28.5.09

Why do I even know about Wolfram Alpha?

I didn't understand why Wolfram Alpha was being hyped up so much in the first place, so I'm not at all surprised that it's turned out to be rubbish. It's not just that it doesn't know the answer to any of your questions, or that it's basically Wikipedia with hardly any editors, or that a web increasingly about linking and networking is never going to get behind something that tries to be your one-stop resource for other sites' data without properly crediting them.

The chief problem is that, well, Wolfram Alpha is really boring. A search for 'Saturn' just turns up a load of numbers and diagrams. Even a search for 'sex' just turns up a dictionary definition. It's too dry for people who aren't experts and too shallow for those who are.

2 comments:

Noyb said...

I learned something from them.

But seriously, the mathematical functions should have been the focus. It can factor numbers, take derivatives, and calculate and definite integrals pretty fast for an online tool. It's also damn neat to plug in a two-variable function and see it mapped in 3d.

It's also neat to, say, compare the relative levels of caffeine in coffee and tea. Check out the examples Wolfram gives. Making random searches doesn't really give you a good sense of its power.

Pacian said...

I guess they could have billed it as a 'numerical search engine', since that encapsulates its functions and data.

But then they wouldn't have been able to achieve such fantastically hyperbolic... um... hype.