Friday, May 22, 2009

My take on WolframAlpha

Ever wanted to know the population of Wales, Wisconsin? What plant family a pea is from? How many single-spaced pages 35,000 words in Finnish equate to? How about the heart disease risk of 50-year-old men?

Ask no more, Wolfram|Alpha is here (from the website):
Wolfram|Alpha's long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on th
e achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.
Basically, Wolfram|Alpha is a computational knowledge engine (read: not Google) that provides answers with real supporting data and facts. While on the surface it sounds like a great concept, the jury is still out on its use and whether or not it is a true Google (or Wikipedia for that matter) competitor.

One simple thing Wolfram|Alpha can help us in the PR biz with is answering those pesky (yet extremely important) metric questions. For example, what is the daily visitor total of What about the circulation of Readers Digest vs. People Magazine?

Wolfram|Alpha is a good example of technological innovation colliding with discovery. It’ll be interesting to see how this service evolves and whether or not it will compete with (or as act as a supplement to) Google and Wikipedia as key information sources. I bet the early adopters will be from the academic world.

So, what do you want to know?


Hector Vex said...

It's bad bad bad. It's enabling people to be able to cheat instead of learn. Think about how many high school algebra students will just plug their equations into Wolfram and get the answers that aren't already in the back of the book? I understand the purpose and agree with it, but it's got to be locked down like Nexus-Lexus so the purpose is served and they can still collect data, just don't make it so bloody available. At least for the math stuff. The rest, who gives a shit.

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