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Mary Ellen Bates
Bates Information Services, Inc.
8494 Boulder Hills Dr.
Niwot, Colorado 80503 USA
Tel: 303.772.7095
Skype: Mary.Ellen.Bates
Yahoo! has an experimental service called Correlator, part of its Sandbox area where Yahoo tries out new ideas. This particular demonstration is useful for research brainstorming; it gives you information -- not just search results -- that can help you get a better sense of the various aspects of an idea.

At its core, Correlator is a sophisticated tool for mining Wikipedia; its default search results page groups Wikipedia snippets by category. The search query "lithium ion batteries", for example, gives me information organized into areas such as rechargeable batteries, electric vehicles, and electric batteries. But what's more interesting is that below the search box are icons for Names, Places, Events, Concepts, News and Answers.

When I click the Names icon, the result is a dynamic word cloud and list of frequently-occurring names (geographic, personal, company, etc.) related to lithium ion batteries. Clicking the Places icon displays a map of the world, with flags in areas that are significant in the context of lithium batteries, such as China (manufacturing), Austin (research and development), and Chicago and Japan (which both have tests of lithium battery-powered vehicles). This alone gives me ideas on where to look next -- local Chicago and Japanese papers, for example, if I want to know what is past the drawing board stage.

The Events icon displays a time line of events, again culled from Wikipedia, pertaining to Li-ion batteries. This helps me see, among other things, the speed with which Li-ion batteries have been incorporated into various devices. The News icon produces snippets from 20 or so recent stories in Yahoo News on the batteries. Clicking the Answers icon runs my query in the Yahoo Answers database; since Yahoo Answers tends to be consumer-oriented, the results help me identify the most common consumer concerns regarding batteries. The Concepts icon produces another dynamic word cloud and list of key words and phrases from the relevant Wikipedia articles. Of all the icons, this is the most variable in terms of usefulness.

While limited to Wikipedia results, I have found Yahoo Correlator to be a quick way to see the wide range of possibilities for me to explore with a new concept.

September 2010
Using Yahoo to Brainstorm
by Mary Ellen Bates
Bates Information Services

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