CATEGORY: Web & Computer Systems
January 12, 2012– 7

.data

There’s been very little change in top-level internet domains (like .com, .org, .us, etc.) for a long time. But a number of years ago I started thinking about the possibility of having a new .data top-level domain (TLD). And starting this week, there’ll finally be a period when it’s possible to apply to create such a thing.

It’s not at all clear what’s going to happen with new TLDs—or how people will end up feeling about them. Presumably there’ll be TLDs for places and communities and professions and categories of goods and events. A .data TLD would be a slightly different kind of thing. But along with some other interested parties, I’ve been exploring the possibility of creating such a thing.

With Wolfram|Alpha and Mathematica—as well as our annual Data Summit—we’ve been deeply involved with the worldwide data community, and coordinating the creation of a .data TLD would be an extension of that activity. More »

June 28, 2011– 9

Today we are pleased to share that ChaCha, the #1 free real-time question and answer service, has enhanced the depth, accuracy, and speed of its online and mobile Q&A service by adding computational knowledge from Wolfram|Alpha. The Wolfram|Alpha integration provides ChaCha users with instantly computed facts and answers to questions from over 100 topic areas, such as demographics, definitions, mathematics, geography, and celebrity facts.

ChaCha has historically used people to answer difficult questions to ensure a high-quality answer. We think ChaCha’s decision to incorporate Wolfram|Alpha, the world’s largest curated data repository, made accessible via free-form queries, is a natural extension of ChaCha’s service. Our match up with ChaCha also opens up Wolfram|Alpha to the larger community serviced by SMS mobile text messaging.

“At ChaCha we are constantly looking at ways in which we can better our users’ experience and provide the fastest and most accurate answers to their questions,” said Scott Jones, ChaCha’s CEO. “By partnering with Wolfram|Alpha and tapping into their vast database of computational knowledge, we are enhancing the scope and efficiency of our service.”

On the first day of integration, Wolfram|Alpha answered 32,000 of ChaCha’s incoming questions in a wide range of topics through ChaCha’s SMS service and mobile app. For example, need some quick homework help? Text “what is the inverse of Xlog3(4)?” to 242-242, and in just seconds ChaCha will text you the correct answer:

"What is the inverse of Xlog3(4)?" answered via ChaCha SMS

Or download the ChaCha mobile app and get Wolfram|Alpha-powered responses, such as “How old is Snoop Dogg?”:

"How old is Snoop Dogg?" answered via the ChaCha mobile app

We’re looking forward to providing unique and dynamically computed facts to the ChaCha Community!

June 17, 2011– 8

Our ever-growing family of Wolfram|Alpha-powered iOS apps is gaining two new additions today, including the first in our new Professional Assistant series, as well as another entry in our Wolfram Course Assistant Apps. Launching today for iPod touch, iPad, and iPhone are the Physics I Course Assistant and the Network Admin Professional Assistant App. We designed our Professional Assistant Apps with working professionals in mind. They include content specific to each profession and reference information a professional may look up over the course of a normal day.

The Network Admin Professional Assistant is a useful addition to a network admin’s IT toolbox, whether at home or on the job.

Network Admin Professional Assistant
More »

March 31, 2011– 15

By now, you’ve probably noticed those cute black and white squares popping up on everything from T-shirts to magazine advertisements to cereal boxes. These are called Quick Response (QR) codes, and thanks to the rise in smartphone use, they are becoming more popular than ever.

Scan these codes with a QR reader

Scan these codes with a QR reader Scan these codes with a QR reader

Since their inception in 1994 in Japan, QR codes have quickly risen in popularity throughout many Asian countries. The technology is still finding its footing in the United States and other western countries, but many advertisers and niche communities are adapting the 2D barcode innovation. Flip open your favorite magazine and you will most likely see the stamp-like code on multiple advertisements.

Wolfram|Alpha now offers the capability to produce QR codes. Just type in “QR code” in addition to whatever information you want to be coded. The function can encode up to 7 KB of data, including phone numbers, email addresses, URLs, or just plain text.
More »

February 2, 2011– 4

We’ve been having so much fun over the past few months hunting for fun facts in Wolfram|Alpha that we thought it was time to give @WolframFunFacts its very own space in the Twitterverse.

