Google Blogoscoped

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Serial Programmers and Dancing Skeletons

A blogdesign idea which is not only original but also very usable (and created in accessible, search-engine friendly DXHTML): Matt Round’s Look out for serial killers who look like programming language inventors (and vice versa), or clap your hands to dancing skeletons in a tribute to Ray Harryhausen and get back that 80s He-Man feeling if you’re part of Generation G. A lot of wrinkled notes but nothing for the trabbish can.
(Link via fellow Google Answers Researchers.)

Supplemental Result Pages

“Since last November, the Google home page has claimed to be ’Searching 3,083,324,652 Web pages,’ even though the size has gone up and down many times since then. After last week’s announcement from AlltheWeb of a nearly 3.2 billion record database, I wondered how long it would take before Google would change the number on their home page. As of today, Google now says 3,307,998,701. (...)

And I don’t know if this is related or not, but I have suddenly found a few hits that Google labels as “Supplemental Result” right before the cached link as in the last record on this search. I’m not sure what this “Supplemental Result” is supposed to be, but the URL is a dead link. I certainly hope Google did not just boost its numbers by adding a bunch of dead links. I rather doubt this is the case, and another such search found a record with the same label, but that one is not a dead link.”
– Greg R. Notess, August 26, 2003

“Supplemental Result Google augments results for difficult queries by searching a supplemental collection of web pages. Results from this index are marked in green as ’Supplemental.’”
– Google Inc.: How to Interpret Your Search Results

sup·ple·ment n.
1. Something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole.
2. A section added to a book or document to give further information or to correct errors.
3. A separate section devoted to a special subject inserted into a periodical, such as a newspaper.
4. Mathematics. The angle or arc that when added to a given angle or arc makes 180° or a semicircle. Also called supplementary angle.”
Definition of “Supplementary” (

“It is unclear what determines a web page’s status as ’supplemental’, although we suppose these are pages of a more obscure nature.”
– Pandia Search Engine News, Google’s Supplemental Index, August 27, 2003

Behind Google News

The NewIndPress cover story by Baradwaj Rangan covers How Krishna Bharat made news with Google. (Naturally, I picked up the news with Google News, which I search for “Google” whenever I update my blog.)

Krishna Bharat was growing up in India, and he got interested in BBC’s coverage of worldwide news. Moving to the USA later, he noticed that news sources – like CNN – were often centered around this country only. Even before Google News, Krishna wrote an application that would bring a personalized newspaper (fed by other sources) online. The paper would remember which articles a certain user reads, and serve up topics that were of interest before next time the user visits. (Google News itself can not be personalized in such ways, even though you can search topics, and even let Google send you mail whenever something new on a given query pops up. By the way, I tried the Google News Alert service but never received an email.)

Google News started out as personal experiment within the Googleplex and slowly its potential catched the interest of others:

“This Principal Scientist at Google created a system to continuously monitor the web, grouping and ranking related news articles based on hourly updates from a hundred sources, and this became the prototype for Google News. Sensing the potential for a product from this prototype, Krishna — along with colleagues Marissa Mayer and Michael Schmitt, and a multinational team of first-class talents — came up with a subsequent version, that utilised over 4000 sources. This has since stabilised to the Google News of today, with country-specific English editions for Australia, Canada, India, UK, and New Zealand, and a German edition for Deutschland. (...)

The site operates with two explicit goals — diversity (the site is updated every ten minutes with news from 4,500 newspapers worldwide) and impartiality (the selection of stories is done by computers, with no human bias). Google News combines the individual judgments of editors worldwide — a US newspaper, for instance, may decide a story set in Burma will not interest an American audience, but sources from other countries may be interested in this story — to come up with a fair estimate of the importance of news stories. Also, each story has links to seven or more independently written articles on the subject, so a more rounded viewpoint is obtained.”
– Baradwaj Rangan, How Krishna Bharat made news with Google (NewIndPress)

Google News: Possible Improvements

Google News and Personalization

I wonder why Google News doesn’t offer anything in terms of personalization. Choose “Movies”, “Video Games”, “Web Technology”, “German Politics”, “World Headlines” and so on, and you get all the news for just those topics. ( did something like that once, I don’t know if they’re still offering it. The personalization preferences show mostly the separation between US and International news, as well as regional weather.)
Of course, it would require a login to authenticate yourself (unless cookies would be saved, which is bad when you switch computers often). But after that, I could even imagine being served a long text page to print out in the morning to have something to read on the way to work. Or getting the whole thing as daily newsletter.

Google News as Global News

Also, it would be interesting to see wether or not it’s possible to truly deliver global news, with no country-specific point of view. It’s hard to imagine a single newspaper in this world which truly reports independent from location. When you live in another country, it’s interesting to see how certain news are of big importance in the papers... like SARS was when I was living in Malaysia. But back in Germany, it wasn’t on the front-page everyday. The Internet is bringing everyone closer together, so maybe it does matter to you if there’s a hurricane in Texas, even if you live in a small village in Italy, because you might have a friend there. But typically, no matter how big the disaster, it won’t be covered by local press unless it happens in the same country (it might be covered on page three or so in small letters).
In a way it’s disappointing that Google has the technology to offer a truly global view, and yet they’re not offering one to choose a non-country-specific Google News version.

Google Blog News

So far, Google News tries not to add one-man publications (like blogs often are) to its news index. Before, I tried to submit this blog – not because I thought I had a chance, but because I wanted to get to know the process, and what reasoning is behind a rejection. I suppose mostly, it makes sense to not just add news-sources based on their update frequency – the point of Google News, especially the search, is that it filters out and what’s let over are respectable (if not always objective) news sources. But a Google Blog News service would be a great addition. Something like; except that it’d be fast, more complete, and always working (Daypop seems to suffer from too much traffic).

Google News Speed

Google News is nice to keep up-to-date on daily news, but would you trust it to cover something so important (and news-breaking) you would look for minutely updates? If you remember the web news sphere on 9/11 when the terrorist attacks happened, many sites were down. People like me were getting online in masses, and I suppose many hit the refresh button as often as they could, because updates were so frequent. Nobody knew what was happening. Many sites went completely down, some coming back with a much-reduced front-page. Google News still has to show how it would fare when such ground-breaking news would shake the web.


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