launch of Wolfram Alpha in May is still one of the most exciting product launches we have witnessed so far this year, even if the enormous hype around it also meant that it disappointed a lot of people who expected a "Google killer." In the last couple of months, however, the Wolfram Alpha team has been working quietly on improving Wolfram's 'computational knowledge engine.' According to Stephen Wolfram's latest post on the Wolfram Alpha blog, things are moving ahead as planned. The company has used the summer months to tweak and extend Wolfram Alpha quietly as it got ready for more people to use it more heavily once the fall semester begins in the US.The
As Stephen Wolfram points out, the team wanted to launch Alpha before the summer, so that it could learn more about how users would use the system and enhance the code and data sources accordingly before the fall.
54,233 Bug Reports and Suggestions
Among other things, the team held true to its promise to make at least one code update per week and there have been over 50,000 manual changes to Alpha's data sets over the last three months. Since its launch, Alpha's codebase has also grown over 50%. The team added over 2 million lines of Mathematica code to the project in the last three months.
In addition, Wolfram has also steadily hired more developers to work on Alpha. As Stephen Wolfram points out (with the precision only an engineer could really appreciate) the team received over 54,233 bug reports and suggestions. 31,006 of these "are now in [the] implementation queue, boiled down to about 5800 to-do items." 3907 people so far heard that the bugs they reported have been fixed.
All of this, of course, means nothing if the "computational knowledge engine" doesn't return the right results. What is more important here than all the engineering data, is that Alpha's "fall-through rate" - that is, the number of queries that users entered that it simply couldn't understand - has now been reduced to about 10%.
This is still a pretty high number and there are still a lot of areas where Alpha just doesn't know enough yet, though according to Wolfram, a lot of the things that people want to know that Alpha doesn't know yet are on the company's to-do list.
Wolfram also mentions that the team plans to give users more options to get actively involved in the project. He did not go into any specifics, however.
Ready for School
As the fall semester is just around the corner and as Alpha's current users are most likely to be students and academics, it is good to see that development on Alpha moved ahead during the summer. Wolfram stresses that this is a long-term project and that the team is constantly adding new data sources and new ways to query these databases.
If you haven't used it yet, have a look at this "Chemistry 101" post on the Alpha blog for some inspiration.