Feedback!

May 18, 2009
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The Wolfram|Alpha Launch Team
Posted by

In the first 24 hours of our launch weekend, we received nearly 10,000 messages forwarded from the feedback forms on the bottom of each Wolfram|Alpha page. The compliments have been very gratifying.

The feedback has been insightful and entertaining. You’ve offered lots of suggestions, from additional domains and analysis to computations that have gone awry. We thought you might enjoy seeing some of the feedback we’ve received.

Input: NACA 61345 airfoil
User comment: “Not quite right. Suggest reference to the Theory of Wing Sections by Ira H. Abbott and A.E. Von Doenhoff.”
Wolfram|Alpha Team response: We plan to improve parsing for the 6 series airfoils. We started with the 4 digit case.

Input: piano
User comment: “Returned just the characters from ‘The Piano’ movie.”
Wolfram|Alpha Team response: We intend to add musical instruments.

Input: y> |x+1|
User comment: “The graph could use some work.”
Wolfram|Alpha Team response: We were trying to show as much information as possible and will continue to work on the displays.

y>|x+1|

Input: quarter pounder and fries
User comment: “Why does it mix McDonald’s and Burger King by default?”
Wolfram|Alpha Team response: Good question.

Input: dirham
User comment: “The internationally accepted unit of currency symbol for the United Arab Emirate’s Dirham is AED, not Arabic letters.”
Wolfram|Alpha Team response: Thanks for the information.

Input: Average minimum wage worldwide
User comment: “guess you guys don’t have this data?”
Wolfram|Alpha Team response: Does such data exist?

There have been quite a few suggestions about very small cities. Interestingly, we have the basic data for most of them. The issue tends to be that our algorithms for significance tagged them as not significant enough to be worth the potential risk of linguistic ambiguity from including their names in our lexicon. What we didn’t count on was the depth of usage. This was a bit shortsighted given that we encouraged you on the home page to try entering the name of a town. We’ll be figuring out better ways to handle this.

An illustrative example is the answer to the query “price of tea in china”. Correctly, it falls through. However, as an example of the opposite of artificial intelligence (the shortest path between two points) the two towns of Tea and Price are returned:

price tea china

You have also given us lots of notable historical events to add to date information.

And, even around mathematics you’ve offered sound feedback.

Input: (lambda x x.x)(lambda x x.x)
User comment: “This is a lambda expression known as the combinator. Would be nice if lambda expressions would at least be recognized for what they are, instead of assuming it’s multiplication or a list.”
Wolfram|Alpha Team response: Yes, we do know about combinators and perhaps the surprising thing for most people would be that they are on the list for implementation. We’ll try to make them a higher priority.

Thank you for taking the time to send us your feedback. Please keep sending items to us. With your help, we’ll be able to make improvements to Wolfram|Alpha and better prioritize future enhancements.

41 Comments

Here are some from me:

“weather of islamabad / lahore ” doesnt return anything, even though ‘weather of islamabad’ and ‘weather of lahore’ return respective charts.

W|A doesnt know about quicksort/bubblesort or any major computing concepts.

Posted by Zaki May 18, 2009 at 12:23 am

Typed the word ADMIRAL and in origins is said unknown….its a Arabic origins from amir-al- ???? ???, “commander of the…”

Posted by gomez May 18, 2009 at 12:54 am

What about “Marlon Brando movies”? You have cast information from movies, what goes wrong?

Posted by markos May 18, 2009 at 12:57 am

Dear Great WolframAlpha tam, I have some small suggestions. I know that they are so simple and most probably you already thought about this, but anyway:

-Can you outsource data from external sources? if it is OK regarding IPR ? . For example , whenever there are searches about a country –> go to CIA fact book.
-if it is do-able,whenever there is no results in the database, deliver regular search results.
-Can you add more art related database like paintings , movies, lyrics ….

Thank you

Omar El Assy
http://www.idomainreseller.com

Posted by Omar El Assy May 18, 2009 at 1:21 am

I recently posted this to WolframAlpha on Twitter… “@Wolfram_Alpha Let it be marked that I have coined the phrases “Wolfing” & “Wolfring” for when search something…verdict pls.
3:30 AM May 17th from web”

Posted by Hodan Yusuf-Pankhurst May 18, 2009 at 1:24 am

    thumb up

    Posted by BoLe May 18, 2009 at 1:34 am

    ‘Wolfing’ is already a verb meaning to eat without chewing and in a disgusting manner.