Meet Fun Facts Spikey

Meet Fun Facts Spikey

For those of you who are new to Wolfram Fun Facts, they are unique facts computed from Wolfram|Alpha’s trillions of pieces of data. All of this knowledge is built upon a computational engine that allows us to mash up topic areas such as people, finance, dates, and more to do impressive, if not outrageous, computations.

Here are just a few fun fact samples we’ve discovered in Wolfram|Alpha:

We’ll be sharing all of the fun facts that we, and you, discover every day. Follow @WolframFunFacts and tweet us your favorite #funfact!

January 28, 2011– 8

It is immediately clear to anyone who has used the site that Wolfram|Alpha knows a lot about mathematics. When computing integrals, sums, statistics, properties of mathematical objects, or a myriad of other mathematical and mathematics-related problems, it typically returns an extensive and exhaustively complete result. Which is of course not surprising, given that Wolfram|Alpha has the entire power and knowledge of Mathematica behind it, especially when combined with the fact that this native “smarts” is further augmented with large amounts of curated data and customized processing.

However, many visitors to the site have noted in the past that Wolfram|Alpha had relatively little computable knowledge about mathematical terms themselves, a state of affairs in contrast to its knowledge of words in the English language, and perhaps surprising in light of the existence of another Wolfram site devoted to the definition and description of terms in mathematics, namely MathWorld.

As readers of MathWorld likely already know, the entire MathWorld website is written and built using Mathematica. It has therefore been possible to programmatically process the entire 13,000+ entries comprising MathWorld into the native data format of Wolfram|Alpha, thus exposing its content in more computable form.

As an example of the sort of new knowledge this confluence brings to Wolfram|Alpha, consider the input “Lorenz attractor”. In the past, this would simply bring up a Wolfram|Alpha future topic page.

With the incorporation of MathWorld content, the default parse now goes to a description of the attractor, complete with an illustrative figure and some helpful typeset equations:

Lorenz attractor

More »

January 11, 2011– 7

Today we unveiled a new look on the wolframalpha.com site. We decided the website needed to be reorganized to allow expansion for upcoming consumer, enterprise, and developer products. 2011 is going to be an exciting year for Wolfram|Alpha!

When visiting the site you’ll notice an updated version of your home page. Once you’re there, “take a quick tour”, visit the newly redesigned product pages, and explore resources and tools.

Take a tour of Wolfram|Alpha

You may have noticed that we’re developing new features on the results pages, too. One of those features is “linked results”. For example, enter a query for “Chicago”. Notice the blue underlined links? Click one to dig deeper into Wolfram|Alpha and see more related information.

Chicago

We’re also developing “dog-ear peelbacks”. Hover over the dog-ear in the left corner of each pod to uncover how you can save the contents of the pod as an image or copyable plaintext.
Dog-ear peelback

The site’s new look is just the first of many new things to come here at Wolfram|Alpha. We’re looking forward to sharing them with you!

December 15, 2010– 6

Contestants in Wolfram|Alpha’s Deck the Halls with Facts & Knowledge Holiday Gift-Away have been busy submitting their favorite Wolfram|Alpha fun facts, assembling their free Wolfram|Alpha Spikey paper sculpture kits, and snapping photos for the vote-off. Now you get to decide who will win!

Now through January 3, 2011, you can vote once per day for your favorite entry. Your votes will help the 500 contestants win great gifts, such as Mathematica Professional (value: $2495), an iPad, Wolfram mobile apps, and much more! Oh, and you could be one of the random lucky voters to win one of the newly inked Wolfram|Alpha Spikey T-shirts—not available anywhere else—in our daily drawings!

Contestants, here are a few helpful tips to help your entry climb the charts. First, be sure to vote every day! Then use the built-in sharing tools to ask your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites to vote for your entry once per day, every day! Be sure to let them know how they can win, too!

If you are a contestant who’s still waiting for your Spikey to arrive, no worries; you can upload your Spikey photo to the gallery anytime through January 3, 2011.

