Keep a close eye on "Wolfram Alpha"

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MCSmarties
Posts: 248
Joined: Tue Dec 06, 2005 8:01 pm

Keep a close eye on "Wolfram Alpha"

Post by MCSmarties » Mon May 18, 2009 4:29 pm

Hi fellow monkeys (monksters?)

You may have heard about the new "search engine" (or rather answer-machine) Wolfram|Alpha that was publicly launched today (actually, if you are interested in technology and unless you lived under a rock for the past year, it would have been difficult to miss it!). While I am just discovering it along with everybody else, I think it may become a real treasure trove of information for us music taggers.

For instance, just entering the title of a known song will immediately return a ton of very useful data in a defined format.
From there it would just be a small step to parse the output with a tagging script... :D

As an example, I entered

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stairway to heaven
and got the following:

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Input interpretation:
Stairway To Heaven

Song information:
title | Stairway To Heaven
performer | Led Zeppelin
writers | Jimmy Page | Robert Plant
release date | November 1971 (37 years ago)
producer | Jimmy Page
published by | Atlantic
Sure, you can easily find the same information on for example allmusic.com or using google, but not without having to click your way through several pages first!
I for one am really, really excited by this unexpected application of a new search engine and will definitely keep a close eye on it...

Eyal
Posts: 3110
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Location: Québec

Re: Keep a close eye on "Wolfram Alpha"

Post by Eyal » Mon May 18, 2009 5:15 pm

Never heard about that.
Wolfram|Alpha is (...) long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone.
:o :o :o
You enter your question or calculation, and Wolfram|Alpha uses its built-in algorithms and growing collection of data to compute the answer.
:o OMG! This is definitively not for me. I'm a believer.
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Peke
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Re: Keep a close eye on "Wolfram Alpha"

Post by Peke » Mon May 18, 2009 6:29 pm

Why something that I touch gets broken :lol: :wink: :oops: :P :D :-?
Hmmmmmm... :o It does not like Billy Idol :) :lol: :P :roll:

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shock to the system
Google: http://www.google.com/search?q=shock+to+the+system
Wolfram|Alpha: http://www58.wolframalpha.com/input/?i= ... the+system
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gege
Posts: 862
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Re: Keep a close eye on "Wolfram Alpha"

Post by gege » Mon May 18, 2009 7:25 pm

This tool looks very promising.
It even knows the answer to life, the universe and everything!!! :o :o :lol:

jammastercd
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Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2009 1:34 pm
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Re: Keep a close eye on "Wolfram Alpha"

Post by jammastercd » Wed May 20, 2009 1:04 pm

Although promising, it's still limited in some key ways. It appears the algorithms make some pretty strong assumptions about the user input. For instance, I tried a couple of books that were also re-created as movies, such as I Am Legend. The Wolfram results were related only to the movie. Nothing was returned about the book, not even a reference that a book of the same title existed. On the other hand, a simple Google search returns multiple results for both the movie and the book on the first page of output.

As an additional limitation, I also tried entering the phrase "I Am Legend book" into Wolfram. All I got was the response "Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input." It then suggested I click on the the related link for the movie I Am Legend. Underneath the results section was also a list of generic topics, including Books. I clicked on Books and then entered the phrase "I Am Legend". It re-routes me to the movie results page again, with no reference to a book of the same name even existing.

Now you may say that I Am Legend wasn't nearly as well known as the recent movie, so there isn't much data for it. So I tried The DaVinci Code. Guess what? Same results! No mention of the book whatsoever! I get essentially the same routing of results as with I Am Legend, even if I go to the Books section and search for it there. Of course, I then tried "Da Vinci Code." It returned dramatically different results because of a simple (and easily mistaken) space.

Now I understand that Wolfram Alpha is not meant to be used like a search engine like Google, Yahoo, etc. However, returning such limited and widely varying information leads to misleading, or at least confusing, results. It's worth watching where it goes, but I would be VERY careful with the results of this tool in such an early stage.

MCSmarties
Posts: 248
Joined: Tue Dec 06, 2005 8:01 pm

Re: Keep a close eye on "Wolfram Alpha"

Post by MCSmarties » Wed May 20, 2009 1:42 pm

Thanks for the replies people!

I too have noticed that Wolfram Alpha still has quite a few toothing problems. After all, this is a public alpha version of the answer engine!
What probably bugs me the most about it is the almost complete lack of references. I think WA will be at its best for research purposes, but no scientist in his right mind will seriously use WA results without some solid reference information to back them up.
If just ONE important data spit out by WA is wrong, confidence levels will plummet.

As for the music tagging aspect, I simply think it's awesome that the data is returned so "cleanly", but it obviously still has a long way to go. We need to be able to search by artist and album and should be getting back more than just one result...

Still, it's an interesting development, not least because it's a huge incentive for google et al. to come up with their own alternative - unless they just end up snapping up WA outright... what's a couple billion dollars between friends...

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