    Stephen Wolfram will probably be able to acquaint you of the schoolboy phraseology in some detail.

    Please go away and think again.

    Posted by Great Old Mac May 18, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Funny, I did the same thing… and so hundreds of people around the world… Wanna make a profit around it?

    Posted by Leandro May 18, 2009 at 8:03 am

You folks could do quite a lot to broaden W.A.’s usefulness if you allowed general probability questions having to do with, say, first-to-N games or how to achieve a certain expected values for a random event.

Posted by Rob May 18, 2009 at 1:29 am

For diseases, please indicate the accompanying ICD-9, for example, a search for lung cancer or asthma should state the ICD-9 as well as basic info on the diseases. Nice jobs on the stats though.

What also needs improvement is the origin of a word, not only if it is Greek or Arabic but also the original meaning, eg: dysphagia = dys (difficult), phagia (swallowing).

And I could not find an answer to: “Biggest threat facing the United States”, but that may be asking too much. Thanks for your superb contribution to science and knowledge!

Posted by Kaatje van der Gaarden May 18, 2009 at 1:33 am

    I can answer that: public misinformation!

    Posted by Leandro May 18, 2009 at 8:05 am

You mention above that the question’Price tea China’ is misinterpreted by WA. I suggest to develope an input form to reduce the problem.

You already handle questions contains a word which can mean differrent things which is necessary when a Dictionary may have many definitions for the same word. You list the alternatives and ask the questioner to choose.

I suggest that when the form of the question makes it ambiguous you offer the questioner a list showing the question converted into two or more forms which are unambiguous
In this case something like :-
- Currency Price of tea in China
- Geographic locations of the places Price, Tea, China.
An expert on Grammar might be the best person to put on this.

With a complex question it might be helpful to ask for clarification one point at a time.

Posted by Brian Gilbert May 18, 2009 at 1:38 am

Wolfram aplha is intresting and fun very useful indeed.Want to know more news and things about wolfram alpha.

Posted by venkat May 18, 2009 at 1:46 am

Nice to “play” with. Great. We need mor interesting sites like this. Thanks.

Posted by Titisee May 18, 2009 at 2:07 am

Wow. Works very well. I like it.

Posted by Studententarif May 18, 2009 at 2:12 am

At its current state Wolfram Alpha is hardly accessable and does not meet WCAG guideline. One of the keys to Googles or Wikipedia success is accessability!!!

I love the results of the machine, but please get to webstandards!!! Use XHTML, MathML, XML with Stylesheets and SVG/Canvas Object for results rendering. Rendered textimages are sooooooo 1997. If you need a frontend webdeveloper… just let me know, I’d be glad to help.

Posted by Thilo May 18, 2009 at 2:23 am

WA looks as though it could be potentially very powerful, but is lacking in some areas, possibly because they are seen of only minority interest.

For instance if I type “Spanish Mustang” (a breed of horse) into WA it tells me me about Mustang, OK and Spain, so is not even close. Google and the other search engines will give me links to the correct information.

So maybe flora and fauna, including information on breeds of animals adn tyupes of plants and their habitats, is an area for future development.

Posted by Chris Thompson May 18, 2009 at 3:20 am

Hey just to say that the place where I live isnt on! thats Barwell, despite it being 4 times larger than barnwell, which is on
also, the scout movement doesnt exist yet :/
only minor things though
excellent job guys :D

Posted by Simon May 18, 2009 at 3:28 am

This is very impressive. Yes, there are still some kinks, but overall, very impressive with incredible potential for the future.

I became so lost in trying the examples and cooking up my own variations that hours and hours just flew by.

I first started using Mathematica in January, 1989 and became hooked. My sense is I will become hooked again on yet another team Wolfram Masterpiece.

Well done, Wolfram Alpha.

Posted by John May 18, 2009 at 3:52 am

Good stuff — looking forward to seeing it in beta ;-)

Posted by James May 18, 2009 at 4:38 am

very good work! i heared about wolframalpha at welt.de. i think it will be very successful!

Posted by SEO Blog May 18, 2009 at 4:38 am

Nice effort.Though,needs lot of improvement.Logic seems throwing many false positives at this time.I tried to input “Lakemba” as well as “Lakemba Sydney” but it doesn’t recognize this as well as many similar places.Also doesn’t answer “how to” or “where” sort of queries properly

Posted by Tariq May 18, 2009 at 4:42 am

I’m very excited about the relative size display of a query such as

“size sun, earth, pluto”

and in particular the “magnified Nx” times label, where necessary.

