Finding Shakespeare’s Favourite Words With Data Explorer

Finding Shakespeare’s Favourite Words With Data Explorer by Chris Webb.

From the post:

The more I play with Data Explorer, the more I think my initial assessment of it as a self-service ETL tool was wrong. As Jamie pointed out recently, it’s really the M language with a GUI on top of it and the GUI itself, while good, doesn’t begin to expose the power of the underlying language: I’d urge you to take a look at the Formula Language Specification and Library Specification documents which can be downloaded from here to see for yourself. So while it can certainly be used for self-service ETL it can do much, much more than that…

In this post I’ll show you an example of what Data Explorer can do once you go beyond the UI. Starting off with a text file containing the complete works of William Shakespeare (which can be downloaded from here – it’s strange to think that it’s just a 5.3 MB text file) I’m going to find the top 100 most frequently used words and display them in a table in Excel.

If Data Explorer is a GUI on top of M (outdated but a point of origin), it goes up in importance.

From the M link:

The Microsoft code name “M” Modeling Language, hereinafter referred to as M, is a language for modeling domains using text. A domain is any collection of related concepts or objects. Modeling domain consists of selecting certain characteristics to include in the model and implicitly excluding others deemed irrelevant. Modeling using text has some advantages and disadvantages over modeling using other media such as diagrams or clay. A goal of the M language is to exploit these advantages and mitigate the disadvantages.

A key advantage of modeling in text is ease with which both computers and humans can store and process text. Text is often the most natural way to represent information for presentation and editing by people. However, the ability to extract that information for use by software has been an arcane art practiced only by the most advanced developers. The language feature of M enables information to be represented in a textual form that is tuned for both the problem domain and the target audience. The M language provides simple constructs for describing the shape of a textual language – that shape includes the input syntax as well as the structure and contents of the underlying information. To that end, M acts as both a schema language that can validate that textual input conforms to a given language as well as a transformation language that projects textual input into data structures that are amenable to further processing or storage.

I try to not run examples using Shakespeare. I get distracted by the elegance of the text, which isn’t the point of the exercise. 😉

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