Natural Language Doesn’t Have to Be Natural

Using simple sentences to search for structure data on the web doesn’t have to be complicated. As Spongecell and Mobissimo show, natural language parsing doesn’t have to be perfect or natural, it just has to be good enough to understand semi-structured data. For example, try on Mobissimo (you have to click on “try one box search”): “sfo to sgn april 6 – 15” which works. It’s a lot easier than clicking on six fields on the site, using a calendar widget and various drop downs. Spongecell does a good job of this too with its calendaring application. You can ‘sponge’ an event like “dinner with buddies friday at seven” instead of navigating complicated menus. Both of these sites are good enough that they’re useful. I’m sure there are tons of corner cases they miss but it doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful.