The new computational search engine, Wolfram Alpha, has surfaced in recent days and offered researchers (including journalists) an opportunity to view information differently through their queries.
In the early days, not surprisingly, some are fascinated by the potential and others are struggling to see its importance. I've posed several queries and been riveted by some responses and utterly flattened by the weak answers in others (it doesn't seem to recognize my given name as one, for instance). But I think I'm starting to get the hang of it (that's science speak). The clearer the question, the better the answer.
One of journalism's great challenges in an age of digital information abundance is to make sense of the data and to tell stories differently in new frameworks. Wolfram Alpha essentially turns routine requests upside down and delivers them in novel ways --- in particularly its visual depiction of information is compelling, but it usually leaves a nice touch of statistical information along the way, too.
I'd be interested in hearing how other journalists are finding its findings. The Daily Telegraph decided to pit Wolfram Alpha against Google, which I thought was a bit like pitting a horse against a monkey. I just don't see the valuable comparison. They're quite distinct functionally.
I expect we'll be able to generate some new stories and ideas for them using the qualities of Wolfram Alpha --- whose business model isn't yet evident --- so it's a great and powerful addition to our utilities online.