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Microsoft’s new msnNOW portal combines data from social networks and search, along with some editorial judgment, to provide a view of the stories and topics generating the most buzz in online communities.

During a briefing today on Microsoft’s campus, hosted by chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie, the company’s demos included a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the dashboard that drives msnNOW. As you’ll hear in the video above, one of my questions was whether it’s possible to hand over too much of the process to these algorithms.

Qi Lu, the company’s Online Services Division president, talked broadly about the potential for combining social, geographic and temporal data, combined with natural user interfaces, to better understand and match the needs of a user at any given moment or any particular places.

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