Talking Tech Friday – Google Squared

Google Labs is always an interesting place to play around with new web stuff.  They’ve come out with several interesting ideas this summer, so today I thought I’d review Google Squared!

What is it?

Google Squared is designed to enable you to search and display facts in an organized table format.  You can customize the data, or “attributes” you’d like to have in your table by deleting items you don’t want and adding things you do.  You can also see the websites that are the source for the data, and if something is wrong, you can choose a different source.  Finally, you can save and share your squares if you are signed in to your Google Account.

How does it work?

It’s really pretty simple – you just do a search for the type of data you’re interested in.  Google Squared uses “roller coasters” as an example, which lists the names of roller coasters, where they’re located, and how high and fast they are.

There’s also a premade example of “US Presidents” which, obviously, lists US Presidents, a picture, and some data about them.

I wanted to create my own square, though, so I did a search for “Harry Potter characters,” hoping to get a nice list of characters.  There is definitely some cleaning up to do – “Hogwarts” is not a character, Voldemort is listed multiple times, so I will definitely need to do some customization if I want to create a presentable list.  Interestingly, Harry Potter himself isn’t listed in the first, second, or third round of searches.  While you’re supposed to be able to change the values, I can’t seem to replace a photo-shopped picture of George W. Bush as Dobby with an actual image of the house elf.  Actually, I can’t replace any of the images.  I’m also puzzled why some values are pulled from sources while others are not – for example, it didn’t automatically list Cho Chang’s House at Hogwarts, despite the fact that the very first search result for “Cho Chang House” is Ravenclaw Info. Finally, I’m frustrated that you cannot sort by column.  However, you can export a Square into a spreadsheet, so I suppose you could always sort things that way. That really defeats the purpose of an online table, though.

Here’s my edited, and by no means comprehensive, Harry Potter Characters Square.

It seems to be more useful when searching for products – here’s a quickly edited square on netbooks – I added columns for features and weight, and didn’t edit values.  I think this could be very handy if you were shopping and doing comparisons for a product – you’d probably be searching for the data anyway, so being able to gather it all into a single table would be valuable.

Possible Library Uses

I think Google Squared has a lot of potential.  A library could make reading lists by author or genre, could create lists of characters (as my example above), or other fun ideas.  However, Google Squared isn’t there yet – with its dubious methods of pulling data, frustrating attempts to change data, and lacking any sorting ability, I wouldn’t recommend using it for library services.  However, let me know if you disagree, or have any other ideas!



~ by Anali on July 24, 2009.