First experiences with Powerset

Some time ago I was invited to use Powerset, a new natural language search tool! I'll share my experiences with you.

The user-interface is wonderful! It’s clear, not clogged, lets you type in comments without moving away from the page, etc. Here are two screenshots to give you an idea.

When you start using Powerset you get to watch a couple of short video’s on how Powerset works, how you can use it, what the limitations of this version are, etc. Insightful, good expectation management. (By the way, why not let all be able to see those video's, while they're waiting for invites?)

To give you a taste of how Powerset’s natural language search works they’ve created a set of queries to illustrate the power of their semantic index.

The reference applications are limited to ‘speech’ (quotes), ‘business’ and ‘arts’.

There's an application called Powermouse, which gives us a glimpse into Powerset’s natural language index and lets us see how it extracts structured facts from open text. The index now only contains how things are semantically connected in wikipedia. Powermouse lets you explored these connections.
You see three boxes: in slots 1 and 3 you can fill in a person's name, places or things, the second slot is filled with a connection word. The relationship is searched for in Wikipedia.

In the 'Sports' application you can type in questions like:
"Who did the Chicago Bulls defeat?"

When you type in "defeated" it also finds results with "eliminated".

Search results are presented in a table. On the one hand you get the search results of Powerset, on the other hand, results from "old" search. The user may vote on who's best or say it's "undecided".

During search I was able to leave my remarks on search results and user interaction in an intuitive way. Entering ideas, comments, questions and remarks did not imply that I had to move away from the page.

By the way: querying the discussion forum containing ideas, questions, comments and remarks provided very concise results.

Well, it was nice to play with Powerset. As I said before, I wasn't too hopeful about this new natural language search. I would like to be. And I do hope I will be in the future. Basically, the results I saw relate to the kind of results we had years ago when "question answering" was hot. Looking at the results I see this is still a very difficult task. And these results were limited to structured queries and a limited data collection...

Nonetheless, I'm happy that companies like Powerset are trying to tackle this difficult task!
And, they are doing this in a new way. Using the social component of search. This could be the key to real useable natural language search in the future. By having the user vote and correct in a simple way, Powerset may be able to create a true new search engine. I truly hope so.

And, finally, a little joke. In the Business section I typed in "Who founded Powerset?". Result "no right answer"...


Popular posts

Keep the Intranet Small

Enterprise 2.0 Research

Innovation in Turbulent Times