’s a non-steroetypical librarian (she is a librarian, right?).

  5. Sarah Houghton (LiB) Says:

    I dunno if she’s a librarian. We’re all assuming she is from the Dewey moniker, but I don’t think it says she is anywhere…

  6. joshua m. neff Says:

    when I asked “why microsoft paid good money for this miserable search interface” (actually, I rather like Live Search itself, but not MsDewey). She responded: “It’s amazing how much money people get paid for doing stupid things.”

    That. Is. Brilliant.

  7. tiffini Says:

    i think you are all missing the point of ms. dewey- FUN! i think its amusing and something to capture the attention of the wandering eyed students (male or female)or an icebreaker for introducing searches- i laughed and thought it was silly but i enjoyed her and think if we are going for hot sexy librarian stereotypes then YAY ms. dewey and boo to all those that dont know how to take things on the internet with a grain of salt.
    p.s. search for bill clinton and president bush..

  8. Sarah Houghton (LiB) Says:

    I don’t think this has anything to do with anyone not taking “things on the internet with a grain of salt.” It has to do with a junky slow search engine with unreadable results whose sole “plus” is a hot-maybe-librarian female front. It’s useless, and as Josh said, lame. I would never use this in a searching class, unless the point was to show slapping a witty front end on something doesn’t make it a good search engine.

  9. Drew Says:

    I’m interested in the reactions to this one. It seems like we prioritize the results provided, rather than the process of getting them. Service and humanity should matter as much as ‘cold hard’ results, no? I seem to recall some patron survey data supporting this theory, but I may just be thinking of our local LibQual results.

    Certainly, it’s not a perfect interface. But to my knowledge it’s a first. I’m not looking at Ms. Dewey for what she currently is, but what she could become.

  10. kompeitou Says:

    It reminds me of the Microsoft Office Assistants… those animated characters that would start up when you ran MS Office. I remember when they first came out… “Wow, that is cool” I thought. Then after 5 minutes it became annoying and I turned it off. Ms. Dewey is the same way.

    Maybe if Ms. Dewey’s comments could be something that could help refine a person’s search or useful search engine tips.

    As it is now, Ms. Dewey is just Office Assiant 2.0

  11. infoaddict Says:

    Ms. Dewey is passe. Search of the future is, in my newly-obsessed personal opinion, in Second Life, where a 3D avatar ‘bot will tap its foot at you if you take up too much time.

    Personally, I think it should be a dragon (or – ah-HAH! – a sphinx). Now _that’s_ a librarian.

    Oh, wait … gotta be an orang-utang, right??

    Sorry, buzzing from a brief visit to Cybrary City and all the possibilities I saw in there …

  12. YLEKOT Says:

    I wanted to try the search when I first heard about it. Finally, I remembered. It is kind of neat for about a second or two. I still enjoy talking to AOL bots on AIM better.

    I was able to find two things that have not already been said. One, the page takes too long to load. Two, Google remains to be my homepage. Better luck next time.

    On another note, we didn’t get the blue screen of death going to the site. I guess thats a plus.

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