Data exploration through dot-driven development

Tomas Petricek

In proceedings of ECOOP 2017

Data literacy is becoming increasingly important in the modern world. While spreadsheets make simple data analytics accessible to a large number of people, creating transparent scripts that can be checked, modified, reproduced and formally analyzed requires expert programming skills. In this paper, we describe the design of a data exploration language that makes the task more accessible by embedding advanced programming concepts into a simple core language.

The core language uses type providers, but we employ them in a novel way -- rather than providing types with members for accessing data, we provide types with members that allow the user to also compose rich and correct queries using just member access (``dot''). This way, we recreate functionality that usually requires complex type systems (row polymorphism, type state and dependent typing) in an extremely simple object-based language.

We formalize our approach using an object-based calculus and prove that programs constructed using the provided types represent valid data transformations. We discuss a case study developed using the language, together with additional editor tooling that bridges some of the gaps between programming and spreadsheets. We believe that this work provides a pathway towards democratizing data science -- our use of type providers significantly reduce the complexity of languages that one needs to understand in order to write scripts for exploring data.

Draft and more information

Watch the talk

My talk about the paper has been pre-recorded at the Alan Turing Institute and so you can watch it below. If you are looking for a more general introduction to The Gamma project, then consider watching the Fellow Short Talk that is available for a more general paper about the project.


If you want to cite the paper, you can use the following BibTeX information.

  author    = {Petricek, Tomas},
  title     = {Data exploration through dot-driven development},
  booktitle = {European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming},
  series    = {ECOOP 2017},
  location  = {Barcelona, Spain},
  year      = {2017}

If you have any comments, suggestions or related ideas, I'll be happy to hear from you! Send me an email at or get in touch via Twitter at @tomaspetricek.

Published: Wednesday, 12 April 2017, 12:00 AM
Author: Tomas Petricek
Typos: Send me a pull request!