Why waste time doing your own search? You can always let a machine or another person do the searching for you. Which is better? We decided to find out. We put the following question to InfoWizard's intelligent agent and to HumanSearch's flesh-and-blood volunteer: "How many computers are currently in use in Argentina?" Here's what we learned.
The Service: Amulet Inc.'s InfoWizard.
The Method: After we entered the question, intelligent agents went off to gather articles from Web sites and more than 1,600 private databases. Five minutes later, the software sent the results to InfoWizard's Web site.
The Result: InfoWizard didn't answer the question directly. But overall, the results were far more focused than those from a traditional search engine.
The Service: HumanSearch, launched by five undergrads from the University of Rhode Island.
The Method: After we keyed in the question, a volunteer browsed the Web on our behalf. The next morning, an email from HumanSearch was waiting for us.
The Result: Though it linked to different sources, the search yielded results identical to those of InfoWizard: Acer leads the Argentine market; PC sales are up by 9% in the first quarter. The human search agent made sure every result was relevant.
The Winner?: Decide for yourself. If you're pressed for time, go with InfoWizard. But if you can spare a day, why not get the same information for free?
Coordinates: InfoWizard, $7, http://www.infowizard.com ; HumanSearch, free, http://www.humansearch.com .
A version of this article appeared in the October/November 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.