Fuzzy Google truth

Richard Suchenwirth 2002-06-07 - Given some piece of data where it is doubtful whether they are correct or not, one way to find out is just to ask a search engine like Google, but disregard the results except for the number of found web pages. Chances are that the correct data have a higher hit rate than the faulty one.

 # \
 exec wish "$0" "$@"
 package require http
 #http::config -proxyhost proxy -proxyport 80

 proc google'nhits query {
    set url  http://google.yahoo.com/bin/query?p=[string map {" " +} $query]&hc=0&hs=0
    set token [http::geturl $url]
    set data [http::data $token]
    http::cleanup $token
    set nhits 0
    regexp {\n[ 0-9-]+ of ([0-9,]+)} $data -> nhits
    set nhits
 proc go {w} {
    global query
    $w insert end "'$query': [google'nhits $query] hits\n"
 entry .e -textvar query -bg white
 bind .e <Return> {go .t}
 text .t -bg white
 pack .e .t -fill x -expand 1

Example output in the text widget (asking about a city in Italy, where post code and province were unsure):

 'bellaria rn': 3580 hits
 'bellaria fo': 609 hits
 'bellaria 47814': 1130 hits
 'bellaria 47014': 30 hits

These results seem to indicate that 47814 Bellaria RN (Rimini) is the correct address ;-) On single words one might use this for spelling verification:

 'suchenwirth': 280 hits
 'suchenworth': 0 hits

..or to check how strong an association between several words is:

 'suchenwirth tcl': 57 hits
 'suchenwirth java': 14 hits

The numbers may change over time, but the tendency ("fuzzy truth") can at least be estimated.

2002-09-09 Google changed their layout slightly, so I had to add a space and a comma into the regexp in google'nhits. RS This illustrates the value of the "Google Web API", which Google has more-or-less pledged to maintain upward-compatible.

See Also http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=something+in+the+lines+of%2C+something+along+the+lines+of&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=