I wanted to explore how WA hanled the extreme case

“size universe, sun, atom”

which I was hoping to get a positive result for since the size for the unverse, sun and atom are independently available.

Sadly, no, the 3-way comparison didn’t work. Why?

Posted by Martin Krzywinski May 18, 2009 at 4:48 am

I hope you get to my feedbacks someday. I used this form a lot and suggested some improvements or mistakes.

Posted by Timofei May 18, 2009 at 4:57 am

Perhaps adding animals would be good… a search for Labrador Retreiver yeilded nothing.

Posted by John May 18, 2009 at 5:45 am

W/A is potentially a powerful tool.Wolfram showed us what he can do with a few hundred millions.Let us support him and give him time to further enhance W/A.That means visiting the website and giving constructive comments.Then later when the site grows up, Wolfram would have a few billions to reinvest in the machine and the results would be stunning, they would be as close to having an all knowing teacher at your disposal.I want W/A to be able to give results of queries that involve giving advice about different issues, like how can i build circuits ? The result should give a design and construction notes and where to buy the components and how much they will cost.Well done, Alpha team. We are all impressed and wish you a very good luck.

Posted by isam May 18, 2009 at 5:59 am

Being able to plot multiple equations on the same graph. Or at least and example to demonstrate how.

Posted by Ewan Marshall May 18, 2009 at 6:33 am

It would also be nice to see graphic symbols for elecctronic components like resistors, diodes and leds etc.

Posted by Jaensen May 18, 2009 at 7:01 am

+1 for including computer algorithms. The first thing I searched for was ‘quicksort’ and I was shocked that there was nothing there. I also searched for ‘suffix tree’, but this was interpreted as a request for words ending in ‘tree’ :D

Also. could I suggest that if WA does not find an answer that it includes a link so we can pass on the query to a general purpose search engine of our choosing?

Posted by Dave R. May 18, 2009 at 7:23 am

Why is there a link to the Israeli tourism ministry on every Structure entry (see source information)?

Posted by Harry Houdini May 18, 2009 at 7:33 am

I love the results of the machine

Posted by seo May 18, 2009 at 7:34 am

Hello HAL [If you have not yet seen HAL's message to Dave, you will soon.]

Very disappointed that my very first question caught you knapping.

Perhaps you need to spend some more time learning the use of the apostrophe.

Dave

Posted by Great Old Mac May 18, 2009 at 7:55 am

I like the idea. A few teething problems noted but what the heck, it’s new and rather quirky. This defiantly kicks the snot out of any other search engines I have seen released lately. Well done! Don’t lose your momentum !

Posted by Mark Carter May 18, 2009 at 8:21 am

http://www.alwaysthetwain.com/blogs/2009/05/18/wolfram-alpha-google-true-knowledge-the-twain-test/

The link above shows results comparing Wolfram Alpha with Google and True Knowledge for the following 10 questions:

(1.) Who discovered radium?

(2.) Where is Atlantis?

(3.) How do we make gold from lead?

(4.) Can robots dream?

(5.) What is a sprite? [This is my trick question since ‘Sprite’ is a drinks brand as well as a type of fairy.]

(6.) When did Homo Erectus become Homo Sapien?

(7.) Why are we here?

(8.) How many light bulbs are there in the world?

(9.) Who is the Vitruvian Man?

(10.) Where is Schrodinger’s cat?

As you can see I decided not to ask numerical questions since it’s pretty much to be expected that WA will deal well with indices, statistical, biochemical molecule, quantum mechanics-type queries since it is based on Mathematica.

Good luck with it all!

Posted by Twain May 18, 2009 at 9:01 am

Firefox & Safari work great!!

I feel like I’m on jeopardy to try to find information about people: http://www39.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Who+is+Nick+schmidt%3F

But I guess you guys don’t know much about me.. I can help you out with that.

Posted by Nick Schmidt May 18, 2009 at 9:37 am

Maybe on the source information you can add Dates instead of just the years?

I looked up H1N1 flu to try to see if there are any updates. But while looking through the sources, I wasn’t sure if the results were from last week or this week.

Posted by Nick Schmidt May 18, 2009 at 9:48 am