Today’s guest post – the final one of 2011 – is by Disa Johnson, an established authority in the search world who “…watched as AlltaVista beat InfoSeek, only to lose against Google…” Disa can tell when something truly innovative comes along, and noting that search innovations haven’t come along in a long while, Disa is excited by the emergence of Wolfram|Alpha: “the latest, greatest little computation engine that could.”
Here, Disa discusses why she is taken with this little search engine, and why Google should take note of it as well…
Look out, Google. With only one major retailer, I think Wolfram|Alpha is doing comparison shopping way better than you. Plus, they’re integrated with Siri on the iPhone 4S.
The nature of a search query at Wolfram|Alpha may be different than one over at Google or Bing.
With Wolfram|Alpha, the searcher is asked to think in terms of seeding a computation process, rather than blindly matching text with titles from third party webpages. But the quality of search results is a highly subjective thing, and I think they are finding their way in your world.
At first, you have to consider your search in its context, with Wolfram|Alpha’s specific query text. Since Google and all of its predecessors forgive users their bad grammar and obtuse notions of searching on the Web, Google cleanses its hands of hogwash. It points search results outside.
The only time Google endorses a result is when they serve ads. This can lead to fines, such as the hefty fine paid by the Big G earlier this year for publishing bad ads.
If you want to shield the eyes from bad ads and rampant commercialism, the accuracy of Wolfram|Alpha can seem difficult at first. There is always better learning through Siri. Once you know how to properly ask Siri your questions, Wolfram|Alpha can deliver. Siri-ously. Wolfram|Alpha shines and guides you to the world of facts from fiction, unless it’s specific fiction facts you want.
Try 1984. That was a pretty big year in my life. Wolfram|Alpha deals in facts. When I try searching 1984 at Google, the results resemble the familiar scattershot search returns with some Google-owned YouTube inserts. I’m not saying Google replies with false information, but it’s conceivable. Even when accurate, remember that search results are subjective. Searching 1984 with Wolfram|Alpha, I get four interpretations of my query (a number, a book, a movie or the year). All four of these interest me.
If you are shopping for a television, a new BestBuy / Wolfram|Alpha integration lets you use the computational strengths of Wolfram|Alpha to compare products and manufacturers in exciting new ways, even through Siri. A search for the basic television query at Google gives you the same familiar scattershot ten links to heavily commercialized websites including sponsored ones. With Wolfram|Alpha, you get to compute stats to your heart’s content, and marvel at drawing comparison detail with charts and graphs.
So if it is facts that you’re searching for, rather than an admixture of Google-endorsed links and bad ads, try Wolfram|Alpha. You may be most pleasantly surprised!
About the Author: Disa Johnson
Disa Johnson (Air Disa) is the owner of Search Return, and the developer of Mobile Sidecar for iPads and iPhones (as well as Safari, Chrome and Opera on the desktop). She’s also a professional guitar player, based in Chicago. A search veteran, Disa has been in the industry since its inception. You can find her on Twitter @AirDisa.
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