Monday, September 28, 2009

All 4 search engines fail for a simple time-related query


I wanted to quickly see what the current EDT time was (my client's time...). It's kind-of pathetic that none of the top 4 engines returned the value of the current EDT time for the query edt time (a query which makes it kind-of obvious that I'm interested in knowing the current EDT time). Wolfram Alpha failed as well.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Google and Ask fail because of 'approximate/nearby' matching

I was reading about the DEC Alpha microprocessor, when I began to realize that it was probably an ahead-of-its-time product. The word 'revolutionary' doesn't seem like an exaggeration. I wanted to know whether others too feel/felt that this microprocessor was revolutionary. So I queried dec alpha revolutionary on the top 4 engines. Results:
  1. Google: Google also includes results with the word "revolution". And this corrupts the results for this particular query. I'm not interested in the query dec alpha revolution (I believe less people will write sentences such as 'The DEC Alpha microprocessor brought about a revolution', compared to those who write 'The DEC Alpha microprocessor was revolutionary'). Alas, there's no easy way to turn-off this approximate/nearby matching, and I have to contend with some clearly irrelevant results, resulting from Google's unsolicited oversmartness
  2. Ask: Surprisingly Google-like results, including the inclusion of revolution. Sad, again
  3. Bing: Thumbs-up for not including approximate/nearby words; Thumbs-down for less-relevant results
  4. Yahoo: Thumbs-up for not including approximate/nearby words; Thumbs-up again for showing the most relevant results for this query

Monday, September 14, 2009

All 4 search engines fail for a simple currency-involving query

I was on a webpage with the price of a Kodak AIO. I selected the price, right clicked it and chose the Search Google for... option. My intention was to get the current conversion for this price (written in US dollars) in Indian rupees. Google failed - it didn't consider $129.99 as a special query that merits some smarter results (in addition to the usual ten blue links).

Disappointed, I went to Wolfram Alpha. It made the mistake of choosing Singapore dollar as the default interpretation for the $ sign, but that's a smaller mistake - it did bring up many currency conversions, which would've nailed my problem, had the interpretation been correct.

The key idea here is that I, as a user, shouldn't have to conduct multiple queries, or perform adjustments to my queries, to get results for simple queries such as $129.99. It's Google's duty to detect these more-meaningful queries, and - perhaps based on my IP address or my Google Account information - show me some intelligent results related to currency. I can obviously type convert $129.99 into indian rupees into Google to get the answer, but that takes so much time and effort.

Google failed even when I tried to provide some help - $129.99 in rupees - while Wolfram Alpha once again did better, although its interpretation was incorrect again., Bing and Yahoo all failed as badly as Google - no point in giving their screenshots (they are all considering $129.99 as a meaningless text-string, instead of a meaningful value).