SPUG: WolframAlpha - a great GUI and API for computing everyday knowledge

Dave Olszewski cxreg at pobox.com
Thu Mar 4 18:46:44 PST 2010

On Thu, 4 Mar 2010, Michael R. Wolf wrote:

> On Mar 4, 2010, at 5:45 PM, Dave Olszewski wrote:
>> I saw this article last year which puts to words nicely the issues you
>> and I seem to have with it:
>> http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/07/wolfram-alpha-and-hubristic-user.html
>> "The apps are useful and fine and good. The natural-language UI is a
>> monstrous encumbrance, which needs to be taken out back and shot. It
>> won't be."
>>   Dave
> I think it goes to language design.  Here's a decades-old quote that goes to 
> the heart of it (and the heart of why Perl6 takes as long as it does)
>   When someone says
>     "I want a programming language in which
>      I need only say what I wish done", give him a lollipop.
> -- Alan Perlis

I don't see that as applicable.  The quote is referring to someone who
think their use case is the only one that matters.  In the case of W-A,
there are situations in which it will not ever do what you want, and
that's not just language design, it's fundamentally broken by providing
guesswork for a known factor instead of a control.

If it doesn't work, you're left wondering if the data is even in there
at all, or if it the lousy UI just failed to guess correctly.

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