New software will 'understand questions and give specific, tailored answers' ("Wolfram Alpha")
Thread poster: Rebekka Groß (X)

Rebekka Groß (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:12
English to German
May 3, 2009

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/an-invention-that-could-change-the-internet-for-ever-1678109.html

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-05-04 03:43 GMT]


 

FarkasAndras  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:12
English to Hungarian
+ ...
much ado... May 3, 2009

Personally, I think it will fail.
It's early days for this sort of tech and actually, the whole thing is a bit of a solution in search of a problem. Every smart Internet user knows how to use carefully chosen search term, excluded terms and domain restrictions to get relevant google results.
Using full sentences as input is in no way an improvement. I don't want to type out full sentences to a search engine. I prefer typing "Everest height" or "Everest metres" to "How high is Mount Everest?"

Then comes this gem: "Dr Wolfram, an award-winning physicist who is based in America, added that the information is "curated", meaning it is assessed first by experts. This means that the weaknesses of sites such as Wikipedia, where doubts are cast on the information because anyone can contribute, are taken out."

First of all, Wikipedia is not significantly more unreliable than any other single source. It's just that it's so much more comprehensive than anything else that it became the world's one stop shop for information and using a single source of information is never a good idea.
Second, If your plan starts with "recruit experts to compile a vetted, proofed database of everything for the Internet", you've failed before you even began. There is simply no way to generate enough content in widely disparate fields to remain remotely relevant in all of them. It would cost more money than any such project can ever hope to generate.


Frankly, the whole article is a bit of a mess... Take this quote for instance: "This is like a Holy Grail... the ability to look inside data sources that can't easily be crawled and provide answers from them." - access to data sources has nothing to do with any of the rest of the stuff this is supposed to be about, and it actually contradicts the whole "compiled by experts" line. Anyway, the chance of a startup coming up with better ways of fishing for information on the net than Google is pretty much nil.

I'm sure there will be aspects of this that prove to be useful and successful as a service, but dethroning Google, revolutionizing Internet browsing... yeah right.

[Edited at 2009-05-03 17:36 GMT]


 

Lutz Molderings  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:12
German to English
+ ...
... May 3, 2009


Using full sentences as input is in no way an improvement. I don't want to type out full sentences to a search engine. I prefer typing "Everest height" or "Everest metres" to "How high is Mount Everest?"



I agree, typing in a full sentence instead of keywords is no advantage. Besides, this has been possible with Google for quite some time.

However, if you type the question “What was the price of oil on February 3, 2007″ into Google the search engine yields over 19 million answers. In theory, Wolfram Alpha should give you one hit: the answer to your question.

Let's wait and see.


 

FarkasAndras  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:12
English to Hungarian
+ ...
agree - sort of May 3, 2009

Lutz Molderings (MSc, BSc) wrote:


Using full sentences as input is in no way an improvement. I don't want to type out full sentences to a search engine. I prefer typing "Everest height" or "Everest metres" to "How high is Mount Everest?"



I agree, typing in a full sentence instead of keywords is no advantage. Besides, this has been possible with Google for quite some time.

However, if you type the question “What was the price of oil on February 3, 2007″ into Google the search engine yields over 19 million answers. In theory, Wolfram Alpha should give you one hit: the answer to your question.

Let's wait and see.


The first couple of those gazillion google hits will probably have your answer... but yes, this sort of thing may be one of the areas where WA could be useful, but it's a really limited area if you think about it. Everyone has reliable sources in their main areas of interest... If you need info on a film, you go to imdb and I'm sure those who care about what the oil price was on February 3, 2007 know where to look already.

The whole "semantic web" is supposed to be about smart indexing, not some useless parlour tricks in the processing of search queries. By smart indexing I mean including information on actual content in the search index, not just words, allowing it to try and make sense of text.
Paraphrasing Steven Novella, that would make sure that beside an article discussing how groundless, unscientific and downright fraudulent the theory and practice of homeopathy is, Google won't serve up homeopathy ads just because the text contains the term homeopathy. Obviously, that sort of insight into texts could improve the accuracy of search results significantly, but it has nothing to do with input in whole sentences.


 

Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 19:12
Member
Spanish
+ ...
Wolfram|Alpha vs. crowdsourcing May 3, 2009

Thank you for posting this Rebekka. I think Wolfram Alpha will be the beginning of something great. At least it's in the right path:

Dr Wolfram, an award-winning physicist who is based in America, added that the information is "curated", meaning it is assessed first by experts. This means that the weaknesses of sites such as Wikipedia, where doubts are cast on the information because anyone can contribute, are taken out. It is based on his best-selling Mathematica software, a standard tool for scientists, engineers and academics for crunching complex maths.


The problem with Wikipedia and Google results is that everybody's got an opinion, and those crowdsourced results may be inaccurate and even biased. I'm sure that most of us used encyclopedias and legitimate reference sources to write our school reports, now everybody's using Wikipedia as the only or the most reliable source of information.

There's a very interesting article in MultiLingual magazine precisely about user-generated (crowdsourced) content and how it affects our industry; there's one paragraph that, I think, is relevant:

The process of writing a book, creating a map or building a videogame have worked well for so long, generally with reliable results, because it is a collaborative process of high-skilled individuals. Their expertise provides the necessary checks and balances.


I'm not saying that Wikipedia or Google aren't very helpful, but it seems to me that too many people think that those results are accurate enough. We can see that everyday in the KudoZ section. Many of the answers use simple Google results as the references--ten million correspondences, ergo, it must be right. There's no further research and, of course, those correspondences can be dead-wrong.

From what I've seen, Wolfram|Alpha wasn't created to provide as much information as Google or Wikipedia do, but the results are in fact accurate or at least more reliable. Since Wolfram|Alpha is still at an early stage, I'm sure we will see improvements with time.

Wolfram|Alpha Blog: http://blog.wolframalpha.com/
An overview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYhLsQPHNas


 

chica nueva
Local time: 13:12
Chinese to English
'the KudoZ section' ? May 3, 2009

Claudia Alvis wrote:

I'm not saying that Wikipedia or Google aren't very helpful, but it seems to me that too many people think that those results are accurate enough. We can see that everyday in the KudoZ section. Many of the answers use simple Google results as the references--ten million correspondences, ergo, it must be right. There's no further research and, of course, those correspondences can be dead-wrong.



Hello Claudia,

Which KudoZ section was that? The Chinese KudoZ section seems alright. We don't seem to get many answerers doing this. Perhaps it depends on the particular Community.

Lesley


 

Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 19:12
Member
Spanish
+ ...
KudoZ May 4, 2009

I've seen it in the EN-ES KudoZ section. I'm not saying that it's a widespread habit, but sometimes all the Google results are just copied and pasted as the reference.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:12
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Ask Jeeves May 4, 2009



How is this different from Ask Jeeves we had a few years ago, where the search engine would try to identify the salient words from your question?


 


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New software will 'understand questions and give specific, tailored answers' ("Wolfram Alpha")

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