It occurred to me the other day that Google (as well as Overture and anybody else with a search engine) is probably sitting on an Olympus Mons-sized pile of search metadata. Google’s zeitgeist exposes some choice pop-culture tidbits, but there’s much more to be had. Imagine if you could track the popularity of an arbitrary keyword or show the top n phrases containing a given keyword. I’m sure there are marketeers who would pay to know such things, and perhaps Google offers that service without promoting it. If they are, I’m surprised I haven’t heard about it from somebody.
More proof that I should’ve done more Emacs hacking way back when…a couple of years-old articles on Paul Graham’s website (Beating the Averages and Carl de Marcken: Inside Orbitz reveal that a couple of high-profile web apps are driven by Lisp engines.
I’m a bit surprised that there’s not a massively tuned SQL engine driving Orbitz, but I should have known better. The flight search problem, though a computationally intense one, is pretty well bounded – you don’t need the flexibility of an ad-hoc query language, you need raw speed.
This also drives home the point that the cost-benefit crossover point between algorithmic improvments and more/faster hardware is pretty far to the right, by which I mean that when faced with a choice you had better spend the first pile of money on engineering time rather than bigger iron.
While we’ve been here in Las Vegas, Andrew decided to start a business. Here’s the movie of his first sale (QuickTime only, for now).