Wolfram Alpha

Happy Birthday Wolfram Alpha!


We at bizologie are big fans of Wolfram Alpa, as you can see here, here, here, and here.  We heard through the grapevine known as the Wired Epicenter Blog that this new engine just turned two, so we decided to give it some attention in honor of its birthday, and discuss it in greater detail.  For the uninitiated, what exactly is Wolfram Alpha? The FAQ page says, “It's a computational knowledge engine: it generates output by doing computations from its own internal knowledge base, instead of searching the web and returning links.”  In Wired's entry, author Ryan Singel goes on to say, that the man behind the engine, Stephen Wolfram is encouraged by the fact that “…people are trying to use Wolfram Alpha for complicated things like comparing the economies of two countries.”

Type in a topic on which you want to know more, and Wolfram Alpha returns to you a shiny and concise report on said topic with key facts, statistics, charts, illustrations, annotations for how it derived the data, etc.  Even better, you can save each segment of the report as its own image, or you can download the entire thing as a PDF file.  (Oh, and the Random button on the homepage is both fascinating and addictive).

For business researchers wanting to learn what features it offers and how to learn the ropes of entering queries, visit the Examples by Topic page, wherein the Money & Finance, and  Socioeconomic Data categories will make one hot and bothered.

To give a balanced perspective though, Wolfram Alpha does have its limitations.  The takeaway for business researchers:  don’t expect it to generate the several hundred/thousand dollar reports sold by the friendly neighborhood analyst company.  For example, if you search: Smartphone Market, your current results page will have the utterance:  “Commercial Products- Development of this topic is under investigation...”.  It then comes as little surprise too that, while the engine touts itself as being great at comparisons, it has a hard time comparing public and private companies.  Search: Hilton, Marriott, and you receive only the financial facts of Marriott (which is public).  Search: Hilton vs Marriott, and you will get in return the digital equivalent of a blank stare.

Overall though, Wolfram Alpha is an ambitious entity that delivers very well on topics within its current scope of expertise, and bizologie will be eagerly enjoying its evolution. We wish Wolfram Alpha, "...and many more"!

Super Bowl Facts & Figures


Super Bowl Sunday is upon us. Let's take a look at the game from the viewpoint of a Business Librarian. The National Retail Federation gives us a dollars and cents breakdown of Super Bowl parties. According to their survey for 2011, the average consumer will spend about $60 on snacks and apparel for the big game. About 4% of those watching the game will actually buy a new television. As a whole, we are more excited about the commercials than the halftime show and the women surveyed are just as excited about the commercials as they are the game itself (not true, for the men, of course). Of the 171 million people who will watch the game, the most in the survey’s history, nearly 34.9 million (15.0%) are planning to throw their own party, up from last year’s 31.6 million, and another 61.2 million (26.3%) plan to attend a party, also up from the 58.8 million who said they would go to a party in 2010.

Speaking of Super Bowl commercials, AdAge has a list of which companies have commercials, at what point during the game they will air and which advertising agency did the spot. I don't see Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce on the list anywhere but I'm sure they'll have a late entry for Lucky Strike. According to Kantar Media, advertisers will spend over $200 million during this year's game.

Love the Packers or the Steelers enough to make Green Bay or Pittsburgh your home? Using our old friend Wolfram Alpha, you can do a quick comparison of the two cities.  The median home price in Pittsburgh is $118, 900 while in Green Bay it's $137,700. Unfortunately, the lower house cost in Pittsburgh comes with a higher violent crime rate: 2.4 times the national average, while Green Bay is 1.1 times the national average. You can try the comparison or compare your own two cities here:

While you're gearing up for the game and the commercials, check out this old gem from Lucky Strike:

Mad Men & Wolfram Alpha


I've been rewatching  Mad Men Season Two recently and thinking about salaries and what it takes to live in NYC.  In one episode, I believe it's Peter who says he makes $75/week. Of course, the Business Librarian in me kicked in and I had to know what that meant, exactly. "How much is that?" "Can you afford a NYC apartment on $75/week?"  Wolfram Alpha to the rescue. Peter's salary comes out to about $3900/year in 1960 or $29,146 in 2011. Which would explain why they need Trudy's parents' help with the purchase. Harry gets a raise in season two: $225/week. This comes out to $11,700/year in 1960 or $87,438.52 in 2011. You can try out the Historic Salary Calculator below, or make your own, here. Wolfram Alpha has lots of other tools helpful for business research like stock data, foreign currency exchange and income tax estimates.  You can type in the names of a couple of companies and Wolfram Alpha will create a chart comparing things like stock prices, number of employees and revenue.  Need calculations on-the-go? Download their app available for iPhone & Android for $1.99.