October 5, 2006

Google & Source Code

On the GoogleBlog, there's a post on More developer love with Google Code Search. Google Code Search is a search engine for all the open source code they can find on the net. (FAQ)

This is a great idea that I'm sure will make a lot of developers' lives easier. Searches on "prime number", "differential equation" and "climate modelling" all give big hit counts. (Even "library catalog circulation") The sharing of knowledge for solving scientific problems is always a good thing.

A couple of potential problems, of course. First of all, the hit counts on these kinds of searches are huge, making it tough to separate the wheat from the chaff. A typical Google complaint is, of course, that they don't give a list of the major code repositories they crawl, so we really don't know what is (and isn't) in there. You can specify which package you want to search but that's going to be a lot less useful to neophytes without more information. I can see how useful it might be in the future to allow people to connect articles in Google Scholar with the relevant open source code via Code Search.

Plagiarism of programming assignments will be a big academic issue for this search engine, both making it easier for students to find programs to copy and for profs to detect that plagiarism. In that sense, I would be a bit leary of putting this resource in one of my CS pathfinders without first checking with the profs involved.

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