Feeds

Wolfram Alpha - a new kind of Fail

Welcome to the internet, Stephen

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Comment Wolfram Alpha, the not-quite-search-engine from self appointed mathematical genius Stephen Wolfram, launched last Friday, and oh my, has it been a great weekend for software reviewers. I took some time to play around with Wolfram Alpha, and aside from being the best damn Wikipedia search engine since Powerset, the only noteworthy thing about it is that so far, Alpha is the finest example of the tragedy that results when an academic tries his hand at building a successful web product.

I know that in evaluating a Stephen Wolfram production, my meager intelligence quotient may not be sufficient to grasp the gravity of what I'm dealing with. So I don't feel all that put down that I can't figure out how Alpha is useful to anyone outside of a small audience of college professors and professional engineers.

Alpha is really good at telling you all sorts of information about mathematical expressions, showing you publicly available data about populations and geography, and comparing stock quotes. However, I am a software engineer by trade, and the information I need is about Python module documentation, Apache configuration, and why some fucking snippet of CSS won't fucking render in fucking Internet Explorer fucking 6. For someone like me (and in the web market, there are a lot of people like me), Alpha is breaking ground in a New Kind of Uselessness.

Maybe I'm being too hard on Wolfram. After all, when industrial recruiters want to hire people, they don't cruise the local science fairs, but a blue ribbon for your three-panel magic marker and pipe cleaners display on natural language processing and artificial intelligence really sets you apart from all of the other nerds. So, let's see how Alpha does on a relative scale. I have some experience in building a search-related web product, so I can tell you for sure how most users' first interactions with a new search engine go.

Step 1: search for your own name.

Wolfram Ted Search

So this fellow is the Ted? Impressive. The real sticking point here is that this data is lifted directly from Wikipedia. This is the sidebar of the Wikipedia page for Edward Elmer Smith:

Wolfram Pickpockets Wikipedia

While Alpha doesn't directly credit Wikipedia with this information, it does provide a link as "related." The primary "source information" for this page is "Wolfram|Alpha curated data, 2009." The Wikimedia foundation is listed as a "background source or reference." I guess that's a New Kind of Plagiarism.

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Ubuntu 14.04 LTS: Great changes, but sssh don't mention the...
Why HELLO Amazon! You weren't here last time
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Next Windows obsolescence panic is 450 days from … NOW!
The clock is ticking louder for Windows Server 2003 R2 users
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
OpenBSD founder wants to bin buggy OpenSSL library, launches fork
One Heartbleed vuln was too many for Theo de Raadt
Got Windows 8.1 Update yet? Get ready for YET ANOTHER ONE – rumor
Leaker claims big release due this fall as Microsoft herds us into the CLOUD
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Red Hat to ship RHEL 7 release candidate with a taste of container tech
Grab 'near-final' version of next Enterprise Linux next week
Apple inaugurates free OS X beta program for world+dog
Prerelease software now open to anyone, not just developers – as long as you keep quiet
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.