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what do you think of WolframAlpha?

Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 33119

What do you think of WolframAlpha? It's not live yet - it launches tonight at 6pm Ranch time.

My impression from watching the intro:
What is interesting to me is that it gives you the answer, but not the source. For calculations, there isn't really a source anyway. I don't cite that 2+2=4. However, I do cite the population of Germany. So how are we supposed to know it is right? On the other hand, I think showing similar information you might not have asked for is cool.

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Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 63858

I came across this last week. Intriguing.

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Balu Sadhasivam
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 01, 2009
Posts: 874

Really fascinating. cool.
marc weber

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

I heard it discussed on NPR (National Public Radio) today, and it sounds really cool. It will be interesting to see how it penetrates -- whether it becomes widespread or ends up a serving a niche.

I kinda wonder about the marketing rationale behind the name. Then again, look at "eBay."

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Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24199

Stephen Wolfram is the academic equivalent of John Romero, P. T. Barnum and Madonna, all rolled into one. He's a brilliant man but at least equally as brilliant at self-promotion, and he's done a good job of building buzz for this. While it does strike me as pretty cool, I think it's also obvious that it's template driven: there's some (possibly large) number of flexible scenarios that it knows how to provide responses in, but each scenario has been hand-crafted. Alpha is Mathematica 2009, wired up to use some large numbers of web databases as reference tables.

In any case, it's way more awesome than Ask Jeeves ever was, in any of its lame incarnations.

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Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 33119

Ernest: You got me interested enough to read more about it - like their blog and part of the webcast.

Part1 - pre launch
Part2 - live blogging until I stop watching/listening
Maneesh Godbole
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jul 26, 2007
Posts: 10825

How's this any different than a search engine?

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Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 33119

Maneesh Godbole wrote:How's this any different than a search engine?

Very. It's not a search engine at all. It's a "computational knowledge engine." In particular, it doesn't search websites and doesn't try to. If you enter "javaranch", you'll find nothing whereas the most basics of search engines would find this site. however if you enter a more "researchy" type topic like "swine flu" or "population of california" it gives you information beyond what you asked for.

I blogged about my impressions now that it is live - much more comfortable with it now since it gives you the source of it's answer.
Jesper de Jong
Java Cowboy
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Aug 16, 2005
Posts: 15087

The screencast looks impressive, but when you try entering some questions yourself, it seems like for 99% of what you enter it will respond with:
Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

Even something seemingly simple like "calendar 2009" is too hard for Wolfram Alpha...

They've made a lot of hype the last few months about Wolfram Alpha being a "Google killer" etc., but I don't see that happening. What I think will happen now is that many people will try it, they will be disappointed, and next month most people will have forgotten about it.

The idea is nice, but it doesn't really work yet.

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chetan dhumane
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 07, 2009
Posts: 641

What are other features that wolfram alpha gives so that it will catch the crowd ?

Are they giving other services like google ?

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Ulf Dittmer

Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Posts: 42965
They've made a lot of hype the last few months about Wolfram Alpha being a "Google killer" etc.

In all fairness to the people involved in Alpha, I haven't seen them make such claims. A lot of people who wrote about it apparently equated "computational knowledge engine" with "what Google does", but that's just an indication of the technical competence of said writers.

Here's what the team officially says - no mention at all about being a general-purpose search engine, quite to the contrary actually.
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: what do you think of WolframAlpha?
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