I missed this April article in New Scientist about Google’s plans to rank news stories according to quality and credibility of the sources:
Now Google, whose name has become synonymous with internet searching, plans to build a database that will compare the track record and credibility of all news sources around the world, and adjust the ranking of any search results accordingly.
The database will be built by continually monitoring the number of stories from all news sources, along with average story length, number with bylines, and number of the bureaux cited, along with how long they have been in business. Google’s database will also keep track of the number of staff a news source employs, the volume of internet traffic to its website and the number of countries accessing the site.
Google will take all these parameters, weight them according to formulae it is constructing, and distil them down to create a single value. This number will then be used to rank the results of any news search.
The second paragraph of the story mentions that this system has been patented by Google, but I don’t see how it’s much different than what PageRank does or what Metacritic has been doing with film, game, and book reviews:
This overall score, or METASCORE, is a weighted average of the individual critic scores. Why a weighted average? When selecting our source publications, we noticed that some critics consistently write better (more detailed, more insightful, more articulate) reviews than others. In addition, some critics and/or publications typically have more prestige and weight in the industry than others. To reflect these factors, we have assigned weights to each publication (and, in the case of film, to individual critics as well), thus making some publications count more in the METASCORE calculations than others.
I wonder if these systems will eventually let their users tweak the credibility algorithms to their liking. For instance, it won’t take long for conservatives to start complaining about the liberal bias of Google News. In the case of Metacritic, I’d like them to ignore Anthony Lane’s rating when he writes about summer blockbusters and put greater emphasis on whatever Ebert has to say. In the meantime, I’m readying my patent applications for RecipeRank, PhotoRank, ModernFurnitureRank, SoftDrinkRank, and, oooh, PatentRank. I’m sure they’re brilliantly unique enough to be recognized by the US Patent Office as new inventions.