Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Three things: Search, Harmony, and Power to the printer

Three things for the 3rd day of a week.

Thing 1: Search engine tales

From global pandemics, to Segways to...marketing? People seem hardwired to love the promise of 'the game changer'. But even when the big story takes on a life of its own, signaling its demise through its impossibly overhyped velocity, we give it extra life support in the imagination when it promises to take down the status quo...or as one might have said in the day, promises to 'Stick it to The Man'.

So when the latest challenge to Google's global hegemony was whispered as 'Wolfram Alpha', the geek class got their giant slaya' news motor running. And then, the actual Wolfram Alpha search was released last week.

The brain child of alpha-mind Stephen Wolfram, Wolfram Alpha is a 'Computational Knowledge Engine'. The idea is that, where Google delivers a list of web page results around terms you search, Wolfram Alpha delivers knowledge in context.

A simple example: Type Naperville, Illinois in both Google and Wolfie...While Google delivers 799,000 results, including a map and 10 website links on the first results page, Wolfram Alpha delivers a single page with a synopsis of population, weather, geography and other facts in a neatly displayed report.

If you enter a series of musical notes in sequence, Wolfram displays a musical staff of said notes and the piano keys they represent. There are general areas of knowledge that are able to pre-define the scope of the query, such as chemistry, mathematics, music, geography and statistics and data analysis among 25 others.

Wolfram Alpha (not beta, mind you) requires a more involved approach to the user's query than Google...it does computations, not search...and this likely will limit its utility to more specialized uses among people with specialized information needs. And while the hype machine may once again have overpromised on the newest new thing, the real story is that Wolfram Alpha isn't anything like Google...and that's a good thing.

Thing 2: I'd like to buy the world a...Prius

30-second TV spots just can't do justice to the sweat equity that goes into them...not to mention the number of rapidly-devaluing dollars that go into making them. But one technique that's becoming part of the expected is posting an extended version of the ad on YouTube that shows: The Making of The Spot.

Toyota prepared a sweet spot for the new 3rd Generation Prius. The 30-second ad avails itself of the 'mass of humanity as art' highlighted in the Beijing Olympic's opening ceremony, employed for the purpose of bringing man, machine, and environment together in message of harmony...in 30 seconds. The 4 minute 35 second making-of spot on YouTube brings to life all the meaning that lies behind what you see in the 30-second spot...in case you missed it.

It's all very appealing...in a global pathos kind of way. (see below)

Thing 3: The paper-based web

Few things are more maddening than printing something from a website...only to realize after it prints 15 pages of mal-formatted gobbledygook that wysiwig is more theory than practice. Enter Printfriendly.com

The site provides an easy-to-use (free) print renderer for web pages that strips out ads and other superfluous page elements. If Useful and Usable are two corners of the perfect online experience trinity, printfriendly has them covered. And doing less waste is always more than doing more waste with ever less effort. All very appealing...in a local, ethos sort of way.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, this is Taylor from PrintFriendly.

    I love this line, "If Useful and Usable are two corners of the perfect online experience trinity, printfriendly has them covered."

    The front-end and user experience are my favorite parts of the job and it's great to hear your liking it!

    Nice to meet you :)