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Wolfram Alpha: Blind to The Blogosphere

Since its debut a little over a week ago, I've been playing with Wolfram|Alpha. For those of you who don't know, it is an ambitious project by Stephen Wolfram (of Mathematica fame).

Wolfram Alpha (I know, technically, it's Wolfram|Alpha, but I don't want to type in that vertical bar all the time) is not a search engine, in a sense that it returns webpages as query results like Google does - rather, it is a "computational knowledge engine." You and I may simply call it an "answer engine," ask it a question and it'll come up with the (usually right on the money) answer.

What is butter? Wolfie knows - it'll display the average nutrition facts. Ask it to convert $1 to British pounds, or the distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Who starred in Casablanca? How is the weather in New York on May 26, 1987? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Impressive, eh?

Now, Stephen is a very smart guy. Indeed, he wrote his first paper on particle physics at the tender age of 16, received a PhD from Caltech at 20, and became a professor there at 21. And to be fair, Wolfram Alpha is very young and heavily geared towards computations. Furthermore, the scope of what the engine "knows" in terms of content is limited to areas covered by trusted sources like reference libraries fed to it by its programmers.

But currently, there's one large gaping hole missing from Wolfram Alpha: it is blind to blogs. Sure it knows about the meaning of life, and it has its own blog, but it knows nothing - nada, zip, zilch - about the blogosphere.

Technorati? Maybe you meant technology instead. According to Wolfie, Gizmodo = komodo (the island, the language, or the movie - but strangely not the animal); Techcrunch = Techuchulco (a city in Mexico). Boing Boing = Boina (a volcano).

Ask it about Neatorama and Wolfie thinks that you mean Panorama (which I learned is actually a city in Greece, that, at the time of my query, has a warm 73°F weather with relative humidity of 50%, wind of 7 mph and few clouds).

At least this blog fared better than Lifehacker, which got "lumpsucker" instead.

Heck, ask what is a blog?, and it'll think you're asking about logarithms:

Still, overall, I think Wolfram Alpha is a brilliant first step towards (dare I say it) an artificial intelligence - a universal computer a la Isaac Asimov's fantastic short story The Last Question. And I'm sure the hardworking people over at Wolfram Research will rectify this oversight soon.

But whatever you do, don't get Wolfie mad. This is what you'll get.

If you don't stop, it'll probably shove you out the pod bay door ...


I totally forgot about the Wolfram/Alpha project so thanks for this post! To be fair, blogs probably aren't a good source for this answer engine anyway. While bloggers are good at accumulating info on narrow topics of interest, sharing links and even creating some useful content/media... they're the last place I would go for basic, reliable, verifiable data or information. Anyway, I'm off to play with this thing. =D
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I spent some quality time with W/A. (See what I did there?) It could not produce one verifiable result to any question I asked. No attempts to stump it. Very similar to what Alex did to test it.

This sort of over-hyped vaporware is just so 1998.
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It also appears to be blind to information regarding music; with the exception of musicians using only their name (I.E. Justin Timberlake), but it doesn't give any information beyond their birthplace and age. But if you ask it a question about a full band (Even an extremely well know popular one (such as pink floyd) it does not know what to do with your input. As well as television shows. Family guy and The Simpsons mean absolutely nothing to it.

Which seems weird considering it seems to like movies. (a search for "The matrix" will yield information about a general topic, a chemical compound, and offer you a chance to alter your meaning to "a movie"). So its not just entertainment as a whole.
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Jeez. You guys just don't get it do you? Wolfram is a mathematical search engine, and has little or nothing to do with blogs and websites.

Why TF would we need another blog search engine anyway?
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Well, this isn't a search engine... as you said, it's an answer engine so I'm quite happy it ignores blogs because there's so much crap written on in those things XD (not that I don't love it, I am after all reading yours haha).
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The post mentions that Wolfram can convert $'s into British pounds (and other currency conversions) - I just wanted to mention that Google can already do this too! It's actually a fantastic tool for all sorts of conversions. Just type into google, for example, $67USD in British Pounds (or whatever currency you'd like) and the first answer at the top will be the conversion. It works for measurements (e.g. x cm in inches)and weights as well (x pounds in kg). I'm not dissing Wolfram, I just wanted to point out that the feature wasn't unique.
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I think it works well for what it's intended. And besides, if it's designed the way I perceived it to be designed, it will grow into something better, and maybe even take over the world oneday. It certainly isn't a Google killer. More of a Wikipedia killer, I'd hope.
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i was glad they tookl the time to make sure it could respond to questions like "how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" which really doesn't require to much awnser. how ever if you get a little more abstract with say "Would a woodchuck chuck wood if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" and its completely lost.. its neat, but i want real AI!
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Just for fun I entered Israel in the search engine. I'm very impressed. Looks to me like the master cartographers over at Wolfram have decided to resolve the mideast conflict by removing the disputed territories from Israel. Is that the job of a search engine-to make political statements?
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I am amazed at how W/A is continuously compared to existing engines, such as Google or Wikipedia. Mainly because it does not intend to be a clone or even a "search engine killer" but also because such comments do not take into account that if Google and Wikipedia didn't already have massive databases, containing all sorts of erroneous information (yes, that's particularly targeted at Wikipedia), they wouldn't fare any better than W/A, which is in the toddler stages of its development.

And no, it wasn't intended for bloggers. And no, it's not going to predict football scores. And no, it's not intended for ego-searching either. You do realize W/A stems from the same people who do Mathematica, right? And you most certainly wouldn't purchase Mathematica to solve your first grade math assignments, would you?
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