Powerset Doesn’t Excite Me The Way Google Did

Firstly, Wikipedia didn’t really excite me when I first discovered it. I thought it was cool that there was an online resource I could use for information but having grown up with my World Book encyclopedia set since Primary School and having a really good library in school which I knew how to search effectively, Wikipedia didn’t strike me as a particularly breakthrough piece of work.

However, now, as I come to understand it more than just an online resource of information but an artifact of social interactions unique to this period in human history, I have come to appreciate it more. And actually go whoa when i think about it but it didn’t have that effect on me in the beginning.

Maybe Powerset is going to be another Wikipedia to me. Maybe. For now, I can’t seem to get excited about it. I like the way they have represented the data from Wikipedia and the user interface to discover and learn more information but that is about it. Using Google or using the Wikipedia page of any topic of interest as a starting point works just as well or rather it works just as well for me.

To borrow a bit from Seth Godin, the problem, at least to me, why I can’t seem to get excited about Powerset is that it doesn’t tell the kind of story that Google did when I first used it. Google told a really simple yet effective story when they put this short message at the right of search results:

Results 1 – 10 of about 1,240,000,000 for friends. (0.22 seconds)

The story was simple. There is too much information out there. Google is able to tell you which is the top ten places to get the information for a particular query. And they did it in less than 1 second. Of course, time was spent indexing the web. That’s not factored in. Time was spent developing the algorithm. That’s not factored it either. But the consumer doesn’t care about all that. The consumer cared about the simple story of how fast Google managed to produce the right sort of results after the query was made. That simple message at the upper right of results became the base for people to share about Google.

Powerset has nothing like that. Looking at the way the data is presented, I can’t find a story to tell. Sure, the algorithm is able to understand the indexed content and query. Sure, the information returned is supposedly more relevant to my query. Sure, the techies are all getting excited about the technology powering the service. Sure, there is the story the people responsible for the service are telling at conferences and investor meetings.

But where is the story told on the site. There isn’t one. Yet.

Tangled Web We Weave

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I Can’t Remember The First Time I Used A Computer

I was planning what I wanted to ask when I visited library@orchard for the article I wanted to contribute when I realized I can’t remember the first time I used a computer. It really shouldn’t be that hard. Right? I mean, computers weren’t mainstream yet when I was growing up and I should have been old enough to remember the first time I used one.

I’m part of the generation that grew up without computers and yet is extremely comfortable with them if not savvy. I’m part of what is probably the threshold generation – the ones that can play hantam bola, shoot marbles out of a circle, play ‘pepsi cola 123′, one leg catching, use a cardboard to race down slopes and play a host of other games as well as use a hex editor to cheat on those KOEI games like ‘Romance Of The 3 Kingdoms’ and ‘Uncharted Waters’.

If technology and gadgets have always been able to trigger a childlike sense of wonder in me, how come I can’t remember the first time I came into contact with most of them.

I have managed to narrow the possibilities. It was either at those CAL lessons my parents signed me up for or at my friend’s house which I visited a lot to play ‘Alley Cat’ and ‘Pacman’ or at my primary school’s library which I remembered trying to install some education software or the computer lab at my primary school where I played those Super Solvers’ games.

If only they had blogging then…

It really sucks when your memories is like a forest covered in mist. You can see some of the trees. You know the other trees are there but you can’t see them. You don’t know where they are. My memory isn’t a panoramic view.

In a way, I guess while computers weren’t mainstream then, I was fortunate enough to be given quite a fair number of opportunities to use them. Is it because I didn’t realize how fortunate I was then that I took the use of the computers for granted and didn’t think it worthy to note when I first came to use them. So while I may have been amazed at what computers could do, I wasn’t amazed that I was even able to use them in the first place and thus didn’t find those moments noteworthy.

What I’m trying to say is that while I was impressed by what computers could do, I didn’t have context to really appreciate what they were doing. To try to explain this, let me share my experience with Google.

I first learned about Google from a JC classmate who was raving about the coolness of those timings Google displayed when showing the results of a search query – ‘Results 1-10 of about 794,000,000 for friends in 0.05 seconds’. At that time, I was struggling to find information off the net using search engines like Excite, Altavista and Lycos. When my friend shared about Google, I decided to give it a try and it totally blew the competition away with its results. I was hooked. In this case, while I can’t remember the exact date I first entered a search query into Google, I got a story to tell about it. The use of Google fits nicely into a linear narrative.

Hmmm… I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I’m just ‘figuring out’ by blogging. In this case, I’m trying to figure out why and how some stuff sneak into the narrative of my life without me noticing while the starting and ending points of others are clearly marked. I’m wondering how we can become conscious of stuff without being conscious of when it happens.

It’s like how new neighbors can seem like old friends.

Musing about Life


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