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Google Squared: another one to love!

Yesterday, very quietly, Google launched Google Squared, an interface for comparing data in tabular form.  I’ll let Google labs Product Manager Daniel Dulitz, explain:

This is a mighty handy little tool for comparative shopping and for research.

I am super impressed with Wolfram|Alpha’s new computational search. And although GoogleSquared does not have Wolfram|Alpha’s computational power, I am duly impressed by what this one can do for me and my students and happy that the organized search world keeps getting more and more interesting. 

Yesterday’s Google Blog describes the search tool’s purpose:

Some information is easy to find. If you want to learn the rules of golf, you can search Google for [golf rules] and we’ll return a list of relevant web sites right at the top. But not all your information needs are that simple. Some questions can be more complex, requiring you to visit ten, perhaps twenty websites to research and collect what you need.

For instance, I’m a big fan of roller coasters. In the past I’ve used Google to search for information about roller coasters, such as which ones are the tallest, fastest, and have the most loops. Finding this information used to take multiple searches — I’d find roller coaster sizes on one website, heights on another, and speeds on a third. By manually comparing the sites, I could get the information I was looking for, but it took some time. With Google Squared, a new feature just released in Google Labs, I can find my roller coaster facts almost instantly.

Google Squared is an experimental search tool that collects facts from the web and presents them in an organized collection, similar to a spreadsheet. If you search for [roller coasters], Google Squared builds a square with rows for each of several specific roller coasters and columns for corresponding facts, such as image, height and maximum speed.

My search on war poets resulted in a list of poets, images, descriptions, dates of birth and death.  Perhaps it didn’t gather them all (but it found those I was hoping to find), perhaps it didn’t complete all the cell values, perhaps it didn’t recognize that British and English might be the same tag, but for a student beginning research, this is a pretty fabulous starting point.  It was a far more valuable way to begin to identify related subjects then a standard vertical search would have been.

Here’s my search on digital cameras.  (I am really in the market for one.)

I like the option of additional column criteria. The suggestions revealed camera options I hadn’t considered.  Unfortunately, adding the category price in Type your own revealed only spotty help. Adding 2009 didn’t help all that much either. (A date filter would be a lovely addition for news and shopping searches.)

Not all the blogger reviewers are impressed. A number note that the comparisons often misfire

One blogger suggests a new Google Squared people chain game.

What I love here is that this is a very cool way for learners to make more sense of certain types of results. I love that squared results allow for search tweaking.  It is easy to X out those rows that look like misfires and it is very easy to add more specific criteria. No search is completely intuitive and this is the kind of search think and search interaction I want learners to do. And I love that when I sign into my iGoogle account, I can save my squares.

I am getting a little carried away.  Here are my searches for romantic movies and noble gases:

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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