Feeds

Wolfram Alpha - a new kind of Fail

Welcome to the internet, Stephen

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft WINDOWS 10: Seven ATE Nine. Or Eight did really
Windows NEIN skipped, tech preview due out on Wednesday
Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9
Forget touchscreen millennials, Microsoft goes for mouse crowd
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.