WolframAlpha is a new search engine that launched last week to much fanfare.

It’s not a search engine like Google – it doesn’t return pages and pages of details, instead it provides you with detailed answers to questions you ask it.

Want to do complex math? No problem, after all Wolfram also developed Mathematica. Want to know the GDP of Canada compared to that of Ireland? It’s got an answer. Want to know the weather on the day you were born? It knows that. Want to sequence DNA? It can do that too.

It also knows a bit about your college’s website. It will tell you where it’s hosted, some basic stats (gathered from sources like Alexa, I’d wager) and some stats about your home page.

My favorite was the beautiful map it made of elements on my college’s homepage:


Click for a larger version.

I don’t know if you’ll learn anything out about your site that you didn’t already know, but you should at least check the validity of the information. That’s part of the fun of managing a college’s website, a decent amount of our time is spent making sure everyone else has the right information.

The Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place July 28-30, 2009 at the University of Essex in Colchester.

The program has been announced and it looks like a great event, and I’m not just saying that because yours truly is crossing the pond to speak.

Brian Kelly, one of the organizers, blogged this last week about the conference:

Although the event is well-established, having been launched in 1997, the event continues to develop in response to the ever-changing Web environment and the needs and expectations of the Web management community. We will continue to have a number of plenary talks which will provide a shared context for all workshop participants. However this year, in response to feedback we’ve received from previous events, we are splitting the talks (and related workshop sessions) on the second afternoon into two strands: a ‘front-end’ strand which focusses on the services as perceived by the end user and a ‘back-end’ strand which addresses the ‘behind-the-scenes’ activities which are needed in order to deliver the user services.

If you’re attending the event, and I hope the fair number of visitors to this blog from the UK will, I hope you’ll come to my session on Wednesday, July 29. I’ll be doing a hands-on session using Amazon Web Services. We’ll check out S3, Amazon’s storage system and EC2, their servers-on-demand product. It’s going to be a bit to cram into under 2 hours, but I think I can do it.

Registrations for the event are now open and are £350, which includes 2 night accomodations, the program, a bunch of meals, materials and social events.

I’m really looking forward to the conference. The program looks great and I’m really excited to get a new perspective and share some best practices with colleagues from different institutions.

p.s. is it way too nerdy to say I’m also kind of excited to go to the Doctor Who exhibition in Cardiff?

A couple of weeks ago Gary Vaynerchuk posted a video where he brazenly called Twitter’s search ability the most important site on the Internet.

If you haven’t used Twitter’s search tool, you should start doing it now. You can also set up searches in most of the Twitter clients like TweetDeck, Nambu, Seesmic and more.

Is Twitter’s search the most important site on the planet? For fun, I’m going to agree and say yes, it is. Here’s why.

Twitter search does something that not even the mighty Google can do – giving you results that are happening right that instant. Sure, Google indexes quickly, but Twitter gives you results up to the second – and even tells you there are more results that have come in since your initial search, which means even more people are talking about a topic.

To stick with my hockey example from earlier in the week, a few weeks ago Fox Sports Pittsburgh went out on my cable system during a playoff hockey game. My first thought was that our cable company has an outage. I turned to Twitter’s search and typed in FSN.

I quickly found a few people in my area that were having an outage, and after a few minutes, tweets began pouring in from all over the east coast, saying that FSN was out for them as well. After, seriously, 5 minutes, this tweet appeared, saying the source of the problem was a lightning strike.

In the old days (pre-Twitter), if FSN went down, I’d maybe call the cable company and I could guarantee the CSR would have no idea there was even a game on let alone it was out. Now, in five minutes, I had an exact answer, even a link to someone streaming the game on uStream.

Searching Twitter gives you up-to-the-second news, trends and allows you to tap into the world-wide zeitgeist like no other technology before has.

So what can Twitter do for you? It can easily tell you what people are saying about your institution. If you haven’t yet setup a search in a client or grabbed an RSS feed from Twitter’s search results pages, stop reading this and go and do it now.

It allows you to keep up on happenings and trends, and if appropriate, respond quickly and effectively.

Do you think it’s the most important site on the internet?