Intermission: Google Squared

Google Squared is an impressive (but still beta) offering from The Google that seems to have some real potential for students and others who want to do quick-and-maybe-not-do-dirty research.

This post is also a bit of an experiment. I want to find out whether I can capture screen shots that are large enough to be (at least partly) readable without completely blowing up the page layout I’m currently using for this blog.

Given the subject matter of this blog, it’s no surprise that I thought of this query:

Google squared query for programming languages

which gave me the following result:

First query result

I admit to being surprised and impressed with the collection of values presented with no additional guidance. However, I want to refine the content a little. First, I’ll click on the [X] column to the left to remove Pascal, Fortran, Cobol, and Forth, (none of which I’m currently using ;-); then I’ll use the “Add items” input field to include Java, Scala, Erlang, and Haskell. Some fairly interesting look-ahead kicked in as I began typing:

Typing J provided a hint for Jython

With all my new rows in place, I have this:

Updated query results with new rows

It’s interesting that “Appeared In” was not found for Java, but Google Squared is a beta. I’m impressed that it chose to put that column in, and did find values for the other languages!

The next hint of the underlying sophistication in G2 came when I decided to modify the columns. After removing “Influenced” and “Appeared In”, I started to add replacement columns, and was offered an interesting set of options.

List of proposed columns to add

Curiosity took over, and I picked “Typing Discipline” from the list. The resulting column confirmed that the term was being used correctly (e.g. with values of “duck,dynamic,strong” for Python and “static,strong,inferred” for Haskell).

Replacing that column with new ones for “tutorial” and “blogs” gave me some additional leads to follow:

Updated results with new columns

When I clicked on the tutorial column in the Scala row, G2 provided a pop-up with a link to Bill Venners’ presentation on Scala at last year’s QCon.

Pop-up with link to Bill's tutorial

I won’t burden this page (or you, kind reader) with any more screen shots from G2; perhaps by now you’ve seen enough that you’ve already left to try it out yourself or have decided it’s not (yet) for you.

There’s an obvious comparison begging to be done here; Wolfram Alpha wasn’t immediately successful for this particular search:

Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.

…but let’s remember that both of these new tools are work in progress.

My overall impression is that it’s a very impressive start, but has room for improvement. Several of my attempts to add other columns relevant to this blog (such as “DSL” or “parsing”) yielded “No value found” in most or all rows. Even the proposal from G2 of “Major Implementations” was only partially successful. There were multiple values for all languages except Java, Scala, and Erlang, all three of which got “No value found”.

It would be really interesting to be able to derive new columns from the contents of others. For example, counting the number of values in a list or doing arithmetic with numeric values would both be handy.

You may have noticed in the full-page screenshots the link at the top-right-hand corner that invited me to “Sign in to save your Square”. I did so, and plan to come back later to see if the results change over time.

I’m very interested in seeing how G2 grows from this not-so-humble beginning.

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  • James Iry  On 2009-06-04 at 09:49

    I was fascinated to learn the Java’s paradigm is “datagram packet.”

  • Robin Barooah  On 2009-06-04 at 10:38

    The results are more entertaining if you search for “programming language” instead of “programming languages”. The ‘image’ and ‘death’ columns contain interesting values.

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