Wolfram|Alpha Spikey paper sculptures in action

Winners will be announced here and on the website on January 5, 2011. Now jump over to the gallery to vote for your favorite entry!

December 6, 2010– 6

Wolfram|Alpha isn’t just the wolframalpha.com website; it’s a whole range of technologies. While the website may be the most familiar way to access these technologies, there are many potential uses and interfaces for the Wolfram|Alpha technology. We’ve already seen a few. Mobile apps for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS make Wolfram|Alpha accessible anywhere. Widgets allow users to tap portions of Wolfram|Alpha and bring them into their own webpages. The Wolfram|Alpha API allows programmers to integrate Wolfram|Alpha’s data and computation abilities in their own programs. There are even private custom versions of Wolfram|Alpha used to analyze confidential corporate data.

But now there’s another interface to Wolfram|Alpha, one which brings with it a whole new set of capabilities: Mathematica. With the new Mathematica 8, you can access the Wolfram|Alpha engine directly from within Mathematica. Inside a Mathematica notebook document, just type == at the beginning of a line; you’ll get an orange Spikey icon indicating that Mathematica is ready to perform a Wolfram|Alpha query. Now simply type anything that you would type into the Wolfram|Alpha website. You’ll get back the same results as on the website—and more! Using the full power of the Mathematica software, this interface to Wolfram|Alpha allows new levels of interactivity and detail.

In Mathematica, all graphics can be resized, and three-dimensional graphics can be rotated. Moreover, since Mathematica receives the underlying vector graphic from Wolfram|Alpha and not simply a bit-mapped image, this means that enlarging a graphic provides greater detail instead of a boxy image. For example, let’s look at everyone’s favorite three-dimensional surface, the Mathematica Spikey.

Mathematica Spikey

By simply clicking and dragging, you can rotate the Spikey. To resize, click the resize points on the frame that appear after clicking on the graphic. More »

October 14, 2010– 4

Have you ever wanted a simple way to explain Wolfram|Alpha to your friends? Now you can by sharing our new video, “Wolfram|Alpha in a Nutshell”.

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Sure, it’s pretty cool that Wolfram|Alpha is the world’s first computational knowledge engine, containing trillions of pieces of data in more than 1,000 domains. (Wow, that’s a mouthful!) But what’s really important to you is how it can provide you with exact answers for questions in topic areas ranging from astronomy and food and nutrition to math, socioeconomics, and so on.

If you’d like to explore more about the world of Wolfram|Alpha, check out our new About page, which contains community resources, products, downloads, and more.

Go ahead, share “Wolfram|Alpha in a Nutshell” with your friends!

October 12, 2010– 7

Have you ever wanted to contribute to Wolfram|Alpha? Do you have an area of expertise you would like to share with the world? By becoming a volunteer data curator for Wolfram|Alpha, you can help us expand our data and be a part of our initiative to make the world’s knowledge computable.

We’ve now made it easier than ever to contribute with the opening of Volunteer Central, the new landing pad for Wolfram|Alpha volunteers.

Volunteer Central Landing Page

Volunteer Central is a place for contributors to get updates, check out new projects, and track their progress. Projects are categorized into challenge areas, which are searchable in the dashboard. After applying for an account on the network and creating a login, you can easily find projects to work on, upload them, and see your completed and in-progress projects all in one place.

Volunteer Central My Current Projects

Uploading a new project earns you “data points”, which add up in your dashboard. Different levels of data points will earn you badges that you can display proudly on your Facebook page and Twitter, as well as other websites.

Volunteer Central Rookie Badge

We currently have projects in challenge areas ranging from currency data to video game data, and we will be adding new projects on a consistent basis. If you want to contribute, but don’t see a challenge area that interests you, you can suggest it by emailing us.

Volunteer Central is a fun and easy way to contribute to Wolfram|Alpha and connect with other Wolfram|Alpha enthusiasts. Use your passion for data for good and sign up to be a volunteer today!

September 15, 2010– 0

Our first Wolfram|Alpha Back-to-School Webinars were met with so much interest and enthusiasm that we’re announcing three more opportunities for you to participate!

