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On PowerSet’s Demo and the SFBeta event

After my last post (where I totally got busted for being a dirtbag cynic), I wanted to post my thoughts on the SFBeta event today.

PowerSet was the main event; companies like Kosmix and others did smaller demos (no PowerPoint, wobbly table, poor wireless; you get the idea).

Scott Prevost, PowerSet’s director of Product took the stage at 7:30pm after a rather lame speech by the event’s main organizer (no offence, but he definitely looked bombed). After this, Scott proceeded to an extremely slick demo site for PowerSet and showed us how PowerSet blows the rocks off Google for the following queries:

  • Who did PeopleSoft acquire? PowerSet gets it right; Google blows it and shows links for the Oracle Corp.
  • Acquisitions in 2001. This is a keyword query, not a question. PowerSet presented a nice list that included snippets with words such as “sold” and “bought” instead of just sentences with the word “acquisition”. Google did not do so hot.
  • Who mocked Tony Blair? PowerSet returns results with the words “mocked”, “caricatured”, “lampooned”, etc. Google half-asses this one.

Fine Print:

  • PowerSet only showed results based on a Wikipedia index. We’re talking about 2 million pages here, so this is effectively small potatoes and nowhere near Internet scale. Getting to Internet scale isn’t trivial by any means, especially since doing heavyweight NLP processing at that scale has got to be a dog. But those guys are smart and probably have a handle on the issue.
  • PowerSet did not take audience questions. This totally stinks, but it may well have been an issue of “event format”. Additionally, there were plenty of drunk people there, so this may have been a good call after all.
  • PowerSet did not accept audience queries. To be fair, though, they *did* set up demo pods for a little product called “PowerQuotes”. I had to cut out and didn’t get a chance to play with it…sigh.

All in all, a good evening. Except for all the pain-in-the-ass drunk Giants fans on the Caltrain.

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Going to See PowerSet at SFBeta tonight!

July 24, 2007 7 comments

I’m super excited. After tons of hype, I finally get to see a live demo of PowerSet, the “secretive new search engine that claims to have cracked the natural language search problem”. The event is SFBeta; it’s being held at 111 Minna in the city.

The geek within wishes for a great demo and restoration of a “childlike sense of wonder” (thanks Fake Steve!). But the cynic within wishes for a fall-flat-on-their-face demo. Oh, the sense of schadenfreude!

I’ll update with my thoughts when I get back!