DateMonday 28 March 2005

More on Google News: time for an editor (or editors)?

Further to the revelation of which news sources Google News actually uses… Dana Blankenhorn (a guy) notes that the demonization of Google has begun, principally pointing to the fact that its choice of news sites must be done by a human, even if the ranking of stories isn’t. (And how perverse is that choice.)

Blankenhorn explains: French law demands that ads for competitors not be placed against trademarks. Google complies, on its French site, but continues to employ them on its U.S. site, where the standard is different. So the French sue.

It also comes out that both the Associated Press and Kyodo News Service have been objecting to use of their affiliates’ stories in Google News, and with the Agence France-Presse precedent in hand you can expect the wires to disappear entirely. Or, if Google chooses to pay for those links, expect others to then join in on the shakedown fun.

Obviously a tipping point has been reached, one that demands a creative solution.

I have thought that appointing an editor for Google News, a respected journalist who could stand behind the service’s editorial judgements, might be helpful. But that would not end the controversy because, as in the Agence France-Presse case, there are commercial and not just editorial judgements at stake.

Which leads on to…

There are many things Google could do.

The first thing it has to do is recognize that it has a problem, and recognize that computers alone won’t solve it.

The second is to find a human being who can be the public face behind those decisions.

Ooh, imagine the job requirement of being editor for Google News. “Applicants must be able to stay awake continuously.” That’ll be fun screening them…

What causes fires at petrol stations? It’s sort of obvious

This so deserves to be more widely known. From this week’s letters at The Register:

“Spotted your rebuttal of the claim that mobile phones can ignite petrol, true.
But more interesting, and funny, is what I heard on an “intrinsic safety” course, which deals with designing equipment for garage forecourts, oil rigs etc.
Do you know what the number 1 cause of forecourt fires is?

Carelessly discarded cigarettes? Mobile phones?

Nope. It’s people whose cars are on fire, driving up to the pumps and gesticulating wildly for help from the cashier.