Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Google Drive's autofill feature is both useful and bizarre

 Autofill is a common feature on spreadsheets where you can enter a few items (typically, numbers) like so:

Then, if you click that little blue square and drag down, it'll know that you want to just keep counting up:

Useful!  However, as this story over at TechCrunch today notes, Google Drive has an enhanced version of this, where you can ctrl-click instead of just clicking before you drag and Google will attempt to guess what you want to autofill with pretty much any data you want.  As TechCrunch writer Drew Olanoff notes, you can do this with beer types to produce a comprehensive list of beer varieties (albeit with some noise thrown in):

Obviously, I wanted to try for myself, so I put in a few beer types, autofilled the column, and ta-da!

So that list was populated using three entries ahead of time--as a certified lazy person, I wanted to see if I could use just two for the same result, which did in fact produce basically the same list:

Using just one, however, yielded more unusual results.  If I started with "ale", I think Google assumes I'm looking for country abbreviations:

Using "ipa" yields what appear to be names of college majors in Indonesian:

Starting with "lager" gives us some words I had to translate, but they appear to be basic German (and some Dutch) words that have to do with either A) business transactions or B) automobile repair.  The word "lager" just means "stock", so I guess that's the common thread.  I am not sure where the Dutch words came from.

If we use "porter", we at first just get a list of other jobs, including some oddly specific ones.  The Japanese characters below translate to "Yoshida bag", which seems random at first--however, apparently Yoshida makes a line of porter bags, so that explains that.  Zozotown also seems wholly ridiculous, but it's apparently a Japanese retail site that sells items such as porter bags, so there you go.

I thought typing out the full name of a beer style might help, so I tried "india pale ale", but that just gave a series of "________ pale ale" results, which is boring.  "Imperial pale ale" was more interesting--we got off to a good start, but then it just started naming German months (from 2011, for some reason) as well as the German word for "pages".  No clue.

"Pilsner" was the only single beer type that really worked--it yields a similar list to using several beer types:

Having confirmed that this feature works (mostly), I decided to try a couple other things.  Obviously, I was curious what using my name might yield:

Not much of use there, though I noticed that Google appears to be subtly hinting that others, as opposed to myself, arouse.  Daily dose of damage to self esteem:

Lastly, I wondered if Google's smart autofill could count.  Obviously, the basic version can, since it can only use basic mathematical progressions, but can the more advanced version figure out how to count?  

 Ah.  Well, it did get to eleven, I guess.  It's probably kinda unfair to use the spelled-out versions of numbers--what happens with just the digits?

 No idea what happened there.  Anyway, if you're interested in seeing the results on a spreadsheet, all the images come from here--feel free to add your own if you find some interesting results. 

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