Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I've Moved!

Hey all (one) of my regular followers!

I've changed addresses!

Come find me at my new home... Shameless Book Addict (again)!

Thanks and see you there!

Wolfram Alpha... and other searches

The big tech/library news lately, it seems, has been asking one basic question: Can anyone beat Google?

My answer: Nope... wait, should I have sugar-coated that one? I'm just confused about why anyone would try, let alone claim that it has been done!

Until you can give the public a search engine that works as well, that builds a niche as well, that fulfills a need as well, you are not going to upset Google.

The latest to try, Wolfram Alpha, is an interesting concept and a nice try, though, ultimately, it does not live up to all the hype. Google gives you everything you could possibly need/want/never want in a link providing search. Wolfram Alpha, on the other hand, sets out to interpret the data and give you only the information you need - often creating a page that never existed before you did the search.

This is great when you have a calculation to make or need some background information. However, I share Farhad Manjoo's concern that Wolfram Alpha is too bug-laden and too narrowly defined to work well as a Google replacement. Some searches work well - like my birthday search (who knew I was born during a full moon?) - but too many others - like my search for the closest QFC to Northwest University - fail.

What does this mean for Librarians?
~ Yet another tool in our arsenal! Though some of the random searches I did failed, I am very refreshed by the ones that worked. The first thing I thought of when I saw its interface was how similar it was to an encyclopedia or a world fact book. If you are looking for specific, concrete data, this is where you should go - hands down. Like Wikipedia, it would be a great electronic resource to use in identifying search terms, figuring out general statistics, or planning a research survey.