The Wolfram Alpha demo takes five minutes to load before it starts but it well worth the wait. I was excited to see the concept and how Wolfram makes it work. Keep in mind it isn’t a search engine and your queries should be related to math or quantitative data.
I first heard about Stephen Wolfram when he wrote Mathematica. This is a very cool program for those interested in math and need a tool more powerful than Excel. My own math/engineering needs are satisfied by Excel so I never looked further. Stephen Wolfram followed this up by inventing a new branch of science! I read his book: A New Kind of Science this made a strong impact due my passion for Chaos Theory.
His new project Wolfram Alpha is sort of a combination of both Mathematica and his New Science.
I’m not sure I fully understand Alpha, but I have run the demo and listened to Stephen talk about the project. (It is interesting to hear him explain all the difficulties involved. Stephen wasn’t sure until very recently that it was even possible.) Alpha is not a search engine nor an encyclopedia. This causes difficulties when we try to use it as such. It is also difficult to fully explain when the concept has no antecedents. I feel sort of foolish even trying.
I was listening to This Week In Technology* and was struck by the comment, "Search is yesterday’s battle… the frontier is: social, live, local, and deep web."
The deep web is a theme of my client. Michael Benidt has written a couple blog posts on this topic. I see Alpha as a tool to not only access these databases, but to use them without having a math and/or engineering degree. Using natural language one can ask a question and have Alpha go find the answer, or even more importantly calculate the answer using one or more of these databases.
I know from my own experience that my best projects, where I received the most money and kudos, came from solving problems using Excel, and vast sets of data. I had to manually find the data, cull through it, and design a model in Excel to arrive at the answer(s). Often these projects would take hours, days, or even weeks to work through. So from my perspective Alpha is a very exciting tool. It may not be much to look at right now, but there is no reason it can’t get better and better as more data(bases) are added and the back end systems are refined.
It is possible no one will be able to figure it out or Google will duplicate the work- either way the Alpha is important even if it doesn’t become the Omega.
I watched the Google Wave presentation and what I saw impressed me: the best of Twitter, email, wiki, blogs, and IM all rolled into one product. Wave may just solve all the problems of email with one open source product. If it can stop spam they would have a real winner on their hands. Wave must be at an early phase because it kept crashing in their demo, it didn’t seem to slow the presentation team down.
It seems to me that Twitter, Facebook, etc are all trying to ‘fix’ email by walling off part of the internet. This works until the services get popular and the spammers get inside the wall. It also seems to me that both Twitter and Facebook are turning into micro-blogging sites. In Twitter’s case it is returning to its roots.
Microsoft has renamed its search engine again. Bing is actually pretty good. I don’t know if it would replace Google as my default search engine, but it has some nice features. It is certainly worth adding to your search sidebar. I’ve already added it my Firefox Keyword Search **. b=Bing
To learn more about Bing or take the Bing Tour follow this link http://www.discoverbing.com/
- *Podcast 197 was particularly interesting as they talked about Education, Microsoft Bing and Google’s Wave.
- ** I’m a big fan of using Keyword Search in Firefox. I simply type the letter, a space, and the search terms and Firefox does the rest. I currently have a=Amazon, b=Bing d=Dictionary.com, g=Google, i=IMDB.com, t=Technorati, and 2=Zap2It.com. More Info