Crazy Cuckoo Cpedia

Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Filed under , ,

Earlier this month, the search engine Cuil (which I've never heard of before) released Cpedia, the Internet's first "automated encyclopedia." When I told my friend about this, he asked, "I'm sorry, what's an automated encyclopedia?"

According to the website, you give it a search, and "For each query, Cpedia algorithmically summarizes and clusters the ideas on the web and uses this to generate a report." I summarized this to my friend: "It apparently finds information online about a topic, then mashes together questionably relevant content." Right now, the site is in its alpha phase, but perhaps they were a little hasty in releasing it to the public, because hardly anything on this site makes sense.

For example, check out Cpedia's article about mowing the lawn (archived). The first paragraph starts out reasonably encyclopedic, if not a bit too conversational, but quickly falls into criticism of lazy people who don't like mowing the lawn. Then, a later paragraph reads, "When outside, especially when doing yardwork (like mowing the lawn), use a dust mask and close-fitting goggles to keep allergens out of your nose and eyes. So I did things like mow other people's lawns, shoveled snow and even had a lemonade stand from time to time." I don't see how these two concepts even follow! It just seems like random sentences somewhat related to mowing the lawn are put together haphazardly.

What made me laugh the most was a quick read-through of the article's table of contents: Physical Activity, Cinderfella, Memphis in January 2008, Chore. The Cinderfella section says, in its entirety, "Cinderfella did not like living with his family because they made him do all of the work around the house like washing the car and mowing the lawn." The Memphis in January 2008 section is an apparently irrelevant diversion: "When the company relocated to Memphis in January 2008, Mr. Hudson, 52, decided not to move." What company? No context is given in the article, but at least the site provides a link to the article it pulled the sentence from.

The article about microwaves (archived) says absolutely nothing about electromagnetic waves, or how microwave ovens work. Actually, it reads more like a sales pitch for luxury hotel rooms and appliance shops.

You'd think that there would be an article for everything, since an automatic encyclopedia could theoretically create an article upon request. However, while there is an article for running red lights for fun (archived) (which contains information only about blondes being the life of the party), there exists no article for tickling porcupines.

Cpedia's about page says that the purpose of the site is so that users don't have to look through search result links; they can instead go to Cpedia and get "a summary of the topic." I feel that an automated encyclopedia is an interesting idea, but the articles it comes up with are often so confusing and meaningless that it just doesn't work.

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