Malloy seems petty cool…

I discovered Malloy recently in this great talk, it seems like a really interesting idea (a higher level abstraction or DSL on top of sql) with some great people behind it (looker founder who seems to really know his stuff).

So I decided to try get going with it in as minimal a way as possible using everyone’s favourite dataset.

To get going all you need to do is:

  • install malloy vscode extension
  • that’s pretty much it, each .malloy or .malloynb file will make it obvious how to run queries or run usual notebook style flow.

Moving parts

  • a source object defining some sort of data connection (in this case just a local csv) and, optionally, some additional measures and dimensions.
  • some queries against a source. This is where i think it essentially becomes a sort of DSL (and more) on top of SQL.
  • optionally some style objects that can help map queries to output visualisations. This is what’s behind the magic of some of the default visualizations in the cool demos here.
  • even the ability to bring it all together into a familiar notebook experience.

Initial thoughts

  • Seems like a really interesting project and idea (no doubt a lot has been learned from and those learnings will be baked into this project).
  • Seems to have a lot of the abstractions right imo – feels natural in some sense while also still quite flexible.
  • I was able to just guess about 70% of what I wanted or expected when writing some example queries.
  • Can’t wait until I can use this natively in something like BigQuery UI and easily share results of analysis with co-workers.
  • Seem to be a cool use case for duckdb in my csv example – need to learn more how that’s all working.
  • I could see this becoming a nice standard way to package up and share analysis type projects with bosses and colleagues in a way that they can easily then play with, customize and build on if they have follow on questions – so i no longer become the bottleneck – great!
  • Could also see this be quite a useful tool to translate and define business questions with stakeholders without having to show them any sql!
  • One of my hot takes over last few years was that SQL is the new excel, but maybe Malloy could also be the new excel.

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