Type of Engine: Natural language.
Overall: Very Good.
If this engine were a drink it would be…a Jack and Ginger. An old-time favorite search type that tastes refreshing after not being tried for a long time.
Don’t be annoyed that there’s no space between the words Brain and Boost. Instead, go ahead and ask BrainBoost questions in plain English and youâ€™ll get answers in plain English. BrainBoost boasts that itâ€™s completely automated and uses no human editorial invention. I guess thatâ€™s impressive since it’s pretty good as it is, but I still think any engine can only get better if editors are used in some capacity. And just because AskJeeves uses editors donâ€™t let that fool you. It’s commonsense to me that a successful combination of the two approaches would be best for relevance; but I digress.
The legend goes that BrainBoost was created by 24-year-old software programmer Assaf Rozenblatt. It took him a year to build it and he built it so that his fiancÃ© could better do her college research. (And all I gave my wife was this search engine review blog. Ouch.)
BrainBoost is honest. What does that mean? It means that when it doesnâ€™t know the answer it doesnâ€™t pretend it does know. Usually. Of course itâ€™s not perfect and you get your share of false positive matches, but generally speaking itâ€™s solid.
UI and Features
The Snap Open feature is cool because it opens to the relevant part of the listing; think of an anchor tag where it takes you right to the text on the page that answers your question.
Otherwise itâ€™s all pretty straightforward.
I wanted to know Tony Gwynnâ€™s lifetime average, so I asked:
what was tony gwynn’s lifetime average? and I got no results. Strange, since that should be a relatively easy one.
So I refined my query: what was tony gwynn’s lifetime batting average? . This time I got 2 results and the second one has the answer displayed right there on the search results page: .339 (turns out from other results I looked at that it was actually .338, but that’s certainly not BrainBoost’s fault). I didnâ€™t even have to click to the site. Now obviously that has potential repercussions for all the engines that make $ by driving traffic to sites. But for now I’ll stay out of the financial fray.
For my next search I wanted to find out how much an annual subscription to Smithsonian magazine costs. So I queried:
how much is a year’s subscription to smithsonian magazine? I got 2 results that both had to do with getting a subscription as part of donating to an organization. Not good.
A little refinement was in order:
what is the annual cost of smithsonian magazine? returned no results.
Better try again, but this time I gamed the system by using a keyword-based phrase query instead of natural language. subscription to Smithsonian returned 6 results, 5 of which answered my question. Though with this one I had to click on the actual results (man that sounds lazy) to see the answer to my query because BrainBoost’s display text didnâ€™t show me the answer. Thatâ€™s par for the course with search engines, but I was hoping BrainBoost would display the answer right up front to this query. And in case youâ€™re wondering, how much is a subscription to Smithsonian? had a very similar result set, though it missed one of the results from my previous query and the display text for the same results was different. But the point is I was able to query this by keywords and by natural language and get good, though slightly different, results.
And of course everyone enjoys a good laugh at the expense of natural language engines, just like we all enjoy laughing at translation engines. So hereâ€™s a good one: what is a sous chef?. The first result:
-The sous chef is legal. Hes an American.
But then a few results down is this great display text:
A sous chef is a chef ranking above line cooks and below an executive chef or chef de cuisine.
Good stuff. Iâ€™m a fan and will use BrainBoost when that nagging trivia question hits me, like whatâ€™s the population of Wales? . Youâ€™ve got to see that one for yourself, because itâ€™s really good.