September 2003 Archives

Why doesn't Google News work?

Seems incapable at playing to Google's strengths.

Do a Google News search on something. Chances are you'll end up with a whole bunch of similar results, perhaps because they're all basing themselves on, or outright quoting, the same wire service or syndicated columnist.

Note: that link above isn't likely to survive long, because even though the Guardian maintains complete and unadulterated archives, Google News doesn't. Go on, try and find something in Google News that's more than a few days old. (Actually, don't. It's as bad as trying to buy a plane ticket online.)

What I don't understand is this: why does Google report a whole bunch of almost-identical links to stories? I mean, it's not as if it's difficult to work out which stories are from the wires and which ones are original. The Guardian, which I saw mentioned twice in the same story recently, puts "/wire/" or "/uslatest/" in the URL; other papers might not be as obliging, but looking for the keywords "(AP)", "Associated Press" or "(Reuters)" is, surely, not that hard?

Now, you can maybe claim that Google is doing this to aid representativity. Similar to the Dean campaign's habit of linking to AP or Reuters stories by saying they're from the San Francisco Chronicle or the Boston Globe or the Oakland Tribune or whatever. And that's fine for local content. But if these papers are simply running an AP, Reuters, AFP, Tass or any other wire service feed, they shouldn't be double-counted just to make up the numbers. If nobody has anything to say above and beyond what the agencies say, Google news should reflect that.

My first comment spam

I feel like a real blogger now.

Two of them at once, in Tonight's links and If only people would quote their sources. I've munged the links so they no longer point to the URL the guy originally mentioned, but if you're at all curious you should be able to unmung them manually.

Why do people do this? Because they think that they can game Google's PageRank system by forcing a number of (apparently) high-traffic sites to link to their own site. See Dive into Mark on comment spam for a comprehensive rundown.

Couple of random links

Both vaguely from the same blog.

First of all, excessive wombat cuteness (scroll down past the kangaroos - the guy works for an Australian animal rescue centre). Via Andrew Ducker.

Secondly, a great ad for the Ford SportKa, found from one of his previous posts.

Mark Pilgrim's garden has some new visitors

"It's like a flash mob, only with trees."

Also, we have trees now. I am writing this now to serve as a reminder to myself when I read this in the morning, to remember to take pictures of our trees and post them. They came while i was in DC. I left, and we had no trees. I came back, and suddenly we have all these trees. It's like a flashmob, only with trees. And spread over the course of several days, so it's a little different. And I have to water them every day, so that's different too. If you try to water a flashmob, they get angry, and, I don't know, maybe stick around for an extra five minutes in protest. OK, it's nothing like a flashmob. Bad analogy. Let's start over.

There's a whole lot more stuff (even some more stuff about trees), but this was my favourite bit.

With the possible exception of:

These days, these are the days. Did you ever wonder which days you’d someday look back on and say "those were the days"? These are those days.

As someone said in the comments: "I need the occasional heart-felt, meaningful post among the rest of the drivel I read on a daily basis. Thank you."

Updates on previous blog entries

Because I was going through my archives and realised that some of the stuff needs additions or corrections.

"We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in.": they're still at it. Such choice quotes as "Every measure was taken to avoid a war. [...] [Saddam Hussein] refused all international demands to account for those weapons." Am I the only one who remembers the weapons inspectors reporting that they were succeeding in their mission, and wanted more time?

It turns out that I'm not. A couple of days ago Al Gore powerfully denounced the murky workings of the Bush Administration in a speech that is well worth reading. (This via the Daily Kos.) If you find yourself nodding off, fine, but at least read the last paragraph. Perhaps the most telling part: "I believe that we must stand for a future in which the United States will again be feared only by its enemies".

John Leslie can't have it both ways: The man was since cleared

NASA launches another Mars probe: I was informed recently that NASA use nautical miles because the curvature of the Earth is important if you're a) travelling a long distance by sea and b) leaving the planet. It's still ridiculous that we're using such bogus imperial measurements for something as tricky as space travel.

Why make it difficult for me to buy stuff: The company won't sell its products overseas because it doesn't have a distributor. It will ship them from the US, if you're happy paying roughly twice the price of the speakers themselves in packing (this isn't quite as bad if you're buying really expensive kit). Pah. Yes, they did reply to my emails, but you wonder how difficult it would have been to have said that on the website.

Jesus is a stalker, says sign

"If there was a Jesus I would like to think of him as being a happy, forgiving kind of fella, who doesn’t judge and occasionally does a magic trick to cheer his mates up."

Richard Herring is staying in a holiday cottage in Woollacombe, and has encountered one of those awful, twee Christian hand-embroidered signs, which in this case reads "Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation."

Needless to say, he's slightly freaked out. But in a very readable way.