Monday, January 23, 2006

The Quandary of Google News

I was pleased when Google News first came on the scene. I remember waiting patiently as the new tool indexed more and more media sources in order to bring me more and more up-to-date information as it broke. I imagined a little block of Google Code infecting some douche's cell phone, and as soon his car was in an accident in Oswegatchie, NY his cell phone would SMS the news to Google and I would read about it.

It sounds bizarre, but my friends can recount for you my crippling CNN addiction from 1999 until December of 2001, when I would sit and hit reload on and beg, "where is my new-news??"

All of that has changed though, as I am a much calmer and level headed than I was in my early 20s (not drinking a gallon of Mountain Dew a day probably helps).

Over the past three to six months though, I've built up beef with Google News, and I'm here to speak out against it:

It has several annoying bugs, and I don't like it. I know it's a "Beta" -- everything Google does is "Beta" for two years, but we need to roll back about three versions of the code for this POS because I'm tired of reading the same news story two days later. This bug was introduced at the same time Google allowed you to "personalize" your Google News experience, which is as useless as birth control for an amputee.

What the fuck am I talking about, you ask?

The screen shot you're looking at, as you can see, was auto-generated 11 minutes ago from the New Bots crawl across the face of planet, looking for new and interesting bits of news for me. What it doesn't seem to realize is that the story about the West Wing being cancelled was both new and interesting at 8:00am Sunday morning when I woke up, not at 12:30pm on Monday afternoon. Further, this story was already on the front, at the top, moved down and off the page, and fucking reappeared because the Scottsman finally decided to cover it.

The problem with their algorithm is that it's allowing shitty news outlets to dictate what is "breaking news" at this very moment. Indeed, I could probably publish "JFK Shot Today" on the Atlanta Journal Constitution's website, and Google News would decide that it's breaking news and place it top-right.

Of course I exaggerate, because Google's "secret sauce" uses a variety of things to weigh what is and is not current or breaking news, but that sauce seems to have way too much fennel in it right now, cause it tastes like shit.

Google, on the other hand, doesn't agree with me.


thecardaddy said...

the jew speller feels that it should be your "crippling addiction", not "addition"

the Alpha John said...

Could you please go spell check someone else's blog?

rev. billy bob gisher ©2005 said...

i god i used to have that cnn thing, about as bad as my cspan fix, but as soon as i pulled the cable outta the house, it died. now that i am back online, i can say it betty ford'd me.

Rayne Van-Dunem said...

Not necessarily a defense of Google's news service, but the reason why they won't allow blogs (i.e., Truth Laid Bear) or blog-collectives (Daily Kos) to share the same space with the currently-dominant major corporate newspapers (like the AJC, which already also has a historically-offline orientation, or Monsters and Critics, which is primarily, almost exclusively, of an online origin) is because of the issue surrounding "splogs" (spam blogs, usually centered around poker, porn, and pills), especially the many of those which were found on Blogspot/Blogger; also, the issue of so-called "link incest" (to quote Mozilla employee Blake Ross) which is used to drive them up the Google PageRank chart.

Now, if you're not referring to blogs as being alternatives to the "shitty news outlets" which "dictate what is 'breaking news' at this very moment" (like, as you mentioned, the Atlanta Journal Constitution), then that first paragraph of my comment is irrelevant. But, of course, that would lead me to ask: exactly which (kinds of) news sources would you want on Google News or, for that matter, *any* news aggregator (i.e., Yahoo, AOL, etc.)?

the Alpha John said...

The shitty news outlets I'm talking about are major ones, not someone's blog. When Google News first hit, it was about the story, and then as other papers and news outlets (reuters, cnn, dare I even include fox news) would be grouped into that one block about that one story. The highest ranked coverage of that story bubbled to the top, and you could see all 400 articles about it.

The change is that now you see a story break and hit the GNews front page and 5 outlets cover it. Then 6 hours later same general story, two different outlets covering it. The next day maybe 20 more -- as less breaking news gets covered now it will bounce back to the front page again and again. Further, when the block appears, what was the most relevant coverage of that story isn't really at the top anymore (CNN's coverage of a Reuters article about X is going to have way move page views etc than the Saint Petersburg Times coverage three days later of the same story).

It's just crap, and the fact they decided it's good and stripped the "Beta" label off it is poor.