Sign up today for one of our Wolfram|Alpha Back-to-School Webinars and discover powerful new ways to advance learning in your classroom. The hour-long webinar gives you an overview and demonstration of the Wolfram|Alpha computational knowledge engine, including the recently launched Widget Builder (beta).

Administrators, parents, and students will also benefit from these webinars.

To register for a webinar, please click one of the three sessions listed below. Registration is free and takes just a few minutes. A copy of the presentation will also be made available to those who attend.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 9am Pacific Time

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 2pm Pacific Time

Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at 5pm Pacific Time

We look forward to having you and your colleagues join us for an upcoming webinar!

September 1, 2010– 2

We’re continually looking for new ways to make accessing and sharing knowledge from Wolfram|Alpha simpler. As a result, we’ve introduced a new tool that allows you to share and bookmark knowledge directly from any Wolfram|Alpha results page.

With the new “Bookmark & Share” features, you can easily post Wolfram|Alpha results to Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and Reddit. Hover over the more icon ( + ) to share via email, bit.ly, Tumblr, and dozens of other social networking and sharing sites.

Results for weather in London on the day David Beckham was born

We look forward to sharing more tools and site enhancements with you in the near future. And as always, we love hearing ideas on how we can continue to make Wolfram|Alpha a fun experience for you!

August 25, 2010– 3

Wolfram|Alpha widget “builders” have been busy creating and sharing their innovative Wolfram|Alpha-powered mini apps on their sites and with their social networks. We’re thrilled by your excitement and widget-building efforts.

The Wolfram|Alpha Widgets home page with the new featured widgets

Beginning today, we’re shining a light on some of the most popular widgets in the gallery, one of which will be designated as the featured widget on the home page. Not only can you use any of these featured widgets on the Wolfram|Alpha Widgets site, but it’s easy to embed any of these widgets on your site, too!

This week’s featured widget on the home page is a quick calorie calculator that lets you calculate the number of calories burned when running, walking, biking, swimming, and cross-country skiing. You can even personalize your results by taking into account factors such as sex, age, distance, and speed.
More »

August 13, 2010– 2

When we introduced the beta versions of Wolfram|Alpha Widgets and Widget Builder just a few short weeks ago, we asked, “So, what will you widget?” The answer we got was “A lot of creative, outside-the-box widgets!”

We fully expected to be blown away by all of the innovative and fun ways users would harness the power of Wolfram|Alpha on their blogs, websites, and on their social media networks. Wolfram|Alpha users have already customized and built over 1300 widgets with the easy-to-use drag-and-drop Widget Builder. You can browse them all in the Widget Gallery. If you haven’t created your first widget yet, take a quick tour or check out the demo video to see how simple it is to build your own free, custom Wolfram|Alpha-powered mini-app.

Not only have users been excited about customizing and building widgets, but they’ve been sharing them too! We’ve stumbled upon an impressive number of widgets on Twitter and Facebook. And widgets have been embedded in over 500 websites and blogs to date. We thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the handy widgets users are creating and sharing on a variety of websites and blogging platforms.

@ThinktankPlanet tweeted us a link to their custom astronomy widget on the Thinktank Birmingham science museum’s website. If you want to find the location of an astronomical object in the sky for a given city, time, and date, give this widget a try. You may also want to see how this custom widget appears on the website.

More »

July 30, 2010– 2

Wolfram|Alpha has a massive database of measurements that can help you solve everything from complex scientific conversions to common everyday questions. And because of the ever-connected world we live in today, we often come into contact with systems of measurement that may be unfamiliar to us.

Wolfram|Alpha.com has always been a great source for quick and easy unit conversions. But now, thanks to the newly announced Wolfram|Alpha Widgets and Widget Builder, you can create and share these Wolfram|Alpha-powered mini-apps on your blogs and with your social networks. Below is a sampling of the handy widgets that users have created in recent days—for everything from kitchen conversions to shoe sizes.

