Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Patent WO 2005/029368

Google’s latest patent, WO 2005/029368, apparently filed on September 16, 2003 and approved March 17, 2005, aims at improving the search results for news items, when using the Google news feature. Currently news search results are based on relevancy and date stamp. And that means that small news providers (through blogs e.g.) may actually appear higher up in the search results than more “respectable” big cheeses [and we can’t have that, now can we…]

Written by Michael Curtiss, Krishna Bharat and Michael Schmitt, this is a lengthy document in Googlese. WO 2005/029368 makes 31 claims, all aimed at improving the “quality” of news searches. How precisely this is to be achieved is beyond the scope of this post. While no one will deny that an improvement in any type of search results is always desirable, for once I’m joining the chorus of sceptics.

How a machine, no matter how technologically advanced, can possibly decide what the “quality” of a news item actually is, is completely beyond me. Let me put it simply. I dislike tabloids but that doesn’t mean I want them taken off the shelves. What’s quality to you in terms of news, is rubbish to me and visa versa.

Successful implementation of this algorithm is likely to drown out some of the smaller voices in the news community and further shore up the thrones of the current news Kings. Is that in the interest of the news reader? Is it in the spirit of Google’s indiscriminate indexation of web documents, even those with questionable content? Not in my book.

I came across the patent story in the
webpronews newsletter and started searching, using patent WO 2005/029638. Force of habit still makes me go for the classical search rather than the news feature search. Today, in position 3 (out of 220) ranks a Newsfeed – page which has nothing whatsoever to do with the patent at all. It's about someone's garden party...

So, despite all the
Bourbon, Google’s main search results are still “contaminated” with irrelevant nonsense. May be they should concentrate on fixing that first…

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