Wolfram Alpha...ongoing impressions from day 1

I know, it's not actually the first day for Wolfram Alpha, but it is the first business day and, so far, impressions seem to have been mixed. The general consensus on the Twitterverse?

I know, it's not actually the first day for Wolfram Alpha, but it is the first business day and, so far, impressions seem to have been mixed. The general consensus on the Twitterverse? It's not Google.

Well no kidding, right? It was never meant to me. One user noted its lack of depth in coverage of "Dr Who" while another noted that it new nothing about Giza Pyramids. To be fair, both of these users gave it a lot of credit for what it could do, but there seems to be a real process of people bringing the reality of Alpha as a new way of dealing with data on the web versus the media hype of a Google-killer.

Performance has been an intermittent issue as well, with many users reporting lag in returning search results. I haven't noticed any lag myself, but have only been making occasional queries today as I was stuck in scheduling heck at our high school.

In some ways, the hardest thing to sort out is whether Alpha really is disappointing or people simply don't understand how to use it correctly. There are plenty of people who can't say enough good about the new tool (I hesitate to call it a search engine), but in general, the people who are most impressed seem to be academics or students. A frequent comment? "I'm not smart enough for Wolfram Alpha."

Here's the take home message then. It isn't that people aren't smart enough for Alpha. It's simply that we've spent a lot of years Googling and Yahooing. We need to teach our students and staff how to start Wolframing (and teach them where and why traditional search engines are still powerful and relevant). Wolfram, I believe, is only the tip of the semantic iceberg. As usual, our students need to be prepared for what's to come.