Give yourself, and perhaps readers of your cooking blog, a helping hand in the kitchen with this easy-as-pie kitchen conversion widget. This particular widget was designed to convert American units of measure. However, you can customize your own widget for other systems of measurement in just a few easy steps with the drag-and-drop Widget Builder.

Have you ever found yourself needing to convert currency when budgeting for an upcoming international trip? This simple widget allows you to convert currencies and take into account possible fees and commissions you may incur when buying or selling moneys.

Do you need a fast way to compute the distance between two physical locations in your preferred units of measurement?

Wondering whether you just awoke a friend several time zones away with a text message? Wolfram|Alpha can also perform a variety of time conversions. With this widget you can simply enter the location, such as “Dubai”, and Wolfram|Alpha will display the time difference between Dubai and your location in several different ways along with other details about the current time in Dubai.


More »

February 15, 2010– 0

In celebration of YouTube‘s fifth birthday, we thought it would be fun to highlight a few of our favorite Wolfram|Alpha videos available through the popular broadcasting site.

On Wolfram|Alpha’s YouTube Channel you can catch behind-the-scenes footage of some of the work that went into creating the computational knowledge engine, take a virtual tour of one of the system’s supercomputers, and much more.

Here are a few of our favorite Wolfram|Alpha videos to get you started.

Rack ‘n’ Roll

Here’s our system administration team hard at work on one of the many pre-launch projects:

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Wolfram|Alpha Launch: Introduction

In this introductory video, Wolfram|Alpha’s creator, Stephen Wolfram, welcomes viewers to the live launch event on May 15, 2009. You can view 11 additional videos from the Wolfram|Alpha Launch playlist, too.

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A Moment with the Wolfram|Alpha Developers

This video is the first from the series A Moment with the Wolfram|Alpha Developers“. In this series, some of the developers describe their roles and share their thoughts about the Wolfram|Alpha project.

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Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day: Teaching 4th Grade Students Using Wolfram|Alpha

Educators and students will appreciate the collection of videos from our first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day, including interviews and demonstrations by educators and administrators who are using Wolfram|Alpha in their schools. In this clip, Shannon Smith, a fourth grade teacher, shares how she integrates Wolfram|Alpha into all of the subject areas that she teaches, from spelling and language to geography, science, and math.

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Wolfram|Alpha Explores the Science of Punkin’Chuckin’

See the Wolfram pumpkin fly at the first annual CUPunkin’Chuckin’ Challenge. Punkin’Chuckin’ is the art of hurling pumpkins (or multiple pumpkins) great distances with smartly engineered, often homemade, devices such as trebuchets and catapults. You can also check out our blog post to learn more about punkin’ chuckin’.

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We hope you enjoyed these and our other Wolfram|Alpha videos available on YouTube, and we invite you to subscribe to the Wolfram|Alpha channel so you’ll be notified when new ones are posted. What things would you like to see us cover in upcoming videos?

October 20, 2009– 2

There’s a lot going on in the Wolfram|Alpha project these days—and this week there’s a remarkable convergence of events.

Late last week we introduced the Wolfram|Alpha Webservice API, allowing outside developers to call Wolfram|Alpha from their websites or application programs.

Then yesterday we released the first mobile implementation of Wolfram|Alpha, in the form of an iPhone app.

Tomorrow, we’re doing something completely different: Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day—a 14-hour live webcast event for students and educators.

Oh, and starting on Thursday is the International Mathematica User Conference, which will show many advances in the core Mathematica technology on which Wolfram|Alpha is based.
More »

October 15, 2009– 28

On behalf of the Wolfram|Alpha API team, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Wolfram|Alpha Webservice API.

The response to Wolfram|Alpha and the interest from the community in using the API to build innovative computational knowledge applications has been staggering. Since Wolfram|Alpha launched in May, developers anticipating the release of the API have been sending us their ideas for how they want to use Wolfram|Alpha in their applications. I stopped counting after the 2000th idea crossed my desk. Overwhelmingly, developers see Wolfram|Alpha as a platform for building a business—providing commercial services that leverage Wolfram|Alpha’s unique capabilities.

