Back in June I wrote about Powerset, a start-up aiming to become an important natural language search engine. At the time I said, “I’m probably wrong, but this one feels like it might go a mile or two.”
Since then I’ve become one of the Powerset Labs volunteers, let into the alpha test phase, and if anything my sense has strengthened that these people are on to something important and useful. Along with perhaps a couple hundred other active volunteer testers — there’s growning bench strength, and I imagine more and more will move from passive to active roles — I’ve been asked to try out the search engine in various controlled contexts, submit ideas for improvements in every and any regard, and join in discussions with the stellar gang of linguists and lay folk who are working on how best to marry the need to know to the electronic texts that might be made to render it up. At the moment they’re testing the engine against our old friend Wikipedia.
I’ve got to say it’s fun. The Powerset people have set it up as something of a game, with karma points to be earned both through diligent effort and through inspiration.
They’ve given me the right to extend some invitations to others, so if you’d like to be part of this serious and entertaining project, let me know. I think you’d enjoy it.