All Things Search


Events in the search world this week.

Last week was an eventful one in the search world. In case you missed any of this, here’s a brief recap of what happened.


The newest and most exciting type of search tool goes into public beta on May 18, and people were sitting anxiously at their computers to give it a pre-live test drive Friday night. Wolfram|Alpha is a new kind of search tool that interprets natural language commands and provides analysis to create its results.¬† It’s named after the visionary behind it, Stephen Wolfram, the man who created the first computational software, Mathematica, that is used to create simulations, models, and other active uses for data.

In contrast, Google provides results about static data only, things that don’t change, historical information. For example, if you use Google to find the distance between the Earth and Moon, you get a published number. However, type the same search into Wolfram|Alpha, and it gives you the exact calculation based on where each planet currently is in relationship to each other. It’s precise to the moment instead of a textbook average calculation published somewhere online. And you get a slightly different number each time you search because the Earth and Moon are always in motion.

Here’s a few examples of how to use Wolfram|Alpha.

  • Search on the notes C Eb G C: You get a music notation for the notes, can play the sounds, see a keyboard display, read a musical analysis of the tone distance, and get a list of the scales that include these notes.
  • Search on any date in the past: You get the day of the week, the sunrise and sunset times, the moon phase, a calculation of the dates since that date, and other notable information.
  • Search for anagrams for any word or phrase.

Here’s a screencast overview of Wolfram|Alpha to get you started. Because it’s in beta and there is so much interest, you may hit an Alpha fail message. I love that they used the words of the HAL9000 from the movie, 2001, for the fail messages.

There’s a joke in Alpha going beta, but I’ll leave that to you.

And yes, there’s an app for that.

Google Outage

On Thursday morning, Google was down and the effect was felt across the internet. In fact, overall internet traffic went down 5% because of the Google outage, giving us a real measure of how much the online world relies on Google. Services like gmail were also unavailable, and Twitter was filled with people complaining. People started talking loudly about the Google dominance of the online world.

Google’s flight analogy puts things into explainable terms.

Google Street View & Privacy

Google Street View filming was stopped in Greece because of the complaints of their data privacy watchdog agency, and can resume after Google ensures¬† data privacy. In Japan, Google has agreed to lower it’s cameras by 16 inches because of complaints that the camera was recording images over privacy fences.

These articles also contain references to other Street View privacy issues.

About author:

Charlene is the information strategist behind Crow Information Design.

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