When I played with Wolfram Alpha a while ago I was really struck by the fact that it’s search box was really useless. There is a lot of guessing involved to try to get the engine to give you any real information that you didn’t already know. It seemed like it would be far more useful if they just published a Wolfram Query Language that would let you define what you wanted to get out of the system, and how you wanted it to be related. I’m clearly not the only one with these thoughts.
I was reminded of this lesson by a brief perusal of Wolfram Alpha,
the hype machine’s latest gift. Briefly: there is actually a useful
tool inside Wolfram Alpha, which hopefully will be exposed someday.
Unfortunately, this would require Stephen Wolfram to amputate what he
thinks is the beautiful part of the system, and leave what he thinks is
the boring part.
WA is two things: a set of specialized,
hand-built databases and data visualization apps, each of which would
be cool, the set of which almost deserves the hype; and an intelligent
UI, which translates an unstructured natural-language query into a call
to one of these tools. The apps are useful and fine and good. The
natural-language UI is a monstrous encumbrance, which needs to be taken
out back and shot. It won’t be.
The full post is well worth the read.