We’ve seen interest across a wide range of areas for which the developer community wants to use Wolfram|Alpha—researching cancer through computational biology, augmenting web and meta-web search with computed knowledge, enriching online journalism with interactive content, building artificial intelligence systems on our domain expertise, leveraging our data analysis for decision support, optimizing renewable-energy efficiency, and even determining the optimal temperature for draft beer based on the current weather conditions. Clearly, a straightforward API that enables applications to access advanced computations based on trusted information and backed up by a supercomputer-class infrastructure invites developers to explore ideas that were not otherwise possible.

The API is the first of many products and services within the growing Wolfram|Alpha developer ecosystem, from computed data services to GUI-based tools for building interactive web applications that seamlessly integrate into your website.

The API allows your application to interact with Wolfram|Alpha much like you do on the web—you send a web request with the same query string you would type into Wolfram|Alpha’s query box and you get back the same computed results. It’s just that both are in a form your application can understand. There are plenty of ways to tweak and control the results, as well. You can read all about that in the documentation.

The Wolfram|Alpha developer community has already proved itself to be as involved and imaginative as any. There are two ways to get started and become a part of this vibrant community. First, you can register for an API account and explore and experiment on your own. Or, if you’ve got the next Big Idea(TM), let me know. Let’s see what fresh and ingenuous ways we can apply computational knowledge and change the world.

August 20, 2009– 155

So what’s been happening with Wolfram|Alpha this summer? A lot!

At a first glance, the website looks pretty much as it did when it first launched—with the straightforward input field. But inside that simple exterior an incredible amount has happened. Our development organization has been buzzing with activity all summer. In fact, it’s clear from the metrics that the intensity is steadily rising, with things being added at an ever-increasing rate.

Wolfram|Alpha was always planned to be a very long-term project, and paced accordingly. We pushed very hard to get it launched before the summer so that we could spend the “quiet time” of our first summer steadily enhancing it, before more people start using it more intently in the fall.

Two really great things have happened as a result of actually getting Wolfram|Alpha launched. The first is that we’ve discovered that there’s a huge community of people out there who want to help the mission of Wolfram|Alpha. And we’re steadily ramping up our mechanisms for those people to contribute to the project. More »

June 25, 2009– 7

He’s developing some of the most popular frameworks in Wolfram|Alpha. She’s on the front lines of handling and managing all of your feedback. Meet them both in Part 3 of our video series, “A Moment with the Wolfram|Alpha Developers”:

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Other interviews with Wolfram|Alpha team members can be found in Part 1 and Part 2 of this video series.

June 13, 2009– 15

Did you notice Stephen Wolfram’s custom Wolfram|Alpha home page in the live Q&A webcast? Now, with a simple click of your mouse, you too can customize your home page with one of three Wolfram|Alpha home page layouts and nine different colorful themes. More »

When Wolfram|Alpha launches, it will be one of the most computationally intensive websites on the internet. There is no way to know exactly how much traffic to expect, especially during the initial period immediately following our launch, but we’re working hard to put reasonable capacity in place. Will we have enough computing power to provide computable knowledge for everyone who visits? We hope so.

We’ll service Wolfram|Alpha from five distributed colocation facilities, which we somewhat unimaginatively call locations 0, 2, 3, 4, 5 (1 as a backup). What computing power have we gathered in these facilities for launch day? Two supercomputers, just about 10,000 processor cores, hundreds of terabytes of disks, a heck of a lot of bandwidth, and what seems like enough air conditioning for the Sahara to host a ski resort. More »

May 4, 2009– 284

In the last three months, I’ve discussed Wolfram|Alpha one-on-one with well over 300 people from all over the world and all walks of life. Wolfram|Alpha is a service unlike any other, and people’s reactions reflect this. When simple analogy is not possible, the discussions take on a whole different tone than that of a typical product introduction.

Here are some of the reactions floating around the web. They reflect the diversity of conversations I’ve had in my one-on-ones. What’s your take?

“While search engines like Google, by and large, find things that already exist on the Internet—Web sites, photos, videos, blogs—Wolfram|Alpha answers questions, often by doing complex, and new computations.” —From The New York Times Bits blog

More »