Next week is EC’06, the seventh annual conference of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Electronic Commerce (SIGECOM). CommerceNet is proud to join Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Akamai, CombineNet, and the University of Michigan in sponsoring the premier academic event in our field.

One of the most exciting subdisciplines growing up around this arena is Sponsored Search Advertising, an area we’ve written about before. The second annual workshop is being held in conjunction with EC’06 with a fascinating twist: the first pay-per-click bidding agent competition:

Are you interested in e-commerce / machine learning / operations research / data mining / artificial intelligence? Put your skills to the ultimate test. Enter an intelligent bidding agent in the 2006 Sponsored Search Bidding Agent Competition . Your intelligent agent will need to balance exploration versus exploitation in real-time (the classic k-armed bandit problem), and react intelligently to fickle and potentially explosive changes in customer behavior.

But we’re not just talking about a mathematical exercise. You will have the opportunity to actually bid in the real-world, with real money, and with the chance of making or losing your funds. Through a special arrangement with Microsoft AdCenter – who are providing the auction platform and are offering free funds to teams – and a retailer who is yet to be announced – we are offering you the chance to bid with real money on a real retailer. The winner will be the team that creates the greatest percentage increase in revenue. Are you ready for this challenge? Read on!