Just the facts, ma’am. That’s the premise behind Factery Labs, a service that scours through web content to pull out just the factual bits of information, allowing you to get the gist of an article in seconds (at least, in theory). The company first launched in November with a tech demo and API for developers to tap into. And today, it’s launching a consumer facing fact search engine at FacteryLabs.com.
The site has a spartan interface that I wouldn’t classify as good looking, but it gets the job done. When you first visit Factery Labs, you’ll see a series of widgets, each presenting facts about the current hottest trends (trends are based on trending topics from Twitter). At the top of the page, you’ll find other topics, including Sports, Entertainment, World, Politics, and Technology. Each of these topics is pre-loaded with a handful of popular queries, like “Apple” and “Tablet” in the case of Tech. Each fact consists of a line or two of information, followed by a link to its source, a ‘more’ button that lets you read the fact in context, and a share button so that you can send it to friends.
Of course, the deciding factor in Factery Labs’ success will likely be how well their technology actually works. In my experience, it seems to work decently well, but has some very hit-or-miss results. A query for ‘Avatar’ made it easy to find out how much the film grossed from its initial midnight showings, but didn’t include its overall gross thus far (oddly, this fact was included when an ‘Avatar’ query was run from the site’s Entertainment section). A search for “Super Bowl” correctly returned the teams playing (Saints vs. Colts) , where they’re playing (
Tampa actually it got this wrong. Last year’s Super Bowl was in Tampa, this year’s in in Miami), and some other factoids. But the system also determined that ‘Saints’ was a trending topic, which resulted in facts about “individuals of exceptional holiness”. A query for “James Bond” worked pretty well, yielding some information about creator Ian Fleming, the date of Bond’s first novel, and some background on the famous James Bond theme song, but there weren’t many other facts related to the films.
Factery Labs clearly still needs a lot of work on its algorithms, but there’s some promise. That said, I still think the service’s real potential lies in integration with Twitter clients and popular link sharing sites. I’m not eager to start using a new search engine, but if this could help me use the sites I’m already visiting more efficiently, I’d be a big fan.